The Late Shift

*Author’s Note: I had posted this here before in parts, but I was unsatisfied with it so I deleted the posts and reworked it.*

She hated late night shifts the most. She never understood why a coffee shop should be open until 4 am, especially when it opened at 6 am. She glared at the clock which read 3:26 am. She looked at the empty shop in front of her and huffed. She untied the apron and pulled it off of her. If she was going to have to stay here longer, she might as well do it comfortably. She began to work on making herself a cup of coffee when the bell at the entrance rang.

“Hey, how can I hel–” she stopped short when she looked up and saw a small pale girl standing at the front, “um. Hi?” she cautioned, moving out from behind the counter to stand a few feet away from the girl.

She looked her up and down taking in the wet, pale skin; the frailness of the girl emphasized by the mint green peacoat that hung on her frame, her big black eyes dazed as if staring off into a daydream, and the general waywardness of the girl.

“Hey, are you okay?” she asked and moved forward slightly, “Do you need help?” she moved to place a hand on the girl’s shoulder when she moved suddenly and stared at her with her big eyes.

“Help?” she nodded at the sudden shrill voice, “Oh, no one can help me. Not from this. I’m going to die and you’re going to witness it.” she replied, suddenly grabbing her hand and gripping it tightly in her boney hands, “Are you ready to witness a death, Gabby?”

“How’d you know my name?” Gabby struggled her hand free and stared at the surprisingly strong girl, “And what the hell are you talking about? Witnessing your death? Is someone after you? Is someone coming here?” She found herself annoyed and scared of the girl and the girl’s sudden silence, “You need to leave.” she pushed the girl back gently towards the open door.

“You wouldn’t dare.” the girl replied.

“Oh I’d totally dare,” she gave the girl one final gentle push, “Now good-fucking-night.” and closed the door in her face. She locked it to be sure.

Gabby looked out the windows at the girl. She looked away when she saw a small glimmer of red in the girl’s eyes, “This is fucking awful.” she moaned and began to turn off the lights. She wasn’t staying any longer than she needed to.

She grabbed her bag and coat and was about to turn off the lights in the back half of the shop when they went out on their own.

“That’s weird…” Gabby said out loud quietly to no one. She looked around the shop and her eyes connected with the open door. She felt a chill run up her spine as she walked closer to the door and noticed that the door handle was practically broken.

She looked around outside and saw no one but her car on the other side of the street. Her heart pounding in her chest, she gripped her key in her hands and ran for her car. She pressed the “Unlock” button on her key and slid in quickly before locking the doors. She stared back at the coffee shop and saw the girl standing there only this time she wore a long sleeved black dress with a white Peter Pan collar and white knee socks with saddle shoes. She just smiled at her and waved at her. From behind her, Gabby could see other shapes, as if there were people inside of the coffee shop.

The girl began to walk towards her car and without giving it a second thought, Gabby started her car and took off back to her house. She checked her dashboard clock 3:55. She hoped that one of her housemates would be awake. She didn’t know if she could sleep after that.

She could see her house in the distance, the lights in the windows beacons in the cold night, welcoming her back home. She parked and quickly went inside. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the locked door.

“Welcome home.”

Her eyes snapped open at the girl’s voice. She was sitting at the top of her stairs smiling down at her, her hands wet and red. Except for the bright red of her hands, the girl looked so innocent smiling at her like that.

“I thought you’d never get here.”

“How the hell did you get in here?” Gabby yelled, her hand searching frantically behind her for the doorknob, “Where are my friends?” she added as an after thought.

“Oh, you’ll see them soon enough.” the small girl said as she stepped down the stairs, “I wouldn’t try opening that. The others might get in.”

Gabby’s hand froze just millimeters from the doorknob, “The others?”

“They’re like me, but not fully there so they’re a tad more reckless.” she came to a stop in front of Gabby, and stared up at her with those black holes for eyes. She stretched out her tiny red hand towards her.

“You can’t really expect me to hold your fucking hand.” Gabby spat out, leaning heavily on the door. The girl frowned and quickly grabbed Gabby’s left hand, “Ow!” the girl’s hand gripped hers tightly, “Fuck! You’re gonna break my hand!”

“That’s the least of your worries, ” she led her to the living room. Gabby didn’t have time to look away before her eyes connected with the empty eye sockets of one of her roommates, “She was nice. Her eyes were too pretty though. I got jealous.” Gabby looked down at the girl holding her hand and fought down the urge to hurl her late dinner when she saw that the girl was playing with what looked like two eyeballs.

“Are those…” Gabby questioned as the little girl looked up at her and smiled.

