The diner is set in a long rectangle, like a train car. Everything has a red, black, and white pattern. The floors are white, cut into boxes with black boxes in the centers. There are red, small, stools in front of the counter that creak whenever someone sits down. There are no tables, only booths with red leather seats. The tables are white with black lining. A clock sits at the far wall of the diner, it's broken but still ticks. The face of the clock is a smiling clown; the mascot of the restaurant. The lighting is bright, like in a hospital, and the lights themselves make a constant buzzing sound and occasionally flicker off for a second or two. Jingle Bells is playing over the speakers, but it's fuzzy and this version of the song is very old.
There's a claw game right beside the entrance with a sign that reads: PLAY UNTIL YOU WIN. And below that: OUT OF ORDER.
Huge photographs from the 50's are pinned up on the walls. The one closest is a group of men eating upside down with their legs hanging in the air. The farthest one is a group of men sitting on a huge metal girder thousands of feet in the air with their lunch sitting in their laps.
Most of the booths are empty, save for one in the back which has been occupied by an unmoving aged couple. A coat placed on a hat rack beside them covers the man, but the woman is still reading a menu. When their waitress asks if they're ready to order, the woman tells her not yet; but soon.
Behind the counter is a window that sees into the kitchen. The chef's arms move like water, cutting, slicing, putting bread on top of burgers, then placing them up for the waitress to grab. His face isn't visible, only his arms and upper torso. On one arm there are scars running up and down, the other is clean.
You can hear the conversations going on in the kitchen.
"Going back to my previous conversation; I could kill you whenever I want," says the chef in a monotone voice. It's laced with a Yankee accent.
"Yeah, sure! And what else could you do? Make pigs fly?"
"You'd be surprised!"
The lights flicker off and a bloodcurdling shout comes from the kitchen. The waitresses don't react.
"Cut my ********' finger," says one of them. "I hate these lights."
The old couple gets up without ordering anything and leave. The man is wearing a leather jacket and a news boy hat. His face is pockmarked with tiny holes here and there, his hair is short, and he smells like Old Spice. He has a permanent frown on his face. When he leaves, he slams the door accidentally and this startles the waitresses.
"Aw s**t," says the youngest one. "There goes another."
"What are we gonna do? We need more."
"Yep. But we can't stop them from getting out, can we?"
"We could, but that's illegal."
They go back to their duties as if nothing happened.
As soon as the old fella slams the door, a young man walks in named Danny. Danny is about fifteen years old. He's about 5'6 with brown hair that gets into his blue eyes every so often and he shakes his head to get his long bangs out of his eyes. He's wearing a light coat and a beanie hat. He has a little bit of facial hair coming up under his chin and above lips and he thinks it looks good on him while his friends secretly laugh about it behind his back. Danny is wearing a long grey coat, black beanie hat, and fingerless gloves. He proudly walks up to the cash register and the woman standing behind it. Her name tag reads Becky.
Becky has her hair tied up in a bun with a hair net over it. She's been smoking eight packs a day for ten years and her voice sounds like metal on cement. Her shirt is stained with grease and her hands are too. She wipes her hands on her apron every so often when she talks to customers; a nervous twitch she never got rid of as a little girl who had made the pledge to never smoke.
"Hey Beck," Danny says. "How's business?"
"s**t," says Becky. "Like always. People leavin' without ordering anything-" she coughs- "how was school?"
"Your mother must be so proud."
"Yeah, yeah. Listen, I want a burger, extra onions."
She mumbles her acknowledgement and writes the order down. She places it up on the string for the cook, who gets to work immediately. Becky points to a booth and tells Danny to sit.
He doesn't need to be told twice. Danny goes to the booth, pushing himself to the farthest possible corner until he's scrunched up against a wall. He looks out the window beside his seat. It's dark outside, but his phone says it's only six-o'clock. It was winter and the sun went down faster, and even though Danny knew this he couldn't help but feel tired and as though this whole day had gone by so quickly.
Earlier in the day he had been sitting down at his house, watching TV and porn. He hadn't bothered to put clothes on in the morning, instead walking about the house butt-naked and enjoying the freedom it brought. Danny got bored of TV and porn eventually, though. He'd spent three hours on those and when sex got boring, it was time to do something else.
