I remember the night clearly, to every detail. It was a dreary Decembers day when the manager (Wesley) called me into his office. At the time I worked shifts at a twenty-four seven gas station. It was a boring job; sit behind the counter; serve customer; say, “have a nice day”rinse and repeat, however it paid me a little over minimum wage which kept me going in the little apartment I owned.
His office was extremely stuffy and small, I could only imagine how someone with claustrophobia would feel in such a cramped space in the back of the store considering I myself, even felt slightly uncomfortable. There was one small desk in the room covered in outdated papers from who-knows-when as well as taxes and bills Wesley had to pay to keep the place running (it had not been doing well at that time.) The walls were a muffled white, they were covered in damp and flaked away even with the slightest brush of a shoulder. It smelled like old dust with a bitter scent of cleaning product in the background, just like a violin in an orchestra. Wesley cleaned the walls constantly, at least twice a week; he was what you would call a clean freak, I told him many times, “Wesley, these walls aren’t going to change they are way too far gone to change,” only to have the same reply of: “Be quiet Tom, you do your work and I’ll do mine!” He always had a way of being more pungent than the cleaning product he was using. There was also a tiny fold up chair behind the desk, it seemed extremely cheap and flimsy yet it never buckled under Wesley who was larger than most men at age thirty-seven.
He had murky brown hair and it was extremely scruffy, almost as if someone had dumped a damp mop on his head, cut of the stick and left it there. The colour of his eyes were a dull sea green which matched perfectly with his wavy eyelashes. His eyebrows were bushes on his face that must have died to create the dark brown colour they embodied. Wesley’s overall shape was very round and he always wore a yellow tinted shirt matched with a sky blue tie that always looked like it may have been wrapped a little too tightly around his neck. He was a very shady character, who wouldn’t tell you much. He was rarely seen out of his office and even then lurked around like a fish in the deep sea.
I stood in that office for at least five minutes if my memory serves me correctly, until he said the two words I still remember to this day, the words that would change me forever.
At that time I didn’t know of the things that happened during night shifts, so none the wiser I accepted it without complaint. Wesley ushered me out of the clean wooden door and slammed it behind me before I even had the time to turn around.
In a way I had always wanted to work a night shift. The idea of sitting in a store by myself during the night sounded appealing; you just sit back, do nothing and get paid all the same.
I walked out of the store as Wesley had dismissed me from my shift. There was no point in working any more than I had to and I needed to get sleep for the shift. When I walked out of the store I had seen the clouds in the sky darken. I could tell instantly there would be a storm that evening making getting home an even more pressing matter.
As I had walked to my car I looked back at the station. It was brightly green with signs of wear all over the building, with much of the colour being faded to a splotchy yellow colour you would see in the urinals of an unhygienic pub. There were four gas pumps and one diesel scattered around the place in a bizarre order. The diesel pump looked much newer than the other gas pumps. Its pipe was pitch black rather than the dull grey the gas ones had and the diesel tank was fantastically glossy. In reality they had all been installed around the same time however the diesel pump was rarely used and the only person I ever saw use it was an old woman by the name of Vicky. She was incredibly strange though as I never actually saw her drive the car she used other than when she pulled in and out of the gas station.
At this point I had hopped into my car. It was a fragile thing, it could barely get up an average hill more than twenty miles per hour; it was lucky I lived in New York City as the place was very flat and my car could at least keep up with the constant slow traffic New York kindly provides. It took me around forty-five minutes to get back to the tiny apartment I lived in. It definitely wasn’t much and to be honest I really question whether I could even call it home! The place, in summary, was a complete mess. Magazines, clothes and old food scurried about as if they were rats in hiding. There was one small couch off-centre in the room and an old television that sat in the corner looking hesitant, static as if thinking through its vast knowledge of channels and programmes.
I sat down and picked up the remote that was basking away in the darkest cracks of the sofa and quickly flicked on to the news channel (I rarely used the others.) I sat there for at least half an hour mindlessly caressing an old slice of bread until I decided I was going to make lunch. I had only just gotten up out of my seat at ten past one when something on the news caught my attention…
I watched as the smartly dressed man presented his news story with utter professionalism: “Citizens of New York city are to be reminded to be much more careful in the coming weeks. Two men who were recently diagnosed as clinically insane in the New York mental institution have escaped their cells. It is important that you keep safe taking the right precautions of course. Don’t forg…”
At this point the danger of the situation I was in had struck me deeply. The idea of sitting in a store, by myself, during the night sounded horrendous! Small droplets of rain had started outside my window and so had the beads of sweat that began to form on my head.