“Oh yes. Lookit them,” she presented them to Gabby, “You can see the little flecks of gold in her hazel eyes. These’ll make fun rings.” she looked away from Gabby then. She stared at the eyes in her hand and smiled, “Come on. I have more to show you!” Gabby cautioned one more look at her roommate. She was sitting in one of the chairs, her body posed to look like she was reading. Except for the empty sockets and forty or so stabs to her torso, she could have just been reading.

Gabby allowed herself to be pulled by the little girl, her eyes never leaving her roommate’s. She had just moved in with her and her friends that week. Her name was Lily. Gabby liked her and hated her for her red hair, her pretty eyes, her flawless skin, and her perfect as hell personality. Gabby frowned at the small satisfaction that rose up in her heart.

“You’re happy she’s dead.” the little girl spoke as she led Gabby from the living room down the hall to the dining room, “You’re happy that she’s gone and you’re still here.” Gabby said nothing at the girl’s accusation. She couldn’t admit that.

“You wish.” she spat out quietly as they came to a stop in front of the dining room door, “What now?”

“Well, everyone was home when I got here,” the little girl smiled again and this time, Gabby caught sight of her teeth. They were sharpened so that her teeth looked like the mouth of some carnivorous beast, “They weren’t very cooperative.” At that, she opened the door.

Gabby tried to pull away from the scene before her, but the girl’s grip on her hand was tight as ever.

“Look at him.” The girl pulled Gabby down to her knees and forced her head to look up at what was left of her roommate Peter.

His torso hung from the chandelier as though the object was pushed through him while his hands and feet were pinned to the four corners of the room, his legs and arms and the muscles within them acting as streamers, connecting them to his torso at the center of the room. His rib cage was split open and his intestines and organs hung from his body like he was a pinata and they were the candy. Gabby stuffed her free hand to her mouth and nose as the metallic smell of the room was finding its way into her stomach. She couldn’t even fathom how the girl got all of that blood out of Peter. Despite the gruesome mess before her, Gabby looked longest at the space where his head should have been.

“Where’s his-” she started, crawling forward, her hand falling from her face to land in a sopping, red puddle. Gabby ignored the sickness pushing its way up her throat.

“Were you looking for this?” she turned to her right and saw the little girl standing, her clean shoes untouched by the red. Gabby saw Peter’s head then, “He was being loud. Wouldn’t stop screaming. Lookit how scared he was!” she knelt and rolled Peter’s head to Gabby.

Gabby moved backwards as Peter’s head came to a stop a few inches away from her. She looked at his once handsome face, now contorted into an expression of pure pain and terror. His brown eyes were open far too wide and his mouth hung open awkwardly. Gabby almost laughed. She reached out a cautious hand to touch the head.

“Aw, you liked him.” the girl said matter-of-factly as Gabby stared, dumbfounded, at the head, “You don’t need him. They’re disappointing. Always making promises they can’t keep…always leaving.”

She didn’t give Gabby a moment’s notice before she grabbed her hand once more and dragged her body away from the head. Gabby began to struggle when she realized that the girl was dragging her through the bloodied dining room and into the kitchen. She could feel the wetness seeping through her pants and touching her skin. She screamed and struggled to get away from the girl then.

“STOP,” the girl bellowed as they came to the kitchen. Gabby froze at the voice, “You don’t want to end up like your friends, do you?” Gabby looked up at the girl and would have screamed if she weren’t so terrified.

Gabby couldn’t even think of any words to describe what the little girl looked like. It was as if she was both small and big, dark and light, weak and strong, gentle and cruel. The little girl was a walking contradiction and for some reason, that frightened Gabby more. She couldn’t think anymore. She felt her body slacken and suddenly the little girl was just a creepy little girl again.

Gabby knew who was next. After Lily and Peter was Cal. Sweet and mischievous Cal. Gabby didn’t know she was crying until she tasted salt on her lips. She couldn’t see Cal all torn up like the others. She shut her eyes tight and allowed herself to be pulled and dragged along until she could feel grass in her free hand.

“Now, this one is much cleaner because he was so much quieter so I was nice,” Gabby refused to look, “Look at him Gabriella. Look or I’m going to rip your eyes out of their sockets and make you eat them.”

Gabby opened her eyes because she quite liked being able to see. Even if it was painful.

And there was Cal. Sitting calmly in the middle of their backyard in his pajamas. Gabby’s heart leapt as she noticed the subtle movements of him.

“He’s alive?” she cautioned at the little girl.

“Go say hi.” she commanded and let go of Gabby.

Gabby ran for him. She hugged him and wondered at his ability to not run and scream, “Cal, are you okay? Did she hurt you?”

He looked up at her with wide eyes, “Cal?” Then she noticed his mouth. It was sewn shut. She didn’t know how she could have missed that. The blood was dry and she could see how it hurt Cal to even move any part of his jaw, “Oh Cal.” she gingerly touched his jaw, careful to not prod it too roughly.

