This was the result of a walk up the road to the convenience store. First draft and it's nearly 4am.

It calls my name

Day after day

The static calls my name.

        Cold cut to a man in his early to mid 20's staring blankly at an industrial trash compactor in a musty storage room. Its jaws mechanically eat the bit of trash that it has been fed. The man stares hypnotically, as if the mesmerizing gaze of the machine has answers that he has yet been given.

"I could easily look like an accident."

       The man reaches a hand out and touches the cold steal. The gnashing of the jaws grows louder and louder. 

"Hey...." A faint voice in the distance doesn't reach the man
        He lifts his hand from the machine, as if it his hand were burning. He turns from the machine and tears at his hair. 

"Hey..." The voice tries again, a little more assertive this time

        He chances a look back at the machine. Its continued chomping grows louder and louder. His eyes widen, once again mesmerized, he walks toward the machine.

"I bet it would only hurt...for a second or two"

His hand drifts toward the embrace of the cold steel


        The man comes to his senses. Standing behind the counter of a convenience store, his familiar surroundings are jarring at first. He looks across the counter to his customer. A girl about a head and a half shorter than he. Pixie cut and blond hair, clearly dyed...poorly with skeletal leggings and a lolita skirt. She's not over the top but she still sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the 2am crowd. 
        "Oh, I'm sorry"
          He was halfway through bagging her 2 energy drinks, a family sized bag of potato chips and a cheap pack of cigarettes when he started to wonder how long he had zoned out for. After all, this wasn't the first time, but his daydreaming was getting worse. 
          Daydreaming. He had to chuckle. Who could give him a hard time for daydreaming when the rest of the world was sleeping?
          "Receipt in the bag alright?" He asked, his fake customer service smile restapled to his face. 
          "That'll be alright". She stood there a moment longer staring him blankly in the face, not reciprocating the smile. In fact, it seemed that this girl's frown was probably the only expression her face had ever known.
          "Don't be so stingy" she said suddenly.
          "I...sorry?" He asked, dumbfounded. Where did that come from?
          "My change?"
          He reopened the register. How long was he away? He shuffled the till for coins, having to open a new roll of pennies to get her exact change out. 
         He handed her a couple of beat up bills and hodgepodge of coins.
         But she didn't look at his hand. Just continued looking at his face. The plastic smile was fading pretty quickly. Clearly it didn't invite a friendly atmosphere.
        "Are you okay?" she interupted the uncomfortable eye contact.
        This was the last thing he expected to hear. These fantasies were personal. Never intended to be read from his tone or expression. Something that, until now, he thought he hid pretty well.
       His hand jerked back at the question, fumbling a few loose coins. She bent to her knees to pick them up. 
       "Look, it's not my business. But it could be if you need it to be." She said monotone. On paper, her words would have sounded genuine and caring. But her voice was dull and dreary. As if she was still going through the motions of a customer service transaction.
       "You don't have to say anything. Just don't do anything stupid alright? I'm sure a lot of people care about you". She took her groceries and change and toward the door.
        "Last chance". She said, looking back.
        "Are you..." He trailed off for a moment searching for the words. 
         The girl's eyebrows perked up. "Am I?"
        The perfect words did not fall out of his mouth. In fact, he was sure that his brain picked at random the worst words he could possibly say and then they fell out of his mouth in that order.
        "Always this weird?"
        The uncomfortable silence from before was missed like an old friend. He, however was proven wrong, in that the girl did indeed know another expression than apathy. Apathy was quickly replaced with anger.
        "frack you prick!" She threw one of her canned drinks at him, missing and hitting the display behind him. The drink began to spew a sticky, carbonated mess all over him and the floor. The girl opened the door, cigarette already lit and walking up the road.
       He started toward the custodial closet where the mop lived. The quiet buzzing of the freezers and florecent fixtures overtook the air. 
      "You really know how to make friends, don't you Todd?"

     The night droned on. He couldn't stop thinking about that exchange. Come on, Todd. "'Are you always this weird?'. Like you're doing much better than she is. At least she tried. You push anyone away. Friend, family, and apparently complete strangers. Who are you going to have left when all you do pull away?"
     He rested the mop in the corner of the wall. He walked across the room and opened the door to the storage room. He pinched himself, he squeaked at the hint of pain.
    "This time.. it's for real". He locked the door behind him. 
     Todd wondered how well soundproofed the room was. If there was a fire marshall code against having completely soundproofed rooms in commercial buildings. There probably were. He wondered if people would be able to hear him, or if he could keep quiet through the whole procedure. Probably not, death is usually pretty loud 
      "-and let's face it Todd, you could hardly handle pinching yourself. You're gonna bite your tongue all the way to the other side?"
      His heart had weight that he had never noticed. Like a ball and chain. It suddenly felt like someone was gripping his throat, squeezing. He could hardly breathe as unwanted images of his mangled body flashed through his head.
      These images were overpowered by the idea that nobody would care. Nobody would notice that he was gone. The only mark on the world that Todd will make will be a stain on the wall and an obituary in some recyclable paper. His parents will cut out the article and put it in a scrapbook. His ex will drink a glass of wine and think about him for a day to get over it.

