Diary of a Third-Shift Zombie

Haunt season has begun, and will occupy a good number of my nights and weekends for the next couple months. With adding that to my day job, I don’t know how much free time I will have allocated to write very much of anything. That’s okay – I like being a monster. In the meantime, I have decided to post on this here blog not one, but two, unpublished stories from the gas station saga: Diary of a Third-Shift Zombie.

The Argument

The standard procedure in case of a tornado was to kill the gas lines and take cover in the bathroom. Strong winds blew the doors open and it was rainy as hell, but that was just about it for the weather. Sadly, I had no choice but to continue cleaning the store.

There was quite a build up to the point when the storm actually hit. Customers came in telling me there were 74 mph winds in Indiana. Then it was upgraded to 85. It was only a matter of time before a tornado was heading straight for us. The sirens rang out as the storm picked up considerably. Kill the gas lines run for the bathroom, I thought about my escape plan hoping that I could enact upon it for I really did not feel like working that night. However, amid all the chaos a couple walked in. “How much is it for the 88 octane?” the man asked without even a greeting and acting as if Mother Nature had no intention of baring down upon us that very moment.

“Are these things fresh?” his wife interrupted shouting from over by the roller grill.

“$3.65” I said pretending not to hear her, choosing to take care of one customer at a time. I read off the giant sign in the front of the store that depicted the current gas prices.
“I said, are these fresh?” she asked again this time with conviction.

“Yes they are fresh!” I exclaimed.

“How fresh?” She asked incredulously questioning my integrity.

“I just put them on the roller grill like a half hour ago.”

“88 octane?” her husband asked again from the counter.

“$3.65,” I answered as calmly as I possibly could motioning toward the sign outside. I could almost see it rock as the winds picked up.

“And if I wanted to fill that blazer out there how much would that cost?”

Do I look like a calculator? I wanted to say but kept my mouth shut.  There was a good chance the store could blow away at any second. Please, take me with you I plead to the gale outside for I really didn’t feel like doing the math.

“How much is it?” His wife interrupted again seemingly satisfied with my answer regarding the quality of the overly processed meat products.

“Two dollars for two.” I let out an exasperated sigh for the roller grill was also littered with various signs depicting the prices of each individual item.

“What if I just wanted one?”

“$1.45”

“How much is it to fill up the blazer out front?” Her husband asked again slower and louder for better comprehension.

Oh God. The math. “Um-” My mind churned grasping at any number that would pop into my head. I had no idea how many gallons his blazer held. All I could think about was killing the gas lines and take cover in the bathroom. Even if there was wasn’t a tornado I was tempted to do it anyway. The sooner I got those two out of the store the better. I started to say a number, any number, “Thirr-”

“A dollar forty five? That’s ridiculous!” She interrupted again, there was a hint of outrage in her voice. “I’m hungry. Is the Burger King down the road open?”

Before we could even start the transaction, he turned to his wife to scold her, “we are not going to Burger King.”

“I’m the one that is driving.”

“How many times have I told you not to interrupt me while I’m talking.”

Tornado sirens wailed again competing with the bickering as it ensued. My only two customers paid no attention as the first of the rain began to fall. The lights flickered and the machinery beeped to combat the brownout. The door alarm chirped as the side door swung open in the strong wind. Kill the bathroom and take cover in the gas lines, I thought to myself over and over. Then in a brief moment of zen I closed my eyes and silently prayed to be spirited far away from this place on the wings of the tornado. I never got my wish and business continued as usual.

Clean Hands

The icing on the package of glazed donuts clung perilously to the plastic in tiny creases right at the bar code. It was a struggle, a battle of wits and will as I tried to cash my customer out. I flattened the wrapper, flipped the thing over, and tried and tried at every angle. “I hope your hands are clean.” I heard the lady say faintly with a deprecatory tone in her voice.

“Excuse me?” I asked politely as I finally succeeded in ringing out her item.

“I said, I hope your hands are clean.” She repeated a little louder with a little more attitude.

“Don’t worry, Mam. My hands are clean.” On that note she left in a huff and I was grateful to see her go. Some customers rubbed me the wrong way. Chances were by the way she was dressed she was a nurse and would probably assault the package with an arsenal of antibacterial as soon as she got into work just to be safe.

