Contest #55 winner 🏆

249 comments

Aug 20, 2020

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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249 comments

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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Janet Joos
16:28 Sep 06, 2020

Congratulations on winning. This ghost story was over the top. Your descriptions well put. There may be a few corrections but they did not hinder understanding the sentence. Good luck with future writing.

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B Easton
19:22 Sep 06, 2020

THank you. I'm so glad to hear you liked it.

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Diamond Tolipas
12:21 Sep 06, 2020

In all honesty, I could only finish a short story, novel and any other kinds of prose when the beginning pulled me into it. And you did. This piece did. Before I knew it, I've reached the end! The simplicity of words and the well-laid out thoughts of the protagonist, matching the narration is very beautiful. That wrap-up was perfect, not to mention the repetition of dialogues in the beginning, it's great! Thank you for this wonderful piece. Congratulations!!🎉

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B Easton
23:55 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you. I'm happy the wording and thoughts of the protagonist were easy to follow, and I'm glad you liked the ending and the dialogue. I really appreciate it!

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Guacamole E
04:54 Sep 05, 2020

The beginning was really captivating! :D

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B Easton
19:19 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you! So glad to hear that

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Eric Mock
04:38 Sep 05, 2020

Very mysterious but with such a satisfying conclusion! Well done.

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B Easton
19:19 Sep 05, 2020

Thank you. I'm glad you liked it

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Sreenidhi N
12:39 Sep 04, 2020

I should say that this story touched me. The fact that Elisabeth knew that the protagonist wasn't her brother, adds a lot to think about. One realizes that the protagonist was not the only lonely soul in the house. The way the both of them find comfort in each other's company is good. You have succeeded in bringing out emotions in a very short word limit. A worthy win!

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Jade Eye
19:42 Sep 03, 2020

Amazingly captivating story. It left me longing for more. The character arc of the character was so distinct and there was a clear emotional journey throughout. The ending reminded me of my favourite passages of great books so there. Really good setting and characterisation and ingenious idea. Very well done.

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B Easton
01:19 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you. I'm so very happy to hear that. I'm glad the character worked so well and that the ending could apparently come so strong. It really means a lot :)

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Abhinav Hegde
08:27 Sep 03, 2020

It was a great story! Holds interest throughout!

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B Easton
10:14 Sep 03, 2020

Thank you!

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Heissell Ramirez
02:22 Sep 03, 2020

This story was very unique! Congratuations on the win, well deserved 😊

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B Easton
18:17 Sep 03, 2020

Thank you. That means a lot :)

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Nihal Raven
23:34 Sep 02, 2020

Good stuff Easton and congrats. The opening is amazing and overall the piece is enjoyable. I would have loved to find out indirectly (though I had an inkling) about fragility in second para. Please keep writing and if it's not much effort please read my compositions too.

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Erick Mokamba
21:50 Sep 02, 2020

The mystery and tragic in it is superb. It's adorable to see how much you achieved with use of dialogue.

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B Easton
23:33 Sep 02, 2020

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

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Mishka Stennett
19:17 Sep 02, 2020

Wow, this was amazing..you've inspired me..a win after just two submissions? Well done. Your story gripped me from start to finish, and don't worry about your little mistakes- happens when your brain is faster than your typing fingers!

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B Easton
23:34 Sep 02, 2020

Wow thank you, although I will say it was likely a lot of luck. Still, I'm glad you liked it and that it was gripping.

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