“Well isn’t that touching?” before she had any time to react, the little girl had appeared next to Cal and stabbed him hard through the skull, a small cracking sound resounded through the quiet backyard. Gabby fell backwards and watched as her friend died, “That was kind of annoying.” There was a sickening crushing sound as the girl pulled the knife from his skull with some difficulty.

Gabby stared at the knife-wielding little girl and the hungry smile that graced her lips. Before she could say anything else, Gabby got up and ran back towards the street entrance. She could hear the little girl laughing in her ears as if she were floating alongside her. She saw the street gate and again, she felt her heart go light with hope until she saw the red and yellow eyes that seemed to line the gate.

“No…” she breathed as she came to a stop in front of the gate. There were people, or what looked like people, standing on the other side of the gate. Gabby couldn’t see their faces but she saw their eyes. Then she saw their smiles. It was the same hungry smile that the little girl wore.

“We’re not done yet Gabriella.”

Thanks

She looked down at her thighs and then at her arms. Cuts marred every inch of her skin and she felt like the most beautiful creature to walk the face of the earth. She dropped the razor blade into the bathroom sink and looked at herself in the mirror. She felt alive, she felt like she existed. She didn’t feel like a nothing anymore. She smiled to herself and pulled her shirt back on, the hem falling to her knees and covering her scars.

She walked past her parents’ bedroom and touched her hand to their closed door. She thought she’d cry, but she didn’t. She turned to the opposite door and placed a hand to that door. Her sister. The girl’s brow furrowed with irritation and she pulled back sharply, before walking down the hallway to her bedroom. 

She closed and locked the door. She looked at her room then. She cleaned it and rearranged everything. She walked to her bedside table and took out the bottle of sleeping pills that she had gotten from Emi at school. She shook the bottle in her hands. She decided she’d take every single pill. She reached under her mattress and pulled out a bottle of whiskey that she had taken from one of the parents she babysat for. 

She placed both bottles on her bed and slipped out of her t-shirt. She grabbed a cream coloured dress from the desk next to her bed and pulled it on over her head. Throwing the t-shirt at her a basket in the corner of her room, she grabbed the bottles and opened them, no hesitation as she moved. 

She took half of the pills and knocked back the whiskey, its taste leaving burning trails as it and the pills went down her throat. She drank more whiskey to wash the rest of the pills down. When the pill bottle was empty, she downed the rest of the whiskey ignoring the silent drumming in her head.

She threw both bottles off her bed onto the soft carpeting. She laid her head down and smiled.

She reached under her pillow and pulled out a note. These things have notes you know. On the envelope, written in lowercase print was “Thanks for the support.”

Companion

She looked up at him in the hospital bed. He had just always been there. What was she to do now that he was so close to death? She could smell it on him; the oncoming decay of his flesh, it sickened her. She looked away and walked towards the window and stared out at it, the rhythmic beep of his monitor lulling her into a sense of calmness. She shook the feeling off.

She didn’t want to feel calm. She wanted to scream, to throw things, to beg him to stay with her. She needed him. He was always supposed to be there. It wasn’t fair for him to leave her like this.  She began to pace when she saw his hand twitch in her direction.

She quickly made her way back to his side and sat down near the end of the bed. He smiled at her and coughed before brushing his hands through her hair, the effect immediately relaxing her and filling her with happiness at the familiar touch. They lay like that for a while, him just brushing through her hair, her fighting off the sleep that she sorely needed.

Both fell asleep.

It was the rapid, loud beeping of the monitor that woke her. She began to panic. There he was, lying there, not moving. She began to yell for help, anything. She was shoved off the bed before she could react, a nurse looking down at her before petting her gently.

“Come on girl, you don’t need to see this.” she took her gently and attached the leash from the bedside table to her collar and led her out of the room and away from him.

Snowflake

Jacqueline watched her daughter from the bedroom window. She was outside playing in the snow and trying to catch snowflakes with her tongue. She smiled at the scene. She knew her husband was sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee, keeping careful eye on their girl. She felt it then.

The tickle at the back of her throat. She put her hand to her mouth and began to cough and hack. Her body shook with every cough, her throat ripping itself apart with every breath drawn. Then she could taste it. The metallic burn of blood. Once her body stopped shaking, Jacqueline pulled her hand away knowing full well that it would be slick with red. She wasn’t wrong.

She couldn’t take it. She began to sob and scream. She threw her weak fists at the windows and beat them. Each hit surely bruising her her delicate hands. She didn’t care. She beat at the window harder and harder, her hands screaming at her to stop. She didn’t. She screamed louder and louder until it was too much. She slumped against the side of her bed and pulled her knees up close to her and cried.

She crawled towards the window and looked back down at her little girl, undisturbed by the screaming, her little hands stretched out in front, still catching snowflakes.