Re: Don't Freak Out

Submitted for Contest #65 in response to: Write about someone’s first Halloween as a ghost.... view prompt

35 comments

Oct 30, 2020

Contemporary Holiday Sad

To: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

From: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

Subject: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Els,

Don’t freak out when you get this, okay? Please. Just read through this email. You’ll probably want to remember to breathe, too. [In, hold for four seconds, out, hold for four seconds. Got it?]

I found a way to communicate with you, just for 24 hours. Don’t ask how; had to make some shady deals with some higher (and lower) powers. But they set this up for me and now I’m here.

I just want to let you know I’m okay. For the most part, anyways. The other side isn’t as bad as I thought at all. I’m not really allowed to talk about it; I’m under “contract”, essentially. So, I’m sorry––I can’t give you much information about the whole “life after death” dig. I’ll just tell you that it’s really not what I expected––in a good way.

Enough about me. How are you? How’s Mom? What’re you going to be for Halloween tomorrow night? Most importantly, are you still breathing at the end of this email?

I love and miss you.

Love,

Annie


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


ummm hi? i don’t even know what im doing. im going crazy right? this is me going insane? im going insane. im turning this computer off now.


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To: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

From: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Els,

You’re not going crazy. Please believe me. I’m a ghost. I’m trying to communicate with you, just for a day. I know that none of this really makes sense, but I’m just asking you to trust me. Can you do that?

Please talk to me. I don’t want to scare you, but we don’t have many hours left.

Love,

Annie


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Annie,

Okay. I’m just going to type because it’s 2am and I’m tired and why not. Plus, I’ve already downed two tequila shots before typing this so I don’t have anything to lose at this point. The bottle’s right next to the computer, by the way. No surprise there, I’m sure.

I’m doing okay. I think. Unless I’m certifiably insane, which is still an option. Mom’s okay…mostly. Still spends every night crying, but she did get out of the bed today. She even took a shower, which, believe me, was very necessary. I had to quickly wash her sheets while she was in there––the smell wasn’t pretty. She’s back in bed now. But at least everything’s clean.

She did talk today. She said your name. That was it.

I don’t think I’ll be doing much for Halloween this year. I’m not exactly in the festive spirit, since, you know, you died just a couple months ago. Which makes me think I’ll be spending my Halloween in a mental hospital with this whole email thing.

Dammit. I should have seen that therapist. Maybe I’ll schedule an appointment tomorrow.

I’m three shots in now, by the way.

I miss you. If you’re real. Which you’re not. This is insane. I’m insane.

Love (this feels so weird),

Els

P.S. I’m going to bed since this is all a dream anyways and I need to make sure I’m not just hallucinating from being drunk. But, on the very, very small chance that this is real…I’ll talk to you in the morning? I guess?


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To: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

From: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Els,

Go to bed; get some rest. Try to drink some water so you’re not absolutely destroyed tonight (or, I guess, today, since you’ll be reading this in the morning).

I know you still don’t believe me, but hopefully when you wake up and see this email, you’ll know that I’m here and you’re not crazy. I promise.

Make sure to put the guitar version of the Bach Sonatas on the speakers in mom’s room. Those songs always inspire her to start writing music again. Remember when we used to play them for her when dad left? She was up and walking by week 3. Or maybe it was week 7. Do you remember when it was? Maybe they’ll work for my death, too.

Go easy on the tequila. Go harder on the White Claws. God, I miss those.

Why aren’t you going out for Halloween? What happened to Rachel and Elijah? Aren’t you guys still hanging out? I thought you did everything together. What’s up with that?

I miss you, too. So much. If there was a way I could see you, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But this is the only way.

Be safe.

Love,

Annie


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Annie,

Okay. I had to spend the first hour after I read this email this morning crying my goddamn eyes out because I’m going to choose to believe that you’re really on the other side of this computer and I miss the living shit out of you. If I’m going crazy, then I don’t care. I don’t think I am. I think you’re really there, reading these emails, communicating with me. I have no idea how and I have no clue how this is at all possible but I am so unbelievably happy and shocked and every freaking emotion and I’m sorry I’m writing so quickly but I have so much to talk to you about and I don’t know how much time we have left.

