Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2013
High School Winners

Second Place

Our second place High School winning entry was written by Briar Woods High School freshman Grace Klopp of Ashburn, Virginia.

Night Shift

Grace Klopp

Jake groaned to himself in annoyance as he spotted another half-eaten food item precariously balanced on one of the store shelves. He first saw the core of a granny smith apple. Now it was an opened box of a dozen doughnuts. (Four were missing.) Jake shuffled over to the front of the store and tossed the wasted food into the trashcan. He couldn't believe that the manager had put him on the night shift for an entire week.

“You're a lazy slacker!” He heard the manager's harsh and grating voice in his head. “You'll be on the night shift until you learn how to work properly.”

In complete silence except for his footsteps and the clinking of cans, Jake continued to stock the shelves with canned peaches. He checked his watch; one in the morning. Four more hours of work until he could go home. He moved on to the bread aisle, where he threw yet another half-eaten loaf of bread into the trashcan. Who in the world would decide to eat half a loaf of bread before putting it back on the shelf? The question bugged him for the next four hours as he mopped the floors, washed the shelves and threw away more half eaten food that he found in random places throughout the store.

This is day two, Jake said to himself as he slowly walked away from his freedom and back into the grocery store. He turned and watched the manager close the doors behind him. She gave him a stern look before turning away and walking to her car. Jake stared out of the clear doors and watched his breath fog on the glass. It was a dark, cold night and he could see the fast falling snow in the glint of the one and only street lamp. He turned away and walked deeper into the silence, ready to restock and reorganize the shelves by himself. He headed over to the frozen food section, dragging a mop behind him. He glanced around the doors and noticed, again, more partially eaten food. This time the victim was a box of frozen fish-sticks. The box had been lacerated, the cardboard strewn across the tiled floor. The contents were gone. Jake began to get worried. Perhaps it's a dangerous animal and it's still in the store. Jake turned a full circle, inspecting his surroundings. Seeing nothing, he continued with his work.

At about two in the morning Jake heard a distinct “SPLAT” from across the store. It reverberated across the walls, rattling the still quietness. Following the splat was the sound of hurried rustles and then more silence. Jake, who had been kneeling in order to fill a lower shelf with jars of tomato sauce, froze. He cautiously stood up. What could it be? He slowly walked around the store, trying to find the source of the noise. His footsteps were loud and heavy as he walked towards the meat section. Jake abruptly stopped, trying to make out what the lumpy object on the floor was in the dim light. He moved closer. At first he thought it was a dead animal, but as the half-dimmed light shone upon the globs of pink meat, he realized it was ground beef. Somehow, it had been taken from storage, ripped from its freeze-dried package, and half eaten. What remained was scattered across the floor.

That night Jake dreamt that he was terribly hungry. He tumbled down the stairs into his dark kitchen, flinging open the refrigerator doors. His pupils adjusting to the sudden flood of yellow light, he eagerly stared at the contents; milk, bread, lettuce, peanut butter, orange juice. His gaze fell on the pack of sirloin steak which he planned to cook on the grill that weekend. Should I just eat it now or should I save it for later? His stomach growled and he grabbed the steak. Should I cook it? Or should I just eat it raw? He stared down longingly at the steak in his hands. EAT IT NOW, his stomach demanded. He ripped open the packaging and bit into the steak. It was delicious, but it was also cold and tough. Jake frowned, staring at the steak while sitting on the floor of the ill-lighted kitchen. I could do better, but with what? He looked up at the ceiling, deep in thought. What would be a tastier food? Suddenly Jake saw something moving out of the corner of his eye. His head swung around to follow a black shadow slip soundlessly through the slightly opened door of his kitchen's pantry. Jake walked slowly over to his pantry, curious to know what was waiting for him inside. He opened the door, but all that greeted him was darkness. Squinting, Jake made out a few items; canned peas, a jar of jelly, and and an untouched package of flour. Jake stepped inside and further narrowed his eyes to try and make out the food at the very bottom shelf. He could see a box of something, but he couldn't read the label. Something was telling him to look harder; to reach back and pull out the box. Jake kneeled on the ground so that he was eye-level with the bottommost shelf. He blindly shoved his right arm into the shelf, feeling around for the box. Then with a jolt he realized that something had caught onto his arm. He frantically tried to pull himself away, but the grip of whatever it was grew tighter.

“Help!” Jake shrieked in terror. Then he remembered that he was alone. The thing in the pantry spread up Jake's arm and into his mouth. Jake was paralyzed; he could only watch in horror as he felt the cold blackness seep down his throat, filling his stomach.

