This story is by A. R. Harlow and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Haunted houses, monster corn mazes.
Horror movie marathons and ghosts in front yards.
That’s what Lyvidia was all about. Only… those things were reserved for October and Halloween—which was over three months away—and she was dealing with far weirder, real stuff. Those things were only fun when they were pretend but that wasn’t the case anymore.
Lyvidia stumbled backward from her refrigerator and gasped in horror at what was before her. An all-black mass of…? She wasn’t even sure. It looks tangible but also ghostlike and wispy like a wraith. “What the fu—”
“Do..not..swear…” the thing growled at her.Screaming began and Lyvidia was horrified that when she screamed, it screamed too.
Once Lyvidia collected herself, no small feat, she asked it, “Wha-what are you? Never mind. This is a nightmare. I’ll wake up soon.” She pinched her arm hard and took several more steps backward. It moved too, swaying from side-to-side.
“Dia..it’s me, mom.” It swayed closer to her, and a sense of familiarity washed over her. As well as the realization that she was not going to wake up—this was real—and it was her mom in some strange form. Her mom that had been dead for a year.
“I…” Her mouth went dry, and tears came to her eyes. She knew it was her mom from that sense that came over her, it was all the things her mom was and the numerous things that reminded her of her mom; the scent of lavender, the soft yet scratchy tone, the warmth of a mother-daughter bond, and a nickname that only one person in the entire world was allowed to call her. “I wish you were here. Really here. Like, flesh, bone, comforting mom. Instead of…” she waved vaguely at the undefined blackness.
“I know, Dia. I’m here for a time and will be only in this form. Once you’ve become a demon, they don’t really let you have a corporal, humanlike body back. Said the something rate was too high.”
“Wait. A demon? Where in the hell—”
“It’s actually a misunderstood place, Dia, and Luci isn’t bad like all the books and people made him out to be. He is quite the charity man.”
Lyvidia collapsed to the floor, her refrigerator still open, and her head pounding at everything the last hour had brought her. “You’re in hell? How is that even possible!?”
“Well, Dia, obviously I’m not right now.” The blackness scolded her. “And it’s not technically hell, I mean, what we were traditionally taught is not how things really are and there’s just too much to explain right now. I’ve been sent to you…to encourage you on the path you need to follow.”
Lyvidia raked her hands through her red hair and let out a huff. “What it sounds like your saying is that you’re a demon from hell, which isn’t as bad as everyone is taught, and you’re here to haunt me like the three ghosts of Christmas in A Christmas Carol, to right wrongs and do better and not end up like you.”
The blackness swayed in what could be considered a nod for yes. “Well…Dia, we could put it like that, yes. But really, it gives us more time together. Look at the bright side.”
Dead, alive, or brought back in demon form, her mom was undoubtably the only person who could make her so angry at the same time as make her happy. “The bright side? What bright side? That you died, became a demon in hell, and now somehow, for some reason, get to come back just to haunt me into goodness for twenty-four hours?” Lyvidia could have laughed at the insanity of her life and how things worked out but instead tears fell.
“Dia, don’t cry.” The blackness moved close to her, and the warmth intensified, and a hand-like blackness reached out and touched her leg. “It’s for more than a day…it is until you are in a better place. See, we can watch our loved ones, Luci checks on you even. If someone is having a bad time, a loved one is allowed to come back, in this form, to help them for a time until they are safe, making progress, and no longer in need.”
Lyvidia leaned into the touch. “I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. I don’t want to lose you again mom.” The confession felt like a sin to say and that feeling didn’t lessen. Nor did the grief that washed over Lyvidia anew.
“You’ve never lost me.” The blackness moved even closer, and a second hand-like appendage appeared and within moments it felt as though she were being embraced, a black cloud all around her as her mom comforted her. “You never will truly lose me. Even when I return in time.”
Lyvidia sniffled and wrapped her arms around the strange form that her mom was presently, determined in that moment to just take comfort in the only presence of her mom she was going to have. “Okay.” It wasn’t enough, but Lyvidia had no other words.
“Now, let’s stop with this whole ‘haunted’ business. We have a lot to talk about young lady.”
A laugh broke the air around them as Lyvidia felt a surge of humor rush through her, just one more reminder that the blackness around her was indeed her mom. Maybe Lyvidia was always into spooky things for a reason. While it wasn’t Halloween or October, and a real-life demon haunting was occurring, Lyvidia decided she could manage through this just like any other day. Sure, it might be a little weird. But she was getting more time with her mom and she would accept that in whatever form it came in—even an inky blackness from hell.