~ a short story

Li thumbed through marvels; he picked up detectives and dark horseman; he perused over valiant instances of innumerable action adventures from worlds and lifetimes away. The images on these little booklets are enlivened with the colorful heroism of exotic fantasies. He picked up a copy of Logan #1. A true treasure. He turned to place it in his backpack. The banging grew louder, so he moved swiftly to the next aisle.

For Li, comic books never got old, he never outgrew them. For some reason, their pages remained fresh. The exaggerative artistry of them only became more imperative as he grew up, as his world changed. The hyperbolic storylines of showdowns, betrayals, and mutant wars  were imbued with something important, something we should never lose track of. Right now, he needed to believe in the possibility of larger-than-life heroes defeating monsters. The relentless pressure on the windows was becoming audible. Li unzipped his bag and shoveled in some of these graphic novels.

The overwhelming darkness of the shop made it difficult to see the signs overhead, but Li managed to stumble into the record section. Lucky for him, nearly all of the CDs and LPs remain to choose from. Reflecting, he realizes he needs more music in his life. Time to stock up, might not get another chance. Floyd, Bowie, Zimmer, Nas. All of them were coming with him. There was an actual record player as well, but he couldn’t fit it in his bag. Li now heard the unmistakable sound of glass shattering, alongside some of the other, familiar sounds of their march. He’d have to find a player later on, on another trip.

Li was running out of time. One last stop. Gaming section. Board games, rulebooks, electronics. Gotta work fast, make a choice and get out. Now. Power was scarce, so the choice was clear — Li grabbed the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Infinite replayability in here; I’ll just have to find someone to play with. He could hear crashing as they approached his position in the back of the store. Bookcases and aisles toppled over nearby. The footfalls were closer and faster than he anticipated. He looked to leave but spotted something. He couldn’t help but pick up one more thing. Li grimaces ironically as he shoves the board game Pandemic into his pack. The only, or last, copy.

The shuffling shadows draw closer. Li pulled his hood over his head, put in his headphones, and edged out the back door. It was raining now, heavier than earlier, as the overcast had apparently turned darker. With the door quickly and manually locked, the bashing upon it began almost instantly. With a smirk, Li turned away. But the act of hastily securing the door behind him, in combination with the new playlist of booming metal riffs blasting in his earbuds, had led to an oversight. Li failed to immediately notice the sprawling horde before him in the street. The song swells to a climactic solo, and Li crouched in an instinctual merge of shock and preparedness at the sight.

Don’t panic. You’ve gotten past worse. … Probably.

Calculating his movements while he laces his shoes, he tightened the straps of his backpack flush against his torso. Securing his hood over his face and glasses with haste, he nodded at the prospects of his latest bout. Li turns up the volume. Deep breath one. Ready? Deep breath two.


Let’s do this.

Reaching back with both hands, Li catches himself smiling once more. ~