So, I've had this job for about five months. Shift starts at 10:00 PM, no exceptions, and usually ends around 6:00 AM. I can't tell you much about my employers, but I can tell you about some of the work. Every night, I'm given a set list of tasks. These can be as simple as a pick-up list for collecting materials, or as complex as negotiating with acquaintances for the company. The way I see it, I'm the mail-boy. Sometimes it's even that literal.
I should make it clear that, while there are worse jobs, this one brings me little enjoyment. It pays well, so I do the work. There isn't a higher paying job in my area, so it's stuck. People talk about finding your life's purpose, and I guess I found it. I'm not an artist, an engineer, but I can work a car and follow instructions. Friends in my life are few and far between. Only a couple are aware of my work, and the ones that do, want to hear more. So I've decided to make this blog, to share the stories of what it's like to be the night worker here. I've got a lot of stories. The one I'll tell you tonight happened at the start.
I'd just gotten the job that week. It was the third night, and I was already hating it. My manager calls me a quarter into the shift, says there's an extension to the list. By then I'm pulling my hair out, but he assures me, "It's fine. This is going to be fairly easy, it's just going to take time." He says the list is back at the main desk. "Get started within the hour, and follow it EXACTLY." So I sigh, take a sip of coffee, and go to pick up the list.
When I get there, the building lights are mostly off. The main desk has a few lamps that are always lit for security, but otherwise the place is a corporate tomb. The list waiting for me there is in fact, not a list, more like an instruction manual. I flip past eight pages in disbelief, realizing the kind of night this was going to be. They damn had my work cut out for me.
At first, it's nothing special. The night goes by with the boring monotony of the previous two, until I get to the final page. It's about 3:30, I'm waiting to pass out, and my eyes pass a set of instructions telling me to "visit this carrier at X address. Talk to worker X, pick up supplies, return, do whatever he tells you to do." As often as it happens, I've never hated vague orders any less.
After entering the location in my GPS, I see the place is all the way across town. It's a good hour-long drive, and I'm already grinding my teeth trying to stay awake. Getting in the knack of being awake at those hours is easy with time, but enduring the first few days is always a bitch. Coffee doesn't even work as effectively as it should at those hours. Thankfully, the company car has a decent radio. I'm more of a smooth jazz person myself, but tonight I needed something to keep me focused. I dialed until a talk show came up, then stared at the dashes, trying my damnedest not to close my eyes.
By the time I got there, my mind felt numb, dull from sitting for so long. I'd nearly forgotten I was going somewhere, until the GPS signaled I was nearing the destination. I made a couple turns, staring at the sparse line of buildings that looked out from either side of the road. When I pulled up to the place, I thought for just one moment that I had entered in the wrong address.
It's a towering house, a mansion if it were any larger. I follow the instructions, parking the car, and waiting. The windows are to be kept raised. If there is no response in fifteen minutes, I would flash the high-beams once. If nothing else for another five minutes, knock on the front door. If not then, then never. I'd get back in the car, cross the item off the list, and get to the next tasks.
It ends up being the whole fifteen minutes. I stare at broken window slats the whole time with the radio off. I remember think that it's at least better than the tedious stuff. This is just the mercy of waiting. Nothing happens, and I start to wonder if I've got the wrong house. I get out, lock the door, and head up the walkway. No sooner than my fist hits the door, it opens. The darkness is so think I can't see a thing past the threshold. I can hear a TV blasting cartoons somewhere inside. I state a "pardon?" but it's a few seconds before there's a response.
"Oh. Hello. H-how are you this morning?"
I already don't like this guy's tone. His voice is like a razor blade down my back. I tell him that I need to speak, and in the light of the driveway. There's the unnervingly long pause again, then he gives an "OK." Something about the way he says it, odd and high-pitched, almost puts a grimace on my face. I turn to walk back, then he asks if I'm the new guy. The instructions made no mention of this. I decide for the middle ground, telling him that I'm a transfer of a different branch of the same work. The guy's laugh in ever creepier, and I turn mid-way down the walk to see he's stepped outside with me.