The hours passed and I commenced with my shift. I still fumed over her remark. Where does she get off telling me how to do my job? Does she think I don’t know how to wash my hands? Is being a cashier is just so beneath her? “Wash my hands,” I grumbled aloud alone while I scrubbed down the cappuccino machine. Half of my job involved cleaning up after people. “I hope your hands are clean,” I repeated imitating her condescending voice and the way she seemed to look down her nose at me. Her thin lips twisted in a sneer. Then I could no longer hold back the rage. I retorted back too little too late all the things I could have said to her face if it wasn’t against company policy. “No lady my hands aren’t clean. They are absolutely filthy. I’m a fucking bio-hazard! I’ve been wallowing around ass deep digging through all of the trashcans. I’ve cleaned the mens’ room toilet without gloves on. Scraping shit off the inside of the toilet seat with my fingernails. I’ve even rubbed one off and touched every single one of these damned donuts in this godforsaken store! That’s right. I said masturbated! I’ve even- ” My litany was cut short for at that moment I realized a customer walked in and I wondered how much he heard.

 

 

 

Tumblety’s Spiel

While I am still working on the character bios and chapter outlines of my current story: Cocksmythe and Deeds I have decided to revisit this. And yes, three years later it is STILL a work in progress.

TerminalJournalism

A scene from an ongoing project of mine. A script about the infamous and illustrious career of Herbal Medicine Doctor and AmericanJack the Ripper suspect: Francis Tumblety.  So far, it is over a year in the making and I am pleased to say I have penned the first song. Yeah, it’s a musical.

 

EXT. STREET CORNER-AFTERNOON

FRANCIS TUMBLETY works the crowd as an Herbal Doctor, peddling his medicine. He strikes an imposing figure. Standing slightly over 6 feet, he is a head above the rest of the crowd, as they wave money and fight for his attention. Dressed in the most up to date fashion, he is clearly a man of means. Behind him is his equally amazing white stallion. What is most impressive about the well-spoken and charismatic gentleman is his mustache, dyed black to match his hair, it sweeps grandiosely off his upper lip. In fact…

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COCKSMYTHE and DEEDS: BROWN JENKINS

I am about three or four or five chapters into this story. I’m also working on the rest of the outline and getting down the character bios (of which are loosely based on awesome weirdo friends of mine.) It is a quasi- autobiography with a ton of Lovecraft. I’m pretty sure it takes place in the turn of the century (not the 1990s but the 1890s) Cumminsville, Ohio or around that time period, location, and dimension. There’s a lot of research that has to be done and a lot of writing. (Doing research is what got me into my current employment in a cemetery, by the way. ) Hopefully, I’ll actually finish a project this time as opposed letting it rest on the back burners like my gas station saga, the buddy comedy musical about Jack the Ripper suspects, and Boilertown.

I have skipped ahead in the plot and provided a bit of a backstory for two of these characters. In this chapter I have combined elements of Lovecraft’s “The Dreams in the Witch House,” with parts of an unpublished short story I wrote last year titled “The Thing in the Sewer Pipe.” I submitted it to few publications and only received rejection letters back so I cannibalized it. I am  also working on pictures to go with this story as well. 

 

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BROWN JENKINS

Max Granden bounded down the stairs and rounded the corner, skidding to a stop at the fireplace. He let out a shriek and froze as he caught a skittering motion out of the corner of his eye. For one horrible moment the rodent stopped moving and slowly turned its head to meet him with a steely gaze. The eyes were shaped like that of a man and so was the rest of his horrifying face. His lips spread out in a knowing smirk revealing prominent set of permanently stained brown teeth. It had disproportionately small human hands that he cupped in front of a hairy brown chest that bore a protruding rib cage. The rest of the body resembled an overlarge and underfed rat. Bony and twisted with tufts of scraggly tawny fur and trailing behind a long naked pink tail. “What?! Do you see that?” Mr. Granden risked a glance at Mister Blacken who stood frozen beside him. “Please tell me you see that.”

“Yes, I do. It’s staring right at us.” His face was drawn and a shade paler if such a thing was possible. “Human teeth. It has human teeth,” he muttered.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know.” They spoke in hushed tones, neither man nor vampire willing to move a muscle. “But I’m pretty sure that thing has been biting me in my sleep.” He whispered fixating upon monster’s mouth.

