You know those moments where what you see makes you wonder if you’re actually awake? My feet were latched to the tiled floor, unable to move no matter how much I mentally pushed them. The noise I’d heard wasn’t shattering dishes from a spill. It was everyone in the restaurant falling dead on the table tops.
What a nasty joke. “Okay, har-har, you got me.” I finally found control of my body and pushed myself into a cautious walk.
But if it was a prank, how did they get the entire restaurant—employees included—in on it? My heart pulsed rapidly, beads of sweat tickling the back of my neck.
“Wake up, Jessa.” This had to be another nightmare. They’d felt just as real as this, but I couldn’t remember the hammering of my pulse choking me.
The man slumped over his dinner to my right let out a snore. My heart nearly lurched out of my chest and I stopped short, closed my eyes, and took a breath. No one moved except for their shallow breathing. This wasn’t happening, it just wasn’t reality. Nothing like this happens, it wasn’t happening.
It wasn’t happening.
No matter how many times I repeated that in my head, I couldn’t shake the dread embracing me like a long-lost aunt who didn’t know her own strength. I stared at Sam, willing her to whip her head up and burst out laughing at the well-played prank. She remained in slumber.
The panic set in, gripping my lungs, squeezing the air out so that no matter how many times I gasped, it wasn’t enough. I snatched my purse in a fit of coughs, yanked it open and frantically dug for my inhaler. I popped it in my mouth, inhaled, and pumped. This wasn’t happening. I pressed again and opened my eyes to see a man sitting at the table in the back, staring at me. Had he been there before?
My head buzzed like in the bus accident. The inhaler clattered to the floor. My purse followed. His eyes . . . they weren’t right. He wasn’t right. A smile formed, menacing and . . . evil. I had no idea what was happening, but wasn’t about to try and figure it out. My brain stuttered, debating between fleeing and staying to save my friends. But that air of malice was directed straight at me, and for the love of all that was holy, I couldn’t imagine why.