Ten Thousand Dales – Complete

Bleep Bleep Bleep

Dale opened his eyes, he hated the sound of his alarm clock but then supposed that that was the point. With a slap he silenced the damned thing. It was nearly 7:00am, he had to shit, shower and shave before he headed off to work. Screw it! He would shower after work, shit while at work (might as well get paid for it) and shave sometime next week—it wasn’t like those three hairs on his chin were going to be getting company anytime soon. He would just rest his eyes for five or ten minutes.

“Dale. Dale, honey, don’t you got work today?”

Dale opened his eyes to find his mom standing over him. “What time is it?” Dale asked as he yawned.

“It’s just after eight.”

“What?!” Dale jumped from his bed; his lord of the rings blanket flying to the floor. “I’m late!”

In a matter of minutes Dale had donned his obnoxiously coloured purple and red uniform complete with shiny gold name-tag dangling from the shirt collar, scarfed a cold pop tart, threw on his shoes, snatched the keys to his mom’s minivan and bolted out the door.

The van still had the trailer holding Dale’s go-cart attached to the back. He had not bothered to unlatch the trailer after returning home from the track two nights ago. He wanted to get back there and do a few more laps tonight after work.

As he blew past other cars on the road, Dale leaned forward and looked out his windshield at the sky stretching before him. A dark sinister ring of storm clouds circled the horizon like a horseshoe nimbus of impending doom.

Great,” Dale said sarcastically. He could see his plans of hitting up the go-cart track after work going down the drain.

Of course, the parking lot was already half full, and why wouldn’t it be, the store had only opened ten minutes ago. It was Wednesday for god sakes, didn’t people have anything better to do with their lives then go grocery shopping first thing in the morning.

Parking at the back of the lot Dale hustled into the store; the large neon sign above the doors spelling out the business’ name for all passing motorists to see: Fresh Choppers.

“Hey bud.”

Dale turned to find six-foot-eight Nick ambling in behind him.

“Hey man. I’m late,” Dale said as rushed through the sliding doors.

The layout of the store was confusing at best, radically incompetent at worst. With the produce and meat departments being sectioned off along the entire first third of the store, the only way a customer could proceed further was to try and navigate a small “choke” point at the beginning and end of the first main aisle, which was no bigger across that a couple of grocery carts.

As Dale scurried through the produce department he waved to the full-time produce clerk Alex.

Pretending to stock some apples (in actuality checking out a couple of university girls that had just wandered in), Alex nodded towards Dale.

“Dale, you’re in shhiiiiiit.” Alex laughed.

“Uh…what? Why?” Dale slowed down.

“Oh no, I’m not gonna ruin the surprise big guy,” Alex said with a wink.

Dale didn’t like the sound of that.

He hurried through the meat department; Nick had already started work (if that’s what you’d call it) and gave Dale a strange look.

“What?” Dale said.

“I just ran into George, he’s acting like a lunatic. He says you forgot-,” was all Nick could say before he was cut off.

“Dale! Go punch-in then come see me by the dairy cooler.” George Morris, the store manager, shouted from between the plastic flaps which separated the backroom from the main floor.

Dale was startled by the man’s tone. He had worked for George for the better part of a year and—other than on the rare occasion—had never heard the man yell so loudly. Looking to Nick, Dale saw that his tall friend had suddenly become very busy with a package of bologna.

At just shy of a run, Dale quickly clocked-in at the digital punch clock located outside the employee lunchroom. He had just a moment to peek into the eating area and was immediately spotted by two of his coworkers; Danny and Sam.

Spider-Dale!” Sam said.

Dale smiled at the name. Several months ago Dale had demonstrated his impressive jumping skills to some of his fellow employees; what followed was a slew of nicknames which included his personal favorites; Danger Dale and Spider-Dale.

“Whoa, Dale, what did you do?” Danny asked with real concern. “George is pissed.”

A ball of nervousness began to grow in the pit of Dale’s stomach; there was something going on that he was not aware of and it was becoming pretty clear that it was somehow his fault.

“I don’t know.” Dale looked at the two for help before adding, “What did you guys hear that I did?”

Sam shook her head and chuckled

“You worked last night right?” Sam asked.

“Yeah…”

Sam and Danny exchanged glances.

What?!” Dale demanded.

“You forgot to put the eggs into the cooler.”

No sooner had the words left Sam’s mouth than the world around Dale began to spin. He had put the eggs away, hadn’t he? He began replaying the events of the previous night in his head. The egg delivery driver had arrived with three skids of eggs an hour before closing (he remembered the driver very clearly because the guy had been really shady). Dale had signed for the eggs and wheeled them into the cooler. Oh…wait, the cooler had been full at the time with crates of chocolate milk; Dale had to work all the chocolate milk into the bunker outside the milk doors before the eggs would fit in to the cooler. It was starting to come together. He had worked the chocolate milk and then began facing the dairy doors and then it was closing time. Oh god! He had forgotten the eggs out overnight.

“…Oh no.”

Sam smiled at Dale before saying, “Yeah…it sucks. It could be worse though.”

“How?” Dale asked.

“It could have been me working dairy last night.” Sam laughed.

Danny was a tad more sympathetic towards Dale’s plight.

“Maybe you won’t get fired.”

Hopeful, Dale asked, “You think so?”

Danny smiled and nodded but Dale could tell that they thought that he was a dead Dale walking.

“DALE!” George yelled from somewhere in the bowels of the building.

Numb, Dale quickly ducked out of the lunchroom and made his way across the back of the store. He could see George standing in front of the dairy cooler, but more importantly he could see the three skids of eggs as well.

Deciding to be pre-emptive about the whole situation, Dale launched into a—what he hoped—reasonable explanation.

“G-George, I know that I forgot to-to put these away but you are n-never gonna believe what happened last n-night. I was walking near the front of the…the store and I saw a guy with a…uh, uh, a ski-mask…yeah! Yeah, a guy in a ski-mask! I was sure he was gonna rob-“

George Morris was not buying it though and quickly cut Dale off.

“Do you know how much these eggs cost?!”

Dale didn’t really know but could guess that it was quite substantial.

“…no.”

“A lot! Besides the cost, what are we supposed to tell customers today when they come looking for the eggs in the ad? Huh? What?”

Well, this was it, Dale was about to be fired. A voice in the back of his brain demanded that he go out in a blaze of glory. He could practically see it. He would tell George to take all his stupid eggs and shove them up his ass, then, he would chug a carton of chocolate milk (without paying!), find the nearest female employee and give her the most passionate kiss ever. After that he would hop into his mom’s mini-van, do a couple of donuts in the parking lot and peel out of that bitch with nothing but his middle finger looking back at Fresh Choppers.

Instead of all that however, Dale just said, “…sorry, sir.”

