Contest #55 winner 🏆

232 comments

Submitted on 08/20/2020

Categories: General

        “Can you keep a secret?” She asked, and my first thoughts were, of course I can keep a secret, I’m dead. Who could I even tell?

              Her breath stank of half rotten food, and her decades old clothes barely fit her fragile body. Dirt raced up and down her body, some of it getting in her mouth as she talked, causing her every word to begin and end in coughing. As such, most of our games involved little talking. The only exception was this one, the one her brother and her used to play.

              “Only for a price of a ball and a bag.” I replied with my demands, as was required, and slowly, she hobbled over to the items before sliding them to me.

              “Alright, now for my secret.” She grinned between coughs. “Today in class, it was me who gave the love note to Noah.”

              “That’s a good secret I’ll have to keep for the price of a ball and the bag.” Now it was my turn. “Can you keep a secret?”

              “Only for the price of a crayon and paper.” The paper was lying next to me, but the crayon took a while to find, hiding in the crawlspace from one of our earlier games of Rat Wall Run. When I returned, I rolled them across the floor to her, causing her to giggle.

              “Alright, now for my secret. Today at dinner, it was me who slammed the cabinet.”

              “Why’d you do that?” She laughed.

              “Your parents were getting a little too loud, and I thought you could use a little bit of levity.”

              “It was pretty funny to watch them jump. That’s a good secret I’ll have to keep for the price of a crayon and a paper.” She stroked her chin, pretending to be in deep thought. “Can you keep a secret.”

              “Only for the price of an airplane.” I answered as she folded the paper inward and outward until it resembled a paper airplane.

              “Do you remember the action figure you had when you were little? I was the one who broke his arm off.” She said, and silence flooded the room as I pretended to share a memory that was not mine.

              “Oh, that was you.” I eventually replied. “That’s so mean.”

              “I’m sorry.”

              “It’s okay. I forgive you. That’s a good secret I’ll have to keep for the price of an airplane.” For a moment, I wanted to pat her on the head, but the thought left my head as soon as it appeared. “Can you keep a secret?”

              “Only for the price of a bed and a blanket.” She yawned, and I noticed a shadow creeping over us. My eyes raced to the source, and spiraling upward, a bull of a man lingered.

              “Elisabeth. Who are you talking to?” His voice was stern and unflinching.

              “No one.” She turned away from her, likely recalling what had happened last time she had answered.

              “It’s late. You need to get to bed.” He pointed at his watch. “I’ll be back up in ten.”

              “Okay.” She coughed, and slowly, her body found its place between a rotting mattress and a blanket with more holes than fabric. For a minute, her body lay still, but then, she spoke. “Hey Jed.”

              “Yes.” I answered.

              “Will you still play with me tomorrow.”

              “Only if you let me choose the game.”

              “Thank you.”

              “Don’t thank me yet.” I brushed my hand over her body, and for a second, she shuddered as the blanket coiled further around her body

              No one should be forced to live like this. I thought as I pulled my hand back and wandered away from her bed. Outside, a hallway of six doors lay, four of which being bedrooms, one of which being a closet, and the final of which being a bathroom. The first bedroom belonged to the elder sisters, Lucy and Becky. The second belonged to the brothers, Berk and Trey. The third belonged to the youngest and perhaps my only friend, and the fourth belonged to no one. With the door nailed shut, no living soul had been inside since the incident one year ago.

              Downstairs, the parents sat huddled around the table, praying together. I made sure to make my movements as silent as possible so that I didn’t interrupt them, although their conversation thereafter greatly changed my stance.

              “Was she talking to him again?” the mother asked.

              “She’s just processing her grief as all children do, by playing make-believe.” The father answered, although it was clear he was growing less confident of that by the day. “We just need to let her grow up and get her out of the house. Once she starts hanging out with friends, she’ll…”

              “Forget about him? How can she do that when we can barely go a dinner without someone mentioning him?”

              “She’s young. It won’t be easy, but the best thing we can do at this point is stop enabling her and force her to spend time away from the house.”

              Good luck with that, old man. I thought as I walked over to Elisabeth’s backpack and fished out her homework. Her grades were good, well above her class, but I knew that it took a lot more than that to truly make something of oneself, especially for people like her. Erasing her answers, I replaced them with my own as I’d done the past thirty nights.

              “But what if it is him?” The mother’s voice brought me back to their conversation. “Have you heard the teachers. They say she’s a certifiable genius.”

              “So what? Our little girl can’t be smart?”

