Checking Out [3]

I thought about that lion a lot, in the following days. I mean, lioness. I mean, of course it wasn’t REALLY a lion. I may have been in shock and more than a little beyond the ability to reason clearly, but even in my addled state, it was clearly not a lion.

Not a regular one.

It was much too large, first of all. Unless there are lions that are six feet tall at the shoulder and close to ten feet long without the tail, with paws about the same diameter as a dinner plate.

And its eyes were green. Glowing jade green. And its fur was much too golden yellow. It was much too yellow to be a real lion.

Also, it didn’t behave in the ways one would expect a lion in a supermarket to behave.

Well, that’s a stupid thing to say, but you know what I mean. It didn’t act like a wild apex predator in an enclosed space full of mostly hapless prey animals [and a butcher’s section].

It came into the foyer space where they keep the carts just as I was starting to head out of the store into that same space.

I was so freaked out already that I basically just stood there. I had just been silently congratulating myself for making the decision to chuck the farfalles onto the floor. I thought I was on a roll.

But my next major decision was that no matter what, I was NOT going to pee myself.
It was perhaps ten feet from me, less than a bound and a happy munching noise away. But instead of coming after me, it just stood there a moment, gazing at me with jade green eyes while I concentrated on holding my bladder.

It raised its head, then, and sniffed the air in my general direction, made rumbling noises not unlike purring, and then turned its attention back to padding into the store. As its tail narrowly escaped the closing automatic doors, I started feeling my emergency head start to crumble, and began to sidle towards the outer doors, keeping an eye on the ones it had just gone through.

At which a second beast almost identical to the first came bounding through the doors right in front of my nose, so close that I felt the wind of its passing on my face. At which point I did indeed pee in my pants.

The cat didn’t so much as pause, it was in the midst of catching up to its friend, and I wasn’t going to argue with the concept of their togetherness. I hustled out into the parking lot and ran for my car.

As I reached it, there was a sound I never hope to hear- or feel- again. It was two very large cats roaring- maybe bellowing would be a better term for it- in harmony. The noise was so powerful the windows in the front of the store began vibrating and then after a few moments, shattered.

It was so strong that I felt like I was standing in front of the wall of amps at a metal concert, like I’d done in my younger days.

And there was something in the tonality of it that shook me to my core. More than shook me. It made me feel like I was out of tune, like I was a 12 string guitar that had been operating on just one loose string and that string was a little flat.

But I was beyond the ability to really analyze all of this, at this point, I needed to get into my car and go home. And crawl into bed. And pull the covers over my head.

So I got into my car and started it, and as I glanced around to make sure that I could escape the parking lot, I saw something that I will never forget.

There was a swarm of small shadowy creatures pouring out of the broken windows and the doors of the supermarket. From what I could see, they were sort of the size and shape of pigeons, but without heads.

They moved the way pigeons do when they’re running on the ground, when their breastbones are sort of rigidly bouncing a little bit, and their feet are unused to the ground, and they’re just about to flap their wings and fly away. But they didn’t seem to be flapping, they were just pouring out of the building and running in all directions. There were thousands of them.

Where they ran, there was a black haze that followed, a smokey mist that i recognized from the sauce guy’s face just before normal went away.

The cats appeared in the shattered window openings, then, and I hit the gas and sped away, definitely flattening a few of the headless pigeons as I did.

I wasn’t sorry.

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