Nothing ever happens in Taunton, Mark thought with a grimace. The town was the kind of subdued dwelling hated by the young and sought by the old.
He groaned as he set off to meet his friend Rick for their weekly trek to the mall, a trip which was becoming as pedestrian as every other aspect of life in Taunton.
The only thing that kept him going was Rick’s razor-sharp putdowns and the hope that something exciting would happen.
‘Fat chance,’ he muttered, touching a flame to the tip of the cigarette that poked from between his lips.
He glanced around furtively as he inhaled the warm smoke. The last thing he needed was for one of his mother’s friends to see him with a cigarette.
The only thing worse than the dull routine of going to the mall would be being grounded.
Mark pushed his shoulder-length blonde hair away from his forehead. His jacket was making him sweat in the heat of the day so he went hands-free on his smoke while he removed the garment.
‘Whoa, gay t-shirt,’ said a voice from his left.
‘Fuck you, Rick,’ he said, turning to see his friend grinning and flipping him the bird.
‘Going to spend some of your rent boy money?’ Rick beamed.
Rick winced as Mark’s fist slammed into his shoulder.
‘Whoa, you hurt, man. No fair.’
Mark grinned and flicked his cigarette at his friend. It landed on his chest, sending sparks flying everywhere like a miniature Catherine wheel.
‘Ok, message received,’ Rick said.
They chatted as they walked, the consensus that the day was going to be as mind-numbingly dull as any other.
But this would not be the case.
At the mall, they shoved their way through the crowds. For two fifteen year old boys, the jostling masses of semi-naked women were a godsend. Rick’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as he saw a pink thong peaking from between the perfect buttocks of a curvy blonde.
‘Seen at least ten girls I’d fuck,’ he grinned.
‘So where you wanna go? Just get some shakes like normal and watch the chicks go by?’
‘Maybe in a bit. I want to get some new trainers. These are practically falling off my feet.’ He raised a shoe that was more hole than material.
‘If we have to,’ Rick groaned. ‘But don’t be long.’
‘Stop whinging. There’s nothing else to do.’
The bargain sports store where Mark bought his trainers was crammed with sweating, jostling punters.
It was a little overwhelming – a crowbar would have been needed to get more people into the store.
The walls were ten feet high, covered in shoes and racks of clothing. The staff all wielded six foot long poles so they could reach the items on the higher shelves.
Mark shoved past a woman who had clearly dodged any sporting activity since he and Rick had been in diapers and headed for the men’s trainers.
‘It’s fucking red hot in here,’ Rick said, fanning air onto his face.
While Mark waited for a path to clear to the shoes, someone barged into him. He almost turned and planted him one but the fact that the man was built like a brick shithouse put him off.
He was bald and had a blue Lakers cap wedged on his skull. His entire face was contorted by an expression that was equal parts agony and lunacy, and he staggered as if heavily intoxicated.
‘Whoa, he’s loaded already,’ Rick said. ‘Not even twelve yet.’
Mark shushed him, not wanting the big guy to hear and become angry.
Mark cursed under his breath as the big man turned and looked right at him. It seemed he had heard the exchange and thought it was Mark who had insulted him.
‘I didn’t say that,’ Mark said, his hands coming up instinctively in front of his face.
A strand of drool came from the right side of the man’s grin. His eyes looked unfocussed and glazed over. He seemed to be looking through Mark.
His mouth moved but the words didn’t make sense.
‘Hee no. Come aaaa. Helmee.’
The man looked distressed and more uncoordinated than ever.
Before Mark could ask him what he meant, the man turned, taking out a young girl as he lunged forwards.
‘Noo,’ he shouted, frantically looking over his shoulder as he shoved deeper into the crowd.
Voices of protest came from the other customers, but they were blotted out by the blaring of the store’s alarm.
‘Think someone’s holding the place up?’ Rick said. ‘That’d be pretty cool.’
A few dozen people managed to shove their way out through the crowd before the store’s shutters began to come down.
Mark heard a scream over the siren and looked back to see a huge man in a black uniform appear. His face was obscured by a large, ominous-looking gas mask.
His beefy hands clutched a submachine gun.
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