Mike pulled into the parking lot of “Adolf's Sauerkraut and Bratwurst” around eleven on what was to be his first night at his new job. The last minivan of kids had left about an hour ago, leaving only the employees to clean up before heading home. Grabbing his backpack, the guard walked inside and to Mr. Hoolihan's office. He found the owner going over the last of the day's sales.
“Evening Mr. Hoolihan.”
“Ah, evening Mike. Your security guard jacket, hat, and flashlight are hanging in the security office. Instructions on how to use the cameras, security doors, and all that are on your desk. Me and the rest of the employees will be out of here in a few and I'll lock the front behind me.”
“Sounds good to me, sir,” Mike said, turning to head to the security office.
“Oh, Mike, one more thing. Due to decreased profits, we cut off electricity during the night and run everything off a solar generator that we charge during the day. Means you'll only have a limited amount of power, so don't use the lights or security doors too much or you'll be left defenseless.”
“Defenseless?” Mike raised an eyebrow. What did he need to defend himself from while working security at a kid's restaurant? Toddlers wanting an extra hour in the ball pit?
“It'll all be explained in the Guard Manual, son. Oh, and the robots...”
“What about them, sir?”
“Don't be surprised when you see them moving around. We leave em on and let them move around a bit so their motors and gears won't shutdown and seize-up.”
“That's not too bad, thanks for the warning, Mr. Hoolihan,” Mike said, thankful for the warning. He thought about it and figured it would be frightening to see the animatronics moving their arms or bending side to side during the night as if they were still performing.
Mike made his way to the Security Office and was surprised to find that it had two doors, one on each side connected to the east and west hallways. Whatever, not like it made his job any harder. Tossing his bag on the floor next to the metal desk, he sat down in the aging officer chair, taking in his surroundings. Two windows flanked him, one next to each door giving him a view into the dark hallway. He wrapped his knuckles on the glass and found it to be extremely thick.
“Gotta be an inch thick,” he muttered, reaching to turn on the lamp sitting atop what was now his desk. The light revealed an envelope sitting in front of him. “What might this be?” Mike picked up and opened the sealed envelope, finding, what else, a folded letter inside.
“To the new guard,” Mike read out loud. “Welcome to the night shift. If you're reading this, then I'm no longer working in what is now your position. I'm actually finishing up my final week here at Adolf's, so I've decided to leave behind some advice for the next guy. Don't bother lookin for the manual, I threw it out after my first day. No help at all.
“First off, the animatronics move around at night. When I say move, I mean walk, run, sprint, you name it. They're aloud to roam around at night to keep their servos from locking up or something, I don't know. There's more to it, though. Don't be seen by them. If they see you or find you, it won't end well. Not sure what, but since it's after business hours their programming tells them that anyone they come across needs to be stuffed into one of the character costumes in the back. Only problem is, those costumes are meant to be worn by other animatronic skeletons, not people... So getting stuffed into a suit full of gears, wires, and crossbeams will kill you.”
Mike stopped, rereading what was written. Was this guy fucking with him? No way it was true. If it was, Mr. Hoolihan would have told him and given him something to protect himself and not just the hat, jacket, and flashlight that were hanging from the wall behind him. He looked back to the letter and continued where he left off.
“Now I know it sounds like I'm pullin' your leg, but trust me. They key is to watch the cameras. There's a tablet computer in the top drawer for watching the place and cycling through the cameras. Cycle through the cameras, starting with the stage where four of the clankers are, switching between it and the one aimed at Panzer Paradise. You'll see em move, oh you will. When you see em headin towards the security office, which they will, that's when you want to shut the doors. Just hit the top button next to a door and it'll slam down and seal you in, locking out the clankers.
“Now Hoolihan should have mentioned the issue with power and the solar generator. Well, that sucker has limited power, the remaining power level being shown on the tablet down in the corner. It takes power to keep the doors down, so you can't sit with em closed all night. If that was the case, I wouldn't be telling you how to live through the night. The key is to close one or both off at the right moment, then open em back to conserve power. Same goes for the hall lights, the switches for which are just below the door button for each hallway. Switch em on and the animatronics'll give off a shadow in the window if they're getting close. Check the clock.”
It took Mike a moment to register what he'd just read when it clicked. His head snapped up, looking to the clock on the wall in front of him. Eleven fifty. He could just hear the echo of the front door closing and being locked from the outside, the light that had been spilling down the hallway from the main area now gone. Hoolihan and the other employees were gone for the night, leaving Mike on his own. Swallowing hard, he turned back to the letter.
“Midnight is when the animatronics start to roam. At exactly midnight they can start moving... if they want. Watch them carefully. You never know what's going to happen. And watch the power level.”
