The house that I ended up arriving at was huge. This wasn't very uncommon as I'd delivered to gated communities before and huge houses. There wasn't anything particularly unique about this house other than it looked like the oldest (or at least most old fashioned) one in the development. Still, everything else looked fairly new and some of the lots still had construction going on. It was quite possibly just an aesthetic choice by the owner to make the house look like it was old fashioned. Actually, house was the wrong word, it was definitely a mansion like everything else around there. Archaic yet brand new. Whatever. All I had to do now was drop off the food and possibly set it up and according to the delivery slip with the order on it, I had miraculously arrived right on time.
I pulled into the driveway which curved around and stopped me right at the front door, then put the car in park and got out. Rushing back around to the trunk I opened it and removed the collapsible cart, placed the hot bag that held the hot food on top, and finished it off by setting the box of other miscellaneous supplies on top. Taking a hold of the handle I pulled it to the front step, only to realize there was no way I was going to be able to get the cart over that. Just as annoyance was setting in, the front door opened. A very well dressed woman was standing there and she looked friendly enough.
"Uh, there's kind of no way I can lift this over the step to get it-"
"That's alright, I'll help you." She smiled, coming towards me, "What can I take? It's not too heavy is it?"
"The box on top is lighter," I told her and then grabbed it lifting it up and holding it in her direction. "If you take this I can carry the rest inside."
"Sounds good." She said and grabbed it from me, heading back towards the door. I lifted the hot box by the straps and carried it into the house. This one was far heavier but I was used to having to do this, as I'd done it before, and I didn't want to force the customer to move the far heavier thing or worry about it. She led me through the foyer and into a very nice kitchen with marble countertops and gold fixtures at the sink. This place reminded me very much of the house a childhood friend of mine lived in years ago before I'd lost touch with her.
"Where do you want me to set it all up?" I asked as I opened the hot box to get out the stuff. She glanced around and then shook her head.
"No, don't worry about it. I'm keeping you from your dinner and my guests are late anyway. It'll give me something to busy myself with while I wait." She laughed, "Just set everything on the counter, oh right your tip..."
"You don't have to-" but before I could finish my usual speech about how tips weren't required but greatly appreciated she left the room, presumably to get her wallet. At least it would probably be a big one, considering this house. Either she was loaded or her husband was....or wife. Whatever, I didn't judge. I took the food out and set it on the counter, arranging it the way I was supposed to in order to make serving easier (as well as finding things). I closed up the hot box and lifted it. By that time she was coming back into the room. She had a wallet in one of her hands and it was open. I smiled at her but she grabbed my arm and pulled me in close, her grip far more firm than I assumed it could be for a woman of her thin stature.
"Your clarity is insurmountable and your survival instinct pure, you're the winner." She whispered in my ear. Her voice had gone from cheery to almost demonic in five seconds flat. The hand on my arm slid down over it to my palm where she placed something that felt cold and metallic. Like a chain, maybe a necklace with a jewel on it. Her hand clasped over mine until it was making a tight fist, enough to draw a bit of blood from whatever she'd put in there.
"Jesus lady what the fuck." I snapped, pulling back from her, my fist still clenched. After all of the weirdness that day I really just wanted to get out of there, screw the tip. Her eyes, they were frosted over but only for a split second before returning to normal. She shook her head like nothing had happened and reached into her wallet.
"So, what's the usual?" She asked.
"The usual is people don't...." I was going to rant about how she had jammed some kind of necklace into my hand and told me something about clarity and survival instinct but I didn't think she was even aware she'd done it. "...people don't really have a usual." I finished. She pulled twenty dollars from her wallet and held it out to me.
"Well, have a nice Thanksgiving." She smiled. I hid my other hand behind my back, took the money, and picked up the bag. As much as I was mostly sure I didn't want to keep what I had just been handed, it probably wouldn't hurt to look at it before tossing it out.
"Yeah you too," I said and turned to head out.
"How many days a week do you work?" She called.
"Deliver seven days a week too?" She asked.
"Yeah, holidays as well," I called still not stopping my path towards the door. I was going to get out of there before something weird happened, weirder than what had just happened, like that priest guy walking through the door and actually being her husband or something.
"Eight." She said.
