Chapter 1:

Chapter One

I Applied for a Delivery Job and Got Turned Into a Flying Reindeer?!

Chapter One

A grim silence filled the room. Thirty people crammed together into a space that could maybe have comfortably held half that many, but not a single one of them so much as coughed. Nervous sweat ran down brows, fists were clenched and unclenched, and the only sound that reached Justin Flinchley’s ears was the uneven breathing of the people around him.

I’m too young to die, Justin thought, fighting down the panic rising up inside him. I’m only twenty years old! I can’t die like this! Not today!

He almost thought he could hear them outside, clawing at the doors, howling like mindless, rabid animals. Those doors wouldn’t hold them for much longer. They knew that he and the others were in here. One way or another, they were going to get inside, and then…

God, if you’re listening, he thought, please don’t let it end this way!

“Pam’s here!” someone said. “Everyone, let her in!”

The door opened, and with some difficulty the crowd parted, letting a short, middle aged woman make her way to the front.

“All right, people,” Pam said brusquely. Justin couldn’t help but be a little bit comforted by her voice. It was the voice of a veteran who had seen this a hundred times and lived to tell the tale. “It’s going to be a bad one. Maybe the worst I’ve ever seen. But we’re prepared for this. Stay calm, remember your training, and we’ll all get through this just fine.”

How can she be so sure? Justin thought. Maybe she’ll be okay, and some of the other more experienced people, but the new recruits like me? We’ve barely had two months of training! They’ll eat us alive as soon as they get inside!

“It’s five till six,” Pam went on. “In five minutes, those doors are going to open. I’ve hand picked each and every one of you for what I know you can bring to this team. I won’t lie to you, this fight won’t be easy. But if you give it your all, then I know we can pull through!”

A halfhearted cheer rang through the crowded room.

Pam raised a pen and clipboard, pointing to certain people one by one. “Markus, Angela, Ryan, Penny, and Chris, you’re all on register duty. Glenda and Roy, be ready to cover for them when they go on break. Denise, Roger, Doug, and Will, you’ll be in the back unloading trucks.”

The ones she’d mentioned breathed sighs of relief. Whether through luck or bribery, they had been given the easy jobs. If anyone was going to survive the coming nightmare, it was them.

“This is Black Friday, everybody!” Pam announced. “You might think you see your friends, your neighbors, or even your own families out there. Don’t be fooled! Until we close at eight o’clock tonight, all that’s going to come in through those doors are monsters. If you want to keep them from tearing you limb from limb, you will make sure every single one of our shelves is filled with discounted toys and electronics! You will aid and assist your coworkers wherever you are needed! Nobody, customer or employee, will be left to fend for themselves out there! Now, are you ready?”

“Yes, ma’am!” the entire room chorused.

“Are you going to help every customer with a friendly smile?”

“Yes ma’am!”

“Who runs the best supermarket in Pleasant Ridge?”

“We do!”

“And who are we?”


As terrified as he was, Justin couldn’t help but join in as the rest of the team bellowed their warcry. Then he was swept out of the break room and onto the sales floor in a river of festive green and red colored employee vests.

Thanksgiving wasn’t even twenty four hours gone, but the entire store had already been decorated for Christmas. Glittery snowflakes and giant red Christmas tree ornaments hung from the ceiling. Tinsel had been strung up along the shelves. Wreaths lined the walls. Smiling cardboard snowmen pointed the way toward the hottest items with the lowest prices you would find in the state. On the surface, it all looked so cheerful and innocent.


His heart was pounding in his chest like it wanted to break free, but Justin did as Pam had told him and remembered his training. His feet carried him across the store just like they had every day over the past two months, through the makeup department, then housewares, then sporting goods, until he came to his assigned post.


His coworkers were already there waiting for him. One of them, a scrawny seventeen year old named Andrew, was sweating even harder than Justin.

“We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die,” he was repeating to himself.

“Get a hold of yourself!” snapped Richard. Even though he was technically just a shelf stocker like Justin and Andrew, this was his seventh year working for Willy-Mart. The horrors of seven Black Fridays had caused his eyes to sink deep into his skull, but Justin knew it would be his experience that kept him and Andrew alive—if they survived at all. “Those animals can smell fear, you understand me? If they sense even the slightest bit of weakness in you, they’ll demand to talk to your manager, and end up walking away with a seventy five percent discount on a tv that was already half off! Is that what you want, boy?”

Andrew shook his head. “N- N- No, sir!”

“You two weren't here last year.” Richard gave Justin a sidelong look. “We lost five people in one day.”

“Five people died?” Justin asked, horrified.

“Worse. Fired.” Richard raised a finger. “One little slip up, that's all it takes. An upset customer is something right out of your nightmares at the best of times, but on Black Friday…” He shook his head ruefully. “Normally you can pacify them with a gift card or a discount, but not today. Today, if you make one of them angry, there's only one way to quell their rage short of blood sacrifice, and that's to fire whoever it is that offended them.”

“But sir,” Andrew asked fearfully, “what if—”

“You boys are gonna have to walk a razor's edge all day today, you hear me?” Richard interrupted him. “Work hard, work fast, and always be polite! But more than anything else, always, always make sure the customers get what they…”

His voice trailed off when a deceptively pleasant voice began to speak on the PA system.

“Thank you for choosing Willy-Mart this Black Friday! The store is now open!”

“Dear God,” Richard whispered, his eyes widening. “It's begun!”

Justin didn’t need to be able to see the front doors to know they had been opened. He could hear it. Howls and mad laughter suddenly rang through the store, echoing up and down the aisles, sounding more like Halloween than Christmas.

His blood turned to ice inside his veins.

The customers were coming.