There was no name at the end of the letter, simply a signature reading “Night Watch.” Mike set the letter down, eyes wide and darting around the room as what he had just read raced through his head. This had to be some prank the last security guard had concocted in his last, boring nights working at the restaurant. He stood, walking to the hook on the back wall to retrieve the black hat that had “security” printed across the front in white, as well as the equally black jacket that said the same on the the back, albeit in yellow. A belt with a flashlight clipped to it hung under the jacket.
Now in uniform, Mike sat back down at the desk and opened the top drawer where he found the tablet computer. Pressing the power button brought the screen to life. It was easy enough to navigate to the camera interface, the remaining power level in the bottom left hand corner. It reported there to be 100% power remaining in the generator. He looked to the clock on the wall. One minute to midnight.
“Here goes,” he muttered, switching to Camera 1A, the one overlooking the stage. Just as he'd expected, and hoped, the four animatronic Nazi characters stood where they had been left when the last customers and employees had left. He tapped the screen, swapping to Camera 1C overlooking Panzer Paradise. The camera was aimed directly at the curtains hanging in front of the attraction, the same sign reading “out of order” hanging from them.
“Fuckin knew it,” Mike said with a deep sigh of relief. He began to swap between all the cameras around the restaurant, thinking about telling Mr. Hoolihan about the former guard's prank. He'd sure love to give that guy a- Mike froze, almost dropping the tablet. He had made his way back to 1A, the stage camera, and saw something he didn't want to see: the animatronics, which had been facing out into the dining area, were now looking directly at the camera. Their soulless eyes seemed to drill into his, even through the camera.
“Th-they're just moving a little bit like Mr. Hoolihan said,” Mike reassured himself. He swapped back to the camera looking at Panzer Paradise. Nothing had changed that he could see, thankfully. He moved back to the stage. To his relief, the animatronics were still there, but were now looking back over the dining area. “Phew...”
Laughing at himself, Mike studied the characters, impressed by the detail on their aged uniforms. He went over their names in his head, counting them off. Klaus the eagle, Ludwig the wolf, Crispy the cat, and Palladium the-
“Where's the rooster?” Mike choked out, fear rising in his throat. He began to madly cycle through cameras, panicking. He stopped at the kitchen camera, Camera 6, the screen black with audio coming through the tablet's speaker. He turned up the volume, listening as best he could. What he heard sounded like someone opening and rummaging through the refrigerator. Was it the rooster, Palladium? Mike wished that the video feed wasn't on the fritz. He needed to, but didn't want to, confirm what was happening but didn't want to risk leaving the security office. He moved back to the stage camera, hoping that maybe the rooster was still there and that he'd only imagined hearing sounds in the kitchen.
This was not the case. Not only was the rooster gone, but so was Ludwig the wolf, leaving only the Crispy and Klaus animatronics, both of which were now staring up at the camera. An unnerving sight met Mike's eyes before he switched cameras, however. Crispy, the small, white cat, was wearing a frighteningly sweet yet sinister smile with teeth bared, her eyes glowing a disturbing shade of electric blue. He quickly changed to a different camera, drawing short, panicked breaths. Swapping to the main dinning area camera, tears almost began to fall from the poor man's eyes at what he saw.
Ludwig, the wolf dressed in the Luftwaffe uniform with the trio of scars under his right eye, was making his way between the tables and across the dining room. He was moving quickly, not quite a jog but a fast walk, towards the East hall. His jet black hair, which Mike just noticed was in a long ponytail down the wolf's back, bounced side to side as the robot moved, dead set on where it was going. Right before it moved out of the camera's view, it looked into the camera, eyes glowing a deathly green.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Mike swore. He switched to the East Hall camera, 4A, and watched in horror as the robotic wolf moved towards the security office and himself. Thinking back to the letter. Mike pressed the button to turn on the lights in the East Hall and watched as a shadow of the animatronic was cast on the window, growing larger and larger as the murderous machine got closer. Not knowing what else to do, and hearing the sound of jackboots on tile, he slammed the button to close the door to the East Hall. With a pneumatic whoosh, the thick steel door slid down from the ceiling and hit the floor with a reassuringly loud thud.
The guard's actions were not a moment too soon, as not even a second later Ludwig was outside the window. Mike yelled in fright, clutching the tablet to his chest with one hand, the other digging into his chair's armrest. He watched in horror as the Luftwaffe wolf pressed a fur covered metallic paw against the window in something of a fist. What looked like a scowl was on the robot's face but it wasn't clear. He stood there for a few moments, pounding his fist against the thick glass.
