The Closing Shift

by Imani Felder

The Closing Shift

Dino’s Café was stuck between a gas station and a dance studio. The building had been there since anyone could remember. If anything, it’s been there longer than the town. The squared building was painted neutral brown and grey tones, but the florescent sign across the front illuminated the place so that anyone could see it from any angle. Even with the water damage, the cracked cement on the patio, and missing two of the four patio tables, business was always booming. Something drew the crowds. Maybe it was the atmosphere, or the stories people told about the place. No one knew.

Sienna was a young college student, just turned twenty-two. She’d been at the café for a year now and she was to have her first visit. Joe, the regional manager, was coming to see all the stores and make sure everything was good. Sienna had heard multiple stories about him and the general manager, Rocky, never spoke highly of him.

“He’s a white glove kind of guy. Uptight and damn obnoxious so we gotta get this place past his standards.” Rocky said one cold day in December.

Sienna hadn’t responded as she didn’t even know who the guy was.

Caleb, her coworker, chimed in. “Yeah, I heard he lost his brother, Robin, right after he gained his position here. Like they both worked at this location and then suddenly he was never seen again while Joe has just grown in the company ever since.”

Rocky snorted. “He could’ve killed him with boredom for all I know. I’ve got to sit in meetings with this guy so if one of you could kill me, I’d give you a raise.”

Sienna giggled and nodded her head. “We will get the tasks done boss, don’t worry about it.”


Sienna stood on her tiptoes on the ladder, sleeves pushed up her shoulder blades as she scrubbed the ceiling tiles. Soapy water rushed down her arm and the heat of it did nothing to combat the humidity surrounding her.

The closing shift usually consisted of the air conditioner turned off for a period. While it helped with her task, it made the pungent smells within the shop worse. She had only added a dash of bleach, but the chemical was fumigating and burning her eyes. It was her first time doing this task, she wanted to get it right the first time and she knew bleach could do the job.

She paused to wipe her eyes on her shirt when she heard movement above her. The pounding was as if someone was just inches from her head.

“Caleb?” Sienna hollered out.

“Yes, my darling?”

“Did you hear that?”

Caleb appeared from the back, both hands wet. “No, I didn’t hear anything. You’re not trying to scare me, are you?”

“I-I’m not. I just -” Sienna looked up at the ceiling.

“I’m messing with you. Just call me if you hear anything else.” Caleb laughed and disappeared.

Sienna looked at the clock before she continued her task. She moved to her next tile and as she applied the towel to the ceiling, a tile fell from across the room, closest to where Caleb just stood.

It was then she smelled something worse than the heat.

It smelled like rot. The smell of decay and roadkill.

Sienna peeked up into the hole in the ceiling before she clamped a hand over her nose. She gagged, backed away, and ran toward the back of the store.

The back of house area had more lights, and not many shadows to hide in. The oven and proof box were silent and still, and to the right were the baking and prep tables clean and properly sanitized. The shelves beside these tables were tall and looming, packed tight and neat with dry goods and paper products. Straight back, the cooler door was propped open, the cool air seeped out as Caleb mopped the floor, and brown water leaked out onto the tiles.


The man looked up from his task, dark eyes furrowed. “Are you sick or something?”

As he walked closer, he stopped short of Sienna and covered his nose. “Whoa, what the hell is that smell?”

“The tile fell and then this smell just came out, I don’t know,” Sienna said, her eyes watered.

Caleb covered his nose with his arm sleeve and led the way up front. The ceiling tile was indeed on the floor by the order-taking station. The cushioning on the title was black and green with mold. Caleb looked up into the hole.

Sienna gagged again and stepped back.

“I don’t see anything…”

Caleb stepped back a little. “I think I see something.”

“What? Like a dead animal or something?”

Caleb didn’t answer.

Sienna stepped closer to him. “What? What is it?”

“I think I see eyes.”


Long, scaly, moldy arms reached down and gripped Caleb’s shoulders. Sienna jumped back and tripped over her foot.

