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Shadow Self

Part One

I thought being a ghost would be fun. When I realised that was what I had become, I was ecstatic. I could follow around the people I had left behind. I could find out just how they missed me. How much of a hole I had left in their lives. Plus, I could haunt all the people I hated. My list on that front wasn’t short. But I’m here to tell you that becoming a ghost is the suckiest thing that can happen to anyone.

 

So firstly, you can’t see people unless they are thinking of you at the time. My boyfriend was thinking about me when he stayed over at my best friend’s house the night of my funeral. I supposed I should have been flattered I was on his mind whilst his mouth was all over her. I didn’t judge. I wasn’t mad. Not at first. Not really. After all, they probably bonded over their grief, and they certainly weren’t very close before. At least, I didn’t think they were. Until Sarah’s catty little jibe about not sneaking around behind the walrus anymore gave them away. That was their nickname for me, one she definitely instigated. She knew how self-conscious I was about my unusually long canines. She could have called me a vampire. A sabre-tooth tiger - they’re pretty cool. But no, she went with the walrus. Which have large tusks, not canines. She was always a bit stupid. Even so, Nick apparently found this nickname funny. I’ve not seen them since that night. I’ve not seen anyone I used to know. Not even Mum. 

 

Second, I can’t interact with anyone unless they invite me. Not me specifically; any spirit call will do. Those Ouija boards you all joke about that you pull out for Halloween or at a sleepover for a bit of a laugh? Yeah, those things work. Seances, too, if you do them right. So, I rarely get to speak to anyone or be part of the real world. I caught an Ouija board session once. The girls calling to the dead were as dull as watching toenails grow and just as gross. I fell asleep halfway through, causing an argument over who was really pushing the pointer much earlier in the night than usual. 

 

And thirdly, ghosts are at the absolute bottom of the pile in the supernatural realm. All those monsters you are afraid of are real. And they hate us. They call us shadows, which is what we are really. We don’t exist unless a living person wills us to. Living humans rank higher than ghosts because at least they’re edible. It really, truly sucks.

 

But things are looking up. Because tonight, Sarah is having her Hen night. Surprisingly, I’m on her mind. Plus, her new best friend is taking advantage of the fact that it’s Halloween. She doesn’t know it yet, but Sarah is going to her first seance. And what sort of friend would I be if I didn’t make an effort on her special night?

***

Should she…

  1. Threaten them? 0%

  2. Tell Sarah’s darkest secret? 60%

  3. Try to possess Sarah? 40%

***

Part Two

There are so many things I could do to Sarah, every single one of them deserved. And as the big night approaches, I am still contemplating how I can sabotage her big night. Ultimately, I decide that I don’t just want to scare her or embarrass her. I want to END her. It has to be something that will absolutely ruin her life. And it’s then that I realise that I don’t have to do anything to her - the root of her demise is something she did. Everyone else just doesn’t know what happened. Yet.

 

I’m electric. Buzzing with the anticipation of not only being seen and heard for the first time in months, but of getting into a bit of mischief. I mean, that’s what being a ghost is all about, right? Bonus points that it serves my own personal vendetta.

 

Sarah laughs as her friends lead her to their first stop of the night. “You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re really leaning into this whole Hen Party Halloween thing, huh?”

 

The other girls giggle, pleased with their self-proclaimed originality and quirkiness.

 

“Let me guess, we’re going to a haunted house next?”

 

Now it’s my turn to laugh. No need for a haunted house when I’m here, waiting for the call to the dead to begin. 

*

The psychic has set the room up well - beads and organza hung everywhere, eerie music playing on a modern (but hidden) stereo, and - most importantly - a seance table. All to detract from the fact that she's a total fraud. Don't get me wrong, I don’t judge - many are, and we all need to pay our bills at the end of the day. Most of these things only bring in real spirits if we happen to be nearby at the time or on the minds of the people calling out to us. We also have to be wandering the Earth as ghosts, of course. Not everyone gets the privilege of this miserable non-existence; some move on to other places. They all sound like different versions of the same thing - boring, lonely, and a bit of a letdown. Honestly, I expected more from the afterlife. 

 

Anyway, the show has started, the door is open. It’s time for me to enter stage left. 

“I feel a presence,” the fake psychic says.

 

No you don’t, I whisper. But you will soon enough.

