Up until last week I worked as a fry cook at a semi-decent diner, near the reservation I grew up on.
February around here is still freezing so we get a lot of business this time of year, usually from the locals and not strictly law abiding hunters. Ultimately we were there to do two things, serve good, cheap food and avoid asking questions. I started a few months ago, it wasn’t my first cook job so I picked things up pretty quickly. Before you knew it, I was one of the gang, which meant before I knew it I was just another punching bag for the owner of Reservation Diner, Mr Jones.
5ft 5 inches tall, weighing in at a fuck load of pounds, Mr Jones’ main interests included deep fried anything, talking down to anyone he had to look up to and hating anything or anyone that wasn’t a good white Christian man. You’ll know the type, stereotypical woman hating, survivalist, extreme right-wing nut job. Makes you wonder why everyone that worked for him was either native, black or female. The thing is it didn’t matter what you did, if he knew you needed this job he made your life as much of a living hell as he possibly could, or being a little man, if you were a bigger guy he did the second-best thing and made sure his Hunters Lodge (In this case meaning a bunch of animal poaching Nazi pricks with a hard on for Coors light), did it for him.
With him being the biggest asshole this side of the Canadian border, Mr Jones thought himself an important guy. I had heard from some of the other guys who worked at the diner that he was also involved with local prostitution rings, and I guess that explained the shady after close backroom meetings, but I never needed another reason to hate the guy so I didn’t think too much into it.
You can imagine how the place was run then, we did our best with what we had but it was obvious to everyone there that the place desperately needed cleaning. Since I’d started, the grill would shake like a panicked raccoon, the smell coming from beneath it was even worse. One time I dropped a box of salt and as I bent over to pick it up I got a glimpse under the poorly maintained steel legs. Rotten grease and black dirt seeped out from underneath the grill. When the stench hit me I scrambled out of the kitchen and made it outside, just in time to avoid cleaning up my vomit. If I’d been able to stay down there just a second longer I’d have probably seen the dark soil and the dead insects too.
Considering his status as the worst human being in living memory, I have no idea why a couple of days ago, I had the stupid idea to talk to Jones about the state of the kitchen. I guess you would call it professional pride, if I had any.
I knocked on the door, but didn’t wait for an answer as I pulled open the door and walked into the backroom where Jones normally sat with his notepad and calculator. The ironically heavyweight office chair sat empty behind his desk. I peered into the room and briefly examined the rows of canned goods, diner supplies and paper boxes that lined the walls. Content that I had done everything in my power to bring the grill situation to the owner’s attention I swiftly made my exit, turning to leave the room in a motion that came to a pretty swift conclusion when I collided with Mr Jones’ not inconsiderable mass.
“Nothing here for you to steal buck, what the hell do you want?” Every time Jones spoke in that nasal tone voice, you couldn’t help but feel dirty for having listened.
“Nothing Sir, I just came to tell you I dropped a box of salt and-“
“Of course you did you clumsy fuck”
“I dropped a box of salt by the grill, when I went to pick it up I got a look under there, it’s pretty fucking gross Sir and I was wondering if we should maybe clean it if we’re gonna keep serving people food off it.”
He went that kind of red only fat white people do, no one else spoke to Mr Jones like that after all. But it’s hard to be afraid of a guy when you can’t see his feet and more importantly, you know he can’t either. Not to mention I was just about coming to the end of my tether with this guy.
“Listen here you gas huffing nobody. You fucking touch that grill, you move it or so much of speak a word to anyone about this kitchen, I’ll know and I won’t just fire your piece of shit ass, I’ll take you down to the lodge and break your fucking legs. Understand? Or maybe I’ll take you out into the woods and we can get lost. Have I told you about the time we got lost out there?”
His fists balled dangerously as he carried on, his face shaking as he struggled to hold in his anger. I suddenly felt a lot less confident with my face covered in spittle and decided this was more trouble than it was worth so I Interrupted the rant.
“Hey it’s your kitchen, don’t blame me when you get shut down.”
I walked away as I said it. Not worth it at all.
I know in hindsight his reaction seems strange and almost comically violent, but with Jones nearly every conversation ended with a racial slur or threat so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Over the next few days I went about my business. Nothing particularly notable happened except now and then I would notice Jones watching me very carefully. I figured he was just upset I wasn’t afraid of him and made a mental note not to give him anything to fire me over.
Two weeks later I would no longer believe that lie.