She fell to the floor.

Caleb screamed and kicked as he was yanked up into the ceiling like a rag doll.


She lay there; mouth open as his limp body dropped back down where he once stood. Her eyes watered, her vision blurred as his solid white eyes looked back at her.

“Caleb?” Sienna asked, her voice low but something else responded.

The voice croaked and groaned. “The purest souls taste the best, you know?”

Sienna whimpered. The head the voice belonged to poked its head from the open ceiling tile, their eyes a swirling darkness which stared at her without a blink.

The girl could only gasp as the creature leaped down from the ceiling and stood to his full height. He was a horrific sight. His skin was scattered in sores and bloody patches, mold was growing like moss across his skin. His clothing was tattered, showing off even more of his repulsive skin and the smell only got stronger as his bare feet moved towards her.

Sienna shivered, her eyes watched as a good amount of his scarred skin cleared up, enough that she saw bits of his original skin color, and a bit of humane bone structure.

“I’ve been taking a bit of souls here since I can remember…but that soul tasted so good.” The creature murmured. His eyes looked to Sienna, and he seemed to smile. “No one’s disturbed me there before. Joe never allowed it before and then came you.”

“What-what are you talking about?” Sienna asked. She scooted back as he stepped towards her. Out of her peripheral vision, the front door was a straight shot from her right. She could see car lights passing by.

“He must’ve known you two would be the purest souls, he had to have right? He chose you two, they all chose you.”

Sienna blinked and shook her head. “You’re not making any sense. I wasn’t chosen! I’m just a student I don’t understand.”

The creature inhaled deep and set his dark eyes on Caleb and as he turned his head, she scrambled up from the floor and ran.

The creature lunged and grabbed the strings of her apron and yanked her back. The force pulled her right to him.

He grabbed her head and tilted it back despite her struggle. The smell made her gag as his black eyes stared into hers. He forced his bloody fingers into her mouth to open it and inhaled.

Sienna gagged again and she could feel a piece of herself break away, her body jerked as he sucked in more of her again. She could see a white smoke lift from her mouth and the more of her he took, the weaker her knees felt.

Sienna kicked and punched, and she threw herself out of his grasp. He stumbled to the ground from the force as she tumbled away and landed hard on her shoulder.

The creature stood up and she choked on nothing as she could see his skin repair itself. Sienna pushed off the floor and gripped a table to stand. The room spins and the heat doesn’t help. Everything she consumed came up only for her to swallow it down.

Sienna dropped to the floor and crawled to the door. “Please, don’t do this.”

The creature grinned, the splotches and scars healing as he walked alongside the dying girl.

“I was sent to the darkness, left there to replace my brother’s born fate. I will not go back.”

The creature had her again, this time the strength of his grasp was crushing her skull.

The creature’s mouth enlarged, and he inhaled and consumed Sienna’s soul. The color in her eyes slipped away to black, and her skin ripped and tore. Open sores and wrinkles scratched their way across her body until there was nothing left.

Her body crumbled to the ground and the creature stood to his full height.

He stood in front of the door, his reflection looked back at him. His vibrant green eyes looked at the healthy man who stood before him. His skin is bouncy and fresh, veins.

“I know you’re still there.” He said after a moment. “They’ll be here for you soon. If I were you, to hide would be your only chance.”

The man took one more look at Sienna before he unlocked the door and exited the shop.

Sienna lay there. Her insides curled within themselves, and she felt the exposure of air in every part of her and tears slipped out of her eyes.

She dragged herself across the floor, screaming as the movement tore more skin.

Blood and skin were left in her wake.

She climbed the ladder, pushed into the ceiling tile, and pulled herself inside.

It’s there in the damp, dark space she resided, waiting.

About the author

Imani Felder is a novelist who is pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. She specializes in the romance, historical fiction, and mystery genres. She has a publication in CafeLitMagazine. She is an avid movie goer, likes to travel, and has a cat named Salem.

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