The store had already set up a good majority of its Christmas decorations. Not even Halloween, but the good folks at Walmart were stocked up for your inconvenience. These tidings of good cheer provided ample supply for the barricade blocking the doors.

The boughs of holy were ripped from the rafters, giant, glitter-wrapped presents made lovely bricks [and mud from the gardening section excellent mortar], and glowing plastic Santas flanked the exits like jolly, red-cheeked sentries.

The great Christmas tree at the entrance now spins erratically under the guidance of its new pilot. Some of the bobbles have shaken off and shattered on the floor, one of the strings of popcorn and beads is loose, so it whips around in a cruel arc whenever Tory changes direction, and scattered around the base are clumps of plastic needles like a tiny mine field. From the top Tory can see the entire store, from home appliances with its out-of-the box blenders to electronics with its wall of flickering, winking tvs. He had raided electronics earlier and Tory's liver spotted head bobs to the beat of the Beastie Boys on his repossesed iPod.

It doesn't look like there are anymore security guards as he scans the aisles. If there were they would all have come running when he'd had Skeet tear out the soda machines to block off the emergency exits.

"'Snot working, Tory," Skeet calls from the jolly rubble at the front. "They keep whoosin!"

Tory fiddles with the spinny tree controls and the tree zips around to face the barrier with a loud hum. The doors did indeed keep whoosing behind the wall. Their confused little sensors were convinced someone was still trying to get through. Someone quite possibly built like a cenitpede, yes. But they weren't picky about who they let into the store.

"Stupid doors," Tory digs his feet a little more into the tree, his worn shoes wrapping over top of a thick limb. "Just stack 'm higher! So's nobody can climb over the top!"

Skeet sighs and grabs another reindeer lawn decoration. "Sorry l'il buddy," and hucks it on top of the heap.

Outside the sun is just rising, catching the thin morning clouds with touches of pastel as though Raphael had painted across the fresh sky in a fresoe. The light sparkles over the empty parking lot with its dew spackled shopping carts and McDonald's cups rolling gracefully in a light breeze. The cheery Walmart sign grins up at the sky in glowing neon, somehow softened by the cool sunrise air. This sunrise gleams off those same semis the moon had hours earlier, now showing their backs hanging open and loads emptied. It smoothes across pale pigeons in grocery bad nests, cooing and huddled in soft breathing forms.

The light melts over the cold cement roof. It finds a small skylight. It enters.

Tory squints, blinking in the sudden light. He tries to block it with his arm but the Christmas bobble shards catch the light and throw it back to his eyes in bedazzled colors. Something clicks, snaps, catches in his dusty mind. He lets go.

Skeet snatches up another stuffed animal penguin, tosses it to the top where it lands with a light clank.


He spins around, surprisingly graceful for a man his shape. "Tory?" He blinks. "What're you upside down fer?"

The old man swings his arms, gaping. One leg is streched up, the foot caught in a bough, and the other waving, trying to find itself a position that won't send him headfirst into the tile. "JUST HELP ME, YOU DOOFUS!" he screeches.

Skeet waddles over, stands under the twisted face. "How?" he bleats.

"I - er - grab my shoulders," he does, "and push me up - JUST DON'T LET GO!"

Skeet manages the resue, rotating Tory into a more acceptable position.

Tory bubbles, staggers as the blood rushes away from his head again. "I had a periphery!"

"Is that like a stroke?"

"What?" Tory steadies himself. "No, a epiphany, moron. What're you talkin' about?"

The giant slumps, "But you said-"

"No I didn't," he snaps.


"Just shut up and listen!" The man is vibrating gently, the bud strung from his ear buzzes and swings. Tory grips Skeet's thick arms and his cracked eyes glint up. "We need people! Two of every kind! Butchers, bakers, cable box makers!"

"Tory?" Skeet looks a little scared.


The End

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