“You should kill it.” Max stated as he raised an hopeful eyebrow.

“What? How?”

“I don’t know-” He made a fluttering motion with his fingertips and then withdrew all fingers except for two which he made to resemble fangs.

“What.. no. I’m not- It knows what I taste like.”

“Me too,” he said sullenly for he had also woken up from his recent rash of fever dreams with bite marks on his flesh. Max Granden clamped his mouth shut and bit his bottom lip bitterly in defeat. Then it dawned on him and he snapped out of his funk. He tightened his jaw with new resolve for he had never felt so violated in his life. Once again aware of his surroundings he reached for the fireplace poker beside him and charged at the abomination with every intention to send it back to whatever hell the creature came from. But the brown beast was too quick and it squeezed through the open door and darted down the basement stairs. Mister Blacken grabbed his friend by the shoulder before he stumbled down after it.

Granden’s eyes bugged out. Saliva frothed at his mouth as he jumped and hollered again misunderstanding the gesture of goodwill and swung the poker at his new assailant.

“Stop that!” The vampire shouted and disappeared before the heavy spiraled spear of wrought-iron made contact. Instead it sailed down and smashed an ornately painted and gilded vase instead.

“That’s from the fifteenth century!” Max Granden cried out once he realized what he had done.

“Put that down!” Mister Blacken reappeared in the opposite corner of the room. “And will you please shut the door!”

“Okay.” The sad collector said forlornly and did what he was told. He closed off the basement and not a moment to soon. An unwholesome breeze wafted up from the cracks blowing back his hair as he stepped away from the door. The wind grew into a gust and it rattled on its hinges threatening to blow it open. A thunderous gale tore through the cellar and a brilliant flash of red and white light blasted through the crack and filled the dining room. A blinded Mister Blacken let out a sharp hiss but it was lost in what sounded like the very air being violently forced apart beneath their feet. Then all was quiet.

The pair was rendered unconscious, Maximilian Granden lay prone on the floor a few feet from where he once stood. His head barely missed the corner of the table as he fell. Mister Blacken slumped over sideways in the desk chair that was once his post in the corner. His eyes were open yet staring at nothing. Max Granden groaned from the floor as he came to. The discombobulation turned to fear for he found himself both deaf and sightless save for little flecks of red that faintly flickered from the blast. He could feel the pounding of his heart and the wind blowing between his hears or perhaps that was the blood that once again flowed to his brain. If he made sound he did not know it as he struggled to get up from the floor. Slowly, the heavy haze lifted and his vision unclouded save for a reddish tinge. One of the first things he focused on was the body his housemate. “Oh no,” he looked away from the dead eyes. His voice sounded as if he was underwater his limbs were just as heavy as the dense atmosphere bore down upon him. “Wake up,” he swung his partially useless arm in to the direction of Mister Blacken and landed a limp smack on his cheek for that was all he could muster. “Wake up,” he muttered again and slumped his shoulders. His arm dangled at his side. Mister Blacken did not move. A moment later, however, his eyes widened and so did his mouth. Max was swept off his feet and thrown across the room by a puff of black smoke. He hit the far wall and smashed through the canvas of a painting and cracked the drywall behind it. The collector felt his legs give out as Mister Blacken reappeared before him. His face filled with a blind rage. Max Granden closed his eyes for he could see his death approaching. Before he could sink further to the floor and hand gripped his arm and pulled him back to his feet. He opened his eyes to see the vampire looking reticent as he glanced about the room very wary of the idea other evil rat creatures darting about the room. “I have to get out of here.” He whispered bringing his face inches from Max Granden’s nose. His voice was filled with fear. “Now,” he scanned the room again and his gaze fell on the closed basement door. “It’s not safe.”

“What?” Max Granden asked once he realized he was not dying. “You’re leaving?”

“I suggest you do the same.” He let his former housemate go.

“Why?” The collector groaned when the ruined painting slipped off the wall behind him. He wasn’t ready to turn around assess the damage. “I can’t leave. This is my home and these are my things.”

“You’re mad!”

“I like it here,” Mr. Granden grinned.

“All right then… Good bye.” He turned to walk away.

“But I summoned you! This is your home now! Where will you go? ” Granden pleaded to his back.

