I wonder what you will say here at my funeral considering you were the one who killed me. Lord knows you’ll be asked to speak. Will you say, “Here lies the girl who trusted me with everything, even her life. So much so that I decided to just take it because I thought she no longer deserved to live?” Or will you say, “Today we bury the one person who thought I was better than this, better than my past, but she was wrong. Now let’s put this bitch six feet under so I can go smoke?” Honestly, the options are endless. But I know you will get up there in front of that microphone, in front of my family and real friends, and even in front of God, and you will lie your ass off. You will say all the things expected of poor grieving you. You will lie, lie, lie. What a best friend you are. You’ll be sure to get a seat in the front row. Though you and no one else will be able to see me, I’m glad you’ll be there up front. I want to watch you grit your teeth through fake tears and clinch the sides of the podium because this is all just “too much” for you. You think you’ve gotten away with it all. Soon I will be buried and forgotten. You’re so wrapped up in the almost euphoric high of committing a crime and not getting caught that you’ve gotten cocky and complacent. But you have no idea. Your nights of sleep and peace are over. The past is about to come back to haunt you.
3 Days Earlier: The Day I Died
They say you can’t wake up dead, but you can. I woke up and I was dead, plain and simple. I opened my eyes and got up. But my body stayed put on the forest ground where you left me. I looked down at my body, torn, broken, and bloodied, and I cried. I was only 18 and here I was dead. I sat next to my body and grieved until the tears could no longer come. You were long gone, but I could still smell your cologne and sweat in the air. You dick. You asshole. You liar. Why did you do this? What did I do to you to deserve this? Were we not close? Did I not treat you well, guard your secrets, and defend you whenever someone took to making fun of you? Was I not a good friend? I wrestled with these questions and until I just couldn’t look at my body anymore. I couldn’t deal with this. I couldn’t believe you killed me. But I could feel myself spiraling down into a pit of fear and anxiety. So I began to run.
I ran for what felt like miles until it started to rain. I tried to shelter myself from the rain by shielding my head with my hands, only to discover that the rain now went through my ghostly form. How was this even real? Panicked and full of mixed emotions, I started to run again, this time to the abandoned farmhouse in the distance. There was no lock, so I was able to get inside quickly. Inside smelled of dust and mildew. There must be a leak some where. At least I was alone and far away from you and my body, far away from the truth that today my best friend killed me. Just the thought of seeing you hovering over me while my last breath slipped out of me was enough to cause sadness, fear, and shock to shoot through me again. Suddenly I could see it all over again, you pulling me close, telling me that you’re finally done, you’ve hit your limit. You whispering to me that I did this all to myself, that I knew what you were and that there was a risk to being friends with you. I was panicked at your words and suddenly the thought began to form in my mind that you had brought me out into the secluded woods at dusk, not for privacy, but to enact a devious plan. I could see myself stepping away from you, slowly but surely putting distance between us. You seeing me back away sent you into a rage and you reached out and yanked my long brown hair. You whipped my whole body around to be flushed up against you. You lean down and whispered to me that I deserved this, I deserved all of what was coming to me purely because I had never truly known what pain was. I’d had too much of a good life you said. I was ungrateful. I was crying by now, whimpering through the pain of your fist in my hair. Crying for what was about to happen and wondering if I truly had brought it upon myself. I didn’t get to complete the thought because you slammed a knife through my ribs once, twice, three times. You let me fall to the dirty ground, gasping and panicking as I tried to find the wounds and shove the pain and blood back into my body, trying to fix the broken parts of myself, just like always, which is how I ended up here. I had tried to fix you, too; to make all the pieces of you whole and rounded. But you were never a puzzle I was meant to finish. I was beginning to get dizzy from all the blood still rushing, rushing through my hands like waterfalls. I suppose I was not dying quickly enough for you, though. You sat on top of me and wrapped your hands around my throat like a necklace I never wanted. You squeezed and squeezed until I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. Instead they just closed as you finally cut off my airways. You stayed for a while to make sure I was really gone. Then you just left me there as if I were an empty soda can and not your best friend since 3rd grade.
