The Unending Line at the Grocery Store

I’ve lost track of time. All of us here have been in line for at least several hours, some us for days. Nobody seems to get out. No one seems to know where the line finishes. None of the phones have service, if they even still have a charge.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

There was an emergency alert a few days(?) ago.

IMPENDING CATASTROPHIC EVENT., the country-wide text read. Naturally, everyone panicked.

Those that had set up bunkers and safe havens immediately disappeared into them, I assume. Those of us that weren’t expecting it (or were too proud to admit its inevitability) were left to forage for the quickly dwindling supplies.

That’s when I came here. To grab canned goods, toilet paper, bottled water, Ramen – all that necessary stuff. I’ve been pushing my cart slowly forward towards some unknown check-out. I’ve heard the line leads to a set of double doors.

I’ve heard they swing inwards and then people aren’t heard from again.

Maybe they’re getting out? That doesn’t seem possible now that the city’s shut down. I want to believe they’re leaving the store. I don’t know, though. Either way, I won’t lose my place in line.

Sorry, my thoughts are erratic.

They’ve closed us in here. The city. Something big happened outside and the lines of communication are down. Everyone was quarantined and got no further information. Fortunately, people are mostly keeping civil in here. Mostly.

There was one guy that lost it. He just couldn’t wait anymore. Boomers, man. They’re just so used to getting what they want. Fucker was like 20 people behind me, too. I’d been here so much longer than him.

His corpse is over in the dairy section now. It’s cold in that area, so he doesn’t smell yet.

Probably will start to. Soon.

We figure the power is going to go out at any minute. Some have been freely taking from the expiring food. A lot of milk and cheese are being consumed. The staff tried to protect it at first, but then they got hungry, too. People have opened the small grills and bags of charcoal briquettes and are cooking all the meat. Despite the discomfort, most of the people are pulling together.

Not all.

Wanda has been named de-facto leader. She just kinda started running things and nobody questioned it. She’s been pretty great so far, but when that older guy got beaten to death, she had to get colder inside.

He just wouldn’t stop complaining. I never learned his name. We’ve all just been referring to him as “Boomer,” because of his entitled, Baby Boomer attitude.

“Are you fucking serious?” he’d said to anyone that would listen.

Mostly people just averted their eyes, silently hating him. Then someone from farther back in the line threw a can at him. It connected with the back of his head and drew blood. Boomer was furious. Got out of line and was grabbing and threatening everyone behind him. Just blind rage.

More cans came in then. Hitting his leg and his back and many more to his head. Eventually, he went down. The crowd just gathered around him and kept kicking. I didn’t help kill him, but I didn’t stop them, either. I think that counts as accessory to murder, but it’s got to be chaos out there. Pretty sure “law” as we knew it is dead.

Wanda just laughed as it happened. It seemed like she was beginning to crack somewhat under the pressure. I think the death forced her to realize what she’d tacitly agreed to do. It also worked to keep most everyone else in line.

Nobody wanted the rest of us to kill them.

Some people have abandoned the line. They take supplies and go off into one of the many corners and hidden away alcoves in the grocery store. Savages. But the majority of us are holding true and keeping some kind of order.

Wanda is orchestrating cooked food being handed out. She’s fielding questions, but doesn’t have any extra information. She just speaks with confidence.

“Yeah, we should be getting out in a day or so,” she’d said to one concerned elderly woman.

“Why you think that?” a young man farther up the line had scoffed.

Wanda took a can of corn and raised it over her shoulder like a right fielder prepping a long throw. Her dark mahogany eyes leveled at him. He shut up then.

Hope is a dangerous thing now, I remember thinking. So is groupthink.

Despite the general order to things, there was an air of fear. Two camps eventually emerged: Liner and Looser. I don’t know who named the groups, but it stuck. The Liners (and those aiding them – the helpers) comprised the rational side. The camp that was committed to some kind of order, even in this unlikely scenario. We were the civilized ones.

The Loosers were loners. They’d often be in smaller groups of two to four. Weird, kept to themselves. They were the ones grabbing stuff and hiding; doing their own thing. Despite their seemingly innocuous intentions, they were quickly becoming a soft enemy. We’d taken to calling them Losers colloquially. The ones tending to the Liners began acting more and more like security guards for food and order.

I mostly just watched all of this. My place in the slow-moving line somehow acted as a safeguard for me. Most of the disparate people in there seemed to crave order. The Liners were the majority. I hadn’t intended on being a part of the group, but quickly realized I’d made the right choice in not resorting to raider-style living. We all craved community, some of us just saw it as a bigger group.

The Loosers didn’t realize they’d made the wrong choice. Some of them were family units. I hoped it would work out for them.

I haven’t stepped out of line yet. I’m really curious what’s up there, but I’ve seen so much already. Even if they’re just murdering people when they pass through those doors, it would be over.

Some reprieve.

I’m trying to keep my shit together. The Liners have taken to urinating and defecating in buckets. The helpers take them away. Honorary Liners. I don’t know where they’re taken to, but it must smell awful.

I thought I heard Wanda tell one of them to dump it on a Looser. “It would probably serve them right, she’d said.”

Liners are treating the helpers well. They’re taking it well, too. It’s so odd how all these people just accepted their role. I’m sure eventually someone will want to defect. Not sure how that will go.

This morning, Wanda found a helper nailed to the wall with wooden stakes in the back storeroom. At least that’s what she told us.

“Those filthy Loosers killed one of ours,” she’d said. “It was only a helper, but he had a name. I don’t know what that was, but he had one.”

The Liners in earshot all murmured amongst themselves. Things had begun to devolve. I’m not sure everyone thought Wanda should be in charge anymore.

No one wanted to say anything, though.

I’ve been writing this down on loose leaf paper that I took when I passed it. Hopefully, someone will find it and post it online. I can’t write any more today. I need to go to sleep.

Hope I don’t lose my place in line.

(source) story by (/u/KP_Hoffman_Writes)

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