Plink. Plink. Plink. Plink.
The rain strikes the windows of The Salt Shaker, the cheapest diner this side of the highway. There might be a cheaper one in the next town over, I don't know.
I don't get paid to worry about those things, the little I get paid is for washing dishes and wiping countertops. And the odd waiting tables, on really busy days.
But today isn't one of those days, it's a Tuesday afternoon, the slowest day of them all.
I'm throwing out rags greased from cleaning up after the group of bingo players that just swept through, our first customers since this morning.
Glancing up to the grimy clock hanging crooked near the sink, I groan. Back to boredom. It's only 2 pm, still at least an hour and a half until schools get out and the late-afternoon rush starts.
My groan must've been audible, since I hear my co-worker Spaghetha call out.
"Jeanie, you good?", she shouts from the counters. Agatha, her real name, but her affinity for spaghetti conjured up the nickname.
I've always been jealous of how quickly it stuck,
I've tried out countless nicknames the past few years - some I'm less willing to hark back to than others - but Jeanie is the only one that even remotely stuck.
With a name like Jeanette, you can understand why I'd want something a little catchier. Who the fuck names their kid Jeanette?
Shaking my head clear of unrelated complaints, I bark back a quick "Yeah", aggressively pump hand sanitizer into my palms, and return to staring out the miniscule window into the grey afternoon.
"MARKIE, BURGERS FOR SIX ASAP" "TWO COFFEES AND A HOT CHOCOLATE FOR THE KID"
An hour and a half later the post-lunch rush finally came, and the tiny diner is about as busy as it gets.
I'm in the back, elbows deep in dishwater, the orders piling up faster than the clean spoons are.
I'm usually faster than this, I've been working this job since sophomore year and I've got a system, but my forearms are burning.
I stubbornly plunge my hands into the hot water and have to bite my lip to stop from crying out.
It hurts. Why does it hurt? I try to think back, did I cut myself? It feels like a fresh burn, but I haven't touched the stove all day. Not to mention my head is throbbing.
The 6-dollars-an-hour matters more than the pain though, I figure, so I grit my teeth and scrub the plates harder.
In a pocket of calm between storms of customers I pull my hands from the sink to dry my burning skin and nearly scream.
By now the pain has subsided to a throbbing heat, but that's not what makes me shriek. My hands, and nearly halfway up my arms, are red. Not red like a sunburn, red like a scarlet crayon.
Red like a campfire, red like - you get the idea - red. Not to mention the fact that my nails, formerly chewed dull and in chipped blue polish, are now curved, black, and claw-like.
"Fuck," I frantically whisper in a mad dash for the employee bathrooms "Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck-"
I fly through the bathroom door and screech to a halt in front of the cracked mirror.
I look like me, but not. My hair is still restricted in the ridiculous mandatory hairnet. The red polo and white apron of my work uniform are as ill-fitting and grease-stained as ever.
Something is off. And then I realize what.
My eyes, once wrapped in a dull shade of green, are now circled in yellow and slitted like a snake's.
My jaw drops, allowing me to see the final change: My teeth, sharpened and lengthened like knives.
"What the hell," I stutter as two waves crash over me: One of panic, the second of realization. And as soon as the second hits I gasp, "Oh god not again.
" I burst out of the bathroom and sprint back to the steamy kitchen.
"Damnn, someone's in a hurry," Spaghetha comments, but I don't answer. I've pin-pointed the cause of this metamorphosis, and now I only need to make sure its true.
I snatch the bottle of hand sanitizer sitting next to the sink. A new brand, I noticed it earlier but didn't have reaon to question. The usual must've been out of stock. No big deal.
But it is. As I turn the bottle to view the colorful label my eyes are assaulted by the truth I knew but didn't dare guess.
"Hand Satanizer," reads the bottle, "Kills 99.9% of Humanity".
I slam the bottle down with a sigh, my fears now confirmed.
"Well this is just great."