30 Aug After Hours
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"After Hours"Written by
Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
It was around midday when the call came. My manager at Target was asking whether I could work that night. The store had been understaffed recently since many of my co-workers had left town. I didn’t think much of it at the time; I didn’t really have time to make friends in the retail business anyway. I do remember one guy though. What was his name again? I think it was Andrew. Yeah, that’s it. I remember that he used to wear a striped red tie to work every day, even when it wasn’t a part of the dress code.
Murky clouds had already filtered out the sun as I left home for work. I wasn’t even halfway to work before the first droplets of rain had begun to fall.
I parked my car one street down from the shopping centre and ran to the side entrance to escape the rain. Entering the store, I was bathed in the artificial white light of the hundreds of fluorescent bulbs above. The light was welcome, but the air around it had a stale, oppressive feeling to it. I know that sounds strange, but when you’ve worked in a department store for long enough, the environment feels extremely unnatural. It’s as if you’re being completely isolated from the outside. The warm unfiltered air doesn’t quite fill up your lungs and the plain white interior forces an abnormal feeling of cleanliness about the room.
The first thing I noticed as I walked around the store was that it was completely devoid of sound. There was no music playing in the background, no sounds of people walking around and talking. The room was still. Almost as if frozen in time. The store should have still been open for another hour and yet there was no one here. I decided to go to the employee reception and find my manager. I opened the fire exit door and stiffened as it loudly snapped shut behind me. The metallic clicking sound echoed in the silence. I climbed the stairs to the reception landing and looked around. No one here either. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily scared, more uncomfortable and confused.
Suddenly a hand firmly grasped my shoulder and I leapt forward in surprise. Turning while backing off, I saw my manager looking at me with a questioning face, hand still suspended mid-air. I breathed a deep sigh of relief as she began to explain my duties for the night. As I walked back out onto the main floor, I noticed that the store was alive again. Popular hit songs played in the background as people walked around, talking amongst themselves. I was genuinely shocked. Was I just imagining things before? I shrugged it off, why should I care, things are normal now.
So I was carrying out my assignments, tidying shelves, helping customers, when the announcement for the closing of the store beamed out on the public announcement system. As usual, the customers made their way to the front of the store and left one by one, until there was only the workers remaining. Following suit, my fellow employees also left the store, back to their homes. Unfortunately, my job was not yet done as I was still on the clock until dawn. In spite of this, I moved to the bedding section of the home wares department with a hunched back, letting out a long and silent yawn. What I saw when I arrived astonished me. A whole aisle of quilts and blankets had been trashed. The packages were pulled from the shelves, items removed from the packaging and strewn haphazardly along the aisle. I groaned inwardly, some pain-in-the-ass customers had decided to examine all of the quilts first hand and left their mess for me to clean up.
I began to bend to pick up a few quilts when the light at the end of the aisle began to flicker rapidly. It was hypnotising. It made the room in front of me appear as an old movie reel. Without warning, a black deformed figure quickly lurched across the end of the aisle, beneath the flickering light. From about fifteen metres, I’m not sure if what I saw was a fabrication of the dancing light or something supernatural. I’ve never believed in that kind of thing, it had to have been a joke, probably choreographed by the manager. I blinked a few times and rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes. Dragging my hands down my face and pulling on my cheeks I reopened my eyes.
As my vision focussed, I saw that the clutter before me had ceased to exist. All of the stock was neatly packed on the shelves. Blankets were folded precisely and stacked symmetrically. At the far end of the aisle, the light was no longer flickering. It’s bright light reflecting on the now clean white tile floor. Everything was back to the way it should have been and yet, it seemed all wrong. Once again, it seemed that something impossible had happened right before my eyes with no logical explanation. I was definitely worried now.
I reached to my pocket for my company phone to call for the manager. I dialed the three digits and held the phone to my ear. I was expecting it to be out of service or battery, as is the cliché in these kinds of situations, but to my relief, the ringing sound played. But I could hear two ringing sounds. One through the phone, and one from halfway up the store from the direction of the toys department. I recognised the second ringing as the specialised ringtone for the manager.
I always hated the toy department. The shelves were far above eye height, reaching at least two shelves above my head. It was hard to find things in this area because it was like an overgrown hedge maze covered in children’s toys. I began to move quickly toward the sound of the ringing, hoping to catch my manager busy at work. I walked along the far end of the rows of aisles, head tilted, looking along each one until I found the source of the ringing. I stopped towards the centre aisle when I saw it. A large pool of red further down the passageway of shelves. Off to the side was a phone, slowly moving around as it vibrated. It was coated with the red substance.
Subconsciously, I started to take baby steps towards the large splatter of red, torso leaning away, ready to run at the sight of trouble. As I got closer, I noticed that the red liquid continued along down the aisle and around the corner, as if something was dragged through the initial pool. At this point, I knew it couldn’t have been a joke anymore and my natural instinct to stay out of dangerous situations kicked in. I turned back to leave but now a towering shelf wall was blocking the exit that I had just came in through. I hadn’t noticed until now, but the shelves that lined the aisle now reached the ceiling, making it impossible to climb over.
This is impossible. What’s going on? I looked back to the gory scene in the aisle to find that it was no longer there. It was as if there was never any spill in the first place and the manager’s phone was nowhere to be seen. I was frozen to the spot, I didn’t know what to do. I willed my body to move, I told myself that at the first sight of any trouble, I was going to run straight for the fire exit and leave. I started to briskly walk out of the toy department and down the main walkway towards the front of the store.
That was when the lights started to flicker. Every light in the entire store began to flicker, on and off. Not like the last time where it flickered quickly, this time it flickered slowly and randomly. But what I saw in between the lights being on and off scared me more than I had been in my entire life. The distorted black figures were surrounding me, there had to have been at least twenty, shuffling and hobbling in random directions around me. I was able to see what they looked like up close. Long dangling jaws with misshapen and crooked teeth. Their arms hung out in front of them, knuckles dragging along the ground as they limped around on sticklike legs. I could only see them when the lights were off. It was strange, one second they would be engulfing me and the next would seem as if they were not even there at all. That was when the lights began to shut off, one by one, row by row. Starting from the front of the store, the lights began to go out as if someone had knocked over a long line of dominoes.
I started running towards the back of the store, where the light shone brightly, illuminating the ever increasing darkness. I was in an adrenaline fueled panic as I ran to the back corner of the store. With my back against the wall, I watched as the last row of lights went out until the last light directly above me was remaining.
It was as if I was on stage, a single spotlight shining down upon me. I looked out at the audience of disgusting and hideous monstrosities as they surrounded me. I took a slow, deep breath of recognition as I saw the closest one wearing an old and torn, yet visible, striped red tie.
The light above me clicked off.
Credit To – Natenator77