I shook the images from my head. I needed to distract myself so I decided to explore the house. The house was decades old, but still had furniture in it like someone was going to come home any minute now. Everything was dated with vibrant orange carpets, oddly patterned sofa and chairs, and a TV that belonged in a museum. I started up the stairs and went to the room on the right. I twisted the knob and walked into what must of once been someones bedroom. The decor was dated back to the 1970’s with a green shag rug, beaded wall decorations, posters of Cher and “Free Love”, and a record player with albums like “Disco Fever” and “Janis Joplin” waiting to be played again. I sat on the bed and clouds of dust flew up around me, I instantly wanted to cough, but felt no tickle in my throat. I guess my brain was still going through the motions of being alive, but the rest of my ghostly body no longer felt the need to carry out the actions.
I sighed, deep and heavy. This was all so much. Just hours before I had been in Calculus preparing for an upcoming test. How did I end up here? I placed my head in my hands and started to cry, once again overwhelmed about being dead, but not gone. I was so sad, for me, because I was so young. I would never go to college, start a career, or get married. Soon my body would be discovered and my parents would start to cry and grieve. I felt so sorry for what they were about to go through. My emotions were a roller coaster and I was also furious at you for doing what you did to me, for killing me and for betraying me to such a level that the only way you felt you could escape was to murder me.
All of the sudden the door slammed and I looked up and there was a young girl, probably 15 or 16 years of age, dressed in a fringe top and bell bottoms with colorful flowers sewn into the hems. She was tall and had a face that was stone, but her eyes had a smile in them. This must be her room. And she was dead like me. I was shocked. couldn’t speak, but she didn’t seem to have that problem.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Her voice sounded calm like rain on the pavement.
“You can see me?” I asked mainly for clarification that I wasn’t the only one on this death ride.
“Well yeah, you’re dead like me, though you look fresh. And you’re sitting on my bed. Hard to miss that.” She said, a small smile twitching the sides of her mouth up and softening her face.
“You’re dead too?” I questioned, trying to wrap my head around all this. It was so much to take in in such a short amount of time.
“Did I stutter?” She smirked.
“No, sorry. I’m new at all this dead stuff. I don’t know what is going on.” I sighed and placed my head back in my hands. Somehow I was dead and stressed.
“That’s alright, I can help you. How long you been dead?” She came and sat next me on the bed and though the mattress didn’t move, I could feel her. It was like feeling the wind coming through my hair except I could feel it all over. She faced me and her stone face had faltered only slightly to show that her offer of help was genuine.
“I don’t know. Maybe a few hours?”
“Oh goodness. You’re going to need a lot of help.” She huffed. She stood and grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door, down the stairs, and into the living room once there she flung me down onto the couch.
“First part of being dead is you can basically do anything.” She told me as she paced in front of me like a drill Sargent.
“Anything? Like walk through walls and stuff?” I questioned as this was starting to have a Scooby-Doo kind of vibe.
“Oh, sure. Watch.” She turned and walked through the living room wall and into the dining room as if it was nothing, which I suppose it was considering ghosts are mostly air. She looked at me and smiled a half smile as if to say, “See, this whole thing is so easy.” I tried not to roll my eyes or breakdown in tears at the reminder that I was currently learning how to be a ghost instead of being a normal teenager.
She came over and grabbed my hand. I was beginning to understand that she was a forceful kind of ghost, but I sort of liked it. She was at least helping me focus on something other than the fact that I was murdered today. She stood me in front of the same wall she had just walked through.
“I just go through the wall? Like in Harry Potter?” I asked, stifling a chuckle of disbelief.
“Harry who? Just walk through the wall. It’s no big deal, like Ghost 101.” She said to me almost annoyed that I seemed so apprehensive for a dead girl. I closed my eyes and moved my hand forward. I couldn’t feel anything. Was I supposed to feel something? I opened my eyes and looked down and could only see my arm from the elbow up, my hand was hanging out on the other side in the dining room. Holy shit! My arm was through a wall! I was so hopped up on excitement, I leapt the rest of my body through the wall.
“Calm down, you’re gonna hurt yourself.” My ghostly friend laughed.
“I can’t believe I did that.” I said still stunned at my latest ghost development.
“Oh wait till you see what I teach you next. I’m gonna show you how to teleport places.” She raised an eyebrow at me, waiting for me to be impressed.
“You can teach me that? How do I teleport places?” I asked, completely spellbound by her every word.
“Easy, close your eyes and picture a place and when you open them you’ll be there.” She came over next to me and held my hand.