"Just fracking do it" repeated a voice in the back of his head.

He flipped the switch.

      The chomping was slow to start, gentle. But if he jumped in now, the process would be more painful. 

       The door handle behind him jiggled furiously. Somebody started pounding on the door.
       "Hello?" A muffled, but familiar voice met Todd's ears. I guess the room isn't soundproof.
        More pounding on the door. The machine grew louder, building up more steam with each passing second.
       "Please let me in, don't do this". Alternating between the door handle and pounding.
       Todd thought of the things he could say...things that would just come out wrong again. 
        The thuds became louder, it sounded like somebody was forcing there entire weight into the door now. 
       "It was 'Todd', right?" A few more thuds to the door. "You have to have something you want to see! Something worth hanging around for!". The words became desperate.
       Todd considered unlocking the door. But what good would that do? After all, he didn't have an answer to any of those questions. Nothing he wanted to see. Nothing worth hanging around for. 
        "God damn it! God damn it!" The thuds stopped. Maybe she reasoned Todd wasn't in there.
        Todd turned away from the commotion outside the door. That absolutely sounded like the girl from earlier. How did she know? How did she know all of this was happening? Were his suicidal thoughts so obviously painted on his expression?
       Curiosity delayed Todd for a few moments.

"Just jump into the compactor...make it easy on yourself"
          Todd's intention was just that. One more touch of cold steel was the last thing he intended to feel before oblivion. 

        Something finally overpowered the sound of gnawing metal. Gunshots. Two....Three... The door flung wildly open while the outside door handle had been shot clean off. It was the girl from before. Two archaic revolvers staring him clean in the face. The girl's face was noticeably different from before. The expression had shifted so much that Todd almost didn't believe it was the same girl. 
        "So what, she's going to stop me from killing myself by murdering me?" Todd thought. He would have preferred to die on his terms, but whatever works.
       "Just hurry up and do it" Todd said. 
       "Reveal yourself" she said, guns still raised.
       "I....I'm sorry?" Todd was pretty exposed. Unless she was asking....? "No. No Todd, that's dumb."
       She took another step closer, furrowed brow and piercing eyes. "I won't ask again!"

      Todd's shadow began to spread. Over taking the walls and shrouding both Todd and the girl in darkness. Todd felt a cold sensation emenating from his heart. He felt depressed before. He was hopeless now. This...This was what Todd felt awaited him if he continued living. Emptiness. True emptiness. True static. The static consumed Todd. He laid on the floor.
      A laugh pierced the silence of the room. "That...that doesn't sound human", it was an odd thought to have, but somehow Todd knew it to be true.
     In the distance of the shadows Todd heard gunshots. "She's still here".
     Todd lethargically climbed to his feet and toward the sound. He could faintly make out two figures. One significantly larger, faster, than the other.

     The handled herself with grace. Not wasting a movement or gesture. This was not a fight as he would have envisioned. There were no flips, no gun spinning, no unnecessary taunting or showing off. This was brutal combat between two forces that wanted the other dead. 

      Todd sat and watched. He could only get in the way of the girl, and who's to say that she's really the good guy?
      "She tried to stop you from killing yourself Todd. Whether you wanted her to or not, that should tell you who the good guy is."
       It had been a while since Todd thought about somebody on that level. To think about somebody in a purely positive light. If only for a moment, it felt like the cold radiating from within was being thawed.
      The girl took a shot, and winged the dark figure, now fully exposing himself. It looked to be a larger amalgamation of a human. Eyes empty and white. Teeth like needles. It seemed so familiar to Todd. 
      It cried out in pain "You bitch!". The creature didn't spare a moment, dodging additional shots and heading straight for the girl. She dropped a gun to draw a knife from her boot, but was not quick enough. The creature pinned her down. A sinister, satisfactory smiled etched across his face.
      "You're just a babe in the woods, aren't you?" A third, arm-like appendage erupted for the creature's chest forcing its way into the girls chest.
      "I'll take care of you first". And then finish the job with the boy." It let out a laugh again "You'll be together soon, pet".