He wished it had snowed out so he could at least build a fort or something out of it. His friends were all at Gabriel High listening to their teachers drone on and on about science and math. It was boring to Danny; but that's not to say he wasn't a smart boy. He was the smartest in his group of friends, but was severely lacking in book smarts. His friends often told him he was lazy, and Danny didn't deny this because he knew he was. He was failing most of his classes, lack of dedication both on his part and his teacher's as well. On his way here, it had been 2:00. No doubt, school was over about now as the school day ended at 2:35. Still, he waited another ten minutes before texting any of his friends.
Danny pulled his phone out and scrolled through the names of his friends. He was looking for someone to invite over here to talk to him at least. Danny had been working on getting a full alphabet of names in his phone, just so he could say he did it. It was something that gave him reason to talk to people and sometimes was the pushing factor in him making any friends at all, otherwise he wouldn't bother talking to anyone.
He scrolled on and on until he caught the name: Jack. Danny and Jack had known each other since they were toddlers. Jack was taller than Danny and he was and the typical high school football jock. He played rough, he talked about sports all the time, and he was constantly with a near girlfriend every week; something Danny was envious of. There wasn't a single rumor in high school that didn't involve his best friend. However, Jack didn't have a lot of brains and that's what he had Danny for. Ironically, Jack was passing all of his classes. Danny texted Jack.
I'm sitting at Pennywise's Burger Circus and I'm bored. Come over here, I'll pay.
I'm sitting at Pennywise's Burger Circus and I'm bored. Come over here, I'll pay.
Almost immediately he got a reply.
Alrite dude, im on my way.
Danny stared at the spelling awhile; he couldn't help but hate the way his best friend spelled some words. He knew he wasn't good at spelling, but this was just terrible. Of course, it could be text talk, which should have died out the second Auto-Correct became sub-standard on almost every phone. Still, Danny couldn't be mad at Jack too much because he was a reliable friend and one of the few that Danny had.
He scrolled farther down in his phone and texted Matthew, Sam, Alex, and Alyssa. All of them said they were on their way.
Matthew, or simply Matt, was shorter than all of them. He had a bald head, eyes that were always squinting, and a baby face to go with it. Matt wasn't fat, but he wasn't skinny. Most describe him as pudgy, and the word fits. He frequently wears shirts that don't quite cover his belly. He tended to shy away from a lot of social interaction, choosing to, instead, bury his head in a book.
Sam was the tallest with short blonde hair that seemed brown sometimes and white other times. He was very quiet in public, but could deliver come-backs faster than anyone Danny knew. He was one of Danny's best friends, and probably the most loyal of them.
Alex was "that guy." Nobody really liked him, but they kept him along anyway. He wasn't smart, he wasn't nice, but he thought they were his friends and was willing to protect them. In a way, he was sort of like a bodyguard. Alex wore leather jackets often even when it was freezing outside and icicles were running down his nose. Nobody questioned why he wore leather all the time, they just thought he really liked the material.
Annabelle was the only girl in their group of friends and because of this everyone sought to be her boyfriend at some point. Annabelle had black eyes and black hair. She often dressed in Gothic apparel, studs, chains, leather, and all. She was also a smart-a** about everything and wasn't afraid to voice her opinion no matter how unpopular. She also had the mouth of a sailor and the words "********" and "s**t" were the most used words in her dictionary.
In ten minutes, Jack arrived at Pennywise's Burger Circus, the wires to his headphones drifted down his torso and into his pocket like snakes. They didn't say much, but Jack ordered some fries and Danny paid. Five minutes later, Annabelle turned up. Conversation started to roll as soon as she did as both boys did their best to try and seem interesting.
Slowly, Alex, Sam, and Matt turned up and conversation was practically roaring (with Matt being the only quiet one). Becky had to step in a few times to tell them to tone it down --- and they would for about ten minutes before going back to their previous volume. Being high school kids, the most frequent topic brought up was the school, rumors, accusations, and talking about teachers.
"Mr. Roman," said Annabelle, quietly. "Is so ******** stupid."
"What did he do?" Inquired almost all the boys at the same time.
"He failed me on the math test because I forget to put my name on the ******** paper."
"What an a**-hat."
