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Rated: E · Short Story · Community · #2206794
In fear of imminent disaster a young girl attempts a rescue.
Prompt:  Yesterday was my first time experiencing Black Friday as a retail worker- somebody decided to pull a fire alarm at the mall and sent the whole building into lockdown!  ~1~
Your task today is to recreate Black Friday from either the perspective of the retail worker or alarm-puller.

Black Friday Purpose ~3~
Word Count:  914 ~4~
by Timothy Cole, 1 Dec 2019 ~5~

She was ten years old!  She was at the fire alarm in the back of the store, and I saw her do it; she stood on her toes (because she was a short ten-year-old) to read the directions (because it was one of those bang the ball on the glass real hard and pull the lever inside the glass types).  The tip of her tongue stuck out between front teeth that looked too large for a kid, and she looked thoughtful, determinedly so.  And then, with a motion that nearly sent her backwards, she banged the steel ball hard and the glass shattered.  I saw her willfully touch the lever and push downward.  Some more glass fell out and landed on her shoe.  ~6~

I came to my senses.  I was in the back of the store, getting stock ready for shelving, opening big boxes and arranging items on a cart.  We were well into Black Friday, four o'clock in the morning, and I was already exhausted—my cell phone going off, my manager yelling from somewhere in the beyond, paper lists of items that were running out, messages for me and other stockers, and shouts from somewhere out there. ~7~

"What are you doing?" I yelled.  I tried grabbing for her, to pull her away and return the lever to its off position, which I also already realized was too late—the claxon of alarms throughout Gilbert's Department Store were sounding loudly adamant.  "Are you crazy, or what?" I continued as I tightened my grip on her fake fur collar. ~8~

She hissed at me, "Let me GO!" and she called me a name I'll never forget, a name I wouldn't have thought she would have known.  She bit me!  The little scamp BIT me!  And she scratched a gouge in my hand that I knew would never heal without a scar. ~9~

"I'm keeping you here for the police," I said.  "It's against the law to go pulling alarms like that when there's no emergency."  I didn't even think of any fire, I was sure this was a prank and was disgusted it was being done by a sweet little girl rather than a nasty, dirty boy.  "Where're your parents?"  I spit those words at her as I began hearing the screams and turmoil going on beyond the stockroom doors:  people shoving, items falling, glassware breaking, lights flickering on and off. ~10~

It was the lights that got me.  Why would they be failing like that; they would either stay on or go off entirely, all at once if someone pulled the switch for a joke.  While the store darkened and lightened in some chaotic rhythm, throngs of people crushed at the exit doors overwhelming the security guards trying to restore order.  I held onto the girl but saw that she was unbuttoning her coat, getting ready to slip out of it.  I wrapped my arms around her middle and pulled her off the floor, kicking and yelling for help.  I yelled too.  Another stocker came over to help me hold the girl. ~11~

"Call security," I said.  "Tell them that I got the person who pulled the alarm, that there's no fire, that it's just some prank!"  While he held one of the girl's ankles, he pulled his phone out and pressed a button that's only used for emergencies.  Soon, the claxons turned silent, and an announcement blared across the store that the building was in lockdown until people backed away from the exit doors and settled into silent lines at the checkout points.  Police began filing into the store.  Red and blue lights were flashing outside the massive display windows with more patrol cars arriving.  Fire trucks showed up, blocking all traffic in the street, hoses were unreeling and being pulled to the front of the store. ~12~

We were too overcome by the crowds of panicked shoppers and the uncertainty that was growing among us in the back.  The girl kept up her kicking and bellowing.  I fixed my gaze on the master control panel that would normally light up if there were any fire or natural disaster being detected on any of the sales floors or stockrooms—there was none.  All seemed peaceful. ~13~

"There's no fire, you little rat!  Why'd you do it?"  I blurted those words directly into her ear and managed to shake her thin little body. ~14~

"Lemme go!  Lemme GO!" she returned. ~15~

"Not until you tell me what's up.  Who else is with you?  Where's your folks?  Why'd you do this?"  The other worker quietly waited, holding both her ankles now. ~16~

She got one hand free and viciously clawed at my face but missed. ~17~

"People were buying the fish!" was all she said. ~18~

"The FISH?" both I and the other worker said. ~19~

"They were buying all those fish and putting them into plastic Ziplocs, stuffing them into shopping bags!  They'll kill 'em!  They'll take them home and give them to monster children who'll tease the cats with 'em and forget to feed 'em and never change their water—UNTIL THEY DIE!"  And then she burst into uncontrollable sobs, biting her lips until they showed blood.  She got a breath in and gasped, "I had to STOP them!" ~20~

We relaxed our hold on her and led her out into the store, summoning a guard to take her.  With her being held between them and on her way to some other secure place in the store, I could hear her singing to the goldfish. ~21~
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