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Night at the McDonalds

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This particular night at the McDonalds started off no different from any other; minimum wage employees behind the counter and customers coming in to order food on occasion. Part of the latter was made up of other adults unfortunate enough to be working boring night shift jobs in order to get by, and most others were tired college students with horrifying sleep schedules. A few were just random people who would likely most never be seen again once they’d left. Others were regular nighttime customers who, more often than not, found themselves dying inside with the McDonalds employees at 1am.

This normal didn’t last for particularly long, however, for at 10:37pm, someone apparently quite strange walked in through the door. The only ones who noticed him right away were the people sitting facing the door and the one employee waiting at the counter. Someone nudged the person sitting beside them, possibly their friend, and pointed. They could have been weirded out, maybe, but then again, this is New York. Perhaps they were tourists of some kind.

The man who’d just entered wasn’t wearing normal clothes, by any standard. He had what the people in the McDonalds could only describe as some sort of long skirt on his bottom half. He had something with long sleeves, and also something else with golden and... some sort of blue pieces. Neither of them covered his stomach. On his head, there was some sort of weird headpiece that hid his hair with something resembling a snake on the front, and the top of it was another story altogether. To top it off, there was a cape of some sort, long enough to touch the floor but not so long that it was really trailing behind him. The whole outfit was made up of primarily warmer tones, however. They couldn’t really tell where he was from in a glance, either. He didn’t appear to be white and that was as close as they could get.

At first, nobody really cared (aside from the two people mentioned earlier). The man had a single five dollar note in one hand. He approached the counter relatively slowly, as he was instead looking at the menu displayed above with some confusion on his face. Speaking of which, his eyes stood out quite a bit on his face. If he widened them, he could probably earn the nickname of bug-eyed.

After a few long moments, he stopped looking at the menu to walk up to the counter. The woman waiting there met him with “Hi sir, what can I get you?”

Pointing at the image of a cheeseburger on the middle screen, he said, “Hello, may I ask what that up there is?” At the sound of his voice, the employee’s eyebrows shot up, surprised. Noticing her reaction, he frowned slightly in confusion. “Is there a problem?”

“Oh- no, no, there’s not”, she replied. “Just... I did not expect that voice.” While it was a little deeper than she felt matched his face, the accent itself was even more off. It was British, but she knew plenty of British people and had watched a few shows with a lot of British actors and his didn’t really match. It sounded a fair bit outdated, like it was from sometime earlier on in the 20th century- which wasn’t wrong. She looked up to where he had been pointing before looking back. “That’s a cheeseburger.”

The man looked back up to the image of the cheeseburger. “I suppose I will get one of those.”

The employee rested one of her hands on the cash register. “Alright then, that’ll be two dollars and ninety nine cents.”

He looked down at the five dollar note before holding it out to the cashier. “I hope this will be enough?”

The cashier frowned, confused, but opened the cash register and put the note inside anyway. “This is a five dollar note, of course it’s enough.” She then got out the total of the man’s change before closing the register. “Basic maths. Anyway, your change.” She handed it to him.

As he took it, he replied “I’m perfectly capable of doing mathematics, thank you.”

“Alright,” she said, putting the order through. While doing so, she muttered “Mathematics, what the hell, who says mathematics?” under her breath. She then looked back up at him. “Your number is 82, it shouldn’t be long.”

He smiled. “Thank you.” He then realised that there was a gap to the kitchen and began watching the activity inside, curious.

“You gonna move, dude?” The cashier asked as the door opened again and someone else walked inside.

He gave a short “Oh,” looking to the side (the one the kitchen is on) before moving over. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good, man,” she replied, before giving her attention to the person who’d just entered. It was one of the regulars, a sophomore college student.

“Hi Kelly,” he said.

“Hi Mark, how was your day?”

“Pretty shitty, to be honest,” was his reply. There were circles under his eyes- not particularly dark, but certainly noticable. He wore dark jeans, plain sneakers and a hoodie with a pleasant earthy tone. He also wore circle shaped glasses. “I mean, not as shitty as it’s been so far this week so that’s nice, but still shitty.”

The cashier huffed out a laugh. “Isn’t it always?"

“It is,” Mark groaned. “Uhhh, I’ll have a Big Mac, medium fries and a large Coca Cola.”

The guy with the old British accent and weird clothing just continued to watch the activity in the kitchen as Kelly and Mark interacted. He noted that they seemed to know each other, although that was just because the night shift employees and McDonalds night shift regulars seemed to have a community of sorts.

Mark paid for his order, received his number and moved off to the side to wait, joining the odd man who’d come in before him. He followed his gaze into the kitchen, before speaking.