Danny chimed in, bringing up his favorite topic: Horror movies. Annabelle didn't like them, Alex was too picky, Sam nodded in agreement, Matt was quiet, but Jack was in full swing with him. It was times like these that reminded Danny why they were friends.
"Did you see Killer Clown?"
"Yeah, man. Scared the ab-so-lute s**t out of me. I hate clowns."
"Sucks that this place is modeled after one, huh?"
"Worst part was when Abraham was cut in two by the clown in the bowler hat."
"With the chain saw or-"
"Yeah, that was definitely the worst."
Conversation dipped for a while as nobody else had anything to contribute to the conversation, but it came back when Annabelle returned to the subject of school and rumors. For a while, they laughed, gossiped, ate, and laughed some more, but eventually they all grew tired of Pennywise's Burger Circus and longed for a change of scenery.
Danny paid up front like he usually did. Everyone had eaten something and it had brought the total bill up to forty dollars. Becky wished him good luck tonight, Danny did the same and left, following after his friends in a hurry because they were already out of the diner by the time he'd finished paying.
He stepped outside and was hit, immediately, by the sheer cold of the outside world. When was the last time he'd looked out the window? It was snowing very lightly, like little tiny plumes from dandelions were floating in the air and for a moment Danny thought that's what it was. A cold breeze shifted his way and chills were sent up his spine. It was almost pitch black outside, the only lights were the ones emitting from the diner and the few street lights on the corners of the sidewalks. His friends were all dancing in the snow, catching it with their tongues and trying to make some vague snow angels on the ground. However, Danny felt uncomfortable. How much time had passed, exactly, in that diner? It felt like only an hour, but... it must have been longer. Snow wasn't supposed to be around until one o'clock in the morning.
Danny pulled his phone out and checked the time: 2:17. Goddamn, he --- they had really lost track of time. How had any of them not noticed this?
"That's crap," said Alex, "your phone must be broken. Get it fi- oh. That's right. You can't afford that."
"Coming from a guy in a trailer," Sam said, "that doesn't mean much."
"Everyone check your phones, maybe mine is just broken."
"I got 2:19,"
Everyone's faces got pale; they were hoping that someone had the wrong time. Usually when it was something like this the earliest time was the right time. But now that wasn't the case. Anyone could agree it was 2:13, but that wouldn't mean very much right now. They all turned away and waved goodbye, dashing off towards their homes at 2 o'clock in the morning. Nobody checked the date.
It was December 7th.
Strangely, they weren't the only ones who had lost track of time. Almost everyone in the town had experienced the loss of time, and when they realized it they just shrugged it off as "working too hard" or "having too much fun". Nobody talked about it, everybody just went home like nothing happened. Danny and the others had invented a long-winded story about how they went all over town exploring and then staying the night at Alex's trailer (his parents wouldn't have noticed because they were too busy getting drunk anyway), but they didn't get a chance to use it.
When Danny woke up the next morning, he trudged downstairs expecting his mother to give him a tongue-lashing for being out so late and then threatening to take some of his possessions away, but she didn't. Instead, she hummed to herself while making pancakes. His dad sat at the table, a plate in front of him and a glass of orange juice in his right hand, scrolling through his phone and reading. Danny's little sister, Laura, had her ear-buds plugged in and she was currently listening to some pop song that repeated the same words over. Danny sat down across from his sister, and nervously turned to his dad.
His dad was a gruff and strict man who was rarely seen outside of his private office in the house. He was usually playing his guitar, drinking, and smoking in that room trying to relive his old days as a kid. He had a bald head that Danny could see his reflection through, and a goatee. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses sat comfortable on his nose. His dad looked up at Danny with one eyebrow raised.
"You lookin' at something," his father said, "Dan?"
"Er," Danny said, shaking his head. "No."
"Better not be smoking weed with those jackass friends, boy."
"Oh he's not Charles," chimed his mother.
"Maggie, he's a King boy, if I catch him I'll skin 'im."
"I'm not dad."
His dad only grunted a reply before turning back to his phone and scrolling. Laura was kicking her legs under the desk and hit Danny in the knee.
"Ah! Watch what you're doing, Laura!"
