Drowning…it’s always drowning. Why is it always drowning? I’d open my eyes and found myself in a churning ocean, a sinking ship in front of me, during a storm and in the dead of night as something pulled me deeper and deeper…other times, I wake up finding myself chained to a chair thrown into a river…once or twice its been cinderblocks tied to my ankles as I was thrown in a pool. It’s always drowning…it’s always at night…and I always die.
I gasped sharply inwards as I opened my eyes finding myself back at work. Working the graveyard shift at a diner in the middle of Manhattan. Literally nothing happening around me save for the cook behind me dancing to Madonna while doing inventory: the city may never sleep, but this neighborhood sure does become dead at this hour. The diner is a block away from Wall Street so when everyone leaves work it gets packed in here with stock brokers and other super rich business executives getting dinner before returning to wherever they live while talking about who’s got the hotter mistress, whose wife if the worst, who’s got the most annoying yes man, who’s slept with the secretaries the most often or who’s got the largest multi-million dollar business deal.
Not many come in at four in the morning though. My shift started at ten at night and goes to six in the morning when I swap out for the day shift waitstaff and host, because of the hours I work, I’m really the only other person in here. No idea how the person before me did this every…single day, I only just got this shift this week and hadn’t ever worked it before. It’s my shift graveyard shift like this, so I had already lined my pockets with all of the tips from the business execs, though they’re all terrible tippers, they’ll have a bill over forty dollars and tip me five dollars or worse, once was only tipped a business card. I’ve seen some weird things happening outside this late: I saw a stray cat walking down the street dragging what looked like a rat the size of a Doberman behind it, I thought I saw someone, but their lower face was just a mess of tentacles, I could have sworn I saw a dog walking down the street and walk up a homeless person when the person’s face just split in an X shape and seemed to swallow the dog hole and in an instant. I thought it was just hallucinations caused from being up so, so late, having been awake for so long and living on caffeine.
As the clock struct four, as on the dot as possible, the door to the diner opened and a figure walked in, wordlessly walked over to the corner booth as they sat back and set a case beside them as they looked out the large windows towards the street. I stood up from leaned over in the back and put my customer service face and voice on as I took his order and things of that sort, even though its so early in the morning, he ordered coffee and he tipped extremely well when he was done, maybe 40-50%.
It was the second night of my shift, that again as the clock struct four they walked in, ordered coffee along with standard breakfast fare that I decided…to pay attention a bit more so to them and I could have sworn I saw…scales skirting across their face as they rose a hand looking at a pocket-watch. Their face turned and when I met their eyes, it was like I had been plunged into the deepest icy cold water, like my breath was ripped out of my lungs. I actually couldn’t see for a second or two from.
“Run…they can’t find you” A voice I didn’t recognize seemed to burn through my head and when my vision cleared, the guy was gone as was his things, the bill I had just given him in front of me along with another very, very heft tip.
Almost immediately after my vision came back to me, I looked up to see what I could have sworn was a massive squid skirting down an alleyway. I looked down towards the bill and money given, the bill was only about fifteen or so dollars, but they had tipped me well over that because the bill was paid for and tipped with a fifty.
Who is that guy…who was that voice…and what the hell is happening outside of the diner at four in the morning?