George gave Dale his best angry face, it was an expression which held a close resemblance to a constipated dog, before finally saying, “You’re lucky Dale. Apparently, the driver from last night’s delivery turned out to be a crack addict and he stole the truck after he delivered here. I told the supplier that we had yet to receiver our eggs and so they are going to send a replacement shipment today.”

Dale couldn’t believe it. He had averted complete disaster and it was all thanks to a dirty, crack-head who just happened to choose last night of all nights to lose his shit.

“So…” Dale began.

“So, you’re not fired, but we are still going to be without eggs for the morning and more importantly we need to get rid of all these rotten ones before the new shipment arrives.”

“Yeah, of course, for sure. I’ll do it, what do you want me to do?” Dale asked.

“You’re damn right you’ll do it. You know Dale, I don’t appreciate stuff like this; this kind of stuff costs me money. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I care about you—or any of the staff for that matter—but I do care about this store. Look around Dale, you see these metal shelves, these wooden skids, that amazing concrete floor; that stuff makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, that is the stuff I love. So in the future, if you feel like you can’t give me or my store everything you have than let me know…I can always find more Dale’s.”

Dale wasn’t really sure how to respond to such a bizarre statement but decided that silence was the best answer he could give and just
nodded along in agreement.

“So, I want you to take these eggs out back, crack them open and dump them down the sewer.”

Dale was stunned, that would take him all morning—hell, it could take him all day.

Just then, as a reminder that it was not exactly sunshine and rainbows outside, a crack of thunder shook the building.

“Um…couldn’t I just throw them into the garbage compacter?” Dale asked hopefully.

That constipated dog look returned to George’s face. “No! You want the whole store to smell like rotten eggs?”

“But, it’s gonna start raining…”

“I don’t care if there’s a tornado, you’re dumping those eggs and then after that you can face the whole store.”

Dale realized that nothing he said was going to get him out of the task at hand; and really, not getting fired was already a win for him anyways so he just smiled and agreed with his boss.

The first order of business was going to be getting the eggs outside the receiving bay door. Luckily for Dale (more specifically his back), George had taken a small amount of pity on him and instructed Nick to give him a hand.

After twenty minutes of egg slugging, all the cartons of eggs had been placed in a circle around the drain grate out behind the store.

Looking up at the black clouds hanging from the sky like giant cancerous polyps, Nick gave Dale a thumbs up and said, “That doesn’t look too bad. Try not to get wet big guy.”

“Hey…aren’t you gonna help me break them?”

“Sorry bud, I have to get back to work.”

With that, the door clanged shut and Dale was left standing surrounded by ten thousand bad eggs. He looked up to the ominous sky.

“Well…at least it hasn’t started raining yet.” No sooner had the words left Dale’s mouth than a drop of water splattered on his forehead. “Crap.”

Dale grabbed the first stack of eggs and positioned it in front of the grate. He opened the top most carton on the stack and pulled out one of the white ovals.

“One down, nine-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine to go.”

Dale reached out to crack the egg on the metal grate when a jagged bolt of lightning slashed down from the black clouds and hit him.

Dale did not hear the near deafening thunder which accompanied the lightning, he was far too busy being electrocuted.

All in all, the actual lightning strike lasted less than a second but in that small amount of time Dale, and the rotten eggs, were pumped with thirty-thousand volts of electricity. As the current raced through Dale’s body he was hit with a strange sensation; the lightning bolt was not painful but rather it felt like he was caught in a massive vortex. An undeniable feeling of being pulled into thousands of directions blasted through Dale’s mind and body.

As fast as it began it ended. Dale crumpled to the ground in a heap; smoke rising from his curly hair as it started to pour.

Slowly, Dale opened his eyes; he was surprised to find that he was alive enough to do so. It took his zapped brain a moment to register the insane fact that he had just survived a lightning strike. Sitting up he could see that he apparently came through the experience unscathed—and so had the eggs which lay scattered around him everywhere but were otherwise unharmed.

Although he felt okay—just a little dizzy—Dale knew that he should probably head inside and make somebody take him to the hospital. Before he could though he noticed one of the eggs before him began to tremble and roll.

“Whoa…”

The egg settled against his right shoe and abruptly cracked open.

Dale wrote-off what he was seeing as being the result of some sort of shock from surviving such a traumatic event. Because there was no way in hell that a tiny, two-inch tall Dale—fully dressed in a teeny Fresh Choppers uniform—was stumbling from the cracked remains of that egg.

Deciding to play along with the obvious brain damage he must have suffered, Dale leaned over and looked at the miniature version of himself and said, “Hey! Are you…me?!”

Whatever response Dale was expecting it was most likely not the one he got. The little Dale looked Dale right in the eyes and said, “Get him, boys!”

“Uh…what?” Dale asked.

The sudden sound of eggs breaking caused Dale to stand back up and do a three-sixty of his surroundings. Every egg was hatching; surly little Dale’s emerged. The ground was wet from the rain and Dale lost his footing. He slipped backwards and slammed his head against one of the egg crates, he was knocked completely unconscious.

Above, another angry burst of lightning slashed across the dark sky as rain fell in a torrential downpour. Below, a storm of a completely different nature was brewing. The receiving area behind the store was teeming with ten thousand Dale’s.

————————————

The rain beat against the front windows in a steady cadence. The noise was not enough however to override the beep of the scanner at checkout nine. Adrienne passed one item after another across the scanner. She had the extreme misfortune of being the only cashier currently working at that time. Putting on a smile which she hoped did not look as fake as it was, she asked the customer standing before her, “Do you need any bags?”

————————————

Down aisle one, Danny stood in front of a green cart piled high with a dozen cases of instant mashed potatoes. He made a sour face when he realized the shelf was already filled to capacity with the sodium loaded side-dish.

“Why did we get this?” Danny asked himself.

With an annoyed grunt, he directed the cart towards the backroom.

————————————

Nick sat reclined at the lunchroom table. He felt that he had earned a break after helping Dale with the eggs. Sitting across from him, doing their best to not work, were Alex and full-time grocery clerk, Alton.

“I ‘erd Dale got fired,” Alton said, his Jamaican accent obliterating the first two letters of ‘heard’.

“Ha! What a loser!” Alex said between laughs.

Waving a hand dismissively, Nick set the record straight. “Nah, he just had to get rid of all those eggs before the new truck shows up. He’s out back right now breaking them.”

Both Alex and Alton burst into laughter.

“George made him do it the rain?!” Alex howled.

“Dat’s cold,” Alton said.

————————————

A huge boom of thunder shook the building and all the florescent lights in the store flickered. Over by the meat counter, Sam stopped stacking packages of Stewing Beef to take a moment to look at the overhead lights.

“Great,” She said sarcastically.

