Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
I work at a gas station in rural Pennsylvania. It’s a boring job, but it’s pretty easy and it pays all right. A few weeks ago, this new guy started; I’ll call him Jeremy.
Jeremy is weird. He’s about 25 or 26, and he hardly speaks, but he’s got the creepiest laugh I’ve ever heard. My boss and I have both noticed this, but it’s never been a problem, so there’s not much we can do about it. Customers have never complained about him, and he’s always done his job fairly well. Up until a few weeks ago, anyway—that’s when things started going missing. Employee theft can be a problem at any business that sells consumer goods, and there’s only one person working at a time at this gas station (it’s a pretty small place). About two weeks ago, my boss started noticing that we were short on motor oil. At first, it was a few containers at a time, then entire shelves and boxes from the back room. Pretty soon entire shipments would be gone the day after we got them, and it would always be right after Jeremy’s shifts. My boss has checked the security camera tapes from every single night he worked, but he could never catch him in the act. Jeremy would lock up at closing, then the motor oil would be gone the next day.
My boss usually takes the tapes home with him to try and catch Jeremy stealing, but his daughter had a softball game last night, so he asked me to watch the tape for him. He offered to pay me overtime, under-the-table, so obviously I took that offer. There are three cameras, so he gave me three different tapes to check. I figured it would be a long night, but I’m trying to save up for vacation, so I really needed the money. I took the tapes home, popped them in an old VCR and sat back.
Two days ago (the last time he worked), Jeremy started at 4 PM. Everything seemed pretty normal at first. He counted up his drawer, switched off with the girl who was working before him, and waited for a customer. The first person who came in was Mrs. Templeton (the timestamp on the video read 4:03), a regular. She picked up her cigarettes and a newspaper and paid with a twenty. Nothing unusual there. The next customer was some local guy named Ron. He drives a motorcycle, usually comes in every few days. He filled up his tank, got a bag of beef jerky, paid with his credit card, and then left. Next was some guy with a cowboy hat. I’d never seen him before, but we get plenty of strangers passing through, just like at any gas station. He got forty dollars worth of diesel fuel, paid with a hundred dollar bill, and went on his way. I sat back and sighed. The only thing more boring than doing this job is watching someone else do it.
My boss’s offer was enough to keep me watching though, so I left the tape on. Everything seemed pretty normal. I had a feeling that if Jeremy was stealing motor oil, he knew we were suspicious of him by now. I didn’t expect him to be dumb enough to let us catch him on camera. Things stayed boring and routine until about five o’clock.
At 5:03, Mrs. Templeton came back in; she must have forgotten something. But she didn’t. She bought the same pack of cigarettes as before, and the same newspaper. She paid with another twenty. That’s odd, I thought, but then again, she’s a little absent-minded. I thought Jeremy should have told her she already got her smokes, but it’s not against the rules to sell somebody the same thing twice. That’s when Ron came in again. He bought another tank of gas (for his motorcycle again—I later checked the outdoor camera because I thought maybe he had another car he wanted to fill up) and the same pack of beef jerky. He paid with his credit card again.
No big deal, I figured this was just a weird coincidence. Mrs. Templeton is forgetful and Ron probably owns more than one Harley. That’s when the guy in the cowboy hat came back in. I felt a chill run down my spine. “Don’t get diesel, don’t get diesel,” I found myself whispering to my empty living room…but he did. He got forty dollars worth of diesel fuel and paid with another hundred dollar bill. Every move he made was identical to his first visit, right down to the way he scratched his nose before he walked out. Either this guy is rich, owns a lot of trucks, and just moved into town, or something really bizarre was happening. I kept watching.
Every customer for the next hour was the same as before. Every single one. I was seriously freaked out, and then at 6:03, Mrs. Templeton walked back in. She bought her cigarettes and newspaper again, and paid with a twenty again. I thought I was going to lose it. I only watched another half hour before I started fast-forwarding through the rest. It was all the same. Every customer would come in at the exact same times, exactly one hour apart.
