Denile Denial

The muzak piped through the speakers is supposed to put shoppers at ease. Instead, the harsh white environment of the all night drug store seems artificial. Artificial light, artificial music, the man at checkout even looks artificial. Under the flourescent bulbs, his mediterranean skin looks sickly and green, almost as if he's the living dead. The brown shadow that rings his bulbous eyes gives him the look of a racoon. A zombie racoon with greasy black curls. The store is supposed to look sterile, with its white fixtures, white floors, white counters, and white walls. Perhaps it did when it was new, not anymore. Now the shelves are bent and scratched, a thin layer of brown stains the high traffic areas, and the counter is gray-black with the filth of money and hands.

The little red basket hanging off Delia's arm is loaded, she's been meandering through the aisles one by one, searching for an assembly of all the most embarrassing things to get in a drug store. Condoms, lubricant (both kinds), pregnancy tests, hemorrhoid cream, something for athlete's foot, other sundries that people don't talk about in polite company, and at the very bottom of the basket… five home evo tests.

Every once in a while, her shifty blue eyes dart toward the clerk, those buggy brown eyes follow her everywhere, like an old painting, or a doll. He looks so wrong in the starched white shirt he's wearing. A sidelong glance proves him watching her. His lanky arms hang limp down by his sides, his hands hidden by the counter. He hasn't shaved in a long time, at least not very well. His facial hair, scraggly in some areas, thin in others, gives him a dual appearance. A man-boy, he's neither one of them but at the same time he's both. It's just so wrong, everything about him is wrong, it fits the rest of the store. As Delia closes in on the counter, she hesitates near the candy aisle and pretends to ponder over the bags of gummy bears stacked in a dusty pile.

He's going to know… He'll tell someone… They'll all find out… Delia's paranoia hit peak earlier in the week. Since that conversation with her father, she's been obsessing about it. Is she one of them? A freak? A killer? She didn't feel any different, no different than usual. It's an argument she's been having with herself since she first felt those eyes following her, it only goes around in circles. How does she know what it feels like to be normal if she never was?

He's still looking at me… Does he know already?… Is he one of them?… He looks like one of them… But what do they look like? Huruma is one of them, her father said so. Maybe a steady diet of people is what keeps her looking the way she does. Delia takes a long slow breath inward as she stares at the gummies through the plastic window of their bag. Little multicolored eyeless heads point back at her, silently accusing her. Will I start eating people? Impossible, surely someone would have mentioned something by now, unless they didn't want to cause widespread panic.

Suddenly the redhead begins to feel claustrophobic. The aisles are too narrow, the light too bright, that man too creepy, they all just feel so wrong, and she's one of them, pristine except for that layer of grime that could be evolved. Grabbing the bag of gummies, she piles it and two others on top of the items in the basket and tromps up to the counter. She doesn't look at him, keeping her head down guiltily as she unloads all of her items one by one onto that gray-black counter.

He is still watching her as he takes the items and passes them unceremoniously over the scanner. She can feel his eyes burning into her, looking up, she twitches a tentative smile in his direction, shrugging. "Donations for the free clinic…" she explains, just as he's swipes one of the gummies over the large red eye on the counter. The beep is the only acknowledgement that she even said anything. He doesn't make any indication that he cares one way or the other, whether he believes her or not, and for some reason Delia is incensed. "… They need these supplies, except for the gummies, those are for me," she goes on. Still nothing.

Now redfaced, the young woman slides her credit card through the machine and waits for her receipt. He's still watching her, those dark eyes boring through her, as he passes the last of her purchases over. It's the bag with the test kits. They're nearly ripped from his hand before she whirls and practically runs to the door. The tears are welling in her eyes, threatening to dump a veritable ocean. If only they could carry her away, out the door just like Alice, to attend her personal caucus race. Around and around in a circle that leads to nowhere.

After the bicycle is unlocked, Delia veers out into the street. She passes by the stalled traffic on her way toward home, a place that isn't so warm and welcome lately. All she can feel is those eyes, judging her, knowing something that she can't admit. Wondering why every pair turns that particular shade of blue. Just like Daddy's.

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