Hey, I’m gonna go scope out the electronics.”

“Not again,” you hear yourself think. Left to his own devices, Derrick could fall prey to the labyrinth of your local Target. But you should’ve known this would happen—Derrick hates hanging out in the women’s apparel section while you peruse the clearance rack.

“Okay,” you say. “But remember, Target closes in 20 minutes, and I can’t break you out again.”

You know the manager from the last time Derrick got trapped after-hours in the Target. You remember the manager's voice echoing through the air duct as you pushed Derrick to the freedom of the parking lot.

“Next time, I’m keeping him,” he said. And you believed him.

It feels as if someone tilted the Target a few degrees to the side. No, you tell yourself. You cannot give in. You can't let this nightmare Target win.

As Derrick disappears around the corner, you look up at the manager's office overlooking the store. Through the glass, you can see the glint of a smile creeping onto the manager’s face.

“No, you can’t have my Derrick,” you mouth to him, but the glass suddenly turns black as foreboding red numbers appear:

“20:00,” they read.

20 minutes to find your Derrick. Okay. This is okay. He said he was going to the electronics section. You decide to check that out first.

1. The Electronics Section

“Derrick?” you call out, but your pathetic shouts echo off the shelves of wifi extenders and $5 DVDs. You think you catch sight of Derrick’s distinctive hairline behind the Frogger plug-and-play display, but it's just a standee promoting Adam Sandler’s newest Netflix project.

Derrick must have gotten bored. You consider asking an employee to make a call over the intercom, but there’s no one at the electronics register. Well, the men’s apparel is right next to this. He probably wandered over there.

2. Men’s Apparel

Derrick loves the comfortable fit and reasonable prices of the “Led Zeppelin” graphic T-shirts, but there’s no Derrick to be found. You ask the fitting room lady if your Derrick down her little hallway. She looks up from her pile of discarded clothes and the word “NO” appears on the skin where her mouth should be. You thank her anyway and the “NO” turns into “LEAVE.” You look up at the clock: only 15 minutes left.

You decide to check out what's on the other side of the electronics section. Uncharted waters, but your craving for your beloved pushes you forward.

3. Garden? Pets?

What is this place? There’s some deck chairs, and some bags of mulch, and some goldfish in little cups. You dare not get close enough check whether the goldfish are alive. The specter of doom already looms over your sweetheart; you have no room in your heart for another.

You check the next aisle, only to find bottles of “fish water” and stacks of “dog tapes.” This is not your place. You hear a baby screaming in the distance, and a few seconds later, you realize that the screams are coming from your own mouth.

4. Bathroom

Derrick loves the bathroom. He uses it near every day, sometimes right after waking up. The flush would rouse you from your slumber to herald that your beloved is ready for another day with you.

Is that normal? Sometimes he would even use it twice a day. Do all humans do this? It’s getting hard for you to remember. It feels as if someone tilted the Target a few degrees to the side.

No, you tell yourself. You cannot give in. You can't let this nightmare Target win.

Derrick's in here, and he loves you, and you will one day bring your children to this Target, and you will all leave before it closes, together, as a family. You scan each wall, but it seems as if the bathroom is nowhere to be found. You finally catch sight of it next to the attached Pizza Hut—didn’t you check there before? How far have you walked?

You don’t allow yourself to dwell on it as you walk to the door, only to find it covered in caution tape. The bathroom is out of order. You hear a cackle over the intercom as the manager tells you that you only have 6 minutes left. The bathroom’s door fades into the wall, and for a second, you think you hear Derrick call your name.

5. Grocery

This was where his voice came from, right? By the Bagel Bites freezer?

You decide that, when you find him, you will tell him that he can have Bagel Bites tonight. You have been trying to eat better, but the only nourishment you will need tonight is having Derrick safe in your arms.

You do not see Derrick, but certainly the call came from here. Your mind can’t be playing tricks on you…can it?

Growing desperate, you open the freezer door and step inside, jamming your hands through stacks of pizza rolls and Hot Pockets in search of a hidden corridor for lost lovers. Nothing.

As you step back out, a bag of french fries catches your foot and you slam your knee onto the ground. Oh no. You’re bleeding. And losing blood fast. What were those french fries made of?

You have to get out of here.

6. Checkout

You will yourself into believing that Derrick is at checkout. Where better to reunite with your darling?

“Yes, my love,” you think, limping toward hope. “I will meet you at the checkout.” You arrive at the row of registers and stop dead in your tracks.

20 registers, all manned by 20 identical managers. They turn to you all at once and, eyes glowing yellow, sing “Derrick’s not here! Derrick’s not here!” Their heads are swinging back and forth, enraptured in their mocking song. Through your tears, you can see that only 90 seconds remain before Derrick’s trapped here forever.

7. Exit

There’s no time left. You have to get out. Derrick will understand. The steel gate starts to slowly descend over the entrance. Derrick understands. He does.

“Maybe… maybe he’s already outside,” you lie to yourself. You limp toward the exit, tasting the salt of your tears.

As the automatic door opens, you stop. Wait. If you stay, you and Derrick are trapped here. Forever, together. Sure, the Target is too much for any one mortal to handle, but even this evil manager can't destroy the union of you and your sweetheart.

Yes, you and Derrick will make a new life here. It shall be your Target someday. You have clothes, food, and even diapers for your progeny. It could be worse.

You drop to your knees and begin to laugh softly, watching the gate continue to drop. You realize that Derrick already knew this. He’s hiding because he wants you to stay here. He was always more romantic than he let on.

You love Derrick, and Derrick loves you, and you both will love Target.

8. Derrick

“Babe?”

You turn your head and see Derrick standing behind you. Then suddenly, you’re in his arms, kissing him all over.

“Whoa, careful!” he says. “We don’t have to be careful anymore,” you respond. “We have each other and we are at home now, in Target.” You finally feel the corner of a plastic box that’s been poking into your side.

“Derrick, my sweet, what is that? We needn’t purchase anything, for this is our home.”

“Yeah, I picked up one of those Frogger plug-and-play things. It’s cool! You just plug the cords into the TV and you can play Frogger anywhere. It was 65 dollars.”

Derrick, your knight, grabs your hand, and all at once, your knee stops throbbing. The gash, the blood—it's gone! You notice that Derrick is pulling you towards the automatic doors of the exit. You wonder why, but you trust your Derrick, who will now be your Derrick forevermore. You hear the cacophonous dirge of twenty screaming managers behind the register.

The manager shall not have you or your Derrick today.

The light of the moon stings your eyes as you cross into the parking lot. The manager has no power here. The fog in your mind starts to disperse, and you remember that your true home is the studio apartment that you share with Derrick.

As you turn out of the parking lot, still hearing the screams, you hear your Derrick say, “Aw, man. I forgot to grab paper plates. We’ll go back tomorrow morning to get ‘em, and we can just do take-out tonight.”

“Yes,” you tell him, struggling to remember why your heart is telling you not to return. “Tomorrow, let us return to Target.”

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