“You, ah, finding the kitchen entertaining?”

To his credit, the man did not jump or appear surprised, given the intent and focus he appeared to have looking at what was going on inside. He didn’t look away.

“Yes, it is quite interesting,” was his reply. He then looked over to the other man. “You’re Mark?”

“Yeah, that’s my name.”

The odd man smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Mark.”

Before any more conversation could occur, one of the cooks in the kitchen walked out to the counter with a single, small bag and handed it to Kelly. “Number eighty two,” he said before walking back into the kitchen, though not before seeing Mark. “Hey, Mark,” he called back.

“Hi Derek!” Mark replied. They didn’t say anything more to each other, but it was clear they knew each other as well. Kelly walked down the counter and handed the man his order.

“Here you are, number eighty two,” she said, before going back to the register.

“You seem like you know these people,” the odd guy remarked, holding the bag in one hand and his change in the other.

“Of course,” Mark laughed. “We’re part of the McDonalds Night Cult!” He continued laughing softly for a few more moments. By the way Kelly laughed from the cashier and a few people clustered around some tables nearby also laughed (and one said ‘all hail the glowing M!’), the odd man seemed to catch on to the fact that this was some sort of joke between them, but he wasn’t sure what it meant. Mark seemed to catch on to his confusion by his lack of reaction and curious stare.

“Oh, it’s just that, like, uh...” He paused. “I come in here a lot at night, and so do those guys over there-” he guestured in the direction of the cluster of people that had laughed at the McDonalds Night Cult comment “-so we know each other pretty well, and the people who work here... so we just called ourselves the McDonalds Night Cult as a joke.”

The guy gave a single, slow nod. “I see.” He still didn’t quite understand the cult part of it.

Derek walked out of the kitchen again with Mark’s order and gave it to Kelly. She walked down the counter again to give it to Mark. “One hundred and fourty,” she said. She gave him a large sized cup, a lid and a straw.

“Thanks,” Mark said, heading further down the counter to where the drinks machine was. He filled it up with Coca Cola. He looked to the side while it was filling up, seeing the odd guy looking at it, fascinated.

“What is that?” He asked.

“The drink or the machine?”

“Both, I suppose.”

Mark flashed his eyebrows up for a split second. “Well, I mean... this is just Coca Cola. You know, the drink.” The odd man didn’t know, but decided against saying so. “And the machine, man I’m not studying anything to do with mechanics or anything. I don’t know anything other than that you put the cup under and it fills it up.” The machine finished pouring in the drink, and Mark moved it back onto the counter to put the lid on. “Anyway, you wanna sit with us or do you have to go?”

The man smiled at the invitation. “I’ll sit with you and your friends if you’ll have me.”

“Come on, then,” Mark said, picking his drink and bag back up and heading over to the cluster of tables the McDonalds Night Cult had claimed for that night. The odd guy followed him.

They reached the cluster and sat down at a table with a few spaces free.

“Eyy, Mark’s brought someone new!” Someone from the next table over exclaimed.

“Shut up, Stan, you straight fuck,” the girl sitting across from said newbie laughed. Stan didn’t seem offended, but instead laughed with her.

“Fuck you too, Sal!” He shot back at her.

The odd (and now McDonalds Night Cult newbie) guy’s eyes were slightly widened with a raised eyebrow. He then frowned in confusion. “His posture is nowhere near straight,” he said. This earned a few laughs and confused looks.

“Not like that, dumbass!” Someone else laughed, amused.

Someone else at Stan’s table leaned forwards, looking at new guy’s outfit. “What kind of cosplay is that, dude?” He asked.

Now the odd man frowned. “Sorry. Cosplay?”

“There’s no way that’s your regular clothing, man. You stayed late at some kind of cosplay convention or something?”

Someone else at the same table (who’d dyed the ends of their hair cyan) kicked him under the table. “There’s no cosplay conventions in the state until, like, 3 months from now!”

“Oh, I’m sorry I’m not a cosplay nerd like you!” He shot back. “Were you at a costume party, then?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” the odd guy replied.

“Well fuck, I don’t know what else you could have been doing, man,” he said.

“Of course you don’t, Aaron,” cyan hair ends exclaimed. “You don’t care to know shit about anything except fucking plants!”

“Plants are worth knowing shit about!”

Why!?”

Kelly suddenly appeared at the edge of the table. “Are you two seriously arguing over whether or not it’s worth knowing things about plants again?”

“Well why should I know about cosplay?”

“What is with you two!?” Another girl sitting next to the girl Stan had called Sal laughed. “Also, Kelly, shouldn’t you be staying at the counter? Mary’s in tonight!”

