The Newspaper Ad

"Happy birthday Liza...happy birthday Liza...happy birthday to you!" It was dark, the candles being the only spot of light. The 10 on the cake was dark red. Liza couldn't stop smiling, even as her cheeks hurt.

Something is wrong Everything is alright.

"Blow out the candles sweetheart!"

She leaned forward, cheeks filling up with air...

PAINPAINPAINPAINWHYISEVERYTHINGPAIN-

Liza let out a gasp as her eyes shot open. She laid there, panting for a good minute, staring at the cracks in her ceiling. It took another minute before she realized that her nails were digging holes into her cheap sheets. She sat up, letting out a sigh.

She glanced at the clock, letting out a groan at 8 AM. The Hispanic woman should've woken up two hours earlier. Liza had planned on it last night.

She stumbled out of bed and to the chest of drawers she had brought from her bedroom to the crappy apartment she lived in. She rustled through it before pulling out an old grey scarf and, using muscle memory, tied the cotton fabric around her head. The scarf hid white scars that arched across her forehead before disappearing into dark hair.

When Liza entered the kitchen, she groaned when she saw a piece of paper shoved under her door. She grabbed it- yep. It was another warning from her landlord, stating she had two weeks to turn in this month's rent. It was an unneeded reminder that she had none of that money at the moment. As well as...

I'm sorry, Miss Dorado. But with the...you know...

We'll call you if the position opens up again...

I'm sorry...

Liza crumbled up the warning and threw it on the counter. She started up the coffee machine and as it brewed, she considered the inside of her fridge. She ended up settling the dubious leftovers of Abuelita's paella.

She flipped through the newspaper when breakfast was ready and she had taken two pills from the nearly-empty bottle, looking through the HELP WANTED section. With a red pen, Liza marked each possible job, shoveling rice and chicken in with the other hand. Grocery store cashier, garage mechanic, mechanic, another cashier...

She stopped, staring at the ad.

Ted Bear's Pizza looking for night guard! An exciting career that offers a lot of smiles and new opportunities... Liza skimmed through the ad, grinning when she saw the pay and lack of needed skills. All this job really required was for her to sit in an office from midnight to six in the morning and make sure nobody broke in and stole the animatronics. Great-Uncle Rafael would be pleased that she was getting into what could be considered 'the family business'. Drop-ins allowed, ask for Mr. Calworth.

She circled the ad.


The place honestly looked gloomy.

Liza considered the restaurant in her beat-up old Jeep, biting the inside of her cheek. Ted Bear's Pizza had apparently been a favorite of hers when she was younger. Then the accident on her tenth birthday had occurred, leaving a huge gap in her memory and the scars on her head. She wasn't sure how the restaurant was connected, but her uncle had never brought her here.

Well, time to break that streak.

When she poked her head in, it was to see the gloominess of outside had also affected the inside. The dining hall was almost empty. The animatronics were singing on-stage, the song echoing through the hall. What looked like a month's worth of crud caked the floor. Her scars started to ache as she considered the place.

This was the place she enjoyed so much?

She and younger Liza needed to have some words.

"Can I help you?"

The twenty-five-year-old turned, seeing an older man. He wore an ill-fitting suit that failed to hide his girth and was stained at the pits. He gave her a polite smile full of yellow teeth. Liza blinked before trying to politely smile back. "Um, I'm looking for Mr. Calworth? The newspaper ad said I should ask for him?"

"Well, you've found him." He held out a sausage-like hand. Liza hesitantly took it and gave it a firm shake. "I'm Marthy Calworth, the manager here." His smile faded as he released her hand to look her up and down. "Are you...here for the night guard position?"

Xlow, xifvo orzi.

"Yes! I mean, yes. I am."

He grinned again. "That's wonderful. If you could..." Liza handed him her resume. Calworth took it, still with that grin and a nod. "Now, let's take this conversation over to my office." He led her away from the dining hall and to a set of steel doors, past a blue set of curtains, patterned with anchors. For some reason, Liza stopped.

"Is that..." She racked her brains for a moment, trying to remember what Uncle Rafael called it. "Captain Bun's Treasure Cavern?"

"Why, yes, it is!" Mr. Calworth had been looking over her resume and now looked oddly pale. "We don't do it anymore, unfortunately. We haven't done it in a while because Bun's out of service and we don't have the money to fix her." He pushed back the curtain, revealing Captain Bun.

'She' was a grey-furred bunny, wearing a white shirt and brown pants. Over one glass red-eye was an eyepatch, and a small pirate hat sat between her ears. Her fur was torn in several places, revealing her endoskeleton. Liza couldn't help the distressed hiss that escaped her. Mr. Calworth nodded as he dropped the curtain. He gestured for her to continue following him. She did, giving Treasure Cavern one last glance.

They passed the kitchen to a small office. "This will be your office," Calworth said, still staring at her resume with the pale look.

Liza stepped inside to glance around, taking in the mess of TVs and computer monitors on the desk, the torn-up swivel chair, and the drawings that kids must've done over the years plastered on the walls. Then his words hit her. She turned to him with a bright grin. "I got the job?!"

"You got the job, Miss Dorado, starting tomorrow night," Calworth said with a firm nod. His smile had returned, but it was too wide to be anything but fake. "Why don't you wait here, look around while I grab your uniform?"

"Sure!"

Mr. Calworth disappeared down the hall, letting Liza consider the office. There were four red buttons on a remote. She picked it up, reading the fading print: WEST DOOR, WEST LIGHTS, EAST DOOR, EAST LIGHTS. Looking around, she pressed the west door button.

The button lit up in green. On the right, a steel door slammed down.

She let out a yelp, nearly dropping the remote. Liza caught it, pressing the button again. It returned to red, the door sliding up. She set the remote on the desk and hurried out of the office. She nearly slammed into Mr. Calworth, who was holding what she presumed to be her uniform. "Is everything alright?" he asked, raising a brow.

"Um...yep!"

He looked unconvinced but handed her the uniform anyway. "See you tomorrow, Miss Dorado."

"Right! See you tomorrow."

She hurried out, unaware of the eyes following her.