It was the noise that gave it away.

It always was, no matter how hard they tried to conceal themselves. I could always sense them, darting between the shelves, stalking closer to me. I heard them now, muttering and snarling. Their idea of stealth wasn't the most accurate or effective, but they were vicious; getting caught wasn't an option.

I was crouched in an aisle that was tucked away in a corner. There were shelves and shelves of sundries surrounding me, and the tiled floors winked up at me, laughing silently at my misfortune. They knew, as did I, that although I was hidden, it could not last very long. The enemy could still be heard, growling and wandering about.

Shoppers.

They were feral, ruthless beings, devoid of soul or mercy. They charged throughout their domain, cutting down the weak, willing to do anything in order to obtain their merchandise. I was surrounded, and I knew it was only a matter of time before they found me. I crouched even lower to the floor, and grabbed the only weapon available to me: A small, orange tee-shirt, priced on sale at five dollars. A bargain.

With the shirt clutched to my chest, I stood, deciding to take my chances and make a run for it. After I took my first step, I knew I was in trouble. They were after me, I could tell from the squeak of poorly-oiled wheels. Carts. This was an unforeseen complication.

I dodged through clothing racks and jumped over shoe displays, headed towards Produce. After Produce, I could cut through a few aisles and reach the exit. Home free.

I was almost there. Suddenly, several of them came seemingly from nowhere, knocking over a stack of watermelons and upending a scale. I threw the shirt as hard as I could away from me, hoping to distract them. Some went for it(after all, it was such a bargain), but there were too many for it to take care of them all. They surrounded me, swarmed me, and everything went black. My final scream was drowned out by a malicious voice, coming seemingly from everywhere, yet nowhere, echoing menacingly in the low-price-filled air.

"Price check on orange tee-shirt in checkout lane three..."

I awoke with a start, panicking and thrashing around for a second, before I realized what had happened. It was a dream. It was the same dream I had been having for days now, ever since I had planned my infiltration of the shopper's compound. My subconscious feared failure, but I knew it was worth the risk; the prize was too great to pass up.

I got up and stretched, making sure my cover was intact. I was in a stand of bushes a good fifty yards from my target. I had decided to sleep there on this night, to better prepare myself for the trials to come. My family believed me at a friend's house. It was safer for them not to know the truth.

I checked my watch; it was early morning. New shoppers didn't show for at least another hour. It was now, or never. Carefully extracting myself from the bushes, I headed towards the target. It was a large, colorful building. The doors were of the automatic, whooshy variety, and the whole place had a disarming air about it. It seemed almost cheery, but I knew better; there was no place more nefarious.

My feet hit concrete, and I started sprinting. I had but a few seconds before the camera spread would reveal me to the monsters waiting inside, and I intended to arrive unnoticed. My mission depended on it. As I reached the doors, I rolled. They opened, sliding forth to admit me like a crocodile slides open its jaws to admit sweet, tasty kangaroo. I tumbled through, landing on all fours, tensed like a coiled spring. After a quick look in either direction, I shot off. My entire operation depended on speed.

I dashed through the main aisle, trying my best to be both quick and silent, but to no avail. The shoppers were everywhere. I was buffeted left and right by cart after cart, and trapped in a meaningless cacophony of white noise. I could not stay in the main aisle if I wished to make it through this.

"Look, half off on electronics!" I yelled, pointing wildly. They stopped and turned excitedly, and I took my chance. I ran. They weren't the smartest creatures around.

Heart racing and chest heaving from my close encounter, I ducked behind a pinata depicting an angry English teacher. I had to rest for a moment before continuing on my perilous quest. That was too close. After a moment's pause, I darted out from behind the pinata, leaped over a bicycle, and turned, running through the aisles. Soon, I reached Produce, and I knew I was close. Weaving through foods of all different healthy and inedible colors, I made my way through.

Suddenly, two shoppers appeared, and I dove behind the potatoes before they saw me. Trapped as I was, I was forced to wait as they conversed.

"What is that, mom?"

"It's asparagus, Timmy."

"That doesn't sound like fun at all. I never eat anything I can't spell."

"Just put it in the cart, already."

"Okay, but I'm putting it over here, away from the food."

After a few more seconds, the pair wandered off. I sighed, a deep sigh of relief. I was sure they were going to tear me apart, for sure. I stood up, shaking myself free of the potatoes, and rounded the corner. I was there. The freezer section.

I ran forward and examined the prisons of glass that held captive the delicious frozen treats. My breath fogged them as I rushed past, eyes darting from one brightly-colored package to the next. Finally, my gaze fell onto my prize. The Hot Pocket.

There they sat, merely a microwave away from perfection. Juicy pepperoni, flanked by an armada of the most delicious cheese, melted and enveloping every corner; all of this was housed within a moist and flaky shell, not too hard, yet not too soft. They were perfect. They were items of divinity.

God Pockets.

I ripped open their cage, and grabbed a box, salvaging it from within its prison of glass and ice. I was worried about escaping with my prize, but deep down, I knew I'd be safe. Nothing could touch me now, not even the mighty Express Lane Beast, with its quick and convenient service and laser cannons, for scanning.

The anticipation lent my feet wings, and I flew from the store, dodging past the feral shoppers and their bargain-squabbles. The door rushed open, and I burst from the store like an appendix.

I reached home out of breath, but triumphant. I barged through the door and headed straight for the kitchen, pushing aside my sister and ignoring all questions of, "How was your friend's house?" There were more important things on my mind, far more important things; I had arrived, my moment was here. It was snack time.

However, a certain empty wariness filled me, and I could sense that all was not well in the kitchen.

"Dad!" I yelled, starting to panic. He poked his head through the doorway after a moment.

"What?"

"Where's the microwave?

My father smiled a sad, demented smile. "Oh, it broke, son. We have to go to the store and get a new one."