Slate Message Board
He’d rarely come into these shops, they weren't his kind of thing. It was one of those poundstretchers. A bit like a pound shop but not a pound shop. Their tagline is ‘every penny counts’, and that was very true. The prices were all other the place. 49p for a bag of sugar, 90p for a bottle of mouthwash, £1.79 for toothpaste, 69p for a 500ml bottle of coke. Hardly any rounded numbers. Horrible stuff. Actually that last one is quite good he thought. Since they brought in the sugar tax those cost £1.25 in Tesco. They cost more than £2 if you go in one of those train station WHSmiths.
He wanted to feel like he was better than this kind of shop, the kind of shop that sells off brand products. And if it was a familiar brand it was about to go past it's sell by date. But really he wasn’t above this shop or the people in it, In fact he was actually a little excited wondering about the store. So excited in fact, he had picked up a basket on his way in. The first thing he looked at he picked up. A bottle of Cif kitchen cleaner, just 90. This is madness. But when he thought about it, he realized he didn’t know how much a bottle of Cif kitchen cleaner was in any other shop. So maybe the deals in here aren’t actually as competitive as they would have you think. But then again. Maybe they were. So he stuck it in his basket. He had no idea what would be around each corner, or what would be on the next shelf. This was fantastic. But he was also aware he had come in here for something specific. He heard from his Mum they had some cheap, but decent wicker baskets, and not just the normal brown ones you are thinking of, they had light grey ones and dark grey ones. Some were even a mix, where the light grey would fade into the dark grey. Decent size too.
He looked up to see if they had any signs telling you where was what in the store. Nope. “Sneaky poundstretcher” He thought to himself. In the distance he could see pillows. All the houseware had to be down there. He made his way through the shop trying to avoid picking up the random items he had never heard of before. There was an energy drink called Pussy, natural energy drink with added milk thistle. He grabbed a can and put it in his basket. Because you would wouldn’t you? It would look great on his social media. At least 10 likes and a comment for that.
Finally he spotted the wicker baskets, at this point his basket contained a can of Pussy, a 5 pack of tupperware (which he assumed would have weak lids, but they would be fine for sticking in the fridge.) and a packet of these milky way wafer things. He’d had them before and they were really good but you could find them in proper shops. As he made his way through the isle and over to the wicker baskets he spotted a large shelf covered in those pieces of slate with messages written on them. They cost a couple of quid each and some of the spaces were empty so they must have been selling quite well. He stopped to read a few even though he knew it would annoy him. But maybe he wanted to be annoyed.
A Happy Home
Do what makes you sparkle (The word sparkle was written in glitter.)
They say the best things take time. That’s why I’m always late.
Just as he began to walk away from the display his eyes caught one more of the slates. It was almost hidden in the corner. He couldn’t read it. Not because it was out of sight, but because he couldn’t pronounce it. He stopped and stared at it. Was it a different language? It didn’t look like any recognisable language he had ever seen. It was more like symbols. But it was still organized like a western language. He tried to squint and see if he could make out some letters, to try and turn it into a sound, because then maybe he could start to make some kind of sense out of it. But he couldn't do it. If they were letters they weren't in an order he could pronounce. He tried to visualize in his head, anything. ‘Ecald Addaq auu si qcaeg eql’ was the closest he could get. Nope, he decided these were not letters. They weren't anything. He didn’t speak any other language but he could recognize if something was Arabic, Chinese, Japanese. They weren't anything recognisable, he didn’t know what these were or what it meant. All he knew is he couldn’t let this go.
There were other people in the shop, and these slates were popular so he was sure if he just waited someone else would come and have a look at them. And so he waited, he pretended to browse and surely enough a woman soon walked straight up to the message slates. She picked one up, looking at it with a blank expression, it read ‘This home runs on love and laughter’. “You don’t need that.” a voice bellowed. What must have been her husband walked past, carrying a basket of cheap DIY bits. She put it down and walked away. An older woman approached just after that,, she was taking her time looking at them all. She picked one up, but it was blank. She looked around the shelves, probably to see if there was any chalk that you could use to write your own messages. Wait... The man quickly grabbed the slate with the strange writing. Maybe it was a blank one someone had scribbled onto. He ran his thumb across it. The message was just as clear as before. He put it back on the shelf and looked at the old lady, she looked at him and he steered his glance towards the slate and raised an eyebrow. ‘That’s a weird one init?’ She looked at the slate momentarily and then smiled politely at the man. Not acknowledging the bizarre writing. She walked away.
His interest in the wicker baskets, the pussy drink, the little chocolate wafers and the 90p Cif had vanished. He would buy them all anyway, because he was far too socially awkward to be someone who abandons their basket. So he grabbed the piece of slate and tucked it underneath a couple of the wicker baskets. The baskets turned out to be rubbish, on any other day he wouldn’t have bothered buying them, but at least if he got them it would look like he came in to get what he planned on getting.
He approached the till and placed the basket down. He felt suspicious like he was doing something wrong. There wasn’t much room on the till because they had filled it up with extra ‘bargains’, it looked to be all sweets that are probably about to reach their sell by date. This meant he would have to remove each item and hand them over. Beep, beep, beep. Next was the slate. The man behind the till paused and his eyes looked up briefly in what felt like a moment of judgement. ‘What was that’ the man wondered. Did he notice the message? Was he looking at the Pussy drink? Was he thinking how terrible these wicker baskets are? There were no more looks, and hardly any words exchanged. He paid and anxiously left the store. Eyes pointed down at his feet to avoid any eye contact with anyone. They might be in on it.
He got home and nervously took the slate out of the bag. He stared at it for a while. Maybe it would suddenly make sense. But it didn’t. It became part of his daily routine to stare at the slate. Soon he had made a place for it on his bedside table. He started to question everything, and became suspicious of everything. The way people started treating him had changed. Maybe this message was from something greater. Maybe everyone had a similar message delivered in their own unique ways. Could this be the way humans evolved to a higher state of being? Or maybe it was just a practical joke by poundstretcher.
He had soon starting googling the occult. He hadn’t slept well the past few days. He had discovered the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. A horror writer who would write about great cosmic horrors of the universe. Beings far greater than humans could even imagine. They used a language unrecognisable to humans. Even the sight of this language would drive someone insane. This had to be it. The moment he laid eyes on the slate things had changed. But it felt like he was close to something, a new way of thinking, a realization, something. But he knew he had to try get back into a normal routine, otherwise it would kill him.
He had begun to return to a somewhat normal routine again, but the slate was always at the back of his mind. However brief his mind would still fill with questions. Like maybe? Just maybe he wasn’t going crazy. That this feeling of insanity was the beginning of something greater. Maybe the lack of sleep would kill him. But maybe to attain this higher plane of existence he would first have to die? However brief these thoughts were. They were still there. But if this was a message from a higher being. It would surely show itself again. He eventually started dozing off, it felt like this would be the first proper sleep he would have had in weeks.
Then it hit him. His stomach sank. It very suddenly hit him and the weight of the universe was taken off his shoulders. But it was replaced by a new feeling. The slate was upside down. The writing all in italics. The beach is my happy place.