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Nov. 9, 2022

Ep.164 – The Fall of Man - It Takes KILLER Instinct to Succeed

Ep.164 – The Fall of Man - It Takes KILLER Instinct to Succeed

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The world of supermarkets is full of CUT THROAT competition, but tonight it becomes literal...

The Fall of Man by David O'Hanlon

Get Cool Merchandise...

Support us on Patreon

The world of supermarkets is full of CUT THROAT competition, but tonight it becomes literal...

The Fall of Man by David O'Hanlon

Get Cool Merchandise

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Music by Ray Mattis

Executive Producer Rob Fields

Produced by Daniel Wilder

This episode sponsored by

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David O’Hanlon

1503 Christy Dr Apt C

Springdale, AR 72764

(479) 312-0970

About 2800 words

the Fall of Man

By David O'Hanlon


I slid down the door and let my head fall against the pressed wood with a thump. It was a disappointing sound and I banged my head against it again for the same dissatisfying result. It was supposed to sound like I felt. I didn’t know exactly what that sound was, but it wasn’t a muffled thud. Everything was falling apart and I couldn’t even bang my head against the door correctly. Emotions cascaded from head to heart in ways I could actually feel and it made my skin prickle until I started shaking. Bile hit the back of my throat, but I was too distraught to move.

I was not a weak man, at least not as far as I was concerned. I didn’t feel things. “Feelings come with a vagina to keep ‘em in,” my father always told him. Dad was sure to punctuate those life lessons with punches—the knuckles made grooves for the message to really sink in. Maybe that wasn’t the best way to raise a child. Or maybe it was. It had worked out well to a point. 

I had been a stockboy at Brown’s General Market for less than three months before making it to assistant manager. In two years, the owners promoted me to store manager when the old one died in some bizarre fishing accident. Kohler, Arkansas had a very high rate of accidents. The Browns were good people and I loved them, as best as I knew how. They doted on me like their own son.

Or like they would have if the whelp ever accomplished anything. It was tragic for the Browns when the boy died in a fire, but it worked out well in the end. I hadn’t been at Brown’s a full six years and their store was more than competing with established franchises like Piggly Wiggly and Kroger. Once they died the following year, of age-related conditions, the Browns passed the store over to me. 

It all worked out perfectly.

I loved the store, truly. It was the only thing I loved, if we’re being honest. My romantic life consisted of a platinum membership at The EmPORNium. I was a three-time customer of the month as the owner pointed out that morning when I returned the rented smut. It worked out better for me, and everyone else, if I stuck to the curtained room reserved for the more extreme tastes. And my tastes have always been very extreme.

I never related to people well enough to date them anyway. There had been a few attempts over the years. The most recent was two years prior with one of my stockers—a curvy, country girl named Autumn. Aside from her bubbly personality and constant need for attention, sleeping with an employee was a boring cliché. I ended it after twenty-seven days and patted myself on the back because it was two days longer than my last relationship. I was practically a social butterfly.

Flap, flap.

Most people that claim to dislike other people at least have pets. I don’t understand that either. It’s not that I hate animals. In fact, I leave out scraps for one of the strays at my apartment. On Tuesdays, I toss some of the stale bread to the ducks that congregated in the little retention pond behind the store. I just don’t get it. Why keep a pet? We don’t have anything in common and time away from the store could be spent bettering myself. Playing with an animal didn’t have any intrinsic value. I tried a betta fish once but flushed it down the toilet after only a week. I’m just not capable of that much commitment. 

A tear splashed on the back of my hand and all I could do was stare at it curiously. The crystalline droplet seemed to shimmer in the blue lights dancing through the blinds. I probed my eyes and felt their dampness before the dam broke and three decades of emotions poured down the spillways of my cheeks. The fists battering the front door made my heart pound. That’s the sound I was trying to make. It was the sound of fury and loss and everything else I was feeling. The banging intensified and I rocked my head against the bedroom door in rhythm. I found my voice and cried until it became laughter.


I could practically feel the Browns patting me on the back as I noted a four percent increase over the previous quarter. It was twenty till one and I was ready to call it a night. I emailed the numbers to my accountant and then read the message from my attorney for the sixth time. The local Piggly Wiggly, still six miles away, was going under thanks entirely to my efforts. We’d negotiated the sale of their building and store fixtures at thirty-grand less than expected. The contracts would be ready by noon.

