Self Checkout

It was Thursday. After work, that meant it was time to buy groceries for the family. As a family of five, every week, we went through several hundred dollars’ worth of groceries. Weekly trips were required to keep us from spending too much money on eating out in restaurants. I hated shopping, but needed to save the money.


I pulled our white Suburban into the driveway. My youngest daughter stood at the door jumping up and down smiling. She always loved greeting me that way. I went inside and gave my family hugs and kisses. Then we started our weekly ritual.


We loaded the kids up in our car and drove them to the babysitter’s house. My wife, Scarlet, and I drove to the store to get two shopping carts full of groceries.


We went aisle to aisle restocking all the things we bought weekly. From time to time we would throw in the occasional treat to spice things up and give the kids something new to try. We would talk back and forth about work, how her day was and how much we loved each other. We were a happy couple. We had been together for over fourteen years. We married young.


After that, we finished loading up the shopping carts we went to one of the checkout lines. It had been a long day at work and I was in a hurry. After we finished paying we headed back to the car. We started putting groceries in the car.


“Oh, John, we forgot to get the milk and eggs. Can you run back inside and grab them for me?” Scarlet said with a smile, as she loaded up the last few bags from the buggies into the back of our Suburban.


“Sure, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” I gave her a kiss and headed back inside.


I grabbed the milk and the eggs and went through self-checkout. I wasn’t paying attention. As I ran the milk through the register, the laser missed the milk and hit my wrist. The machine beeped and a strange error message popped up on the screen.


00011000000111 1111 00000 11111 00


I looked at the screen, baffled. At the bottom it showed something else in small letters.


Android – Human-like – 47,599.99


I stood at the machine with my mouth agape. The message disappeared and the machine went back to normal. I tried to scan my wrist again and the same message popped up. A new message appeared.


Pickup units inbound to target location.


I couldn’t process this as reality and chalked it up to someone’s bad practical joke. I finished ringing up my items, paid and headed back to the Suburban. As I approached the side exit, I heard a loud booming sound from the other store entrance.


I saw seven armed military men swarmed around the register I had just used. One of them had a strange patch on his shoulder. Another customer backed up in front of the register I was using, trying to see what was going on.


The military men surrounded him and the register with guns pointed. The man with all the medals pointed the gun to the man’s back. “Run your wrist over the register, now!”


The young man couldn’t respond and his entire body was visibly shaking. He slowly ran his wrist over the register and nothing happened.


The military leader looked back and motioned to the rest of his squad. “Fan out. Find whoever was at this register. Pull the video tapes and check the store.”


I slipped out and headed back to my wife. She was standing beside the car with her arms crossed. “What took so long?” She demanded, patting her foot on the ground.


“Get in and let’s go. I’ll explain later.”


She huffed and we loaded in the car and took off down the road.


What the hell is going on? I thought as we drove back toward the babysitter’s house.


I tried to clear the thoughts out of my head as we drove. We picked up the kids and went home. I did some work from my home office and as the night approached I started to calm down. Eventually we went to bed and my mind settled down.


In the middle of the night I woke up and my wife wasn’t beside me. Several people were standing over me. Before I could say anything, someone grabbed my mouth as another injected something into my arm. I passed out.


When I woke the next morning my wife was beside me and my head was pounding. With everything seeming normal, I went to work that day.


After work, on my way home, I got curious. I stopped by the store and bought a piece of candy and went through self checkout. I ran my wrist over the reader, nothing.


Was it all a dream?

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