I headed to what I referred to as headquarters to pick up my last catering order of the night. My job was usually easy and it paid well. At least it had been that way in the summer. As the seasons changed from fall to winter, the holidays were now upon us and I had not been prepared for it. Not in the least. Mostly because I had underestimated just how many people liked to have their family gatherings catered so they didn't have to do all the cooking and cleaning themselves. It wasn't surprising, nor was I shocked. I had been warned that holiday season (especially around Thanksgiving) could be the busiest time. I also had thought that they were exaggerating. Since this was my first year working for the company and they were only based out of my city, I hadn't believed that their popularity for home catering would be through the roof. Still, it was the money I was after. I needed it, badly.
If there was anything in my life I needed it was money. Due to lack of insurance a year prior, I had to pay out of pocket for a surgery. It was either get that surgery or die (eventually) of a vicious infection. The choice actually wasn't easy. I put it off as long as possible. It was mostly due to the fact that I really couldn't afford the loan I would need to get the surgery but once I finally got to the point that I could, I didn't want to face the devastating pain of such a procedure. I didn't want to face the crippling debt that would come with it. I knew that investing thirty thousand dollars I didn't have into something that would fix my overall health would be a vast improvement. Physically. Mentally it shattered me.
People don't tend to understand what massive debt can do to a person. Where it can place them, in an emotional sense. They become that debt. It's how they are labeled and who they are. Every month that's a chunk of change usually devoted to survival, gone down the drain in one payment. An allegedly super easy interest-free payment, calculated just for your needs. What a load. I should have known that before signing my life away to a company that had the gall to put care in their names when they were nothing more than loan sharks with a legitimate banking title. By my most optimistic calculations, it would take me three years at minimum to pay back everything I owed. Which, to most people with regular jobs and a normal life, isn't too much of a hardship.
Me? Ha. I hadn't had steady work for a while. The one good job I had to enable me to get this loan was lost due to incompetence. Not my own, no, but that of my manager. A woman who was nine years younger than me. A woman who had never been to college and had worked her way up through sales to becoming a manager. She may have been good in sales, I don't know. What I do know is I had to deal with her in a management position she was absolutely not cut out for. It would have been fine, I've dealt with morons before, but her stupidity was impacting my ability to do my job. Which led to an inevitable point of confrontation where I had to do something. Had I not reported her mistakes I'd have been fired anyway but reporting her behavior got her in trouble and led to her becoming determined to get me fired. Three days after I signed my life away to that fucking debt I was terminated from that job. Merry fucking Christmas.
The surgery took me out of the employment game for months. Seeing as how my job before was a driver, and the recovery required me to be on narcotics for almost a month solid to cope with the pain, I couldn't work. My resume was best for a driving position but the big blemish of being fired for bullshit reasons cost me any job opportunities I could have gotten between the time I was terminated and the time of the surgery. Eventually, I was forced to give up and take what little unemployment offered me as I recovered. I was lucky that three months later I found my place as a catering driver for a local chain eating establishment. Very lucky. It wasn't full time but it paid well enough. Ten dollars an hour plus a mandatory delivery fee which was there to cover mileage and gas for my car. Yeah, part of the job was using your own vehicle. Better than nothing, and I was making just enough back to cover the bill and my meager living expenses.
There was no fun anymore. There was no life. There was no going out, no vacations, no hobbies, movies, video games...cable. There was me and my job. Luckily my manager was understanding and not a complete moron. He favored me because I was one of the best drivers and most reliable. Perhaps it was because of how desperately I needed this job in order to keep my head afloat. Not that he knew. Without this job, though, I'd have been far worse off. I needed that place as much as it needed me and it was a relationship that worked. Which also meant giving up my holidays, weekends, and other special occasions to be there for them. Not even calling off when I had a herniated disk or pneumonia. Scrounging to get every single paycheck no matter what the physical price.
"Last order of the night, I promise. Just came in." Bob told me as I came in the door.
"How did it just come in?" I asked him, "Thought they all had to be in the night before." I wasn't trying to be a smart-ass but as far as I knew, policy was just that. It was how I knew if I was showing up for work in the morning or not. My job was completely based on if they got a catering order or not. Which was why they made sure everything was predetermined. It also helped the chefs prepare better, they could start preparations before leaving and then complete them in the morning just as I showed up to collect the right items for delivery and setup.
