07 Mar A New Binge
A New Binge
The Dead Canary
Ever been to a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet? Yeah, it sounds either cool or weird in practice, but we’re not located in Vegas, home of the truly great buffet places. I’m in a relatively-small coastal Massachusetts town, better known for its antique stores than its cuisine. And I work as a waiter there. Considering all I bring to people are drinks before they go off to get some dried-out steak or a bowl of noodles that were made earlier in the week, it’s not exactly making me much money. Still, it’s enough to keep me going until I can pay for trade school and get a real job.
The place I work is called Roofie’s. The owner, Bob, used to be in construction and thought he would expand out into food, and had no idea at the time that his name would remind people of something other than his roofing business. He then decided that it was everyone else’s fault for thinking poorly of it, and then wondered why he barely had any customers. For somebody who had done well for himself otherwise, you’d think he’d get the hint.
Me, I’ve been working there for several months, mostly because it’s the only place in town that isn’t a family-owned business and was willing to hire somebody who wasn’t a direct cousin to stock shelves or bus tables. Nothing exciting ever happened, except the one time Scott Grimes came through town and stopped to get a bite to eat. Shame was, nobody recognized him but me, since the Orville wasn’t a thing yet. I told him I loved the movie Night Life. He kind of nodded, signed an autograph, and quietly moved on.
Yep, nothing exciting… until this last weekend.
I was working the late shift, from midnight until 8 in the morning. I liked it, mostly because even as dead as Roofie’s was at the best of times, it was even quieter then, and the people who showed up usually had… well, “personality,” let’s say. Jerry used to be a trucker, but hadn’t told anyone but me he’d been laid off a few weeks ago. He still wore his jean jacket and his red trucker hat because it made him feel important. Nanette was a hooker, and didn’t have any qualms about letting anyone know it, and she came to eat every weekend here as a special treat after a week of turning tricks. She somehow made more money than me, but considering some of the people I knew around here, I was in no rush to enter that line of work.
And then there was Burt. Burt was just a weirdo. He always claimed to be talking to alien beings, and at the same time, donned an RF-shielded baseball cap he found for sale on Amazon to keep them from reading his mind. I didn’t know if even he knew which conspiracy theories he believed from day to day. Thing is, he tipped well and he never caused trouble when he was here, so I was happy to have him.
Things were pretty typical until right around the time when Pete, the late night cook, asked me to take trash out to the dumpster out back. Trash disposal was the one thing I really hated about the night shift. Out back, it was really poorly lit, and while I wasn’t scared I’d be mugged, more than once I’d been scared shitless by Russ. Russ was an anti-establishment type I knew from school who was always toking up behind the cafeteria at lunchtime by himself. Now he spent most of his time shooting up behind Roofie’s. More than once I’d gone to throw stuff out only for him to wake up in the dumpster screaming his head off, sometimes with the needle still in his arm.
I called the cops on him a couple of times, but he always left before they got there, and in their words they had better things to do than chase after “some scrawny tweaker who wasn’t bothering anybody.” I told them I was a little bothered, but they didn’t really care what I thought. We were so below their radar that they actually stopped answering calls from our number.
There were two bags, but they were both huge and full of a lot of old steak that nobody ever bothered to finish. I pushed the back door open and hauled them out, the door slamming shut behind me. The only light was the little bulb that hung above the door and the parking lot light above the dumpster.
I dragged the bags about ten feet before I took a short break to give my arms a chance to keep from cramping up when I heard a tinkling sound from the dumpster. Great. Russ was there after all. At least I would have a heads up before I had to shoo him away.
Pulling the bags again, I got over to the dumpster, where I saw the source of the noise. A thick glass bottle had been removed from the dumpster, probably by Russ as he rummaged through the trash in search of something edible. I sighed, retrieved it, and lifted the lid to toss it back in.
Hoping to catch Russ in the act red-handed, I pulled out my mobile phone and got my camera app loaded up. The police couldn’t keep ignoring me once I had proof he was trespassing, or so I imagined. What I didn’t expect, however, was the look on his face when I caught him.
Russ didn’t look scared, or embarrassed, or surprised. He couldn’t have if he had wanted to.
Russ had no face left. And he was stone dead.
Where it had once been, there was nothing but a staring pair of eyes gleaming out of a blood-caked skull, his jaws grinning lifelessly up at me. In horror, I slammed the lid shut and backed away, shuddering.
The lid lifted. Somewhere near what remained of Russ’ feet, a pair of beady red eyes stared back at me. The lid lifted further, and below those eyes were an enormous row of sharp teeth. It snarled, and began barking at me. It almost sounded like it was talking, but whatever it was, I didn’t want to wait around to hear it.
I ran to the back door of Roofie’s when I heard more noises. With my hand on the handle, I looked back towards the dumpster.
The thing that had stared at me from the dumpster suddenly curled its body and rolled out over the edge… and kept rolling, approaching me slowly, as if sizing me up. In the process, I was able to get a closer look at it. From my vantage point, it resembled a sort of oversized, furry armadillo, but unlike any I had ever seen. Then, from the darkness beyond the dumpster, I saw another shape, and another, and another. I figured there had to be at least a dozen of them.
I watched as they descended upon the bags of trash I had left out, and fell on them. I heard horrible noises as those sharp teeth tore into the bags, devouring everything inside of them.