There’s so much I want to tell you. School sucks. Home sucks. Everything sucks, Annie, without you here. Rachel and Elijah are giving me space. Too much space. It’s like they’re walking on egg shells whenever they’re around me. So we stopped hanging out. I have no idea what they’re doing for Halloween. I guess tonight is my first Halloween without them. It doesn’t matter, though; don’t worry about me. I’ll get through it.

I forgot about the songs. I think it was week 4, so you were right. You were always so good with that, with the details. You always had things figured out. Perks of being the responsible big sister, I guess. Now Mom and Rachel and Elijah and the world get this mess of a sister left behind instead of you.

Sorry if this is just a rant. I just miss you so goddamn much, Annie. And I’m scared that we only have a little bit of time. Is there any way that we can have longer? Can I just get another day with you? Please?

I love you,

Els


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To: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

From: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Els,

Thank God––you believe me. Good.

Your email broke my freaking heart, Annie. I know that you’re hurting. I know that it’s hard. But please, PLEASE don’t give up––you can do this. And please talk to Elijah and Rachel. They love you. I know they do. Just talk to them––just let them know what you’re going through. They’ll listen to you.

And Mom will get better; she’s going through a rough phase, but if it’s anything like dad’s situation, she’ll be better soon. And if she doesn’t get better, then get out of there. Make sure you take care of yourself first.

We don't have much time. I wish it was longer, too. But I’m so glad that I can at least talk to you for a short while.

Please know that I love you more than anything in this entire freaking world and I will always be by your side. ALWAYS. Whenever you're sad, or excited, or frustrated, or happy––send me an email. I might not be able to respond, but I'll find a way. I will. Okay? Don't give up. Live your life. You deserve it.

Love,

Annie


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Don’t Freak Out, Just Read This


Annie,

I talked to Elijah and Rachel today. And, of course, you were right. We’re going as the Three Musketeers tonight––the candy bar, not the sword-fighters, or whatever. They hugged me and told me they’d be right beside me through everything. How do you always know what’s best? Guess you’re my guardian angel. Literally, now.

You’re right about Mom. I’ll try to be there for her. I don’t know if I can, but I’m going to try. But I promise that I’ll leave if it gets too hard.

You have to go soon, don’t you?

If you do, it’s okay. Really. I mean, I’m not okay. I don’t think I ever will be. But just knowing that you’re there, somewhere…I can breathe again.

I’m going to try to be okay. I promise. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to try really hard. I know that you love me, and I know that you’ll always be with me. And I'll keep you updated. I'll send the emails.

I love you. I’m going to be okay.

Love,

Els


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: You There?

Hey Annie,

Are you there? Didn't see you respond to my last email.

If you're gone, it's okay. I love you and miss you.

Love,

Els


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Graduated today… and thinking of you


Annie,

I just graduated today. It was awesome. Rachel was the valedictorian, of course. She made this amazing speech; it was all about new beginnings and remembering old friends and keeping the people we love close.

I hope you know that I’m always keeping you close.

Love,

Els


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: New Zealand––I’m here!

Annie,

Spent the last year traveling all over the world. Brought my laptop and all my emails everywhere I went. In New Zealand now; don’t have great service, but I’m at the top of the Routeburn. Finally made it to one of the Great Walks, like we always dreamed of. It’s even more beautiful than we imagined. Except I'm freaking starving. Down to a single jar of peanut butter. Whoops. Lesson learned.

Love,

Els


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Normalcy Is Weird


Annie,

I haven’t emailed in a while. Sorry; things have been busy. But good.

Rachel’s married with kids now. Elijah’s still the single bachelor, as we knew he’d be. And me…well, I just got engaged. She’s amazing; you’d love her.

We visited your grave yesterday. It was hard.

I still miss you more than anything.

Love,

Els


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Mom


Annie,

I don’t know if you already know this; maybe you do, because she’s there with you. But Mom died.

I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m happy that she’s not in pain anymore. But I miss her.

Like I miss you.

But I don’t feel alone. I know you’re out there.

Love,

Els

P.S. Think you’ll ever respond again? I don’t think you will. But it’s nice to email you anyways. Love you.


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To: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

From: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

Subject: Miss You

Hey Annie. Missing you more than ever lately. Been feeling lonely. Bella’s been awesome, of course. I just wish you could meet her.

Taking one more shot: you there?