"You've been here for almost a year and you're going to question how shit our computer system is? Now that's something you should know." He joked.
"Ha ha," I said flatly then stuck my tongue out at him. "You're lucky I like you, or I'd have quit last night."
"What was that one again? The lady who wanted roasted turkey for her seventeen cats?"
"Ugh, some people." I muttered, "So where is this one going?" I could tell by his face that he was about to send me to farm country. A place I usually referred to as East Bumblefuck but not within his earshot. He walked the papers over to me and showed me the address. Crap. I wasn't wrong. He always made the same apologetic face when he wanted me to take something to the middle of nowhere.
"Delivery fee is thirty dollars though." He pointed out.
"Yeah yeah." I sighed. As sad as it was, that did kind of make up for the massive irritation I felt at having to drive out so far. Seemed kind of sad that the thought of thirty dollars, which would certainly have taxes taken out of it, was enough to make me less annoyed but that's how my life was these days.
"It's ready anyway." He said, "You just need to pack it up and leave."
"Everything? Including the flatware, plates, napkins-" He cut me off by motioning to the back counter where the basic kid had already been packed. There was a checklist hanging over it with everything tallied off. "And everything is-"
"I counted it all myself so you damn well know it's right."
"Well when it's you I do but the other people..."
"Yeah, I don't control that. I work for corporate, not for the actual store location." He said. I knew that was the truth already and any failings that the store had I never blamed on him. He wasn't a manager, he didn't tell any employees what to do, nor did he hire them. His entire purpose was to oversee the caterers and that was about it. Corporate was a bitch too. I never had to personally deal with them but I had gotten enough of a glimpse of what he went through (and saw how hard he worked) to know he wasn't just bullshitting. Bob was not the type who sat on his own ass and expected shit to get done. He even ran deliveries himself from time to time. He was a good guy. I liked him.
"I know. Thanks, though."
"Wanted you to be able to get home for your own Thanksgiving." He said and patted me on the back. I laughed bitterly.
"Not really much of that for me." I said, "You're lucky too."
"Very lucky, I know that. Now, get to work, I don't get to leave until you get back." He reminded me. I nodded and went to the various ovens so I could grab the packaged food in the metal tins and repack them into the hot bags to keep them hot as I made the forty-five-minute drive to farm town to drop this shit off.
I loaded the fifty or so pounds of food onto the cart that they provided for transportation and pulled it to my car. The wind was picking up. Cold and painful. It was already dark given the time change and the area of the country I lived in. I pulled my hood up over my head and felt tiny needle-like pricks as snow started to land against it. I couldn't get everything into the car fast enough before running to the driver side door and throwing myself into the seat. I started things up and turned the heat up to the hottest and highest setting. Unfortunately, it was an old car so that wasn't much, for now. Eventually, it would get way too hot in there with no actual ability to find a good middle ground so I'd go through a rotation of turning the heat on and off while opening and shutting the windows.
I grabbed the delivery sheet from the box to look over the address. It was a home address, not corporate. I had worked at this place long enough to be able to tell the difference. The good news was that people usually tipped if I had to come out to their house. Corporate offices knew I was getting the delivery fee and didn't bother. I plugged the address into the GPS and then turned on my Bluetooth speaker as well as my usual playlist. David Bowie. Since it was late, I was hoping that traffic wouldn't be too much of an issue but since people seemingly forgot how to drive in snow every year, I probably wouldn't be so lucky. However, this would take at least two hours which meant fifty or so dollars just for the trip so I tried to look on the bright side of things. At least before my road rage kicked in.
About twenty minutes into the trip I was prompted to turn off of the highway onto a road that was very literally in the middle of nowhere. I lived in Cleveland, Ohio. I was used to there being gas stations and convenience stores down every road and on every corner. There were strip-malls, coffee shops, grocery stores, malls...most of which were within walking distance from the house that I lived in. Not owned. I just rented a room there. It was the only thing that allowed me to have shelter while I made my monthly payments. It also came with roommates who most of the time I really didn't like. It was yet another reason I was dying a little death every single day.