I hurried back inside and shut the door. Pete saw me, chuckled, and asked if Russ was out there again.
I told him Russ was dead. Something had eaten him.
Pete looked at me like I was crazy. He was right to do it, to be honest, because it sounded crazy, but as he went to the door to see what he thought was really going on out there, I stood in front of the door, trying to stop him. He held up a grill fork, and waved me aside. When I still refused to move, he pointed the fork dangerously close to my groin. I moved, but I grabbed a knife from the wall, just in case.
He opened the door and looked out. He turned and motioned for me to come over there. I looked out into the dark parking lot and saw nothing.
Maybe I was just exhausted and had been seeing things. Of course I had. No way were there little monsters with huge teeth out there.
I almost believed it myself until, as Pete was letting the door swing shut, one of the creatures jumped onto his arm and sank its teeth into it. He was pulled against the door, and he screamed for help.
I pulled him back as hard as I could, but whatever it was, or they were, they were incredibly strong for their size. As Pete screamed bloody murder, I thought at first I had finally won, and got him pulled back as the door shut.
I then saw Pete was clutching at a spot where his arm used to be. Whatever it was, it had either gnawed his arm off completely at the shoulder, or had ripped it out of the socket.
Jerry came into the kitchen to ask what all the fuss was about, and when he saw Pete, he turned white. I told him to go call the cops while I tried to do for Pete what I could.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be done. Pete soon passed out, and even if I had known how to apply a tourniquet in a situation like that, it wouldn’t have stopped the hemorrhaging. He went still, and with horror I realized he was probably dead.
Jerry came back into the kitchen to tell me that he’d tried to reach the police, but they weren’t answering. Of course. The police didn’t take our calls anymore because of all the Russ-related shenanigans.
The back door started to open. I grabbed the handle and pulled it shut again. While I fought against the force of whatever was pulling on it, I told Jerry to twist the bolt at the top and lock it shut. He did, but just as we thought it was safe, we heard a window break at the front, along with a scream.
We ran to the front to see Burt up on his table, jumping and pointing. “They’re here! I told you they were coming!”
Nanette was the one who had screamed. She lay under the window that had broken, crawling out of the booth, with another of those things wrapped around her ankle. I ran up and kicked it as hard as I could, and even with it trying to bite her, it flew off and hit the rack of local newspapers by the front entrance. I lifted her up, only to discover that her leg had a huge chunk taken out of it and that she was bleeding profusely.
More of the creatures poured in through the open window. I led Nanette over to Jerry and told them to head into the kitchen and stay there. I tried to see if I could rescue Burt, who was still hollering like he’d just won the lottery.
Thankfully, I was lucky, as the creatures were distracted by something other than us. They had turned their attention to our buffet selection.
I yanked Burt down from the table, and we both slowly moved back to the kitchen, watching as the hairy monstrosities dove into the food like they were starving. It was disgusting. One had its head literally in the spaghetti, its comically-short legs kicking as it slurped everything up. Another actually ate the tray… the entire metal tray… of coconut shrimp.
Despite it all, I noticed even they didn’t touch the salad bar. Nobody in their right mind would have, but even these things weren’t interested in the lettuce that had gone brown hours ago.
Once I got Burt to the kitchen (and saw that Jerry had bandaged up Nanette good), we all watched them as they tore the place apart.
I didn’t know what to do. Once they were done eating, they would come for us, no doubt. I didn’t want to end up like Russ or Pete. But I had made the stupid mistake of bringing us all in here. There were at least a dozen of the things out front, and who knows how many out the back.
You might be wondering how I got out of this, to be able to tell this story. Well, I’d love to tell you that I came up with a great plan that saved us all, that I courageously lured them all into the walk-in freezer with some leftover prime rib and locked them in, or that we somehow got out through the bathroom. The real answer is, I’m still not quite sure, because the only details I have are secondhand.
The last thing I saw while I was trying to come up with a plan was the front door blew inwards, with a force so concussive that most of us were knocked out cold instantly. Thankfully, I woke up a few minutes later, but by then, it was all over. Jerry, who somehow remained conscious after the blast, told me that a group of strangely-dressed men stormed in, guns blazing, and started wiping the little things out.
I had no reason to doubt him. The restaurant looked like an absolute warzone. There were holes in the walls, food strewn everywhere, and sticky stains that I didn’t even want to identify.
Thing is, would the boss believe any of this? Jerry, Nanette and I agreed that yes, it was best we didn’t talk about it. Burt, on the other hand, said it was the greatest thing that had happened to him in a long time, and he was going to tell everyone. Thankfully, because he was Burt, nobody believed him.
But I’m telling this now because I wanted to make sure everyone knows. From what Jerry overheard in the aftermath, this may not be some isolated incident, restricted to our sleepy New England town.
According to him, one of the guys who busted down the door turned to one of his partners after the onslaught, and spoke. What they said still chills me to the bone a week later.
“How ironic that this battle began in another galaxy,” the first man said, “and that this chapter has come to a close in, of all places, an overpriced Massachusetts buffet, frequented by drug addicts and prostitutes.”
“Indeed,” his partner replied. “But the war is far from over. The enemy continues to run and hide. As such, we shall hunt them wherever they go. This planet’s inhabitants may be none the wiser, but the truth remains: there are more where these came from, they are hungry, and they’ve developed a taste for humans.”