You got a job working the closing shift at your local clothing retail store, and tonight you’re alone, the yellow light filtering from the tiles in the ceiling and illuminating the individual flakes of dust floating in the artificial air. It’s mostly silent, a far cry from a few hours ago. The only sound is that of a distant machine, like a generator or an air vent, humming deeply like the building’s lungs, and occasional clangs of pipes as the generator sings a metallic song.
There’s three of you who normally go around and fix things up at night, refolding shirts and hanging misplaced articles back up while making sure nothing got stolen or defaced, but you’re on your own tonight. The chick, Amanda, had to leave early and Ben, the other guy, took the night off. It’s just you. You look down at your watch. It’s 12:30. You still have a good hour and a half before you can call it a night.
You look around, and you’re astounded at how empty a massive clothing store can be at night. Nothing moves. There’s no aggravated customers demanding a full refund. No toddlers screaming as their retarded mothers talk loudly on cellphones, no kids knocking down stacks of novelty tee shirts and no light jazz elevator music played in the background of such chaos. It’s almost calming.
You make your way to the men’s section, and you pass one of those mannequins that has sample outfits on it. For a second, you stop and stare at him. His name is Goddfrey. You and the rest of the night crew pose with him sometimes and take Facebook pictures of him doing hilariously inappropriate things. Goddfrey Gone Wild. The night shift can be boring. Not tonight, though.
You salute Goddfrey, the normal greeting. He doesn’t salute back, and you stare at him, his white skin milky and plastic. For a second, you swear to god you see him twitch, but after a quick heartbeat you tell yourself it was nothing. ‘Damn,’ you say, “These things are fucking creepy at night.”
You turn your back on Godfrey and journey deeper into the men’s section, until you reach one of those godforsaken “novelty t-shirt!” stands. Those things take forever because they were constantly out of order. ‘People need to learn how to put shit back,’ you think. You bend over and put the ‘I’m Next to Stupid’ shirts back in the right place, and after about five minutes you’re done. You stand up, and survey the area. Everything is fine. You head back toward Goddfrey, and as you pass him you stop dead in your tracks.
You swear to god that Goddfrey’s head is cocked a little bit to the right, and the hat on his hat is now on the floor. As you stare into Goodfrey’s dark, black eyes, you suddenly start to feel uneasy. You hurry as you bend down and place the cap back on his head, and as you turn your back to him your heart starts to beat faster and you can feel dark, plastic eyes.
Dark, plastic eyes staring into your back.
You turn around. It’s just Goddfrey. Good old Goddfrey the Fuckbuddy. You turn around again and walk quickly until you reach the ladies section. As the feeling wears off you convince yourself it was just the paranoia of being in the store alone. It’s kind of a creepy place. You scan the ladies section- it’s a fucking rough tonight. Blouses cover the floor, and one by one you place them back on the racks. As you’re putting the last skirt back on the rack, you catch something out of the corner or your eye.
A flash of white.
You know the general direction of where it happened, and your heart pounds heavily in your chest as you slowly rise to your feet, eyeing the area intently. All you can see is the left side of a woman’s mannequin. Sarah, you guys named her, or as Ben liked to say “Fucking bitch.” Slowly, you walk to her. You’re standing in front of her. Her left foot is a little bit farther ahead of her right. ‘She probably just lost balance,’ you say out loud as you stare at her. ‘Too much stuff on her head or something.’ You say to yourself in a hushed self affirmation. You turn around, and you hurry to the front register. As you turn your back to her, you can feel her black stare burn into your back.
The last thing you have to do is lock down the registers. One by one you go through and press the ‘power down’ button on the digital cash register, and it shuts off. As you’re doing this, you tremble a little, and as your brain tries to convince you it’s alright, and that you’re being retarded, and that you’re just frightened because of the nightshift. By the third register, you feel almost normal.
You see a small, children's shoe underneath the counter to the last register, so you pull on it.
You pull out a whole infant mannequin. You stare at for a spilt second, into the tiny, beady eyes, and you swear, just for one instant, that the thing fucking blinks.
You let out a cry as you drop the thing to the ground, the plastic resonating on the marble floor. From the men’s section you hear a light crash, and the same plastic rattling. You hear creaking plastic. Tiny plastic footsteps.
