[Original Novel] The Beautiful Ones, Part 2

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Previous parts: 1

Mark cut him off. Jeffrey looked up from his game. Mark’s snickered. A lengthy argument followed. Initially about metaphysics but somehow transitioning seamlessly into a discussion of what items everyone needed.

Hugh suggested. So, hearing aids went on the list. Fran blushed. Andrew puzzled over that until Melissa clarified that she meant tampons.

Mark scoffed. Andrew reiterated the reasons for eating the most perishable foods first, but Mark proved intractable.

Andrew broke in. Again, Mark scowled. For a moment he eyeballed Andrew, as if deciding something.

Andrew seemed satisfied by this, and invited Mark to help him collect items on the list.

There was some grumbling. But as food appeared plentiful, Mark was left to his own devices while the rest feasted on tomatoes, avocados, grapes and cantaloupe. There was no sense of day or night, but many hours had passed and most were exhausted. Sarah offered. The rest declined.

Fran glanced about nervously. Agreement was unanimous. Some of the shelving units at the ground level were cleared. Bath curtains were hung in lieu of walls, for privacy.

With the addition of bed rolls, pillows and blankets, the modest shelters were complete. At Melissa’s request, an extension cord was run to her little room so she could charge her phone. Likewise for Jeffrey and his handheld game. With everything as sorted as it could be for the first day, one by one, they fell asleep.

The next day, more goods were unloaded from the shelves to create living space up off the ground. Mark warned, carefully easing a stack of toilet paper off the shelf above him. Sarah shrugged. Extension cords were strung up to everyone’s miniature apartments, and lamps were gathered for interior lighting.

Sarah urged. Breakfast was bananas and strawberries. Andrew said with a mouth full of banana. Melissa was still holed up in her shelving unit with a 24 pack of soda and a bag of donut holes.

Neither he nor Melissa had joined the rest for breakfast. A muffled voice came back in reply:

They didn’t get away with loafing for long. When asked to make the rounds, checking to see if any of the doors were now unobstructed, Jeffrey immediately sought out the “amigo” electric shopping scooters. Melissa complained, but ultimately followed suit. With a shopping card tied to the rear of each, they made serviceable trucks, such that the two were able to restock on the way.

While they did so, the others congregated and got to speculating. Mark rubbed his chin. Which seemed meaningful to everyone but Sarah.

Sarah mulled that over before speaking. Fran’s eyes lit up. This time, Mark was the one to object. Initially, no answers were forthcoming.

After some silence, Hugh started in. The only problem, evident to everyone, was that they weren’t the least bit cooped up. Rather the PriceCo seemed a wastefully large, well apportioned living space for just seven people.

. Nobody turned to look until he grew louder. Andrew stood before one of the shelving units near the end of the row. Sure enough, there were skid marks on the floor. It had been turned 90 degrees. Nobody spoke.

Fran blinked. The rest said the same, one at a time. Andrew unfolded it and pointed to the rectangle representing the now turned shelving tower.

Sarah stepped in to comfort him. The rest were nonetheless plainly put off by the outburst. Everyone present denied doing so. Just then, Melissa and Jeffrey returned with their odd little electric trucks piled high with loot.

The two stopped the carts and shook their heads. Soon they were off their carts and studying the rotated shelving tower with the others. Mark narrowed his eyes.

Nobody else agreed. Melissa suggested it was a ploy by the two cisgendered hetero white men to create apparent danger as a pretext for seizing control. This, too, went over like a lead balloon. Mark assumed Sarah meant him.

She looked wary. He pointed out that he could already do that. A lecherous grin slowly spread across his face. Andrew eagerly volunteered to take first watch. He clenched his fist, fire in his eyes and muttered

The rest of the day was spent interconnecting the shelving towers with walkways made from wooden planks. Ladders were affixed to the exterior with zip ties for easy movement between levels, and Andrew had the idea to supply water to every abode by a gravity feed system.

He’d busted one of the drinking fountains off the wall with a sledgehammer, then run a hose from the gardening section over to the ever growing apartment towers. It now snaked up around one of the supports, terminating in a buoyancy valve inside a plastic barrel being used as a water tower.

Once full, the water level would pull the buoyancy valve shut so the barrel didn’t overflow. When anyone on the levels below wanted water, they had only to turn the spigot on their level. Sarah gushed. Andrew surveyed his work, then offered his own appraisal.

She didn’t let up until he took some amount of credit, although her persistence confused him. Mark gestured to the discarded sledgehammer. Mark lifted it and examined the head. Andrew looked contemplative, then estimated perhaps fifteen to twenty.

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