"God damn ..." Christopher Pitt groaned this well-worn expression as he picked up his 107th box of the morning and placed it into his delivery truck. It wasn't a very heavy box, but Chris didn't have a very good back. Or a very good knee, or very good shoulder. It seems that when Chris hit the big 3-0 five years ago he started to play the real life version of the children's game Operation. So many unexpected movements would bring about the annoyingly loud buzz and red light in the form of pain. And right now, his back just buzzed.
"That's the last one. Am I good to go boss?" Chris asked his supervisor, a kid 10 years his junior. It took a lot for Chris to mask his contempt.
"Light load today, huh? Yeah ok. Just be ready to help out some of the other drivers that have full trucks, alright?"
"You got it." Chris said with his best attempt at a professional voice. But all he really managed to convey was "Fuck-you-very-much." He really needed to get out of there.
"God damn L.A. traffic." Chris muttered to himself as he slams his hand on the horn as another anonymous jerk cuts him off. He needed to be done early today. It's Halloween and the streets are going to be packed with annoying kids and their even more annoying parents. He followed the GPS directions to the drop off that would put him at the halfway mark for his load. Halfway done before lunch would be amazing. But he knew, with all the cars congesting every which way, driving one mile equals 30 minutes. And even if, by some miracle, he could get done relatively early there's no chance in hell that the boss would let him leave early. He most certainly would be sent out to help the other drivers.
"Dispatch to 66, come in."
"God damn it, you gotta be kidding me." He scoffed. Are they reading his thoughts too?
"66 here dispatch, go."
"Yeah, we gotta put a hold on the rest of your deliveries for now. We got a driver involved in an accident off of Figueroa and Eighth. Packages need to be secured ASAP and you're the closest."
"Ok. On my way." Just great.
When Chris finally gets two blocks away from the crash site he is shocked at what he sees. The corner of Figueroa and Eighth looks like a mini war zone. From what he could see police, medic, and firefighter vehicles are positioned at every corner. Packages looked like they exploded out of a canon and covered the entire intersection. And, of course, it wouldn't be L.A. in 2021 without a mob of people with their phones out recording the whole thing.
"Dispatch, this is 66. There's no way I'm going to be able to get my truck down to the crash site."
"Hold on 66."
"Ok, listen up 66. Park your truck. Walk down to the accident site. Talk to a Sergeant Lewis. Sgt. Damien Lewis. He will let you through. You are to look through the packages and find one that is going to Bob Nero 87086 Lookout Mountain Rd. I will text you the TBA code. You will pick up that box and place it in your route and go about the rest of your day. Do not worry about the other packages. Do you copy?"
"Ok, dispatch." This is weird, Chris thinks to himself. The procedure for this type of thing is not even remotely being followed. They have a whole department that deals with accidents. Packages need to be thoroughly examined for damage and sent out again at a later date. Never, to his knowledge, has anyone been asked to do this.
Chris had to circle around to find a parking spot. As he made his way through the crowd he could hear them voice the gossip that a gathering such as this brings.
"Man, poor dude, he was just doing his job."
"They said it was a hit-and-run."
"How could it be a hit-and-run when both cars look like that!?!"
"That chick ran a red light! I literally got in on my phone by accident! Check this shit out yo! Your boy's about to go viral!"
"Someone said she got out of the vehicle like it was nothing and just walked away."
Chris was able to locate the sergeant relatively quickly and was let pass the blockade. Finding the package was not going to be as easy. The delivery truck was on its side and the cause for its current situation, a huge Cadillac Escalade, was nearby with its front section entirely caved in.
"No way someone walked away from that," Chris mumbled.
Chris' thoughts were interrupted by the commotion of medics placing the driver in the back of an ambulance. He saw the bloodied face of his coworker and recognized him immediately. It was the other Chris, Christian actually. They get mistaken for each other all the time. It's understandable. Along with the same abbreviated name they both go by, they also share a similar frame and face shape. However, the easiest way to tell them apart is to talk to them. Christian likes his job and it shows. Christopher does not like his job and it shows.
As Chris is walking toward his co-worker and feeling bad for not feeling bad, his head starts to feel fuzzy. It was a very singular sensation that made him stop in his tracks. He happened to look down and at his feet was a small brown box untouched by the destruction surrounding them. Chris picked it up. It was very heavy for something so small. Heavy in his hands and a heavy feeling in his chest. The TBA numbers match. That was too easy. As Chris walked to his truck with the package he noticed a man in the crowd without his phone up and not looking at the wreckage. The man with the aviator shades was looking at him.
The next stop for his delivery is one of the few that Chris looks forward to. It's a regular who gets a package every week. This person has a dog. Chris is a dog guy. He looks forward to interacting with the 90 lb. Rot mix named Dante. As he opens the gate to Dante's yard, Chris calls to him. Dante does not come. Instead, Dante is whining and cowering in the corner. The whine gets louder as Chris walks to him.
"Hey buddy, you ok?"
Dante begins to growl. Finally, when Chris is too close Dante barks and runs away.
Chris' next stop is for a shady-looking lawyer's office at a strip mall. As he is walking toward the shop two transients ask for spare change. Chris apologized and said he had none.
"Just make that box go home!," the first one said maniacally.
"No, I don't think he should." the second one said in an almost absentminded way. They then proceeded to argue about the box. Chris, understandably confused, finished his drop off quickly.
