Updated: Mar 24, 2020
I should begin this entry by saying how truly sorry I am to anyone who read part 4. I had no idea that was going to happen. The agents have assured me that every trace of the story has been removed from the internet, and that there is nothing to worry about.
If you were unfortunate enough to have read part 4: I beg you, for your own sake, try to forget everything. If you experience nose bleeds, dizziness, migraines, or hallucinations, go immediately to the emergency room. If you have a recurring dream of an island made of song, under no circumstances should you approach or attempt to open the blue door with the painting of a crow on it.
If you did not read part 4: There was no part 4. It does not exist. Forget you ever heard of it.
By now, you probably already know that there is a shitty gas station at the edge of our small town, and that weird things have been happening there. The city council has personally asked me to stop talking about it, as there have been some astute readers that not only tracked down our small town from the brief descriptions I’ve given, but actually come and visited me at work. I heard that one of them has joined the Mathematists, and as far as I know the other two are still missing. Once again, I am sorry.
I’m not working right now. It’s the first legitimate break I’ve had since I first started writing my stories on receipt paper all that time ago. Time moves funny here. Flowing slow and fast all at once, like molasses out of a shotgun. It’s a good thing I’ve been keeping a journal. I’ve got a few moments before my laptop dies, and I think now would be the perfect time to transpose my journal entries, before the battery runs out or the blood loss gets me. Right now it's a race to see what happens first.
Before any of you worry, I’ve already called Tom. He said he's on his way here to give me a ride to the hospital, right after he picks up dinner for the Ledford orphans, John-Ben and Little Sister. Tom and the other deputies have been taking turns checking in on and bringing them food in an attempt to make the whole thing less tragic. They’ve been living on their own ever since the incident that totally did not happen (and anyone who says otherwise is a damned liar).
There I go again, off on another tangent. I guess I’ll get to it, and type up my journal entries while I still can.
So much has happened here since the Halloween incident that we aren’t allowed to talk about. I’ve been much busier than usual, dealing with the aftermath as well as the cult. The Mathmetists have been cleaning out our inventory on a daily basis, planning ahead for some kind of secret event that I only get to hear about in hushed mutterings and whispers.
Night is coming earlier, and the weather is getting colder.
The man in the trench coat is back. He’s standing just outside the gas station door, staring in. He’s been there for almost an hour now. On the bright side, I haven’t had a customer come in since he showed up. On the not-so-bright side, I can’t help but feel like he’s trying to put thoughts into my head. He won’t be able to, though. I’ve had way too much practice.
Kieffer came in earlier today, before the sun went down, and sat in a booth drinking coffee for a while. Eventually, Spencer Middleton showed up. Spencer had a word with Kieffer, then came storming up to my register, screaming at the top of his lungs. He grabbed the display of lotto scratch-offs and threw it across the room. It was obvious that something had upset him. That’s when I took the earplugs out.
“Everything ok?” I asked, stupidly. I knew damn well everything was never "OK".
“Did you hear a word I just said?” Spencer asked.
I explained to him that I had taken to wearing earplugs in an effort to drown out the sounds of screaming that periodically radiate through the air vents. I guess the screams must have stopped a while ago, or maybe I had imagined them. Either way, I didn’t need the earplugs anymore.
At this point, Tom walked into the store. His white hair looking even whiter than normal.
Spencer, I could see, became instantly aware of the deputy’s presence. “Where is he?” He half-whispered half-growled, “Where is the other one?”
“Carlos?” I asked.
Spencer sighed. “Sure. Carlos.”
“He’s not due for another twenty minutes.”
“When he gets here, tell him we need to have a chat.” With that, Spencer Middleton let out a shrill whistle and left the store. Kieffer jumped out of his seat and followed close behind.
Tom helped me pick up the mess and put the lotto display back together without asking a single question. I wish more people could be like Tom.
When Carlos got to work, he told me that he had been having strange dreams. Dreams of something enormous, living, breathing, underground. The dreams always end the same way: with the gas station collapsed into a giant sinkhole. I told him that Spencer was looking for him. That's when Carlos grew solemn and asked me if he could show me something.
In the freezer, behind a stack of boxes labled "Non aprire" (whatever the hell that means, they've been here as long as I've worked here), there is a moving blanket. And inside that blanket is another Kieffer.
My first question for Carlos was, "You stole the body back?"
He looked at the ground and shook his head sheepishly like a toddler that just got busted for cooking meth.
"You killed another one?" I asked.
Carlos explained: it was an accident. Again.
The man in the trench coat is finally gone. He left claw marks on the glass of the front door. I checked the security footage to confirm my suspicions. He always stays just outside the range of our cameras. Why can't I remember what his face looked like?
Marlboro was the first "customer" in the store after the man in the trench coat left. I told him that I was surprised he was still alive. He mistook this for a compliment and said, "Thank you." I asked him if he was ready for the big event, but then he just stared at me blankly. I could tell he had no idea what I was talking about, so I filled him in on how I had put it all together. The unusual cultist activity, the whispers, the buying up all of our supplies. I could tell that something was about to happen.
Marlboro went pale in the face as I was talking, then ran out of the gas station before I could finish, the 99 cent frozen drink still in his hand. I know I should write up an inventory loss slip for the theft, but I just can't bring myself to do it. As hard as it is to explain, there's just something about Marlboro that makes me genuinely feel sorry for him.
I caught myself digging again. I don't know how long I was out there, or who was running the store while I was gone. The hole is so deep now that I nearly couldn't climb out on my own. I should maybe think about considering the possibility of one day asking a doctor if this is normal.
Marlboro is currently crying in the dry storage closet. Through his sobs I could barely make out the story. Marlboro was sent on some kind of "Vision Quest" for the last week and has no idea what the other cultists had been stocking up for. When he went back to the compound earlier tonight, he found the whole place completely deserted. Beds were left unmade. Some plates had food on them. A fire still burning in the fireplace. Everyone's clothes were still in their personal milk crates next to their sleeping bags. But the people--all of the people--were simply gone.
Marlboro isn't taking this very well, but I have a business to run, so I asked Carlos to help me carry him into the dry storage area. I figure he can work through some stuff in there and then maybe when he's done he'll just... I don't know... go home?
The exterminators just left. They say they got all of the snakes this time, but I have my doubts.
Kieffer came into the store again today and made some thinly-veiled threats. He asked about Carlos, too, but I told him that I was tired of being the go-between and that if he had business with Carlos, he needed to take it up with Carlos. That's when Kieffer started getting weird.
"You know this place is just a big experiment, and you're the little mouse?"
I asked Kieffer to buy something or leave, so he bought a pack of toothpaste, then started to undress in the store and rub the toothpaste on his naked body.
"They tell me that something is wrong with your brain. Is that true?"
I tried to be polite and avert my eyes as I answered, "Yeah."
"You have some kind of mental condition?"