————————————

George Morris, store manager, hurried across the backroom of Fresh Choppers. He could just glimpse Danny making his way back with a cart loaded to the gills with instant mashed potatoes. Normally he would berate Danny for not being able to unload the boxes somewhere (forgetting the fact that Danny hadn’t been the one who ordered them in the first place), but George just didn’t have time. He had been sweeping the floor in receiving when an epic crash of thunder had caused him to peek out the small window in the loading bay door. What he saw outside had been startling. Prompting him to get to his office as fast as possible.

Though, when he spied the guys lounging in the lunchroom he could not help himself and quickly blurted out, “Hey, you guys can’t all be in here…no talking to each other!”

Unaware of the lewd gestures being directed towards his back, George quickly ducked into his tiny office and locked the door.

————————————

Outside, the storm grew increasingly fierce. It did not bother the staff; the nastier the weather the less customers to deal with. Indeed the downpour had already worked its magic and besides the employees, there was a single customer walking the aisles. And even that wasn’t so bad because he was a regular and most of the workers liked him.

Another colossal boom of thunder rocked the building and in a flash the lights went off. The store was equipped with emergency lights which were supposed to blaze to life within seconds of the power going out, but as employees stood in the dark waiting, nothing happened.

Sam sighed as she stopped working. When the back-up lights failed to come to life, she started for the front of the store.

She didn’t get far before running into Alton, Nick and Alex.

The lunchroom—along with most of the back of the building—had no windows. The three guys had fled the crushing darkness before bumping into Sam.

“I love when the power goes out, I get to grope people,” Alex said.

“Yeah you sicko, you were trying to grope me,” Nick replied.

Rolling her eyes—an expression lost in the darkness—Sam cut off the back and forth between Nick and Alex. She said, “Why haven’t the emergency lights come on? And where’s George?”

“He went into his office just before the power went out. I t’ink he’s still in ‘dere,” Alton answered.

“That’s weird, it must be pitch black in there.”

“Whatever, the guy’s crazy,” Nick chimed in.

Danny came around the corner pushing his cart of mashed potatoes. “Man, it’s really scary out there,” He said with a nod towards the front of the store.

A burst of lightning caused the windows at the front to light up. The group could momentarily see Adrienne standing by one of the cash registers talking to the store’s lone customer.

“I wouldn’t want to be outside in ‘dis,” Alton stated.

“Hey, wait, isn’t Dale still outside?” Sam asked.

“Maybe we should go check on him,” Danny said.

Behind them the flaps leading into the backroom moved. There was something in the blackness and it was coming out.

“Dale?” Danny asked.

————————————

Dale had awoken in several unfortunate places over his short life (most times following a night of boozing), but he had never come too in a puddle of sewage with buckets of rain pounding against him. Apparently the grate he was supposed to dump the eggs down had backed up and had set him adrift in lake nasty.

“Oh gross!”

Climbing to his feet, Dale noticed that he was not alone in the water. Countless bits of eggshell bobbed and churned on the surface as the rain fell.

“What…?”

Vague memories jockeyed for position in Dale’s confused brain. He seemed to remember getting hit by lightning; but as he stood there in the miserable weather, the idea seemed ludicrous. How could he be standing there if he had been hit by lightning? Then there was the other thing; had a tiny Dale emerged from one of the eggs? Dale gave his head a shake and tried his best to dislodge the ridiculous memories along with the sewer water soaking his curly hair. Whatever had happened was secondary to the fact that he had clearly been knocked unconscious and should tell somebody.

Gingerly making his way through the ankle deep water, Dale headed for the door.

The first thing he noticed when he entered the building was the complete lack of power. Dale was taken aback by the sheer darkness of the backroom.

“Hey! What happened to the lights?”

With only silence as an answer, Dale moved deeper into the building.

He knew that he needed to get out of the backroom. The area was always littered with empty skids, random boxes of overstock and other ankle breaking obstacles.

As his eyes tried to adjust to the darkness, Dale thought he could see a faint bit of light coming through an opening in the flaps leading out into the store. Being afraid of the dark (he still used a night-light), Dale jogged—carefully—towards the light.

The first sign that something was not right (besides the power outage), came when Dale pushed against the flaps. He had expected them to do what they were designed for and simply fly open. However this time they only pushed outward a couple of inches before stopping abruptly. Something was lying against them, blocking them from opening.

“What the heck is going on?”

Dale knew that George would flip out if he knew somebody had stacked something against the flaps, especially with the power out. The obstacle was not big, it was just unexpected. The flaps could open either way and Dale could simply pull them towards him. It was still too dark to see what was on the floor but Dale gave it a probing nudge with his foot and determined it was a bag of garbage; given the squishy sound which came from the object, Dale decided it must be meat waste.

The store was almost as dark as the backroom, which was a testament to just how bad the storm was outside. The clouds had rendered the early morning into an unnatural twilight.

Moving cautiously in the dark, Dale could feel some sort of puddle or spill covering the floor. Another red flag popped up inside his head. George may be a lot of things, but above all else he was extremely fastidious; epically in regards to the tidiness of his store.  Dale filed this latest mystery with the others in the back of his mind; he was beginning to worry at the speed in which they were piling up.

The light Dale had glimpsed was coming from the front of the store. Despite the power outage it appeared that the cash registers still had some juice. Besides the faint glow—which Dale now recognized as emanating from the digital screens—he could also hear the droning beep of the check-out.

“Adrienne?” Dale called out as he neared lane nine.

A flash of lightning sent a flood of illumination pouring through the massive windows beyond the cash registers. Although lasting only seconds, it was enough for Dale to see every detail of the checkouts before him.

All the checkouts were empty except lane nine. In the momentary flash of light Dale saw a sight straight out of a horror movie. Stretched across the entire surface of the conveyor belt were the remains of Adrienne. She had been torn into a dozen pieces; each one was being meticulously scanned through the checkout by a horde of tiny Dales’.

“Oh god!”

Dale stumbled backwards just as a miniature carbon copy of himself rolled Adrienne’s head across the scanner, the words not on file flashed across the screen.

The lightning faded quickly but it must have sent a surge through the building as with an audible flick the emergency lighting finally came to life.

Dale stared in shocked disbelief as he was slowly surrounded by thousands of little Dales.

“This can’t be happening!” Dale screamed as he scrambled to his feet and fled towards the back of the store. As he ran he could hear the pitter-patter of countless teeny feet chasing behind him.

With an idea of escaping out the back door, Dale approached the same flaps he had just come out of moments before. With the emergency lights on he could see that his earlier assumption of a bag of meat waste resting against them had been horribly wrong. Dale immediately recognized the dead body as belonging to the regular customer who usually came in early. The man was slumped in a heap; it didn’t take a coroner to determine the cause of his death either; hundreds of wounds decorated the poor man’s body.