You run to the front entrance, and go to the security system.
You try to remember the code to lock the front door.
Plastic rattling from the women's section. With trembling fingers you punch the password- 409423.
You yell out in frustration and fear as you hear tiny footsteps. You refuse to look at where they are and your heartbeat climbs and your head feels like it’s going to explode from terror. The footsteps echo through the silence, plastic hitting tiled floors.
Another attempt with the password: 4019423.
‘I’m going to die holy shit I’m going to fucking die’.
Only when you hear the singing do you abandon trying to lock the store. You can hear one of them, a robotic, inhuman, terrifying voice, singing something like ‘Hey hey hey, hey hey hey’ over and over and over and over again, and it grows nearer with every tiny, plastic step. You scream “FUCK IT” fling open the side door, and run to your car.
You’re halfway across the parking lot when you hear the side door open and you hear a faint, horrible chorus of ‘Hey hey hey’ echo in the still, black night. You run faster, your feet blasting against the pavement, and when you reach the front door of your car you struggle in your pockets, flinging your cellphone and wallet onto the pavement as ‘Hey hey hey’ grows closer, the robotic voice locking into the night with some kind hypnotic, horrible melody. You can see a dark humanoid figure, a dark shadow in the distance moving at a steady rate, hobbling and shaking. You flash your eyes to the side door again. More humanoid shadows. More robotic voices. More plastic steps against the pavement.
More ‘Hey Hey Hey’ choruses.
The car opens for you the first time, and you nearly dive into it. You refuse to look behind you as your fumbling hands struggle with the ignition. You hear gentle tapping on the window, and against your better judgement, you look up at it.
The plastic face seems to be smiling in the darkness, it’s plastic mouth moving in a tiny motion but a motion all the same. The dark eyes are so close to humanity but so horribly inhuman. They stare into your soul, plastic hand raised, knocking into the glass of your window. She’s mouthing words “Hey hey hey. Hey hey hey.” You can hear it in your mind, and you start the car,and the radio turns on. You accelerate wildly you turn the radio on full volume. ‘We danced like spirits in the night’. As you speed forward, your headlight catches a group of them, all stumbling along with distinctly inhuman steps, rigid and without an ounce of flexibility or grace. Even with Springsteen Blaring you can hear the damn things. ‘Hey hey hey, hey hey hey,’You’re store is next to another retail clothing store. As you pass at 70 miles an hour, you see a stream of them stumbling out of the store, an army of mannequins, some without heads, some without arms or legs, but all of them singing. You try to crank the radio up more, but it won’t, it’s maxed out. You scream and press the petal to the floor, peeling out into non-existent traffic.
It’s a long drive home. You go fast, and you don’t think. You’re mind is too clouded and exhausted for rational thought. You don’t notice the complete absence of traffic on the way to your house. You force the song out of your head. ‘Not the song, not the song.’ As you pull into your driveway, slamming the door behind you, you run to the front door and fumble with the key. Every shadow has a plastic face, every whisper of wind sings ‘Hey, hey, hey.’
The door opens. You lock it. You run through the house and make sure everything is locked. You close all of the curtains, and you move the living room couch in front of the stairs that lead to your bedroom. You leap over it, run into your bedroom, and move your dresser up against the door. Your girlfriend let sleeping pills on your bed stand. You take a handful, and soon you pass out, face first, onto your bed.
You don’t hear them, at 5:30 in the morning. You left the side door leading into the garage open. You left the door leading from the garage into the kitchen unlocked. They climb over the stair-blockade.
By six, your surrounded. At seven they start to sing. At 7:05 you wake up, and you are silent as they sing the infinite chorus of ‘Hey hey hey,’ and it’s loud, at least one hundred robot voices singing the same thing, and you sit on the side of your bed, staring at the door handle.
It slowly turns. The door gradually opens.
A white leg steps into your room. You don’t move as it invites itself in.
Your last rational thought is ‘Oh my god it looks just like me’ as the white body moves toward you, his arms outstretched.
‘Hey hey hey, hey hey hey...’
When he sings, it’s different.
He has your voice.
As he embraces you like a long lost friend and you feel your skin harden, turning milky white, you discover why mannequins are nestled so deep in uncanny valley.
‘Hey hey hey,’ you sing in reply.