Here be part two of the Marmite Saga. It’s probably worth checking out part one before reading this.
“What is it then?”
She pressed a finger to my chest and my tummy did flutterings and the like from her touch, but that feeling faded quickly when I saw the look on her face.
“It’s not important right now, what is important is that you listen to what I have to tell you.”
“The chief is just through here, he’s a good man, well respected and loved by his people.”
“Yes, and you’d do well to keep your tongue civil and your answers brief. He has no time to waste on, well, time wasters.”
“Look, I’m just following your lead as I still have no idea what on earth is going on.”
She stared at me for what felt like an eternity before something inside her relented. A smile flickered, faintly, in the corner of her mouth.
“Well, you’re obviously one of the few lucky ones.”
She pushed the door open. “It’s a shame that’s about to change.”
The flutterbuys had all but gone now from my stomach, replaced with a heavy knot of fear. Gingerly I stepped up to the open door; what I saw was not what I had expected.
Hipster Chick turned to me, anger flaring across her face faster than teenage acne the night before a date.
“What did I just tell you outside?”
“It’s okay, Philomena. I know this man.”
The anger warbled across her face for a few seconds longer before she dropped her gaze and moved to the side, allowing me to enter.
I strode into the middle of what had once been the store manager’s office to meet ‘The Chief’. My boss from my day job and now, somehow, the inexplicable leader of an underground militia, Mr. Odersky stood to receive me, his smile as bright as his choice of garments. I shook his hand, the billowy crimson silk sleeves of his flamenco dancer shirt flapping wildly.
“Wuh, how?” I asked him, surprised at his appearance.
“Oh the how and the why don’t matter.” He said genially. “Besides which, your complaint letter is probably already long enough without adding that exposition.”
“Fair enough.” I agreed, and sat down on a crate of Marmite that was doubling up as a chair.
“I have to say, Dear I didn’t think I was ever going to see you again. After you took that punch from the lady in the straw hat and disappeared into the middle of the bread blitzkrieg…I.” He wiped an errant tear from his cheek.
“The lady in the straw hat.” I whispered to myself.
“Where is she? She started this, she needs to atone for her actions.”
“We have no idea.” Shrugged Mr. Odersky. “That’s why I sent my daughter on a scouting mission, to try and find her.”
The female dried grass wearing aficionado was long gone from my mind though. I turned to stare at the Hipster Chick.
“You’re Philomena? You’re Mr. Odersky’s daughter?”
She smiled shyly.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Oh no, wait. Obviously it’s because you didn’t know who I was.”
“Oh no, I know who you are, my father never shuts up about you. Always talking about this ‘great’ worker who, despite having many personal problems, is always willing to help out whenever he can at work. Plus, he owns a worrying number of pictures of you. I’ve seen most of them.”
I turned to Mr. Odersky. “Pictures?”
“Weeeellll.” He said, “What’s the point of having CCTV up the yin yang if you can’t abuse it?”
I stammered for several seconds, unable to think of a response. Philomena decided to step in.
“Why do you think I smiled at you outside the cosmetic shop on that day? I recognised you from dad’s collage.”
“Oh, I thought it was because of, you know.”
Philomena’s head tilted as she blasted me a fresh cold stare.
“Hrum, well anyway. I think it’s time we got to the matter at hand.” Said Mr. Odersky, looking rather uncomfortably at us. I turned away from Philomena and nodded in agreement with Mr. Odersky.
“Before you do.” I said. “Can you fill in a few gaps for me?”
“Of course. What do you need to know?”
“All of it.”
“Sorry? But weren’t you there at the start?”
“I was, but after I got blindsided by the lady in the straw hat I hi-“ I glanced over at Philomena. “I tactfully retreated. I, er, retreated to a bathroom as it wasn’t being used at the time, and it had a lock.”
“Sound planning. So I take it you missed everything?”
“Well I’ll give you an overview. After the fight in the bread section things got a little out of hand.”
“After the bread fight?”
“Yes, it turns out that was a sampler of what was to come. Shortly after you err, retreated, the fight moved towards the conserves. The Haters wanted to destroy the Marmite supplies, and of course we aimed to protect it. We took what we could and broke our away into the backrooms. Right now the Haters have total control of the shop floor, whilst we have the warrens. That hasn’t stopped us though, we’ve been sending out scouts and forward parties to ambush them whenever we can.”
“Yes, I saw some of the casualties of your guerrilla tactics.”
Mr. Odersky sighed. “It is unfortunate, but a necessary evil.”
“Why is it? Why has one comment from a lady in a hat caused all this? And all because of a yeast based product?”
Mr. Odersky’s friendly appearance darkened at my words. His smile faded and his eyes narrowed.
“I beg your pardon? ‘All because of a yeast based product?’ Here.”
Suddenly I was staring at the butt end of a Marmite jar.
“Feeling lucky, punk?” Growled Mr. Odersky, menacingly waving the darkened glass inches from my nose.
Philomena’s hand swiped the jar away from my jaw.
“We’ve already done that, he’s a Lover. What you actually need to do right now is listen to my report.”
Mr. Odersky’s glare retreated, along with the jar of Marmite.
“Yes, you’re right Philomena. Please, tell us what you saw.”