The emergency lights were not as fully operational in the receiving area as they had been out in the store. As Dale burst through the flaps he was greeted with a sickening strobe of yellow light which made everything appear to move in slow motion.

Covering the distance from the flaps to the receiving bay in seconds, Dale slammed into the door full force. It didn’t budge.

“No…”

It didn’t make sense, why would the doors be locked? Whatever the reason, he needed to keep moving.

Dale turned as the flaps to the backroom began to open. His heart began beating in his chest as the first of the mini Dales began piling through.

“Leave me alone!” Dale yelled.

There was still another way out, Dale realized, he would just have to pass the freezer, the dairy cooler, the meat cooler and prep area and then make his way across the floor to the front doors.

The little Dales were fast but Dale was able to outrun them. He zipped past the freezer and dairy cooler before rounding the corner by the meat cooler. He was sure he was going to make it.

The vacuum packed pork tenderloin came out of nowhere and slapped Dale across the face sending him tumbling to the floor. In his dazed state he could see the forms of Sam, Danny and Alton standing over him.

“Shit Sam, you ‘it the wrong Dale” Alton said.

“Hurry and get him inside,” Danny said as he grabbed one of Dale’s legs.

Dale could feel himself being dragged across the floor into the meat cooler. With a sliding bang the cooler door slammed shut behind him.

Dale rubbed his head. He could feel the beginnings of a knot forming. He had never been socked with a piece of meat before…it really hurt. As he looked around the meat cooler, a nasty shiver ran up his spine. The chilled space was not an ideal place to be considering he was still completely soaked. Then again, he preferred dealing with some goose bumps and an uncomfortable chill rather than face the army of tiny doppelgangers roaming the store.

Danny, Alton and Sam sat on a skid half stacked with meat totes. The threesome were clearly distressed but looked otherwise unharmed; the same could not be said for Nick. The big guy lay sprawled in the corner atop a pile of bacon packages, several gashes were bleeding across his hands and face but none as grievous as the one on his neck. Someone had done their best to staunch the blood flow by placing meat soaker pads over his wound.

The lighting in the cooler was worse than in the rest of the store. The lone emergency light stationed along the right wall was producing such a faint glow that it only illuminated a couple feet before being swallowed by the darkness. Because of this, Danny, Sam and Alton all held their cell phones out like flashlights.

Having left his phone in his locker (which was company policy), Dale had immediately blurted, “You guys have your phones?! Call somebody!”

Sam gave Dale an annoyed look before saying, “Gee Dale, you think we should call somebody? What do you think was the first thing we did? There’s no signal.”

“Did anybody try the phones in the store?” Dale persisted.

This time Danny answered. “I’m pretty sure the phones don’t work when the power’s out, even with the back-up lights on.”

Feeling somewhat stupid with his questions, Dale quickly changed the topic. “Is…is Nick okay?”

“Hey…I’m p-peachy. I j-just have…t-to be more c-careful when I’m s-shaving though.” Nick said with a chuckle which morphed into a retching cough.

Both Sam and Danny laughed at Nick’s joke but it was forced and quickly faded leaving the cooler in silence.

“What da ‘ell is goin’ on here Dale?!” Alton demanded, breaking the quiet.

Dale was taken aback by his co-worker’s tone. “Why would I know?”

With a sigh, Sam answered for Alton. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe because there several thousand little crazy ass yous running around trying to kill us!”

“I don’t know what those things are, but I think they came from those rotten eggs.”

“How is that even possible?” Danny asked.

With no answer to give, Dale just shrugged his shoulders.

In the corner of the room, Nick attempted to climb to his feet. The movement sent a river of blood cascading down his neck. “One…one thing’s f-for sure, th-those little Dales…are real jerk-offs,” He mumbled. Trying to look down at the grievous wound in his neck, he then continued, “Do…do you guys think this is infected?”

“I t’ink dat’s the least of your problems,” Alton said before Danny could shush him.

Sam went over to Nick and adjusted the meat pads stuck to his neck. “Try not to move.”

Dale was horrified at the state of his friend. Wondering how others in the store had fared he asked, “Where is everybody else?”

Danny thought for a moment then said, “When those…those Dales, came at us we ran. They were everywhere though, Nick was covered in them; I guess in the chaos Alex must have taken off, we didn’t see where he ended up. And the last time we saw Adrienne she was at the front-”

Dale cleared his throat as he interrupted Danny. “Adrienne’s…dead.”

“What?! Are you sure?” Danny asked.

“Well…unless she’s able to take her head off, I’d say yeah.”

Alton started for the cooler door. “Shit, forget ‘dis, we’re gettin’ out of ‘ere.”

“Don’t be stupid, we don’t know where the Dales are, you could be killed as soon as you leave the cooler,” Sam piped in.

“Sam’s right guys, those things are pretty fast. When I found…Adrienne, they came out of nowhere and nearly got me,” Dale said.

“So…what are we going to do?” Danny asked.

Dale thought about it for a second and then it came to him. The quickest way out of the building from their current location was the emergency exit located against the back wall. The exit was a metal door with a cross-bar protruding from the front. The door was less than twenty feet from the meat cooler; they could get there in seconds. The only problem being that the door was locked. Just after the store opened, the staff realized that the door was faulty; a strong wind was enough to push it completely open. George freaked out at the possibility of just such a thing happening during the night and so did what any cheapskate would: he sealed the door closed. Now the only way to access the emergency door was by a key which was held exclusively on George’s key chain.

After filling the others in on his idea, Dale said, “We need to get to George’s keys. Does anyone know where he is…or if he’s even still alive?”

“Last we seen him, he was in his office,” Alton answered.

“Alright, well, one of us should go see if he’s still in there,” Dale said.

“I ain’t goin’ out ‘dere alone,” Alton shook his head vehemently.

“Alton’s right, we should all go,” Danny said.

“Dat is not what I meant,” Alton started.

“Fine then, you can stay here,” Sam said.

“What…alone?” Alton sounded worried.

“Nick will be here,” Sam said.

“Nick?! He’s half dead!”

“Th-thanks…ass.” Nick grumbled. “B-besides, I…I’m not staying here either.”

Although clearly not happy about it, Alton gave in.

Outside the meat the cooler the emergency lights were on their last legs. The strobe effect from earlier had been replaced by a sputtering glimmer which would disappear for seconds at a time before coming back to life only to fade quickly once again.

Those with cell phones held them out to light the way.

Sam was in the front. She was going to crack a joke about being the only girl in the group and still having to lead but decided that it was not the time to emasculate the boys any more than they had already been. Following behind her was Alton and Dale with Danny helping Nick bring up the rear.

The building had grown dead quite, even the storm outside seemed to have slowed down for the moment. If the tiny Dales were anywhere nearby they were not making themselves known.

