This story is by Abigail Woodside and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
You may not believe this, but I’m dead.
My name is Kathy Remora; I was fourteen when I died. I am currently in a perpetual state between life and death.
One day I was on my way home from school and suddenly it started storming. Pouring. I dashed under a tree to take cover, which I admit was stupid. Lightning struck. Struck the tree I was clinging to. My body electrified. For a moment, all I knew was pain. And then everything was gone; pain, feeling…everything. I knew I was dead. I guess sometimes even when you know you have something to live for, you can stop holding on and life will just…slip away.
So I’m a ghost. I can do anything I want, but I’m miserable. I had a great family and loads of amazing friends! Life was perfect! And I just had to go and die. My little brothers were the best: they were cool and sweet. And my mom and dad were basically the best parents ever, though I guess I’m saying that because I miss them. All of my friends have forgotten me though, and my family’s over it. I’ve been gone almost a year now.
Every day I look around at people who are better off than me, like the happy families sitting around tables, talking and laughing. All alive.
Today I floated through a house and appeared in a room decorated with posters and drawings. There was a girl with brown hair, about my age, looking out the window and singing a beautiful song. I stopped to listen, and applauded when she finished, even though I knew she wouldn’t hear me. But she did! She whirled around to face me. And then she fainted.
“Uh, are you okay?” I said when she woke up. She screamed in my face.
“Vanessa? You okay up there?” a voice asked.
All Vanessa could get out was, “GHOST!!!” until I stuffed a sock ball in her mouth.
“Yes, I’m a ghost. But please, please don’t scream! I’m just a person like anyone else except I’m dead. Okay? So no screaming.” I took the sock out of her mouth. And- surprise! -she screamed.
I started visiting Vanessa every once in a while, partially because her freak-outs were fun, but also because she could see and hear me when nobody else could. After the first few visits she stopped screaming and finally listened to reason. I told her about me and she told me about her. It was totally awkward at first, but we started to warm up. We actually kind of became friends.
“I still don’t understand. How are you here? Ghosts aren‘t scientifically possible,” Vanessa added, pushing up her glasses.
“I don’t understand either. How can you see me?” I asked.
“Wait, other people can’t see you?”
“Nope. Only you.”
Vanessa pulled out her laptop. “I’m totally gonna Google this.” She tapped a few keys. “Okay, It says that when you start seeing ghosts you either have a ‘third eye’ or ‘are a person suited to the ghost’s needs’.” She looked up at me. “Do you need help or something?”
“Do you know how to bring a spirit back to a body?” I asked jokingly.
“Well, no…” she replied, “But I could look it up.”
“You rely way too much on the internet,” I said, reading over her shoulder.
We found out next to nothing. Seriously, how would a vacuum help? We did find the address of a fortune teller, and a website that listed bodies available for possession, but that didn’t help. Vanessa said that a fortune teller was our best bet, even though she doesn’t believe in that hooey. I mentioned that I was literally made of hooey. She revoked her statement.
The fortune teller’s shack was old and musty, like no one had been there in ages, yet the neon open sign gleamed brightly from the smudged window. Vanessa strode in and I followed her. Surprisingly, the inside was as clean and tidy as a five star hotel. The smell of biscuits wafted from the kitchen and everything shone.
“Welcome! Welcome, my friends!” said a friendly voice. “Welcome to my home!” The voice belonged to a cheery pink-cheeked Chinese woman wearing an apron and holding a tray of fresh biscuits.
“Hello,” Vanessa said cautiously. “We’re looking for the fortune teller.”
“Oh, yes. My son is in the back. Behind the door marked five dollar,” the woman said, then left the room.
“Do you happen to have five dollars?” I asked.
“Fine. But you have to pay me back,” Vanessa said as she pulled out her wallet.
We walked down the dark hall to the last door on the left. Vanessa knocked. No response. I floated in and unlocked the door from the inside.
“What do you want?” The voice belonged to a boy of about seventeen, black hair, brown eyes, and totally obnoxious.
“Yeah, hi. We’re here looking for the fortune teller,” Vanessa said.
“Yeah that’s me, although I prefer the term ‘seer,’” he said, standing up. “But I prefer the term ‘five dollars’ more, so pay up.”
Vanessa groaned and handed over her allowance. “My friend here wants to be alive again. Can you help?”
“Yeah, I can help. But that’ll be five dollars,” he said, grinning smugly.
“Seriously? We just paid you!” I shouted.
“That’s the entrance fee. Even my mom pays it,” he said.
“Fine,” Vanessa said, “Just get started on your stupid hooey.”
“Follow me,” he said.
He led me to a couch at the other end of the room. We both sat down. Vanessa stayed by the door.
“I’m Junjie. What’s your name?” he said. He was actually kind of nice when he wasn’t obsessing over money.
“How long have you been dead?”
“Almost a year now.”
“Oh, that’s gonna be a problem.”
“Well, after the first few days the body starts to decompose,” he looked concerned. “The body needs to be entirely whole so that the spirit can stay in.”
“I do have a list of bodies available for possession though, if you would like?”
