Next time I go, I’m packing an Escape Rope.

Is there anywhere more depressing than the Dufferin (read: Sufferin) Mall? Sure, the Dufferin Grove Mall looks like the post apocalyptic survivor of an 80s zombie apocalpyse, forever frozen in remembrance. Still as one can see from the car park, at least you go there without expectations. Sufferin Mall has a unique soul numbing terror of its own, that sets in steadily with each step. Perhaps it’s the harsh fluorescent lighting, violently expelling the sight of the all too present shadows like some twisted Dorian Gray made brick and mortar. When the automatic doors reluctantly open before me, I swear I can hear the car park seagulls chanting “you were warned”.

It has a multi-level Wallmart. That should’ve been the first clue to run from the hills. Why do I know? I went there in a desperate search for some kind of protein bar my girlfriend and I could split (after an hour of searching left our spirits sapped). Nutrition is as sparse around Sufferin Mall as real value. Cheap prices are merely a Faustian pact in the form of numbers. The true cost goes unsaid. Approaching a free sample kiosk for kinder bueno minis, the lady behind accosted me desperately, resting her hand on my arm. Holding a camera in her other hand, she pleaded “sir, could you take a photo with us? We need to take photos with samplers, otherwise we don’t get paid.” Soul bleeding away into the aether, I numbly agreed, clutching the sample betwixt my thumb and forefinger. I dropped it, then scuffled around on the ground, where I’d left my dignity. I smiled as best I could, a mournful grimace trapped behind my eyes. If I didn’t escape soon, I never would.

Here’s the thing. Being in Sufferin Mall demands every sliver of your metaphysical vis. No matter how frequently you’ve fed and watered prior to entering, you’ll feel drained within twenty minutes. Endless empty promises of sales and values take more from you than they could ever give. There’s nothing of substance to be found in the food court and there’s no way this wasn’t done purposefully. With no reserves in your body, it’s impossible to navigate the endless storefronts without giving in out of desperation. You think that maybe by purchasing something, you’ll be allowed to leave. Your mission accomplished, you can slip away and preserve some semblance of sanity. The divine joke is that you came away with anything at all.

Things look and feel different there, it’s a palpable vibe. Children eschew their cherubim features for demonic visages. As if like moonlight in Pirates of the Caribbean, the fluorescent bulbs show the evil lurking beneath the skin. Shrieking and bawling endlessly, there is no appeasing a toddler in Sufferin Mall. The Escherian architecture too much for their sub-formed minds, letting all hell spew forth from tiny lips, lungs audibly agape. It’s graft vs host on a primal level, sub-human shells not fit to repel the venue’s demonic siren call. So they embody it, miniature vessels of horror forced to contend with forces of a magnitude beyond their comprehension. I mean, how is it possible to be miserable in a dinosaur cart for fuck’s sake?

Did I get what I came for? Would I ever have? There’s a reason the attached Beer Store sells Four Loko. Clinging to sanity by a thread, would the desperate few managing to emerge from Sufferin Mall’s predatory maw have the willpower to resist this modern day wormwood? As someone who’s somehow lived to tell the tale, it takes all you have and more.

Sufferin Mall: Just because you’ve abandoned all hope, it doesn’t mean you’re without anything to lose.

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