 

Does anyone know anyone with a name beginning with S?

 

Good start….

 

“My Uncle Steve!” shouted one girl.

 

“Isn’t your uncle still alive?” asked another.

 

“Oh yeah! Nevermind,” the first girl giggles, only stopping when interrupted by a sudden onset of hiccups. 

 

I sweep my incorporeal hand across the table. It works. The candles topple to the floor, causing the group to jump up and extinguish the flames before they can spread.

 

“Oh my GOD. What was that?” Sarah screams, eyes wide.

No one says a word, but they are all thinking the same. Ghost. They are all clear of the table when I start moving the pointer. I lucked out with a communication table - some don’t have the markings, which would have made this difficult.

 

Even so, pushing the pointer isn’t easy work, but I manage one word. 

 

SISTER

 

“Oh My. Did any of you lose a sister?” asks the seance lead.

 

They all say no. All except Sarah. Sarah, whose eyes are now bulging from her head as heat rises up into her cheeks. 

 

Go on, Sarah. Tell them about Valerie.

***

What happens next? (part 2)

Should Sammi (the ghost)...

  1. Continue using the table to tell the secret? 66%

  2. Try to speak through the fake psychic? 0%

  3. Try to speak through the stereo? 33%

***

Part Three

Sarah doesn’t seem to be able to speak, her face so red now I wonder if she’s started to choke. Good, she deserves it. But I had better get the rest of my message out before she passes out. It’s not as fun if she doesn’t know that her life is about to be ruined.

M. U. 

I stop, my incorporeal hand tingling. Moving this pointer is a lot more effort than I expected. The pause is long enough for everyone to start guessing what my message is.

“M. U. What does that mean?” asks the chief bridesmaid. Sarah is turning purple now.

“Mudslides! Let’s get COCKTAILS!” squeals Steve’s niece. I like her, she seems fun. Not Sarah’s usual crowd at all. Except for me, of course. 

As I move the pointer towards the R, Sarah bolts over to the table and throws herself across it, sweeping the pointer to the floor. Dammit, I don’t have enough strength to pick it back up. I look around at another way to communicate. To tell them all what she did. 

“You’re pathetic,”  someone whispers in my ear. The voice was male - gruff and arrogant. I spin around to find an annoyingly not unattractive man in front of me. I don’t need him to tell me he is a werewolf. The tell-tale muscles and the heat emanating from his topless torso give him away immediately. 

“You know that supernatural beings are supposed to rest on All Hallow’s Eve, right?”

I didn’t know, but I wasn’t going to let this mutt know that.

“Extenuating circumstances.”

He arched his eyebrow.

“She stole my boyfriend.”

“OK, so I suppose my next question is, you do know you’re dead?”

I roll my eyes. “How can I not when your kind and the rest remind me I’m nothing more than a shadow.”

I scowl at him before turning back to the task at hand. Sarah is flapping about, insisting they leave. She runs for the door as the chief bridesmaid apologises profusely to the fake psychic, handing over a large amount of cash as she does.

“Oh, F my F-ing life!” I shout. “Why did you do that?” I swing back around. The werewolf stands there, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

“I told you, you’re pathetic. Thought you could use a hand.”

“I don’t need any help,” I say as I hover over to the door.

“What are you gonna do now? Throw on a ghost costume and shout BOO at her?”

“No. I’m going to…” I stall. What am I going to do now? I can feel a pull. Sarah is thinking of me. Which means I will be able to see, and hear, her, but not interact. Being a ghost is useless. My shoulders slump. I missed my chance. Now she suspects that I’m still hanging around, the only one (other than her dead sister) who knows the truth, she’ll never go near anything supernatural again. 

“What am I going to do now?” I consider the rest of my miserable existence as nothing more than a whisper on the wind that no one can hear. Except this idiot and his ilk. 

“I told you, I’m here to help.”

I narrow my eyes at him. No other being has offered to help me. They all pretend I don’t exist, just like the rest of us.

“Why?”

“Suppose you could call me your guardian wolf. Now, I assume you intend to take down the bride for some stupid, senseless reason. So, let’s go get her.”

“She stole my boyfriend. It’s justified.”

“Oh. I don’t care. Come on, let’s go before I change my mind.”