The group shuffled towards George’s office. The only obstacle in their way ended up being an empty banana box which caused Sam to stumble, her phone slipped from her grip and slid under the produce preparation table. Not wanting to lose the light source, she dropped to her hands and knees in search of the device.

Dale scooted past Sam and quickly darted towards the door marked “Manager’s Office”. He expected the door to be locked for some reason but when he twisted the knob it turned and he was greeted with a satisfying click.

Sam could see her phone, it had landed against some sort of pile of cloth. Countless little mounds of purple fabric stood out in her phone’s light.

“…What is that?”

As she spoke the fabric moved and unfurled. Each lump was actually a tiny Dale rolled up into a ball.

Dales!” She screamed.

Dales flooded out from under the produce table.

Everybody quickly hustled into George’s office…or at least attempted to. The space was quite small, only intended to accommodate two or three people at a time, it became painfully apparent that they were not all going to fit inside.

“Hurry up, close the door!” Danny yelled.

“I can’t, it’s too tight!” Sam screamed frantically.

“Don’t…w-worry guys, I got this,” Nick said as he stumbled out of the office.

Suddenly the office space went from impossibly tight to just uncomfortably so, with Nick gone there was enough room to shut the door.

Everybody crowded around the small window in George’s office door but it was too dark to see much of anything. If Nick made it past the Dales, they couldn’t tell.

Dale held his breath. He was floored by Nick’s act of courage but he knew there was little chance his friend would be able to elude the mob in his injured state.

Moments later there was a knock at the door which was quickly followed by another, then dozens, then hundreds.

“Oh God, we’re gonna die in ‘ere.” Alton cried.

Nobody offered to console Alton because they felt like he had hit the nail on the head. They had moved from the much bigger meat cooler to a tiny office and had lost Nick along the way. Things were looking pretty grim. A pall of fear and depression overcame the group, all except Danny would suddenly burst into laughter.

Spinning around with a shocked expression on his face, Dale demanded, “What the hell are you laughing at?!”

Between whoops Danny pointed to the small book shelf located on the corner of George’s desk. “Look at that! George has a book called ‘How to build good relationships with your staff’.”

Even with the miniature horde of murderous Dales moments away from overrunning them, the others joined Danny in laughter.

“There is no way George has ever read that!” Sam howled.

“No…look, it is the only one that isn’t completely covered in dust.” Danny reached out and grabbed the book by the spine. “Hey, it’s stuck or something.”

With a click the book tilted outwards from the shelf then stopped at a forty-five degree angle.

The area of wall just next to the book shelf suddenly began to move.

“What is that?” Sam asked.

Under the pale light of their cell phones they could see a secret doorway. The opening had been cleverly hidden along the wall making it almost invisible unless it was open.

“Is that a secret room?’ Dale scratched his head as he peered into the darkness beyond the hidden door.

“Who cares, we got ta get away from dem Dales.” Alton pushed past everybody and darted through the mysterious entranceway. The others quickly followed.

The doorway led to a set of stone cut stairs which spiralled downward beneath the store. The steps were very clean and looked practically unused. The wall on both sides of the stairs were decorated with small glow panels but—like the lights in the store—they were without power.

The foursome continued deeper, they could see a faint light coming from below.

The stairs eventually levelled off into a long hallway. The narrow stretch of corridor was completely bare except for a single open door along the left wall towards the end. The light the group had spied earlier was pouring out of the open door. It was clear by the flickering of the light that the source was fire—probably candles.

“…George?” Sam tentatively asked as she approached the doorway.

The room was circular. It—like the stairwell and hallway—was made from poured concrete and appeared fairly new in construction. Unlike those other areas though, this space was not bare but rather completely covered with strange, arcane artifacts. Statues of bizarre looking creatures stood ominously around the circumference, ancient looking books lay strewn about the space in piles, and glass jars containing various liquids were visible in nearly every open space. Standing in the middle of the room in a long purple and red robe was Fresh Choppers store manager, George. The man had painted odd symbols on his face and he was chanting. He was not alone either. Strapped to a table in the middle of the room and as naked as the day he was born was Alex.

“Alex!” Dale asked dumbly.

Alex twisted his head around to look at his co-workers. “A little help guys.”

“What the hell’s going on?!” Dale demanded as he took in the scene before him.

George gaped at the new arrivals for a moment before raising his hands defensively. “I know this looks weird but there is a perfectly good explanation for this.”

Sam pulled out her box-cutter and waved it threateningly in George’s direction. “Well then, you better start explaining.”

“Alright, alright. You guys know how much this place means to me, right?” George said.

“Yes,” Everyone replied in unison.

“Right, well, when we opened, business was good, really good! The customers were coming in droves; I loved it! In the beginning…well, back then we were unstoppable.” George looked off towards the ceiling, a small smile played across his face, his eyes twinkling with memories.

“Get to the point!” Dale yelled.

“Okay bud, okay, so, as I was saying, we were killing it! Then something happened.” The nostalgic happiness which had just lit up George’s face moments ago had been replaced by a dour mask. “I don’t know if it was a case of customers getting over the fact that we were new. Or maybe they realized that a catchy name and garish colours don’t actually make the product any better. Whatever the reason, business began to drop.”

With an exasperated grunt, George said, “No matter what I did I couldn’t get the sales back up. I tried everything! So, I turned to alternative routes.”

Dale looked at Sam who in turn rolled her eyes. “And?” Dale asked.

George coughed and looked away from the accusing stares. “Well…I turned to the dark arts.

“I bought every bit of black magic paraphernalia I could find online,” George continued. “As soon as the spell books arrived I went to work. Most of the early incantations were minor ones, but this morning I tried something a little bit bigger.”

Dale couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What about this room?” he asked.

“Oh this,” George said as he waved his hands around the room, “all Fresh Choppers have a secret room underneath them. Except most of them are used as place for the store manager to hide when employees begin asking about raises or benefits.”

“That’s just sad.” Danny chimed in.

“So, what was this big thing you tried earlier today?” Dale asked.

“This morning, I attempted a very complicated spell, if done correctly it would increase business ten thousand times…” George let the sentence trail off.

Dale shook his head, it all made sense. “So, you did this—this spell which is supposed to make business go up ten thousand times but instead you messed it up and created ten thousand Dales!

George nodded. “That’s right. I must have misread the spell, which would have resulted in nothing, but then you were hit by lightning and somehow that electric energy mixed with the misread spell caused…unexpected results.”

“You stupid bowcyat! I should beat your ass!” Even though the others didn’t know what Alton had said, they assumed it was nasty and just nodded in agreement.

“Enough! How do we get rid of all them?!” Dale exclaimed.

George hesitated a moment before glancing towards Alex. “Well…I was just about to do that before—before you all barged in.”

“How?” Sam inquired.

