You could feel the tension with every tic of the second hand on the clock. It was almost seven in the morning and the sun was already up for almost an hour now. So were a few hundred customers ready to leap like hungry jaguars into the store.
It was the annual big clearance sale. One like no other. Because prices were literally slashed to half-price or even less. Everything was a bargain. As long as you were lucky enough to find anything before anyone else snatched it.
Almost everyone was prepared. They had done their research well in advance, noting down what they were after and on what aisle or corner the desired products were located. This was no time to stroll, see and decide. You either knew and decisively went for it, or you got trampled over. Sometimes – well, most times – you got trampled over either way.
As soon as the clock struck seven, it sounded as if church bells were singing hallelujah. The store employees neared the locked doors, and you could almost see the fear reflected in their eyes. It was not an easy job having to open gates to an ecstatic mob that was determined to not let anyone or anything stand in their way. It was certain that they had no way of escaping the crowd once the doors were opened. The only thing they could do was stand petrified right there on the spot, hoping that as few injuries as possible would be incurred upon them.
It was like a stampede.
And soon, all the orderly placed items had been flung around, displaced, ravaged out of their packaging, some even damaged already, now laying ripped or broken on the floor. Labels and tags were torn from their original products and if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for, there was no way you would find it.
Security guards marched like wardens up and down the aisles, trying in vain to restore order in what had clearly become a jungle. “Lady, please don’t take the products out of their packaging or try them on”. The phrase was repeated like a pre-recorded message. But just like such ads, it was completely ignored. “Lady, what did I just say? Who am I saying these things too anyway?” The security guards felt like teachers in a kindergarten of rowdy children, their despair echoed in the sound of their exasperated sighs. “I’m almost done,” the lady in question barked back. Done with what exactly, no one knew. But she continued to do precisely that which the security guard had grown tired of voicing.
The store employees who had gone to open the doors, were now finally freed, and most were still standing. They turned around and saw a circus. The store had in the blink of an eye transformed into a huge ring, where in the absence of a ringmaster, all animals had broken loose and were frantically trying to defuse the tension that had accumulated for hours inside of them. Items were being thrown around, with some shoppers acrobatically leaping and sliding across other persons to grab hold of them. People were pushing, shoving, pinching, beating, hair-pulling, even bruising each other, simply to get closer to their listed items. Insanity had taken over and blinded these buyers, who like in a trance could see nothing beyond their golden target. The frenzy was intensified by shrieks, cries and insults being tossed around just as easily and loudly as the items that accompanied them.
It took five hours for the performance to wear out. Some shoppers remained there for the entire time. Others had retrieved their treasure and left. But those few who had persisted right until closing time guarded their loot and searched for more, like lions wanting to relieve an insatiable hunger.
The employee who went to lock the door after the final customer left had a ripped sleeve dangling on his left side. His shirt was torn under his right pocket and he had lost two buttons.
“We’re not paid enough for this,” he sighed as he turned the key, glad that this circus act was over.
Also part of Daily Prompt: Circus
Posted in Short Stories
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