It occurred to him, standing in the endless Christmas Eve line at Zellers, that these people could kill him at any moment.
He didn’t know why it never struck him as reckless that every day he trusted hundreds of people not to kill him. No, he never even considered it until this moment, shuffling a step a minute carrying a too-heavy box packed with a crock pot his mother didn’t need. The man in front of him was large, with a plastic basket full of new utensils in hand. Behind him were three middle-aged women. He didn’t risk looking at them. They could have clubbed him, shot him, stabbed him, lit him on fire–anything–and he just trusted that they were innocent.
Why? Humans were animals. Carnivores. Descended from savage beasts, honed by millennia of ruthless survival methods.
His heart spiked. Would he run? Yes. It was the only way. He was surrounded. Except…
The animal kingdom was kill-or-be-killed. Those who ran were chased and killed. Chasers knew runners. Was he a runner? Could he be? No, he had to be strong. Only the strong survive. Instinct made hunters chase the fleeing hunted. He couldn’t run.
The line shuffled. An attractive brunette with a newly-wrapped box walked past him, down along the line, to the store exit that led to the mall. He saw the head of the man in front of him turn, following the woman. The man was a chaser.
The line shuffled again.
He was standing behind a chaser. A brave killer who did not fear the smaller man behind him.
Another shuffle. He was nearing the front of the line. People were walking past him, showing their backs to him, because they knew he was a runner, not a chaser, and he was nothing to fear. He wasn’t a killer. He was waiting to be killed. Out here in the animal kingdom of humanity, he was meat.
No. His ancestors had been breeding for thousands of years, perhaps millions. From primordial things, reproducing and reproducing and surviving, all the way to him, today. He wasn’t meat. He was the hunter.
His palms sweated against the box. He slid them to a cool, dry spot. The man in front of him paid for his cutlery, turned, and the two of them made the briefest eye contact. This was the end, he thought. He’d looked into the eye of the chaser. Would he run? He was expected to run. Would he run?
The eye contact ended. He watched the heavy shoulders of the man pass him. The broad back. The back of a runner.
He followed, lifting the box of the crock pot, and brought it down hard against the taller man’s scalp. He swung again. Straddled the man at the small of the back, the runner’s back, and swung again, again. The animal kingdom of humanity screamed. He smashed and smashed and tasted the fury and savagery of his ancestors.
“I trusted you,” he said to the pulp-headed man, bringing the box down again. “I trusted you.”
When security arrived, he didn’t run. He would never run.
Day 253’s three random prompt categories were, “A hunter,” “Red anger,” and, “Everything is for sale.”
Never trust the guy with the crock pot.