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What You See . . .

October 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,
Photo by Dirk Ribbler on Unsplash

After three sleepless nights, Damian had the bad luck to draw the early shift at Fitzy’s Diner. His eyes were slits as he broke egg after egg for omelets and poured round after round of batter for pancakes. 

“Hurry it up, Dame!” Fitzy shouted from the kitchen doorway. “This ain’t no five-star dive.” 

“Shove it,” Damian wanted to shout back. But he had rent and a late car payment earmarked for his next paycheck. He was six months clean, and Fitzy, with his sharp eyes and weasel nose, was looking for any excuse to send him back to the streets—or that’s the way it seemed to Damian, who could never move fast enough to please the boss.

When Fitzy slipped back through the swinging doors, Damian turned his focus to the griddle, scraping it for the next omelet. That’s when the spiders crawled out from behind the stovetop, into the pool of melted butter, and skated across the hot surface. Five of them—big, hairy, and long-legged, with eyes that stared him down. 

“Jesus,” Damian half-yelped. How is this possible, he thought. He hated spiders. Too many legs.

When he reached for the whisk, his hand brushed something moving. 

“Aaahh!” This time he yelled. More spiders covered the egg carton and spilled onto the work table.

No, no, no, his mind screamed. Could the hallucinations return even if he wasn’t using? 

“Dame?” It was Helena, on the morning wait staff. She stood in the doorway, concern etched on her face. “You okay?”

Quickly, Damian wiped the sheen of sweat from his face. “Yeah. Just burned myself,” he lied. “Stupid of me.”

She smiled and shook her head. “Be careful. We can’t lose you.” And she was gone, back out to the front counter.

With shaking hands, Damian surveyed the griddle and work tables. The spiders had multiplied, filling the entire stovetop. These couldn’t be real spiders—real arachnids couldn’t survive that heat, could they? Yet he could hear the minute scrape of their feet as they moved. 

He shut his eyes tightly, willing the hallucination to cease. I can’t lose this job.

The paranoia that had been his every waking moment—and often every moment of attempted sleep—had finally driven him to rehab. He could no longer live constantly looking over his shoulder. His counselor had assured him the effects of the inhalants he’d once craved had subsided for good—but maybe they’d been wrong.

The swinging doors squeaked, and he opened his eyes to Fitzy’s bark. “Where’s the short stack and ranchero special?” 

The spiders now covered the mixing bowl with its batter and the bacon Damian had planned to fry up next. He shuddered at the expanding multitude. 

Fitzy grabbed his shoulder, hard, and jerked. “Get moving or you’ll be moving on out of here.”

The spiders descended from the bank of overhead lights and dropped onto Fitzy’s head, swarming down his neck and onto his bare arms. Red welts from their bites began to swell.

After a moment of indecision, Damian removed his apron, hung it on its wall peg, and left the kitchen to Fitzy’s screams.

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