“No, thanks.” I started out the door.
“Wait!” I turned. Junjie was holding something like a camera. “I haven’t tried this yet. I can’t read ghosts’ palms, so I use this to scan them. It’s kind of like an x-ray, only for ghosts. It might give me some information. You wanna try?”
I nodded. “I’ll try anything at this point.”
Junjie set the machine up and scanned me. When it finished, Junjie looked at its screen.
“Whoa. Apparently you were never meant to die!” he exclaimed.
“You weren’t supposed to die! You are in some way important to the universe.” He looked up. “You can actually be revived. Normally you wouldn’t, but you’re supposed to be alive.”
“Wow. That’s a lot to take in,” I said. “So how do I get back?”
“I don’t know for sure, but there might be a way.” He paused. “I need to Google this!”
He came back in a few minutes, a strange look on his face. “Okay. What day did you die last year?”
“The end of June, the twenty-seventh, I think.”
Junjie groaned. “At what time?”
Vanessa came over. “Seriously, guys! What is taking so long?!”
“Kathy only has one hour to get back into her body before she’s locked out forever! After that, she won’t even be able to move into the afterlife! She’s a Cutoff ghost: they only have one year to get in or are stuck for eternity.” Junjie turned to me. “Kathy, today is June twenty-seventh, and it’s six.”
“So, how do I get in?” I asked, nervous, hoping that he’d have a new answer.
“I don’t know.”
It was the first time those three little words had ever hurt me; and they hurt me bad. I missed my home, my family, my friends. I wished I could go back, let them know I was here. I just wanted to go home… I silently cried, wishing I could turn back time, wishing I had appreciated what I’d had.
The next thing I remembered Vanessa and Junjie were rushing around with containers and oddities.
“What‘s going on?” I asked.
“I found a recipe for Body Restoration on a site that had remedies for Decomposition,” Junjie said quickly.
“We found a way for you to get back into your body.”
“You did?!” Vanessa nodded.
“We just need: a large container, a pound of lavender, oil, bandages, and a few…weird things,” Junjie said.
“Tears of a ghost longing for home,” Vanessa whispered.
“Well I’ve got that,” I said laughing. “You can just wipe them off my face.”
“And ‘the wings of a willing bird.’” Vanessa cringed.
“Um, next? I’d rather not think about that yet.”
“Last is ‘a bond undone so life is won,’” Junjie read. “We should
start with what we know. We’ll split up and meet at Kathy’s grave. I’ll get the lavender and oil. Vanessa, can you get the bandages? And Kathy, collect a few of your tears. We only have a half-hour left, so let’s go.”
So we split up. We did our assigned tasks and met at my grave, which
seems odd, but things were about to get a lot odder.
Junjie and Vanessa came up with arms full of supplies and laid them
out. “Okay,” Vanessa said. “We have twenty-four minutes left. Junjie, get
what we have ready; Kathy and I will figure out the riddles.”
Junjie nodded and we went over the hill.
The wings of a willing bird… a real bird? I thought. Or was it figurative? Wings could mean flight, like a ghost…Wait a second.
“AHA!” I shouted. “I got the first riddle! Flight! We need someone’s
“Flight? Now that’s a predicament,” said a voice.
We looked up to see a ghost lady in the air. “Who’re you?” I asked.
“My name is Byrd,” she said, in a very high voice.
“Whoa,” Vanessa said. “That site was crazy accurate.”
“Hi Byrd,” I said. “Any chance we could have your flight?”
“My flight? Easily done! If you can give me your friendship.”
“Sure, we’ll be your friends,” I said.
“Oh no, I mean I want to take away your friendship so I can have it.”
She pointed at Vanessa. “Just one from you will be fine”
“But I only have one friend!” Vanessa cried.
“Too bad for your friend then.”
I gasped. “The riddle!”
“A bond undone…,” she said.
“So, is it worth it to lose friendship for a life?” Byrd asked.
Vanessa was silent.
Junjie had gotten the potion ready and dug up the coffin. He started to
worry; there were only five minutes left.
“Is it?” she repeated.
“If it’s for Kathy, “Vanessa looked at me, “I’d do anything.”
“Vanessa you don’t have to!” I screamed.
“I do, Kathy. I will.”
Byrd gave us a moment to say goodbye, then we traded. I felt awful
that it had come to this, but there were only two minutes left…
I came back with the last ingredient and dumped it in. Junjie poured it
over my body, and it started to heal before my eyes.
“Thirty seconds left,” Junjie said. “You’re gonna have to be quick. As soon as it’s done, get in there.”
I watched, (23, 22, 21) and waited (11, 10, 9). Almost there (4,3,2). One more second left and the body was whole. I leapt into my body, hoping I was in, hoping I was alive.
I open my eyes, dazed. I look up and see branches. I hear running feet, then I see a familiar face.
“Kathy!” it was my mom’s voice, “Where were you? We were so worried! You were gone almost an hour in the storm!”
“Yes, I’m here.”
For a moment I feel like I need to remember something, but then I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I’m loved, that’s all I need.