Written by demons_dance_alone.
I don’t shop at Walmart. That’s not a brag. I don’t look down on people who regularly have to out of financial necessity. I’m just saying, maybe if I did I would have noticed something sooner. It was late at night, and I was out a lot of essentials. I had just gotten off an all-day shift and tomorrow was looking to be no different. I was resigning myself to having no toilet paper, no soap, and no milk until my next day off. Then I remembered I was also out of lunch meat and just went “fuck it.” No way I was braving the workday without my customary sandwich.
I tooled around in my beater, trying to find a 7-11 or something along those lines when I saw that parking lot behemoth I'm sure we could all recognize in our sleep by now. I reviewed my options and resignedly turned my blinker on.
The parking lot was almost empty. There were no carts loose in the lot, which was a first for any store I'd ever been to. I got out of my car and walked into the store The first problem didn’t even hit me until I was securely inside the building and probably would have driven any seasoned wally-worlder scampering in the other direction.
The sign had said Wallmart. Not Walmart. My tired brain dismissed it as a reading comprehension error, instead of the first of many signs that something was very much wrong.
The greeter at the door was an overweight man or woman(didn’t look too hard, didn’t care) who said, “welcome to Walmart” with accents on the wrong syllables so it came out “weLLCome to wALMart.” Again, tired and not paying much attention, don’t even know what to expect. I just snagged my cart (which moved only slightly better than a boulder with square wheels) and set off.
This place...man, it was big. I’m no newcomer to warehouse stores, but this place just went on and on. I shoved my cart down endless aisles, looking for any sign of my necessities. It seemed like every aisle was just a mishmash of the same cheap crap regardless of the signs. I saw value packs of tools, toys, electronics, plasticware, everything except what I needed.
The next weird thing presented itself when I actually examined one of the items. The thing was a 5-pack of pliers, but when I picked it up I found it was an empty package. The pliers behind the plastic were just pictures. I thought sure, it was probably just a security measure and I would have to bring it up to the cashier and they’d fetch the real one from a security case. Then I looked at the next one, a pack of forks. Same deal. I picked up a container of bleach.
I was not the only one in the store at that time. A couple of people as confused as me were wandering around, looking lost. An old lady looked at my shirt hopefully and opened her mouth, and I shook my head.
At a store this big, you had to have a lot of personnel, didn’t you? Courtesy clerks, loss prevention, stockers, the works. I dragged my cart around, looking for the elusive breed. After (I kid you not) ten minutes I abandoned the cart because it was slowing me down. Still no employee in sight.
I had heard of ripoff stores before. Places like China, where they had fake Apple stores so good that even the employees didn’t know who they were working for. But this was America. Why would they do something like that here, and to what end? Anyone who tried it would probably get sued into the ground by corporate lawyers before they could open their doors.
I had nearly given up on finding a clerk when I caught a glimpse of someone going around in the corner, dressed in those wally world scrubs. I trotted after, calling “excuse me?”
They didn’t slow down.
I got louder: “exCUSE me!” I switched to a light jog.
Somehow, this person stayed well ahead of me, despite appearing to be strolling at a casual pace.
I broke into a run.
Someone walked out of the aisle ahead of us, pushing another stubborn cart, looking the other way. The clerk turned to go down one of the other aisles.
The other side of the clerk looked exactly the same.
I stopped in my tracks, not sure what I'd just seen. The other customer caught sight of the clerk leaving and huffed and puffed, pushing their cart after the retreating specter.
I had just seen the clerk turn a complete 180 degrees and never seen a face. The front of the clerk had been identical to the back. No facial features, nothing at all.
I looked up and realized I had no idea where I was. The clerk had only led me deeper and deeper into the store. There were no windows in the place and the aisles stretched on for even longer than I had originally gathered. What the hell was this place? I shivered a little.
Time to find the doors.
I hunted fruitlessly down the aisles for a while before realizing what an idiot I was. I needed to find a wall and follow that until I hit the front. Easy as pie, right?
I found the wall and walked along its surface. I made five perpendicular turns. Five times I followed the wall exactly, no front door. I was starting to become really scared.
Okay, this wasn’t a real store. But why couldn’t I find the door? I thought about it and figured that maybe they had a way to disguise the doors on the inside wall, so that when they closed they disappeared. Nobody looked back when they walked in a store, did they?
I continued walking my circuit, patting the wall, looking for a likely place.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
A shaky voice came from an aisle cap behind me. I wasn’t really ready to trust anyone in this place, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to answer.
“I’m here. Are you another customer?”