Jake woke with a jolt as his alarm began to ring. He was dreading ten o'clock. It would be his third day on the night shift and his vivid dream unnerved him. He had considered calling in sick not only because he was afraid, but because he didn't feel well at all. He refrained from doing this, knowing that the manager would assume that he was slacking. Every part of Jake's body ached and he had a sore throat. He felt tired and groggy, and everything he heard sounded muffled. He had remembered to report what he thought was a wild animal eating the store food to the manager, which, as he had predicted, twisted the story to make it his fault.

“Don't be letting raccoons into my store!” She barked, wagging her finger while staring down at him with her piercing eyes. Jake, afraid that she would assign him another week of night-shift, nodded and said nothing more.

Jake closed the doors softly and glanced nervously at the aisles. Everything seemed clean and organized enough and Jake didn't feel like working. Mostly he wanted to spend his night shift sitting on the small plastic chair as close as possible to the exit. He sat and grabbed a magazine from the magazine rack. I wonder how many magazines I could read in seven hours, he thought to himself. He opened the magazine to a random page and began to read.

“HISTORY OF YOUR HOME, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!” the tile of the article read in big black letters. Half-heartedly, Jake began to read the article. Something under the “FUN FACTS!” column caught his eye. It read,

In 1847 a local man by the name of Mr. Cavendish literally ate himself to death! When he was 87 years old he started eating and couldn't stop. He went through five loaves of bread, an entire gallon of milk, a carton of eggs, a raw chicken, and even attempted to eat a member of his family before collapsing from all the food! One may want to ask WHY someone would suddenly go berserk and decide to eat all the food in the house. Sadly, there is still no good answer. Many back in the 19th century said that the man was gluttonous and just had an abnormal craving for food.”

Jake stopped reading and closed the magazine. He glanced at his watch; it was only twelve o'clock. The story of Mr. Cavendish was creeping him out. He tried not to think about it as he reached for another magazine.

For another few hours, Jake continued reading, squinting at the tiny font of the magazine articles in the dim light. He placed his third magazine back on the rack and began to search for another when his stomach rumbled. Without realizing it, Jake had walked into the candy aisle. He sighed; he had finished all of his dinner while reading and hadn't eaten for an entire hour. He raised his hand to grab a box of Junior Mints, but then stopped. His manager would be infuriated if she ever found out he was eating the food without paying. How would she even notice the food was missing? A little voice in Jake's head whispered for him to eat the food. How are you going to survive these night-shifts if you're forced to starve? Jake's hands closed around the box and he opened it. With two fingers he picked up a single piece of candy and dropped it in his mouth.

Never before had Jake tasted Junior Mints as delicious as these. They exploded in his mouth and the mint felt like an ice-cold river in some faraway land. He ate another and it was even better. Soon he had eaten the whole box. Eat more, said the voice in his head. The magazine Jake had been carrying dropped limply to the floor as he began eating more candy. Jake's eyes glinted with happiness as he tried each one. Some were plain and dull while others exploded with flavor. Jake realized that he had drained seven boxes of candy into his stomach. He started to feel sick. That's okay, said the little voice in his head. Now you just move on to a new food! Jake walked around the store, taking items of the shelf, eating them, and then throwing the empty packaging on the ground. At first he tried only the foods he liked. Then he branched out, trying new foods and discovering their amazing and unique flavors. Everything was delicious. Jake couldn't decide what was his favorite! Soon Jake began to feel heavy and struggled to walk. I really must have eaten a lot, Jake thought. He began to sit down when the voice screamed at him. You haven't tried the best food! The meat! Jake wearily got up and slowly walked past the messy aisles. He stepped over the empty containers filled with crumbs and partly eaten items and eyed the meat options. They all looked so delicious. Jake's eyebrows furrowed in concentration. He couldn't decide.

“I can't decide!” he begged aloud for the help of the voice.

“It's almost five in the morning,” something whispered in Jake's ear. “Your shift is over and your manager will be coming through the door!” Jake smiled. It was the perfect choice! He crawled to a hiding spot near to the entrance of the store and waited. He stared at the manager intently as she used her keys to unlock the front door. The doors swung open and she entered, immediately stepping on an empty package littered with cookie crumbs. She looked around and gasped in astonishment.

“JAKE! WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?” she roared at the top of her lungs. She scanned the scene and caught sight of Jake, crouching in a corner. The time was right. Jake was hungry again, and he attacked. He had finally found the perfect food.

Continue to the 1st place story

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