“Close your eyes and let the image of the place take over your thoughts.” She whispered to me. I closed my eyes and pictured the place, happy, warm, and full of love, but another place was bleeding into it. I tried so hard not to, but I couldn’t help it. When I opened my eyes I heard voices and rustling and sirens.
“Where did you take us?” She asked, shocked by our new surroundings.
“To my body.”
2 Days Earlier: The Day My Body Was Found
The day a hiker found my body was the worst day of my afterlife and I got a front row ticket to the show. My ghost friend and I stood there as we watched the police take pictures of my body and the surrounding woods for clues.
“Female, white, age 18, with multiple stab wounds, and signs of a struggle.” One officer said as he leaned down to take pictures of my shoes which were muddied and one was half way off my foot.
“Is she the Howard’s girl? The one that was reported missing yesterday?” A another officer asked as he squatted next to my head.
“Yeah, this is Whitney Howard. Her parents are headed to the morgue soon so they can identify the body.” The first officer responded.
God, my parents. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. Picturing my mom and dad standing over my dead body gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. They didn’t deserve to be put through this grief and pain. But I’m sure you’ll be right behind them, comforting them and faking your own grief. My parents deserve to be comforted by someone who actually loves them, not by their daughters murderer.
“What a shame, a life taken so young. Any ideas on who could have done this?” The second officer sighed as he shook his head.
“We have a few leads, but it was most likely some drugged up heathen in a robbery gone wrong.” The first cop explained as he began to pack up his camera and leave with his partner.
“Whitney, that’s your name?” My new ghost friend questioned, her voice light, almost a whisper. I could feel her eyes on me and on my body in front of us. She was trying to understand, trying to be sympathetic.
“Yes.” Was all I could muster. I could feel my eyes watering and soon tears would be falling. I couldn’t stop thinking of my parents, torn and broken over my dead body, of the pain they would be dealing with soon. You may think you have satisfied your pain by killing me, but all you did was pass that pain to my parents instead.
“What happened to you?” She went around to my body and examined me, not waiting for my response. She sat on the ground next to my body and rubbed my arm, like I was someone lying sick in bed and not dead in a forest. It took me a several moments before I could make myself come over to her, over to me.
I sat next to her and watched as she touched my hand, my hip, my cheek, my hair, and my knee. It was like she was trying to find a way to help me even though I was beyond helping. I was gone.
“My best friend murdered me.” I told her after a while.
“Why?” She said it as it were so simple, so black and white. I don’t know why you murdered me, if I did, then I probably would have been able to prevent my own murder.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, that explains a lot. You’re stuck here until you make sure he gets caught, you know unfinished business and all that jazz.” She said in an almost huff, defeated that she couldn’t help my body laying on the ground.
“How did you know it was a he?” I asked, ignoring the rest of what she said.
“The way he did it, the way he killed you. Men murder in violent ways, guns, knifes, you name it. They want the world to know they’re angry and they want to show the world what they are capable of. Women like to kill secretly with poisons and pillows over faces, they don’t need to show the world what they’re capable of, the world already knows. Seeing what happened to you, only a man would kill in such an angry way.” She explained.
“How do you know all that?” I glared at her, completely blown away by what she just said to me.
“You learn a lot by being dead for 40 years. Plenty of time to explore things, plenty of time for murders and death to occur. I’m Mary, by the way. And I’m going to help you catch the bastard that did this to you.” She said firmly as she thrust her hand out towards me.
1 Day Earlier: The day of the Hunt
Mary and I were back at her house. We sat in the living room as she explained to me more about being a ghost.
“So we can just go anywhere we want, but we can’t communicate with the living?” I wondered out loud.
“No, we can’t communicate through speaking, but we can communicate in other ways like moving objects, leaving specific things for them, and so on.” She answered. She had been looking at me differently since the forest. Her looks were of pity, but also anger. If there was one person who could help me make sure you paid for your crimes, it was Mary. I’m glad I stumbled into her house. I can’t imagine trying to figure this all out on my own.
“How are we going to be able to tell anyone my best friend killed me without speaking?” I huffed, frustrated that this wasn’t going to be an open and shut case.
“Well first we have to find out why he killed you, and you know, find evidence and take that to the police. Let’s start there. Why do you think he killed you, if you’re okay talking about it?” She whispered the last part, hoping I wouldn’t start crying again.
