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stargate, DanielJackson

Week 21, Title: A vision softly creeping

Posted on 2017.06.15 at 22:51
Tags: ,
Lydia has worked at the Uber-mart for a long time. She’s been there through loves lost and found, through raising kids and babysitting grandkids. She’s been there for countless birthdays and anniversaries, births and deaths (those of both personal and work families). Innumerable people have come and gone; retirements, graduations, promotions. She’s taken joy in their joys and pain in their pains. She’s watched the store through corporate restructurings and recessions, through bustling holidays and quiet lazy afternoons, through mass hiring and mass firing. Through take-overs and remodelling and the slow-grinding changes of stock. She’s seen the chaos of product recalls and was there the day the last pricing gun stopped working.

She knows the store, knows the people, knows the products, knows the cracks on the shelves and the sight-line of every mirror. And she knows something is different. She knows something is wrong.



*

It starts small: one of their regulars walking up to the counter glassy-eyed, grumpy and not their usual chatty selves, too tired or too drunk she thinks.

The next glassy-eyed regular two days later is an oddity. The third one is a pattern. That’s the point at which Lydia starts looking.

It’s a lot of little things, nothing extreme; nothing noticeable.

Some of it is reminiscent of the last bad corporate takeover. The new method of contract negotiation is a mass email stating that said negotiating employee has 'decided to leave'. Staff turnover is always high, but it’s higher now, also not unusual in a bad corporate takeover. But the replacements are… strange.

Lydia mentions this in whispers to her co-workers and receives rolled eyes in return. They tell her she’s not down with the kids. Except she hasn’t been down with the kids for generations, it’s not that.

She makes lists in a small notepad and keeps a pen tucked behind her ear. She sneaks around because no one suspects a little old lady.

*

Time goes on and Lydia finds nothing significant. Some references to product lines in tones that seem too static. It could easily be genuine shop-talk or just as easily it could be code.

She’s beginning to think she really has just lost her marbles like everyone says. Just another old woman, going senile. She has to take a breath against the horror of the thought. It’s going to happen eventually, death or senility; it’s just a dice throw for which comes first. She always thought she would prefer death. But standing here, now, in this moment, she can’t imagine going so soon. She’s still so awake, so alive. She gives a hiccup-sob and gets back to work.

*

Lydia still hasn’t stopped her search, even though she knows she should. It’s probably not helping matters, indulging whatever instability is going on in her head. But there’s this niggling doubt, strong and steel-like and unquestionably real. And so she continues.

Late the next night she spots another oddity. One of the new employees is restocking, removing the old stock and replacing it with new. It looks perfectly ordinary. Except Lydia knows those shelves were just restocked, and those items are well within sell by dates. She’s about to note it down when someone else steps towards the re-stocker.

They speak quietly, but freely, with no reason to suspect anyone else would be around at this time.

“How are the replacement products working?”

“The subjects are responding as expected.”  

“Good. Soon we will gain control.”

*

It’s something. Lydia is certain. It could be referring to a marketing strategy, but Lydia suspects it’s something far more ominous. She takes note of the people who always buy the things she saw being replaced. And realises that several of the glassy-eyed customers do so.

But proof is needed. She sets up hidden cameras and microphones; she knows the nooks, the crannies, the forgettable places.

Day after day she watches footage, only managing a few hours a night- she curses her age. They talk in long dull sentences, numbers; sales and population statistics and areas of control. So when- head nodding and eyelids drifting shut- she sees it, she knows she must be dreaming. But she pauses, anticipatory, rubs her eyes awake and watches again.

The men’s faces change, contort, reshape, until they stand there with mouse-heads.

*

Lydia watches over and over, not understanding. Her palms are sweating and she feels a little dizzy. She hates to admit it, but she’s scared.

She knows that the first thing she has to do is make sure they can’t keep selling whatever it is they’re selling. The most efficient course of action seems to be a little anonymous whistle-blowing.  

She gives the most rational interpretation of the truth: says that the store has a secret mice infestation.

*

The store closes. Lydia spends time with her grandkids and puts the mouse-men out of her mind.

But then, freshly refurbished, new and improved, it opens again.

Lydia and one of the high-schoolers are the only ones from the old workforce remaining. Everyone else has moved on.

The difference is this time stark and clear and terrifying.

Every customer becomes glassy-eyed, obedient.

Lydia posts footage on you-tube (and yes, she knows how to do that thank you very much). Everyone either laughs or gives her a pat on the back for the genius production. She cries into her pillow in frustration.

*

She’s stopped consuming Uber-mart products and urges her family and friends to do the same. They give her concerned looks and talk about assessments and care homes.

