The doors loomed. The sleek, brushed aluminum and thick glass that spoke of just the right amount of tint, doors that one could see anywhere, struck him with a subtle terror. Then again, it wasn't the doors, was it? He had walked through many doors: tall wooden ones, elegant French ones, the round and revolving sort, doors with handles and doors without, the kind that hinge from the middle and slide both out and back, doors with signs, doors with intricate designs and even those doors that stood before him.
It was the guardians of the doors that bothered him. Four little technological sentinels arranged so that to get out, to get to the doors and to the freedom on the other side one had to pass the guards. They each looked unassuming. Grey and black plastic with a white light on the top. That light, that was thing. If he wasn't very careful. If the world was not set in perfect harmony, the white light would flash, a horn would sound, resonating and echoing through hangars of clothes and boxes of hardware. It would beckon the tellers, managers,
He held the receipt in his hand. The digits were in order. The sales items marked with a tiny downward pointing arrow. Taxes had been paid. Everything in the cart matched everything on the white strip of paper in his hand. He stood there still, in the no man's land between register and door, glaring down the unblinking pillars. He had to pass. He had to test the gateway.
One leaden foot at a time he pushed the cart forward. The front, right wheel voiced concern rhythmically, rubber against metal, tire against brace. A lady in red, with a white name tag decorated with a target stood at the service counter, smiling. Watching too it seemed. A sign above her head flashed 66. A short woman with pink, tight, polyester pants waited in line with a return, but still he was being watched. Forward he marched.
The front of the cart struck the invisible barrier. They all aligned, the sentinels' lights and the front line of the cart. No sound came. No lights flashed. He stepped again. A bead of sweat trickled with cold delight down his back. The goods were through. The cart had passed.
He stopped then. All that was left was him. His watch was dead even with the light on the right most pillar. Just two more steps and he'd be through. Just two more steps and he'd be to the doors. He'd be free again.
Quick, one step and two, he bolted out the door, cart rattling through the threshold. For a second he heard it, the horns, and saw it, the lights. His heart leapt up to his throat and swung from a tonsil. Then it dropped again. There were no alarms, just the swoosh of air from outside to inside and the distant rumble of passing traffic.
He loaded the groceries into the trunk of his car, tucked the receipt away in his right hand pocket and unlocked the door. After opening the door he turned back to the store and to the set of aluminum, automatic doors and smiled. He reached into his left hand pocket and removed an unopened pack of Big Red gum. He had fooled them again.