“This may seem a bit extreme but the most foolproof way to stop the Dales is through…human sacrifice!” At that George pulled a long, curved knife from the sleeve of his cloak and lunged for Alex.

It all happened so fast. George’s actions had taken them all by surprise. Dale had been listening to the man’s explanation of the day’s events one second, then watching him plunge a wicked looking knife deep into Alex’s chest the next.

Alex bucked and thrashed atop the alter; his naked bits quivered. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Within seconds, he was dead.

“What did you do?!” Sam screamed as she flew towards George. She began swinging the box cutter at him in a crazed fashion. Even though George was holding a much bigger weapon, he dropped it to take up a defensive posture.

“No, wait! You don’t understand, it’s was the only way!” George stammered.

As much as George had it coming, Dale found himself restraining Sam. As he wrapped his arms around her he directed Alton and Danny to try and find something to tie George up with.

Once Sam had calmed down, Dale found a large cloth to lay over Alex’s body. Across the room Danny was just finishing the last knots on a rope which was binding George’ hands and feet.

“So…you guys t’ink it worked?” Alton asked the others.

“What?” Danny replied.

“George’s magic shit. He said if he killed Alex it would get rid of dem Dales.”

It was a good question, they all quieted down and listened. The last they had seen or heard from the Dales had been in George’s office. It hadn’t seemed like the door would hold out against them for long, yet nearly ten minutes had passed and still no sign of them.

“Of course it worked,” George piped in.

“Shut up! I swear if you open your mouth again I am going to cut out your tongue,” Sam sneered.

George opened his mouth for a reply then wisely let it fall closed.

Dale scratched his head. There was only one way to know for sure, somebody would have to go up and look. When he said as much he was relieved that Danny had volunteered. If there were any Dales left up there, he wanted no part of them.

Danny grabbed the knife George had been wielding and disappeared from the room. Dale did a quick calculation in his head and figured that it should take him no more than a few minutes to learn if they were free of the tiny nightmares or not.

“What are we gonna do wit’ him?” Alton asked as he pointed towards George.

“Leave him,” Sam answered coldly. “He can stay down here with his handy work until the police show up.”

“Shhh, I hear somebody coming,” Dale injected.

They all watched the door to the room closely. Dale had grabbed a candle stick as a weapon, as he glanced at the others he noticed he was not the only one to arm themselves.

Moments later, Danny appeared in the doorway. A wave of relief flooded Dale and he started towards his friend, something struck him as odd. Danny was an emotional guy; whether happy, sad or angry he always wore his feelings on his face. Not this time. This time his features were flat. Dale slowed his pace and watched as Danny took one shaky step into the room. With a small sigh, Danny toppled face first to the floor. Dale recoiled as he noticed the sacrificial knife sticking out of the base of Danny’s neck and then the dozen-or-so Dales which had hitchhiked on his back.

Sam screamed as both she and Alton turned to run, but Dale knew that there was only one way in or out. To make any kind of escape would mean going through the army of Dales coming down the stairs.

“This is it!” Dale shouted, as he charged the Dales scrambling off of Danny’s corpse.

“Wait! Untie my hands and give me that book over there!” George nodded his head to a small table holding a stack of ancient looking tomes.

“Eat shit!” Alton spat.

“I think I may be able to stop them.” Something about the tone in George’s voice made Dale consider his demand.

“Just do it,” Dale said.

With that,

Dale went on the attack. He swung the candle stick with wild abandon. Each swing sent a tiny Dale flying. He felt confident that he could take on the ones which had rode down the stairs with Danny, but judging by the ruckus echoing down the stairwell, the rest of the horde was on its way and against those numbers it would be a losing effort.

George—with his hands freed—flipped through the book frantically. “I’ve found it!” He bellowed triumphantly as he launched into a series of otherworldly words and phrases.

“Good! But you better hurry because the rest are here!” Dale hollered.

It was just as he was grinding the last Dale under his foot that the rest arrived. They poured into the room like water, filling every nook and cranny. Dale felt himself being covered in the things. Hundreds of stabs of pain danced through his body as the tiny Dales bit and scratched him. To his horror, Dale realized that he was going to be literally ripped to pieces.

Alton went down and was instantly covered in Dales. Sam had climbed atop a cabinet full of strange relics but she wasn’t able to escape the Dales either. Even as she scurried up the antique furniture, Dales had latched on to her legs and were pulling themselves along for the ride.

Dale kicked and punched, each time he did he hit several Dales but for every Dale he took out of commission a hundred more were there to take its place. “Help, George!”

George let out a sinister laugh. “Help? You idiot! You thought I was going to save you? Why? So I can go to jail and worse, lose this store. The spell I just read is a repulsion spell. No matter how much they try, these little monsters can’t come near me.”

Dale tried to tell George off but the weight of the Dales on top of him had driven the air from his body. He could feel the world around him begin to fade to black. It was over.

Suddenly, the weight began to lessen. Dale was able to scramble up through the horde and get to his feet. Across the room, he could see something bizarre happening with George; the man was glowing. And more than that, the Dales were slowly making their way towards the store manager in droves.

“No! What are you doing?!” George swung his hand at the nearest Dale. He reached for the book and began to read over the spell he had just invoked. “Oh damn…the writing was blurred, I didn’t cast a repulsion spell, I cast an attraction spell!”

The Dales pressed forward towards George in a zombie-like state. He tried to push them away but there was too many and soon he was covered head to toe in Dales. The magic aura surrounding George spread to all the Dales and soon they began to bond with him. The man screamed as Dale after Dale fused with him. Finally after an agonizing couple of minutes the last Dale disappeared into George’s body. George himself had been transformed into a mass of quaking flesh which bleed and oozed from countless places. A fleshy patch which had been his face still was home to one sunken eye and a twisted hole of a mouth.

“Help…” was all the George-lump was able to say before he died.

Dale hurt all over but he was happy to see that both Alton and Sam had made it through their encounter with the tiny Dales with nothing worse than superficial injuries to show for it.

“George…is really…bad at magic.” Sam’s voice trembled as she spoke.

“I think it’s time to get out of-“ was all Dale could say before the room began to shake violently. Jars smashed along the floor, books flipped off shelves, cracks raced along the walls and ceiling.

“What’s happening?” Sam yelled.

“I think…I think all of George’s magic is causing the building to collapse.” Dale said as he glanced around. “We should probably leave right now!”

Dale led the way as the threesome bolted from George’s secret room. The building continued to shake but it was not the only thing moving, the fleshy lump which had until very recently been the store manager of Fresh Choppers, also began shake. Something inside the misshapen corpse pushed against the bruised skin. With a pop the skin broke and a massive hand reached out. A large mass pulled itself from the cocoon George had become. It stood so tall that it had to bend nearly at the waist to fit into the space of the secret room. The monster swung its humongous head towards the doorway, the movement caused its black curly hair to bounce. With a gargantuan roar, it pushed through the doorway—taking a large chunk of the frame with it—and headed towards the stairs. The Über Dale wanted blood.