By seven o’clock the rain was coming down at full force. The pittering and pattering sounded like the tiny feet of mice scurrying around. The clouds had darkened and grew only heavier with every raindrop let out, swelling in size rapidly and menacingly staring from above in an air of superiority. As soon as I had opened the door I was greeted by the cold winds and blood curdling howls I had previously thought only a rabid wolf could make. It was a petrifying scene and the freezer of an atmosphere did not help the nerves I had relentlessly tried resting just hours beforehand. Urgently rushing, I ran to the car, taking out my keys as I did so. The unlocking sound had greeted me warmly for only a second before being swept away by the winds less than moments after. The cars heater was at full blast when I did finally get into the car, striking me ferociously with a burning sensation across my joints! The deep winter darkness had fully taken over by then when I pulled off of the pavement; the scraping of the tire against the wet concrete is still burnt in my head today. I took the three-quarter of an hour drive in less than half an hour. It made sense that such a small amount of people were out in the frenzy of a storm especially as I pulled up: when thunder started…
The sounds were deafening, louder than a toddler excitedly hitting a percussion instrument with tremendous force, but no toddler could be as malicious. Bang! It struck hard, harder than a hammer on nails. Crack! More force then a jack-hammer would provide onto concrete. Snap! More painful than the breaking of an arm and just as unbearable.
Wesley held on to a black umbrella and ran out of the stores door to me, all the while he wobbled like a penguin. He threw the umbrella over my head and, in synchronization, we walked inside.
It was clear Wesley was in a rush and he made no attempt to hide his haste. He was very scattered and only talked to me briefly about all the things I needed to do. “At midnight switch to the power conservation lights… remember to count the money in the till and record it… don’t forget to restock everything… I think that is it Tom.” With those last words the door may as well have opened for him. Just as the softly padded chair behind the counter greeted my body I heard Wesley’s car start and the engine distance itself; leaving me completely alone! I think I sat there for what felt like a good half an hour before the nerves started to set in again. All I could think about were the crazy men who are on the run around New York and the pending danger I was in. Compared to the cold outside everything then felt warm. Even though at that point it was well into the evening ( ten thirty) yet the sun could not be more intense than the pure hellish haze that was over me. Sweat coated my body like frogs mucus and the heat of my body boiled it to an intense heat.
Trying to take my mind off the fear I was enduring, I set to work on one of my few chores: recording the money in the till. The work was expectedly tedious and boring but it at least occupied me for the duration of the work. I sat there for quite a while routinely folding through the notes, fumbling and slipping clumsily with my fat thumbs. Occasionally I would crease one of the notes in a rapid manner and it would make me jump slightly. It caused me to tremble uncontrollably for the next minute until I finally reposition myself on the chair only to repeat it ten minutes later. After a long time of doing this mechanical process I finished and became both restless and hungry. My stomach had of course been shouting in the way of grumbles but it had failed to be heard until now. I added a couple a couple of dollars to the money record and got out of my seat gingerly.
The sweat on the seat stuck to me and it made a squeaking sound as my clothes ripped away from it. I jogged over to the aisle across from me – “snack items” – and glanced my eye all over the wide array of food. Hunger pangs were starting to kick in and I had to act fast before my stomach ate itself. As I grabbed a packet of crisps the bag crinkled violently my hand recoiled in shock, surprised at the strength of the sound. I made another quick grab for it and this time the crinkle was much more softer. To accompany it I snatched up a BLT a fairly sized chocolate bar and a small bottle of Dr. Pepper to wash it down.
Opening the bag of crisps already, I walked briskly back to the till and took my seat. The warmth of the seat grossed me out but I could not really do much about it. As quickly as I took my first crisp the bell rang to signal the opening of the door. “Hello?!” They said in a husk voice loudly across the shop. I ducked as fast as I could but all I could do was crouch. My heart raced and my brain was racked with thoughts that I was going to be murdered. Bulky footsteps rattled the floor as they walked up and down the aisles. The sweat was worse than before. My arms trembled and my legs grew exhausted from the stress on my muscles. “Anyone here?” He bellowed gruffly. I let out a small whimper a dog would make and all went silent.
I could not explain to you in any way how or why I did it but I did. The muscles in my hands started to curl and contract forming a fist. The footsteps started heading for the counter and the sound of his breathing came into earshot, it sounded incredibly heavy like that of a fat man and I trembled at the size he could be. The footsteps started to get extremely close and I readied my legs to jump up. I needed to fight. A warmth on my neck hit me and the darkness of a large shadow blanketed me. “To-” before he could make another sound I jumped vigorously into the air and punched out blindly on to the man. I saw red and I batted at the target relentlessly like a cornered street cat. My fists didn’t hit at first but it soon connected to soft flesh. I presumed it was the face so I kept at it. Punch after punch each one stronger than the last until the skin gave way to wet splashes. I immediately stopped, thinking that I had done more than enough damage. I staggered backwards onto the counter and sat down to register what had happened.
My fists were what I looked at first; they were raw and covered in blood, the skin had cracked on the knuckles and the hands burned like fire. After the seconds of studying my fists I looked at the spluttering man on laid on the floor and my eyes widened in pure horror…
I recognised the man who had just hours ago, told me my jobs, drowning in his own puddle of blood on the floor. He was struggling badly for breath so I rushed to him. “Tom… why?” Wesley meekly said in a defeated tone. He started crying weakly and his breath rattled. I gasped for air uncontrollably, hyperventilating almost. I could not believe what I had done and how stupid I was. I started to sob. “Wesley! I’m sorry… Oh god I didn-” my voice faltered under exhaustion and I looked Wesley in the eye as his breathing started to slow and his body gradually became limper until he died in the hands of a murderer.