The Department Store
“Can I just try on this last piece?” Kathy asked the salesgirl.
“Sure, but we’re closing in twenty minutes.”
“Okay, okay. Wendy, hold my bag I’ll be faster,” Kathy asked her sister, Wendy, who'd folded her arms.
“Make it fast, we have to meet Gary and Paul at Rockland. They’ll be pissed if we’re late again.”
“Not to worry, I know how to deal with Gary,” Kathy said, before running into the dressing room. Passing rows of curtained rooms, no one was in the fitting room with her. She stopped at the first room and drew the curtain closed. Shimmied out of her jeans, and tugged the bias-cut silk dress over her head and camisole. Half the price of yesterday. Was it enough to ignore the bulge under her armpit? No. She released herself from the sausage encasing and pulled a brush out of her purse.
The lights went out.
“What-the ... ?”
Kathy ran and made her way to the entrance of the dressing room. The department store was dark throughout. “Hey, is anyone here? Wendy!” she called for her sister. She turned through each of the isles looking to spot someone. Anyone. “Wendy? She must have gone out to the car.”
Kathy dropped the dress next t the cash register and hurried to the double glass door facing the interior mall. The doors were locked. She pushed and pushed again on the levers. The doors wouldn’t budge. “Is ANYONE here? Let me OUT!” Kathy screamed.
Pulling the phone from her bag, she dialed her sister. “This is ridiculous . . . come on . . . answer.”
“Wendy? Where the hell’d you go?” Kathy cried. “I’m locked inside the department store.”
“Who is this?”
“It’s me--goofball, your sister.”
“My sister? . . . my sister died, two years ago.”
“You’re funny. Gary put you up to this? He’ll pay, all right. Can you please, get me out?”
“I’m sorry.” Wendy hung up.
“What?” Kathy called again, but Wendy wouldn’t answer. She called three, four times, and still, no one answered the phone.
Then she dialed Gary’s number shaking her head. “They think this is funny? I thought we were in a hurry to get a good seat for the show.”
The number you have reached has been disconnected . . .
That’s strange. Kathy searched around the dark unable to process what was happening. She dialed 911.
“You’ve reached 911.”
“Yes! Hello. Can you hear me?”
“Yes, ma’am, what is your emergency?”
“Oh my God, yes. Thank goodness. I’m trapped inside Wooltstein’s Department store -- at East Line Mall. Everyone’s gone and I’m trapped inside.”
“Where did you say you’re calling from, Ma’am? I’m not getting a computation for your location.”
“East Line Mall. In Woolstein’s--at the entrance! Can someone get me out?”
Kathy heard whispering.
“East Line Mall burned down two years ago.”
“What? That’s impossible. I’m inside the mall right now. “
“It is a crime punishable up to fifteen years for playing with the emergency call system.”
“No—Please don’t go. My name is Kathy Driver. I live at 500 Beacon Road. Please call my sister, Wendy at (500) 225-1515.
“Someone is headed to that address to see about your emergency.”
“Of course, not.” The operator sounded irritated. “You say you’re inside the mall’s department store that burned to ash two years ago. They’re checking with the folks at 500 Beacon.”
What else was there to say? “Yes!”
Kathy kept watch over the ghost town scanning the shops she could see. She’d forgotten about the emergency exit. There’d be an alternative exit, somewhere.
Keeping the phone line open, using the light of her phone to navigate, she made her way through the racks to the opposite side of the store.
The EXIT sign wasn’t lit. She pushed on the metal door. It wouldn’t budge. Spotting a water fountain, grateful to get a cool drink, she bent over, but no water trickled out of the fountain. How long could she survive without water?
Her phone’s battery down to the red, the clock off. Surely, Gary and her sister would come looking for her.
It felt as though hours had passed. The concert would be over by now. With her phone dying, no water to drink, sitting in the dark, Kathy found a piece of gum inside her purse and she chewed it, fading away.
Baby Baby, Baby, Yeah.
It was her cell phone. “Hello, hello?”
“Is this Kathy Driver, who once lived at 500 Beacon Road.”’
“I live there now.”
“Not according to the Beacon family. They said you perished in that fire at the mall, two years ago on this day. They are very upset.”
“That’s impossible if I’m talking to YOU? Isn’t it? Why don’t you just send someone out here? Then you’ll see.”
“Ma’am, there are two patrol cars out at the old site of the East Line mall now.”
“Great! Where? Where are they?” Kathy ran to the back entrance of the department store and watched the parking lot.
Two police officers passed near the door and she banged on the glass. So close, one of the officers glared into her eyes. But did nothing. He picked up the radio dispatch when he returned to the vehicle and they drove away.
“They left,” Kathy whispered.
“The officer radioed in that there was nothing to see at East Line. No mall, no cars, people, not anyone. Maybe this game has gone too far,” the operator suggested.
“Yes, it’s gone too far . . .”
Kathy turned her back on the glass window and slid to the floor. Out of ideas. Her cellphone went black.