Now I know what you’re thinking. That sneaky motherfucker Jeremy had messed with the tapes. He had run a loop of his first hour of business over and over. That wasn’t the case. There are windows around the cash register area that the camera covers, and I watched the sunlight fade as time ran on. Jeremy’s routine didn’t loop over—he swept, mopped, restocked, and did all his duties exactly how you would expect. But the same customers kept coming in.
I was panicking at this point. Something was seriously wrong with what I was seeing, and I had no explanation for it. I skipped ahead to when he locked up and walked out to his car. He hadn’t stolen anything, but I kept watching, just to make sure. I fast forwarded one last time, to about midnight.
At exactly 12:03, out of nowhere, Jeremy’s face pops up on the camera. I don’t mean he moved his head into view, I mean that one second the store was empty, the next second his face was all I could see. He wasn’t looking at the camera, he was looking at me, I was sure of it. I screamed and fumbled for the remote. By the time I grabbed it, he was gone, just as soon as he had left. One frame he was there, the next he wasn’t. My hands were shaking like crazy, but I popped in another tape. The other indoor camera shows the back area, by the cash register, and I would be able to see how he got up to put his face in the camera like that. I skipped ahead to 12:03, but there was nothing. I would have been able to see him standing on a chair or something on this tape, but he wasn’t there. I didn’t see him enter the store at all after he left. It’s like he wasn’t really there. He doesn’t know the security code, and no alarms were triggered that night after he locked up.
What I did see, however, was that at 12:03, the motor oil vanished off the shelf. All of it. Same as Jeremy’s face, one second it was there and the next it wasn’t. I turned that tape off and went to bed, but I didn’t get a wink of sleep. My body is exhausted right now, but my mind is racing. That tape was undoubtedly the creepiest, most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
I work in a few hours. My boss asked me to bring the tapes back in and let him know what I found, but really, what the hell am I going to say? Jeremy works the night shift tonight, directly after me, and the plan is for my boss to come in just before I leave and confront him with me (as I’m supposed to be the one who caught him stealing). I have no idea what I’m going to do. I suppose I’ll have to show my boss the tapes, but I don’t want to watch them with him. I never want to see something like that again. I can’t get the image of Jeremy just smiling directly into the camera out of my mind; it was the creepiest look I’ve ever seen on another human being’s face.
Anyway, I’m gonna try again to get some last minute sleep before I have to go in and deal with this. I’ll let you guys know what happens…
UPDATE (2:49 PM): Updating from my phone, apologies in advance for errors. My boss just finished watching the last of the tapes. I told him what to expect, but you really can’t prepare someone for something like that. He’s scared shitless (I still am too) and Jeremy is due to come in at 4. We’ve got a little over an hour to get our shit together, but neither one of us knows what to say to him. Is he just a fucked up guy who likes to steal motor oil and scare the shit out of people? Or is he something else? I don’t know if this is crazy, but does anyone think he could have anything to do with the time loop? My boss said he never noticed anything like that in the other tapes, but the way he popped up in this one made me think he knew I would be watching. It’s like he wanted me to see what he could do. Like he was showing off or something. The way he smiled into the camera was like a little kid showing you a sandcastle they just built or something. I don’t know, I probably sound crazy. I sure feel the part. I’m going to talk to my boss some more. We have to calm ourselves down and figure out how to handle this. I’ll update again tonight, but I have a really bad feeling about how this is going to play out.
UPDATE (4:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We’re calling the police.
UPDATE (5:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We’re calling the police.
UPDATE (6:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We’re calling the police.
UPDATE (7:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We’re calling the police.
UPDATE (8:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We’re calling the police.
UPDATE (10:58 PM): Holy shit. Holy shit holy shit holy shit. I just got home and saw my previous updates. Things make less sense now than ever. Here’s what I can tell you. I went to work, Jeremy never showed up, my boss and I decided to call the police, as you’re well aware. When I picked up the phone to call, though, the sun went out. I shit you not, that’s what I thought happened. Apparently, I blacked out for exactly five hours, because when I looked at the clock, it was 9:33. I think I got stuck in Jeremy’s time loop, and then I snapped out of it at the exact point I blacked out, if that makes sense. But that’s when things got really weird.