              “No, but they’re saying she’s grades above the curve sometimes. Look at this drawing. It’s almost like that painting, the Mona Lisa. When would Elisabeth have even seen the painting much less done anything of the sort?”

              “Maybe one of the other kids has one of them computers.”

              “I talked to the Father.” Shivers shot through my spine. “He said that this might be a sign…”

              “Enough, our daughter is fine. She has to be. We did not go through all this trouble to…” He clenched his fist around the bottle to his right, and before I could process him drinking, he’d already gone to the kitchen to grab a second one. Meanwhile, the mother’s head just sank to the table, tears forming at the base of her eyes. The sight almost made me wish I did know her, so I’d know what to do to cheer her up. However, that was not the case. I was here long before her and would remain long after.

              The moon had reached its peak in the sky by the time I decided to retire. My dreams almost manifested this time, but once again, they fell short. Truly, the living didn’t know how lucky they were to have dreams, and I thought back to the hands that had snatched my dreams from me.

              Over the years, my memory of them had become disoriented. At one point, they were long and white with feminine fingernails, but at other times they were dark and hard like rocks. However, no matter which arms gripped me, the words always remained the same.

              I am sorry. You didn’t deserve to be born like this, into such a cruel existence. I’ll take away the pain now. The words haunted me, the mere memory of them causing the marks on my neck to turn red. I was just a child when I first heard them, but as the decades and centuries passed by, I began to understand their actions more and more. They wanted to save me from a loveless life. After all, even my own family couldn’t care for a burden like me. It was a mercy what they did, and as more and more families left this house, the more I realized it.

              I couldn’t even couldn’t the faces that passed through here, some knowing of my existence and others unaware. Regardless, it always ended the same with them leaving and forgetting about me, and why wouldn’t they. There was no love in their eyes for me. I was nothing, some shrill voice in a crumbling house.

              After a while, I began to realize the futility of reaching out myself and began taking the form of others. Once I was a distant father, twice I was an unborn child, four times I was a close friend, and five times I was their brother. I meant nothing to them, but the people they thought I was did. I was nothing more than a shadow hiding inside a costume, and to this day, I still couldn’t tell if this decision made me happier or more miserable. On one hand, they actually spoke kind words to me, but on the other hand, hearing words that weren’t for me only served to remind me what I could never possess.

              I didn’t recall resting my hand against the closet door, but before I could react a slamming sound echoed throughout the house causing the parents to spin in my direction.

              “I suppose that was the wind too?” The mother shot a glare at the father.

              “It’s not him.” The old man shook his weary eyes. “This house is playing tricks on us.”

              If only he was correct, then I wouldn’t be here. Why was I even here? I wasn’t bound by any forces or rules. The people that passed through rarely stayed for more than a few years, just until they got back on their feet, and even when they passed through, only a few could hear me, little lone see or feel me. I’d have much better luck if I moved to another house or a city, but maybe, that was why. Maybe, a part of me wanted to use this crumbling house as an excuse. Since I couldn’t be loved here, I could say that it was due to my upbringing, but if I left, I’d have to face the fact once and for all that I was alone in this world. This house haunted me with the past, but at the same time, it shielded me from the future.

              Was that why I wanted Elisabeth to leave and get far away from here and posed as her brother? Did I believe that if she never got a chance to know me, then I could have an excuse for why she wouldn’t love me? Or was I just trying to save her from getting to know me so she could spend her time on something worthwhile?

              The questions echoed around in my head like war drums amidst an endless void, but no matter my answer, did it really matter? I wasn’t someone whose voice anyone wanted to hear, not even myself. Thus, if my opinion meant nothing, did it matter what was going through my head? Perhaps, that answer didn’t matter either, or I found myself marching back up the stair into Elisabeth’s room.

              For an untold time, I stood over her unsure what I should do or even what I was considering. Eventually, my lips began to move, and for the first time, I knew the words were mine. “I wish I was brother; I really do.”

              The words hung in the air, clawing at my soul, and darkness devoured my inner thoughts. If only I could be someone, anyone else. If only for a second, if someone would love me for me, without thinking me someone who I wasn’t. However, the darkness parted as another voice entered the room.

              “That’s a good secret I’ll have to keep for a bed and a blanket.”

              “What?” I turned down to her twitching figure.

              “It was your turn. Can you keep a secret?” She coughed, and not knowing what else to do, I responded.

              “Only for the price of… of a smile.”

              “Jed hates action figures.” She whispered through a weak, shivering smile.

              “Oh.” I stared at her in confusion for a minute before I began to understand. “So, you…”

              “Yeah.” She pulled the blanket up to her tiny chin. “I’m going to bed, but when I wake up, it’s your turn to think of a secret.”

