Phew! That was a long story, wasn’t it? Well, believe it or not, this story could’ve gone on EVEN LONGER. And coincidentally enough, this correlates to the next question from our reader, Imp Patient, who asks,
I tallied up a timeline of the events the Girl went through, and there’s about three weeks missing.
There’s a good reason for that. The majority of lost time is a litany of repetitive bathroom details consisting of cleaning, soaping, and washing in a futile task to remove the smell, and other mundane tasks that, quite frankly, are dull as hell. But there’s a better reason for the chunk of missing time. There was an additional ‘Lost’ chapter that never made the final cut, since it was dragging on long enough already, and was cut to get to the good stuff faster.
For the interests of those who haven’t had enough, here’s the missing chapter. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where it fits. It takes place before she met up with the Pale Boy and the Burned Man.
She was wandering from shop entrance to entrance, trying in vain to find someone who would be willing to take her in. Every display desperately asking for manual labour suddenly dried up in her presence. One whiff of her odor, and all pretense of wanted assistance went away.
She started going further and further down paths that were normally ignored. Tucked away in the crack of a narrow alleyway sandwiched between two eye-catching buildings was a store that was almost invisible. It was set at an angle that made it difficult for attracting casual customers. You had to look really hard to notice at first, but once you saw it, it was impossible to miss.
She noticed the HELP WANTED sign on the window, and looked inside, where there was a man sitting behind a counter. The interior was filled with odd knick-knacks of all kinds, but she didn’t pay too much attention to the surroundings, figuring she wouldn’t be staying for very long.
“Are you hiring?” she asked with rote mechanism and little expectations.
“Yes, I am! When can you start?”
The acceptance was so sudden she wasn’t sure she heard correctly at first.
“You are? What do I – ?”
“Don’t worry. The customers will know what they want. Just guide them towards what catches their eye and gently persuade them from there.”
The man behind the counter got up suddenly, and made his way through the back entrance, not even bothering to check her credentials, or lack of.
“Where are you – ”
“It’s vacation time for me! I’ll be back in a month. If any problems arise, there’s my contact number. Keep the shop running!” And then he left.
Huh. That was easier than she thought. If that was all it took to get a job, she didn’t see why it should be so hard. In truth, the Owner was Agoraphobic, and used the Girl’s presence as a pretense to stay in the privacy of his home and avoid having to go out. Originally, he chose this out-of-the-way location as a way of avoiding people, but they kept finding him despite the deliberate lack of advertising. The merchandise was more popular than he expected.
It wasn’t until she surveyed her surroundings that she noticed that the store displays weren’t the typical armaments they normally carried. There were snared ropes hanging from the ceiling, stacks of poisons arranged on elaborate tables, handcrafted knives and other lethal weapons encased under glass. All at once, she knew what kind of store she’d wandered into.
This was a Suicide Shop.
She was apprehensive at first, uncertain as to whether she’d be able to convincingly give a sales pitch to lure potential customers to make a purchase to their liking that would very likely be the last purchase they’d ever make in their life.
But then she thought about it some more, and figured that pretty much any item sold elsewhere could just as easily be used to kill themselves in a painful way. Here, potential suiciders would be guaranteed to have an murder weapon of quality material that they would feel gratified of having on hand to bring their unbearable lives to a satisfying end. Who was she to deny their right to die?
Having rationalized her way in getting job experience at the cost of human life, she sat behind the counter, waiting for the next customer to come waltzing in. It wasn’t as if she’d know them for very long. This place was really off the beaten path, and not easy to find. Anybody who really wanted to end their life had to fight for it, and inwardly, she worried what that meant for herself.
After an hour of inactivity, no one else had come in through the door. She figured she could easily breeze by the required conditions if this was all it took to get job experience, when a potential customer came through the front door, ruining her reverie.
It was an intimidating cop wearing a shiny helmet that exposed only the lower area of his face beneath the nose. His expression held a perpetual scowl that was purely business, and not someone to be crossed. Officially, Suicide Shops were illegal, and considered a drain on society, so if he came intending to shut the place down without the Owner present, it wouldn’t be very hard to do so.
“We’re running a legitimate business here. Nothing to see here.”
“I want the sturdiest noose you’ve got.”
The Girl was slightly taken back but recovered quickly. “Alright. Do you have any preferences?”
“It’s not for me. It’s for… a friend.”
“In that case, I’d recommend the durable model. Good enough to last five years or your money back.” The Girl didn’t inquire any further. If he wanted to commit Suicide by Cop, that was his prerogative. It was none of her business.
