The temperature dropped rapidly that late black Friday afternoon. Shoppers scurried to their Suburbans and pickups, arms weighted with enormous white bags from Home Goods, heading home to watch the Packers game with bowls of Cool Ranch Doritos balanced on their laps. But one boy hung back. Thirteen-year-old Frankie Johnson had stomped away from his mom who was being all bitchy and wouldn’t buy him that six-pack of Monster Energy and found himself in front of the abandoned Circuit City.
A tattered “Going Out of Business” sign hung limply from the façade of the building. For months the residents of Parktown had complained about the empty Circuit City, valuable real estate, an eyesore and an embarrassment to the tourists that came through town, not that any ever did.
Frankie’s dad had been upset by Circuit City’s closing. When he heard about it he pinched the bridge of his nose and then yelled for a while about how online libtard retailers were taking the place of real American mom and pop businesses like Circuit City and Sears.
As he walked hesitantly towards the locked automatic door, Frankie could have sworn he heard the soft “whoosh” of them opening to welcome him. One of the panels had been kicked out, maybe by his friend Tyler who’d bragged that he'd gone in and smashed a lot of stuff and it was awesome. Glancing behind him to make sure nobody was watching, Frankie gathered his courage and slipped inside.
The Circuit City was massive and so cold that Frankie could see his breath. Cash registers were coated in cobwebs and the floor was covered in a thick layer of dust and broken glass. A bat swooped over Frankie’s head. He yelped and ducked. In the distance, Frankie heard a speaker crackle and then, faintly, music started playing, a song about a girl being everything you’d want and everything you need and everything inside of you that you wish you could be. Frankie steeled himself and walked deeper into the store. “This is lame,” he said aloud. “Tyler is such a stupid liar, there’s nothing cool in here.”
On a dusty, low shelf, Frankie spotted a bulky, heavy- looking machine with a curved screen—a TV set, he realized, squinting in the darkness, but unlike any TV set he had ever seen. Awesome! He ran to kick in the screen, which would be very satisfying. But suddenly the TV sprang to life, making him jump back. “Welcome back to TRL, I’m Carson Daly and we’ve got an exclusive interview with 98 Degrees,” said a man wearing pants with giant, useless pockets, standing with four guys in white turtlenecks who began to sing in eerie harmony. “Holy shit!” Frankie yelled, alone and free to say a bad word.
He reached into his pocket for his new iPhone X so he could do a sweet Instagram Live that was gonna make Tyler so jealous. But it wasn’t there. Somehow, it had been replaced with a small, heavy piece of plastic with strange buttons and the word “Nokia.” In a panic, he threw it to the floor but against all logic, it didn’t break.
Words suddenly appeared in the dust next to the bulky piece of plastic. “FIFTY PERCENT OFF ALL CDS” they said, in a manic scrawl. “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” Frankie backed away in horror. What was a CD!? He turned on his heel and ran towards the door, but it had disappeared, swallowed in the darkness.
In the distance, he heard footsteps. “Who’s there? Tyler, if this is you I’m gonna kick your ass!” Frankie shouted, his voice cracking. A shadowy figure approached. Frankie sank to the dirty cement floor and covered his head, beginning to sob.
“Wazzzzzzuppppp?!” the figure hissed. Frankie looked up in terror and saw the blurry outline of a 20-something guy wearing extremely wide-legged jeans and a faded red polo shirt, holding a foul-smelling sandwich. His nametag read “Chris” and his hair was strange—tall and spiky, with light tips. “Nah, dude, I’m just playing, don’t freak.” Frankie slowly stood up and wiped the tears from his eyes. “Wh-what are you doing here? Are you a ghost?”
Chris smiled. “I guess so. I was kickin’ it on my fifteen, and I went out behind the dumpsters to smoke up. Then I went into the stockroom to eat my Quizno but I was so baked that I took this giant bite and totally started choking and passed out. When I came to, everything was gone, for real real. The VCRs, the floppy discs, the MP3 players. And everyone had left with them, even Boner. Playa, it was whack. I tried to get out but all the doors were gone and no matter how loud I cranked Linkin Park, no one ever seemed to hear me. So I’ve just been chilling in here ever since.”
“Wow,” said Frankie. He knew that ghosts were supposed to be scary, but Chris looked so happy to see someone. He was speaking total gibberish but he seemed nice. “So are you like, haunting me right now?”
“Nah, little guy,” said Chris. “I’m still pretty lit. And I’m in a good mood, we made it through Y2K. Maaaan, I think 2000 is the right place to be. What could go wrong?”
“But it…it's 2018,” said Frankie, bewildered. “Not in here, brother. It’s always 2000. Welcome.” Chris grinned. “But now I gotta bounce. I’ve got Blink 182 tickets. And you’re picking up my shift.” He pointed to Frankie’s chest.
Frankie looked down and to his horror, saw that he was wearing a red polo shirt identical to Chris’. He put his hands to his head and felt the spikes in his hair. He looked up and Chris was gone. In the distance, he heard a voice cry, “Dude, you’re getting a Delllll!”