After the house burned down the man was now living in an apartment. The cheapest he could afford was still over his budget. Working the night shift at the gas station didn’t pay well. Certainly not enough to account for the toll it took on his mind and body. The house was co-owned by his ex wife, so she received half the insurance. He still thought she was behind it. Although she was cleared of arson by the investigation; airtight alibi visiting her family out of state. She could have planned it with someone, paid someone to do it. Purely to make him even more miserable. The same person had most likely sent him those letters. Accusing him of repulsive crimes.Threatening him.These things didn’t shake him as much as they would have in the past. As he lost more from his previous life he found it increasingly difficult to care about anything at all. Himself included. He even had to give the cat away because he found it too much of a burden. It was an act of mercy to release the creature from his prison-like apartment and cold inhuman touch. “Not enough empathy to even care for a cat!” She had shouted at him. It stung even more so now since it turned out to be true.
The hours during the late shift fluctuated. 1am could last longer than 3am, or 5am could suddenly vanish if he closed his eyes for a second too long. Being surrounded by artificial light made him feel like a reptile in a glass box. Sunning in a gargoyle-like position under a red glow. Only the gas station company colors were a kind of mint green. In this particular hour, he was all alone. The holidays had cleared most of the students out of town. The last hour had vanished. Only six left. The radio didn’t work, so he stood in silence every night. Instead of reflecting on his past and the connection to his current living situation, he preferred to distract himself. Mostly by people watching.
There was no one to watch tonight. The hours trickled by without so much as a car pulling into the parking lot. It was as if time had stopped outside the store. He frowned as he noticed a dark gray car parked out front. He hadn’t seen it drive up. There didn’t appear to be anyone inside, though the windows were tinted. Biting his lip, he grew uneasy. The car was somehow familiar to him. The numbers on the license plate rang an alarm bell in his head. A silhouette of a figure stood near the gas pumps. Under the broken light, he couldn’t make out any features. Nor movement. The person stood perfectly still. He turned in an attempt to pretend to rearrange the items on the shelves while double checking the position of the alarm under the counter and the gun stashed in the safe.
When he looked up he grew cold. A woman was standing in the middle of the store. She was absorbed by the rows of candy in the second aisle. Her pregnant stomach protruded, stretching out her t-shirt. He was astonished how she could have possibly stuck inside without him noticing. But he then realized he was also starring for another reason. She looked very familiar. When she looked over at him they locked eyes momentarily. She suddenly doubled over in pain. A clear liquid and blood dripped down her legs. The store shook with her agonized screams. You’ve got to help me! Come help!
She must have had a miscarriage. He tried to call an ambulance but the signal on the landline was dead. How could that be? He squeamishly crept over to the woman, now sitting in a dark red puddle. What should I do? He started to ask, when all of sudden it hit him. His eyes widened. He knew exactly who she was. Seeing his look of recognition, she twisted her expression into a menacing smirk.His head smashed into the floor and he found himself flat on his stomach. Something grabbed both his arms and pulled them behind him. The bones in his feet snapped as if a powerful set of teeth had bitten down on them. He screamed, tears running down his face. It flipped him face up and he was suddenly staring straight into the woman’s eyes. I didn’t even…we…I only touched you! I’m not the father! Please! His leg bones shattered with a loud snap. Something from within her was dragging him across the floor towards her. The thing protruding from her belly was hideous. It was almost incomprehensible. A mangled deformity of some kind not meant to be seen by human eyes. Like an animal turned completely inside out. He sobbed helplessly as it continued to devour him. Why? He spat out through his own blood just as his ribs were split open. She tenderly brushed her hand across his cheek as he succumbed to shock and lost consciousness.
The woman was left with her own thoughts again, while her spawn digested the carcass. Why indeed? She had asked herself countless times. And the man behind it all didn’t even know. She sighed. It was too much to ask for an answer. She cleaned up in the restroom, tucking her appendage neatly back into its womb. And then she set the gas station on fire. It burned much faster than the house had.