p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I wake up in a haze. emWhere am I?/em I can hear cars outside and I smell fresh coffee. I open my eyes to a bright light. Once they adjust I can see stacks of plates and napkins and salt and pepper shakers. I sit up and look to find that I am in the supply closet at work. A hole in the wall diner off Interstate Forty-Five. The door creaks open./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""You better get back to work. The boss will be here any minute," says an elderly woman with white hair and a blue and green apron around her waist./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Yeah, I'm getting there," I reply. I get to my feet and adjust my shirt. I open the door to see an empty diner yet again. We rarely had customers these days save for our morning regulars from the lodge. I check the coffee pots and the dessert fridge to make sure everything is in order. Glancing at the clock, I note the time to be 3:46 in the morning. Only an hour left of my shift, but I don't remember coming in. Last I knew it was my weekend off. I walk to the newspaper stand. Yesterday's date reads emMonday, October Eleventh/em. emHow did I miss three days? It was Saturday when I - wait, what was I doing?/em The last thing I remember is waking up Saturday morning in my apartment and now it's almost four in the morning on Tuesday./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I grab a cup of coffee and throw my apron on the counter. Walking outside the crisp air hits me like a train. emWhen did it get cold?/em I brush it off and don't think of it again./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"When I get to my car I notice my duffle bag in the back seat. I don't remember packing it. I wasn't going anywhere. I search the bag to find two changes of clothes and my hiking boots. My camping gear is tossed around it as well. emWhat happened the last three days?/em I search for my messenger bag. Nowhere. Lighting up a cigarette, I walk back to the diner./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Tossing back my coffee, which had almost gone cold already, I go back into the diner. I sit at the counter and try to recall anything. I was in my own thoughts for almost half an hour before I gave up. emWhere is the boss? He should be here by now/em. I walk into the kitchen. No ones here. Where did that lady go? I don't even know who she is, come to think of it. I search the diner and when I return to the dining floor I find a man sitting at the counter./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""I apologize, sir. I didn't hear you come in. What can I get you this morning?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Coffee, black.," he replies without looking up from his notepad./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I notice his coat is about two sizes too big for him. His hair is black and long and his eyes sunken into their sockets./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Just passing through," I ask as I place his coffee in front of him./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""You could say that." He smiles, but his eyes seem to look past me./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Let me know if you need anything more." I walk to the window and, while looking out, I notice that I can't see the interstate. It's always busy. There is no fog to cloud my view so where is everyone?/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I couldn't help but feel lost. I am missing three whole days and I can't remember a second of them. Almost as soon as I finish my thought, the lights go out. Darkness fills the diner and parking lot./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""You alright, sir? The emergency lights should kick on soon."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Yes, I'm fine." The tone in his voice sounds as if he is smiling./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I feel my way back to the counter. Not even the street lights are on to help. I feel a draft pass by me as if someone had run into the kitchen. I turn, but I still cannot see anything. The emergency lights finally kick on and I look to find the man is gone; nowhere in sight. The lights don't help much. They are dim and yellowed from years of cigarettes. I rummage through the junk drawer in search of a flashlight. I feel something rush past again. I jerk upright. Another one passes and then two more. This is just too much. I have to get out. I run outside. emMaybe I'm dreaming. I'll wake up soon./em/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I rush to my car and the radio blares through the speakers as I turn the key in the ignition. I shift it into drive and speed out the parking lot as fast as my car will allow. I drive into the dark; maybe only a minute or two passes until I am facing the diner again. I pull a U-turn and set off again only to find myself back in the parking lot. I stare at the diner in disbelief. This has to be a dream. I just have to get through it./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I slowly get out of the car and make my way into the diner./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""It's just an odd dream," I say to myself.; trying to convince my heart to slow. I pour another coffee and light a cigarette. I smoke three more before I notice my messenger bag in the far corner booth. Papers and notes all over the table. I can't read the notes. It's all scribbles and random letters. I can't make out anything./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"As I dump the contents of my bag onto the table, the bell for the door chimes. I look up to see the man. In an instant, my head seers in pain. I clutch my forehead with one hand while using the other to keep myself standing. Within a few minutes, the pain subsides to a dull ache and I see the man. He's surrounded by dark smoke. No, not smoke. Some sort of beings. They are floating, but I can't make out any real shape to them. Three, maybe four, of them surround him./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Damon," the man states. "I may be passing through, but so are you."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""What? I think you need to leave, sir. I don't think you should be here right now."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""I've come for you. It's time to face reality." His voice is deep this time. It cracks and stutters, but his lips don't move. "It's time you join us."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Join you? What the fuck are you talking about?" The words escaped my mouth before I even thought it through. "Excuse me, I'm just a bit freaked out right now. Again, I need to ask you to leave."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"'We are your family now. Is that not what you wanted? A family of your own?"/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""I don't understand. Who are you? What family?" I scream./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;""Look again, Damon. Look at the table and read."/p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I turn towards the booth. Only one paper remains. Stained with blood and dated, Saturday, October Ninth./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I can't keep going. I need a family. I need more than this diner. I'm done. I'm giving in to the thoughts. No one will miss me anyway./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I shook as I read the note. It started to come back to me. The campsite, the river flowing below the cliff. emOh./em There I was, next to the river. Lying on the bloody rocks with the note still clutched in my hand. I wasn't pushed. I didn't fall./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"I jumped./p
p style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;"Right before the man grabs me, I see blood flow into my eyes./p