I cut and drag another bite of hash browns through the ketchup on my plate. This isn’t so bad. Hopping diners until this whole thing blows over.
Waffle House, just FYI, is the hub of some of the best drunken food. I have made some of my best memories here. Not to mention the finest gourmet grill food in all the land, and you see so many interesting characters pass on through.
This is a great place for people watching.
Sit at a Waffle House somewhere, stare out the window, you can follow people with your eyes, watch them walk from their car and watch them step through the doors, these are real people, with real stories, you do not know what they’ve gone through, what brings them here?
The food? Certainly. Refuge from a storm, winding down from a wild night out?
Maybe they’re taking a break from the hospital food down the road, trying to process what it will be like if their loved one doesn’t make it through another night. Maybe this isn’t their first choice for dining out, but they’re down on their luck, lost their job or got cut hours and had to settle for a more economical option.
Every life is a story.
I love stories. I eat stories.
Now though, while these people are each their own a unique saga... the ones you ought to look out for are the ones that pass through those glass doors that you did not see walk up from a car - the ones you didn’t see outside at all.
The people that otherwise might go unnoticed. The ones that seem to appear out of nowhere and return in the time it takes to look back down at the menu.
And they’ve been coming through here much more regularly.
One of my favorites had been a really cute one that came through just a couple of months ago. I’m pretty sure I knew her from Facebook, but approaching her would have been super awkward. Not long after she left, some really gross sweaty guys in suits came in and looked around.
They must have gotten lost on their way to IHOP.
So yea, it’s been kind of been a madhouse of suits and PunKs for a while now, and I’m kinda just watching the show from one of the few seats with an electrical socket nearby.
Beth from behind the counter brings me my Texas melt and refills my coffee. She’s sweet. She can’t help but feel like she’s seen me before or that she’d already brought me my order 5 separate times already. She smiles at me and I smile back, as I pull the notion from her mind and stir it into my coffee.
Sugar’s bad for you and so is sweetener, but a little suspicion never hurt no one.
I finish my coffee and the last bite of my sandwich, look down to find I’ve carelessly dropped a bit of hash brown in my lap, and some in the space on the bench between my legs.
I’m not normally this messy, I eat it up all the same. I don’t really need to abide by any 5 second rule. If I get the Coronavirus, I’d eat that too.
I should go for a walk in a bit, work off my second lunch, and explore the town I’m in today. I look up to ask for the check, as I’m ready to pay. I’m not a complete scumbag.
As I look up for Beth, the lights flicker and I hear a hushed buzzing of whispers and wind.
The lights don’t just flicker; the space does. And suddenly The Waffle House goes dark.
It’s empty. Cool moonlight is peering through drift wood boards. It’s nighttime.
Across the way, the window is broken, and vines have grown on into the building. The entrance is chained up and broken glass and dirt lay across the floors.
This happens when you don’t tip your server. Sorry Beth.
Someone somehow, somewhere, probably here, plucked me right out of my seat and anchor me to this atrocity, a closed Waffle House.
I stand from my seat and take a step. Broken glass crunches under my shoe- movement outside. A shadow cuts across the beams of moonlight.
I hear snarls.
A crash of pans from behind the counter makes me jump and stumble back. The shadow is a blur and runs out the window over the vine's scrawled ledge. Fucking trash panda.
I catch myself and calm down with a sigh-
“Don’t be scared,” a woman’s voice passes over my shoulder, her face is at my ear. I jump back again.
She’s tall. Shadow cloaks her into a silhouette. “Isn’t that the meme you and your friends are always passing around, Kasem?”
My heart is still a little racy. “That’s.. that’s not the jo-“
“How did you find me? How did you get me here?”
“Well, when we started lurking on your group’s page, and saw that this was a thing, that was the first thing we tried to figure out. And it’s easy when you’ve been sitting in the same spot for several hours. How many hash brown bowls were you going to eat, anyway?”
“Maybe a couple more.”
“Well, the longer you sat, the easier it was to pull you through to an awful waffle of our choosing.”
“This place isn’t so bad.”
“No, it’s awful. IHOP is better.”
“You raggedy bitch.”
“Small talk’s over Kasem, I’m here to kill you.”
She raises her arm, gun in hand, and pulls the trigger. The slug hits me square in the chest and knocks me into the wall.
The taste of iron swells up into my mouth and runs down my chin, “I ... fucking will.”
She walks over to me and crouches over my body. Her face is mere inches from mine and I can feel the smug coming off of her smile.
“Die, knowing you failed. Die, knowing you aren’t the first fly I’ve caught in this little spider’s trap, and you won’t be the last. Die, knowing my associate has already gotten one of you thieves and now I’ve gotten you. Die, knowing people are dying right now. Because of you.”
She grabs my face in her hand. “You lose.”
She stands up and walks away, her back turned from me.
I’m blacking out.
“One more thing,” she said. Snarls And growls fill the room. “And then my pups get at what pancakes you might have left in you,”
The bullet in my chest was way more lead than I ever like to eat, but it’s dissolved and my wound is closing. I know because I’m not choking on blood anymore.
Her back is still turned to me. “We know about Sara,”
My heart may have just mended, but it sinks.
“We know you might have shared with her the secret of the key. My associate is tracking her down as I speak. She’s not safe. She’s as good as dog food, as are you.”
Shadow rushes towards me.
A small horde of invisible light bending beasts is upon me.
The first one bites at and is shaking my leg, trying to pull it from me.
I can’t see them. But I can smell them. I reach out and grab one by the head. I can feel its energy. The flesh, the shell of the creature. I peel it back and draw in its essence into me through my palm.
Some of that energy will heal my body. The more I draw in, its energy swirls within my arm. Becoming a small torrent, I release it and blast it right back at what’s left of the beast, not unlike a shotgun.
The thud is audible. I draw in the room. The space of it. I eat that, too.
Within me, the air pulls, spinning- I yell and everything I’ve drawn in emits from me like a wave. Blasting back the beasts and knocking this bitch down to her knees. I stand up.
The air is mine. This space is now mine.
I hear paws hitting the ground as one jumps at me.
I grab it by its throat and smash it into the ground. Through my hand, I pull into me. It cries. These things are barely corporeal, and so they’re magic, and so they’re energy, and so they’re food.
Everything is food.
She raises her gun back up at me.
“What... what the fuck is this, what are you?!”
I step towards her. She steps back and pulls the trigger. She misses.
My forearm shakes. Two black holes open along the length of it and light crackles and heats up.
“You... you can’t possibly know how to use that thing. Our intel says that you don’t!”
The key forges in my arm and burns me something fierce. I absolutely hate this thing. As it slides up into my hands, it dissolves. I fucking eat it.
Absolutely nothing. Matrix material maybe? I don’t know what the fuck it is other than maybe negative calories.
I pull it inside of me and merge it with myself.
She unloads her pistol into me.
Each slug hits me and I’m still so hungry.
I use the material to heal my shoulders, my stomach, my ear lobe.
She steps back. The room goes dark, darker. There is no moonlight, I’ve eaten that too.
I can hear her breath. I open an eye. I see her in front of me. I open another large eye. I see her from the side.
I see her from the other side. And in another, her back is to me. I'm looking down at her, and I see her from below. I open another eye. I'm looking at her from the corner of the room.
She drops her gun and falls to the floor. One of my eyes before her blinks and becomes my mouth.
I smile, "Be not afraid."
To be continued...