              “Oh, okay.” I muttered as she turned and drifted into sleep, leaving me once again standing over her for an untold time. However, this time, something was different, and slowly, I leaned forward to whisper into her ear. “That’s a good secret.”

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232 comments

Rayhan Hidayat
16:45 Aug 28, 2020

This was simultaneously tragic and adorable. Super wholesome ending. A ghost with self-esteem issues is brilliant, didn’t think anyone could make a dead character this relatable 😅 My favorite thing is that the house is haunted because the ghost themselves is haunted by their past in like this vicious cycle. Awesome stuff! 👍🏽

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B Easton
23:39 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you so much, and I'm glad that the ghost protagonist was able to come off as so relatable. It really means a lot to hear that and I was smiling the whole time I read your comment, especially the part about the ghost being haunted as well.

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Zilla Babbitt
20:29 Aug 28, 2020

This was so mysterious and wonderful I found myself rereading the more delightful passages, both to clear up confusion and to experience the initial joy again. This is truly lovely. Deserved win!

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B Easton
23:35 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you so much, I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

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Lexi Hamilton
02:06 Aug 31, 2020

This is so incredibly PERFECT! I reread it again and again. 👏🏼👍🏼

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B Easton
02:40 Aug 31, 2020

Oh my gosh. I'm so happy to hear that! :)

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Kevin Leonard
15:36 Aug 28, 2020

This was a weird story, and I think "weird" is a good thing for a story to be. It was unsettling, and I liked the overall theme of what it feels like to want to be seen when you feel very invisible. I think the glimpses we got of the house and the family left just enough of an impression of the ways in which this particular host family might be broken, or dysfunctional. If I could offer a few points of constructive criticism, I would reiterate another commenter's point about making sure finely check for grammatical errors. Although I don...

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B Easton
00:19 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you, and I genuinely appreciate you pointing out those flaws that I need to improve. The grammar stuff makes sense, and part of that was I fell a little behind on this one and had to submit it one round of edits early. Hopefully the next one doesn't have that problem. So, yeah I definitely agree, especially with that one line. In answer to the questions, part of the reason was that I was semi-trying to emulate a normal haunting movie where the targeted kid has off drawings, but in world, even though he is a child, I assumed he picked i...

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Jesper Jee
14:58 Aug 28, 2020

Great story. Very imaginative. There are some mistakes here and there but the value comes from the storytelling. Well deserved win!

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B Easton
23:41 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you very much. Yeah, I wish I could've gone through and made one more edit, and I appreciate you pointing out that it has those errors. Hopefully, I'll manage my editing a little better the next time through :)

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Jesper Jee
00:19 Aug 29, 2020

Don´t worry about it! I have also had several mistakes left in. Too excited to post I guess. The main thing is the story. And yours were great! Did you come up with it on the spot or had it been in your head for awhile?

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B Easton
00:48 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you. Yeah, I mean perfect grammar is a bit harder to get write when you only got a week. I kind of came up with it on the spot but then I pulled some ideas into it that had been floating around. Originally, it was supposed to just be a haunting story from the ghost's perspective, but as I was thinking about it, about a third of the way through, I realized I could add in the loneliness angle for the ghost which I had been thinking about for a while. So, it's a little half and half.

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Laura Everly
17:08 Aug 28, 2020

I liked this story unique and captivating well done congratulations on the win

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B Easton
23:41 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you, and it makes me so happy to hear that.

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Anexza Music
14:37 Sep 05, 2020

Loved every bit of it, Specially how you addressed the issues that the boy faced. Can you give some tips to a newbie writer like me, I have a hard time describing things and framing sentence. I can come up with stories is just that I am not able to create scenes and environments.

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B Easton
17:53 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you. I'm glad you liked it. Sure thing. So, one thing I will say above all else is a lot of things are picked up through trial and error so after writing, you'll figure out how to describe things better. For describing this, one advise is to limit adjectives so that each description averages around 1 or maybe 2. My other main advise would be that you make sure that you don't use the same descriptive more than once in a paragraph since two things shouldn't have the same descriptive and if it's the same object, then you don't need to ...

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Keerththan 😀
07:11 Aug 29, 2020

Mysterious story. Very creative. Deserved win. Would you mind reading my story "the adventurous tragedy?"

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B Easton
07:43 Aug 29, 2020

Hey thank you. Sure I'll check it out, but it might take a bit before I get around to it.

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Avery G.
15:54 Aug 28, 2020

Wow, this was beautiful! I loved it! Congrats on the win! Great job!