From one of her numerous pockets she pulled out a crude map drawn in crayon and smoothed it out on the table. Leaning over the top of the desk she pointed towards the schematic.
“This is the layout of the supermarket, I knocked this together while in the field. Here is where their main forces are, they’ve taken full control of the tinned foodstuffs, soft drinks and dried food aisles. Clearly they’re preparing themselves for a long stay. These outlying regions here, here and here are patrolled by the fusilliers. Four man teams with a disregard for basic health and safety laws.” Philomena turned to me. “You’ve already seen what those animals are capable of.
“The exit doors all the way over here have a platoon of Haters posted nearby, to stop us getting out or calling for reinforcements. There’s also no direct route to those doors, they’ve blockaded certain aisles and walkways to channel us into the fusilliers weaponry.”
“Wait a minute.” I interjected. “Just before you found me I was making my way to an exit over here.” I pointed to the opposite side of the map near the toilets. “Why don’t we just go out this way?”
“No, no good.” Said Philomena, shaking her head. “It seems that some of the shop staff are Haters, they blockaded the fire escapes and broke the automatic opening servos on the customer exits. So, until a repair team can get here, which they can’t because of that platoon, our only exit is to go through here, through our enemies.”
“What about the staff fire exits? Surely there’s a multitude of them tucked into, what do you call this place, the warrens?”
Father and daughter looked at each other with a fierce silence, before Philomena responded.
“There was. When we first made our way into the warrens it was chaos, as we found out later some of the Haters snuck in. While we were tending to our wounded and securing the shop floor doors they sealed the fire escapes. This whole building is now locked down, not to mention a fire safety nightmare.”
“That’s when we started using the mark.” Said Mr. Odersky pointing at the black splat on his forehead.
“Wow, I really thought of everything to stretch this out as long as possible.”
“Oh, never mind, I’m just thinking to myself.”
Mr. Odersky shook his head solemnly, before turning to his daughter. “The prognosis doesn’t sound good Philomena, but I assume you have a plan?”
“Yes, as you can see I haven’t made any notes on this map about the warrens we’re currently in.”
“Why?” I asked.
“In case they get hold of the map, we don’t want to give away our only advantage. Now, my plan.” She looked up from the map and stared at each of us in turn. “Some of you are not going to like this.”
I had a sneaking suspicion I knew out of the two of us who was going to like it the least.
“Explain.” Said Mr. Odersky.
“Well after doing a quick head count it seems we’re outnumbered.”
“I knew this town was sick, but not that sick.” I gasped.
“Indeed, as such it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be able to fight our way out of here. We’re going to need to be a little bit more devious. It’s not marked on the map but here is one of our warren doors. As you can see it’s pretty close to the only exit, as well as being in the middle of the Hater nest. If we can distract enough of the Hater’s into leaving their posts on a chase than the survivors can break through the few remaining guards, getting themselves and the Marmite stocks out.”
“So, where do I come into this?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “I assume that’s why you brought me into this meeting?”
Philomena nodded. “You’re a face.”
“Yes. Our enemies know who you are. You were there at the start, in truth you pretty much kicked this whole thing off. Your image has been passed from Hater to Hater via mobile phone, all to a man out there know you.”
“Exactly, which is why you’re going to be the distraction.”
“Yep. You, dear boy are going to be our people’s saviour.” Said Mr. Odersky, his solemn gaze boring into me over his garish silk shirt.
“What? No, no, no, no. Why do we even have to do this? They might have control of the store, but we’ve got all of the warehouse back here. We can wait them out. No-one, and more importantly, me, has to get hurt.”
“That’s not going to cut it, Dear.” Said my boss.
“Because we’ve got work in two days, almost all of us, in fact. We haven’t got time to waste in a supermarket waiting for the Haters to get bored and go home.”
“But surely the ‘Haters’ all have work as well, so we can all leave amicably, right?”
“First off, it’s Osmund, not Shirley, which you really should know by now. Secondly, you haven’t seen the Haters out there. Statistically speaking Lover’s are successful hard-working people. Those who dislike Marmite tend to be mentally unstable, rubbish at their jobs and generally terrible human beings.
In essence, Dear, stop wasting time, you’re going out there as our bai- I mean saviour, and that’s the end of it.”
I did much groaning and whinging, but Mr. Odersky was having none of my protestations.
“You won’t be alone though. My own daughter, Philomena, will assist you. She knows the layout of the land better than any of us. She can guide you round, help you out of any tight spots.”
I brightened. “Oh? Well that doesn’t sound too bad then.”
“Speak for yourself.” She mumbled, glowering at her father.
Before I could respond Mr. Odersky stood up, straightening his shirt out.
“I shall leave. I need to rally my people together and explain the plan. Meanwhile you two need to get out there. Philomena, get him prepared.”
“Aye aye Dad.”
“And Dear, good luck. May god have mercy on your soul.”
“Oh, well thanks, Mr. Odersky.”
“Don’t mention it. I’ll see you two on the other side.”
And without a further word the leader of the Lovers left, his spurs clacking noisily down the corridor.
“Shall we go?” I asked Philomena.
“In a second. We, er, have to go the same way as my Dad. It’d be a bit weird if we followed him straight out after that morose farewell. We’ll give it a minute.”