“I’ll figure something out.”  Blacken walked out into the night.

Cocksmythe and Deeds

He was on her before she knew it. She didn’t even see him take the handcuffs out. “I know this sounds-” The words still hung on Miss Deeds’s tongue in a strangled attempt at an explanation.

“Crazy?” Detective Cocksmythe finished the sentence for her as he spun her around cuffing her wrists together. “Absolutely fucking insane?” his voice pitched up an octave. He was not prone to swearing. Unintentionally, he pinched her arms tighter. Her skin was cold, clammy, and yielded too easily. He almost let her go remembering how different she looked the night before. All tentacles and tendrils and full of wrath. “What are you? You’re one of them.”

“One what?”

“You know what I mean.” He thought he’d try a different approach. “Do you want to know what happened to me last night? I saw the world end. I spent the night in a mausoleum with a vampire…” he paused for a second to take in the absurdity of his statement. “Don’t do anything fishy,” he added at the last minute.

“Fishy, that’s funny,” her voice gurgled. He felt her body convulse against as she began to gag again. “Can you let me go? I have to-” she croaked and retched, only part of it was a feint. To her surprise he actually did let her go. Miss Deeds brought a hand up to her mouth to afford herself some modesty.

It was then Reginald Cocksmythe realized his prisoner was free. “Fishy,” he said dryly as he watched the cuffs drop to the ground.

“I have small wrists,” she rose both hands up in a defensive manner to prove she was unarmed.

“You’re still under arrest.” he crossed his arms and stood in resolution.

“On what grounds?”she said and scoffed

“Oh,” he began, already knowing he was going to enjoy this. “One, two… two counts of breaking and entering, possession of an illegal substance, weaponry and stolen goods, intoxication, and just because I am a bit of an asshole public indecency.”

Miss Deeds blustered.

“Gross public indecency, Damage of property, assault and battery, animal cruelty…would you like for me to continue? Because I will continue. Or better yet, I won’t have you arrested I’ll have you carted away to Willoughby. If you don’t start explaining to me what the hell is going on!”

“Hell, that’s exactly it.” Miss Deeds looked solemn her tone resigned, “I know this looks bad but-” She heaved a sigh and threw up her hands again for she found there was no way to soften the blow. There was no silver lining.

“But-” Growing increasingly impatient Detective Cocksmythe gave the inclination that he was waiting, “But what-” he pointed to his discarded cuffs.

“That’s it. There is no but.”

“Meaning?”

“We’re screwed, the end. The world is collapsing in on itself-”

“Look, lady, or whatever you are, talking this kind of crazy is what drove us into this mess in the first place. Hell, maybe I should have myself committed, because it has driven me right around the bend. You can be a figment of my imagination for all I know. Better yet, if you don’t start elaborating on how the world is going to end right now I’ll check us both in.”

“Padded walls won’t do you any good,”she continued in her dire tone. There was a hopeless look in her eyes.

He patted the butt of his truncheon, “I will use force if I have to.”

“Some one had a bad night.” Miss Deeds chided.

“Don’t make me ask twice.”

“Look, Detective, I don’t know where to start”

“How about the beginning? Just throwing it out there.”

“The-the-” she stammered for the words but they were all jumbled, the whole story was mashed together and pieces of it were missing. It was non-sequential. “You’re beginning to make me think that maybe I am crazy. Okay, okay. The beginning. Let me see me see if I can say this in a way you can understand… The Old Gods, you know, the ones that created this world are gunning for us. They got the world before this one and now they’ re on to ours. Just ask your bedfellow, the vampire-”

“He is not-”

Miss Deeds ignored the interjection and continued her mad half-rant, half-explanation. “He came from there. The Ancient Ones, they thin the void between the worlds by spreading the spores of madness and chaos. It won’t be long before they bridge the gap and swallow us whole.”

Reggie Cocksmythe just stared at her, he opened his mouth to speak but instead let out a befuddled bluster of air.

“And that will be the end of us all.”

“All right, even if what you say is true, how do you know all of this?” He finally found his words as they spewed out of his mouth.”Where is your proof? And you haven’t answered my first question, what are you?”

“Cursed. Every night I drown in my sleep. Turns out it is not a dream. I usually have it under control. The change is a slow progression I’ve noticed… but I got a healthy dose of the spores as well and things kind of got out of hand.”