I let out a long breath. I was going to have to do this sooner or later. If I wanted to move on from this in between ghost life, if I wanted to make sure you get caught, I was going to have to talk about it, all of it.
“Let me start at the beginning. I met him when we were both put in detention in the 3rd grade, me for not finishing homework, him for getting into a fight on the playground. I thought he was so cool and he didn’t seem to mind me hanging around, so we just became friends by default. I didn’t have many friends to begin with and I was fascinated by him and his bad boy ways. Over the years, we grew close, we had slumber parties, joint birthday parties, went to summer camp together, the list goes on and on, until we eventually became best friends. He could make me laugh so hard, my ribs hurt for days after. And I used to be terrified of thunderstorms as a kid and every time a storm rolled in, he was there with his sleeping bag, flash light, and the latest Archie comic. I felt safe with him, I felt protected. And we were always there for each other. I was there for him when his mother died after a long a brutal fight with cancer and he was there for me when my parents got divorced when I was in 9th grade. I told him everything, all my deep dark secrets, my crushes, and my mistakes and he did the same, though I wasn’t expecting his secrets to be so dark and terrifying.” I explained without making eye contact. It was going to be hard enough getting through this. The last thing I wanted was to remind myself that someone was next to me and listening intently to my every word.
“What were his secrets?” Mary questioned, her voice steady.
“He had these dark thoughts. Urges to fight, to hurt, to take from others. He’s always been angry. Angry at the world, angry at people other people for existing, and angry at the life he had been handed. To him everyone had things they didn’t deserve and that made him mad. The world was unfair and cruel and he felt it was his personal mission to hand out his idea of justice to make the world and the people in it more appreciative of the wonderful lives they all got to lead. You see, after his mom died, his dad had a hard time keeping up with the bills and kids at school starts making fun of him for how his clothes were too small for him and he never had any food for lunch. And I did my best to stick up for him and give him some of my lunch and some of my brothers old clothes that would fit him better. I always asked if I could do anything to help and he always said no that he was fine. I tried to talk him through the bad thoughts and remind him that he did have a good life with me, his other friends, and his dad. It would calm him for a while, but at some point that no longer worked. Looking back on it now, I suppose it was not enough. Maybe I didn’t defend him enough, I didn’t look after him enough, but I was trying. That’s also when the anger started to become more violent. He started getting in more and more fights at school or with other friends when they were hanging out. Everyday, he had a new bruise or cut across his face and everyday when I would ask questions he would ignore me and change the subject. One night, we snuck out and went to the football field and laid there and stared at the stars. He told me he hated his life and he felt like he deserved more. He said that I had such a perfect life, perfect family, perfect everything. When I tried to tell him that he was wrong, my life was far from perfect, he snapped. He screamed and yelled at me about being ungrateful and just another sheep in the herd. That was the last I saw of him before the woods. I had never seen him so angry.” My eyes were watering at the memories of our friendship, of all the laughs, the tears, and the happiness. What had it all turned into? How did laughs turn into screams? How did comfort and happiness turn into fear and anger? What happened to us? What happened to you?
“Were you guys ever together, you know, romantically?” Mary inquired, trying to help bring me out of the past, both the good times and bad.
“No, but I think everyone wanted us to be. Everyone expected us to have this big revelation one day and be magically in love, but I didn’t feel that way towards him. And I don’t think he felt that way towards me. We truly were best friends once upon a time.” I said softly.
“So, do you think he killed you out of jealousy of your “perfect life”? Mary had this quizzical look on her face, she was trying so hard to understand.
“Maybe. All I know is there was something he wasn’t telling me. One day he just stopped telling me his secrets, he stopped letting me into his life. He wouldn’t talk about the fights he got into. He would sometime disappear for days at a time, but then show up like nothing ever happened. He wouldn’t talk about those days either. Around the time his mom died, which was almost a year ago, he stopped being the person I knew and became something else entirely.” You became a monster, I thought to myself. Your insides turned into a dark, angry monster who walked around in my best friends skin. I was starting be less sad and more angry for what had happened to me and angry at you for becoming all the things you promised you would never be.
“I know where we should go first.” Mary popped up like she could no longer stand the idea of sitting still.
