Midnight the Clock Strikes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 17, 2017
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A skeleton of a whistle rings a lonely, empty sound. The yellow, glowing eyes of a train's lights brightens the inkiness of night and fends off all intruders save one. Almost empty cars sway with the rocking rails they travel upon and the creaking of wood warns off those who may dare cross from the sleeping car to the diner. The diner itself is void of life, minus a bartender and a shadow, and no sane soul dares to enter. The car itself is a second hand traveling companion, old and tired with years that hang off the peeling paint, and it's once bright colors have faded into something grey and dying. Glasses and alcohol clink and chatter, whispering incoherent and menacing words, as they sit on the counter and the bartender, holding a rag and an empty glass cup, sways in a way that suggests expertise. The booths, torn things from an age unknown, creak and squeak with leather that might have been a bright red once but has now faded to a mournful copper. Stools line the bar, faded like the booths, and their tops turn in time with the swaying bartender. Nothing is bright, nothing suggests life, and that's just what the shadow by the window craves.

His jacket, long forgotten on the seat next to him, hangs off the leather and threatens to fall if no attention is given. A hat, second hand like the car, dips low on the shadow's face and conceals the grimace he hides from the outside world. Half-empty and filled with something brown and awful, his glass sits in his hand waiting for attention and the ice clinks in mourning when none is given. Shoes, polished to a shine, have their soles caked in mud and separating from the body. Like the diner car, his colors are pale and dark, and skin is replaced with shadow and ink.

Bright eyes are lidded in thought and the creases between his eyes match the mood of his mouth. The bartender watches him, skeptical and cautious of the shadow by the window. He had the unpleasure of greeting the shadow earlier in the evening, who wanted nothing more than a glass of murk and the solitude of the window seat. He knows the kind. Unpleasant creatures of the midnight hour, silent and dark and with an air feeling hateful for the world and its occupants. A whip like tail hangs from his lower back, flicking in unconscious unrest, and midnight colored horns frame a face with more teeth than mouth. Beastly in appearance but ghostly in attitude. Unpleasant creatures.

The shadow, unaware of the tender's thoughts, silently goes on with his own and finally tips the glass to his mouth. The ice chitters happily, finally having the attention it wants, but the shadow doesn't acknowledge this and instead continues with his silent contemplation. Such thoughts contain Its too stuffy in here, The vents are creaking again, and lonely thinking that lowers the lids on his eyes just a fraction more each time. Things, people, like him, were not welcome with warm embraces and kinds words. Midnight creatures, untouchable by others, that rarely speak are rarely seen away from the haven of home and prefer the dark and silence of solitude.

It is not a choice, wanting the company of thoughts instead of people, but that does not mean one wants to be lonely.

People simply require an emotional payment that people like him cannot pay without crippling their internal engine. It requires a shiny red surface that invites and people like him have something dull and grey instead that causes more warning than invitation. The lack thereof a red enamel causes one to turn into an outcast, an other, a beast. One with a tail, fangs, and horns... One that is unreachable, undesirable, unacceptable...

One who is an introvert.

With that thought, as deathly silent as he came in, the shadow abandons his drink in favor for standing and leaving, exiting as he entered. His forgotten jacket mourns his departure and throws itself from its perch, landing in a soft heap. The shadow's tail, still at unrest, flicks behind him as he blends into the inkiness of night and disappears into the air like a whisper. The bartender, indifferent, watches with cold eyes the leaving of the shadow and continues his swaying dance, undisturbed and uninterested with such actions. He continues to clean the same empty glass, behind the same creaking bar, in the same faded diner car that follows it's predecessors with no second thought.

A skeleton of a whistle rings a lonely, empty sound.

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