She wasn't paying attention, she was really getting into her music, for a moment Danny thought she was going to jump up and start dancing but she managed to retain herself and didn't move out of her seat. Their mother finished breakfast and brought it out to them; pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. Danny took a crispy strip of bacon and chewed it thoughtfully.
Nobody seemed to notice he was gone at all last night. What could've happened? Nobody else seemed to notice the days that pushed on by. His father would normally have brought some attention to it, but he just sipped his orange juice just as he would any other day and his sister was jamming out to the pop song. His mom sat down beside him; even she didn't notice anything wrong with the missing day.
Danny quit questioning the strange 'Black Out' and decided to eat his breakfast. Maybe this was a good thing. What's the worst that could have happened?
--- 2 ---
Annabelle was laying down in her dark room. Band posters covered her walls almost entirely, hiding the black painted walls beneath their names and covers. Skillet, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, and Mindless Self Indulgence all stared down towards her bed. The sheets were black, and purple netting surrounded her. Her long black hair ended in two tails running down her shoulders. A computer sat in one corner of her room, it was turned off and Annabelle could almost see herself in it's black monitor. Her TV was right in front of her; it was an old beast that was barely working and oftentimes she had to get a screwdriver and shove it into a hole where the buttons had been (they fell off years ago when she dropped it) to change the channel or volume. There was a lamp on the ceiling that looked, strangely, like a breast.
Annabelle had her headphones in, kicking her legs to the beat of Shut Me Up by Mindless Self Indulgence. Her parents hadn't asked where she was last night, and Annabelle wasn't surprised. She guessed they went out drinking and got a room at a motel to screw each other in, because God knew they didn't get enough privacy in their own homes. Annabelle could smell burnt toast downstairs and the faint sound of her dead swearing. She just turned her music up some more, ignoring her father cursing the toast to hell.
Annabelle thought to last night. They'd been there a whole day, all of their phones said the same thing and when she got home she was sure to check the date on her computer, and that was the same too. They were in the diner the whole damn day and none of them noticed it. How had that happened? Were they really that negligent? Maybe something happened and ******** all the clocks up, was her initial thought, but she pushed this aside as meaningless anyway. Nobody else had noticed the black out; her group of friends were the only ones who knew. For everyone else, yesterday was just grey and very distant, or shrouded in fog.
Her thoughts swarmed around her head about what could have happened, but nothing seemed to make sense. She knew for a fact they weren't drunk or high on anything, unless Becky slipped something into the burgers; which Annabelle doubted because as much as Becky didn't like them hanging out in the diner, she would never try to hurt them. They were the only ones who visited the diner on a regular basis and were willing to spend money on their shitty excuse for fast food. As far as Becky was concerned, they were the only ones even keeping the little diner afloat anymore.
Someone was knocking on Annabelle's door, she could barely hear it through her headphones and it sounded very faint. The knocking must have been pretty hard because the door was practically shaking. Annabelle threw her legs over the bed and threw the door open. Her father was standing over her, his eyes were looking down on her and an angry sneer decorated his pock-marked face.
"I told you to take the goddamn garbage out," he said, looking her up and down. "Go do it."
"Right, dad," Annabelle said, shoving past him and walking down the stairs. Apparently she must have been stepping pretty loud because her father told her to "calm the hell down."
Annabelle hated her father with a passion. Well, step-dad technically, but her mother insisted she call him her real father. You see, Annabelle's real dad had left the second he found out her mother was pregnant. He was some drunk who she met in a bar one night, they got it on and he was too drunk to wrap-up. Thus, Annabelle was born. Her step-father came into the picture one month after Annabelle's birth. He was nice --- at first. When he was around his new wife, he was as nice as possible, charming, polite. He was a gentleman. However, when he was around Annabelle, he was very different. When she turned seven, he began molesting her. Sometimes when he was drunk, sometimes when he wasn't. Those years had nearly driven Annabelle to kill herself on several occasions, the only thing that stopped her from going through with it was Danny. He had come into her life at a very opportune time and had always invited her over. Her mother never said no and those were the days she got to get away from her step-father.
He didn't like it, but he couldn't stop it. Eventually, Annabelle told Danny everything, and he had just nodded along like he completely understood. He didn't, he was only a kid mind you, but he understood enough to know he was hurting her. He told his dad, who was a police officer, and her step-father was immediately arrested. Annabelle didn't see him for years, her mother was furious with her for a very long time, but ultimately she understood it was necessary. She never divorced him though. He was the bread-winner and brought all of the money in. Even though he was a convicted child molester, he never had trouble finding work.