"EIGHT!" She said loudly. I rolled my eyes, I had enough crazy for the night. I walked out of the front door and stepped down from the front step. Placing the empty bag on the catering cart I pulled it back to my car. I couldn't get everything into the trunk fast enough. This was too fucking bizarre and I certainly wasn't being paid the right amount to put up with freaky churches and demonic housewives on the holidays. I got in the car, started it and pulled away, but I was pretty sure that as I did she was standing in the doorway, her eyes glowing, as she held up 8 fingers in my direction.
I drove back to headquarters, straight back. As for the necklace that had been placed in my hand, I tossed it quickly into the back seat. My hand was bleeding as well. I wiped it on my black slacks, hissing as it stung and then went back to driving. I didn't know what all this shit was about and I wasn't sure I wanted to know. Once I arrived I unpacked everything and put it back in the proper order before going to find Bob in the office.
"So I'm back. You put my delivery fee in, right?"
"Yup." He said, swiveling in his chair to look in my direction. I nodded.
"Then I'm out. Have a good Thanksgiving."
"Can you work tomor-"
"No." I said, "I just...I think I need a break. One day. Call me after that okay?" I asked. He nodded and smiled at me. Since my availability was any time he wanted me, and he knew that the rare time I did ask not to work he didn't give me shit. I didn't want to stand there and explain to him all that had happened that night, or I had thought happened, I couldn't tell. Maybe the job had finally gotten to me to a point where I had snapped. I couldn't tell. I just needed to get a lot more sleep than I was getting and rest. Rest my body and my mind. It would all make sense in the morning. Or at least I desperately hoped that it would.
When I arrived home, I parked the car in the driveway but something was shining almost out of the corner of my eye. An orange glow, like that church. I realized that what I was seeing was in the rearview mirror. I turned my head quickly and noticed the necklace I had tossed there sitting on the back seat. It wasn't glowing, it was just there. Utterly unremarkable with some weird tangerine colored stone in it. Something I wasn't sure could be real or even technically had a stone name. I'd have to look it up. I grabbed the necklace to take it inside with me. Maybe I could look it up online and find out what it was. That would be after I got some food, cleaned up my bloody hand, and possibly had a drink or three.
I greeted my roommate who was sitting on the couch playing a video game and then went to help myself to what little was left of the food. He was a huge guy and I was a tiny little waif of a woman. Though he always ate a lot, on Thanksgiving there was usually an over abundance of food so I hadn't been too worried about there not being leftovers. I was starving and everything that was left out looked amazing. My dog was in there moments later sniffing at my hands and clothing, as I'm sure I smelled like food from all of that time spent in the car.
"I see that me having to work didn't affect your appetite." I teased him. The way the house was set up was on an open floor plan so I could easily see him and the large flat screen TV from the kitchen while I helped myself to a plate of food. My dog, Ziggy, was sniffing at my hand. Primarily the one that was injured, as I kept trying to knock him back so he'd stop that.
"Well it did a little, or there wouldn't be anything left for you." He joked back.
"I can believe that." I laughed. "Come on Ziggy enough is enough." I patted him on the head and he whined but backed off, though he still continued to follow me as I moved back into the living room area. My roommate paused the video game and looked at me.
"What's that?" He asked, motioning to the necklace that was now draped around my wrist as I held the plate. I looked down at it.
"My really weird tip from the lady I delivered to. It's a long story." I said, "One which I really don't want to think about so I'm going to go upstairs, eat, watch a movie and take a very nice long and hot bath."
"Sounds good." He said. I started to pick at the food with my free, uninjured hand so I could nibble a bit while I headed to my room. Ziggy was still at my heels whining and wanting to be pet which was the norm for him, especially when I had food. No matter how long I was out of the house be it five minutes or five days, he was always the same level of excited to see me and I liked that about him. He was the first dog I'd ever owned, gotten him as a 30th birthday gift. Well, chose him out. I knew the moment I saw his face on the pet adoption website he was going to be my dog and I ultimately was not wrong. My roommate's dog was down with him, sleeping on the couch with her head in his lap. She was older and didn't bother to move around much or do anything beyond just basically acknowledging that I existed when I came in. I loved her too but it wasn't anything like the bond I shared with my dog.
I tossed the necklace onto my dresser then grabbed my laptop and opened it up. As I ate with my injured hand I started to lazily type random search terms into Google to see if I'd come up with anything. I tried things like
Gold necklace with orange jewel
I knew there was probably more to it than that, but I was most curious finding out the right name for the stone first which would help me narrow down my search terms. It was easy enough to figure out that the stone was Topaz and ironically it was the birthstone for the month of November. Well, that just had to be a coincidence. If the stone in the main setting was actually real it seemed like it could be worth a decent amount of money but, I was no jewel expert. I was able to tell that the gold chain and the rest of the adornments around it were real after a few tests. It was the main charm I wasn't so sure about. It almost looked like a book but there were no seems and definitely no way to open it. Weird. That's when I changed my search tactics.
