“Murder on Aisle 3” by Jasmine Sarin

The clock seemed to be ticking slower then usual. I had started my shift at four and wasn’t out until eleven. I watched as the clock stroke ten forty five. Almost there. It was my best friends birthday and he was having a huge get together at his apartment then we’re all going to our favorite bar downtown, Sharky’s. If you were wondering, my name is Marvin and I’m twenty-five years old. Let’s just say it’s taking a bit longer to get my degree than I had thought, I’m a History major who hopes to teach one day but for now I am checking out food items and stocking shelves at Safeway. It has been a gloomy week here in Washington and today is no exception, I can hear the rain as it splats every five seconds outside on the pavement. Today was just like any other, the rush of people came in around five to stock up for the weekend but I’m assuming everyone now is already out at their party or event. Ten more minutes to go, all I can think about is that ice cold beer waiting for me at Connor’s place. Usually there is another guy that closes up with me but he had to leave at ten to catch a flight, so tonight it is just me, how exciting. I sit and refresh Instagram on my phone, scrolling to pass the time.

I hear the familiar jingle of the front door opening, I look up and see two men. They both look around forty or fifty years old, dressed in all black, their dark long hair soaking from the rain. A shiver ran down my spine, something about them seemed off. “Hi! Just so you know we close up at eleven.” They both look at each other then quietly grunt as they walk past my register. I watch as they walk to the end of the other side of the store, walking into Aisle 3, I guess they’re just looking for some late night cereal? There’s only a few minutes to closing now so I start to put my jacket on and pack up my bag, until I hear a faint gasp coming from aisle 3. I freeze as I listen closely, it sounds like a muffled scream but definitely not from one of the men, it sounded like a woman’s voice. I’m becoming anxious and confused, did a woman slip in without me seeing? Maybe she has been lurking around the store this whole time. I listen again as it sounds like she’s whimpering and crying, it is all distant though so I am hoping my ears are just playing tricks on me. I then hear the intimidating voices of the men, their words are muffled but I could make out “Owe us” and “Not our problem.” This must have been some drug trade gone wrong or maybe she is an escort? Prostitute? All that I know is that this woman is in danger. I knew it was a bad idea to insert myself into this potentially dangerous situation so I slowly slipped my phone out of my pocket, the only thing I can do is call the police. I’m about to unlock my phone when I hear a loud “pop!” I am frozen in fear. I creep around the corner to see the lifeless body of a young blonde woman. Blood is pouring out of her head and all over Aisle 3. This can’t be happening, I’m just a regular grocery store clerk, I am not apart of any of this. This just can’t be real. The men begin to shout at each other, “Nice job asshole, what do we do with the body!” the other screams back, “You didn’t have to shoot her yet.” “She was getting on my nerves.”

As I let the men argue and yell, I run to the back entrance, leaving my jacket, bag, everything behind, I just had to get out. I’m still clutching my phone, about to call 911 as soon as I leave the building. My heart is about to burst out of my chest, I can feel this morning’s breakfast creeping up my throat, I reach for the door handle to exit when I hear in the distance, “He went that way!” Shit. My adrenaline at an all time high, I push

myself out the door and run. Running into the night, no clue where I am going. There is a small forest behind the store, I find myself hunched over behind a tree, sitting in the mud, hiding from whoever may come. I don’t hear anything but the tapping of raindrops on my boots, so I finally pick up my phone and call the police. I explain everything and tell them that they need to come as soon as possible, the dispatcher says she is sending officers and an ambulance over. I sit, shivering in the mud and dirt when I hear the familiar sounds of police sirens in the distance.

I run back to the store to see a body bag being lifted into the ambulance, but no men in sight. The officers ask me, “So you say there were two men responsible for this?” I nod yes and give the most detailed description I can. “Well when we arrived the cash registers were all broken open and the woman was lying there right in the middle of the aisle, it was quite horrific.” I told the officers that we had security cameras and that they should take all of footage. The ambulance drives off and crime scene photos are taken, I go back to my register to grab my bag and jacket only to realize, they are both gone. My heart sinks as I know I left my wallet in that bag, the wallet with my drivers license, credit cards and cash. I instantly call my bank and ask them to cancel every single one of my cards immediately. I didn’t even care about the cards but my license has my home address, phone number and name. This is a nightmare. The officers give me a ride home and tell me they will be close by if I need anything but not too worry about it, these guys are probably trying to leave the country right now.

Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything from the police, good or bad. I carried this ball of anxiety with me everywhere I went, I would only feel at peace once I know these guys are locked up far away. Three weeks past since the incident and I was starting to feel a bit better, I just came home from playing basketball with the guys when I noticed a letter sitting on my doormat. The letter just says “Marvin,” that’s kind of strange, who sends letters anymore? I rip the envelope open, my heart drops as my eyes read the paper. Written in dark red blood, it reads, “You’re Next.”

“There is a Person Sitting” by Saher Hajidamji

Image result for sittingin a dark room

There is a person sitting in a dark room. Huddled against their own body heat, they feel
a heightened experience of their own senses. As their pupils dilate, they begin to
interpret from four vigorous senses rather than five mild ones. The heat feels more
warm, the breaths sound more loud, but somehow everything outside of the dark room
feels more and more less-tangible.
There is a person sitting in a dark room. This darkness is accompanied by a different
type of quiet一 one that seems to make time go slower. As if they have all the time in
the world to remember the past, understand the present, and imagine a future. A
method similar to coloring outside the lines in order to see the picture.
There is a person sitting in a dark room. They begin to understand. A certain amount of
time ago, one that seems like either days or seconds at the same time, they couldn’t
understand. For a moment, they were stuck inside the box, somewhere lost in a room
full of light. And now, they are free to see whatever they’d like in a dark room. They
stand up and once again, enter the light. There is a person standing in a lighted room
finding their way.

“Tragedy” by Jolie Wolff

    I am born on a Sunday evening. A candle left unattended near paper curtains. I am soft at first, just waking up and remembering who I am. But oh, so hungry, and I must find food before I disappear. I take the curtains and warp the rods, turning them red with my heat. I am a growing blaze, finding aging wallpaper and wooden furniture, licking up strewn newspapers and books stacked near the television. Ash fills the air and I am still starving. 

    I run up the stairs, leaving a trail of embers in my wake. Pictures fall off the walls and glass shatters; I find a carpet at the top that disappears quickly. A closed door tastes like cedar wood and the hinges burn red. Two elders sleep in the room down the hallway, but they do not wake before my smoke has filled their lungs. They perish peacefully, lying in each others arms, and do not scream when I reach them.

 I leave melted spectacles on the charred bedside table. Glass has only ever tasted like pain. 

    A younger man is in the only other bedroom, and he wakes with a shout. I am at his door, and he foolishly burns himself on the knob. He has no carpet for me to slide under, so I eat my way through the wood and force myself into his room. He has so many flammable things; books, magazines, clothing, so much food. I eat and consume and leave scorch marks in my wake and all the while he is just … screaming. 

It only gets louder as I reach him. His clothes taste like sweat, his hair like dirt, but his skin is sweet and young. 

    I die on a Monday morning, before the sun has crested the horizon. There are men working to repair what I have damaged but they will find no life here. Behind shaking hands the people whisper my name and the man’s, as if he was dancing with me rather than weeping, howling. I am tragedy. And I wait to be born anew.