“What do you mean Tommy’s dead? How? When? Who? Oh god, no! No that might be too much.”

Nathan shook his head and exhaled. He thought back on that year he’d had to suffer through drama class. Mrs. Fenwick was always going on about drawing from the endless well of emotion to bring a touch of real feeling to the surface..or was it a mine?

The sudden banging on the bathroom door made him jump.

“Nathan! Nathan oh my god are you in there?” He took a breath and opened the door.

“Of course, sorry. I know I’ve been-” he opened the door to find Cassandra on the other side, her eyes red and swollen. She flung herself on him, squeezing him far too tight.

“Oh thank god you’re alright! When you didn’t come with Casey, I thought… Oh Nathan, something terrible has happened.” She pulled back and looked him in the eyes. “Nathan, you might want to sit down.” He could see Herb and Casey over her shoulder. Casey looked sick, Herb looked pensive.

“Where’s Kirk?”

“He’s with Tommy, I mean, that is, he’s with…Nathan, Tommy is dead.”

At that moment, Tommy leaned forward from behind Nathan and whispered in his ear, “And all thanks to you, Numbnuts.”

“What the fuck!” Nathan screamed and leapt away from the bathroom door. He tripped over his own feet and crashed onto the floor of the cafe, wincing at the dagger-like pain in his swollen balls. Looking up at Cassandra, he could see Tommy standing directly behind her, pale and naked with the wound looking as fresh as when he’d first stabbed her. She flipped her middle finger at him, the purple tipped nail flashing in the light of the restaurant.

“This can’t be..I don’t understand.”

Cassandra nodded as she knelt next to him.

“I know, Nathan. I don’t want it to be true either. You have to tell us what you know about this person or creature or whatever it is that lives in these hills. Kirk wants to go find him, to avenge Tommy’s death. I think we should phone the police, and stay put. Stick together. He might still be out there.”

“Or he might be in here…” Tommy glowered at Nathan from over Cassandra’s shoulder.

“I’m not..you’re not… I didn’t think…Oh jesus what is happening?”

“I’m haunting you, Numbnuts. You do realize that is your name from now on, right? Because I hit you hard enough that you’ll probably never get feeling back, much less get a boner ever again, you fucking coward.”

Cassandra rested her hand on Nathan’s shoulder.
“Nathan, you have to tell us everything you know about this place. Kirk is really serious about going out there, tonight. I know he’s probably in shock and might calm down, but it was all we could do to stop him from going up there.”

Wait, Kirk wanted to go out there? This might be even easier than Nathan had originally thought.

“Did Kirk see him?”

“No, he had passed out. He feels terrible. I think that’s what’s fueling his need for revenge. We have to talk some sense into him. Will you help?”

“So, you haven’t called the cops yet?”

“No, you’re right. We should do that first.” She looked up at Casey. “Do you have your phone on you?”

He shrugged apologetically.
“I was kind of stoned and playing that game I like and no, that battery is dead. Where is yours?”

“I don’t know, it must be in the van somewhere. What about you, Nathan? You had yours earlier.”

“Yeah, mine is dead too. I’m fairly sure I packed a charger but I don’t know where.” Cassie twisted to look at Herb.

“You must have a phone here, yeah?”

“I do. It’s in the kitchen. Old fashioned landline, cellphones can be unreliable out here.” Herb headed behind the counter and through the swinging doors. He came back mere seconds later.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

Casey’s eyes got wider.
“Is the phone dead too?” Herb nodded.

“What the hell, Nate? You said he wasn’t real! You said it was just a story! Well your fairy tale killed Tommy and cut the phone lines! What the fuck are we going to do now? What kind of a fucking bogeyman has the tech to jam frequencies? Fucking hell I am way too high to deal with any of this! I am way too high! FACK!”

Casey slammed out of the cafe and moments later they heard the door of the van open, and then close.

Herb met Cassandra’s eyes.

“Except for the being high thing, I think Casey speaks for all of us. Honestly, even if the phone did work, Grant and Stu wouldn’t come out this way, this time of night. Not even for murder. Maybe especially that. Everyone within a reasonable radius knows better than to wander around the hills here after dark. Which is what is throwing me off. We’ve never had an incident this close to town before. Something is different here.”

“So what do we do now?”

“I hate to disturb the crime scene, but I think we’d best bring Tommy inside. There is space in the back and then I think you kids had better get away from here for tonight. Kirk needs some distance from this. You all do.”

Cassandra nodded, content to have someone else be the voice of reason, when Nathan pushed himself to his feet suddenly.

“You want us to just pretend nothing happened? That our friend wasn’t stabbed to death by some unknown assailant who’s probably still out there deciding who is next? And you just left Kirk out there?”

Cassandra looked at Herb, her eyes wide with fear.

“Oh my god, he’s right! We shouldn’t have left him alone!”

She raced out the door and into the night. Herb turned to Nate, one eyebrow raised.

“How come you didn’t come outside when Kirk started yelling?”

“I was shitting myself blind, thanks to your cooking. Why else do you think I was in there so long? It’s a wonder I’m the only one who got sick.”

“Yeah, that is a bit strange, isn’t it? Considering you ate the same thing as nearly everyone else.”

“I’d tell you to go to hell, Herb, but I feel like you already live there.”

“If you need directions, just let me know.”

Nathan turned and blanched briefly, his face going even paler, before he stormed out of the cafe. Herb looked thoughtfully at the spot where he’d been looking, squinting a bit. It seemed as though something was…no. Just a trick of the light.

He shivered and headed outside, as did Tommy, though she didn’t need to use the door.

Photo by Kyle Cleveland on Unsplash