“Oh thank god!” it was a lady’s voice. I could hear the scrape of a cart dragging on the tile floor. “I’ve been here for hours, my cell doesn’t get any reception in here. Could you help me out? I seem to be lost.”
“Sure.” I looked down the next aisle. “Can you walk in a straight line over to me?”
“I’m sorry, this aisle appears to be capped here. It’s just shelves on either side and then a dead end.”
“Can you follow it to the other end?”
“I’ve tried. Maybe you can see something I'm missing?”
With a lot of misgivings, I stepped away from the wall and down the aisle. I tried to guide the woman with my voice. She was very apologetic for troubling me, she felt so silly for getting lost in a straight line, her husband would think—
I hit the end of the aisle and got a cold chill. There was the aisle cap, extra wide. The aisles to either side were empty.
I called, “are you there?”
“Yes, do you see anything?”
“I just see another shelf with all the same crap that’s on the others.” Her voice held a touch of panic. “I don’t know how I got myself in here, if there’s some opening I'm not seeing. Maybe I wandered into an employee-only area?”
It was hard to swallow past the lump in my throat.
“Maybe,” I lied. “Listen, I'm going to find the front door and call someone, okay? I’ll be back as soon as I can. Just...try not to go somewhere that doesn’t open up, okay?”
“Okay.” The woman seemed a little better, now that she had the comforting lie that someone would take care of it. I had no idea what I was doing, but she didn’t need to know that.
I found the wall again and followed it, aggressively punching shelves. I scattered useless merchandise mock-ups to look for secret entrances. The space between aisles got longer. I would see an aisle cap two, three aisles wide. I heard other people calling out. I started running along the wall, looking for seams. There were no checkout stands, no food court, nothing to indicate where the doors might be. It was a seamless cube of junk and I was running laps fruitlessly.
My first and only stroke of luck hit me that night: I found the greeter.
From far away it looked like a person. From the corner of your eye, if you were distracted and not paying attention, it looked like a person. But if you really studied it, you realized it had a bunch of weird formations on its head that only just looked like a face. Sort of like those pictures made up of thousands of color dots. It only looked like a thing from further back. Up close it was just a bunch of meaningless blobs.
The greeter waddled along like it didn’t know how to walk. Not an exaggeration, it kept putting its feet wrong and twisting its body like it wasn’t used to being bipedal. I crept up behind it and grabbed its shirt collar.
The greeter blinked. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen. It had no eyes, just a bunch of stubs that cast shadows that happened to look like eyes from far away. It spooked me so much I let go of its collar.
“Where’s the door?” I demanded.
The thing shuffled a little. “weLCome to waLLMart?”
“Where’s the fucking door?” I gave the thing a little shove. “Look, if you let me out, I won’t call the cops. Just let me go.”
The greeter looked around, then back at me. “Well come. To. Wall? Mart.”
I had a horrible realization dawn on me. Like the double-sided clerk, this probably only had one purpose. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, because there was literally nowhere to go.
I went a little crazy then. I was hungry, tired, and desperate. I threw the greeter at the wall and it rippled like a condom full of jello.
The wall opened up.
I could smell the sweet night air of freedom and started running. Good thing too, because the wall almost immediately started closing as I ran. Hit me on the elbow, hard. I had a bruise for days but I was out. The greeter wasn’t so lucky. I could hear the squeals as the door pinched shut on it, but I didn’t stop to look. I ran to my car and gunned it out of there.
I parked in a nearby strip mall and called the cops. I’m afraid I wasn’t the best reporter though, somewhere between spouting off about a fake Walmart and prisoners the dispatcher hung up on me. I decided to drive to a police station, but my (slightly calmer) story was only met with skepticism. After what seemed like hours, I finally got an officer agree to accompany me to the site.
Here’s the thing: I had been aimlessly driving around when I stumbled on the Wallmart. I had been panicked as I fled from it. Now I had to admit I was completely lost. The officer eventually told me if I couldn’t find the store, I would have to come back and file a report. I let them go and fled back to my apartment, swallowing down my guilt. I had let everyone trapped in that store down. I hoped that they could at least hang on until morning.
I called in sick to my job and drove around, searching for the Wallmart. I looked through every shopping center, strip mall, anywhere that even slightly resembled the place I'd gone last night.
Finally, I found a donut place I remembered from that night, and from there I was able to retrace my route. I wound up at a big warehouse-type building with that familiar parking lot, all of last night’s cars still in place.
The building was empty. No sign, no shelves. Nothing.
I’ve looked around since then, every chance I get, and I've never seen another Wallmart.