I consider his offer, all the while staring at his overly muscular, bare chest. This might be a trap. A sexy, very easy-on-the-eyes, trap. 

***

What happens next? (part 3)

Should Sammi 

  1. Go with the werewolf? 100%

  2. Carry on alone? 

 

***

Part Four

Trap or no, my choices at this point are limited. I want to do this on my own. This is - was - my life after all. A life she stole from me. The more I think about it, the more I believe that is true in more ways than one. I mean, why stop at her sister? I was in her way just as much as she was all those years ago. Yeah, everyone thinks I’m the bad guy in this, but there are always two sides.

“Well, are you coming or not?” the werewolf asks, interrupting my thoughts.

I want to do this alone. But I don’t have any firepower now that they’ve left the seance. This mutt, whatever his intentions are, is my best bet. 

“I guess so,” I can’t keep the deflated tone out of my voice. Just the thought of a man coming along and saving the day makes my ghostly skin crawl. 

He doesn’t seem phased by my lacklustre response. “Great, let’s get out of here. The smell of incense is making my nose burn.”

We walk down the street - well he pads along, his giant feet slapping the pavement like steak on stone, and I sort of drift alongside him. I’ve seen some ghosts that have mastered the ability to appear almost human. They can mimic walking along a path without their feet disappearing through it. Not me though; seems like a waste of time. Maybe after long enough, I’ll start learning how just for something to do.

The werewolf coughs awkwardly before asking, “So, what’s your name?”

I look over at him, but he is looking at his feet. “Sammi.”

“Like short for Samantha?”

“Seraphina,” I wince at my full name. I’ve not said it, nor has anyone else for years.

“Well wouldn’t that be Sarah or something for short?”

“That is… was… my best friend’s name. So I picked something else.”

“Huh,” he mutters. He says a few more words under his breath, but I don’t care enough to ask him to repeat himself. I just want to feel alive again for a moment. And I want that moment to be when I scare the life out of Sarah. This animal’s opinion means nothing.

“So Sarah’s the girl you are trying to haunt?”

I nod. He still isn’t looking at me so I follow up with a “Yes.”

“Why are you bothering? I mean, you’re dead. What does it matter what the living do now that you’re gone?”

I snap my head towards him, eyes narrowed. “Because she’s a horrid human being,” I shout, “because she’s a murderer. She killed her sister when she was younger, and I am beginning to think she’s the reason I am dead too. She called me a walrus behind my back, stole my boyfriend and accidentally told my mum about something I did, and she practically disowned me. She needs to pay.”

I take a deep breath that I don’t need and let a wave of calm wash over me. “Plus, being dead is boring. Haunting her gives me purpose. Haunting anyone gives me something to do.”

He keeps walking for a while, his shoulders rounded as if wounded by my outburst. Eventually, he speaks again.

“I’m Brandon, by the way. Not that you asked for my name or even thanked me for offering to help you. You are so caught up in your own drama, drama that should have died when you did, that you can’t see the opportunities in front of you.”

I scoff, “What opportunities? The living can’t see me, the dead are as morose as I am and the other supernatural beings shun things like me.”

“We shun those that stay as they are, like you. Think how many people have died throughout history. This plain should be teeming with ghosts, but it isn’t. You know why?”

“I just figured they went to some other place. Or got stuck in the pavement trying to walk on it.”

“They transcend, yes, but in many different ways. I can show you how, but you have to let go of your past life. You can’t see through the window of the future if you are staring at the wall of your past.”

 

I roll my eyes at his cheesy analogy. Let go. Just let go? Is he serious? How can I let go of all of this… this anger. It’s kept me going for so long. But yet, I am intrigued by the prospect of a different afterlife. Can I let it all go for the chance of a new start?

***

What happens next? (part 4)

Should Sammi 

  1. Consider a new path? 60%

  2. Carry on her quest for revenge? 40% 

 

***

Finale

We walk on as I consider the offer. Was this the plan all along? Not to help, but to recruit me? I feel somewhat irked at the betrayal.

“You know what, Brett? I am so tired of people telling me what I should do and who I should be. You can take your stupid little offer and shove it up your hairy butt. I’m not done until Sarah pays for what she did.”

 

He growls in response. A deep rumbling sound that would have rattled my bones if I still had them. 