“Not tonight, fuzzy,” Mike choked out triumphantly. Ludwig turned and made his way back down the hall, going to roam the other areas of the restaurant. Mike watched through the camera as the wolf left the East Hall, heading towards the restrooms. Sinking into his chair, he leaned over and pressed the button to turn off the hall light and open the door. His moment of relief was short lived once he saw how much power had been used, though. The power level now read 80%. He'd used a fifth of the power fending off just one of the robots...
“Shit,” he swore, swapping through cameras. He'd have to be careful not to leave the doors or lights on for too long, otherwise he'd be done for. Checking the clock, he found it to be two in the morning. Four hours to go. “I can do this, I can do this.”
Gathering his wits, Mike quickly switched between cameras in search of the killer machines. There was still audio from the kitchen, so it was safe to assume that Palladium was still there, while he found Ludwig wandering in and around the restrooms. The stage camera still had visual on both Klaus and Crispy, although the cat was now sitting on the eagle's shoulder while still staring at the camera with the same sadistic grin. He moved between monitoring the four robots for a few minutes, finding none of them to pose a threat for the moment. He had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind, though, that he was forgetting something...
“Shit, the Husky!” He quickly swapped cameras but wished he hadn't, as he almost jumped from his chair upon seeing Rommel's head poking from between the curtains at an angle, teeth barred in a menacing fashion. At least he was still at Panzer Paradise.
“Damn dog,” Mike muttered, swapping to the camera overlooking the dining area. He found Palladium moving among the table, something tucked under his left wing. Er, arm. Appendage. He wasn't actually sure. Either way, the rooster robot had something, probably what it had been searching for in the kitchen. It stopped to look up at the camera, eyes emitting a soft amber glow. The animatronic cocked its head to the side before looking away and towards the West side of the restaurant, in the direction of...
“... Panzer Paradise.”
With a flick of the wrist, Mike changed the video feed on the tablet from the dining area to the closed attraction. The color in his face drained when he saw Rommel standing outside the curtains, head tilted to the side, a malicious grin on his face. Mike watched in horror as the animatronic raised its right arm, brandishing the dagger in its gloved paw. It didn't move after that, choosing to merely stand there, taunting the newly hired security guard. He desperately wanted to just leave the camera on the blade wielding Nazi robot, but knew there were others to worry about. Reluctantly, Mike went back to the dining area camera.
Palladium was now gone. Thinking the rooster had returned to the kitchen, he swapped to Camera 6, but was disappointed to find no sound coming through. If the rooster wasn't in the kitchen, then where? His question was answered when he moved to the East Hall camera, where he was met with the sight of Palladium jogging down the hall towards the security office.
“Nope, nope, nope,” Mike said as he flipped the light switch, watching the robotic rooster's shadow grow as it moved closer. He turned off the light and then pushed the door button. Once again, the heavy steel door fell into place, saving Mike a second time. He looked to the window, waiting for the rooster to appear, only he didn't.
“Where's he a- OH FUCK!”
The rooster had suddenly pressed its face and wings to the glass from the side of the window, startling Mike. It dragged its right wing along the wall next to the window, the sound of metal on metal like nails on a chalkboard. Mike winced as the sound pained his ears. When the sound ceased and Mike opened his eyes, he found that Palladium was holding up something in his left wing. A jar, taken from the kitchen.
“A jar of pickles?” Mike questioned, eyebrow raised. Palladium either didn't hear him or didn't feel like acknowledging the question. Instead, he tapped his beak against the glass a few times before slinking back into the darkness of the hallway, foiled in his bid for murder, leaving the security guard shaken and wondering why the rooster had pilfered pickles from the pantry.
“Two for two,” Mike cheered, wiping his brow. Checking the hall camera, he made sure it was clear before opening the door. Power was now at 73% and it was half past three in the morning. If he kept this up, he'd survive the next four hours no problem. His latest foe kept at bay, he turned back to the tablet computer and video feed from the cameras.
Palladium had returned to the dining area and was now roaming in the direction of the kitchens. Ludwig was no longer in the restrooms, but was instead back on stage with Crispy and Klaus. The three gave the impression they were speaking, their motorized jaws and mouths moving as if they were talking. The audio seemed to not be working for the stage camera, as Mike couldn't hear anything, though he was sure they were making some kind of noise. He ignored them for the moment, as he realized the scare with Palladium had distracted him from the knife wielding Husky at Panzer Paradise. Switching camera feed, Mike felt a chill run down his spine, his eyes widening. Rommel was gone, the out of order sign turned around and now reading “It's my turn!”
“Oh shit fucker what are you going?!” he yelled, throwing down the tablet after swapping to the West Hall camera. He had swapped cameras just in time to catch a glimpse of Rommel sprinting down the hallway, thirsting for blood.