Reggie Cocksmythe took a gander at a reply. “So you’re slowly turning into a fish?”

“Pretty much. It turns out that happens to everyone where I’m from.”

“I see,” he said his voice was glib. “So what do you hope to gain from all this? And let’s say that the world is actually ending-”

“It is ending, you saw it happen-” she pleaded.

Reginald Cocksmythe ignored her and continued his interrogation, “what do you plan to do it about it?”

Miss Deeds looked dead serious. “Break a curse, kill some Gods, and if I can’t find a way off this blasted rock we call Earth, I will die trying.” Her eyes lit up for a moment as she looked up to Agent Cocksmythe with a glimmer of what looked like hope in her far set eyes. “Are you with me? Can you help?”

He thought about it for a minute, pursing his lips together in concentration, almost opened his mouth to say something but shook his head instead. This was too much crazy for him to handle. More than anything he wanted to pretend it all never happened. The sooner he got away from her the better. With new resolve he bent down to pick up the handcuffs. “If I ever see you around here spreading your madness about the end of the world you will be watching the Apocalypse happen from a cell in Willoughby. Do I make myself clear?” He watched her face fall as the faint flicker of hope was snuffed out. She nodded as she watched him turn and walk away.

Dark Days on the Dixie Highway: Diary of a Third Shift Zombie- Chapter Outlines

I have compiled two years of stories, numerous notes, and journal entries of working third shift as a customer service representative at a gas station. They are harsh and harrowing and often humorous tales of a rather dark time in my life. Not just because of the lack of sunlight. There are tornadoes, packs of roving children, dead babies, bowel movements, demanding customers, bitchy bosses, a million pennies, and some pretty horrifying holidays. My short-lived career of a CSR tested my wits and will, the fortitude of my character, my moral compass, as well as my mettle as a writer.

Once assembled into one large file, I began the laborious process of rereading, elaborating, categorizing, and organizing these narratives into something that vaguely resembles a book. So far I have ten chapters broken down into over sixty odd and various entries. Some stories span pages upon pages while others are mere sentences long. There are also bits and pieces of a musical I entertained the notion of composing while working there. What I have down so far is not set in stone. I am sure a lot of it will be moved around, combined, or even cut out.

I was often told that my early morning facebook rants after a long and loathsome shift should be turned into a book. So, I am doing just that. I hope to finish, format, work on a cover, and shop around for a publisher sometime in the near future. With another published book under my belt I plan to sell the hell out of it and move on with my life to far more grand and glorious adventures.

Intro: How To Be Subhuman

Chapter One: Sin and Cigarettes
I got the Job and Touchdown Jesus Burned
The Root of All Evil
Gratuitous Violence

Chapter Two: Bad Weather
The Argument
Night of the Twister
Below Zero

Chapter Three: The Lost Children
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies pt 2
Gone Girls
The Lost Boys
The Baby, the Drugs, and the Lost Hotdog

Chapter Four: Loose Change
Sesame Street
The Time Traveler
Country Crock
Silver Certificate
300 Pennies

Chapter Five: Customer Service Superstar
Clean Hands
Customer Service Superstar
The Customer is Always Right
The Tailbone of America
(excerpts from The Tailbone of America: The Musical)
Midol, Ohio
What Boulevard
“911 whats your Emergency”
“Do I look like a Fucking Restaurant”
The Payout

Chapter Six: Degenerates
Cops
Drug Problem
Barn Door
Drunk Muscles
Hookers
Below the Belt
A Stripper in Need
Bondage Guy
The Blunt

Chapter Seven: Endless Shit Parade
“If it looks like shit, clean it. If it is shit, wear gloves.”
Another Bag of Piss

Chapter Eight: “Happy” Holiday
A Christmas Dirge
Happy New Year
The Easter Fetus
God Bless Baby
Big Toasty
Kilt Lifter
All Holidays are Drinking Holidays

Chapter Nine: Major Malfunction
Crappachino
Ketchup
Log Jam

Chapter Ten: Darker Days
Rope-A-Roni
Robberies
Bad Reasoning
Sweet Merciful Explosions
Punch Drunk
Gas Station Horror Story
Beervalaches and Bitch Tornadoes
Random Song Lyrics
The Deathwish
Dark Night of the Soul
No Week Notice

