This story is by Aimee Parrish and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Going on family vacations isn’t new, but I never really fit in with my family – making it that much more dreadful. I much preferred the dead to the living anyway. They always had the best stories and advice. My living relatives never seemed to understand. I come from a line of sporty parents and sporty older siblings. My gifts were in the form of art and I suppose I had the gift of spectral sight as well. Everywhere I went from as far as I could remember was full of “other” people. Sometimes they aren’t always nice, but I’ve never really been alone. My favorite spirits would have to be the pets I find. When I was younger, I brought up this gift to my sisters and they were intrigued by it, but my parents wrote it off. “Ghosts don’t exist,” they always said.
On my 13th birthday, the family decided to take a trip to the mountains with my uncles and aunts. It was not how I wanted to spend my birthday, but they insisted. Secretly, I think it was to go skiing. They rented a van and I was at least happy to see one of my aunts. She always encouraged my goals and dreams. When I saw my uncle without her, I was saddened by this. He climbed into the van and told us she was sick and staying with some family members while he was away. This wasn’t like my uncle, but I didn’t think twice about it. Until I saw my aunt 10 miles later at a gas station next to him.
She was paler than usual but her fiery orange hair was like a brilliant light. I walked over to say hello but she saw me, gave me a sad look, and then disappeared. This was a familiar sight. I stood there behind my uncle while he paid for snacks and began to cry. He turned around to see me and tried to console me. “The food here isn’t that bad. I can get you something else?” I loved my uncle and his jokes but nothing could stop the immense pain. My family was older than me by several decades, so death was a normal part of life for us, but to be lied to and to lose my greatest supporter was too much. I ran back to the car and said nothing to anyone for hours.
My aunt was a religious woman. When I saw a primitive church close to the mountain destination, I said I needed to stop. Everyone looked at me like I had grown a second head. I was very openly anti-church, but this was something I felt like I needed to do for her. The brown building lay in a valley just below the mountain range and was lit up for some event. This excursion was embarrassing for my parents, but I went in and sat down. The small church had a main room, which I assume was where they held sermons, and then small back rooms for cooking, clerical work, and eating. Most of the tables were full of people so we sat with a random family. They offered us food, but I did not partake. I was on edge already and trying to focus. The room was loud and bright. So full of life. I kept looking around and it might have appeared suspicious. I could hear the others whispering or asking questions. My parents tried to save face, but I’m sure to no avail. I didn’t care – I just wanted to see her again. At some point, a man approached me and asked me what I knew of the Bible. I admitted I knew little and was here for other reasons. This perked every ear in the room. All eyes were upon me in a matter of seconds. I could feel the eyes of all the people in the room.
“Why are y’all here?” He looked annoyed.
“For the food,” I said in jest.
“No, my daughter just wanted to see your lovely church as we went on our way to Asheville.”
“Yes, she meant no harm.”
I was annoyed that my parents were speaking for me. The church-goers must have been displeased with their festivities being interrupted, but my mission was true. Until one woman accosted me, demanding to know what I was looking at.
“I’m looking for a ghost.”
“A ghost? What on God’s Earth are you kids on these days?”
“Well you believe in a Holy Ghost, don’t you? How are any other ghosts different?” They quieted for a moment. A smug, gross look crossed their faces.
“Anything other than the word of God or Jesus is the Devil.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, it’s in the Bible -”
“So you’re telling me, a child, that you read this book as fact when it was written by men? That’s like me saying Harry Potter is really the savior of wizards and that people aren’t good enough to be wizards so you can’t get into wizard school.” My anger was building and I couldn’t stop it. I had stood to yell this and when I finished, the lights had gone off. Only the moonlight spilled into the room and people began to murmur. When I noticed the lights had gone, I wondered if that was me.
People began to move towards me in an attempt to stop me or throw me out when there was a banging on the walls. A door going outside had a peculiar glow on the other side of it. I ran to the door and saw the outline of my aunt. I cried out her name and she came through. “It’s OK! I see you and I know you passed on. I’m sorry, but I love you!” My words reached her ears and she smiled at me. For a moment, we were both engulfed in the light. She was outlined in gold and before my eyes turned into this 8-foot tall goddess. A short woman I had known to be in her late 50s turned into a giant, fiery long-haired maiden. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The crowd saw her too and everything went silent, including the banging. Then she walked away through the walls. Unfortunately, one of those bad spirits began to follow her and stopped when I screamed, seemingly cut in two and dissipating along with our light.
It was when the ghosts vanished that the lights came back on. My parents came up to me and hugged me tightly. I just wanted to look for my uncle but people swarmed me. I managed to squeeze out and found him by our van. At this point, it was late and many began to leave. I heard some praising my skills, but it was nice to know others saw what I had seen. When I found my uncle, he apologized to everyone for not telling the truth sooner. He didn’t want to ruin the trip with the news that his wife, my aunt, had passed the night before. Her body was being prepared the moment I saw her ghost at the gas station. I told him now we could both live in the light and have nothing to hide anymore.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. My sisters and I played in the snow and they would ask if I could see anyone “not there” with them. My parents also seemed more interested and supportive of me. They even liked to hear the stories told by lost relatives. It truly was the start of my happily ever after.