Saint Rabbit’s Eve
(A Food Garden Court Story)
By Jeff Baker
Skid hated working double shifts and hated working at night, especially the Thursday before the 34th. That made it St. Rabbit’s Eve and he didn’t even like being outside then, especially at night. He glanced out at the main part of the mall; it wasn’t even the usual bunch of customers before they shut down at ten-thirty nine at night. There were more leather jackets on the stragglers, people wearing cords with chopped raw meat around their necks and a few wearing fake rabbit ears. Not a lot of those.
Skid sighed. He needed the money, and Mr. Spurgeon needed someone to cover the shift and at least T’amec had offered to work with him. That made him feel better. They hadn’t had a customer at the Food Garden Court in an hour so they were doing the closing work early so they could get out as soon as possible.
“Hey, man, you got any meat?”
Skid looked up. Guy with a leather jacket and rabbit ears was standing in front of the register. He looked like he hadn’t bathed in a few days.
“Uh, we still have some sandwiches if you want,” Skid said. “We’re all out of mushrooms, though.”
“Naw, man. I mean raw. Chunks.” The man in the leather held up his hands and rubbed his fingers together indicating the texture of raw meat.
“All our meat is cooked,” Skid said. “Sorry.”
Skid watched as the man walked off. He wished the Augury shop was open. Saint Rabbit’s Eve was their biggest day and they had shut down in the afternoon after selling out of amulets. Nobody was asking for anything else. Not that Thursday night.
“Hey, I got all the pans and dishes washed.” That was T’amec, leaning out the swinging doors into the back kitchen. “Got anything out here we can wash up?”
Skid smiled, remembering the time the fae had slapped T’amec with an enchantment that made him obey Skid.
“Let’s wrap up the food and put it in the cooler.” He started pulling the pans out of the counter. “We can shut down a little early tonight.”
You wouldn’t need an amulet or offerings of meat if you would stay inside, Skid remembered his Grandsire saying. But the Food Garden Court wasn’t technically inside, even if it was inside the building. The domed skylight and trees cancelled whatever protections the walls and roof would offer. Not that either Skid or T’amec believed in St. Rabbit.
It didn’t take long for the two of them to wrap the pans of seasoned meat and the breads and put them in storage. Skid washed off the last of the dishes and put them up while T’amec swept and wiped down the front counter and stuck the cash from the register in the sealing sphere. Skid was checking to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything when he heard T’amec calling him from the front.
“You better get out here.” T’amec’s voice sounded strained.
Skid walked through the swinging doors. T’amec was staring upward at the domed skylight.
At the edges of the skylight, they could make out small heads topped with floppy ears. Eyes glinted in the light.
“Rabbits,” T’amec breathed. He’d gone pale. Skid felt pale.
Something caught Skid’s eye; the mall was getting darker. He glanced down the hall from the Food Garden Court; the lights were going off. No; there was darkness, like a rolling fog slowly moving towards them.
T’amec and Skid stared at each other; they weren’t kids walking around with necklaces of meat to offer Saint Rabbit if they crossed his path like in a Festival pageant or folktale, they were facing it for real.
“C’mon!” T’amec grabbed Skid’s arm and pulled him into the back room.
“Wha?” Skid asked.
“Raw meat!” T’amec said, grabbing the trash barrel and plunging his hands into the garbage.
“T’amec, we don’t have time to…oh, that! Raw meat!” Skid said, rushing over and tipping the barrel’s contents onto the floor.
“C’mon, c’mon, they prepped some more food this afternoon…” T’amec said. “Gotta be some in here…”
They found some chunks of fatty meat that had been sliced off the roast before it was put over the fire. Grabbing it and holding it like it was worth its weight in gold they rushed out to the counter and tossed the raw meat onto the ground, right by the palm trees growing out of the floor.
The darkness was at the edge of the dining area. The two of them could hear a low, guttural muttering.
“Now what?” Skid asked. “When it finishes with that, what stops him from going after us?”
“We’ll be inside!” T’amec said pulling him back into the kitchen.
“Inside?” Skid asked. “We’re inside out there and that thing, Saint…”
“The cooler is solid steel and the door seals it shut,” T’amec said. “Seals us from the outside. It should work.”
“Let’s hope.” Skid said.
They had ducked into the cooler and pulled the door shut when the light began to flicker and they heard a noise like a roaring wind and the rattling of pans in the kitchen. Skid and T’amec made sure the cooler door was secure.
“At least we have food,” T’amec whispered.
“At least we won’t be food!” Skid whispered back.
The kitchen was a mess the next morning when the morning shift found Skid and T’amec huddled together asleep in the cooler. As the shift cleaned up the kitchen they grumbled about missing the after work party Skid and T’amec must have thrown for Saint Rabbit’s Eve.