She had barely gone through the availability of velvet ropes available, which the Grumpy Cop seemed apathetic about, when another intimidating figure came in through the door, towering over the Grumpy Cop. This figure reeked even stronger than the Girl, and wore a mask riddled with holes. Even though his eyes couldn’t be seen, she could feel his intense gaze no matter where he stood. The Grumpy Cop noticed the Girl’s sudden stunned reaction, loss of voice and overpowering stench permeating the room, and turned to see the new arrival.
“A West Turned!” he proclaimed in awe. “I’ve never seen one this close.”
“Never heard of them.”
“They’re the revived corpses of dead bodies,” the Grumpy Cop explained. “They’ve been popping up all over. There’s a one in a hundred thousand chance of someone dying becoming one. The exact cause is still unknown. Even so, there’s all kinds of Turneds. East Turned are able to survive in even the harshest sterile environments. South Turned are a rowdy yet polite bunch, complacent but willing to tear up anything that gets in their way. North Turned are… well, we’re still pretty much in the dark about them. But West Turneds… they – ”
“Can I help you?”, the Girl asked, ignoring the Grumpy Cop’s needless exposition, focusing on her undead customer instead. The West Turned never said a word, just homed in on a fancy demonstrative display and raised a heavily bandaged hand, pointing at a single gun.
“You want one of those? I’m sorry, but we’re all out of ammo for these old designs. There’s a three week waiting period before you can acquire one.”
The West Turned gave the Girl an inquiring look, then cumbrously made his way towards the cashier. He ripped the calendar from the wall, leaving an indentation behind and stared up close, nodded once with a clicking noise, then made his way towards the opposite wall, turned around and flopped his body against the wall, his long legs stretching comatose across the floor, making no attempt to move.
After several seconds of inactivity, the Girl announced, “I’m sorry, you can’t wait here. You’ve got to wait elsewhere.”
She got no response.
“You don’t have to use that model! There’s plenty of other options if you’re interested!”
Still no response.
“You’re getting in the way!”
Even more no response.
The Girl tried dragging his legs, but didn’t make much progress. Then she asked the Grumpy Cop, “Can you help me carry him out?”
“Alright, but it won’t do much good.”
The two of them struggled to carry the lifeless body out, banging into displays along the way to the door. Anybody coming across this scene would’ve been disturbed to see two people carrying a dead body on their shoulders.
“Why doesn’t he just smash the glass and take the gun?”
“I was saying that West Turneds operate on a bizarre honor system we’re still trying to figure out. They’re unwilling to default on their values upon fear of death.”
“But he’s already dead, and wants to be deader. What does he have to worry about?”
“That’s just one of the eternal mysteries of a West Turned. And that’s not accounting for the various subdivisions of their groups, such as North-East Turned, and West-South Turned.”
After much exertion and effort, they finally made their way to the front entrance of the shop. “Where do you wanna put him?”
“Next to that homeless bum.”
“Don’t be so disparaging,” the Grumpy Cop said, who then knocked on the bum’s head. “Hey, wake up! Your shift’s coming up soon!”
All that emerged were slurred mumbling words; “Juzz lemme die…”
The Grumpy Cop reached down underneath the surrounding garbage and lifted the body of the homeless bum, who turned out to be wearing a helmet and uniform very much like his own.
“He’s been feeling kinda depressed lately.”
“Well, at least we’ve taken care of…” she looked around for the West Turned. “Where’d he go??”
The Grumpy Cop thumbed towards the shop entrance. The Girl looked inside to see the West Turned lying in the same position as before, right where he was last resting. Given his bulky nature, and the difficulty they had moving him, it was a wonder he made it past all the displays without toppling them.
“How’d he get back so fast?! I didn’t even see him move!”
“That’s why I said there was no point,” the Grumpy Cop said while lifting the Homeless Cop’s arm over his shoulder. “It’ll wait the full time until the deadline passes. It’s honest that way.”
“But that honesty is gonna wreck havoc on this business!”
“Well, it’s not exactly legal is it? Good luck.”
She started yelling at the now incapitated corpse. “You’re going to scare everybody off! Move!”
“Is that any way to talk to your customers?” As he walked away with his partner in tow, the Grumpy Cop bolstered the Homeless Cop’s mood with, “Don’t look so down in the dumps. I got you a little gift,” showing him a fancy noose.
“Hey! Have you paid for that??”