Dale pushed the door leading out of George’s office to the floor, the army of Dales had all but knocked it off the hinges. “C’mon!” he shouted as he waved Alton and Sam through.

The building around them shook violently. A large stack of wooden pallets toppled forward crushing the produce preparation table flat.

“My phone,” Sam said forlornly.

“Forget da phone. I buy you a new one!” Alton yelled as he bolted past Sam.

The emergency lights still flickered making the small trek from George’s office to the store floor a dangerous one. Banana boxes and stock carts littered the ground.

They burst through the flaps and found that the state of the building was far worse out on the main floor than it had been in the back room. Shelves swayed spilling waves of product everywhere. Above, the blackened lights swung so hard that several had broken partially loose and now hung like condemned criminals from the gallows.

Alton had taken up the lead, he made for the quickest way out of the building which was aisle one. The lane was a nightmare to navigate, canned goods lay scattered across the floor. In his rush to escape, Alton stepped awkwardly on a can of beans and went down in a heap. Even over the din of the store coming apart at the seams, Dale could clearly hear the sound of the Jamaican’s ankle snap.

Alton screamed as he clutched for his foot. Dale and Sam came up short behind him. The incident—as bad as it was—actually saved their lives. No sooner had they stopped running than a massive quake rocked the store and the entire front end of aisle one collapsed into a massive sink hole.

“Shit! That was close,” Sam said as she stared wide-eyed at the chasm before them.

“Grab Alton! We can go through meat and produce and out the entrance,” Dale instructed.

Making their way back up aisle one was a much slower process than it had been going down it. Alton—with a healthy dose of shock in his system—moved as fast as he could, Sam and Dale each supported one arm.

They had just rounded the corner—adjacent from the flaps, when a huge shape burst out from the backroom.

Dale didn’t see what hit him, due to the speed of the thing and the limited lighting, but he sure felt it. The impact was that of a car crash and Dale felt himself soaring through the air. He smashed into a metal rack holding small tubs of grated parmesan cheese.

Even with the wind knocked out of him, Dale managed to scramble to his feet. He could see that Sam had also been taken out by the impact, she had fared better than he had though by landing in a bunker loaded with lunch meat. He twisted around looking for Alton, he had already decided that they had been hit by a piece of debris when his eyes fell across something so horrible his brain almost refused to accept it.

Alton screamed and kicked as he was hoisted up nearly a dozen feet into the air by an enormous clone of Dale. Unlike the miniature versions though, this one was not an exact replica, this Über Dale was a monster straight out of a person’s worst nightmares. Its face was a mess of jagged teeth and gnarly lumps. The hair on its head was a tangle of greasy black curls. Worst of all, Über Dale was completely naked.

Dale was struck dumb at the sight before him. All he could do was watch as his hideous doppelganger held Alton high above its head before opening its massive mouth and dropping the Jamaican in.

As bad as the visual was, the sound of Alton being eaten was much worse. With each chomp of the Über Dale’s jaw a crescendo of crunches, pops and squeals would split the air.

Around him, Fresh Choppers continued its death throes, but no matter the peril, Dale was frozen in place. He just watched as the monster before him licked its teeth, dislodging Alton chunks as it did so. Then it turned its murderous gaze towards Dale. He was vaguely aware of Sam screaming for him to move in the background but it was not enough to unstick him from his spot.

The Über Dale stalked towards Dale slowly, deliberately. The monster seemed to recognize that Dale wasn’t going anywhere and was relishing the moment. As the monster reached out a hand to grab Dale a frozen octopus bounced off the creatures face.

The sight of a frozen octopus thudding against the Über Dale’s forehead was enough to snap Dale from his trance. He spun around in time to see Nick emerge from a bunker full of frozen seafood.

“Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size!” Nick shouted as he lobbed another frozen octopus at the Über Dale.

“Nick?!” Dale couldn’t believe that his friend was still alive. “Where have you been?”

Nick continued his assault as he climbed free of the bunker. “I barely got away from the little Dales, I jumped into this bunker to hide…I must have blacked out—I just woke up!”

Nick grabbed up a handful of frozen octopuses to launch at the monster but before he could the entire building erupted into violent quakes.

Dale felt his footing give, he tumbled to the floor. The tremor wracked the store for nearly thirty seconds before calming enough for Dale to look around. He saw that several massive rifts had appeared along the tiled floor. To his horror, the biggest gorge had opened under the bunker Nick had been standing in front of moments before; now it, along with Nick and a sizeable section of the meat department was gone into the abyss.

“Nick…?” Dale muttered.

He did not have long to mourn his friend (again) as his hand was suddenly clenched in Sam’s and they were running.

Sam led them towards the produce department—and towards freedom—when, with an epic crash the ceiling separating the two departments came crumbling down. The debris piled all the way to the ceiling, leaving just a small opening near the top. They were not going to be getting out that way.

“Damn it!” Sam yelled desperately. “That’s it! We’re done for.”

Dale’s mind raced as his eyes danced around looking for something, anything, which might help them. His sights settled on the narrow choke-point separating the meat department from the rest of the store and the ragged hole in the ceiling above it. Rivers of rain water were cascading down from the opening. He had an idea.

Dale grabbed Sam by the shoulders and quickly ran down his plan. Sam’s eyes widened, but the plan was no crazier than anything else which had befallen them that day, so she went with it.

Dale and Sam took off running, the sudden movement caught the Über Dale by surprise and before the beast could react the twosome had already skirted around the monster and were headed towards the dairy department. Once there, Sam continued moving along the back of the store while Dale ducked behind a bunker stacked with bricks of cheese.

As he had hoped, the monster had missed Dale’s hiding spot and instead continued on at a scary pace after Sam. Once both Sam and the Über Dale disappeared around the corner of aisle five, Dale jumped to his feet and got to work.

Sam ran as fast as her legs could go, she could hear the giant Dale closing fast behind her. She wasn’t completely confident in Dale’s plan, then again, the alternative was to get eaten by the monster chasing her. She didn’t know how much time Dale would need but she did know that she would not be able to outrun the Über Dale for long, a challenge made all the more difficult by the steady shaking of the store around her.

She nearly wiped out rounding the corner at the end of aisle five. She was going to start back up six but quickly realized that all of aisle six and most of seven had become a black hole sinking into the earth. With no other options she dashed down aisle eight, the last aisle in the store and prayed to god that the floor would be intact all the way down.

Sam made her way back towards the meat department, back to the store’s choke point. Even in the dim light she could see that a lot of water was rushing in through the hole in the ceiling. Behind her the Über Dale roared, it was done playing games.