The area I found myself navigating now was a narrow little road that reminded me that passing was prohibited every few miles with a large yellow sign. Had it not been so large or bright I'd have never seen it in the downfall of sleet and the low-lit conditions. I briefly considered if this really was worth the fifty dollar payment I'd get for doing it. My speaker started to get a bit weird, cutting in and out. In annoyance, I grabbed it and slammed it against the dash a few times. It seemed counterproductive but the speaker was old and had more than a few falls in its lifetime. Hitting it in such a manner usually jolted it back into life and got it working properly again. It worked this time too, but I'd kept my eyes off the road a bit too long. A very large truck, taking up both lanes was coming right at me. I screamed, yanked my steering wheel to the side and ran right off of the road into a fence. The blaring sound of the horn trailing off as it rushed past me in a hurry.
"FUCKING ASSHOLE!" I yelled, pounding my hands on the steering wheel. The car had shut off by that point. The only thing that still worked was the speaker because it was separately charged and had nothing to do with the motor or battery of the car. Shit. What had I done? Had I actually hit the fence post hard enough to render the motor completely useless? It was entirely possible considering this was a ten-year-old car and not in the best shape, to begin with. I tried to start it again. Nothing happened. I tried a second time. There was some loud grinding sound and a weird smell but still no engine turnover. I punched the steering wheel then leaned on the horn, knowing that it wasn't going to do crap other than make me feel slightly better for making as much noise as possible.
"Fine okay let's not freak out here I'll just call someone," I said. My first thought was to call my roommate because it was his car and he usually knew a trick or two to get it running again. Except I wasn't getting a signal. At all. In these areas that wasn't uncommon. It was why I usually didn't leave my radio running, that shit cut out too. I glared at my phone which was only giving me the SEARCHING... option up at the top. Christ. This absolutely could not get any worse. I couldn't start the car, according to the temperature gauge it was ten degrees outside and I was going to have to walk. I couldn't even remember where the last building I saw was. This road wasn't exactly along a major stretch of highway or a populated area. Pick a direction and go. That's all I had. I knew I wasn't going to risk waiting there when it would really only get colder. "Shit."
I grabbed my phone and pulled the keys from the ignition, pocketing them. I locked the doors to the car and started to walk along the side of the road. I'd really only need to walk until my phone picked up some sort of signal. That's it. Then I could call someone. I would keep going in the same direction so it would be easy to get back and I wouldn't get lost. The last thing I needed was to have to buy my roommate a new car on top of paying off this shitty debt. My heart pounding, my eyes stinging with tears and from the effects of the other elements, I pressed on. Hopefully, I would find something soon but I'd learned a long time ago luck wasn't one of the many things I possessed.
I continued on down the road, in the direction I had been traveling. That had at least been the way the GPS wanted me to go with the food so by that logic it also had to be the direction of civilization. Then again, behind me was the highway. It didn't matter, I was pretty fucked in either case and I just needed to turn the SEARCHING... bar into an actual signal even if it was just one tiny little dot. There was a bright flash above me which got me to look up, thunder sounded a few moments later. This quickened my pace as I'd always had a bizarre and irrational fear of being struck by lightning. It seemed like there was nothing around me, for miles, and this alone just seemed off. As much as I was far away from the city of Cleveland, there should have at least been one house. A farm. Anything around me and I should have been running into it quickly.
Just as panic was setting in I noticed a light in the distance. A weird, orangish glow. It was warm and inviting for whatever reason. I glanced down at my phone which still wasn't giving any type of a signal. This would mean turning off of the road and cutting across a field but I didn't think I had any other choice. It was the first sign of human life I'd come across in the past ten minutes of walking. I didn't want to ignore it only to be twenty minutes deep into walking wishing that I hadn't ignored it. With an annoyed sigh, I veered off of the paved path and went towards the light instead. I was hoping that it would at least end up being worth it.
Ten minutes after that (according to my phone) an old church came into view. It very sadly looked mostly abandoned but it also had lights on. As much as I wanted to question how that was possible I wasn't sure I cared. It was a good sign. There had to be someone there who turned the lights on, or at very least, a source of enough electricity that maybe I'd be able to find a phone (even if it was just a landline). A drew closer and closer until I was walking up the front steps. My hand on the front door I pulled it open and stepped inside, the door slamming shut behind me from a large gust of wind. I turned to look at it quickly, startled, only to find I was still the only person in the general vicinity.
