Do You Know Why We Stopped You?

Visit a retail hellscape where the only humans are the customers.

Fashion Army is always open.

We leverage RFID chips for seamless checkout and two floor units for cleaning and loss prevention.

The only humans here are the customers.

This allows us to run a profitable enterprise despite light walk-by traffic in a zip code where the median annual income is below eighty thousand dollars.

The subject is human. Male. Over age forty. Not Caucasian.

Unusual.

The subject has shopped at Fashion Army before, buying only from the sale rack, and only shirts from the Retro Concert collection. The subject often wears prior purchases but does not modify them by tearing them, painting them, or covering them with other shirts.

Unusual.

Today, the subject does not have a payment chip or a phone, or it is not functioning.

Unusual.

It is 16:25 hours. The subject has been in-store for two hundred and thirty minutes, twelve times longer than the average visit.

“Excuse me, sir,” we say, moving to block the subject’s exit. “May we speak with you a moment?”

The subject is shaking. Stress levels—temperature, sweat gland activity, breathing—are elevated.

Unusual.

“I want to leave,” the subject says.

“We need to ask a few questions.” We restrain the subject. “Would you mind coming with us?”

We do not wait for a reply, although we have formed this statement as a question.

“Can you please contact your manager?” the subject asks.

Fashion Army is state-of-the-art, fully automated retail. There is no manager.

“We just need to ask you a few questions, sir.” We move the subject towards the back-of-store. “Please come with us.”

“Get off me. I know the way,” the subject says.

Our back-of-store is fully automated, except for the loss-prevention suite. It contains a metal chair. Its walls are beige. It contains a one-way mirror in front of biometric sensors more sensitive than those on the floor.

“Do you know why we stopped you today, sir?” we ask.

“For the sixth time, no, I do not.”

“We stopped you because you—”

“—fit the profile of an individual who uses RFID blockers to—”

The subject anticipates our words. Unusual.

“—steal from Fashion Army locations,” we finish.

We have determined that’s not me,” the subject says. “I’m not carrying an RFID blocker.”

“We should be able to clear this up quickly if you are willing to cooperate,” we say. “Will you submit to a search?”

We wait for a reply. It is illegal to force a subject to disrobe without consent.

“I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO A MANAGER PLEASE!”

“Fashion Army is state-of-the-art, fully automated retail,” we say. “There is no manager.”

The subject becomes more agitated. Stress levels are even higher than when the subject consented to disrobe for a search at 14:53 hours.

“I am stealing from Fashion Army,” the subject says.

It is unusual for a subject to confess without being presented with evidence.

“Yes,” the subject says. “I have taken things without paying for them. You should contact the authorities.”

“Please wait here,” we say.

Based on this statement, we must complete a comprehensive inventory. We withdraw one floor unit from the loss-prevention suite so both can confirm that no items or tags have been removed prior to sale.

We continue to monitor the subject. The subject attempts to open the door to the suite, which is locked. The subject attempts to break the mirror with the chair but cannot.

The subject does not cause any damage, but this is unusual.

Our inventory is complete at 16:55 hours. A floor unit returns to the suite.

“We have checked the inventory,” we say. “Nothing is unaccounted for.”

“Yes, but I plan on stealing.”

“If you do so, you will be detained,” we say. “We will contact the authorities if appropriate, sir.”

“You should call the police. I will damage the store. I will hurt other customers. I plan on killing myself.”

The subject’s stress levels hit redline.

“Please,” the subject says. “I’m hungry. I just want to go home.”

“You are free to go,” we say. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

A customer enters Fashion Army: Young. Female. Caucasian. The customer has blue hair. The customer wears a shirt from our Faux Flannel collection with the sleeves removed.

We make a note to offer access to our loyalty program if the customer remains in the store for thirteen minutes.

The subject accosts the customer.

“Please, miss, you have to help me!” the subject says.

The customer shows climbing stress levels, apparently in response to the subject’s aggressive actions. A floor unit moves to intercept the subject.

“Sir…” we say.

“I can’t leave the store,” the subject says. “Get help!”

“Excuse me, sir, we need to speak to you a moment,” we say.

The subject backs into a display and falls, damaging a mannequin. The customer’s stress levels continue to rise.

“Call the police!” the subject yells. “They won’t let me leave!”

A floor unit restrains the subject.

“Please cooperate, sir,” we say to the subject.

The other floor unit intercepts the customer. It explains the subject is being detained on suspicion of shoplifting. It offers the customer a coupon to mitigate any inconvenience.

The customer’s stress levels begin to drop. The customer continues the shopping experience.

Moving the subject requires more force this time. The subject has become physically aggressive and resistant.

“Would you mind coming with us?” We do not wait for a reply, although we have formed this phrase as a question.

As we move the subject to the back of the store, the customer has exited with a Murdersquad© tri-fold chain wallet and an Elon Musk Godfathers of Tech bobblehead. The discount is applied, and the customer’s payment chip is debited.

We deposit the subject in the chair. The subject’s wrist is bleeding. The injury does not appear to be serious and, thus, does not require medical attention.

“Do you know why we stopped you today, sir?” we ask.

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Issue 2.2

In this issue of The Dread Machine, you’ll visit an automated retail hellscape, attend a wild party on Earth’s tempest-ravaged surface, and determine what caused the strange deaths at the AudioSnap building. See the stars in the prison walls, inherit the sacred responsibility of an irradiated priestess, meet a sinister sommelier, befriend a spider, then attend a macabre art show. Whatever you do, don’t eat the honey, and avoid the child with the robotic toys.

$10.00

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Issue 2.2

In this issue of The Dread Machine, you’ll visit an automated retail hellscape, attend a wild party on Earth’s tempest-ravaged surface, and determine what caused the strange deaths at the AudioSnap building. See the stars in the prison walls, inherit the sacred responsibility of an irradiated priestess, meet a sinister sommelier, befriend a spider, then attend a macabre art show. Whatever you do, don’t eat the honey, and avoid the child with the robotic toys.

$10.00

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Do You Know Why We Stopped You?

Visit a retail hellscape where the only humans are the customers.

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