“We need to go to his house. We need to find out where he was going and what he was doing.” Mary looked at me with her eyes set and ready for me challenge her.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to do that just yet.” I lowered my head and tried to not make eye contact. My moment of confident anger was gone. I was now scared again with my mind racing. It would be so hard to be back in your house again, in your room again, a room I once considered my second home. What if you were there? What if you weren’t?
Mary grabbed my hand and used her other hand to lift my chin up so I was looking directly at her.
“I know this will be hard. This will hurt you, this is will anger you, and this may very well destroy you. But you owe it to yourself, to your family, and to other possible victims of his, to go there and try to figure this all out so we can turn him in. We need to make sure he is locked away and can never hurt anyone ever again. I will be there with you the whole time. If you want to leave at any time, we will. You can do this, Whitney. I believe in you.” Her voice was so firm and the look in her eyes told me I could trust her.
“Okay, let’s go.” I responded and stood up with Mary’s hand still in mine. She’s right, I needed to do this for myself, my family, and for anyone you may hurt. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I am right now. I have to stop you.
“You know what to do. Take us there.” Mary encouraged. I closed my eyes and let the memories of your house fill me. The smell of your mom’s pie baking in the oven. Your room with its unmade bed and clothes everywhere. And the sound of your dad’s infectious laughter. I opened my eyes and we were standing in your room. My throat clenched in fear of seeing you, but thankfully you seemed to not be around. Your room was the same with it’s sloppy bed, clothes everywhere, and that overwhelming scent of your cologne. The smell alone threatened to take me back to the woods and remember all the horrible things you did to me. I clenched my jaw and pushed the thoughts out of my head, refusing to let them take over. I was here with a purpose and I needed to focus.
“Boys are disgusting.” Mary pointed out while lifting a t-shirt that had stains all over it. I stifled a laugh because she wasn’t wrong.
“Where do we start?” I asked out loud and slowly spinning around in the room, hoping something suspicious would just immediately pop out at us.
“Anywhere, I guess, but if the rest of this room is as gross as this shirt, we’re going to need hazmat suits.” Mary joked. I smiled at her and was suddenly filled with gratitude towards Mary. I am so grateful she is here with me. She is helping so much by being here and guiding me through this. I would be a wreck without her.
I began to go through your desk. It was littered with unfinished homework assignments, soda cans, and crumpled up papers. But the main thing I was after, was sitting under a sweatshirt. Your laptop had to have something on it. I opened the laptop and began going through your search history. Some of it was basic dude stuff, porn, YouTube videos of pranks and stunts, and video game live streams. But there was also a bookmarked address for a blog. I clicked it and was immediately taken aback by the images on the screen. They were pictures of me, some older ones from school and with friends, but my eyes had been blacked out and words like “ungrateful bitch” and “death to sheep” scribbled over my face in red. What the hell was this?
“Mary, come look at this!” I exclaimed. She walked over and peered over my shoulder at the screen. For a ghost from the 1970’s, she didn’t seem to be shocked by current technology. I guess what Mary said was right, after you’ve been dead for a while, you see a lot of stuff. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to find that out too.
“What the hell? Who did that?” She asked, anger and disgust coated her voice. I began to scroll the the rest of the blog in search of answers. Some user by the name “Killsumsheepz98” had posted the pictures along with this paragraph:
“Why do people who have perfect lives walk around like the world owes them something? Better yet, why do people who have suffered no pain, no hurt, no grief, think their lives are shit? They have everything and they still want more from the world. All they do is take, take, take and are so ungrateful for everything they get. I hate these people! These people deserve to have all the good stripped from their lives. They deserve to suffer for once, to feel so much pain that they beg for mercy. The world has done nothing but take, take, take from me. It took my mom, it took my home life and turned it into a pile of shit. But the world did do one thing, it showed me that there are two types of people in this world: sheep, who follow blindly to anything that gives them what they want. They will bleed the ground they eat, sleep, and live on and still moan about how it is not enough, how they want more, more, more. Ungrateful bastards. And then there are the Shepherds, who need to guide to sheep, to punish them when they do something wrong, and to kill the ones who are sick so they don’t spread diseases to the others. Well, this world is full of ungrateful, sick sheep and I’m about to thin the herd.”