I laced my fingers behind his head and smiled at the ceiling. Expanding the Brown’s General Market brand was the next step. Stores in Fort Smith, Springdale, Huntsville, and Alma were already lined up over the next two years. I had Photoshopped pictures of each store done up with the new Brown’s logo hanging on a wall around a motivational cat poster. I’d just turned thirty-seven. By forty-seven, I’d have sold the franchise to Walmart and retired to Ecuador. Like the cat on the wall said, “Good things come to those that act meow.”

A crash on the salesfloor made me jump and I rushed to the two-way mirror. The last of the stockers went home at midnight. No one ever wanted overtime, especially when I worked the night shift. I glanced at the safe and scrunched my nose. Mr. Brown insisted on keeping a revolver inside it, just in case. 

Shooting myself by mistake or, worse, putting a hole in the store would be ridiculous if it was just a collapsed shelf. Some of the fixtures were purchased in the 90s and the new shelves didn’t clip in as well as they should. From time to time, one slipped out. I opted for a pair of scissors as my personal protection, just in case, however.

Aisle seven; condiments, salad dressings, pickles, peppers, and salsa. 

The smell of pickle juice hit my nose from ten feet away. I’d never liked pickles. They were demonic appendages, severed from the cruel hands of Chthonic terrors that scared the shit out of me as a child. Don’t judge me. Unlike the monster under your bed, pickles are real at least. Shards of glass spread like shrapnel across the floor. I hated that floor but didn’t want to shut down to replace it. The deep russet tiles had faded to something closer to tawny, while the white tiles were now darker, stained over the years to a champagne-like yellow. Brown and yellow, like used underwear. The red was a new touch. 

So was the dead body.

I gawked stupidly at the corpse sprawled between spilled pickles and broken glass. The head was missing, but the victim was wearing a Brown’s vest atop bejeweled jeans. The curves of the diminutive figure were unmistakably female, and familiar. I tried to picture the body bent over my desk. I said sleeping with employees was cliché, not that I didn’t still do it.


I stepped closer and inspected the area. Her head wasn’t missing after all—it was sitting right there between two jars of Vlasic spears.

“Clean up, aisle seven,” a distorted voice said over the PA system. “Just a simple murder. It’s no big dill.”

There were four phones on the salesfloor, one in the meat department, one in my office, seven at the registers, and another at the service desk… and they could all dial into the PA. The killer could’ve been anywhere. I went back to main street—the path between the registers and the grocery aisles—and looked around for any sign of the intruder. The coast was clear, so I bolted for the front doors. I hit the crash bar and bounced off. I tried again, twisting the lock back-and-forth, but the doors refused to budge.

“You haven’t paid,” the voice said. “You can’t leave without paying.”

I wasn’t scared. Hatred. Anger. Those are functional emotions. Dad was okay with me feeling them. Fear? That was a weakness almost as pathetic as love. My father taught me that you were only worth as much as you do. You can’t do anything if you’re dead. Survival was the name of the game, and you win by putting your functional emotions to use. I pushed the door again and heard the chains rattling on the other side. The person knew my routines. They had planned it out.

Hatred. Anger. Yeah. I was feeling those. I was feeling the fuck out of those.

“Please return to your shopping,” the voice growled. “Have you considered a seafood option to pair with your pickles?”

The bastard was trying to suggestive sell me… in my own store? I adjusted my grip on the scissors and ran to the service desk. No one was there. I went to the paper goods aisle next and checked that phone. It was still on the hook.

“Good customer service is reserved for good customers,” my stalker told me. “Follow directions, Terrance.”

I stalked along the aisle: hunkered down and keeping my body close to the shelves. I stopped short of back road—what we called the lane that ran parallel to main street and separated the aisles from the meat, seafood, and dairy departments. I took a deep breath and sprang from the aisle with the scissors raised over my head. 

No one was there.

I walked past the last dairy bunker where we kept the ricotta, cottage cheese, and all that. I sprinted past the stockroom doors, but no one lunged out for me. I was almost to the meat department entrance when I paused at the seafood counter. The team emptied the case before going home every night and sprayed it out to keep the smell down. But there it was—a whole red snapper lying on a sheet of ice, staring at me with a single, dead eye. A Brown’s name tag was pinned to its body with fillet knife. I swallowed hard. 

The tag had a gold border denoting a member of the management team and the name Barry emblazoned across it. Barry Glover was the store manager that died in that fishing accident. He slipped and stuck himself in the chest with a fillet blade, severing his aorta. The coroner spent three days examining every tiny detail to prove it really was a bizarre accident.

I spent six months practicing with dummies and pork shoulders to make sure I could get those tiny details right. I had. No one knew anything. So, how could this person?

