Dayshifter’s came in a few days later.
You could always tell Dayshifters because of the glow. Nothing strictly visible, just a certain luminescence that you sensed; like the staticky sensation you got from TVs and computers, something low frequency; irradiated.
Maybe it was their teeth, gossamer white and glinting under the Calypso lights as they chewed with their mouths too wide open, talked too loudly, laughed too much and way too easily. Their teeth seemed liquid; white marshmallow goop that collapsed and reformed with each overzealous chomp into another greasy fry.
They ordered far too much food and took over three booths; there were six, maybe seven of them, all bright eyed and glaring at us as they held fake conversations, emulating human speech in a frenzied pantomime. They were breathing mannequins, desperately mimicking people.
Dayshifters had a game.
Well, maybe more of a feeding style.
They danced and dazzled and lured you in. Look how human we are. How daylight. We work our jobs and run our errands and we watch our shows and we talk about last weekend, this weekend, the weekend after next. We make plans and we stick to routines. Look at our calendar. See those lines with all their dates and times? Oil change on Tuesday, dentist on Wednesday, then Thursday haircut. We have squeezed the rock of time you call a week and look how much blood comes out. We’ve fit so much into the margins of living. Look at how well we function, how lethally efficient we are at being alive.
They were the mutated extreme of living. Too much blood flushed their cheeks. Their hair looked strained; I imagined their roots bursting from their scalp and spraying flecks of bright, alarming blood.
Needless to say, I stared at the Dayshifters with ceaseless hatred. The tentacle around my wrist sensed my tension, and throbbed to echo my irritation.
Delaney and I were behind the counter, watching them. She’d just served them; I could feel her fuming with rage because they’d kept changing their order after she’d written it down on her pad.
“I’ll get uhh, pancakes with blueberries, thanks.”
“I’ll get waffle fries and a milkshake.”
“Actually instead of pancakes can I get uh, can I get waffle fries too?”
I saw her reach for the shotgun we kept under the counter, and I felt a brief, burning love for my fellow Nightshifter. The idea of buckshot spreading and collapsing their heads like broken jack-o-lanterns filled me with a hungry pang that felt almost like lust. I was nodding and grinning at Delaney, yes, yes do it, spray their yellow blood on the walls babe, oh my god–,
Matt came out from the kitchen. His eyes darted to Delaney and he lunged over and grabbed her wrist. She started to protest, but he shook his head once, briefly. The expression on his face told us to play it cool.
“There’s too many,” he said without moving his lips. “Play it cool, you know how they are.”
Delaney tore away from him, frowning. I shrugged. The spell had been broken though; the luminescence from the Dayshifters dimmed.
That was how they worked.
They showed up and glowed in that maddening way, in such a way that it felt like they were dragging the very light from your soul. Vampires of the worst sort. They drew light in and reflected a heinous version of it outward, a sickly yellow brightness that made your skin feel greasy.
They kept hitting us with glances, their eyes flickering slightly like fireflies, but we wouldn’t be drawn in. They kept talking about going to a concert, a festival, “let’s get out and do something fun” they kept saying. They wore too much jewelery, each had one too many things going on with their hair. Spikes and color. Bangs and streaks. Ponytail and barrettes.
It was like they had read every book on being a person and applied all of the tips. Accessorized into oblivion, they wore rings on every finger. They were twisted, living hyperboles.
But we couldn’t take them on. They were dandelions I longed to pluck out of the garden that was the Calypso, but we’d be overrun. And Dayshifters wouldn’t attack first; they were a passive aggressive bunch.
They sat and tossed jabs at us, jeering like hyenas, hoping we’d engage.
“I can’t imagine working nights, that must be terrible for your skin.”
“Wow Samantha that bracelet is so… out-there.”
“I see why this place looks like shit when we get here in the morning. I’m joking, I’m joking, just messing with my night shift coworkers, come on.”
The air grew thick with unresolved hostility. Each one of us began gripping hidden weapons. Delaney had the shotgun in an iron hold under the counter. I had a knife held behind my back. Matt kept banging a particularly large frying pan against the stove as he shook it, glaring at them. Roy was chopping some sort of meat with a large cleaver.
The Dayshifters kept smiling. Kept laughing. Kept exchanging weekend stories and clicking their fingers at us, ordering more fries, more drinks, more, more more.
They were trying to break us.
The crackling tension threatened to pop; I felt it sizzling like bacon on a pan, the greasy, underlying tone of violence bubbling and boiling.
The bell dinged, and their halogen eyes whirled as a coughing, hoodie-clad man with a tangled beard and very tired eyes lunged into the diner, clipping one of the bar stools with his elbow before collapsing into a seat. Delaney went over to take his order and he yawned, apologized, and said:
“Just a lot of eggs. Hash browns. Bacon. And please like, just keep pouring coffee.”
He rubbed his eyes and smiled wanly over at me. “Midnight’s, I don’t know how you guys do it. I’m on my third week and I’m dying.”
Roy was clearing dishes off a table nearby. “What do you do, bro?”
The midnighter turned. “I collect biohazard waste. The little bins outside of doctors offices and med clinics? I drive a company SUV around and scoop those bags up.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad.”
The midnighter nodded, and uttered the phrase that let us know he was truly of the shift work breed. “It’s not the work, it’s the schedule.”
The Dayshifters started talking. Their high pitched gibberish filled the room.
The midnight biohazard collector stood no chance.
When he finished his meal, he pushed off from the counter and paid in cash to Delaney at the register. Then he went outside.
The Dayshifters slunk after him. They reminded me of coyotes I’d seen, darting around dumpsters and ditches, looking for easy meals.
We watched as one of them said something to the midnighter as he was getting into his car. He said something back, raising his arms and flipping them off.
That was enough.
They fell on him like insects, swarming around, driving him to his knees with sharp, rapid kicks to the chest and stomach.
Then, one of them held him down while they tilted his head back and unhinged their jaws. Horrid yellow light spilled out and engulfed his face, wiping away all distinguishing marks, all character and detail. His hair flaked off and blew away in the wind. His teeth clattered to the ground.
He fell forward, his head a round, smooth cue ball. He had been erased.
The Dayshifters turned and gazed into the windows, grinning at us. They didn’t even bother eating him; they’d murdered him just to fuck with us.
A few minutes later, after they had disappeared, Delaney burst into sobs, holding up the receipt. “He tipped really well,” she sobbed.