My boss was right next to me when I blacked out, ready to corroborate my story to the cops. When I came to, the phone was in my hand, but it was dead. Not even a dial tone. My boss was still right there, but he wasn’t moving. He was standing up, but frozen. I looked at the clock again, and it wasn’t moving. The second hand was stuck on the 12. It was 9:33 exactly. The clock on the register (computer screen) wasn’t moving either. My phone was frozen. There was even a customer at the register, waiting for my boss to get him cigarettes. I’m betting that would have been his fifth pack of the day.
I got the fuck out of there. Didn’t lock up, didn’t turn the lights out, and sorry guys, I didn’t grab the security tapes to upload on the internet. Believe me, that was the last thing on my mind. The gas station is on a major highway, and cars were parked all along it, except they weren’t parked, they were frozen. The people inside were sitting still as wax statues. I got in my car and prayed that it would start. Thankfully it did.
About halfway home, time started up again. The static from the radio turned into music like it’s supposed to be, and from what I could tell by listening to the host talk in between songs, no one noticed the time freeze, or whatever it was. I was the only one. Well, I’m sure Jeremy noticed as well. I still have no clue where he is or what he’s doing. I’m hiding in my room and calling the police again in the morning. I don’t know if I ever got through to them before, or if I did, whether they took me seriously. I’m scared for my life at this point. I’ll update tomorrow, if I can.
FINAL UPDATE (10:33 AM): I finally fell asleep last night around 4. I have no idea how I did it, I guess exhaustion finally got the best of me. This morning, I woke up to my phone ringing; it was my boss. He’d been calling me since about 6. He woke up when time turned back on last night and immediately called the cops. They came by to see what was wrong and he told them everything. The police around here are all small time guys; they were more concerned with the missing motor oil than anything, but my boss figured he would take it, as long as he had their attention. They decided to go looking for Jeremy.
We keep all our employees’ applications on file, and since Jeremy just started working here, his was easy to find. They checked the address on it and headed over to his house. You’re not gonna believe what they found.
The address Jeremy listed on his application was an empty lot. Or at least now it is. There used to be a house there, but it burned down in 1993. Being a small town, almost everyone remembers that fire. A family of four used to live there way back when. Rumor has it that they had an estranged son who they never really talked about, but I can’t say for sure if that’s true. What I can say is true is that after an insurance investigation, the fire was ruled an arson. The entire house was soaked in oil and torched with a Molotov cocktail. The entire family was sleeping when it happened; none of them survived.
They never caught the guy who did it. Rumor has it that when they tried to contact the estranged son, no one could find him.
Anyway, my boss called and told me this, and I freaked out. Then he asked me to come to the gas station. “What are you, crazy?” I said, but he assured me that the cops were there with him. Then he dropped a bomb: the FBI was also in town and they were going to talk to me one way or another, so I might as well come in. It was about 7:15, and I wanted to go back to bed, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to sleep much more anyway, so I went down.
Four men in suits greeted me and told me to have a seat. We went over everything two or three times until they got all the details down. I told them about Jeremy, the security tape, last night at work. Everything. Finally, after I finished, one of the agents said, “Oh Christ, we’ve got another one on our hands.” Then they made me sign a bunch of papers saying I wouldn’t tell anyone about what happened, so I can’t say much more. I might be breaking the law just by posting this.
So now I’m home. I’m not sure what to do with myself. That agent’s words when I told him the story are going to haunt me for the rest of my life.
Anyway, I’ve got to go. I have some errands to run today, and then I have to go into work to pick up some tapes. My boss and I think this new guy Jeremy (he’s a complete creep) is stealing motor oil and I have to watch the security footage to see if I can catch him doing it. I have better things to do, but my boss is paying me overtime, under-the-table, and I’m trying to save up for vacation so I could really use the money. It should be pretty simple; the oil always goes missing right after his shifts. I figure I’ll just watch the tapes, catch him in the act, and that will be that.
Credit: Phil Zona