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Convenience Store Irregular

In the center of an average city is a neighborhood wedged between the wealthy historic homes, the downtown corporate sector, and the South Side. People from the other side of the city don't know it's there and the bustling suits in the skyscrapers overlooking it forget about it soon after they wander back out of the tangled streets after taking a wrong turn in search of a new lunch spot. The poor residents of the South Side know of it but only venture past its borders in times of desperation. The wealthy pretend it doesn't exist. It has no name on the map, but it's usually there. Just a handful of streets with only half the dusty storefronts occupied, a few apartment buildings, and some say there is a school (but no one's seen it for a while).  
 
A brightly lit convenience store is among the few businesses lining the empty streets. Sometimes it's a Kwik Way, a 7-11, a Loaf & Jug; once it was "Kiskies Kanteen". Aside from the lack of certainty in its name, it is an average store that served as a loose community hub for the Neighborhood. Only four people work there: Amal, the middle-eastern owner, a part-time teenager from the school that no one's seen in years, and two regular employees. Fran & Pat ran the store - Pat, a veteran who is always perfectly punctual, opens the store, while Fran handles the night shifts. Pat insists on strict personal operating hours of 6 AM to 4 PM, and is usually asleep by 7. Now, Fran isn't as precise in her schedule as Pat, but is still more reliable than the teenager from the school no one has seen lately, as she hadn't been seen lately either. Together the meager crew keeps the store clean, open for its morning regulars, the night regulars, and the late night regulars. One regular is, however, more irregular than the rest.  
 
The first time the Irregular appeared, there was quite the commotion. At 5 AM on a chilly Friday morning, Amal stood with Pat and one police officer in shards of the broken glass door of the store. All three looked bewildered. They had just reviewed the security footage from the break-in. The register was undisturbed, aside from a single $100 bill on top. Moreover, they couldn't figure out what was stolen. There was nothing on the footage, except a blurry pixilated humanoid shape with no substance. It was as if there was nothing for the camera to capture, but the shape still blurred things around it. A void walking up to the store. A void breaking through the glass door. Inside, it stopped once in front of the candy bars, again before one of the cooler doors which opened, then closed. The blur stopped one more time by the chips before moving to the register and back out the broken door. The time stamp read 2:34 AM, a few hours after the store closed at midnight.  
 
The officer visited the check cashing service next door to see their cameras from the incident, and again with the antique shop across the street. There was nothing on their cameras - not even a blurry shape when the glass door shattered. With nothing to go on and his report written the officer went on his way, leaving Amal and Pat to sweep up the glass. A replacement was arranged that day. Pat filled in Fran when she arrived, mentioning that nothing was missing.  
 
Fran was no spring chicken herself. She had lived in this neighborhood her whole life, her silver hair faintly glows in testimony to the years she spent discovering its secrets. Suspicious, she counted inventory that night, staying until 1 AM to prove that Pat was wrong. There were exactly five things missing: a Snickers, a bag of Fritos, and three cans of Arizona tea. That night she locked up and looked slowly up and down the dark street before walking the few blocks home to her basement duplex on Monroe Ave.  
 
The next morning was greeted with a similar sight to the morning before. Another break-in. The same officer looked baffled. Again, a $100 bill on the register. Only the broken glass door was amiss. While the three were again reviewing the footage that looked like an exact copy of the night before, Fran arrived. She had a suspicion. Again, she counted inventory. Again, one Snickers, a bag of Fritos, and three cans of Arizona were missing. Amal was perplexed and frankly annoyed. The $100 bills were not counterfeit - he checked - but they weren't enough to cover the cost of now two replacement glass doors. Pat suggested a metal door. Amal grumbled about the price of steel. Another glass door was put in.  
 
The day passed like a normal Saturday. Pat handed over the keys to Fran at 4:23, much to his annoyance at her tardiness. She went about her evening as normal, until midnight. She taped a note and a key by the register, locked up, and went home. She waved at the officer sitting across the street, nagged by Amal to watch out for the perpetrator.  
 
Sunday morning, the officer, Amal, Fran and Pat were standing outside the store looking at the broken glass. The officer reported falling unconscious at 2:30, right before that night's break-in. Fran was unsurprised, but impressed as she knew of the officer's pharmaceutical habits. The cameras showed the same as the previous two nights: glass shattered at 2:34 AM, a freezer door opening, a strange pixelated void. Fran quietly peeked at the register - in place of her note and key was the expected $100 bill. She huffed a little, and headed back home declaring a need for a nap.  
 
That evening when Fran closed the store for the night, she left a single homemade cookie on the counter. She waved at the officer, who was directly in front of the store tonight after another hour of Amal's griping. She motioned to the white dust on his mustache with a smirk, enjoying the moment of panic in his face. Whistling she made her way home, unperturbed.  
 
The next morning Pat was relived to find the door intact. The officer approached him, muttered a drowsy "good morning" and poured himself the coffee Pat just made. He admitted to falling asleep again on watch, right at 2:30. Pat growled something about the elite force that police used to be, back in his day. The officer was too dazed to respond and stumbled back out to his car. Pat looked down and was surprised to find a $100 bill, sitting on the counter. There was no sign of the cookie Fran had left, but he knew nothing about that, and was unbothered. Fran came in with a smile that night.  
 
From then on, no one was perturbed by the several times a week when $100 would appear on the register. No one checked the cameras anymore, they found the pixelated blur unnerving. Amal ordered extra of their Irregular's favorites, and Fran occasionally leaves out her baking samples when she closes.  
 
And so on went life in the Neighborhood Unseen.
skg373
Written by skg373 (Cera)
Published | Edited 14th Jun 2022
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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