And I don’t mean I’ve-done-something-so-horrible-my-parents-are-going-to-kill-me-dead. I mean, I’m literally dead. Like my physical body is rotting in a grave. I think. I still haven’t been able to find it, but that’s not the point.
The point is, I’m not alive anymore, but I’m not going to let that stop me from living. You know? So, I’m making the best of it.
That’s why I’ve brought my little brother, Carter, along with me on my first Halloween adventure without a pulse. Just so you know, Carter isn’t dead. But it’s been boring without him, so I decided to make contact.
I wasn’t sure whether I could, but after practicing on several terrified people in town for the past week, I deemed my skills were good enough for the main event.
But I couldn't just appear next to him and say, “Hey.” It had to be something more interesting than that. Something that would stick with him.
I finally settled on a classic ghost scare. It’s what I’m supposed to do, right?
I know what you’re thinking, I’m a horrible person. If you’re thinking this, I’m pretty sure you don’t have any little brothers. Besides, it’s all in good fun, so just relax.
Anyway, it all went down earlier today. I made myself look like a vengeful, demonic spirit— blackened eyes, hollowed face, despondent gaze—and hid in his room until he got home from school. When he finally walked in, he threw his backpack down, flopped on his bed, and pulled out his phone.
I watched him for a while, memories flooded my mind. Some good, some bad, and all made me miss being alive. But I didn’t come home to get stuck on feelings, so I brushed them aside and made my move. I floated my way over, hovering high above his bed. I helicoptered there for a moment, silent, producing the most horrific face I could muster. He didn’t notice. He was too enthralled with the tiny images on his device.
Kids these days, am I right?
That’s when I whispered his name.
I said it again, adding a gravel to my voice.
I let it all fall out.
“Carrrrterrrrrr!” I moaned. My voice was unrecognizable. It sounded like a mixture of Matthew McConaughey, Liam Neeson, and a demented clown.
His eyes darted from his phone to the ceiling where I glared down at him.
Silence for a moment, then, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
He screamed and screamed.
And I died. Again.
I laughed. He screamed.
This went on for a minute, when suddenly he stopped. He jumped off his bed as though he finally got control over his body, stepped back, and studied me behind frightened eyes. I made myself lose the disgruntled employee look and turned back into my non-imposing self—although a thousand times more see-through, and a million times more good looking.
He opened his mouth as if to speak, but nothing came out.
“Heeeyyyy, Carter,” I said.
“That’s my name.”
His eyes started to glisten. His chin quivered.
“Whoa, whoa, don’t cry. It was only a joke,” I pleaded.
He let out a tiny snort. “I’m not crying about that, you idiot. I’m crying because you’re dead. You’re dead, but you’re floating in front of me.”
I spun around, showing off my spirit in all its glory.
“How?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Just how it works, I guess. There are tons of ghosts around town.”
His eyes bulged a little.
“No need to be scared,” I said. “Most are friendly, some aren’t. Just like the living.”
“I’m not scared!” he bellowed, squaring up his shoulders to make himself look bigger.
I smiled at this. This was something he’d done since we were little. Anytime he wanted to look tough, he’d do that little shimmy and drop his voice an octave deeper.
He looked up at me, a million emotions splattered across his face, and spoke, “I’ve missed you.”
I felt phantom tears well up in my eyes. I looked away, not wanting to blubber in front of Carter.
Then I said something I didn’t expect: “I’ve missed you too.”
Now just to be clear, I never cried when I was alive, except that time Carter “accidentally” stapled my finger to a piece of paper. Carter, on the other hand, well, he’s always been a huge baby. All sensitive and stuff.
I shook my head fiercely to make my invisible tears subside. “Anyway....”
“I have so many questions,” he started, “What are you doing here? Are you, like, okay? Have you talked to Mom and Dad? We should go see them.”
I shook my head. “To answer your first question: I am here to have some fun. As for the others, there will be time for them later.”
“Yes, you have a butt. So, let’s get it into gear. We’ve got things to do.”
Now we stand in the master bedroom of the old farmhouse at the end of our block. It’s been empty since I can remember. Rotting wood bows and creaks all around us. The windows are all shattered (Carter and I may or may not have had something to do with that). The door to the bedroom hangs on one hinge inviting anyone brave enough to enter, like a crocodile with its mouth open, daring birds to sunbathe on its tongue.
“Why are we here?” Carter asks. “Are you like trying to make amends with someone you hurt so you can cross over?”
“At an abandoned house?” I laugh. “That’s not how it works anyway, Carter. There is no ‘crossover.’ The spirit world is here. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I told you. I’m here for fun. You know how this place is crawling with kids on Halloween? Well, we’re here to scare them!”
“I don’t like this place. It’s creepy.”
