© Copyright 2017 - 64Fordman - Used by permission
Storycodes: MM/f; machine/f; cuffs; hogtie; messy; bagged; trash; dumpster; compacted; dumped; truck; landfill; rescue; nc; x
Note: This very short story was inspired by the Dec. 6, 2016 New York Post.
Carrie is preparing to close the store for the night, well, she is watching the store’s automated systems preparing to close the store. After the last upgrade Carrie wasn’t sure why she hadn’t been fired, the system never has a major failure, it fixes its own minor issues. The supermarket cleans itself, stocks itself and opens and closes itself and answers customer questions by smart phone text all by itself. Her job has been reduced to watching the monitor.
No customers detected
Restocking and purchase orders complete
Preparing end of day reports
Carrie logs off the system before the diagnostic reboot, she is supposed to stay until the system comes back up and starts overnight cleaning operations but twenty minutes of pay isn’t worth hanging around for that. Carrie is grabbing her things when the whole place goes pitch black.
“Why aren’t the emergency lights on?” Carrie said as if the system was going to respond. Her knee slams into a server rack. “Owww, don’t worry about me, stupid piece of junk.”
Carrie finds the door and feels her way out of the office. She sees lights, thank goodness.
“Hey, over here, help.” Carrie said.
A figure approaches. The light strapped to his forehead makes him look like a shadow, but from his size Carrie can tell it’s a man. He grabs her, dragging her further into the dark store and toward the second figure.
“My shift is over, you don’t need me to work on the system.” Carrie said.
“We’re not fixing the place, we’re robbing the place.” The man holding Carrie said.
The second man turns his light on Carrie and the man behind her, she can see he is wearing a ski mask.
“You know there’s no money here, right?” Carrie said.
“There’s no money anywhere since automation, we’re forced to steal stuff.” He said.
“Well you don’t need me for that either.” Carrie said.
“Sorry Honey, but you’re staying right here.”
Carrie’s wrists are pulled behind her back and secured with plastic cuffs. Several strips of tape are pressed over her mouth and she is lowered to the floor, her ankles are cuffed.
“How much time do we have?”
“45 minutes before the power comes back on.”
The two men get to work rifling through shelves and filling plastic boxes on a push cart, and they’re not being neat about it, spilling food and trampling on containers all over the store.
Carrie tries to worm her way out of the bakery aisle toward the entrance and maybe get someone’s attention, but only manages to cover herself in flour, molasses and whatever else is on the floor before one of the men comes back.
He sees Carrie’s attempted escape, folds her legs and uses a cable tie to hogtie her, then tells her they’re off. Now she can only wait for the power to come back and the system to report the robbery.
After some time Carrie hears the snap of a breaker and the low hum of the computers powering up. It won’t be long now.
The system lost power at the start of the diagnostic routine and now displays a message on the terminal. This is where Carrie would recover full function of the system, if she were at the terminal and logged on. The system waits the preprogramed three minutes for input then sends a text to Carrie’s phone to respond to a system failure and initiates post-closing operation in safe mode.
Low level lighting comes on, just enough for sensors to scan the store and assess the cleanup required. The job begins by deploying the Spider, Self-Propelled Debris Remover. It looks more like a Hippo with its square shape and large maw. Traveling up and down the aisles, it uses its two arms to sweep trash into the front intake, depositing full trash bags out the back at the end of each aisle.
In the bakery aisle Carrie sees the machine coming but can’t get out of the way. The end of the arm moves past her then folds at the center like an elbow catching Carrie in the side and pushing her toward the intake where she is swallowed whole by the machine. Inside she is swept into a large plastic bag as more trash is heaped on top of her. When full her bag is tied and ejected from the back of the machine.
Soon the aisles are clear of trash and black plastic trash bags form a row along the dairy and meat section. Carrie struggles but the tight hogtie, sticky contents and the heavy plastic bag itself prevent much movement. She concentrates on creating breathing space.
An overhead trolley system collects the bags so floor scrubbers can be deployed. Carrie feels herself being lifted as her bag moves through the delivery room then drops into the dumpster outside. She knows she is in trouble and can’t understand why the police haven’t arrived. AI, that’s a joke.
Suddenly a loud bang and rumble echoes through the dumpster. Of course the truck is here. The sound of hydraulic pistons and the dumpster is lifted. Carrie feels her weight shifting, then she is falling into the back of a refuse truck.
She hears the dumpster hit the pavement, then the sound of hydraulics again as the driver compacts the load. Carrie is pushed around as the flour, sugar and other bakery debris in her bag is pressed into her. She wills the compactor to stop as it continues to press her into the trash. Her bag pops just as the piston stops and reverses. At least she can breathe easier.
More trash is added at each stop with the driver cycling the compactor every three or four loads. Fortunately they have all been at restaurants, though Carrie doesn’t feel very fortunate, she is pinned in a wall of plastic bags and smells fried chicken, fried beans and fried fish. She fights to not be sick.
Hydraulic pumps start and Carrie panics, she can’t take another compacting. This time the whole wall moves as the trash is ejected from the truck. Carrie falls from the back and tumbles down a mountain of bags and waste being tossed from her plastic prison in the process. Her hair is plastered with grease and food and she lost a shoe, but she lived through it.
The trucks have gone, only the sound of seagulls circling looking for a meal. Carrie can move a little, but getting back up that mountain of trash will be impossible. If she stays here she will surely be buried in trash tomorrow.
Carrie hears a faint sound, like someone crumpling plastic wrap in their hand. It’s getting louder. Footsteps. An old man bends down.
“You’re a girl, imagine that, I though these old eyes were fooling me again.”
He studies the situation then takes out a small pocket knife and cuts the hog tie and wrist cuffs. Carrie sits up and pulls the tape from her mouth, he hands her the knife to cut her ankles free.
“Is this one of those initiations?” He said.
“I got robbed.” Carrie said.
“Didn’t we all, I’ll be happy to share my wealth if you want to look around.” He said.
“Thanks, I’ll just look for my shoe.” Carrie said.
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