The thing about midnight shifts is that you get used to seeing weird things. Half-ghosts with yellowed fingernails scuttling in and out of the candy aisles, fading in and out of existence with every flicker of the overhead lights. Witches out for their daily shopping, leaving trails of frog slime and stray curses in the washrooms. Even the odd troll lumbering in, muttering about the weather and goats and the state of the bridge on Highway 13. You see a lot of things come and go once the sun sets, and most folks learn to keep their mouths shut about what exactly happens in the back of the store at night – the blood is usually gone by morning, anyways.
They pay good, those things that come in during the witching hours. They just don’t pay in money. They come in and take their pick of whatever we have to offer – vampires are particularly fond of energy drinks; I’ve seen them guzzle cans by the dozen. Ghouls are quieter, shuffling in for a bag of pretzels or some b-list movie and shuffling back out. Zombies can be hard to please, but most seem to enjoy the jerky we keep in the back (the kind we don’t sell to regular customers, if you get my meaning). The goblin hoards are no worse than the groups of drunken teens we chase out every other night, sometimes it’s hard to see the difference: same lifeless pale eyes, scabby hands, gelled hair, and piercings all over the place. A few have even picked up human swear words, just to heighten the image.
They pay with whatever items of value they happen to have on them, which is hit or miss most nights. Necromancers give gold rings, sometimes with finger bones still attached, and silver teeth. I don’t ask where, or how, they come by them. A witch once left a jar full of deer teeth, polished with care, and the words to a spell. I’ve had shrunken heads dropped unceremoniously in front of me in trade for an armful of party snacks. A specter once coughed up a locked chest as payment for countless bags of caramel – my boss took the chest to the back, and I’ve never bothered to ask what was inside. I’m not sure I want to know.
We’re good to our customers and in return they behave themselves, mostly. I’ve had to sweep up a couple shattered skeletons from the front, shove drunken hobgoblins out of the men’s toilets, and lecture a cluster of delinquent demons who were smoking too close to the building. Literally smoking – they were burning like Christmas candles ten feet from the propane tanks. But most of the time our patrons behave themselves; I don’t know what deal they have with my boss and I’ve never asked. So, on stormy nights when I see things that look like people crawling on the road, nibbling at the roadkill, I know to look away. And when something screams in the dark – I know to turn off the cameras and mind my own business. I don’t even think about what leaves the trails of dead beetles around the gas pumps every night, or why so many cows go missing in these parts. Yeah, you get to see strange things when you work a graveyard shift. But at least my manager doesn’t ask questions under the full moon; not about the squirrel fur in my teeth, nor about the vanishing wildlife or even why I take those nights off. No, we don’t ask questions on the graveyard shift.