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Night Shift

Night Shift

Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

I work the night shift at a local mom-and-pop convenience store at the front of my neighborhood. We sell snacks, drinks, milk, bread, all the normal stuff that people need but aren’t willing to make a traditional run to the grocery store for. There was talk about adding a gas pump out front, but it hasn’t happened yet.

As a result, the night gets a bit slow at times. Of course, we got our usual druggie who strolls in to get his soda or to use the restroom, but sometimes I’ll sit at the counter for nearly an hour before someone strolls in.

It can get a bit boring at times, but I’ve always got a good book or a Youtube video to keep my mind occupied. I’m supposed to clean the store in the slow periods of my shift, and I do, but that never takes me long. Each night, usually around 1-2 am, I finish the chore list and find myself surfing the web or plopped down enjoying some novel.

The night of the encounter was like any other day. It had been slow. The store was quiet. No one had come in for an hour. I was re-reading my favorite Stephen King book, when I heard a thudding sound coming from the inventory room. I jumped at the noise. I know, not very manly of me, but I hadn’t expected it. Besides, I was at a pretty intense part of my book. I looked up at the digital clock sitting on the counter, it read 3:12 am. I didn’t really think anything of the noise. I just assumed it was something that fell off one of the shelves.

Even still, I felt a chill crawl its way down my spine. I remember glancing outside, and seeing a sea of thick fog blanketing the landscape. This wasn’t too uncommon. There was a lake across the street from the store, and occasionally fog would drift in. Still, I couldn’t recall a time when the fog was quite as thick as this.

I remember thinking that something could be standing out there watching me, and I wouldn’t even know. But it was more than that. At that moment, I knew there was something out there. It was instinctual, a primal sense developed over years. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and goose flesh began to break out all over my arms.

I was too frightened to get up from my spot at the cash register. I knew that I ought to investigate the sound in the back room, but I couldn’t get my body to respond. I sat there, unable to look away from the glass front door, trying desperately to peer through the thickening fog. I couldn’t see anything; but I was certain that if I turned away now, then the thing in the dark would rush forward.

The fear was multiplying, growing into a living creature trying to tear its way from my stomach. I felt cold sweat begin to pour from my brow, streaming into my open eyes and causing them to sting. I couldn’t blink. I was too worried about the consequences if I did, when I saw it.

Two pinpricks of light cut through the dense fog, temporarily blinding me. My panic rose to a crescendo, and my heart beat out of my chest. I half ducked behind the counter, when I saw the figure approaching the door. My hand slid across the underside of the counter to find the panic button that would alert the police, when the door swung wide.

A burly man in a green jacket and black pants came strolling in, an amused look on his face. He looked at me, raised an eyebrow and said, “Hey mister you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I sighed, and felt a physical weight lift off of me. I looked at him, and said, “Yeah sorry man. You just startled me, couldn’t see you approach the door until you opened it with all that fog out there.”

“Hey I hear you there. I could hardly see the road in front of me. Honestly, it’s a bit unnerving out there, it makes you think some strange thoughts,” said the man, looking a bit pensive.

“Right, I could’ve sworn that someone was out there. I mean I guess you were,” I said with a nervous laugh.

“Yeah, I was. It’s nights like this that makes one think,” said the man seriously.

I felt uncomfortable with his answer. He just remained there motionless, staring at the door to the back room. I still hadn’t investigated the noise in the back and the man’s blank look made me feel uneasy.

The silence in the room was beginning to weigh on me, and I couldn’t take one more moment of it. I asked, “Think about what?”

The man smiled a toothy grin, and said, “Life, death, and all the moments in between.”

“I try not to think about the first two too often. After all, who can truly know?”

“Anyone can, if they are willing to pay the right price for it,” said the man, a hungry look gleaming in his eyes.

“You might be right. There is always a price to pay for knowledge. I mean I’m pretty sure Adam and Eve learned that lesson, and aren’t we still paying for it today.”

“True enough I suppose, but how is one supposed to live when one doesn’t know the reason for existence?” asked the man.

“I guess it is our duty to do the best with what we have in front of us.”