“You don’t want me to report this, do you?? Consider yourself lucky I don’t run you in,” he threatened, lugging his partner away.
The Girl fumed in impotence, unable to do anything, until she noticed a wallet lying between the West Turned’s feet that hadn’t been there before. Picking it up and opening it up, she saw it was stuffed with currency.
“Did you steal this off a dead guy?”
The West Turned seemed almost apprehensive.
“Don’t tell me. The less I know, the better.” She rummaged around for any clue of whose property it was.
“Hey, this is that Cop’s wallet! How’d you take it without his noticing? Won’t you get in…”
The West Turned gave an imperceptible twitch from his head.
“He’s not going to report losing possibly illegal funds, is he? And I can use this to pay off his purchase and yours, and have the remaining funds for myself, right?”
There was more than enough money here to not only pay the gun, but also pay off her tab! She wouldn’t have to stay here longer than necessary! She was about to empty the contents of the wallet in her palm when it was indubitably slapped out of her hand. Perplexed, she went to touch the wallet again, only to have it snatched out of her grip.
“Stop that! What are you – ”
The West Turned gave an intense all-seeing look through its multiple mask-holes.
“Okay, okay, I won’t take more than absolutely necessary!” So much for getting a tip. Even the slightest drop of generosity offered her way would be a great help, but it didn’t look like it was coming anytime soon.
For the rest of the day, no other customers came. The Girl had to tolerate the West Turned’s uneasy presence until closing time. And the lively morbid music playing overhead didn’t alleviate the mood much. If given the chance, she could’ve very easily looted the place for valuables, selling the excess stock elsewhere, but she didn’t know anyplace she could pawn the goods off. And she didn’t want to risk what little social standing she already had.
When closing time came, and things were starting to lock down, the Girl figured enough was enough. “Well, it’s been fun, but you’re going to have to leave now.”
“I’m staying here! There’s nowhere else for me to go!”
“Look, if you want to be helpful, you can stand guard outside. That way, you’ll be first in line when the hole-puncher becomes available.”
The West Turned disappeared into the distance. Finally. Now she could relax. As soon as he left, she reached in her bag and started spraying the room with Intense Incense to get rid of the smell. The deed done, she looked for a spot to sleep in, and found one in the back where the Owner used to rest.
The next morning, the West Turned wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but that relief was short-lived, for as soon as she unlocked the front entrance, a cold breeze raced past her, and the West Turned was there back lying in his favorite spot.
The Girl went to the calendar and started crossing dates off before shoving the heavily revised month in front of the West Turned’s face. “See? It’s three weeks later. Now, take your old-school hole puncher and leave!”
“No one will think less of you for getting it earlier than everybody else.”
“Well, at the very least get some notifications for yourself. Proof that you are who you say you are.”
Even though his expression was hidden behind his holey mask, the Girl could feel the West Turned give a confused expression before willfully getting up, only slower this time. Seemed there was a difference in speed for when he wanted to do something or not.
With the West Turned gone, the Girl braced herself for another uneventful day, save for the occasional surprise customer who greeted her nose-first.
“Hello, I’d like – UGH! Are you trying to kill me?!”
“Isn’t that what you’re here for??”
“For myself, not to let someone else do the job!” and then they left.
Despite her best efforts, she was unable to make the smell deceptively welcoming. Even the Intense Incense wasn’t strong enough to hide her stench, and it drove everybody away. Well, almost everybody. The West Turned came shambling back and thrust some crumpled-up papers in the Girl’s face.
“These scrawlings are intelligible. We need neater letters. Preferably from someone still alive.”
Anticipating her response, he handed over neatly pressed copies that were hiding in his overcoat, and she looked over them. “Well… I THEINK theis is suppoised to be launguish? It’sh madking muy euys uand head heurt.”
Somewhat satisfied, the West Turned slumped back down in the same spot. Before she could even tell him to move elsewhere, a customer came through the door.
“I’ve come to find – what’s that smell?”
“Pay it no mind. Feel free to look around.”
“Do you know you’ve got a dead body here?”
This was exactly what she was worried about. It was one thing for the promise of death to be offered. It was another for death to actually be present.
“Looks very realistic.”
“That’s not decoration. He’s… an example of what your body will be like if you decide to follow through.”
“What’s the big idea? Don’t you want me to die?”
“This isn’t a decision to be made lightly. Do it only if you’re truly determined.”
“No, I think your corpse’s much more interesting.”
Over the next few days, she found his pungent smell was more preferable than her own.