Topaz Book Necklace
Was my next search. A bunch of Etsy and eBay items came up. I rolled my eyes and out of desperation, or maybe stupidity, I risked clicking to the second page of Google results, which basically no one ever does. I'd gotten lucky with it every once in a while so I believe it was worth a shot. That's when a link to the Creepypasta Wiki came up.
"Okay, that's enough internet for tonight," I muttered. I switched the website, not even bothering to look at a creepypasta story because it wasn't going to be factual and I didn't believe in magic like that (or curses). I did know about the different series that existed. Especially the quest series. The ones that were elaborately stupid, like if you get on a bus traveling east and don't let yourself sleep for 48 hours a building will reveal itself to you. Go into that building and a talking goat will try to trick you but if you solve the riddle you'll have 24 hours to get to a beach where you'll find a box of treasure. Things like that. Some of them were very well written and definitely creepy. Some of them (the ones that were later and more or less copied from the originals) were far too elaborate and lost their charm. In any case, whatever I would have found at that link I knew was going to be a fictional story. I had a bunch of time the next day since I was opting out of work so I'd take it to a pawn or antique shop. It was much more likely someone there would know about it.
I finished eating and headed into the bathroom so I could run water for a nice hot bath. It would definitely cure the chill I'd gotten during the journey of that day. As the water was running I went to the sink to wash my hand and see if it was even possible to bandage. Given that it was my palm that was injured there was probably no point in doing that. Unfortunately, it just meant opening the cut over and over again as I worked. Maybe if I got a good pair of gloves I could avoid that. I very carefully scrubbed my hand with soap, which made it burn, and then rinsed it after I couldn't stand the pain anymore. Holding it up to the light I realized that there was a very small shape. It looked like the number 8.
My mind flashed back to the woman, I could hear her voice in my head saying the number. The way her eyes glowed as I got the fuck out of there and sped down the driveway. I blinked a few times but it wasn't a hallucination. That was definitely the number 8. Not wanting to have to look at it, I grabbed a roll of gauze and wrapped it around my hand before taping it up. I had to be going insane, that was the only logical explanation for this because if it wasn't, then I knew I'd end up insane. It would just be a lot farther path from where I currently stood.
After my bath, and being very careful not to get my hand or the gauze wet, I got changed for the night and went back into my room. Pulling my comforter over me I turned my TV on and whistled for Ziggy to join me. He ran into my room and hopped up on the bed. Ziggy was a fairly big dog. Apparently classified as large according to his weight. He was a Rottweiler Australian Shepherd mix. At least, the best I could figure he was. Mostly I just knew he looked like a long-haired Rottie and I had gotten him at the pound. He was very loyal and protective of me, and I liked that. I patted him on his head as he laid by my side and started to snort and snore loudly moments later as he fell asleep.
I started to doze, the sound of the TV in the background helping to lull me. I never slept well or could even fall asleep period without some kind of noise. Silence bothered me. Sometimes I wondered if it was only that I'd fear what I'd hear there. Or even feared my own thoughts. What my mind could conjure up on its own. If I had voices to listen to, to focus on, it helped to drown out all my anxious fears and internal monologues so I couldn't focus on those things instead. A few hours passed before I heard my roommate loudly trudging up the stairs. Something he did every night and something that usually woke me if I had started to doze. I yawned and put my arm around Ziggy as I turned to look at the door.
"You get his heartworm medication renewed yet?" He asked.
"No," I sighed, "To do that I have to take him to the vet. Anyway, look at that." I pointed at the necklace on my dresser. He picked it up and held it to the light then looked at me.
"Yeah, it's the necklace you had earlier." He tossed it in my direction, mostly to be obnoxious but my hand darted up and caught it before it could hit me or my dog in the face.
"It's weird right?"
"Kind of? Probably worth something. I'd pawn it." He laughed.
"Yeah, I'm thinking about that myself. Probably worth more in cash than it is as an ornament." I looked at it again and then smiled and placed it around Ziggy's neck. It was a bit oversized so it fit well. "There you go, now you look like a Prince."
