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  • Jordan Keller

Fright Night / Crossroads Convenience #3

Updated: Apr 1

It had been a dead night, even for the graveyard shift, until the faded clock above the counter singled 3am. Mable never understood the goosebumps that ran up her arms at the final chirp. She ran her hands up her arms to rub them away.

The haunting started right after that.

The overhead lights flickered. The neon glow of the slushie machine sputtered before going dark. Frost spider-webbed against the glass and her breath came out in sudden puffs of vapor. Crossroads Convenience never felt this cold.

Mable grabbed the container of Morton salt under the counter. Her daytime counterpart laughed when he saw it, saying the shotgun next to it would be of better use, but he never saw the creatures that wandered in at night.

Under the dwindling outside lights, moving through the old gas pumps, a figure trudged toward the entrance. It wasn’t completely solid. Mable caught glimpses of bone and flesh through the openings of its saggy form. Dark fabric draped over the figure like melting wax. Bits of the creature dropped off like a slug trail. Instead of slime, it was bits of flesh, splatters of blood, and even a few finger bones.

Mable wanted to leap over the counter and run to the door and lock it, but her legs had frozen. She tried taking a deep breath, but the icy air scraped against her lungs. She squeezed the salt container tightly, trying to get a rip on her reality. She’d been trying not to assume the worst when a new customer entered Crossroads Convenience, but none had looked as terrifying as the wraith. Its elongated fingers wrapped around the door handle. Several outside lights popped and went dark. When it pulled the door open, a horrid, rotten stench filled the room.

If Mable wasn’t so terrified, she would have gagged. She tried to welcome the wraith, but the only sound that came out of her mouth was a strangled ‘meep.’ At least her legs had thawed, they buckled like lime jello as the wraith lumbered to the counter.

It reached toward Mable. Bits of itself dropped off and splashed on the counter. The rancid smell was everywhere. Through the folds of its fabric, Mable made out a cluster of five dark eyes sinking in one another, trying to stay afloat on the wraith’s otherwise melting face.

One long and slick-looking finger brushed over Mable’s cheek and stuck inside her hair. Wherever the wraith touched burned Mable, her whole body trembled.

The wraith didn’t open its mouth, if there was one under its melting skin, but Mable heard its rasping voice in her brain.

“Life… Give me… Life…”

The wraith tightened its grip and yanked Mable’s head toward its face where a mouth did open, the melting flesh snapping away like weak rubber bands. A gust of air pulled Mable closer to the wraith, except it wasn’t pulling her physically. Bits of herself, her energy, her soul, were ripped off her skin in blue wisps and gobbled up by the wraith.

Mable slumped against the counter. Her entire body felt like lead. Her vision blurred. She couldn’t remember the last time she took a breath. If the wraith wasn’t holding her head up, she’d collapse.

The front door’s bell chimed, and her vision went dark.

The long and slimy fingers were yanked from her head, and a loud crash filled the silent store. Mable crashed against the floor. The cold tiled shocked her senses awake, and she scrambled back on her feet, using the counter for support.

She almost lobbed the entire carton of salt at the wraith until she saw it was wrestling a ghoul in a red and white varsity jacket. Buck Carrington wrangled the wraith onto its feet, pinning its arms behind its back, and tossed it outside. He locked the door for good measure as the wraith hissed and banged on the windows before disappearing in a flash of gray.

“Are you okay?” Buck asked Mable.

She pressed her hand against her heart, trying to feel it beat. Once the threat was gone, she was finally coming to terms with what had just happened.

“What was that thing?”

Buck straightened a display of candy that had been knocked down in the scuffle. “Not too sure, to be honest. A bad thing for sure. You should sit down, though. I’ve heard stories about them sucking down a ghost whole. Not sure what it’ll do to a human.”

Mable took his advice and sat on the red-topped stool behind the counter. It felt like she had run a marathon. No. More like five marathons. She was exhausted. Her hands were cold and clammy. The store still smelled like rot and death.

“Thank you for saving me,” she said after the silence stretched too long between them. Buck finished replacing the spilled candy on the display and faced her. “I still can’t sell you cigarettes.”

He blushed. The color resembled a squished bug on his greenish complexion. “I don’t think I ever really wanted them. I think I thought they’d make me look cool.”

Mable chuckled. She was grateful for this awkward and very human moment compared to what happened before. “You looked pretty cool saving my life.”

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