“And damn the truth huh?” replied the man.

“What truth? No one’s truth is true. Many claim to have the answers, but few have more than just hot breath.”

“Because many are liars, the truth doesn’t exist? That doesn’t seem to be an accurate conclusion either,” said the man.

“Does there have to be a singular truth? Why must it be universal? Can’t something be true to one and not true for the other?”

“I would say that truth by its essence must be true to all, or else it isn’t the truth. A truth true to you but not another is not the truth at all, it’s merely a solution. Are you content to live a life of solutions rather than one of true knowledge?” asked the man.


“The question is superfluous. Of course I’d rather live a life of universal knowledge, but who knows such truth?”

“And if I claimed to know the truth, what would you say to that?” questioned the man.

“I’d say you’re either insane or a liar.”

“Honest enough answer. But I am neither. I am something more. When one sees the truth they know it, so look and see for yourself,” said the man.

He took a couple steps forward, coming fully into the light, and I noticed his features for the first time. He had a severe look, a hawkish nose that looked as if it had been broken at least once. The landscape of his face was a jumble of cracks and wrinkles, dominated by a large scar that started right below his nose and continued through his lips stopping at his jawline.

It was the man’s eyes that made me feel the most uneasy. They were as black as tar, and they drilled into me. Making eye contact with the man was like looking directly into a black hole, they seemed to draw you deeper. There was a little light shining in the middle of the man’s pupil. I watched as it bounced and glowed, coming closer than drawing away. It was as if it was beckoning me to follow.

When I saw that gleam, I wanted nothing more than to follow it, and damn the consequences. There was a beauty to the way it pulsated that held me captivated. I looked and saw and knew that there were secrets to be found in those depths. I also knew that if I followed the light, there would be no coming back.

But I didn’t care.

I wanted to know. I wanted to see. The mysteries of the universe were held in that gyrating light bobbing in the abyss. I felt my soul beginning to be ripped from my body, torn from my essence and sent spiraling down that black tunnel towards that brilliant light.

It was that same crashing sound I had heard from the back room that broke the trance. I looked away from those eyes, and I came smashing back to reality. My mind was scrambled, and it took me a second to get back into a normal state.

The creature standing before me was just as confused as I was, clearly not used to its prey escaping it so easily. For a moment we looked at each other in utter shock. The man smiled at me showing ragged, pointed teeth. I looked away in disgust, trying to feel for the silent alarm button on the bottom of the counter. My hand brushed the button and I pressed it with all my strength.

The man remained standing there absolutely motionless. He could’ve been a statue for all I knew. He didn’t breathe nor did his heart beat. Those black eyes never blinked, and I didn’t dare make eye contact with him.


Finally, he looked down at his watch, and said, “The time is nearly here.”

With that the man turned and strolled directly out the door he had come. I watched him walk casually into the fog. I couldn’t see clearly, so I’m not entirely sure what I saw. But still, the figure almost seemed to melt as if it was evaporating into the mist.

One moment he was there, the next he wasn’t.

To this day, I still don’t know what I saw that night. I do know this, there are things that walk in the dark that man knows nothing about. It’s best to avoid certain watches of the night. I stay at home these days. I work in the safety of the daylight.

Once I tried to watch the security footage. All that can be seen is the front door opening and closing. Then about five minutes later it happens again. No man can be seen, but still something opened that door. You can see my lips moving as if I am talking, but there is no audio and the conversation can’t be heard.

And that’s the proof.

I tried to watch the back room footage. All that can be seen is a box of sodas busting as it falls from the top shelf. Then a few more minutes pass, and the whole metal rack holding the boxes of soda is knocked over.

I don’t know what saved my life. I do know this, I am still alive, and I intend on staying that way. I’d like to be able to explain to you what happened that night, but I am just as in the dark as you might be. Stories are supposed to wrap up nice and neat into a perfect little ribbon.

But when does life follow those rules?

We each live and die on this rock. We love, we hate, we fight, we make peace, and many of us don’t even know why we are here. I don’t claim to know the answers. All I know is this. I am still breathing, and some answers aren’t worth the price.

Credit: John Westrick

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