“What the fuck?” Mary whispered as she read over my shoulder. I couldn’t form words. What happened to you? How did you become this monster, this horrible person who decided he had the right to take life from others? What did I do to deserve this? I didn’t ask for my life and I certainly didn’t ask for your life to be full of pain. I didn’t make your mom die and your dad struggle. All I did was try to be there for you, to try to help you heal. But you never wanted to heal, did you? You were glad to be angry because at least you weren’t grieving or crying. No, the anger gave you something to focus on other than your pain. You couldn’t handle the pain, so you decided to take it out on others. You’re a sorry piece of shit and I pity you.
“Whitney, are you okay?” Mary placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and squeezed comfortingly.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m pretty sure he wrote this so we should take the laptop and turn it into the police.” I told her as I stood up, but I quickly froze in place at the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs outside your room. I locked eyes with Mary and she grabbed my hand as I tucked the laptop under my other arm and we closed our eyes and went back to Mary’s house.
When we opened our eyes we were back in the living room. We broke apart and sat on the couch.
“That was a close one. What are you doing?” Mary asked as she wiped away the non-existent sweat from her head.
“I’m forwarding the blog and the laptops IP address to the police anonymous tip website.” I answered as I submitted the blog and closed the laptop. The idea had popped into my head as we were rushing out of your room. I took a deep breath and said a silent prayer that it was enough to catch you.
“Did you find anything while we were there?” I asked Mary.
“Just this, but I wasn’t sure if you would want to see it.” Mary timidly opening a crumpled up ball of paper. I opened the paper and if I wasn’t already dead, I would have stopped breathing. In my hands was my obituary. It said what they all say, I was too young, had my whole life ahead of me, and that it was all a tragedy. What had stopped me in my tracks was the details of my funeral. I was to be buried tomorrow at 3pm at the church where my parents were married. Should I go? You would be there for sure, pretending to grieve and suffer in a crowd of family and friends trying to understand why I was taken from them so young, so suddenly. You didn’t deserve to be there. You didn’t deserve to comfort my parents and true friends. Anger was building up in me so much, I thought I might explode.
“Are you alright?” Mary whispered as she sat next to me with her eyes wide.
“Yes, I’m just so angry that this bastard will be at my funeral. UGH!” I grunted, frustrated at my lack of human body to be able to truly do something about this, about you.
“Do you want to go?” Mary asked timidly.
“To the funeral?”
“I think so. It will be so hard to sit there and watch my parents and friends grieve me, but I want to be there. I want to watch him fake his way through his speech and his goodbyes. I want him to feel me there and know that they can put me in the ground, but I’ll haunt him until he’s gone.” I responded heatedly with my nostrils flaring and the paper once again being crumpled up into a ball in my fists.
“Hell yeah, girl! It’s good to see you angry and ready to fight back. I’m with you 1000%.” Mary shouted powerfully to the whole living room. I just glared at her, the anger still rising and falling inside me like a stormy sea.
“Whoa, you look like Rocky in every fight scene of the movie Rocky.” Mary joked. I let out a small laugh, but my insides were twisting with heated anger. I closed my eyes and tried to push the anger down, to save it for the funeral, save it for you. I needed to distract myself.
“Mary, why is this whole house stuck in the 70’s?” I asked, trying to change the subject. Mary quickly stopped laughing, her easy attitude going right back to stone.
“That’s a long story.” She mumbled.
“I’d like to hear it, if you’re okay with telling it.” I encouraged and took her hand in mine. Mary steadied herself and began to tell me her story.
“This was my parents house. Everything was fine, I was living my life and loving it. The 70’s were a time of freedom and free love. I loved the fashion, all the colors and patterns. The fact that women were beginning the march to equality. I’ll admit it, I burned a bra or two in my time. My parents were great too. My dad was a salesman and loved The Beatles more than most girls my age did. Sometimes we would put one of their records on and just dance and sing at the top of our lungs. My mom was a stay at home mom by choice. She baked and cleaned the house, but she also wrote articles that were published at the local university and she would read like the words in the books were air. She was so smart. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.” Mary explained with a smile in her eyes at the memories, but her lips were stuck in a hard frown.
“What happened to them? What happened to you?” I asked, squeezing her hand to let her know that I was here for her regardless if she wanted to tell me or not.
