“How can I get fewer jeans for more money? I just want to help out the world, you know.”

I read the stocky manager’s name tag, “Craig”.

Twiddling his thumbs and stroking his curly brown chin hairs, his aroma of mushroom scent and sweat perspired around me.

“Well you could get-“

“And it’s that time of the week ladies and gents! You can’t leave this wonderful Target store until you’ve purchased at least 800$ worth of beautiful products!” The voice announced that it’s that special time for festivity where we show off pride to Crimson Island. Families, strollers, acquaintances, more than half of the citizens of the world were in this relatively small Target shop.

I saw young children jump for joy by the toy section and moms high five each other by the dairy products.

“They’d probably make at least 6400$, when everyone chips in the minimum amount of money. But people like you are the super keen ones we er..  love,” Craig made a twitchy movement that almost suggested he wanted to hint at being a wild minx.

“ Look I love Target, and I adore living here. I’m super excited that the 23rd birthday of the world is coming up. Like, I’m not questioning it… I just don’t always understand why we have these days where everyone is supposed to buy 800$ worth of stuff?”

Craig looked like he was convulsing from the inside and seconds away from sputtering froth after I finished asking my question.

I noticed his Crimson Deluxe powered by Target started ringing and he answered it with a meek “Hello?”

“The girl is on to us, you have to keep your cool, Mr. Gonston. …” I listened passively to the voice on the other side.

“Soon she’s going to be asking if there is more to the world than this island, maybe she’ll even figure out she’s part of bio-chemistry experiment  to see how humans can handle living in completely synthetic environment…”

What is synthetic? We haven’t learned such a word in our Crimson Island studies class, since history has only date back from not even two decades…

I couldn’t quite make out the words.

“If we’re… busted….experiment for the colonisation of Mars 2145 in 12 years!”

Craig is white in the face, hands trembling.

What’s Mars? Is that a shop? Perplexed and slightly intrigued I try to approach the frightened manager.

“Fate of humanity realize in our sponsors. The team in the Netherlands are going to be so angry if the most reliable source of funding caves, like what happened in 2025.”

Craig’s heavy weight fell down on the can foods section, in complete shock. I followed him there. I tiptoed quietly, aware there is danger but not entirely sure of the source.

“ We have to distract them so they lose the train of thought. It’s time to cue The Voice.”

The Voice was back on, announcing that everything in the shop was 75% off. Initially, I was excited, and happy. Looking down at the nervous wreck on the ground and the many people gathering around him, I didn’t feel quite as at ease.

Through the crowds the scent of 4.5 Target Vanilla came up to the front of the audience to find me. Alexa Summers.

Blonde. Tall. Slim. I was happy that we had matching green eyes.

Always dressed in the best brands as her father was in the commercial business.

We stood by the almost dying Craig, “ How’s it going Alice?”  she asked.

“Oh no too bad, and yourself?”

We casually glanced over to him, then back at each other continuing the conversation.

“Pretty sweet! My dad’s here looking for 800$ worth of polo shirts,” she looked for him in the men’s uniform section- “Dad come meet my friend!”

Her father walked towards me, a proud suit labeled “Marketing” on the back. “Nice to meet you,” he took out his wrinkled hand.

Suddenly he looked behind me through the can foods aisle, pausing our handshake, to notice that the crowds weren’t engaging in religious consumerism.

He flinched, the twinkle in his eyes disappeared and he grew angry.

I explained the situation to calm him down, it didn’t.

It looked as though he was having recollections, thoughts, occurrences, all in his mind, the blank stare I’m used to seeing was replaced with a look of depth. Indubitably, he must be having an existential thought about how much he could buy for 800$, a revelation I never thought of until today.

But what came out of his mouth surprised me, “I can’t believe you would question the system. You are going to ruin Earth.”

He began shaking, his eyes turned cold.

He cheatingly grabbed my wrist and pushed me into the aisle. I expected Alexa or someone else to come and defend me, but nothing happened.  They all just passively stared at me, smiling, looking at the discounted price of cans, putting them into their shopping carts.

“Abort. Abort” the cell phone’s text voice reader yelled.

The voice on the intercom’s loud and booming tone resonated through the Target, “Receive 200$ and no HST today when purchasing your final items!”

Lingering thoughts of this “Earth” were erased by an instinct I didn’t know I had- I ran.

Mr. Omnidad ran behind me, “I’m going to kill you.  Do you know how long I have worked for this?”

I knew I couldn’t escape the Target store, we were on lock down until we purchased 800$ worth of things and I hadn’t even put anything into my shopping cart.

But I tried anyways; I ran to the exit doors and pulled. They opened.

Mr. Omindad kept running behind me and I closed the door. Panting, sweating.  Happy.

He banged on the windows knowing it was unlocked. I wasn’t scared, I knew he wouldn’t leave until he spent 800$ in Target.

I’ve never seen an advertisement for it; I wondered where I could buy more free-will.Image,

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