Escape from Staples Office Superstore, Brooklyn

Dear Esteemed Senators Gillebrand and Schumer,

The other day I found myself in need of copier paper so I patronized Staples Office Superstore at 4th Avenue and 3rd St here in Brooklyn NY. Having attempted to procure this same copier paper at CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid and having been unsuccessful at both attempts, I can tell you I was relieved after trekking the considerable distance to Staples to see that it was in plain view from the moment I walked in.

The long, arduous journey toward copier paper had begun earlier in the day at CVS Pharmacy on 9th St., around 4PM. I strode in, eyes alight, confident, maybe even naive; hopeful of easy success, and since I had never before encountered a CVS Pharmacy that was not well stocked with a full line of stationery supplies, I had little reason to believe this hopefulness was unwarranted. Whistling a tune, I walked in the door and swiftly found the correct section. This was a sign that things were going well as it usually takes me something like 45 minutes to locate any one item in CVS. Despite the good sign, there was bad news: the shelves which normally held the copier paper were completely empty.

Discouraged, but not yet defeated, I soldiered on. Rite Aid was only a few blocks away after all. "Surely CVS and Rite Aid can't be out of copier paper at the same time" I thought to myself. Then reality again smacked me swiftly across the face with it's genitals: Rite Aid was also without copier paper. It seemed odd that both places would be out of copier paper, almost as if all the forces in the universe were coming together to conspire against me.

Panic began to set in. It was 5pm. If I couldn't obtain this copier paper soon, I wouldn't be able to print out and sign documents which were in need of my signature by the end of the day. I had to get this done, and in my horror I realized if I couldn't get copier paper and do it at home, it might be necessary for me to go somewhere like Kinkos! I would rather have my flesh eaten by firesnakes.

Time was running out. That's when I remembered Staples. The end of my challenge, or so I thought. Of course buying copier paper doesn't seem like it should be a challenge at all but the city has a way of augmenting the difficulty of errands we might normally expect to be mundane.

Everything went comparatively smoothly at Staples until I arrived at the register. A young man with thick lensed horn-rimmed glasses and straight brown hair that hung in a mop above his pock marked face named Kenneth was ready to ring me up. "Finally my journey is at an end" I said to myself, relieved, satisfied.

But then Kenneth, like a conjurer, produced seemingly out of nowhere something that looked suspiciously like a form. I froze, terrified. "Would you like to sign up for a Staples card?" he asked me. "No no, that's fine. I live in Wisconsin" I lied, and as soon as the lie stumbled clumsily from my mouth I realized that it wasn't a very good one, because they probably have Staples in Wisconsin.

Kenneth was undeterred, like a bridge troll who won't grant passage without satisfactory answers to his questions three. "Are you sure?" he said. "You just have to fill out this little form and you'll get ten percent off your purchase right now." I held firm: "No I'm fine, thank you". I attempted to placate him with a little humor: "You're a good salesman though, very aggressive".

"It will only take a second" Kenneth insisted, with a strange look in his eye that I couldn't quite place, almost like fear. "No thank you Kenneth" I said before emphatically adding "Really." I was starting to lose my patience but unable to summon up enough energy to become angry.

It was because of my low energy that I didn't walk away in disgust when Kenneth then told me to wait at the register, he'd be right back. It probably would have been easy to walk away, I hadn't even taken my wallet out yet to pay. But I had already come so far, and I reasoned it would be foolish to let this incident prolong my journey.

I saw Kenneth disappear into the back and as he slipped out of sight I noticed that it now appeared, oddly, that I was the only person in the store, which as far as I could tell had been bustling when I came in and it was currently nowhere near closing time.

Also, the soft rock music that had been playing through the store's PA system had been replaced by a strange, low droning hum.

Then I began to notice something far more bizarre: there was something about the way all of the Staples employees, in doing various tasks, stocking the shelves, pricing items and so on seemed to be moving. They seemed to be somehow moving in unison. As I observed them further it became immediately clear they were indeed moving in perfect unison, in perfect rhythm. The glow around the lights overhead seemed more profound, and yet the general aura of the store seemed to dim.