"Hello?" I called. My voice echoed in the small foyer but there was no answer. Nor was there any other sound. It was warm in there, though. So much warmer than it had been outside. I slipped my phone into my back pocket and opened the door in front of me which led into the chapel area. This was a Catholic church, most definitely. I could tell by how it was laid out, not to mention the smell of incense and how many candles were lit. Maybe that's where the orange glow had come from? Actually, now that I really thought about it, that glow really hadn't made any sort of sense. I shook my head and walked down the aisle towards the altar. It seemed that the place was being kept up fairly well. "Hello?"
My voice resounded much louder in this area but there was still no answer. Someone had to be here, otherwise, it was just a stupid fire hazard to leave all these candles going by themselves. I reached back into my pocket to get my phone and took a seat in one of the pews. There still wasn't a signal. I decided to reset my phone to see if that helped. Sometimes it did and there was no better place to do that than here where I had a roof over my head and it was nice, warm, and dry. While I was waiting, I set the phone beside me and tried to make peace with the fact that this delivery just wasn't going to make it on time and I was fucked. It could have been a lot worse, I suppose. I could be injured, or dead. Just as that thought crossed my mind, what few overhead lights that existed flickered and I heard a door open from behind me. I sat up more and turned to look in that direction. A priest had entered from the back of the chapel. I couldn't see his face but I could definitely make out the uniform.
"Oh thank God." I breathed and stood up, grabbing my phone which still hadn't finished resetting itself. I slipped out of the pew and headed towards him quickly. "Do you have a phone? I was in an accident down the road and I really need to get in touch with-"
"There is no God here." The priest cut me off. His voice low, his accent British for some reason, and deep enough that it sent chills down my spine. I stopped in my tracks as he came more into view and his face became clear. Yet, what really nagged at me was I should have been able to already see his face. It was almost as if it formed as he approached. "I am merely just his humble servant." Though that was a very odd way to phrase things, my pounding heart slowed a bit, as I tried to justify that he hadn't meant it in a creepy way just a poorly stated way.
"Oh, right." I muttered, "Uh anyway so...do you have a phone?"
"Phone?" He asked passing right by me to get to the altar. There was something about him that was familiar but I couldn't figure out why. Not yet. His hair, his voice...and yet as much as he had a face it was almost as if he didn't. As if my brain could see eyes, a nose, and a mouth but not really assemble them into a proper looking human. A weird state of being a man without any real discernible details that I could later describe if someone had asked me what the priest looked like. My head started to hurt and I was forced to sit back down in one of the pews.
"Yeah, a phone." I repeated, "My car, I was in an accident. Swerved off of the road and hit a fence."
"Roads are dangerous in these conditions." His back was still towards me as he tended to whatever he was now doing at the altar. None of this made sense, what the hell was this British priest doing in a nearly abandoned chapel in the middle of farm town Ohio on Thanksgiving? "Everyone has their dues, pays their price."
"Okay..." I said slowly. "Look, if you don't have a phone can you just tell me where the nearest place is that-"
"Oh, you won't find anything out there." He said and finally turned to look at me. Now I was able to make out his eyes. They were blue and nearly glowing. Flawed as well, at least one of them. His hair hanging in his face, obscuring it a bit. I realized why he seemed so familiar. He looked and sounded exactly like David Bowie. The only problem with that was Bowie was dead, and even if that hadn't been the case he looked like the man from the 90s not how he'd looked before he'd died. The worst part about this was I knew he couldn't be Bowie at all. I had some very sickening sense that this man, this thing, had only taken that specific shape because it hadn't wanted me to be afraid and the one thing I couldn't have possibly been afraid of was Bowie. "You're not like the others, you know something is wrong."
"Damn right something is wrong," I said, forcing myself to get up even though my legs seemed to want to stop working then and there.
"This isn't what you wanted?"
"Wanted for what?" I asked, sliding back out of the pew and starting to back up, not wanting to take my eyes off of this horrible Bowie replica. There wasn't anything technically scary about how it looked. In fact, as far as replicas of dead people went, this certainly was very detailed and accurate it was just wrong in every other aspect of the word. It was meant to lull me into a false sense of security it was so well detailed. The only problem with that was my overly logical brain couldn't accept it for what it was. "Look, I'm just going to go. Clearly, there's been a mistake."