“Everything was normal. I can home from school, did my homework, read a magazine, talked with my mom about feminist theory, and then watched Three’s Company with my dad in the living room. At around 10, we all went to bed. When I woke up, I called for them, but they didn’t answer, which was odd. So I ran downstairs, but I tripped all the way down, hitting every banister with my legs and landed on the floor. I expected to look up and see that at least 1 or 2 of the bannisters were broken, but they were still intact. I reached up to touch the bannisters and my hand went through it. I freaked and screamed. I ran to my parents bedroom and they were still in the bed and looked asleep. I shook them and screamed for them to wake up, but they didn’t. They were dead, but their ghosts were no where to be found. We had all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. After I didn’t show to school for a while and my dad didn’t show up to work, I guess the school or someone called the police and they came to check on us and found our bodies. My parents left the house to my uncle in their will, but he never did anything with the house and he died soon after us. So I’ve just been living here for the past almost 50 years trying to figure out why I’m still here and how I can get back to my parents. I miss them so much.” Mary told me.
God, I felt for her. What a horrible thing to go through. And she has been by herself for almost 50 years, learning about death, the world, and ghost life. I already respected Mary, but now I was truly inspired by her and her strength.
“Any hunches on why you’re still here?” I questioned quietly.
“Only one, that maybe I’m supposed to get rid of the house somehow so what happened to my family, doesn’t happen to someone else when the realty people finally find this place and try to sell it. But I just can’t bring myself to leave this house. I just can’t.” Mary said exasperated. I pulled her to me and hugged her hard.
“Mary, I’m so sorry for what happened to you and your family. But I am very grateful to have met you because you are helping me so much. If there is anyway I can help you, please let me know.” I said into her hair.
“Thank you. I’m glad I met you too, though I wish it could have been in different circumstances.”
“Me too.” I agreed.
“Enough sad stories. Let’s get your prepared for the funeral. I want to show you a few tricks that you can use to make him feel you there and spook him a little.” Mary smiled, the sadness tucked safely back inside her. She pulled me to my feet and deeper into the house for more ghost training, a smile crept onto my face.
The Day of the Funeral
The morning of my funeral iss one of mixed feelings. I feel worried that the tip I sent to the police will go unnoticed or not be taken seriously. I feel anxious about seeing my mom and dad grieving over my body. I feel nervous about sitting in the crowd and watching you move around like a piranha in a goldfish tank. I also feel angry that in my current ghostly state, that I can’t throttle you like you did to me. But don’t you worry, Mary taught me some new tricks. I’ll make sure you know I am there.
“Are you ready?” Mary asks.
“As much as I’ll ever be.” I murmur and reach to grab her hand so that we can teleport. I close my eyes and picture the church. When I know we are there, I open my eyes and gasp. There were flowers everywhere. Daisies, my favorites. There were so many people here, relatives from out of state, friends from school, classmates, and my mom and dad. Oh how I wanted to run to them and hug them and tell them what happened, to tell them not to trust you, and mostly to tell them I love them and I’m sorry I’m gone.
I don’t get to focus on my parents for too long when you catch my eye. You’re here in all black. You look nervous, but confident. How could you not, you’ve gotten away with murder. I watch you float from person to person to chat and hug and grieve. I even see you shed a tear once, you dirty bastard. I start to get angry and ready to start throwing my new tricks your way when I hear it. Outside, there are people with signs and they are chanting “Justice for Whitney” and “Keep our town safe” and you must hear them too because I see you start to sweat in your cheap suit. I can’t believe there are people out there who believe I wasn’t just killed randomly, that they believe that someone chose to hurt me and take my life. I glance over at Mary and her cocky grin reflects my own. The pastor gets up to the podium and begins to speak. Mary and I take a seat towards the back.
“Today we are gathered to celebrate the life of Whitney Howard, who was taken from us too soon. She was a beautiful and smart young woman who had her whole future ahead of her until someone stole it from her. God critically punishes those who dabble in the sin of murder.” The Pastor says in his husky voice. I look at you when he says this and I catch you gulp hard, but you seem to straighten yourself quickly, putting back on the mask of the dead girl’s best friend. The pastor goes on to quote verses from the Bible and offers to have my parents come up and speak. My mom tries to stand to walk to the podium, but is suddenly overwhelmed with grief and slides back in to her seat and my dad’s arms and begins wailing. If my heart were still beating, it would be breaking at this sight. I desperately want to comfort her. I want to tell her I am here, I am with her. Please don’t cry, mom, please. I can feel my own tears beginning to rush down my cheeks. This is too much, maybe we should leave. I look to Mary for guidance.