 

“It’s Brandon, you self-absorbed little princess. What next then, Sammi? When you’ve destroyed your friend, what do you think will happen?”

“I’ll move on. Exposing her is what I need to do.”

“Really? You think all that pain - that hate - just evaporates? It doesn’t. It digs its claws in deeper until it shreds your soul.”

I bark a laugh at his hyperbole. “Whatever, man. Just go and howl at the moon and leave me in peace.”

“Man? Have you forgotten my name already?”

“No,” I snap. Yes, I have.

“Okay, let me put it this way. You punish her. But then who punishes you?”

“Punish me for what? I am a delight. Everyone loves me.”

“Then why haven’t you seen your own mother since you died?”

I stop floating away, frozen in place. How does he know that? As if reading my mind, he continues: 

“You mumble a lot to yourself. Full disclosure - I’ve been following you for a while.”

I scowl. “You know how creepy that is, right?”

“It’s my job.”

“Doesn’t make it less creepy.”

“Fine. I’m a creep. But it doesn’t change the fact that if you go ahead with your plans, a cycle will start that you cannot stop.”

“She killed her sister. Maybe me. She is marrying the love of my life. Why does she get away with it?”

“Why did you let her get away with it? She told you this secret before you died. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“I would have thought a werewolf would understand loyalty. She was my best friend, and she said it was an accident. They were cliff diving. Valerie got nervous, Sarah gave her a nudge. She never resurfaced. That’s what Sarah said anyway.”

“Sounds like an accident to me.”

“Then why didn’t she tell anyone at the time?”

“Perhaps in case they didn’t believe her. You don’t.”

“I did, then. But then I died randomly - I choked on a bloody peanut! Oh, and it turns out she’s been stabbing in the back all this time anyway!”

I take a deep breath, not that I need it. This is taking up so much energy. I am going to have little left to finish what I started.

“How could she be responsible for you choking?”

“I don’t know, but she could have been!”

“Was she there? Did she not help you or something?”

“No, she wasn’t. But she was supposed to be. She cancelled on me at the last minute. How is that not suspicious?”

“It’s not suspicious. At all. This is what happens to ghosts that linger. Things twist and darken. You have a chance to become something more, but that window is closing fast.”

I catch on the word darken and look around me. When I died, the world looked the same, but now it was all greyscale. Shadows look deeper, darker. I begin to wonder if he is right.

“If I come with you, what would happen to me?”

He gives me a warm smile as if he thinks he has won. I want to tell him not to count his chickens, but I bite my tongue.

“There are a lot of options. Whatever afterlife you’ve heard of exists, and you go with what suits you.”

“Wait, were you human once too?”

“Yes. Most of us were. Not the vampires, don’t get me started on them, but the rest of us chose rebirth.”

“Ugh, does that mean if I chose rebirth, I’ll spend the rest of my afterlife smelling like wet dog?”

He self-consciously sniffs near his shoulder. “I can’t smell anything,” he says, “and no, you can be whatever you want.”

Whatever I want? That does sound tempting.

“And I can interact with the world again? People could see and hear me?”

“It depends on what you choose. I have to hide what I am, of course, but if you were, say, a fox, you could be part of the world again.”

I can’t help but beam at him. I can be part of the world again. I can start over. 

“And all I have to do is let go?”

“Yep.”

Let go. OK, I can do this. I squeeze my eyes shut and will myself into a new form. Nothing happens. The werewolf’s chuckle pulls me back.

“What?” 

“Well, you don’t just let go and transform. There’s a well. You jump in, you come out anew.”

Of course there’s a well. There’s always something. I sigh.

“Fine, let’s go to this well.”

“Manners would be nice,” he says.

“They would be, wouldn’t they?” I retort.

He crosses his arms and stares at me. Why do I get the one werewolf that’s a stickler for politeness?

“Fine,” I huff, “please take me to the well.”

“One more thing.”

I roll my eyes. “What?”

“What’s my name?”

I stall. Dammit - what was his name? Barney? Basil? It was definitely a B. I take a guess.

“Brady?”

He laughs, “You know what, close enough.” He walks away, and I follow, warmth spreading through me as I float behind him. As we go, I quietly try out a few hoots and realise just how happy I am, how excited. This isn’t what I expected, but it doesn’t matter. I am moving forward into a new, peaceful existence. Plus, Sarah hates owls.  

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