As he approached the jewelry department, he could see the large haired, polyester clad fashion mavens as they scurried about like over caffeinated mice in a maze, looking for good deals.
Julius maneuvered his way through the crowded aisles and barely missed tripping over a large black purse in front of the cash wrap. He did a deft leap and spin, thankful for the ballet classes his mother had forced on him in his youth. He landed lightly on his feet and looked back on the offending bag with a glare.
A very large, very redheaded woman with a Pucci print dress lumbered over and grabbed the bag possessively with her left hand. The right clutched a box of brightly colored Halloween peeps. She glowered at Julius long enough for him to enjoy the lovely sky blue of her eye shadow and the immense amount of pancake makeup currently melting under the hot halogens. Julius sighed.
"You should be. I've been a customer of this story for over fifteen years." She had a small smear of orange gob at the corner of her red lips. Julius looked away, his stomach doing a flip.
"I know, ma'am."
"Don't you give me any of your lip, young man," she bellowed, shaking a well-jeweled finger at him. "I'm paying your salary."
"I'm very sorry, ma'am." Julius did his best to look contrite then stared down at his shoes. Anything to keep himself from seeing the peep spittle precariously perched at the corner of those lips.
"Well!" huffed his number one fan. Grabbing an orange pumpkin from the box, she popped it into her mouth. "See that this doesn't happen again," she managed around a chewy confection. More orange ooze began to seep as Julius watched helplessly.
With an air of melodrama, Halloween Peep Woman slung her black bag over her shoulder, pointed her nose to the heavens and waddled off down the cubic zirconia aisle. She stopped briefly to look at a very large, bright yellow cocktail ring. She picked the ring up and placed it on her pinky. It wouldn't slide past the knuckle. She wrestled with it momentarily until she saw Julius watching. Grimacing, she wrestled it off her finger and stormed off. Julius smiled, shook his head, and made his way back to the time clock.
He had his hand on the backroom door; ready to push it open, when he saw a small flash of orange out of the corner of his eye. He turned to look and didn't see anything but the gaudy carpet and racks of necklaces. He shrugged and pushed the door open.
Punching in, Julius listed in his head everything he needed to do today. It was a long list. After taking over for the last manager, who'd been caught stealing, the mistakes and formerly neglected duties left him with little time to breath. As he placed his time card back in the slot, an odd granular squishing noise met his ears.
"What the heck is that?" He pulled the card back out to find not a mark on it. He looked down into the slot and saw nothing. "O.K., that's weird."
He placed the card back in slowly but did not re-encounter the strange noise. He gave his second shrug of the day, grabbed his nametag from the desk and hit the floor.
The chaos at the cashwrap was what could be expected of a Fall sale. Brenda, his lead salesperson, seemed to have instilled as much order as was possible by instituting a single file line in front of the register. Gathered around the fringes were "guests" with questions furrowing their brows. As Julius walked up, four pairs of anxious eyes swung over to him and a flurry of questions followed. He dealt with them one by one, in a calm manner, until he stood with the last woman by the fine gold chains. As he explained the difference between 10, 14, 18 and 24 karat gold another flash caught his eye. This time it was black. He hadn't realized he'd stopped speaking until her loud, "E-e-e-ehm."
He turned to see the faintly amused customer raising her brows and pointing to the chains in his hand.
"Sorry," he smiled, and continued his speech. Once finished, with the "guest" happily on her way to the register, he placed the chains back in the glass display case. As he closed the door, it stuck an inch away from the magnetic closure. He looked down to see what was in the way only to see a black peep cat smushed in the door. He wrinkled his nose in disgust.
His hatred for the bright, sugary confections was well known among the staff. Beyond abhorring them because he was a vegetarian (peeps contain gelatin!), he found the various shapes and colors they came in nauseating. The chick peeps he thought of as just plain creepy. It was an white ghost that resided in a half-flattened state in the jewelry case. He opened the case and the peep seemed to re-inflate before his eyes. His lips curled.
"Yuck," He pulled a tissue from his pocket then reached down and grabbed the offending peep. He held it away from him as he carried it off to the garbage. Tossing it in, her turned to Brenda. "Who put the peep in the gold chains display case? That was really a gross trick."
"I have no idea," Brenda said bemused. She was well aware of Julius's dislike of peeps and could barely stifle a giggle at the expression on his face. "I would never waste a peep like that."