Now they had a hateful relationship. Annabelle refused to be driven anywhere with him or picked up by him. She would rather walk, and that's what she did even if it meant walking through rain, sleet, snow, or hail. She would rather walk on hot coals all the way to her house and risk anything with her b*****d of a step-father.
Annabelle took the garbage out too the curb and went back inside. The smell of burnt toast was still very very strong. She trudged up the stairs and saw her door was closed. She didn't close it, did she? No, she didn't. Why was it closed?
Slowly, cautiously, she opened the door, heard the little click and pushed it open. Nothing. Just her same old room. No huge monster standing in the middle, her father wasn't standing naked in the middle. Nothing. Annabelle still felt something was off though. Something felt wrong. She sprinted to her underwear drawer and pulled it open. Just as she thought. Her step dad stole a pair of her panties.
"That sonuvabitch," she said, the hate was clear and strong in her voice. She was tempted to grab a kitchen knife from downstairs and shove it into that pricks d**k, cut it off, and shove it down his throat, maybe he should taste it just like she had to. That piece of s**t. That royal, terrible, piece of s**t.
Annabelle took a deep breath, stood up, went to her parents room, and forced the door open. Sure enough, her step-father was laying in the bed, hand in his pants and her panties in his face. He saw her open the door, but didn't stop. Piece of s**t. Annabelle's brows furrowed.
"You sick piece of s**t," she said, "I should kill you."
"******** you," he said, then shoved the panties into his pants, held them there, and sighed. "Want 'em back, little b***h?"
"Keep them. I'm sure the police would love the evidence."
That shut him up. Annabelle slammed the door shut. She'd make it a point to tell her mother. Annabelle went back into her room, reached into her panty drawer and brought out a knife. She slid it into her pocket, put the ear buds in, and went back to listening to music.
--- 3 ---
The sky outside was dimming, the sun was retreating back behind the little mountains and the clouds floated high up above, threatening to send frozen snow down to the residents below. Matt sat alone in his room with all of the lights off save for a little book-light that hooked itself onto his book. He was reading, The Gunslinger by his favorite author, Stephen King. The Gunslinger had just made it to the way-station when Matt's stomach began to rumble. He licked his index finger, flipped the page, and folded the corner. He didn't have any bookmarks, and he'd even asked for some for his birthday but his mother never went out to pick them up, and he never complained. He understood why she didn't. She didn't think it was much of a present for him.
Throughout his life, he'd never asked for anything expensive, he'd always asked for books, pencils, notebooks, and office supplies. Whereas other kids found pleasure in playing video games, he found pleasure in reading about the adventures of Roland Deschain, Harry Potter, and, of course, Frodo and Sam. The stories, to Matt, weren't just stories but entire universes and worlds. Places where he could go wherever he want and be whomever he wanted. His mother always bought him other things, of course. She did it because she wanted him to stop reading; she believed he did it too much and should, instead of reading, be out making friends and being social. Matt often lied to his mom by saying he was going to a friend's house when he was really just going to the park with a book tucked under his arm. He didn't want his mom to worry about him, he really loved her.
When he was little, he'd dreamed about growing up and marrying his mother, because he had no father. His dad was a soldier who had fought in the middle east for three years. He was two months from coming home when his jeep was destroyed by a bomb. Matt was too young to remember much of his dad, all he could think of was a warm smile, perfect teeth, green eyes and short hair. Other than that, his father was simply a phantom that haunted his dreams on occasion.
Matt made himself a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich; he hated grape even though his mom often made her sandwiches with it, Matt never complained though. He ate it anyway. Matt poured himself a cold glass of milk and was on his way back to his room when he mother stepped in front of him.