I’d had a long day, one of the other cooks had called in sick so I ended up covering their late shift, till closing. The diner shuts down at 1am and doesn’t re-open again till six, so whoever is in charge on the night has to lock up. Of course, only the two managers and Mr Jones have a set of keys. “Anyone caught in the diner after closing time is fired, understand buck?” Jones’ induction speech rang in my ear as I made to leave the diner with the rest of the staff that night.
I was first out of the door, it was dangerously cold that night and I was wrapped up so tight that I had tunnel vision, which was probably why I didn’t spot that my keys were still inside until I got to the car. Realising my error and cursing my luck, I jogged back to the rear entrance and opened the door. Will, the manager that night, must’ve been in the office because the door was still open. I rushed to the locker room to grab my keys, it probably took me about thirty seconds to find them before I was out of there again, practically sprinting towards the exit.
I hit the doors at a jog, expecting them to swing open into the night as I continued towards my car. Instead, I slammed into a pair of very locked doors shoulder first, cracking the glass, my shoulder and bending the once pristine metal frame of the door.
After a long and colourful few seconds of cursing I peered out of the door, banging on the frame with my fist, hoping to get someone’s attention. Eventually I saw Will, headphones firmly lodged in his ears as he walked to his car. Then got to his car. Then opened his door and drove down the highway with the future of my employment, still oblivious to the fact he was a complete fucking idiot.
It took a moment, but I managed to compose myself and think about things. I realised I had no other choice. Without Will’s number I was going to have to call Jones as soon as I could, otherwise he was gonna find me sleeping on the chairs or something and fire me anyway, assuming he didn’t use the excuse to shoot me.
With the lights out it took me a while to navigate the kitchen, I’d never seen the diner after the lights were out, the single streetlight in the parking lot outside was woefully inadequate this far back and I was forced to grab the walls as I shuffled towards the light switch a few yards away.
Eventually I get there and the lights come back on. I’ll admit being alone in that cold, silent kitchen did give me the chills, so I made my way to the office a lot quicker than a normal person would have. When I found the book with Jones’ number in I took a moment of silence, eventually I worked up the nerve and called him. The ringing on the line broke through the silence of the abandoned kitchen. I felt ice run along my spine and began to shiver violently, partly because of the falling temperature, but mostly due to the waves of fear flooding down my stomach.
I guess Jones was a scary guy after all.
With every ring that shot down the speaker I was becoming steadily more nervous, I began frantically turning my head, glancing into the corners of the room, then again at the door, then the room. Like a deer with nowhere to run.
“Hello? Will, I swear to god the place better be on fire.”
The sound of knives clanging against each other, like a brutal windchime stopped me dead. Before I could answer my eyes raced to the office door and the source of the disturbance and the sound of laughter that filtered in from beyond, deep and gravelly. Like rubbing rocks against a tree. I froze, quickly thinking of every scary story my grandad had every told me while I waited for the laughter to come again, nervous enough to believe the devil was waiting for me on the other side of that door.
The god damn phone, it was someone in the background. I’m an idiot I thought, as Jones broke my strange trance.
He wasn’t pleased. He called me things so racist that I’m pretty sure he invented half of them himself. But it’s strange, I didn’t think he was angry. It sounded more like he was panicked.
“Don’t you leave that room you son of a bitch, I’m coming to open that door and you better believe your ass is on the line. Do. Not. Move.”
The dial tone rang, replacing the tirade of abuse that came before.
I heard the knives clanging coming from the kitchen again, followed shortly by the sound of moving metal. I figured either the doors had been more damaged than I thought and a bear had gotten in or maybe someone was robbing the place. Either was good for me because at that moment in time all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive as far away as possible.
I burst in to the kitchen and headed towards the back door, hoping to make my getaway before the bear noticed me. The noise in the kitchen grew more intense now, whatever was in there was banging against one of the metal surfaces like a drowning man. *CLANG* I made my way out of the kitchen, around the corner and was again face to face with the exit door. It was still slightly broken, but more importantly the thing was still locked tight. Not good. Again I heard the scraping stone laughter, this time I knew it wasn’t coming over a phone because It was coming from behind me, in the kitchen.
I pressed myself against the wall and continued past the locked doors at a snail’s pace, all the way around to the door curtains that blocked this hallway and the nearby staff toilets from the restaurant floor. A quick pause helped me control my panicked breathing before I looked past the barrier where my worst fears were confirmed. No smashed windows, no open front door.
Whatever was in the kitchen had been there all along.
I muffled a scream with my hands but the effort was wasted as a new cacophony erupted form the kitchen. Another bang on the metal, then another, then an unholy screech that seemed to last minutes. I hid under the bar that separated the restaurant floor from the open kitchen window.
