Salt Shakers and Strange Bedfellows
The judgement of the dead for admission into the Underworld was previously a complex and mysterious process. Now, we just let in the sims we like.
– The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition
Alice sighed and looked at the clock one more time. How was it only 10:30 at night? It felt like she had been at work for a thousand hours.
“Well of course it hasn’t been a thousand hours. While I, a god of impossible power, do view time in a different way, I have a linear sense of its movement. You arrived at work at 9:30 p.m. and thus, it’s only been 60 minutes,” Ben provided helpfully.
“Thank you Ben, for explaining the obvious—”
“Well if it was obvious, why did you ask?” Ben challenged.
“What? I didn’t ask! It’s a saying, Ben. I was being facetious,” Alice tried to explain.
“Well if you were purposefully making a dramatic statement, why didn’t you just say so?”
“Because then it wouldn’t be facetious!” Alice threw up her hands. “Why am I even having this conversation with you?”
The bell by the door jingled, signaling that a customer was coming in. It was an elderly woman who was, for reasons that Alice did not understand, wearing a very expensive evening gown with fur trim in the middle of the desert.
Alice’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head. What the heck?
The woman swooped down the aisles, staring intently at the price tags and gesturing wildly at the items on the shelf. And…was she…talking to herself? It looked an awful lot like she was talking to herself.
“I guess I’m getting a glimpse of my future self,” Alice murmured.
This was not the craziest thing she’d had ever seen working the night shift. Not by a long shot. The Route 309 Convenience Store sat on a desolate strip of highway about 15 miles from the base. It attracted precisely two types of sims: criminals and weirdos.
…which suited Alice just fine.
The woman turned towards her and held up a spray bottle. “Is this Clean it All cleaner on sale? The sign doesn’t say.”
Alice sighed. Of course the sign didn’t say it was sale. A store only marked items that were actually discounted, the default was that they were regular price.
“No ma’am, I’m sorry, it’s not.”
“Well, how can you know that for sure?” the woman asked.
Because I fucking work here? Alice thought. “Because I just checked it myself a few moments before you came in,” she said instead.
“Oh that makes sense. Oops! Says this has noxious elderberry in it! I’m allergic. Nevermind.”
Alice gave her a tight smile and then scrubbed her hands over her face when the woman turned back around.
“Is this what we must suffer through every other evening?” Ben asked, his tone bored.
“Yes, Ben,” Alice whispered, her hands still over her face.
“Did you say something?” the woman asked.
Alice dropped her hands, “Just that the wipes in aisle 5 are on sale.”
“Why are we even toying with these ridiculous mortals? They always ask the same questions!”
Alice ignored him. She may have an ancient god stuck in her head, but as far as she could tell, she was a regular ole “ridiculous” mortal herself. Besides, she had chosen the Route 309 Convenience Store as a job in high school because she didn’t want to run into any of her classmates. It was already hard enough being a total outcast because she talked to herself—
“But you were talking to me!”
Hung out in cemeteries—
“But how else would you raise the dead?”
And had uncontrollable outbursts—
“Charming displays of power!”
Alice bit her lip, trying hard not to respond to Ben’s corrections. It would only encourage him.
Her parents thought she was nuts when she begged to get this job, but they didn’t stop her. And for the most part, her plan worked. She almost never saw another soul she went to high school with and the store was basically deserted so she got plenty of homework done. Now, she mostly filled the silent hours arguing with Ben, reading, and occasionally watching the old television behind the counter.
She didn’t really answer to anyone. The owner, Mr. Cahill, was somewhat of an outcast himself. He lived in a broken down plane next to the trailer park. Word was he used to be a pilot back in the 70s. She once asked him why even kept the store open and he made some cryptic statement about sightlines and supplies and then instructed her to stay out of the basement.
“I know what’s in the basement,” Ben said, waggling his eyebrows.
“I do not need any more comments from the peanut gallery!” Alice snapped.
“Well, I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I just need to talk to myself to make my list,” the old woman said.
Alice turned, surprised that she was at the counter already. She gave Alice an apologetic shrug and began setting out her purchases.
The first item was detergent.
“She pours that on her neighbor’s flowers. Still hasn’t forgiven them for taking first place in the Oasis Springs Flower Show back in ‘63,” Ben intoned.
Alice did a double take but tried to cover it by pretending to examine the bottle.
“Uh…yep…looks like the price is right on this one,” she rambled.
The woman placed a few bags of dog food on the counter.
“Not for her. She doesn’t have a dog. What she does have an ex-boyfriend who just moved into the same senior community and she’s planning to bake him some welcome cookies out of dog treats.”
“How could you possibly?” Alice began, but clamped her mouth shut when the woman placed butter and sugar on the counter.
“Oookay then!” Alice said with fake cheer.
Next, she rang up a set of salt and pepper shakers.
“Spells,” Ben said knowingly.
Alice made an annoyed grunt and tried to focus on the cash register but when the woman put a bottle of sunscreen on the counter, Ben began to laugh.
Alice waved a hand in the air, her face creased in annoyance. “Oh what? I suppose next you’re going to tell me that this is for greasing up rings that she steals of the fingers of people at funeral homes!”
“What? No. That would be absurd. It’s just lovely to see someone actually concerned about skin care these days,” Ben replied.
The woman giggled, her shoulders shaking as she reached into her purse. Even though she was clearly nuts, Alice still felt embarrassed.
“I uh…wasn’t talking to you…” Alice stammered.
“Of course you weren’t dear, I knew that.” She gave Alice a conspiratorial wink, grabbed her groceries and left.
“Well, I must say, I like her!”