Dale watched from behind the flaps leading into the backroom, he would need to time this just right. He saw Sam go streaking by and knew that his monstrous twin would be close behind. With a final breath, Dale tightened his grip on the cart he was holding and with a grunt shoved it out through the flaps as hard as he could.

The cart of boxed mashed potatoes, now all torn open, slid out directly in front of the Über Dale. The impact was tremendous, a massive cloud of sodium-rich flakes engulfed the Über Dale. The flakes quickly congealed into instant potatoes and covered the creature. The Über Dale bellowed and began to climb to its feet but only made it half way; the potatoes had acted like a gummy paste holding the Über Dale fast.

“Oh my god! I can’t believe that worked!” Sam ran over and wrapped her arms around Dale.

“I don’t know how long it’ll hold, we should get the hell out of here.”

Dale quickly realized that escape was not going to be an easy task. The Über Dale was trapped in the section between the meat department and the grocery department, while the stretch leading into produce was nearly completely blocked off by the debris from the ceiling.

“We need to get out through that hole,” Sam said as she pointed to a small opening in the debris wall.

Dale didn’t like the look of the obstacle, it could come crashing down at any moment and if they were climbing it, they would be crushed under its weight. “No…it’s too dangerous.”

“Dale, we don’t have time to dick around, if we don’t get out of here soon, we’re going down with this shit hole!”

As if to drive her point home, the entire store began to shudder violently. A wide crack zig-zagged across the floor towards them.

“Sam! Look out!” Dale screamed.

It was too late, the tile under her feet crumbled and Sam slipped into the darkness. At the last moment she managed to grab the ledge.

Dale tried to reach her but had to jump back as another rift split the ground in front of him, effectively leaving Sam clinging to a small island of flooring.

“Dale, you need to go! Get through that hole!”

Dale felt a wave of grief hit him as he realized there was no way to save Sam.

“Get out of here, Dale,” Sam yelled from over the edge of the hole.

“I can’t leave you!” Dale screamed.

“It’s…it’s too late for me.” Sam spoke through clenched teeth as her grip loosened. “Besides, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through that hole before this place comes down.”

“What makes you think I can?!”

“You have to jump, Dale. Only Danger Dale could make a leap like that.”

Dale turned back and looked at the hole. It was really high but if he ran fast enough he might be able to clear it.

“Go now Dale.” Sam’s fingers began to slip free. “One more thing Dale…I’ve—I’ve always loved you!” With that Sam’s grip failed her and she slipped into the blackness.

Dale was stunned but he didn’t have time to think about Sam’s confession, she had been right, he needed to go. He turned and ran for the debris wall, all around him the store crumbled in on itself. Just as the entire meat department broke apart and joined Sam in the oblivion, he leaped through the air.

He cleared the hole with less than an inch on either side.

Dale hit the ground, rolled, and continued moving. He burst through the front door of Fresh Choppers and continued halfway across the parking lot before slipping on the wet pavement and crashing into a row of shopping carts. He was already soaking wet as the rain continued to rage but he barely felt the water. Instead he twisted around and watched as the store shook itself to pieces. All that remained of Fresh Choppers was a large hole in the ground. Dale couldn’t help but think it was an improvement.

Something at the lip of the hole caught Dale’s eye. A large, gnarled hand reached over the jagged edge. Dale couldn’t believe what he was seeing; the Über Dale had somehow survived the destruction of the store and was now pulling itself free from the pit.

Dale’s first reaction was to run, he climbed to his feet and beat it across the parking lot. As he neared his mom’s minivan though, his fear was overrun by a new emotion: anger. Dale thought of all the people who had died that day, people he cared for. Instead of the driver’s side door, he headed for the trailer attached to the back, the trailer housing his go-cart.

Über Dale was in rough shape. The monster’s body was a mess of tears and cuts. A piece of the building’s shell had nearly sheared off the Über Dale’s right arm. With an unsteady step, the beast began to move away from the hole in the ground which had almost been its grave. It moved only a few feet through before a loud whine drew monster’s attention.

Dale revved the go-kart, he let the tires spin for several seconds before taking off like a shot towards the giant. Moving at a blistering speed Dale felt himself become overwhelmed with emotions. “Adrienne! Alex! Danny! Alton! Nick! Saaaaaaaaaam!”

Dale dove free of the go-cart at the last second, he rolled along the ground but still managed to keep his eyes on the Über Dale. The go-cart hit the monster like a missile. The front end of the go-cart acted like a sickle and sliced right through the Über Dale’s ankles. The beast roared but it was cut short as the back end of the cart flipped up and collided with the monster’s head. With a sickening crunch the Über Dale’s face collapsed inwards. The momentum of the crash sent both the go-cart and the destroyed Über Dale tumbling backwards into the void.

Dale laid on the ground for a while. He felt so utterly drained that he doubted he could have moved even if he wanted to. Finally, with great effort, Dale worked his way back to his feet and headed for the minivan. He knew he would have a lot to answer for but he would deal with that when it came. For now, he needed to go home and sleep for at least a year.

————————————

Shawn stood at the river front. He always made a point of going out rainbow hunting after a good storm and the one which had ripped through the city that morning had been a doozy. As he searched the sky for one of those multi-coloured arches that he loved, he was once again glad that he had decide to ditch work for the day. The walk to Fresh Choppers was lousy enough when the weather was good, but in a downpour it was miserable. He would have some explaining to do with George tomorrow but he was pretty sure he could come up with something.

“Oh there’s a pretty one,” He said as he directed his camera towards a rainbow stretching above the water. “That one’s going into my rainbow diary.”

Yes sir, Shawn had no regrets about playing hooky that day.

In the water, something began to stir.

————————————

He watched Shawn through the gritty waves and was hit with an insatiable hunger. Memories played through a confused mind. Images of frozen octopuses and giant Dales, visions of falling into blackness, ending up in a sewer pipe, choking on foul water…dying. He could remember finding a book of spells floating by, he recalled reading one to save his life. But something went wrong, he had merged with the frozen octopuses. Now he was wracked with an insatiable hunger.

————————————

Shawn’s attention shifted from the sky to the water. He noticed bubbles frothing along the surface. He leaned over the rail to get a better look when a trio of tentacles exploded out of the waves and ensnared him. The slimy appendages yanked Shawn off his feet and held him above the water. Shawn watched in horror as a nightmarish creature emerged.

“…eek,” was the last sound to leave Shawn’s mouth before he was devoured.

————————————

With his appetite satiated for the time being, he returned to the depths. He hated what he had become and he was starting to think that he knew who was responsible. None of this would have happened if Dale did not exist. Yes, it was all Dale’s fault and he would pay. First Dale, then the world. All would feel the wrath of the NICKTOPUS!

The End?

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