“Eh, she barely comes out anyway, I’ll be fine,” Kelly replied.

The odd guy, who’d been silent with slightly wide eyes, possibly a little overwhelmed with his first experience with the McDonalds Night Cult friendship dynamic, finally spoke up again. “Mary?”

“Yeah,” Kelly said. “My manager.”

Odd guy frowned. “And she... manages you, I’m assuming?”

Kelly shrugged, finding the fact he wasn’t sure what a manager was a little odd, but just ignoring it. “Yeah. I mean, it’s in the name. Kind of.” She paused. “Is it just me or has it gotten colder?"

“Nope,” Aaron said. “Not just you.”

“I’m fucking freezing,” another man in a singlet said.

“Well that’s what you get when you wear a fucking singlet when we’re heading into Winter!” someone else shot at him (a curly brown haired guy who looked around college freshmen/junior age). He then turned to the odd guy. “Speaking of which, why are you wearing that? It looks kinda thin, and I mean, uh...” he guestured at where his outfit exposed his stomach. “Why’d you wear that?”

“True,” Mark said. “Aren’t you a bit cold?”

“I will admit that the temperature isn’t... extremely comfortable,” he said in reply.

“Hey!” The guy wearing a singlet exclaimed. “Let’s commit arson, that’ll warm us up.”

A few people chuckled.

“Or,” the odd guy began, “You could always just set yourself on fire. Nice and toasty, you’ll be warm for the rest of your life.”

A few people choked out a laugh. “Oh my god,” someone wheezed out from the table on the other side.

“Damn,” someone else said.

Odd guy frowned. He looked a little confused, like he felt he wasn’t even using relatively dark humour. “Too dark?”

“Not at all!” One of the people who laughed called out. “Finally, someone else with some dark humour!”

Less uncomfortable, he smiled. “I can get much, much darker if you would like.”

Before anyone could reply, someone walked through the door into the McDonalds.

“Ah, shit,” Kelly muttered. She waved to the others in the McDonalds Night Cult and headed back behind the counter to take the order. Unfortunately for her, a few more customers started trickling in as she was taking their order, keeping her away.

“You two gonna eat?” someone with a pixie cut with the McDonalds Night Cult and eating the rest of his cheeseburger. People trickled in and out, and Kelly came over to chat to the rest of them a few times.

After some time, however, the odd guy stood up. “I suppose I should be heading off,” he said. “Where should I put this?” he continued, picking up the back and cheeseburger wrapping.

Cyan hair pointed at some sort of can. “There’s the trash. You can put it there.”

“Thank you,” odd guy said, doing so before turning back. “It was a pleasure meeting you all. Good night.”

He received a range of responses from ‘later, weirdo’ to ‘have a good night’ as he headed towards the door. He pulled it open, stepped into the night air and began walking. Then he was gone.

“What the fuck was that,” one of them laughed. asked. “Your shit will be starting to go cold by now, wont it?”

“Oh shit,” Mark said, pullin out his burger and fries. After a moment, odd guy did the same with his own burger. He picked at the wrapping until he got it open. Someone else at the other end of the table took a bite out of their own burger, and he copied, staying silent as he thought to himself about the flavour. Mark took a few bites out of his burger and then had some fries.

Odd guy swallowed his bite of cheeseburger and pointed at the fries. “What are those?” he asked.

“Fries,” Mark replied following with “You ever had them?” despite the fact he hadn’t known what they were. When he received a shake of the head as a response, he pulled out a few out of the packet and handed them to the other. “Here, try them.”

Odd guy quickly set the cheeseburger back down on the wrapping to take the fries, before taking a bite.

“What do you think?” Mark asked. Odd guy nodded.

“It’s interesting, I suppose. A bit salty?”

Mark laughed as odd guy ate the rest of what he’d been given before returning to his burger. He hung around for some time afterwards, chatting with the McDonalds Night Cult and eating the rest of his cheeseburger. People trickled in and out, and Kelly came over to chat to the rest of them a few times.

After some time, however, the odd guy stood up. “I suppose I should be heading off,” he said. “Where should I put this?” he continued, picking up the back and cheeseburger wrapping.

Cyan hair pointed at some sort of can. “There’s the trash. You can put it there.”

“Thank you,” odd guy said, doing so before turning back. “It was a pleasure meeting you all. Good night.”

He received a range of responses from ‘later, weirdo’ to ‘have a good night’ as he headed towards the door. He pulled it open, stepped into the night air and began walking. Then he was gone.

“What the fuck was that,” one of them laughed.