“It smells just how I imagined a Suicide Shop would smell!”
Against all logic, the Suicide Shop attracted more customers with the West Turned present than the Girl all on her own. And he was quite the fount of conversation starters.
“Is it true that Turned eat brains?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen him take so much as a nibble.” It was a mystery as to how his body functioned. There were all kinds of unverifiable theories bandied about.
“I hear they have an unique digestive system.”
“They only need to eat once a month.”
“And can’t stand the taste of salt.”
“You’d think they’d like salted meat.”
“What do they use for flavor?”
“They’re carrion pickers, only eating dead bodies.”
“So, they’re cannibals?”
“More like piranhas, leaving nothing behind.”
“I heard they drink all your blood!”
“And eat all your bones!”
“And if a Turned bites you, you become a Turned in turn!”
“If they eat everything, how do any of them become Turned?”
“Don’t sweat the small details!”
“Don’t have him eat me when I’m done!”
“I’ve never seen him follow anybody who’s shopped here,” the Girl reassured them. For someone who was a subject of constant debate, the West Turned showed no interest. They talked about him like he wasn’t even there.
“They don’t feel anything! Look, he doesn’t even react when I stab him!”
“Don’t mishandle the merchandise.”
“I’m just testing it. Making sure it’s sharp enough.”
“No one’s going to want a used dirty knife. They might become infected.”
It was just as well he remained silent. If he DID speak up, the mystique would lost. Even so, the Girl was uncomfortable about the surrounding crowd. Furthermore, the West Turned didn’t seem in any hurry to leave anytime soon, but that didn’t mean there weren’t ways to get him out of the way. If this guy was as honor-bound as they said, then he should be easy to deal with.
“There’s still a few other things I need before I can give you the hole puncher. I need references from at least three people.”
As soon as the West Turned disappeared, the mood of curious linger-ons noticeably changed.
“Hmm? Where’d he go?”
“Did he leave without telling us?”
“We weren’t bugging him much!”
“I didn’t even see him move!”
“Aren’t they really slow?”
“Well, there’s nothing interesting here.”
“Let’s go somewhere else.”
“You’re not as good as the old man who ran this shop.”
“This place stinks!”
With the West Turned out of the way, the curious passer-bys didn’t come around, leaving space for regular customers, which the Girl found… depressing.
“I have nothing left to live for.”
“The pain is unbearable.”
“Everybody I know is dead.”
“What’s the point of it all?”
“I can’t go on.”
What was especially infuriating was that so many of them were comedians. You’d think they’d be funnier, since all it took to make people laugh was to fall through an open manhole and die.
It was with apprehensive relief when the West Turned returned. At first, she thought she was dealing with a dumb instinctive animal, but saw that he was smarter than he looked.
“What poisons would you recommend?”
“Well, we’ve got a display of the finest quality right over here…”
“Any that are particularly sweet-tasting?”
She put a thoughtful finger under her mouth. “You know, it never occurred to me. But I imagine the effect would be the same regardless of the taste.”
“…but I hear this brand has a slight tangy taste that leaves a tingle on your tongue. Or so I’ve heard.”
Without meaning to, she found herself enjoying his dependable company, and started opening up to him.
“I tell, you, they’re SO SLOW it’s practically insulting! You know what I mean?”
“Exactly! And every time they try to explain anything, I have to wait forever before they finally get to the point I already figured out hours ago!”
She no longer had him posting guard outside, and started playing pointless games to pass the time. She shuffled three cups around until they stopped. One was knocked over, revealing the poison capsule underneath.
“The right one AGAIN. How do you keep doing that???”
“I don’t believe you! You’re cheating somehow!”
In this way, the days passed quickly and uneventfully, until the day finally came. The real day. She could’ve simply mislaid any of the papers, citing any number of reasons for letting him stay, but it seemed wrong to keep him around longer than necessary.
“Here’s your long-waited hole puncher, with bullets included. Happy now?”
“I have to admit, I’m gonna miss your presence.”
The West Turned gave an affirmative nod, turned and left with the gun. Didn’t even say good-bye. It was foolish to expect any kind of compensation from him – they lived in two different worlds and their interests lined up only briefly. Even though she knew this was going to happen, she was still surprised.
A hole mask and a hole-puncher… this probably wasn’t his first attempt.
She wasn’t expecting much after that anticlimactic result, so she was caught off-guard with the return of the last visitor she expected.
“Where’s the Lost and Found?”