“Show them you are here.” Mary encourages me and even begins pushing me over to where my parents are sitting. There are tears in her eyes too. I’m sure this is equally hard for her since she didn’t get to say goodbye to her parents. I try to take a few steps, but I an frozen. I don’t need to be too close to show them. I close my eyes and try to focus. When I hear my mom stop crying and whisper frantically to my dad, I know my presence is felt. I go back over to Mary, my dead heart heavy with grief and pain.
“What did you do?” Mary asks, looking quizzically at my parents who now are crying tears of grief stricken joy.
“I flipped her bible to my favorite verse. ‘Joy comes in the morning’ Pslams 30, verse 5. My mom used to tell me this after I had a bad dream. She would tell me that joy will always come in the morning, that I just had to get through the night first. And I still believe that and I want her and my dad to still believe that too. Even though I’m gone, I want them to still find the joy, to keep holding on through the bad days, the even worse nights because joy is coming in the morning with a new day.” I explainto her. Tears are falling from her eyes now. I wrap her in my arms and let my tears fall too.
“I miss them so much.” Mary whispers to me. I squeeze her harder.
“I know. We’ll find a way to get you back to them, I promise.” I tell her. We stay like that for a few moments until I hear the pastor call you up to the podium to speak. My head whips around so fast, you would think I was auditioning for the next Exorcist movie.
Mary lets go of me and wipes her last tears away, “Go give him hell. I’ve got your back if you need me.”
Words had not even come out of your mouth yet, but I am fuming, my sadness quickly being replaced by shear anger. I pull the first trick out of my sleeve, closing my eyes and concentrating on my target. I hear the boom first and the gasps and screams second. I knock out the power. Both amazed by my success and a little scared of myself, I am ready to try trick number two. I shut my eyes again and focus on the doors to the church. They open and slam on my command. The whispers and questions begin now. Who did that? What is happening?
But I hear your voice over everyone else, “Whitney?” you whispered. Good, you know I’m here and you are scared.
The Pastor is running around apologizing and attempting to get the power back on, blaming the outage and slamming doors on an oncoming storm. I am getting ready to begin trick number three when the front doors burst open and a swarm of people rush in shouting with guns drawn.
“Charles Anderson!” They shout into the dark. You take off running, but a giant police officer tackles you before you get too far.
“Charles Anderson, you are under arrest for the murder of Whitney Howard. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you do not have one, one will be appointed to you…” I grin in amazement and relief as they handcuff you and start to drag you right past me. I just can’t resist and I spit on your face. I didn’t think you would feel it, but you turn your head in my direction, looking for where it came from. Bye, bitch. Rot in prison. The world is safe from you now, I think to myself while taking my last look at you. I look over to my parents. They are overcome with shock. My dad is yelling and screaming about having the wrong guy, but my mom stays silent. I think she knows the truth. Charlie has been dangerous for awhile, just none of us thought he was this dangerous. My dad will learn.
I run over to Mary and find her staring at the wall.
“Mary, did you see? They arrested him. We did it!” I squeal at her, but she doesn’t react.
“Mary?” I ask concerned.
“Do you see it?” is all she says in response.
“See what?” I ask, thinking she’s playing some trick on me.
“That light, over there.” She answers, pointing straight ahead. I have to squint my eyes, but I can see a faint light growing bigger and bigger.
“What is that?” I question her.
“I don’t know, but Whitney, I think I can see my parents.” Mary whispers.
“Oh my god, you have to go to them, Mary!” I encourage her, full of joy for her to reunite with her parents. She starts to take off, but stops in her tracks and looks back at me.
“I’m not going without you. If you can see the light too, that must mean we’ve finished our unfinished business. Let’s go together, Whitney.” She comes over and takes my hand. I look over my shoulder to my parents one more time.
“Let me do one more thing.” I say to her and race over to my mom. She my not be able to hear me, but I have to tell her.
“I’m okay, Momma. I’m with a good friend. I’m going to go now, I love you and Dad. Find the joy, okay?” I whisper to her and kiss her head and touch my Dad’s shoulder gently.
She must hear me because she says, “I will try.”
It is enough for me. I go back over to Mary. The light is much bigger now, and brighter too. She takes my hand and we walk into the light and into our next adventure, together.