Jumping from his chair, Mike lunged at the door control switch, not bothering with the light switch and shadows. Just as his hand reached for the button, Rommel appeared in the doorway, blood caked dagger raised, eyes glowing a dark green. The Husky's mouth opened and the most terrifying sound filled the hall and security room as the animatronic screeched as loud as its internal speakers would allow it. Screaming in fright, Mike slammed the door control with his fist and pressed all his weight against it, tears streaming down his face as he watched the Nazi robot lunge towards him.
He was lucky, though, having closed the door at the last possible second. The sound of the angered animatronic pounding and banging on the door echoed around the security office, the thick steel door shaking slightly. Mike fell back into his chair, trying not to start sobbing as he watched the animatronic appear at the window, dagger pointed at him through the glass. Rommel dragged the tip of the blade, covered in what Mike could now tell was dried blood, down the thick glass, leaving a jagged mark down it.
“F-Fucker!” Mike choked out, giving the mechanical Husky the middle finger.
With a final screech, the SS robot made his way back towards his home, jackboots echoing on the tile floor. Mike waited until to open the door until he saw the demented animatronic slink back behind the curtains of Panzer Paradise. A gloved paw reached from inside to turn the sign back to the side that read “out of order,” before Mike finally lost sight of the deranged canine contraption. Feeling that he was safe once more, he opened the door of the West Hall. Looking down to the remaining power level revealed there to be only 50% remaining.
“Damn it,” he cried, fanning himself with his hat, trying to calm down. Hands shaking, he tapped the tablet and switched to the stage camera. He felt slightly calmer once he saw Palladium standing back on stage with the other four robots, jar of pickles no where to be seen. He watched as the four returned to their original positions, picking their respective instruments up off the floor.
Looking a the clock, Mike almost cried tears of joy when he saw that it was twenty minutes until six, the time his shift would end and one of the supervisors would come in. He turned back to the tablet, watching the stage camera. He swallowed hard upon seeing all but one of the animatronics looking towards the dining area, that one being Crispy. Still wearing that same sadistic smile she'd worn all night, she raised her small paw and stuck out a finger, er digit, and wagged it at the camera like a mother scolding a toddler. Done for the night, she turned back to the dining area, holding her instrument.
About twenty minutes later, Mike watched as a supervisor and Mr. Hoolihan walked through the front door. Tossing his hat, jacket, and flashlight belt onto the desk, he grabbed up his backpack and ran out of the office and towards the front doors and the sunlight pouring through them. He was greeting with a wave by Mr. Hoolihan and a nod from the sleepy looking surpervisor.
“Ah, Mike, good to see you! First night go well?” the owner asked, smiling.
“S-Sir, are you aware-”
“Yes, I am aware, Mike,” he cut in, stopping the security guard from continuing. He discreetly nodded his head in the direction of the supervisor, who was moving to the kitchen to warm up the ovens. “I am aware,” he continued, slightly louder than needed, “that the previous guard left the security office a mess. I'll get someone to clean it up pronto.”
“Sir?” Mike asked, confused, blinking rapidly. He leaned in closer when his boss motioned him to do so.
“I know what happens at night, Mike,” he whispered. “This is between only me, you, and a few other people. No one else needs to know. If it got out, this restaurant and the entire business chain as a whole would be ruined. I've got the corporate office in Berlin breathing down my neck to keep quiet, the same going for you.”
“No questions. Now, go home, get some sleep. See you tonight.” Before Mike could say anything or protect, Mr. Hoolihan pushed him out the door into the morning sunlight before heading to his office.
Mike stood in the parking lot, unsure of what he'd just been through. He kept through it all in his mind, not believing it even though he was sure it had happened. Was it a dream? Had he fallen asleep in the security office and had a nightmare caused by the letter left by the former guard? He had no idea what had really happened, and no idea if he'd return for another night at Adolf's.
“I need a drink,” he muttered, climbing into his car.
Mr. Hoolihan watched through the glass front doors as Mike pulled out of the parking lot, heading home from his first night. He was already thinking of what to do about hiring a new guard should his latest hire not show back up, as had happened in the past. He'd also have to inform the main office of the company, as they frowned upon employees quitting with such knowledge...
“Mr. Hoolihan?” asked the supervisor, coming from one of the tables in the dining area.
“What is it Phil?”
“I found a jar of pickles in one of the seats near Panzer Paradise.” He held up the jar for his boss to see. Hoolihan raised an eyebrow at the jar before turning to look up at the animatronics on stage, Palladium more specifically. He shook his head, sighing.
“Mike must've gotten hungry and forgot to put the jar back. Just toss it back in the fridge... Again.”