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Paradigm Shift by shadesmaclean

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Story notes: Sorry about the bump. Somehow, I accidentally added a chapter to this, instead of the story I meant to. :|
Chapter notes: God's Retired
Tyler came out of his office and walked through the busy kitchen to the front counter. He had been the owner and General Manager at Happy Burger for more than a decade, and he looked pleased at how busy— and profitable— his workers were being.

He folded his arms and watched Mary as she greeted her next customer.

“Welcome to Happy Burger, where life’s a holiday!”

“Yeah,” said the man, who had two little boys with him, “I want two Hippie Meals with cheese— none of that special sauce, my boys don’t like it— and a Tooterfish Holiday Value Meal, with a diet… Coke, Pepsi, all tastes the same to me…”

Tyler blinked as the man’s last remark seemed to catch up with him, for he had never heard of a Tooterfish Holiday Value Meal.

“Okay,” said Mary, repeating his order, “…and do you want a red-hot pitchfork in the ass with that?”

Tyler’s jaw dropped almost to the floor.

But before he could utter a word of apology for her uncharacteristically rude remark, the man told her: “Yeah, and my boys’ll have an ounce of Alaskan Thunderfuck with their Hippie Meals.”

“That’ll be three easy installments of $19.95,” Mary told him, “and if you have a Platinum Card, we’ll throw in a free keychain!”

Before Tyler could find the words to demand what the hell was going on, a woman at the next register screeched: “…Rob me, you little bitch!” and immediately grabbed the next clerk, Tiffany’s, hair and dragged her over the counter, where an all-out cat-fight immediately ensued.

Tyler stepped back a pace as the customers, instead of being horrified at this bizarre scene, turned to the new guy, Jed, and started making wagers on it. Tyler took another step back, this time bumping into a big fat guy named Robbie, and again tried to find his voice when he saw that Rob was playing Tetris on the cash register. With a look of increasing panic, Tyler turned to the kitchen he had passed through only moments before, to find three of the guys chasing each other around with sauce guns.

When Tyler’s arm brushed past a vine, he looked up, gaping in even greater shock at seeing the entire ceiling was growing vegetation. And that all of the equipment seemed to be plugged into the grapevine.

By now, two more employees were happily engaged in a grand swashbuckling sword fight, one of them trying to force the other into the fryer vats. Which seemed to have become a lot bigger in the last two minutes. The drive-thru crew was adopting out kittens and puppies to people riding on anything and everything from llamas to elephants. And the janitor was grappling with his mop.

Which appeared to be gnawing on his arm.

Tyler looked over at the grill to see Dominic working away furiously as ever, still cranking out run after run of meat and putting it in the steam drawers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were now running on photosynthesis. Or something.

“Dom, thank God,” said Tyler, knowing that Dominic had worked for him for over four years, and had always been a reliable worker, “at least you’re acting normal.”

To which Dominic pleasantly replied: “God has retired. I am his replacement.”

Tyler stepped away from the grill, eyes goggling at how much more “organic” the room had become while he wasn’t paying attention. Dominic took the next run of meat and fed it to a monkey who was now sitting on the kitchen table. Dom then took off his apron, flourishing it across his hand like a magician, and when he whipped it away, he now held a Happy Burger.

“Ketchup only, the way these wankers can’t ever seem to get right,” Dominic announced triumphantly, then turned and started munching his burger as he walked away.

Bug-eyed at a scene that was making less sense by the minute, he simply followed Dominic, who was now clad in a denim jacket for no truly apparent reason, out into the lobby. Where now there were ancient statues from all cultures sitting in cages on the tables.

As they passed through, a group of little insectoid creatures descended upon the store chanting football plays, and attacked the customers. Several members of the crew powered up and challenged the evil-looking creatures.

Outside, there were no cars; instead, an assortment of beasts of burden occupied the parking spots. Tyler looked ill to see that where his new SUV used to be, there now stood an ass.

“What’s going on?” Tyler finally managed.

“The old world was boring,” Dominic told him between bites, “so I decided to make it more interesting.”

Stomping down the highway next to the store, Tyler saw horses, camels, llamas, elephants, even a line of dinosaurs, traveling in both directions. On the sidewalks, groups engaged in martial arts matches, on another people threw money at the punk rock band playing on the corner. Farther down the way, people were lying on the concrete in their bathing suits, tanning and reading a wide variety of books while an R2 unit was serving drinks.

But it was when Dominic started fading into nothingness as he walked, leaving him all alone in a world that no longer made sense, and alarms started blaring, that Tyler finally screamed, dashing madly through this exotic new world and babbling incoherently…

…A hand slapped the alarm clock, silencing it yet again.

Dominic sat up in bed, saying to no one in particular, “What a trip!”

All the same, he reflected, it had felt so
real. He got up, went to the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water. Yet this did nothing to wash away the lucid feeling that still tugged at his senses. His hair stood in all directions.

“Screw it,” he muttered, shunning the comb and instead throwing on his Happy Burger hat.

He was about to go out to the kitchen and whip up some breakfast, already dreading the morning shift he would be grinding away at in less than an hour, when he happened to look out the window. And saw none other than his boss, Tyler Keith, running down the alley and screaming wildly. He glanced up, and the people flying around above the streets told him everything he needed to know.

Dominic smiled. Today was going to be a wonderful day.
Chapter end notes: -February 13, 2002
-word count: 1063

This was the second story I wrote for the Green Mile message board’s Writing Challenge, this time the theme being Dreams. This was the best I ever did, third place out of about seven or eight stories posted. And probably the most favorable reaction I’ve gotten from a short story.

The whole thing was based on a delusion/fever-dream I had one day whilst working at a certain fast food restaurant when I was still in college. (Though it would be many moons before I wrote it down.) As was often the case during the summer, I was hot, dead-tired (from being awake way too early in the morning), (probably) dehydrated, and massively sleep-deprived, but I had fun that morning totally rearranging reality to suit my whims. Then I splashed water on my face at lunch time and realized none of it was real. Bummer.
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