"A prince with heartworms."
"Poor Ziggy..." I said softly, ruffling his head and reaching to pull the necklace off. "I wish you didn't have those stupid hearworms because then, Mommy wouldn't have to pay a hundred dollars a year for your prescription." I looked at the necklace and as I went to toss it aside a massive pain shot through my injured hand. "OW! FUCK!"
"What?" My roommate asked.
"Nothing, fucking necklace cut my hand when the lady jammed it in there." I sighed grabbing my wrist and hissing in pain. "It'll heal soon enough."
"Take him to the vet tomorrow."
"Yeah yeah." I laid back in the bed and Ziggy licked my face. "You gonna go to the vet like a big boy tomorrow?" He started to wag his tail, which was just a little nub of a thing, so in reality, it was more like he was enthusiastically wiggling his butt. I laughed which only caused him to climb on top of me and lick my face more.
"Have a good night." I heard my roommate call before also hearing his door shut. I pushed Ziggy away from me and got him settled down into a more comfortable position for both of us. Grabbing the remote I turned the volume up on the TV. I intended to watch it until I passed out again. The vet could wait until morning. It was a cheap as hell 'first come first serve' place anyway. I'd need my rest in order to wait there for hours on end. At least it wasn't going to be a holiday anymore, and most people would probably be out fighting for pointless gifts during black Friday. Even though one hundred dollars a year was a small price to pay to allegedly fight these heartworms I could barely afford that and I hoped to put this vet visit off as long as possible.
It was later in the afternoon the next day when I arrived at the vet's office. I'd slept in, a sleep that I had greatly needed in order to feel much better. The events of the previous day seemed like a bad dream and I could honestly, barely remember them. I left the necklace on my dresser and headed out. There was barely anyone waiting there, which was good because Ziggy had a problem with other dogs and I didn't need there to be a second incident where he grabbed another and threw it around like a rag doll. The first incident had happened so quickly the only time I had was to get the poor little terrier out of his mouth. Though he was fine around other humans, normally, he didn't like other dogs. Especially the small ones.
We were called back and I was informed that in order to get the prescription renewed they were going to have to take a blood sample from him and test to make sure he still had heartworms. I'd owned him for three years and I didn't think they were going anywhere. They never had and it seemed like their theoretical treatment wasn't doing jackshit to actually treat him. I helped to hold him as they took his blood because he could be an extremely wiggly little baby when it was time for this test. Once they had gotten the sample, I sat down with him on the floor, playing with him a bit as I waited for the results to inevitably come back as positive.
"Alright, we have the results." The vet said, coming back into the room. Ziggy, noticing that another person who could potentially pet him had entered again, hopped to his feet and started to wiggle his butt enthusiastically trying to get to him. I pulled his leash sharply and told him to heel, which he did. He took a seat looking back and forth from me to the vet. "It seems that he is completely heartworm free."
"What?" I asked.
"The treatment worked, sometimes it can take a few years but, the results were negative." The vet got down and started to pet Ziggy. "I'll write you something for some preventative stuff anyway but he he's much healthier now."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing I almost wanted to demand they run the test again but I also knew I could barely afford that so I guess I just had to accept this at face value. I smiled and then hugged Ziggy tightly. He, of course, had no idea what was going on and just enjoyed the attention. I paid my bill and got out of there as fast as possible, thinking that the longer I stayed the longer it seemed that they had time to change the results in some capacity and inform me that he still had heart worms.
I got him into the back of my car, but as I was getting his leash off the gauze on my hand caught on one of the links of his collar and started to unravel. I cursed under my breath and unwrapped it quickly so I could toss it. Considering I had put it on the night before, it had a decently good run. I'd just replace it when I got home. I sat down in the driver's seat and started the ignition. Looking down at my wound to see if I was still bleeding, or if there were any signs of infection, what I noticed now, sent chills up my spine. There was no longer a number 8 there. No, it had shifted into a very crude but very obvious number 7. I remembered what I had said last night. The wish that Ziggy didn't have heartworms anymore. My mouth went dry and I turned to look at him. The necklace? No...no that was stupid but...but what if? I had to get home and I absolutely had to find out more about the necklace. If I hadn't gotten it in such a strange manner and so many strange things hadn't happened the other day I'd probably have never connected the two but...it all lined up far too perfectly to be anything else. I still wasn't even sure I wanted to be right. There wasn't anything magical that didn't also come with a price.