He looks like a corpse on adderall. If I hadn't been mentally fried I would have shit myself just seeing him. His visible skin is scarred, scratched, growing thin patches of hair on his arms and legs. If I didn't know any better, he probably is dead. The eyes in his sockets were glazed over, staring in separate, crooked directions. I try to ignore these things. I call up the instructions to the forefront of my memory, and ask for "two sealed packages, both with red labels." He nods, asking in that unhinged voice if I need anything else. Rather than being verbal, I shake my head. The guy walks off, back into the darkness of his house. At that point I wondered if it even was his house to begin with. Against my expectations, he shuts the door behind him. This detail throws me off a moment, but I figure it probably means I won't see him for awhile. For this, I'm thankful. The instructions were vague once again on this part, but I figured waiting in the car wouldn't hurt.
It takes a long time for that door to open again. It's quiet aside from the faint noise of a TV show, then even that seems to go off. I hear a scream somewhere inside that makes my knees go limp. All that time, those instructions are repeating over and over in my mind. Keep the windows raised. Ensure the doors remain locked on your vehicle. I don't think the company is quick to make blatant warnings, but I think they were trying to raise a red flag. Not usual, but not uncommon either.
Finally the front door of the house swings open. Mr. Deceased walks out, carrying two boxes stacked one on the other. He gets down the steps, all the way to the car, and sets them down by the backseat doors. I give him a thumbs up, and I try to politely signal him to just leave them there. He's not taking it though. The guy shouts for me to unlock the door so he can put them in for me. I pause, and suddenly I don't want to be there at all. Period. His grin seems much larger on his face, like he's trying to be friendly, but his eyes reveal the lie. That's no man in there, I remember thinking. Someone whose body exists here to rot, but his mind is in a different place. Then I thought I could hear that TV from inside again.
Nothing else is working, so I honk the horn. My hands swipe back to front, and I turn on the high beams. That smile vanished from his face in an instant, and his eyes stare like moldy eggs. I honk one last time, and he sidesteps away. Those eyes never leave me, not until he passes the threshold and the door shuts. I wait a few minutes, hop out of the seat, and get those boxes into the car with the speed of a terrified child. I swear I can feel those moldy eyes looking at me from those broken slats the whole time. Moments later, I'm driving out, trying to get that face out of my mind's eye.
When I do these little "mail-boy" jobs, I usually lack interest in the task itself, and of course the items involved. This time though, it was all I could think about. I almost didn't want to touch those boxes, like I'd catch whatever disease had infested... Whoever that guy was.
All that time, I swear something is moving in the backseat. Obviously, I'm paranoid is hell; I'm afraid that guy somehow hid back there when I saw him go behind that door. He wouldn't even have time to crawl back and hide in the first place. The drive back to the company building seems much faster than the way there, and I get those damn boxes off my hands. I stack them, carry the lot through the door, leave it all behind the mail desk.
It gets me though. Carrying those packages, I could swear there was something inside them. Moving. Shifting and clicking like oversized insect eggs. Believe me, I had no interest in knowing what was under all that cardboard and wrapping.
There's lots of things like these that happen. Every day there's bound to be something new. It's not interesting all the time, but there's enough to keep you on your toes, thinking. Some jobs, like that one, I try not to think too hard about.
Stories here are plenty. You'll get another one soon enough.
Thank you so much for checking out A Night Worker's Journal. The two other parts of this story are on their way, and I appreciate all criticism and critique—so lend me your thoughts!
If you liked this, you may be interested in reading "Darkest of Dreams" published by DimensionBucket Media—which features short stories from myself and three other deranged authors: https://www.amazon.com/Darkest-Dreams-Christopher-Warren-ebook/dp/B073WPKMDC/
And of course stay tuned over at http://www.midnightauthor.com for my upcoming books and other projects.
We'll see you in the next one, readers. Sweet dreams.