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To: Elsie Harning <elharn82@gmail.com>

From: Annika Harning <iamdead@theotherside.com>

Subject: Re: Miss You


I’m here.

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35 comments

Lina Ozz
04:45 Oct 30, 2020

Been exploring the sister/sibling relationship and death lately in my stories. Think I'm going through a fear-of-death phase, and want to write more emotional pieces (with my family in mind) as an outlet. Critiques welcome for this one; experimented with a different format (trying new things, spooky scary).

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Genevieve Taylor
22:30 Nov 11, 2020

I. Am. Crying. It is not okay how good this is. I am screaming, and everyone in my house is concerned, but I am just sitting here in shock over this story. I love this with all of my heart. The connection between the characters is so clearly strong, even without both of them technically present. The life updates from Els are, though short and sweet, so heartwarming, and speak volumes about her relationship with her sister. Anyone else attempting an ending like that might have made it sound cheesy, but from you, it was not at all. This stor...

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Lina Ozz
04:15 Nov 12, 2020

Oh my gosh!! This comment just absolutely made my ENTIRE night. It means so much to me that you had such a reaction to it––that was my goal!! I'm seriously so grateful for your kind words and immensely appreciate that you took the time to read my story and leave this thoughtful comment. You're awesome. :) I just read your most recent story. It is PHENOMENAL. Seriously. Can't wait to keep reading your work!!

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Genevieve Taylor
04:52 Nov 12, 2020

Yes of course! This story really did touch my heart. You're awesome too. :) Can't wait to read more of your work! (Also I saw you got shortlisted recently, so CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm going to read that one next, I think.)

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Laura Clark
15:52 Nov 02, 2020

Beautiful! I’m really glad I read this one, too, as it’s just another gorgeous read from you. You build character connections so well and they become believable real life people as the story unfolds. I appreciate the consistency in the email headings, too. There are lots of re: repeats, which gives it a ring of authenticity. I’m not sure the final email works perfectly - it almost implies that Elsie has died too? I would’ve loved to have seen an extra sentence like: I miss you too. I’ve been here, as promised. Or I miss you too. ...

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Lina Ozz
15:58 Nov 02, 2020

Thank you so, so much for this feedback and lovely comment, Laura! Unfortunately, the submission was approved JUST before you left a comment. I love your advice regarding that last email; I wish I could have implemented that idea. Thanks anyways for leaving a comment and giving this one a read; I really appreciate it :)

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Yolanda Wu
10:03 Oct 30, 2020

Wow, this story was just fantastic! I love how you set it up in emails and the idea of ghosts contacting dead family members through email is definitely something that suits the times. You managed to convey the sibling relationship so well through their messages to each other, how even when one of them is dead, they are there for each other. I also love how you mentioned their mum and her death in the end was super heartbreaking. Also, how Elsie keeps contacting Annie even after she stops replying to tell her about her life, and of course, t...

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Lina Ozz
15:34 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so, so much Yolanda! I so appreciate your comment and the read! It's definitely a new style for me with the emails, but I'm glad the message came across to readers :)

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Yolanda Wu
21:38 Oct 30, 2020

It really does! And props to you for trying out something new. :)

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Radhika Diksha
09:33 Oct 30, 2020

I can just describe the story in 3 words. AMAZING, EMOTIONAL AND FANTASTIC SHOW OF WRITING [lol I used more than three words] Your writing style and the concept of the story were amazing. would love to see more of your stories. would love your feedback on my stories too

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Lina Ozz
15:35 Oct 30, 2020

THANK YOU! This comment is so kind. I will absolutely read your stories (I'm a bit slammed with Halloween things but I will definitely get to them) :)

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05:59 Oct 30, 2020

You just broke my heart. I’m actually laying in bed reading this on my phone with tears in my eyes. And it all comes from that last email. She said if she could find a way to respond she would. And it turns out she’s been there all the time, through all the silence, through all the unreturned emails. God I’m a mess. Lina, amazing, inspired, and wonderful piece.

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Lina Ozz
15:36 Oct 30, 2020

Aww thank you so, so much Aj!! That means so much to me. I'm glad I could inspire some emotion; I felt emotional writing this, honestly. It was a hard topic. Originally, I was going to head toward a darker ending, and then realized that that's not how I want to conclude this piece at all, and changed my mind. I'm glad I did, because it seems like people can connect with it more hopefully! I always appreciate your comments; thank you again :)

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16:20 Oct 30, 2020

Absolutely! This was a beautiful, moving piece. Can't wait for your next piece!

