Why couldn’t I just have a normal day? I just wanted to wash my clothes.
It’s late, too late. I’ll have to call in sick tomorrow because I’ll be here at least another hour. The lady that oversees the night shift had her earphones blasting the newest pop music loud enough you could hear it over the rain outside. I could smell the remaining bag of laundry at my side still. It mixed with the smell of detergent and gave a hazy smell that did nothing but give you a headache. The lights buzzed and flickered occasionally, with the air conditioning heaving a hefty whir and squeal with each rotation.
I looked back over to the lady as she bobbed her head to her music. She chewed gum and blew bubbles every minute or so, while being fixated on whatever magazine she had.
I sighed, sat down on the bench in front of me and began watching my clothes spin in the washer. Round and round and round, it kept going, like this damned night.
Why can’t those old folks listen? The damn download button was right there. I mean it’s a bright, green button that reads “Download Here.” How do you miss that? I thought.
I had a tap at my shoulder, causing me to jump.
“Sir, you came in a car, right?” The laundromat worker asked me, sounding worried.
“Uh what? Of course, I did.” I said. I read her nametag as she stood over me, her name was “Cairo.”
“Well, it’s just, there aren’t any cars parked outside.”
I stood up, “No, no! It can’t be stolen!”
I rushed over to the door and peered outside, but there was a problem.
I couldn’t see anything. I mean I could see the ground, but maybe five or six feet out. Beyond that it was just, darkness… void.
I looked back to the girl, who quietly tailed me to the door.
She asked, “De you see anything out there?”
“No,” I said and put my hand to the window, “but it’s probably just something with the clouds, or a heavy fog.”
“It’s still raining, but I’ve always been able to see the poles down the road.”
“Yeah, gimme a sec’, I’m gonna see something,” I said as I opened the door.
Cairo grabbed my arm and pulled me back in before I could get even a step out. She yanked me back so hard we both fell on our backs, and I nearly landed on her.
“Hey! What the hell? I was just gonna look outside!” I said, angrily.
She pointed at the door, “I don’t want you to go and leave me alone! Just wait here, maybe it’ll pass?”
She sounded too desperate, but as I looked back out into the darkness, I felt an odd chill. Like I wasn’t looking at something, but it was looking at me. I sighed and got up from the ground first. I dusted my pants off and offered her a hand to get up.
She grabbed my hand and I helped her up. Her hand was freezing cold, as if she just pulled her arm out of Antarctica. I kept glancing back into the darkness, because something out there kept affixing my gaze.
“You’re right, it’ll pass. It’s still raining, after all.” I said.
“Can I stay near you, I don’t feel comfortable at the front,” she said.
“Sure, grab your earphones and sit by me.” I pointed over to the washer and dryers, “I’ve got at least two hours before I’m done, anyways.”
“My iPod died a few minutes ago. You were gazing into the washer when I came over to make small talk.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I was just…” I froze. What exactly was I doing, I thought.
Cairo walked to the benches, where my remaining bag was, and sat down. I followed, but I kept wondering, what was I doing when she tapped my shoulder?
I sat next to her as my first set of clothes finished drying.
Wait, I thought, I was washing these. Why are they drying?
I looked around more, shit, where is the clock?
“What has you so worried, John?” she said.
“I’m… uh… I just need to know the time.”
“C’mon, you had a few hours to finish, right? Besides, it’s right here,” she said, standing up.
I slowly turned, but I only looked as far as her neck, which extended. Farther and farther, it stretched too far.
Without a tick of the clock, I dropped my bag and sprinted for the door.
“NO!” She screeched, “Don’t leave me here, John!”
“Go to hell!” I said.
I reached the door. I shoved myself out into the darkness. I ran faster than I ever had.
I tripped on my feet and fell into the darkness on my face. My cheeks, arms, and knees scraped the concrete with a sharp hiss. The rain stained my clothes and I accepted whatever my fate was. I closed my eyes and covered my head.
I looked up around me. I could see the street pole down the road. I could feel the cold rain sting my face as it hit the cuts. The moon hung with a heavy glow through the clouds. I looked over to the parking space, where my car was.
I heard the laundromat doorbell ring.
“Are you okay, sir?” a young lady called out to me.
I looked back, shaking violently, “What just happened?”
“Sir, you were sleeping one second, then you dove out the door the next.”
“There was…” I looked around me. Maybe it was my imagination?
“It was nothing, but can you wash and dry my clothes? I’ll pay you for extra.”
“Sure,” she said and went back inside.
I sat on the inside of the store but stayed right next to the store. Until she brought my clothes bags to me, and I read her nametag. It read, “Cairo.”
So, I bolted.
David Ellington is an emerging writer from Alabama, where they grew up telling scary campfire stories and reading dark fantasy. They write short fantasy fiction and horror stories. Follow them on Twitter @Psychout_DE