"No mistake." He said, "Absolutely none at all."
"Right," I whispered then turned quickly and took off running, back to the doors of the church. As my hand rested on the handle of the door, I realized that what I had once seen a pristine wood and a brass handle was moss covered and weakened with years of weather damage and neglect. In fact, the entire place seemed to be crumbling around me. What was this place? How had I gotten here? Why was I here? I pulled the door open, then made it to the next, shoving through that until I was back outside where I had started from. Not wanting to chance looking behind me one last time I ran from there as fast as I could, heading in the direction I believed that I had come from.
I continued running until I could barely breathe anymore. My head and heart were pounding, and I feared that I might collapse and pass out if I didn't slow down. I didn't completely stop, however, I just slowed my pace. I didn't know what the fuck that church was, or the priest thing, but I knew it couldn't have been human either. Gulping in air and swallowing down hard, I realized I was now completely soaked from the freezing rain pouring down from above. Shaking, terrified, and miserable, I was able to make out my car in the distance. Sparing a glance behind me, I couldn't make out any sort of church or building. No orange glow. There wasn't anything. Just an empty field, or at least what I assumed to be one in what was otherwise mostly darkness.
I pulled my keys from my pocket and unlocked the doors remotely so by the time I got there I was able to just open it up and fall awkwardly into the driver's side, slamming the door behind me and pressing my hand onto the lock button to make sure things were secure. I jammed the keys into the ignition out of desperation and turned them, but this time, the engine sprung to life. I laughed, softly, relieved that things were starting to go my way finally and quickly backed away from the fence and got onto the road once more. All of this had definitely been a weird experience but at very least I was getting away from it. Headed in the right direction. I'd make the delivery, apologize profusely for being late, and just go home. No one ever had to hear about the crazy and possibly haunted church I'd come across in the process. It's not like I'd have been believed anyway.
It was only a few miles down the road that the signal to my phone came back and the GPS started to give me directions. Since I had been more concerned with getting the hell out of there than being sure of the direction I was going, the voice of the thing indicating that I needed to turn right in a quarter mile made me yelp loudly. When I realized what it was, I felt stupid and rolled my eyes in annoyance. At least everything was working correctly, I needed to stop being so incredibly paranoid about it. I grabbed the phone and called my manager's cell phone to inform him that I was going to be late and why.
"Hey, Bob, it's me. I had a bit of an accident on my way to the delivery and my car wouldn't start so I'm going to be a tad late with the food. Do you have the customer's number on hand so I can give them a call? Don't want to slow down to look at the delivery sheet so I-"
"What are you talking about? You've got at least a fifteen-minute window. You barely just left the store." He cut me off. That couldn't have been right. It had taken me at very least ten minutes to find that orange glowing church, if not longer, how was I not fifteen minutes behind my scheduled delivery time?
"Huh, really?" I asked and quickly pressed the TIME button on the car radio to reveal see if he was right or not. When I found that he was, I nearly slammed on the breaks, only stopping myself due to the idea that the roads were slick and that would probably just cause another accident. "Oh uh...well I...I guess I just assumed that because of my little fender bender..."
"Don't worry about it, you're fine, just finish up the delivery and get back. Some of us want to get home for what little is left of our dinners." He said.
"That would be all of us." I laughed, trying not to betray how nervous about this I actually was. It didn't go over well. At least not to me. The tone of it sounded incredibly unsure and shaky but he didn't seem to notice it and if he did, he didn't draw attention to it.
"Okay, I'll see you soon." He replied and hung up. I looked at my phone for a moment before tossing it down onto the passenger's seat and continuing on my way, following the directions as they were prompted. What the hell had just happened anyway? Some weird, glitch in the matrix, creepypasta like situation? Did I even want to know? It wasn't as if I believe in such things. The supernatural, ghosts, God, or otherwise. Maybe I was just over worked and over stressed. Possibly after the accident, I had somehow micro napped and dreamed the whole thing. There had to be a more rational explanation than all of that just happening, right? Okay, I just wouldn't think about it. No use getting caught up in that. It was over, I was okay, and this was reality. Back to my job and my life...Thanksgiving dinner was sounding more and more appealing right now. I'd just finish up, hurry back, and never speak of this to anyone ever again.