The Last Delivery
by Aidan Lucid
I’ll never forget my first week working for Dobsons Deliveries. What happened on August 14, 2007 will haunt me for the rest of my life.
During lunch at the office, I enjoyed a well-deserved hot cup of coffee and an emotional ham sandwich. The morning had been extremely busy and I had made a lot of deliveries around the bustling Dublin City center. There’s nothing worse than irate customers; that’s why I have to make sure all my deliveries are on time. The last thing I wanted was to be fired after it took me months to find this job.
As usual I sat on my own while the other drivers sat together, talking among themselves about strange customers they met and the results of soccer matches they had watched the night before.
I was about to bite into my sandwich when the boss came in and said, “I got a package here to Ballycraggin and I need someone to get it there by six. Any takers?”
When he said this, a hush fell over the canteen. The other drivers looked at each other, unwilling to take on this delivery.
I wondered why no one wanted to take it. Being the new kid and eager to make a good impression on my boss, I raised my hand and agreed to deliver the package. Even though it was a three-hour journey from base, I wanted to show I was willing to go that extra mile, so to speak.
Ballycraggin, or as the locals call it, Ballycraggeen, is a small village in west County Cork. I often heard my granddad talk about it, and the people there, like all Corkonians, are wonderful, friendly folk.
It was 5:30 pm when I arrived. Having dropped off the package and as it was the last delivery of the day, I decided to stop at a roadside diner to have some dinner.
After finishing my chips and beef burger, I sat into my white van and was on the road back to the office. I sighed as the three-hour journey lay ahead of me and dusk began to creep in.
An hour into my long drive to Dublin, I decided to put on a Cliff Richard CD. When “Summer Holidays” played, I smiled because it reminded me of when I was a kid. My dad and I used to travel down to Kerry every summer for a seven-day break to go fishing in Dingle and he always sang that song as we drove down there.
I was driving along a narrow, winding country road and tapping away to “Summer Holidays” on the steering wheel when static on the CD player interrupted the song. I pressed the eject button and inserted the CD again, but it still did not work.
Without warning, an unnatural chill swirled around me and I could see my breath. My fingers stiffened as if they had been dipped into ice-cold water. A sulfuric smell wafted past my nose. An eerie tinny chorus of women singing “Ave Maria” belted out through the speakers. The headlights flickered. I pressed the button to switch off the CD player, but still the women kept singing. Nothing I did stopped the music.
“Ave Maria” ended abruptly, and then I saw it. Or I should say him. In the corner of my eye, I saw a priest wearing old-fashioned garments, sitting in the passenger seat. He was calmly smoking a cigarette. He wore a cassock and rose-scented Rosary beads hung around his neck. The purple stole draped around his shoulders reflected on the silver crucifix hanging below his chest.
Every part of me just screamed to stop the van and get out, but I couldn’t. I was so gripped with fear that all I could do was drive. My brown t-shirt was moist with sweat.
The ghost puffed out another plume of smoke and then he turned his head to me. His face had a weathered complexion, and his black hair was slicked to one side. His hands were unusually large for a priest. I could see no pupils in his eyes, just two dark pits instead. The lower half of his body was transparent and, as I gave a quick glance, I saw he had no feet. He leaned forward. Now he was wearing a maniacal smile like some supernatural villain. The priest’s yellow teeth looked like crumbled gravestones.
“Give up your old sssinss, my ssson,” he hissed like a snake. His laughing sent a chill up my spine, as it echoed around me.
Mustering all the strength I could gather, I overcame the sense of dread that gripped me, and I pulled over onto a hard shoulder of the road. I leaped out of the van, slamming the door shut. I stared back in disbelief and wondered if what I had seen was real.
Slowly I walked back to the driver’s door and, as I approached it, I could see in the side mirror the priest still in the passenger’s seat, smoking his cigarette. He had no right to be there and scare me like that. The only way to deal with this was to tell him to leave.
With a trembling hand, I reached for the handle. As I was about to open the door, I saw the other door opening. The priest was gone and when I looked to my left, I saw a dark shadow floating down the road and around the corner, out of sight and into the night’s darkness.
What the hell just happened? I thought. And then it dawned on me: this was the reason nobody wanted to deliver the package. They all knew about the ghost! I cursed every one of them; none of them had the decency to tell me about the malevolent spirit! I was glad that he was gone, but the stale odour of cigarette smoke still lingered.
Later that night, I did some research online, trying to see if I could find out the identity of this evil spirit, but after nearly two hours of searching the Internet, I found nothing about him. I made a promise to myself to never travel down that road again.
* * *
A year had passed and it was a Wednesday afternoon. I was on my lunch-break and reading The Daily Mirror when the boss came in and said that he had a package to be delivered to Ballycraggin. This time I wasn’t going to volunteer to drive down there. A new guy, just like me a year earlier, raised his hand when he saw nobody else willing to deliver it. Unlike the others, though, I wasn’t going to let this young man go without warning him first.
I followed him out and just as he was sitting into his van, I said, “Excuse me, Philip. Do you mind if I have a quick word with you?”
“Sure, Tom. What is it?”
“There’s something you should know about driving down to that place.” I told him about my terrifying encounter with the ghost and as I finished, a smile slowly spread across his face.
“Ah sure, I don’t believe in all that ghost malarkey at all.” He closed the door, laughing and shaking his head incredulously as he waved goodbye.
You will this evening, I thought while returning to the canteen.
Sure enough, when I saw him the following afternoon, Philip sat at his table, hiding behind a newspaper and his face as pale as the sheets my wife had hung out on the clothesline that morning. That was the last time anyone ever delivered a package to Ballycraggin.
Copyright © 2014 by Aidan Lucid