“It’s the clicking sounds in the back.”
“Dude, shut the hell up.”
“I’m for real!”
“This happens every night?” Jonathan asked.
“No, not every night… but some nights,” he smirked.
The new hire looked anxiously back and forth at the two boys. They’d worked together for all-of-about four hours and were still nothing more than strangers. Their expressions betrayed none of their seriousness. This must be how they haze the new hires, Jonathan thought to himself. “How’s it supposed to turn on if it’s not even plugged in?” he asked.
The other boys shrugged.
* * *
Saturday night was their busiest night. The phone rang ceaselessly ‘til close. As Jonathan scrambled taking delivery orders, time flew by. Hours passed like minutes and before he realized, Conor split, leaving only Eddie and himself for closing.
“I’ll count the tills if you sweep and mop,” said Eddie.
Jonathan nodded, “Sure thing.” Then he walked into the back, peering behind corners and crevices.
“Hey man!” he shouted.
“Sup?” Eddie called.
“I can’t find a broom.” Pause.
“They’re in the back-storage room!” After a second, he added, “Watch your step!”
* * *
Tommy’s Pizzeria was impeccably clean. Its floors were mopped twice a day and swept several times more. Its surfaces and countertops were always wiped, and boxes which spanned the entire side of the shop, were catalogued with obsessive compulsive precision. This why the storage room was so unusual. Boxes were scattered about the room as though they were tossed carelessly. Mop heads, broken shelving, cobwebs, and dust decorated the room. But all that was secondary—the centerpiece, the heart of the room was a large, retired pizza over against the back wall.
The room was abnormally warm; hot even. He started to sweat as he entered the room. It felt ten to fifteen degrees warmer. With each step the room grew more sweltering. “It’s like a sauna back here,” Jonathan wiped his brow.
There were a few broomsticks; one without a head, the second’s bristles were tattered and broken to the point where it wouldn’t be useful. Jonathan grabbed the third broom and made for the door. As he reached for the door handle, a loud click went off behind him. Clenching up, he was too nervous to look back. “Stop being so paranoid,” he told himself.
A short while later after most of their closing duties were completed, Jonathan stood over the front counter trying to appear attentive through his fatigue. The day had been long and he was eager to get back to his couch.
“You wipe the counters?”
“Yep,” said Jonathan.
“Did you mop in there?”
“Nah, sorry, I spaced.”
“S’all good,” said Eddie. “I’ll go take care of that.
“Oh, hold up,” Eddie waved him back. “I’m gonna take a quick break out back if you wanna join.” Eddie pulled a neatly rolled joint from his breast pocket.
“Ahh… yeah, sure,” Jonathan laughed. “If you’re gonna twist my wrist.”
“Alright, I gotta piss. I’ll meet you out back.”
Jonathan untucked his shirt, lifted the brim of his visor and wiped the sweat. Stepping out into the cool night air, he breathed a sigh of relief. He patted around his pockets for his pack of cigarettes. Confused, he remembered he’d left them in his hoodie pocket. Walking back inside he passed by the door to the storage room. Again, he heard a click. This time louder, as though whatever made the noise were right behind him, close enough to touch.
Jonathan spun around quickly. Nothing stirred. Everything was in its place. He spun another hundred and eighty degrees. Nothing, just him and a wall full of Employee’s Rights bulletins. Shuddering, he kept walking.
* * *
“How long have you worked here?” Jonathan passed the joint.
“’Bout six months,” said Eddie as he took a hit.
“What is this by the way?”
“OG Kush,” said Eddie. “My roommate grows it in his closet.”
“Nice,” Jonathan coughed.
The two were silent for a moment. Eddie busied himself with his phone while Jonathan stared off at passing traffic.
“Say, I gotta know. Was all that about the place being haunted, bullshit?” Eddie laughed.
“He tells that to every new hire. Honestly, that’s been the story around here since before I was hired. Just some dumb shit.”
“Yeah, I figured it was some joke.”
“You good on this?” Eddie held out the roach.
“Toasted,” he nodded.
* * *
Jonathan went looking for the mop bucket. He peaked in every crevice and corner, every space except, of course, the back-storage room. Approaching the doorway, he began to feel slightly nauseas. Not so much that he had to vomit but enough that he nearly doubled over. “Just get in over with,” he told himself and grabbed the door handle. As he pushed the door open, he heard a third click. This time he questioned whether he was hearing things, for it was as though he heard the noise in his thoughts. “Great, now I’m even more paranoid,” he thought. “It’s been forever since I’ve smoked.” He entered the room and the door swung shut behind him.
* * *
“Yo Jonathan!” Eddie called out. “I’m tryin’ to get out of here, bro. Where are ya?”
“Jonathan!” Eddie shouted. He walked over to the monitor with the security cameras. No sign. Behind him something clicked, like gears snapping into place.
“Yo man, stop messing around. We gotta go.”
Finally, Eddie walked to the back and knocked on the bathroom door. After a second, he knocked again and cracked the door. “You in here?” The lights were on but the bathroom was empty.
Another click. Eddie jumped. “What the hell!”
Walking back down the hallway, he stopped before the back-storage room. “Hey man, it’s not funny anymore. You can come out now.” Stepping through the doorway beads of sweat started to form near his temples.
“Don’t be a dick, I’m coming in.”
On the floor, amid the cardboard boxes, discarded cups, and old promotional material, he found Jonathan’s red visor. As he bent down to collect it, a third click sounded. He looked up at the massive clunker, the abandoned oven. It was glowing on the inside. Light seeped through the cracks of the oven door.
“Jonathan,” Eddie whimpered.
At that, the oven door sprung open releasing the foulest odor he’d ever smelled. It was like a sulfur explosion. Everything was light for second, then nothing…
“It’s the clicking sounds in the back.”