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B Easton
23:43 Aug 28, 2020

I'm so glad to hear that! Thank you!

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Avery G.
02:14 Aug 29, 2020

You're welcome!

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Neomi Shah
12:06 Oct 01, 2020

Wow! Such an amazing story! I like the way you have portrayed a ghost in such a non-horrifying way unlike the scary approach that is often associated with ghosts. You made the ghost seem like an actual human being and described its feelings and emotions in a wonderful manner. The insight into the life of a dead child and his portrayal as a hero with a humane nature rather than a villain captivated me the most. A well-deserved win! Also, the game of secrets was innovative and added to the mystery of the story.

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B Easton
21:40 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you. I'm so glad that you liked the way the ghost was portrayed and that he seemed very human. I'm also happy you liked his human nature and the game of secrets that was being played throughout. That means a lot :)

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Inazuma Eleven
16:59 Sep 27, 2020

You surely deserve what you got my friend.

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B Easton
18:01 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you!

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Chris Stewart
14:49 Sep 26, 2020

Really creative and "haunting" narrative. Good development and characters that were relatable and fun. You wanted to root for the ghost, which isn't an easy thing to create in someone. Found myself wondering how a ghost could write things in the physical world, but more curiosity than concern. Ending line, circling back to the game, was well executed. Really well done and deserving of being highlighted. Congrats

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B Easton
03:51 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you. I'm so glad that you liked the characters and development. It means a lot, and I'm happy the ending line landed so well. :)

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Suzanne Urowitz
23:01 Sep 18, 2020

Looks like I have a twin. I also have grammar issues.

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B Easton
00:26 Sep 19, 2020

Hello fellow twin. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.

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~💖 Yw
21:38 Sep 18, 2020

This is soo good. I was confused at first but you actually did awesome! Great job!

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B Easton
00:25 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you. I'm so glad that you liked it!

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Hungrie the Frog
17:35 Sep 16, 2020

This was such a nice short story! Typically I'm more of a novel type of girl- but I loved this. Somehow so quickly I felt myself attached to the characters. It was so sweet! Look forward to reading more of your stories :)

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B Easton
18:57 Sep 17, 2020

Thank you. I'm so glad to hear that you liked it and were able to attached to the characters so easily. That means a lot, and if you would like, when you post one of your own, I'd be happy to read it :)

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Hungrie the Frog
22:38 Sep 18, 2020

Aww that's so sweet! I'm working on one, but so much of it got deleted on accident I haven't felt to motivated to continue- but hopefully I'll finish it soon!

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B Easton
00:37 Sep 19, 2020

Ah, I'm sorry to hear that. Something like that can definitely kill motivation, but glad you're still working on it.

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Ej P
16:15 Sep 11, 2020

Hi B Easton, the story is wonderful. Is the secrets game real? This is just lovely. I am really inspired by your style. Something to aim for!

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B Easton
16:59 Sep 11, 2020

I'm so glad to hear that, but the game is not real. I more or less made it up so the story could better fit to the prompt and the ending could connect to the beginning. Thank you. That means a lot to hear!

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Ej P
17:21 Sep 11, 2020

It really drew me in. Very beautifully written. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading more of your work.

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B Easton
17:52 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you. THat makes me really happy to hear!

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08:40 Sep 11, 2020

Hi there what a unique story. And congs on your win. I'd appreciate it if you checked out my new story

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B Easton
16:49 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you. I'm glad to hear it and sure thing.

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18:48 Sep 10, 2020

I really loved reading this. Mysterious and captivating at the same time.

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B Easton
01:27 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you. i'm so glad you liked it!

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Grace Reardon
16:03 Sep 10, 2020

I love this story, it's so descriptive and exciting, the characters are perfect and are beautifully written, thank you fro checking out my story as well!

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B Easton
01:42 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you I'm so glad yo liked the characters. Of course, it was a very good read, although I was curious if you had a follow up to that story.

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Grace Reardon
12:14 Sep 11, 2020

Haha, I'm planning on writing a follow up for my 2nd story, but I appreciate the feedback, keep up the great work!

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B Easton
16:53 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you. You as well and glad to hear it.

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Grace Reardon
17:37 Sep 11, 2020

No problem!

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Liya Mariyam
15:39 Sep 07, 2020

it was breathtaking the story is amazing , i found myself really captured throughout the story and also it's wonderfully written .would you mind checking out my new story i would really love some feedback

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B Easton
19:17 Sep 07, 2020

I'm glad you liked it. Sure I'll take a look.

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