Part Three: Riding Out The Day's Events
We pull up to the front of the Wal-Mart shortly before 2am. It's a huge building, the size of a flat sprawling mall. We work our way along the side and eventually come to the entrance. There are maybe twenty cars huddled around the empty handicapped parking spots. A huge Wal-Mart truck is skulking off in the distance. Beyond that is a brightly lit area with gas pumps. You can get gas at Wal-Mart? But we already filled up at the freeway exit.
Trevor parks and all but tumbles out of the car. He shuffles ahead, turning around to make sure I'm coming. "Come on," he says, as if they'll sell out if we don't get there quickly.
We pass between a chain gang of swing sets shackled to each other and banks of glowing Coke machines. Here there stands a round old woman, looking down at her shoes. She's got a coat on over her blue Wal-Mart jacket. With no one around, dwarfed inside the huge maw of this Wal-Mart Supercenter, she looks like she's been left behind to stand guard. She watches us obliquely, ready to greet us if we make eye contact. We slow down in case there's going to be some kind of special protocol to come into Wal-Mart so late. But she doesn't make any move towards us.
And now we've plunged into someplace the size of an airplane hangar, overflowing with fluorescent glare and the color of a million kinds of stuff. It's stuff everywhere. So much stuff. More stuff than ten million people would ever need. There are two customers coming through a self-service checkout line, and two employees farther down talking quietly to each other. The place seems otherwise empty. So much space, so much stuff, and just us six people. It's what the end of the world would look like. Except maybe with zombies.
"Dude," Trevor points upwards. I look up and don't see anything. "No, listen," he says. It's that Led Zeppelin song about a purple um-ber-ella. And they're playing it at Wal-Mart at 2am for muzak. "I bet it's for Rock Band," Trevor says.
We plunge through wide aisles, wide because they're empty, sticking to the main thoroughfares, past men's clothing, past boy's clothing, past housewares. Trevor is on point. "No, fuck, this way. I bet if we'd been here earlier, there'd be signs and a line or something."
Back past housewares, right at boy's clothing...oops, bras and mysterious lacey stuff, us trying not to leer at the panties and pictures of women in underwear...past shoes of various types, to automotive, past bath mats and shower curtains, past some strange peninsula of sporting goods where camping gear and ice chests are bordered by sofa pillows and rice steamers. "Over here," Trevor calls back to me from a few rows ahead, like Legolas finding orc tracks. "Electronics."
We round a Garth Brooks endcap half-full of CDs, and we pass rows of DVDs of increasing cost: 2 for $10, then 2 for $15, then $9.44, then $13.72, all calculated to shunt you into the full-priced new releases. Now we're surrounded by a cacophony of TV sets playing the Wal-Mart Network, half of them oddly synced two seconds behind the rest.
Games. Ah, games.
The Wii display with Mario Galaxy takes the prominent position. Behind it a mounted DS juts from a glass case. Behind that is the 360 kiosk with Guitar Hero III. There's no Playstation 3. Oh, wait, there it is farther back. There's a center island with two cash registers and piles of empty cardboard boxes on a battered steel dolly that was left out only because it's so late. There's no one here.
We stand at the cash register and look around. No one comes running up to help us. This is indeed what the end of the world would be like. You'd go into Wal-Mart and be unable to find anyone else. No customers, no employees, just you and all that stuff. Everyone knows that's the best part of the apocalypse.