“Over there”, she pointed, towards the box that was stuffed with forgotten items left behind from people who had nothing left to lose. She’d been foraging for foodstuff from there, and watched the Grumpy Cop rummage through the contents until he found what he was looking for – a wallet with most of the contents still inside.
“I never expected to see you back here. We don’t get very many repeat customers. Don’t expect a refund.”
“As I told you, it was for my partner. He’s very happy with his noose now.”
“I don’t want to hear about it!”
“Oh, he hasn’t used it. He just stares at it first thing in the morning, and it’s the last thing he sees before going to bed.”
There was a lack of comprehension on her face.
“His life may be a torrential storm of perpetual crap, but at least he’s given solace that he has control over his death. It gives him something to look forward to.”
The Grumpy Cop gave off an uneasy air, his presence permeating throughout the room, scaring many potential customers off.
“Hey, I – Whoa, bye!”, one casual customer said before turning around to leave.
“Don’t worry!” she cried out. “He’s a former client! He was just leaving.” But the customer was already long gone. Only one customer wearing a smartly-dressed suit still remained in the vicinity.
“Do you have anything painless?”
“Everything here is designed for maximum comfort.”
“Nevermind. Which one’s the most expensive?”
“Well, the highest priced item doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re more effective – ”
“I’ll take it.”
“Don’t you want to take your time – ”
“Does it matter? I’m in a hurry.”
“Do you want it bagged, or – ”
“Thanksverymuchbye,” and he left with the purchase.
The sale made, she focused her attention back on the Grumpy Cop. “What are you still doing here?”
“I’m waiting for a crime to occur.”
“You’ve got nothing. If a Customer purchases something from here, and happens to die shortly after, that’s not on me. What happens to them once they leave is not my responsibility.”
As soon as the Smartly-Dressed Customer stepped outside, a torrent of blood started pouring out of his chest.
“It finally happened.”
“Uh?? None of my stuff can do that!!”
“You sold the gun to that West Turned, didn’t you?”
“Where?? I didn’t even see him!!”
“From the angle and entry of the wound, I’m guessing from that direction. 501 klicks outside my jurisdiction.”
Her face scrunched in confusion. “Outside…?”
“Any kill within a zone is immediately frowned upon. But anybody accidentally killed outside 500 klicks isn’t liable for damages, and the body can be up for grabs for any interested parties,” he explained.
As if on cue, the West Turned showed up, bending over the corpse.
“What luck that you should appear when we have a body that needs devouring. You may want to collect the evidence first.”
The West Turned agreed, and wrenched the hole-puncher out of the Customer’s chest. The Girl stared in confusion and dismay, “What’d you even need the bullets for?!”
The answer was dumber than you’d expect, and was the same reason an improvisible handyman would load a gun before using it as a makeshift hammer – to make it heavier.
“Such unfortunate timing. And since he was leaving a Suicide Shop with recently purchased merchandise, the victim can’t be held accountable, even if he wanted to die. It’s his fault for making himself a target. Also the fault of those who allowed such a crime to happen. I’m going to need to round up all bystanders before I can fill in my report.”
The Grumpy Cop went to get the Girl’s statement, only to see she’d disappeared via the back entrance.
“I’m not here! You’re mistaking me for someone else!! I’m not here! You’re mistaking me for someone else!!”
The Girl kept yelling these words, repeating them over and over, trying to deflect attention away from herself, averting the gazes of curious passerbys as she ran through numerous streets and back alleys, until she felt she was a suitably safe distance away. Daring to look back, she saw that her pursuer hadn’t bothered to give chase or catch up. Catching her breath, she pulled some papers out of her pocket, notifications of time spent in the Suicide Shop, the only proof that she had ever worked there. Then with a grimaced tortured expression, started tearing them up.
Three weeks of Work Experience… GONE.
And there you have it. Though not ALL of it, for there’s a few more irrelevant footnotes that couldn’t fit the narrative above:
Suicide Shops were a cheaper alternative compared to Suicide Stations, also known as Euthanasia Chambers or Euth Booths, which were in constant demand, and had a long waiting list, because some people abused the clause that the occupier could take as much time needed inside as they agonized over their decision, and started living inside them instead, since they were cheaper than regular housing. Some of them dithered about taking their lives for years, so more Euth Booths were situated to make up for the loss, which resulted in more people taking advantage of the system.
This was the Writer’s first attempt at worldbuilding, and the compulsive need to cram in as much detail as possible. Rest assured that future stories won’t be as lengthy.