Or, A Late-Night Snack
Far from the comforting warmth of daylight,
in a world cloaked in shadow,
our darkest and most primal fears fester,
waiting for the chance to consume us whole
as we lay awake, forever unable to sleep,
here in the midnight hour.
Or, A Late-Night Snack
ANONYMOUS: Mr. Brixby stepped out for his nightly smoke at a little past one in the morning. Fifteen minutes later, I’m watching him get his arms plucked off behind a dumpster.
I’d been working at the El Dorado for about two, three years by that point. I was hired to cover the swing shift a few nights a week, then it just sort of took over my whole life. Eventually, they had me working mornings and graveyard so often that it felt like I lived there as much as everyone else.
Mr. Brixby was what we called a “long-term resident.” Most of our guests were. Not that there were ever many guests for much of the year. Not outside the summer tourists. It wasn’t exactly anyone’s first-choice. And the ones who stuck around weren’t exactly there by choice, if you get what I mean. Mr. Brixby was one of those. He said he was there for work, but I don’t think any of us knew what he actually did for a living. But he was a nice guy. Paid his rent on time. Loved to talk about the latest tech toy he’d picked up somewhere. This one time, he came back from wherever with this 3D camcorder. Remember those?
Anyway. When he wasn’t out doing whatever it is he did when he wasn’t there, Mr. Brixby was usually in his room. The only time he ever stepped out before morning was for his nightly smoke. In fact, he was in a smoking room. Had been the whole time he lived there. So, I never understood why he always stepped out to smoke in the parking lot, same time every night. I’d say it was for the fresh air, but...
When I worked graveyard, I’d empty out the lobby trash cans and join him. We’d just talk about his latest toy, movies. Not the most stimulating conversation, I guess. But his weed was great. And plentiful.
The night it all happened, I was working graveyard. And I saw Mr. Brixby step out that night too, same time, same way. But before I could get to all the cans and join him, this couple came stumbling in, belching and farting something about needing a room for the night. If they hadn’t been so drunk, I wouldn’t have taken so long to get out there. Or maybe I should’ve just told them to kick rocks - it wouldn’t have been the first time. And I think about that a lot, ya know. If I had just gotten out there sooner, maybe, uh, Mr. Brixby wouldn’t...
Anyway. I get out there some fifteen minutes later, and I don’t see Mr. Brixby anywhere. His car’s parked back there. Not even a whiff of smoke. Just me, a bunch of dripping garbage bags, and a dark, empty lot.
So, I go to the dumpster.
Working graveyard at a motel, you see your fair share of freaks and crazy shit. I’ve seen people hiding in other people’s rooms. I’ve been threatened by people meth’d out of their mind. We even got cursed once, this family we kicked out laid out these weird, I dunno... markings? They drew markings in salt at the front entrance as they left with all their shit. But you never expect to see a man being...
(SIGHS) I know what the cops and papers said, but it wasn’t some coyote. I was there, not them. I saw them. And, look. I know it sounds how it sounds. But there were two... At first, I thought it was a couple of homeless guys digging in the dumpster. It happens. But...
One of them was holding Mr. Brixby there by the arm, twisting it, and he’s got Mr. Brixby doubled over on his knees, like this. And his eyes are screaming - I see his eyes looking at me looking at him, and I can see they’re screaming - but nothing’s coming out his mouth. And the other one is there, just off to the side, eating Mr. Brixby’s other arm. Just gnawing and tearing away at it like, uh... like one of those big turkey legs you get at the fair.
And then, I screamed.
The cops showed up not long after. One of our other guests must have heard me out there screaming and called. But by the time they got there, those two... I told the police the same thing I told the papers, and somehow they turned it into a story about a coyote attack. But I told them I saw two homeless men attacking Mr. Brixby and that they both took off running, over the fence and into the river trail.
Truth is, I don’t know what I saw that night. Or maybe I know exactly what I saw, and I can’t even admit it to myself. But whatever I saw, I guess my screaming scared them off. And I did see where they went. But they didn’t run. And they didn’t head for the river trail.
My family didn’t exactly live in the best part of town when I was growing up. I still don’t, really. It was never bad, but... This is an old town. There’s a lot of the old sewer lines and drainage running beneath any given block, ya know? So even in the nicest house on the nicest street, you’re likely to find a cockroach here and there - those big ones that look like they could run off with a small dog if it tried. They crawl out of the sink, out of the bathtub. Had one climb out of our toilet once. When I screamed, those things dropped what was left of Mr. Brixby, fluttered these fleshy flaps or wings on their back, and scurried down an old storm drain. I don’t know how, but they... squeezed and slipped right down through that small hole. (SNAPS FINGERS) Just like that.
Just like that.
The chill of night brings with it a still darkness,
brings with it an alluring promise of peace.
Till the light of day warms your cold bones,
may your eyes never rest,
and may those little slices of death never come.
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