Then the lights went out.
Even outside the solitary streetlamp fizzled away into nothing. I know camping so I’m not a stranger to total darkness, but even so it took me a lot of seconds to adjust to the lack of light. When my eyes started to work again I looked frantically for an exit but found none. I didn’t know what was in the kitchen but a sense of dread had overtaken me and I was desperate to stay hidden, so I stayed where I was. Too afraid to move, too afraid to think really, It took a few moments to register the shining black orbs in the window opposite me.
They seemed to radiate light, completely unmoved by what was happening in the diner beyond as they hovered outside the window, perfectly symmetrical, completely still. I thought for a second that a sheen covered the strange spheres, it looked like what little moonlight made its way into the building was drawn to them only to slide off their smooth, untouched surface. Like a mountain lion’s eyes in the dark.
It took a while for my brain to process what it was seeing, even after I made the connection between the mountain lion and the glowing orbs beyond the window. Then the realisation burst like a dam and I wasn’t staring at something beyond the window. I was staring at a reflection of something inside the building. I was staring at a pair of predator’s eyes. And they were staring right back at me.
In that fraction of a second the whole terrible joke came into focus.
I saw the outline of the head that contained the eyes first, comically round and twice the size of my own. Then the long protruding neck and emaciated torso that was bending over something, the long thin outline of the arms that were reaching out in front of it and the- I couldn’t see the legs. I began to make out the outline of the bar instead.
Another fraction of a second and the punchline hit me, I wasn’t staring at the reflection of something in the kitchen beyond, I was staring at something that was standing behind the bar. The bar I was kneeling against.
Then the lights came back on.
I didn’t need to look in the window to know the thing had been hovering above me, or to know why its back had hunched over or its unnaturally long arms were reaching beyond the bar.
I didn’t need to but I did anyway, and I saw the thing that hides under the grill.
White skin and black eyes, hunched over because it was tall, too tall to stand at full height in this building. I felt my tongue swell with fear, I was wrong about the torso too. It wasn’t emaciated, the thing was lean, muscled and it was smiling with a disgusting mouth. A mouth that went from ear to ear, filled with horrid yellow fangs and dripping with black saliva. It was staring through the mirror and smiling at me as it hovered inches above my head, preparing to strike.
I chose my moment well. The talons hovered closer and closer, I could see the reflection clear as daylight and waited like my dad taught me with the dogs for it to lean back into the strike, then I hit the deck as hard I could. The claws missed their mark and flew harmlessly overhead, but by the time it had realised its failure I was already gone. Rushing through the beaded curtain and straight into the supply closet which I slammed shut. Holding onto the handle for dear life.
Why god did it have to be a pull door?
If it is humanly possible to will yourself invisible, then I probably did it in that tiny supply room. I had expected the thing to catch me as soon as I ran, so I never really planned what to do after I got past the curtain. So instead I stood there behind the door, listening outside and praying for a way out of the building.
The shuffle of disturbed beads was surprisingly quiet, but I knew it was out there now. It wasn’t chasing me I realised because it knew there was no way out for me. It could take its time. Animal sniffing soon followed the sound of the moving curtain. Outside, the shadow of the creature made a silhouette against the opaque glass of the door, no less terrifying in obscurity it carried on as the light patter of its naked feet rang against the tiled floor.
I began to feel light headed as the sound faded away down the hall, I hadn’t taken any breath since closed the door. A sudden urge to exhale overcame me before I had a chance to think, before I could stop it the breath turned into a loud sigh.
The light patter turned into a monstrous thud as the huge form came crashing back through the hallway, cackling it’s grating laugh as it began clawing at the door handle. I’m not a small guy by any means, and I was holding on with everything I had but it was strong. Impossibly strong. The door rattled on its hinges and more than once I almost lost my grip. Beyond the opaque glass the cackling continued, accompanied now by the gnashing of those awful yellow teeth. I had my whole weight on the door now and despite my mortal efforts I could see beyond the opaque window it wasn’t even using both hands, or straining at all. It was toying with me.
Then it seemed, the thing beneath the grill had had enough.
The door swung open, I fought with every inch to bring the door back closed but it just wasn’t enough. Now all but open, the pale head slithered through the gap till once again it was inches above me, looking down with amusement as I fought for my life. I risked a look above and knew instantly I’d made a grave mistake.