DARK DAYS ON THE DIXIE HIGHWAY: DIARY OF A THIRD SHIFT ZOMBIE

It has been while since I posted anything here. The Boilertown book may be on the back burner (much like my musical comedy about Jack the Ripper suspects) but fear not for I have another project underway. And by underway I mean I have compiled, formatted, edited, and embellished 104 pages so far of my newest manuscript. It is a darker, harsher, and even more harrowing tale of my two year reign as a third shift gas station customer service representative. It is called DARK DAYS ON THE DIXIE HIGHWAY: DIARY OF A THIRD SHIFT ZOMBIE. Below is an excerpt of the introduction which has a heavy dose of foreshadowing.

How to be Subhuman

He squatted outside the convenience store with his back pressed up against the bricks hugging his knees as he stared off into the night. His eyes were wide and his skin was pale as if it had been a while since the unfortunate looking third shift cashier had seen the sun. Something was off about the guy like he was subhuman almost anthropomorphic. Whatever he was he wasn’t quite right. “My,” I drunkenly remarked aloud as I passed weaving my way inside. “He looks positively… Simian.” It wasn’t the exact word I was looking for and something told me that the statement should have stayed inside my head. “I hope I don’t turn out like that.” Perhaps I said this a little too loudly. For an instant our eyes met. He shrugged and took a drag of his cigarette before clipping it. Will that be my fate? I wondered. My mind raced as he cashed out my purchases. His detached gaze was disconcerting. It was as if he did not look directly at his customer but stared deep into the blank spaces of reality behind me. Am I going to turn into some kind of half deranged half brain -dead manimal like him? A saucer-eyed subterranean dweller like something out of an HG Wells novel. A Morlock or even one of those mad man-beasts from the Island of Doctor Moreau. What depraved and sleep deprived depths would I reach and how far am I willing to go? It wasn’t a question of if it would happen but when. When will I undergo my own transmutation? Soon I was to join their ranks.

BOILERTOWN: The Most Foul Stench Imaginable.

Photo by Larry Combs

Photo by Larry Combs

This excerpt is taken from the chapter “I Need More Guns.” In which Fenmore LeMerde gets a heavy dose of foreshadowing.

Enveloped in the warm metallic tones of brass, copper, and gold his new best friend Orby blinked slow and methodically charging on a stand next to Fenmore LeMerde’s head. The red light kept rhythm with his soft snoring as he slumped over his desk. “I need more guns,” he mumbled and flexed his trigger finger. It was a rare occurrence that the heir to Boilertown slept. When he did it was for an indeterminate amount of time and there was no waking him up. “More-” This time the air was different, it carried a heavy acrid odor. “What-” Suddenly roused, he picked his head off the work desk. Then he heard it. A voice called out down the hall. “Hey! Who’s there?” Fenmore LeMerde shouted. It was the first time in a very long time that heard a voice that was not his own. But after a spell he began to wonder. He could barely make out the words. It was like an echo before he even spoke. He woke up Orby and wound his way out of the study. Sound swept strangely through the sprawling halls of LeMerde Manor. He held his breath and listened just to make sure he wasn’t the one who caused the echo. Following the voice he walked past numerous doors to tightly packed quarters. “Hello?” He asked when he heard a very familiar person. Himself. “What?” He put his hand on the door knob hesitant to enter. By the tone of his voice there was no doubt he would find himself in a frantic situation.

“Good bye LeMerde” He heard himself say from inside the room.
“Me?” Fenmore LeMerde called out to the other Fenmore LeMerde.
“Good bye LeMerde” He repeated those words over and over until it sounded like he gave up hope.
“All those lives lost.” He heard a woman say in a far away voice. Her anguish was palpable.
“No… Noooooooo,” Just then a third person growled in a low animalistic and angry voice.“Baaaad Gretttaaaahhhhh.”
“Whats going on?” Quite confused the corporeal Fenmore LeMerde asked from the hallway. “Who’s with you- me?” As if in answer a very noxious odor wafted up from below. Very deep down below as if the smoldering caldera that Boilertown was built upon belched up something foul. The incendiary air burned his nostrils and made him cough. He burst through the door fearing the worst.