It’s soon obvious that it’s not just the one store. The glassy-eyed obedience is spreading.

People begin to notice, but they have no idea what it is, no idea what’s going on. Lydia’s videos and blog-posts float in obscurity.

*

There are armies of glassy-eyed obedience. Every day the unaffected lose more to the glassy-eyed prison. They have no idea how to stop it. It’s in some foods, they’ve figured out that much. But it’s impossible to track. Especially with the world working against them.

Until someone with a voice, someone who is listened to, in their zealous research comes across a hidden post. And then they know.

The rebellion is wild and vicious and gloriously alive.

*

It’s not long before the mouse-men find Lydia. She doesn't really have the constitution for running away.

They stalk towards her, expressions placid. One is holding a large needle.

She grits her teeth against trembling and holds her head up. She spits at them.

“I’ll die knowing I ended you.”

Needle-man chuckles. “No. Now it's our turn to do the experimenting. People will be angry for a while, but then they will settle, our reach will expand and we will have the whole world in our grip. After all, everybody has to eat.”

*

Lydia likes her little room at the home. She likes staring out of the window and watching the people walk by. Sometimes her children and grandchildren visit and she works hard to entertain them. They’re growing up so fast. And her kids worry too much about her, it makes her sad. She shouldn’t be a burden, so what if her eyes aren’t as clear as they used to be.

------


Link to article: http://www.wimbledonguardian.co.uk/news/15334029.Mitcham_Iceland_re_opens_after_mice_problem_and_promises__surprising__experience_for_customers/?ref=mrb&lp=4

Comments:


kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre
bleodswean at 2017-06-15 23:10 (UTC) (Link)
Hahahaha - mice men! And they are going to be doing the experimenting! I could not figure out what sort of current event this could possibly be extrapolated from and when I clicked the link you had me laughing out loud.

Great work on fleshing Lydia out! I loved how hard she was working to solve this creepy mystery!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-16 16:57 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked the way I did Lydia. And glad the link made you laugh :)
i_17bingo
i_17bingo at 2017-06-16 13:31 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, this was a tense read, and I absolutely loved it, from the plucky character of Lydia to the dour ending. I see a lot of dead mice on the bicycle trail, and I have to wonder if this is revenge of some sort.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-16 16:58 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the lovely compliments, so glad you liked it :)
rayaso
rayaso at 2017-06-18 12:43 (UTC) (Link)
What a great mystery! I wonder if, now that Amazon has purchased Whole Foods, there will be an increase in mice men.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-18 12:57 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked the mystery :). Lol.
Rebecca
beeker121 at 2017-06-19 00:14 (UTC) (Link)
This is great fun! I really like Lydia - how she is so clear eyed about the world around her and herself. For a brief moment I was terrified her room at the home was going to have a wheel...
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-19 16:03 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked Lydia :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
halfshellvenus at 2017-06-19 07:03 (UTC) (Link)
It's tough to be the only one who notices that something deeply strange and wrong is happening. It makes YOU seem like the one who is strange and wrong, and how can you be sure you aren't?

Back East in the U.S., we have an ongoing face-off between health departments and the owners of small grocery stores. The stores often deploy worker cats in secret, which the health department objects to (germs!). But, as the stores point out, the mice ALSO increase the issue of germs, and other means of killing the mice tend to be toxic. So, cats are actually the best solution. Which doesn't work for the government. It's all "No." Even if your solution has fewer side-effects, and there IS no perfect solution, the response is still "No" combined with willfully ignoring any salient points you've offered.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-19 16:04 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, yep there's no way of knowing :).

Ugh, that sucks.
Direst Ryl
ryl at 2017-06-20 12:23 (UTC) (Link)
Another benefit to cats is that they'll eat the mice and won't leave any carcasses lying around. Hygeine!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-21 16:16 (UTC) (Link)
:)
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"
roina_arwen at 2017-06-20 21:59 (UTC) (Link)
A very unique take on the article! It made me think of the mice from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-21 16:16 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked my take on the article :). The current events for this city have been rather tragic lately. So I wanted to start with a light-hearted article and twist it.
Ink Well
penpusher at 2017-06-21 16:52 (UTC) (Link)
Practically Orwellian! Or maybe it's Steinbeck I'm looking for? :)
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-21 17:04 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :D
marlawentmad
marlawentmad at 2017-06-23 03:11 (UTC) (Link)

Oooh, I adore Lydia. This is such a great narrative.

swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2017-06-23 17:14 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked Lydia and the narrative :)
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