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Lina Ozz
16:20 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you! I just wrote one but it's a lot different than this, more jubilant xD I saw that you wrote another one; reading that next!

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16:42 Oct 30, 2020

Just checked it out and left my thoughts! Absolutely hysterical.

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Lina Ozz
01:08 Nov 02, 2020

Thank you so much as always! :)

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Leilani Lane
14:56 Nov 08, 2020

I'm finally reading this story!! Aw, Lina, this was touching and beautiful. Also, the style!!! So creative, doing emails. You nailed the grammar on emails lol which just made it so realistic.

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Lina Ozz
23:37 Nov 11, 2020

Thank you so much Leilani! :)

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Molly Leasure
18:45 Nov 06, 2020

This is such a creative style!! I love this. And the ominous ending? Yes, please. The relationship you created between them (much like your other story) is VERY real. Superbly real. And you nailed the way a drink girl might write an email. I thought that the first email, where she barely uses any punctuation was interesting. (And I almost wondered if it shouldn't have been that way when she was drunk, too? It's just a thought.) It explored how people might answer a strange message, say, from their phone. They might not care to take the time ...

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Lina Ozz
04:33 Nov 07, 2020

Oooh good catch on the drunk emails. I could have also started out more coherent and then gotten more "slurred" with more mistakes by the end of the email––should have looked into that more. Whoops. Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments; you're amazing! :D I'm getting to your story soon!!

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Molly Leasure
05:29 Nov 07, 2020

Ah well, something to think on if you do another drunk character, right?! Haha. No, no, you're amazing! And yikes, be warned that it's...uhm. It's something. It's very fast-paced, haha!

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21:35 Nov 05, 2020

This story was amazing! I love it! The conclusion was so sweet. I can see this winning.

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Lina Ozz
23:37 Nov 11, 2020

Sorry, just saw this comment now––thank you so much for giving my story a read and leaving such a kind and thoughtful comment! I really appreciate it :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
01:06 Nov 01, 2020

I got so emotional when she stopped responding, like she stopped being a character and started becoming a symbol for her sister's character growth. This is exactly my type of heartwrenching tale, I'm so glad I read this. Oh and a suggestion: the "Sad" tag really works here.

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Lina Ozz
01:02 Nov 02, 2020

Aw thank you so so much Rayhan! Always grateful for your comments :) I'll definitely update the tag!

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San T.
11:00 Oct 30, 2020

Trust me, that was so so good. Your story showed how hope can lead us forward. Sometimes we need that little assurance that someone, somewhere is there watching over us. I love silver linings, and you provided that. Loved it.

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Lina Ozz
15:38 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so, so much for this lovely comment! I definitely need that assurance; especially now, with how challenging times are. I'm glad this piece conveyed that message to you as a reader. Thanks again; I really appreciate the read and comment :)

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San T.
15:49 Oct 30, 2020

Always.. 😊

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Lourenço Amorim
10:38 Oct 30, 2020

Great idea using email's to deliver your story. The second half was really touching. I don't have much to say, but you write a great story and it is flawless.

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Lina Ozz
15:39 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much for the read and this kind comment! It's very appreciated :)

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Writer Maniac
12:32 Oct 30, 2020

This story honestly left me in tears! I love how hopeful the story is, and how the story ends with Annika being there with Elsie throughout, even though she doesn't always show it. The mystery of death always fascinates us living. I loved your take on it! Incredibly well-done!

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Lina Ozz
15:37 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much for reading my stories and leaving such thoughtful comments! I really appreciate it. I agree with the mystery of death. It's fascinating and terrifying, at least for me. The prompts this week really made me think about it. Thanks again :)

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Writer Maniac
15:47 Oct 30, 2020

It's my pleasure reading your stories, I really enjoy them! You're a fantastic writer, and I absolutely adore your way of storytelling and your willingness to try new things, even if they terrify you! I'm gonna keep reading your stories and leaving comments too, so watch out for them! Keep writing as fabulously as you do!

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Lina Ozz
16:23 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much––and ditto; watch out for my comments as well :D

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