“You’re talking to a ghost. What’s creepier than that?” I say.
“Other ghosts,” he murmurs.
“Don’t worry. I haven’t seen any all day. And none around this house.”
He sighs. “I don’t like this.”
“Come on. I promise this will be fun.”
I have him pick up an old vanity and place it against the wall. It’s shattered, but shards of glass still cling to the frame, exposing a broken reflection of my kid brother.
We begin hearing families outside. The trick-or-treating has begun.
While settling in behind the bed, I hear whispering on the first floor.
“Okay, you hide under the bed and just enjoy the show.”
Carter slides himself under the bedframe, while I get into character.
The face I choose now is a character I call Papa Earl. My ghostly skin is riddled with wrinkles. Four jagged teeth snarl from behind my thin lips. There may even have been a trace of blood glistening off those chompers. I shrink myself down to a tiny stature with too-large overalls and a flannel shirt enveloping my tiny frame.
Then I will essence to enter the mirror. I make sure to glow a little just to draw the attention of those whispering kids.
The whispering gets louder until I can finally see our victims.
Three teenage boys. Three clones. Long hair, way too tight pants, and extra-long t-shirts with skulls on them. I recognize them. They’re in Carter’s grade.
Punks. Delinquents. Hooligans.
Not really, but they’re in a really obnoxious band.
I watch as they move slowly to the vanity, toward my light show.
“Do you see that?” one of them asks.
“It’s just light from the moon,” another says.
“Yeah, for sure,” the third agrees.
They stop in front of me. I hold still, waiting for the perfect moment.
All three lean in at the same time and that’s when I speak, making sure they can see my ghostly character in the mirror.
“Y’all best get back to work. Them crops ain’t gonna reap themselves.”
Now my voice is like Larry the Cable Guy.
“What the?” Clone One stammers.
“I said git!” I shout.
The boys laugh.
Perfect. They’re lulled by my Southern charm.
Clone Two imitates, “You ain’t the boss of us. We ain’t gonna do nothin’.”
“Yeah, you old fart! You dead cree—”
I push my body through the cracks of the glass, seeping through like toothpaste. Then I shout, “Fine! If you ain’t gonna be any use, then you ain’t any better than a pig for slaughter!”
And as though we had rehearsed it, Carter begins shaking the bed frame, making pig noises.
I almost break, but I take a deep breath and continue.
“Beatrice, get me my cleaver. I’m hungry!” I bellow.
The three boys shriek. Their voices almost high enough to shatter the remaining glass on the vanity.
They bolt out of the room, knocking into each other. Crashing sounds follow as they make their way down the flight of dilapidated steps. Their screams slowly fade down the street.
Carter cackles under the bed. I join in.
“You’re a natural, little bro!”
“Dude, you’re petrifying!” he says.
And not 15 minutes later, we have our next visitors. Then our next. Then our next. One after another, kids, and even some adults, enter our playground. It’s a blast.
When our guests finally stop coming, Carter and I come back together, thoroughly satisfied with a night of fun.
“That was amazing!” he exclaims.
“I haven’t had that much fun since, well, you know.”
He yawns. “It’s gotta be past midnight. I better get home.”
I take one last look at the master bedroom. It was the perfect stage. As we exit the bedroom and walk down the darkened hallway, I hear noises coming from downstairs.
“One last scare,” I suggest, “on our way out.”
He nods. Quietly, we go down the stairs. There are two silhouettes standing at the front door. Their backs facing us.
Carter sneaks down the stairs and fans out to my left. Standing on the base of the steps, I reform myself into a simple, deader version of myself. It should do the trick at this time of night. But before I can fully get into character, one of them turns and rushes at Carter. The other faces me, but instead of running, it whooshes in one swift movement.
Its face is long and smooth. Almost formless. It’s gaping eye sockets stare into my soul. I freeze. This isn’t something I’ve encountered before. It’s not normal.
The thing next to Carter circles him silently.
But I can’t move. I don’t have enough strength. They’re somehow sapping the soul out of me.
The presence in front of me grows and grows until it’s filling all negative space. Its mouth opens likes a snake’s as it draws closer to me. Out of the corner of my eye I see the other one doing the same to Carter.
“Noooooooo! Please stop!” I yell.
The mouth surrounds me now. I’m done for.
I close my eyes waiting for my second death, when everything goes quiet.
I open one eye. Then the other. And standing in front of me is an old man wearing overalls and a flannel shirt. He’s smiling, revealing at least 8 teeth.
He’s got that ghostly glow about him.
And he says, “Now that’s how you scare someone!”
A woman’s voice laughs. Looking down the stairs, I see a ghost wearing a long, striped dress next to Carter. He’s shaking. His legs look like they’re about to give out.
“Trey. I’m never hanging out with you again.”