"Ewww!" Julius moaned, "How can you eat those things? They have no nutritional value, they're full of chemicals and you can't destroy them."
Brenda could no longer hold back and snickered at Julius's diatribe.
"I'm serious!" he said, emitting an aura of sincerity. "Emory University actually did experiments on peeps trying to discover what would dissolve them. Smoking, dipping them in liquid nitrogen and even boiling them didn't‚ work. Only microwaving and burning them for a sustained period will destroy them. What?"
Brenda was now in full guffaw. She tried to stop and briefly succeeded, then began all over again. Julius sighed and headed to the backroom to catch up on his paperwork. He sat heavily in the chair and grabbed for a pencil. The stack of paperwork in front of him was immense and promised a very boring day. Seconds into his task, the lead broke with a loud chunk.
"Wonderful," Julius muttered as he searched for the pencil sharpener. Moving a particularly tall mound of paper, he found the desk mounted sharpener and inserted his #2. It felt like pushing it into clay.
"What? I don't need this," heaving a sigh, he took the cover off to see ground pencil lead and orange peep in an insidious mix within the grooves.
"Oh, gross! How am I going to get that out of there?"
He made a valiant attempt to extricate the sugary stuff, but to no avail. Searching through the desk, he found another pencil, then sat, eraser to lip, as he thought,
"Where all of these damn peeps coming from?"
He got up from his chair and headed back to the floor, on a mission. He would track down the peep prankster if it took him the whole shift!
His mission was over a scant ten minutes later. Julius was no closer to finding out the identity of the fiend behind this peep attack. But now, half the staff now thought he was completely nuts. Not a bad day. And, only seven hours to go.
By the time Julius got home seven and half-hours later, he'd seen eighteen winks of peepage without a concrete sighting. Then, he found a peep in his lunch and sat on one while taking a call from corporate. The ability of the things to rebound back into shape sickened him.
When he had reported these sightings to a friend, over the phone, she told him maybe he should check the expiration date on his Kashi. Even the newsgroups, his last refuge, sniggered at these happenings. They all thought he was paranoid. Hell, half the group loved the disgusting things.
Once in his driveway, Julius parked his beloved VW Bug and carefully closed the door. As he headed to the house, he turned around to wave to a neighbor. That's when he saw it. Or them, to be more precise. All over the wheels of his car were bright blobs of flattened peeps. Scared now, he ran for the house, stopping only to get the mail. He was expecting a book. Maybe it finally came.
He reached into the mailbox and to his horror, felt only granular cat shapes. He pulled his hand back with a yelp and ran inside.
"I'm safe in here. I never let the little beasts into my home."
Reassured, he climbed the stairs to the bathroom, hoping that a shower would wash the filth of peep from his skin. He dumped his bag in his bedroom, gave the cat a quick scritch on the neck and grabbed the velour robe his Mom had gotten him for Christmas.
It didn't take long for the shower to heat up and Julius stepped in with a sigh of relief. Maybe now he could leave this day behind him.
He closed his eyes as the hot water streamed over him and felt his muscles relax. Then, his instincts kicked in.
Something was wrong.
Every hair on his body stood on end. The air was filled with a sickly sweet scent. He looked through translucent shower curtain and saw a shape moving towards him. He was frozen, unable to do anything but gulp. The steam obscured the shape a bit, but he could swear it was vaguely bunny shaped. His heart thudded so hard he thought it would pop out of his chest. The bunny thing moved toward him slowly as he shrunk back to the corner of the tub.
Suddenly, the curtain was yanked back. There it stood. Six feet tall and two feet wide at the tummy. A giant purple peep bunny. Julius screamed as the bunny lunged for him....
...and awoke to find his cat licking his face. He sat up, dislodging his loving kitty with a mew of compliant. The sun streamed through the window. The birds sang outside. He looked over at the clock. Just past eight. The house was filled with silence.
Everything was ok.
"Oh, what a horrible dream I had," he told his cat. "And you were there. And there was this giant peep bunny. It's just too awful."
The cat began to purr and sidled up along him affectionately. Everything really was ok.
He went into the bathroom for his morning dew. When he was done, he went to wash his hands and looked in the mirror. On his face, dripping from his mouth, was a line of purple saliva. He touched it, and it was granular. He tasted and it was sweet.