Coming from a poor family, my parents have always struggled to pay for my education. I decided to take some load of them when I got accepted into college and began scouring newspapers and magazines for part-time jobs to earn some money. However, finding a job was easier said than done- the employers all wanted workers who had a completed college education and substantial work experience- both of which I did not have.
It was after a couple of months and countless failed interviews that I finally received a phone call. I could recognize the gruff voice on my phone almost immediately- it belonged to Harris, a tough, burly man who managed a private delivery service in a dingy old warehouse by the edge of the town. In his short, curt manner, he notified me that I had gotten the job and that I would start the following week.
I was elated. The job paid relatively well and fitted in perfectly with my school schedule. The job would also provide me with a new bike, something that I couldn't have afforded in the past.
The deliveries I made in the first few months were relatively simple- the furthest place I had to go was just over by the next town, a mere half hour bike-ride away. These deliveries were fine, they were fast, they were quick. However, I wanted to go further and earn myself even more money.
I finally got my chance when Harris rung me up early Saturday morning, at 1:00 AM.
'Charles. You up for a job?'
'Harris- it's 1:00 AM. Are you insane?' I moaned.
'It's got a double payload. Are you in or not?'
Double payload? That definitely got my attention. I quickly agreed and made my way towards the warehouse.
The package to be delivered was larger and heavier than those that I had delivered before. It also had a faint odor- I couldn't really place my finger on what the smell exactly was, but it was rather disturbing. I had a strong urge to break the number one rule of the business and almost questioned Harris about the contents of the package. It was only the incentive of the double payload that kept me quiet. The only thing Harris had said to me before he left was 'Get it there as fast as possible.'
So off I went, into the dead of the night. It was a very unnerving experience, to be cycling down the empty and dimly lit streets, past the countless shop-houses that have been closed for the night. The only source of noise was the 24-hour pub a few streets away, its low drone of music and noise furthering fueling my anxiety.
The destination was to be a couple of towns away and if I cycled by the main road it would have taken me about a couple of hours, which was far too long. I decided to take the alternative route- through the forest outlining the town, which would effectively cut down my travelling time by half.
In hindsight, I probably should have stuck by the main road.
It's been close to two hours, and I'm horribly lost. The path that I had been following had disappeared completely along the way, and my stupid bike is proving to be nothing but a hindrance on the rocky ground of the forest. I decided to call Harris for some directional help.
I had only a bar on reception and after several attempts, I managed to reach him.
'Harris. I've got no idea where the hell I am.'
'Are you in the forest?' His voice was infused with loud static and it was really difficult to make out what he was saying.
'I can't really hear you- I'm lost in the damn forest and this package is stinking it up. I'm coming- hello?' There was a sudden rush of loud, crackling static and the call cut off. 'Shit shitting shit.'
I'm close to a full scale panic attack right now. My only source of light is the screen of my dying cellphone and the dim moonlight filtering through the dense canopy above. Praying feverishly, I decide to trudge on and hopefully, just hopefully, I'll get out of here.
The package is proving to be a massive burden. It's taking every bit of effort I've got left just to keep it up on my bike, which I am now pushing alongside myself.
I'm not sure if I'm imagining things, but I've just passed by a couple of bikes, just like my own, lying in a ragged heap by the side of the bushes. They look awfully rusty, dirty and old, and there's a thick layer of moss and grime covering it. It's almost as if they've been tossed and abandoned by a couple of bikers. Weird.
After a couple of minutes more of trekking, I became aware of movement among the trees beside me. I could feel my adrenaline level rising as I quickened my steps. I was seriously considering abandoning my bike and the questionable package by then when I spotted a dim ball of light in the distance.
In my state of panic and fear, I quickly headed towards the light without considering its source.
I can now hear growls coming from my side. Growls, snarls, and the occasional cracking of branches and twigs.
Sweat pouring down my face, I broke into a run and sprinted towards the light, leaving my bike and package behind.
I've finally reached the light. Turns out the light was really from the inside of a small wooden house located in the middle of the forest. I could make out human voices and some kind of folk music emanating from within it.
I probably shouldn't have approached the house at all. After all, what sort of people would live in a house in the middle of the woods? However, the loud growls and snarls from behind me quickly secured my decision and I clambered up the rickety stairs in a state of panic and thumped my fists onto the door, all the while yelling for help.
The door finally creaked open and without thinking, I barged in and slammed the door shut behind me. Panting heavily in both relief and exhaustion, I realized that the house was inhabited by a group of elderly people. Draped in shawls and cloaks, they eyed me curiously before one of them, an old, muscular man, frowned.
'Where's the package, boy?' He asked.
'Package?' I responded, confused and fairly freaked out by then.
'He's lost it. Just like the other one.' The old man sighed and turned towards the others. 'We've got to make do with him.'
Genuinely frightened, I backed up towards the door and tried the doorknob, only to realize that the door was locked from the outside.
'Where are you going?' An elderly woman, her eyes glassy and white, approached me from my right. As I turned towards her, she broke into a wide grin, revealing a set of sharp, pointed teeth.
I whipped back to face the others. All of them, like the elderly woman, wore maniacal grins and had the same set of pointed teeth.
'The party's just started.'
Hey guys, my name's Lucas, and I've just moved into town. I must be having a stroke of good luck because not only did I manage to get a well-paying job as a delivery boy, but my boss has just contacted me about this double payload job. All I've got to do is to deliver some package to some place a couple of towns away. I know it's kinda late, it's just a little after 1:00 AM, but I think I'm going to take the job. The boss just told me to make it quick though, I think he's worried for my safety. How nice of him. Well, I think I'm going to cut through the forest, I'll be so much more quicker that way.