Print Out Your Pet

 

'Hey Terry, come and see this.'

Terry left the file he was working on and went over to view the monitor Tyrone was gazing at.

'Good God! What the hell is that!'

'Must be a rubber toy of some sort. Think I should print it out?'

'Well the bloke paid for it online - don't see how you can't. Apart from that, we've already done that one of the bloke mooning at the scanner, so we can hardly turn this one down. How large does he want it?'

'Life-size.'

'You've got to be joking...' Terry wandered back to his workstation and Tyrone sent the file to the 3-D printer.

This one must have come into the supermarket early while they were busy stocking the shelves, otherwise somebody would have noticed. The creature looked too real to be a toy, and it was unlikely any manufacturer would have produced something that scared the wits out of infants. It was anyone's guess what it was meant to be.

Every now and then Terry stopped adding colour to the customers he was working on in Sense to watch in disbelief as the gruesome, corgi-sized shapie was replicated, layer by layer, pixel by scary pixel. It had fangs, short bat-like wings, a crest of spines, and four dumpy legs supporting it like a wonky coffee table.

No, that certainly wasn't a toy.

 

Tracey wondered why all the other checkouts still had their queues while customers were suddenly avoiding hers. Perhaps the hair lacquer she had overdone that morning was driving away asthma sufferers. Then she became aware of a tall man in an ankle length cloak looking down at her. She could have sworn that only seconds ago he had been several aisles away.

He held out the receipt for a 3-D shapie.

This customer was creepy and she wanted to tell him that he was at the wrong till but, Go to any checkout in bold letters was on the bottom of the receipt.

Tracey tapped in the order number and hit collect.

It seemed to take forever for the item to arrive. When it eventually did, the shapie was in a large, sealed cardboard box.

Marion placed it on the track, casting the sinister man an apprehensive glance before examining the receipt as though it was impregnated with a fatal toxin.

This was going to be one of those strange mornings, Tracey decided. They happened every now and then regardless of what precautions you took. Smiling sweetly did not always deter awkward customers, though this one was politeness personified. He even dipped a courteous bow as he accepted his shapie. Most of them came in cellophane so the customer could see the result. They could be grateful, pleasantly surprised, or downright offended that any machine possessed the temerity to destroy the image they had of themselves.

As this customer pulled the tape from his box with immaculately manicured, long nails Tracey was aware of something snuffling and grunting under the hem of his cloak. With the checkout track separating them, it was impossible to see what it was.

Just wishing the man would go, she watched him take out the scale model of a hideous creature in black, red and silver.

Tracey may have worked in a supermarket, but knew enough history to realise that centuries ago people really did believe in the Devil and his familiars. Perhaps the man had brought in some ancient heirloom to replicate for insurance purposes.

The customer gave another polite bow, placed the model back in its box and swept towards the supermarket entrance with it tucked under his arm.

Only then did Tracey see why people were backing away to let him pass.

On a silver lead, waddling happily by his side, was the creature he had brought in to replicate. Pets were not allowed on the premises, but neither of the store's security men had offered to point this out to him.

The sinister man's companion was squat, mumbling away to itself through fearsome looking fangs, and flapping its short stubby wings as though in frustration at knowing that they would never manage to lift it from the ground.