The rest of Chris' day continued to provide odd occurrences. Dogs ran from him and cats hissed. People yelled obscure, and sometimes obscene, comments as he passed by. But the strangest reactions from people that pushed Chris from feeling weird to straight up creeped out was the staring. All throughout L.A. complete strangers, and a few recipients of packages, would stop what they were doing as soon as they eyed him and, without a word, would just stare. It wasn't a blank stare either. It was one full of intent. Intent to do what?
"God damn Halloween," Chris whispered, “it really does bring out all the weirdos." He needed a break. His most recent drop off was a "starer" and it really freaked him out. It also started to feel like there was a fog clouding Chris' head. He couldn't think straight. As he started to massage his temples, Chris glanced to his right and noticed the box from the accident was sitting in the passenger seat. When did he put that there?
Chris, still trying to massage the clarity back into his head, was impatiently waiting at a red light. He could not wait to get rid of the box that was working his goose bumps overtime. The light turned green. But before he could get very far, the small box jumped out of the seat on it's way to the floor. Out of reflex, Chris slammed the brake and awkwardly leaned/dove and caught the box. As he did so a huge SUV went racing past their red light and through the intersection. The car skidded to a halt.
"What the hell . . ." Chris said as he slowly started to realize that if he hadn't stopped he would have ended up just like his colleague. Chris just stared at the Cadillac Escalade. It looked like it was turning around to make another go at him. Surprisingly, blue and red lights came out of nowhere. The police when you need them? Who knew? As the Escalade took off it passed by Chris' truck and he came face to face with a man with aviator shades.
"God damn look at these houses," Chris mused as he drove through the Hollywood Hills looking for the next stop. Chris had always felt things would work out for him and his wife and they would be able to afford a place in a zip code like this. Last year, he came to the realization that it would not work out that way.
As he wound his way around the streets Chris observed that these houses were a little on the older side. Not many renovations were taking place on this street. The house that the box belonged to ("belong to?", that's a weird way of saying it), was definitely the oldest and in shambles. It did not look like it belonged in the Hills.
"Hello! Hope you didn't have too hard a time finding the place," a man said as he opened the door before Chris could even get to the doorstep. The man was in his 60's with a salt and pepper mane dressed in a very expensive looking, long, blood red robe. He also looked extremely familiar.
"Hey you're that actor from . . . from . . .that thing!"
"Yep, that's me! From that thing, and the thing that bombed, that other thing that was pretty good, and that other thing that got me my Emmy. I'm in a lot of things," the man said amusedly.
"Yeah, you're Thomas Sael!" Chris was admittedly a little star struck. He really did like the guy's body of work.
"Guilty," Thomas chuckled.
"No way..." Chris's eyes reflexively examined the house again and stopped himself from uttering "what're you doing in this dump?" Apparently, he did not do a good job of hiding his facial expressions.
"Now, now, not everything is as it seems. Please come in." How many times do you get invited to a celebrity's house? As he went in, Chris' jaw hung low. It looked like a palace inside.
"How . . . ?" Chris was speechless.
"We don't like to look flashy. We just want to keep the spoils of war to ourselves. Who cares what everyone else thinks, am I right?"
Not only was everything covered with gold and precious stones but there were some odd statues that Chris had never seen anything close to their likeness before. Many of them were animal and human hybrids . . . and horns . . . a lot of them had horns. There were hundreds of trinkets strewn throughout the mansion. No, not trinkets . . . artifacts. Chris got the feeling that they were ancient. Ancient and dangerous artifacts.
"C'mon, let's go grab a drink."
Chris followed Thomas to a room where a lot of people were gathered in similar robes sitting in a large circle. It was dark in this room. The foggy head and heavy chest from earlier were back.
"Didn't mean to interrupt your party," Chris said woozily.
"Nonsense, this party is for you. You're the guest of honor Chris." Chris gave Thomas a very confused look.
"Haven't you felt your entire life that you were destined for some type of greatness. Come now, don't be modest. You're among admirers." A dizzy Chris slowly nodded his head.
"Well, this is it. All you need to do is sit down, drink this glass and open that box in your hand." Chris noticed that the box was now very hot.
"I don't understand, what does this have to do with me?"
"And we don't have time to make you understand. Just know that things were written down a long time ago and we have painstakingly engineered so many cogs to work together to get you here with us on this All Hallow's Eve. Open the box and everything you have been denied in life will be yours. Glory, money, yada yada. I mean you've seen the movies, you get the picture." Chris was sweating profusely now as he sat in the middle of the circle holding the glass and the box. The group was chanting something in a strange tongue.
In the end it wasn't a very difficult choice for Chris. With all the things going wrong in his life he felt he needed . . . no . . . deserved for something to finally go right. What did he have to lose? He ripped off the brown paper to reveal a small metal cube. It did not look like anything special. But, it did look old and weathered. He chugged the thick, iron tasting drink and opened the box.
A black fog slowly rose from the box and enveloped the entire room. Soon Chris could not see a single thing.
"Well done, Christian . . . well done," Thomas said softly somewhere in the fog.
Christopher, confused by Thomas' comment, could see a little light flickering through the dense fog. Suddenly, a pillar of flames shot up from the ground and licked the ceiling. But with those flames came a blood curdling scream! Then another pillar and another cry! And another and another until every robe wearing member was burning alive! Thomas was screaming the loudest.
Through the smell of burning flesh and ear piercing screams sat Christopher, trying his best to piece together the events of the day. When the house started to burn was about the time that he came to the conclusion that it really was quite funny; they got the wrong Chris. Of course this would happen to me, he thought as he resigned himself to his fate.
"God damn it," he said as he burst into flames.