      Todd snapped into focus. He never had plans of taking anybody else down with him. He ran toward the creature, still pinning down the girl 
      "Hey!" Todd yelled. The creature looked up.
      "Don't worry Todd, I'm just finishing up here. We can meet in the trash compactor in a minute"
      "Let her go, I'll go with you okay?" Todd pleaded. "Just let her go, I don't want my decisions to hurt anyone else....That's why I was doing this to begin with."

     The creature chuckled "Todd, are you still under the impression that you're in control of your own life? That any of this was ever your decision?"
      Todd was confused. Moreso than before.
     "The truth is Todd, you couldn't make a decision for yourself if you tried. That's why I found you. That's why I built up this solution in your head as being the one and only. Because if it was up to you, you would have never done anything for yourself." It sounded so proud. "Look how long it took you to get to this point? You've been eye-fracking that machine for months now, haven't you? Never doing, always dreaming. Dreaming of the static."

The girl let out a scream, she was growing red in the face. Tears streaming down her face. Whatever was happening, she was fighting it, and it hurt.

     "Now do what you've always done Todd. Sit quietly and let this happen so that we can get back to business. I only have three arms to work with." The creature'ss focus shifted back to the girl, who's struggling body was growing limp, red face growing pale.
      Todd noticed the revolver at his feet. He had never fired a gun before, and he wasn't sure how a revolver worked. He picked up the gun and walked toward the creature.

      "I'm a little busy now Todd-", the creature looked up at Todd, "-...What do you think you're doing Todd?"
     The girl's eyes were barely open "Do it", she whispered.
      "Todd listen to me!", the creature was begging, "I was doing this for you. I gave you a mission. I gave you closure. I was giving you meaning. Can you really go back to that uncertainty? Can you really go back to that empty life?"
      He squeezed the trigger. The creature's head distorted and he fell to the floor. The girl shot up gasping desperately for air, no marks where the creature was tearing at her.
      As she began to catch her breath she looked up at Todd, still holding the gun. 
      "I'm proud of you Todd", she said, rising to her feet.

       The shadows began to dissolve from the walls, as the creature's corpse did the same. 
       "I really don't understand what just happened", Todd said blankly. 
       "That was a demon. A personal demon.", the girl said, returning to her usual monotone.
       "A personal demon? Where do they come from?" Todd asked.
        "...Personal demon. 'Personal'. Demon. They come from humans. They're bred by insecurities, fears, regrets, sorrow. I've been hunting them for years, and your's has been festering for quite some time I'd guess." The girl spat on the barrel of her gun and helped herself to a spare hanging uniform to clean her gun with. 
        "I....I can't even-", Todd was overwhelmed with information. A lot was coming at him fast.
        "You can't even? You and most of this generation", the girl said, not even looking up from her guns as she spat once again trying to get a smudge out. "I'm Samantha by the way. Nice to meet you Todd."
        "I...oh yeah. Thank you for saving did you know-"
        "Know that you were possessed? When you've been doing this a while, you learn to read the signs." Samantha said plainly, "It's hard to sit idly by when you know that they're out there. Sometimes you can help people just by talking them through these their demons. But other times it gets pretty nasty. They can start to hurt others too, people close to their hosts.".
        Samantha holstered her guns. Not quite satisfied with the job she had done cleaning her guns, but figuring that it had to do. She helped herself to a bag of the chips she bought early that were boxed in bulk in the room.
       "I'll just assume these are on the house. Are we square?" She asked, with a faint smile on her face. The first genuine grin Todd had seen in this store.
       "I think I'll deal..." Samantha started heading for the door leading to the main storefront, Todd followed behind. His mind racing with a thousand questions. 
      " Hey Samanth-", Todd started
       "Just 'Sam' is fine", she interrupted
       "Sam then...thanks for coming know?"     
       "Don't sweat it. What's your one question?" Sam already had one foot out the door. Head poking in the storefront still.
       "This is the part where as I'm leaving you say 'I just have one question'. Isn't there something you're burning to ask?". Todd couldn't tell if she had done this before or if she had just  analyzed narrative tropes as much as he had. But there was something in that introspection that made him laugh. It felt good to laugh.
        "I guess....Why do you do this?" Todd asked.
        Sam wasn't so cheeky anymore. She opened her bag of chips abruptly. "Everybody has their personal demons to fight. This is how I fight mine."
        The answer to his one question gave birth to many others. Before he could give words to one of them, she was gone. 
Skin wrapped around bone and soul

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