She was fat, he could admit that, but she was nice to him. She had long curled blonde hair that was usually very greasy. She didn't sleep often, so bags were under her eyes almost all the time. She tried to keep a smile on her face and her dimples were very distinguished. Matt's mother tried her best to make sure her boy was happy, but she was the only one working for now, Matt couldn't work until next year and when he did he was sure to pull his weight, but times were tough now and the future seemed all too distant, coming to them at a snail's pace. Although his mother hadn't had a stroke yet, he was sure it was going to be coming very soon. She smoked a lot, which was expected when you were as stressed out as her. Matt had asked her to stop, but each time he did she would just cry and say she couldn't, then Matt would hug her and tell her he understood. It was just the two of them against the world.
His mother was smiling warmly at him and asked if he'd like to watch a movie. Matt said he did and brought the glass of milk and sandwich into their tiny living room. Matt had given their TV the nickname, 'Old Beast' because it barely worked, was basically one big box, and sometimes the channels would stick no matter how often they tried to change it. The only movies they had were old video cassette tapes. His mom popped one in. The movie was A Bug's Life, which had been Matt's favorite when he was little.
"Mom," Matt said, "what's for dinner tonight?"
"We could have ravioli, or maybe I can make some hot dogs if Thomas lets us borrow some buns."
"Well, not borrow. We'd be eating them. It'd be weird if we gave them back."
His mom chuckled softly at his little joke. "You're right, Matty, that would be weird!"
Together, Matt and his mom finished A Bug's Life, then went back to doing whatever it was they were doing. Matt finished his sandwich and tossed the paper plate he'd used into the garbage, then washed the glass out. His mother went to ask Thomas, their next door neighbor, if she could have some buns.
Matt went to his room, turned on the lap top his mother had bought him for Christmas (she'd saved up for two years to buy it) and started reading ghost stories.
Matt was very interested in the paranormal, he'd read about it in his books since he was little and had since began to think that such things truly existed in real life. He believed in ghosts, which was a basic rule for most who believed in paranormal activity, and on Halloween he went out looking for the ghosts in the county Grave Yard. The only thing that ever showed up were creepy kids in black robes trying to scare him, though, because of them he hadn't been back there for a year. He figured they'd have given up on it, but teenagers were mean and cruel sometimes, so he doubted they'd give up that easy.
He'd wanted to know what had happened the night time leaped forward, and why nobody else seemed to notice it except Matt and his friends. There must have been something about that diner was his initial thought. They'd been in there and time leaped forward, when they left time was different. So maybe the diner was some sort of... time machine? The thought itself was very silly, and Matt would have admitted it was kind of stupid if someone pushed hard enough. But what was the point of the incident they'd taken to calling the Black Out? There didn't seem to be any point at all, at least not one they could see.
Matt tried searching on Google for any other incidents like this, but nothing came up. The whole world seemed to have jumped forward two days. Matt began to think, folding his hands into a small pyramid, kind of like how Bond's enemies often did.
Maybe we didn't move forward, Matt thought. Maybe we stayed back.
His mother called for him to help her make the hot dogs. Matt turned his computer off and went to help her.
--- 4 ---
Alex stood in his trailer, alone, and wishing he had someone to talk to. The trailer was dusty, dirty, with beer bottles littering the ground, some empty and some still leaking their precious drink into the carpet. It smelled like rotting food all of the time, cracking the windows did nothing to aid in the scent's departure, and since then Alex and his family had learned to live with it. The smell had become normal now.
Alex's room was very small, about the size of a walk-in closet. The only thing in his room was his bed. He had no drawers to put his clothes in, he had no closet of his own to his clothes in, instead he had resorted to stuffing them under his bed, all unfolded, all dirt, except for his leather jacket. His friends thought he liked leather, which is why he wore it so often, but the truth was that Alex's jacket was the only jacket he had. In the winter, he had no coats. The jacket was the only thing that even brought an ember of warmth which would be taken away by even the lightest breeze. The jacket had been his only "coat" since he was eleven.
His mother was in the living room, laying on the couch and flipping channels on the TV. His father was sitting on the computer in his dirty, piss stained, steak marked, underwear and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt. His father's name was Earl, and his mother's name was Janet. They had both been high school super stars; his father was the star football player ("I woulda gone pro, but I busted my leg!" wink and his mother had been the prettiest girl in school ("you shoulda seen me, I was better than Marilyn ********' Monroe" wink . Now they were both losers that talked about the "good ol' days."
They wanted him to follow in their footsteps, but seeing how they were was enough to make Alex want to do the exact opposite.