The creature began to open its mouth, when I thought it would finish I prepared for a strike but it didn’t stop, then with a great pop it opened its mouth ajar, above me it seemed to dislocate the jaw like a snake but it still had full use of the muscles. Again and again the sharp fangs gnashed at my face just out of reach. Piss trickled down my leg as fast as the tears that rolled down my face. I can’t describe the smell of its breath or the slime of its saliva, I knew as soon as the first black fleck hit my face that I’d never be clean again.
Satisfied with its torment it ripped the door off its hinges, I sobbed, hugging the floor and dragging myself against the back wall. The thing hunched in the doorway, holding me in place as the jaw popped out of place and it screamed one word, a horrible parody of English.
The sound was so loud I felt it rattle my jaws, the hot acidic twinge of vomit travelled up my throat but I managed to swallow it down. A single malicious claw began to hover above my eyelid and the sound came again, even louder than the first.
The crashing of glass, and the familiar, blessed sound of nasal fury shattered the moment. A sudden look of glee shone along the monster’s black eyes, another horrid smile stretched across the pale flesh along its face that hung there for just a moment more than was comfortable. Then it was gone, crashing down the hall towards the unsuspecting form of Mr Jones, who despite all his flaws probably didn’t deserve to be eaten alive by a monster.
“RUN!” I screamed through the door, “JONES THERE’S SOMETHING IN HERE. RUN.”
I screamed with all I had but my voice was lost under the sound that vibrated the walls. A single word, urgent and ravenous.
I waited, captivated by inability to do anything, for the sounds of screaming that would surely follow. I laid there on that cold floor for a good five minutes. The shock gradually began to fade as I realised that no terrible screeching was coming. In fact, I didn’t hear a thing. After another five minutes I decided that I had to go see what the hell was happening, but walking wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. I crawled out of the door, heading to my right down the hall and carefully sliding under the beaded curtain.
As the kitchen drew steadily closer I was greeted by the wet slap of grinding teeth on raw flesh. The noise grew louder as I edged towards the source, every inch becoming a struggle against the nausea and terror. The creature was devouring something near the grill just beyond and Images of poor fat Jones, on his back and torn into a fleshy ruin began to fill my head.
Then the sound stopped. I was sure I’d been discovered and braced myself, intending to dash for the window and smash my way out of the restaurant, but nothing came.
“There there buddy, you’ve had quite a day eh? God, it’s been years since we got lost in the woods, hasn’t it? I’m sorry we ran out of food. I’m sorry for what happened to you, not so much to Chris. What an asshole he was. Either way, sweet Jesus you’ve been useful. No easier way to deal with a dead hooker ey?”
The monster replied with its familiar stony cackle.
“I know it’s not my usual day to visit but something tells me you’ve been seen by our guest. Stupid fucking Indians. I guess you’ll be getting seconds now boy! Let’s go find that little redskin.”
A desperate glance over the bar confirmed my worst fears. There stood Jones in his stained shirt and stretched jeans happily chatting away with the long limbed beast.
I’d seen enough.
Stealth wouldn’t be any use against that thing now so I went for speed instead, turning back through the curtain I sprinted with all my might, praying I was right. I came to the back door, an awful screech followed me from the kitchen but I was gone like a rabbit down a hole.
I thank god everyday Jones was enough of an idiot to smash the door glass on his way in, it sat there now, shattered glass littering the floor and the doorway still locked, but I could see my car through a small gap in the glass, big enough to crawl through and blissfully clear of any more obstructions.
My feet hit the concrete with a great thud as I jumped through the door, over the railing and down into the parking below. The sounds of struggle and nasal panic erupted behind me as the thing tried to fit between the broken doors but it was too late, I was at my car.
Keys in the door, keys in the ignition, clutch up.
I called the police as soon as I got home. I knew they wouldn’t take me seriously if I told them the truth, So I made up a story about a homeless guy beating on Jones in the restaurant and let them figure it out for themselves.
One of the officers lives on the reserve as well, so in no time at all the story trickled down to the rest of the community.
When they got to the place it was empty, signs of our struggle were there but Jones and the ‘homeless guy’ were gone. They found a cellar door in the kitchen that led into a massive network of tunnels, soon after they entered they found the bones. They found a makeshift bed, toilet, the whole thing just sitting there under the Diner this whole time. Apparently, the tunnel went on for so long that they had to call in back up, they’re still exploring them as far as I know.
As for me I just kept driving till I got home, I’m leaving the reservation for the time being, at least until this thing blows over or the cops finally work out that they’re hiding in the woods. I think I’ll head across the border, maybe see Hollywood.