Just then Kenneth returned with his manager, whose name tag read #21479. Similarly, Kenneth's name tag no longer said Kenneth, but #21562. The manager wore a grave expression. He stared at me for a minute and then he said:

"Are you SURE you wouldn't like a Staples card, Mr. Zavracky?".

I froze.

The bags I was holding dropped to the floor.

I started quickly toward the door. The security gates at the front of the store swiftly came to the ground with a crash. Every Staples employee had their gaze fixed upon me. They moved slowly toward me. I was trapped. The room was hot. The floor was like lava. I was trapped in the volcano. The Staples volcano.

"Clearly Mr. Zavracky isn't going to cooperate, 21562." said the manager. "I think #1 will want to see him at once." I was then descended upon by the other Staples employees, all of whom by this point looked exactly like Kenneth.

I was led in shackles to the employee break room and placed in a chair. The room swirled around me, I was in a state of panic, my pulse rapid, I sweated profusely. The Kenneths left and closed the door behind them. "I just wanted some copier paper!" I called after them.

I waited.

After a few minutes the walls of the room began to descend, and the ceiling began to lift, revealing a great hall with unadorned grey walls and a glowing altar at the front, almost like a cathedral with no pews or windows, but completely angular and rigid. On the altar sat a similarly angular chair, a throne, with it's back toward me, and over the top of the throne protruded the back of a gleaming bald head.

A deafening high pitched voice, like a child's, shattered the still:

"So you think you don't want a Staples card, Mr. Zavracky"

"How...how do you know my name?" I stammered, incredulous.

The voice had an androgynous quality:"We've known about you for a long time. We summoned you here. Did you think it was mere happenstance that both CVS AND Rite Aid were both out of copier paper at the same time? That would be ridiculous!".

"But why?" I asked, thinking about how easily I could have gotten out of this during Kenneth's absence back at the register. "How did you even know I'd need copier paper today?".

The hermaphroditic child's voice turned to a furious shrill roar. "SILENCE!". And then more calmly: "All we want is to give you and everyone else in Brooklyn the gift of a Staples card which gives you a generous ten percent discount off of our already low prices. This is an offer we extend without prejudice to anyone that shops with us. Of course some are foolish enough to reject our kind offer, like yourself. They are sent to me".

And then a harshly vivid, high pitched cackle.

The chair began rotating slowly around and as it did I could barely make out a face, a face which somehow exuded a blinding white light which burned my eyes as it turned 180 degrees from its previous position to face me; a face so bright and terrifying that it was impossible to discern whether it was absolute evil or absolute light, and the shrieks of a thousand demon-angels tore at my eardrums. I screamed now, begging for a Staples card.

--------------------

I remember only little things about the months that followed, just that I worked in lockstep with my brothers and sisters, spending happy nights in our Great Hall reading from the Staples Employee Manual, and sitting in circles on the floor singing odes to Number One. We never left the grounds, which included a dormitory with our sleeping quarters, and we never wanted to. We were given subcutaneous injections daily, and we distributed Staples cards to everyone in Brooklyn, gathering all of their addresses to send to the Home Office in Wisconsin.

Months, possibly years went by, and I was enjoying my new life until one day something reminded me of my old life and filled me with an overwhelming desire to return to it. I have only vague memories of this but I think it was a song, and I think the song was "Nobody Gonna Break-a My Stride" by Matthew something. I know that the day before I had an argument with someone about the song; she had claimed it was Styx and I knew it was Matthew something, and even though I hadn't know the last name I still had somehow won the argument, and I think hearing the song had reminded me of that. I had always adored arguing, and now I had given that up. Why?

None of the Staples employees had anything physically restraining us from leaving there you see. I walked unhindered out the front door and returned to my apartment. That was this morning.

But they are coming for me now.

I can see their flashlights approaching on the horizon like the torches of an angry mob. There is a low hum, and the sky is a filmy green. And my name on the wind from the park all the way down to the river's edge in Red Hook.

Senators, I just wanted to bring your immediate attention to this matter, in the hopes that you can somehow intervene and free these people, who I am now to re-join, from their servitude.

Sincerely
#21593