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     As he approached  the bright street corner Dominic caught himself rubbing his shoulder where the needle had penetrated his body. He moved the hand to adjust the damned mask on his face. It always made his cheeks and nose itch and his lips crack.

     He had been doing that a lot lately, massaging the tingly, burning sensation that persisted on his shoulder long after the swelling had gone away.

     The doc had told him it was normal and that it would fade, but it had been months now.

     And his thoughts were blurry too, his head filled with cotton wool.

     At first he had thought it might be something he was coming down with, even the dreaded virus, but he was now fully vaccinated against it?

     Thankfully it had not gotten any worse, so hopefully he was not going to die.

     He stepped out into the street and immediately squinted his eyes against the glare of the store.

     The night was dark but even the cool darkness did not ease his burning eyes.

     Lockdowns were torture, which was one of the main reasons Dominic had been desperate for the vaccine… that and the fear of catching the virus itself.

     But even after the jab. Dominic hated going outside. He could not remember the sun being so bright in his whole 28 years of life. Perhaps it was all those hours playing endless video games in his dark room. Lately even his 60 inch plasma screen had gotten painful to his eyes if he played for more than a couple of hours.

     His stomach grumbled. He was so hungry.

     He could not remember how long ago was his last meal, which was why the convenience store down the street had drawn him outside. 

     There was not even a biscuit in his flat.

     He tried to distract himself from the bright lights of the store … surely his eyes should have adjusted by now… by thinking on what he would buy. 

     The thought of his favourite snacks made his mouth feel dry. No, he felt like something moist.

     Not ice cream, his empty stomach lurched at the thought. He usually liked ice-cream but no he felt like something wet and warm, but did not know what.

     The bell jingled when he entered, but the fat attendant did not even look up from his phone behind the counter.

     The light was too bright even in here, but Dominic forced himself to wander, trying to decide on something…      

     Chocolate? No. Crisps? No definitely not

      He was getting frustrated, his foggy brain not helping. The anger grew. 

     Which had also been happening a lot lately. For no apparent reason he would feel a rage take him, to the point of making his body quiver. At such times he just wanted to explode, and had indeed destroyed his best gaming mouse that very morning. He forced it down with some effort and perused the refridgerated section.

     But even there the only thing that took his fancy was a packet of ground beef. He picked it up, considering, or trying to, in his swirling mind. He hated meat, but for some reason looking at its red, fatty mass behind the plastic made his mouth salivate.

     He decided and walked to the counter, fumbling for his wallet.

     The attendant looked up, annoyed at being torn away from his phone.

     Dominic passed him the meat to scan, his spirits suddenly falling as he realised he had left his wallet back at the flat.

     “Six fifty.”

     Dominic looked up at the boy’s fatty face. It reminded him of the packaged meat for some reason. He mumbled, “I forgot my wallet.”

     The fat attendant pulled the meat closer, as if worried Dominic would take it and run, which he indeed briefly considered but the opportunity was now gone. He stared at it, the meat behind the plastic consuming his vision.   

     He was so hungry! 

     His stomach grumbled and he barely heard the attendant say, “Well you better go get it then.”

     Dominic tore his eyes from the packaged meat and noticed for the first time the attendant was not wearing a mask. He pointed, “Where’s your mask?”

     The attendant smiled. Dominic couldn’t remember when he last had seen another human smile face to face like this and for some reason he felt his anger grow even further.

     “Medical Exemption. Don’t have to wear one.”

     Dominic tried to hold down the anger but it was quickly rising. He felt his body start to quiver… like it had done just before he had smashed his mouse into a thousand flattened pieces. 

     “But you might have the virus!” It came out as a shout, surprising even Dominic.

     The attendant pulled back from the counter, his eyes wide and his pudgy mouth momentarily dropping open at the outburst, “I’m not sick.”

     Dominic felt his whole body shuddering now, but his roiling mind barely registered it. Through his reddening vision the fat boy’s face seemed very red, deliciously red, like the meat. 

     The boy’s eyes suddenly looked terrified and Dominic saw his own reflection in the boy’s glasses. Dimly the demon he saw scared even him, but then his stomach growled like a hungry dog and the world went black.

(To be continued)