“See anything you like?” they asked from the overhead speakers. “If our seafood isn’t to die for, maybe try our fresh cut meats.”

That sealed it. They were dialing in from the prep room and wanting me to come running into their ambush. It wouldn’t work. They were trying to play my game. But I’ve been playing on pro courts for years.

I was thirty when I started at Brown’s, looking for a new career. The old one wasn’t panning out. I started in the mail room there. I worked my way up to a sales lead position. Then people started looking at me funny around the office. That town had a problem with accidents too and relocation seemed prudent. Terrance Horowitz wasn’t using his identity anymore, not after I buried him in that crawlspace. 

They say people like me have rituals. Mine is the planning. No one could know about Barry, just like they couldn’t know about the real Terrance. Or the others. Whoever this was, I’d gut them like that snapper and come away looking like a hero. I went into the prep room and found it dark and deserted. A twelve-inch butcher’s cimeter sat on the polypropylene surface of the cutting table. I trade my scissors for it and opened the cooler, expecting to meet my tormentor in a violent, final clash. 

The motion-activated light switch engaged and revealed excessive amounts of meat for the upcoming Independence Day sales. Still no vindictive maniac… minus myself, of course.

U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For started playing. Hardy-fucking-har-har. I stormed back onto the salesfloor. The CD player was kept at customer service. I ran down aisle ten—breads and snack cakes—and slid onto main street. I hopped the service counter and went around the partition to the employee area. The monofilament line snapped as I rounded the corner. The thin, plastic strand melts and becomes indistinguishable from carpet fibers in a housefire.

Just ask Doug Brown.

I used the same tripwire in his kitchen to cause the electrical fire that night.

The wall burst with a spray of sparks. Wires crackled and popped as their exposed, copper cores bumped into one another. The overhead lights shattered and covered me in glass. The music shut off and the wall ignited beside me. It was just like I’d done it. If they knew that, then they knew… oh shit.

I leapt away from the flames and stumbled backwards out of the service area. I needed to get to my apartment.

“Attention shoppers, the store is now closing. Please make your way to the front of the store,” the voice said.

I turned and there was the intruder, dressed in a black ski mask and billowing parka that hid any clues to their real identity. They raised the voice-changer to their lips.

“This concludes our business day,” they said and threw the device to the side.

I charged with a furious roar, leaping onto the conveyor of the nearest checkout lane, and jumping to the next. Then the next. The third. The intruder waved for me to come on and I did, with the butcher knife cocked back and ready to split their fucking head in two. I got to the fifth lane and it turns out I wasn’t the only one that liked planning things. The vegetable oil was nearly invisible on the black rubber belt. My shoe slipped across it and I came down hard enough to bend the aluminum frame of the checkout.

I laid on the floor, watching the black hiking boots with the extra thick soles clopping toward the front door.

“You shouldn’t play with a girl’s heart,” the intruder said with the delicate twang of a true Southern belle. “Especially not one that likes true crime shows. I know what you’ve done, all the way back to Maryland. I got lots more ideas for our next date night, Terry.”

She was gone before I could get back to my feet. I ran to my car and drove straight to the apartment. I’d dropped the knife back at the store. I had no doubt it was the one used to kill Bianca. They’d write me off as a jealous pig boss that murdered an employee for not putting out and then torched the scene in a panic. I’d never panic after a kill. And I’d never burn the store… I loved that store. Autumn had taken it from me. Taken it using the same methods I’d employed to get it. Goddamn it! I beat my fist on the steering wheel. Autumn… the season of dying. What an appropriate name. How much else did she really know?

I jumped the sidewalk and left my car running in the lawn. I knew what was waiting inside. I ran straight to the bedroom and found them there. I shut the door behind me and slid down the cheap wood finish. Mister and Missus Brown were lying on top of the bedspread, stark naked, just as they had been before I put them back in the freezer for safe keeping. I told you I loved them in the only way I knew how. I heard the sirens coming down the street.

Even if anyone believed me, would it matter? I banged my head against the door. It was a disappointing sound. The cops broke in and I stood slowly, preparing to turn myself in. There was no point in resisting. I’d lost the love of my life. What was left to fight for? I stepped out of the bedroom, still laughing at the insanity of it all, and laid down on the floor. The cuffs went on tight. They’d probably been coming to tell me about the fire when they got the call about Bianca. As they escorted me to a police car, I stepped on a discarded ski mask—a strange sight in July, but the officers didn’t seem to notice. I smiled and looked around the gathered crowed. There she was.

My season of dying.

The End