Return of the Working Dead is a collection of short horror fiction stories and will be a five-part series starting tomorrow, Thursday, October 3rd, and ending on Halloween. Today is just a teaser, the first part of the first story. The rest of the story will be posted tomorrow, October 3rd.
Janice’s feet hurt. They were killing her. She had to stand in one spot all day dealing with customers and ringing up their purchases and telling the coupon Karens that they can’t use doubles on that item and having to call her manager up. She talked to HR and she talked to her boss and they were useless.
“We put down a fatigue mat, that’s all we can do.”
She was working third shift at the 24-hour store. It was 2 AM and no one was around so she hopped up on the counter to give her feet a rest. She sighed, “I hate this fucking place,” she muttered to no one in particular. Brandon, the stockboy that evening, was in the back working on setting up inventory for the day shift stockers.
“Hey Jan, you busy with any customers?” Brandon called over the walkie.
The screech of the walkie coming to life startled her, “No, what’s up?” she replied.
“Dude, can you come back for a sec? I need to know I’m not going crazy.” Brandon’s voice was shaky.
Janice got up, turned the aisle number light off, and made sure one of the auto checkouts was available and walked to the back. As she got nearer to the swinging door that opened to the dark, dank, stockroom, she felt the temperature drop. She crossed her arms and rubbed her hands on her upper arms to warm up, she could see her breath. It was summer and it’s usually pretty warm back here.
She pushed through the doors, “Brandon? Where are you?” she walked towards the breakroom. She heard a slow, squeaking sound, like one of the carts with the one wonky wheel, coming up behind her and she turned around.
But no one was there. She continued towards the breakroom, she could see the light shining from the doorway. The squeaking started up again, “Brandon, I appreciate the diversion, but come on.” She got to the breakroom and went inside. It was empty.
Her walkie screeched and she heard Brandon again, “Janice, where are you? I’m really freaking out over here.”
“Uh, where are you? I’m in the breakroom,” she poked her head out of the breakroom door, “Brandon? Are you there?”
She went to the breakroom fridge to get a snack from her lunch. As she sat down at the table the lights suddenly turned off and she let out a little scream. She called Brandon on the walkie, “This isn’t funny. After I have my snack I’m going out front. Whatever is going on, it’s not my problem. I just want to go home.” She didn’t hear a reply, just static.
She pulled out her phone and cycled through the same 3 social media apps as she ate, the screen illuminating her face and creating a small, dim halo of light around the table. She finished her snack and got up to throw the trash out. As she put her phone back in her pocket she accidentally dropped the trash on the floor. It was still dark, she bent down to pick up the trash. She screamed and fell back on her butt at the feet that suddenly appeared before her.
She slowly looked up at the figure, going from the feet up to its head. A ghostly, translucent figure was standing in front of her. The figure was wearing a torn uniform, similar to the one she wore. It was wearing a nametag that said “Gina”. It was just standing there, looking off into the distance. She scooted back under the table and hugged her knees, trying to make herself as small as possible. She tried to call for Brandon on the walkie but when she pressed the button it made a deafening, ear-piercing screech and she winced. Janice was crying and covering her mouth trying to be quiet but it was too late.
The ghost slammed its hand on the table and bent down at an unnatural right angle from its side and looked at her, “Hey, can you cover my shift on Saturday?”
Janice could see the ghost’s face now. It was a woman with long stringy hair, she wore a necklace with a small moon and star pendant. She looked to be around Janice’s age. Janice didn’t respond, they just stared at each other. The ghost stood up and she saw the feet and legs of the ghost dissipate. The lights turned on and the room warmed up.
She screamed bloody murder when the screech from the walkie started again with Brandon calling, “Where the hell are you?”
She scrambled to respond, “I-I-I’m in the breakroom.” She heard footsteps and saw Brandon’s scuffed sneakers enter the doorway. “I’m here,” she said faintly, her voice wavering from fear.
Brandon knelt down and looked at her, “Jesus christ I had been calling you for like half an hour there’s a line of customers at the front and I have to finish this stocking. What the hell are you doing under there? Are you okay? Your face is all red. Were you crying? Was Joey being a creep to you again? I swear that kid.”
Janice stopped him, “N-no, it’s okay. I’m okay. I’ll get back out there.”
Janice finished her shift without incident.