An Unexpected Friend

Submitted into Contest #94 in response to: Start your story with someone accepting a dare.... view prompt

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Adventure Fiction Thriller

“I dare you to visit the poolside room tonight. Alone” said Alice, failing miserably to contain her delight. For the past fifteen minutes, we both had been arguing ferociously. Alice had waited until the right moment to toss the dare in my face, fully aware of my inability to back out of one.


A ghost was said to be haunting the poolside room. Even during the day, the children of our area avoided it, and used the public washroom instead. The parents of the children had duly notified the pool authorities. One of the lifeguards was assigned to explore the room. However, all complaints stopped when the frightened guard quit the very next day. Since then, the poolside room was declared to be the personal headquarters of the ghost. By giving me such a dare, Alice had very cleverly trapped me.


“Alright then. But if I win, your personal chauffeur will drive me around for an entire month.”


She snorted and stomped off, leaving me to ponder over my stupidity. 

I feel like I must give you some of the background details at this point. The antagonist of our story is a meanie named Alice Rowlatt. She and I have had a feud going on for years. No one, not even me, knows the cause behind this age old animosity, which sparked off as mere insults thrown at each other and has now escalated as far as public humiliation. Alice’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother, who furnishes her with expensive gifts every now and then. At the age of 14, she owned her own car and driver. I, on the contrary, am not so lucky. My parents try very hard to make ends meet, and I have to use the local bus for commuting. This leaves us with only one character yet to be introduced. The most perplexing, yet amazing character. 


My dinner was a blur. Now, when I look back, I can vaguely remember what I gulped down or what exactly my Mom was lecturing me about. No sooner did I finish washing the dishes, as was the regular custom in my house, I raced to my room upstairs. All the things I had planned to take lay splattered on the bed - a torch, a chilli pepper spray (just in case, although I had no idea how it would affect a ghost), a camera (for proving my presence in that haunted place), a bag of chips (you never know when you might get hungry) and a bottle of water. I hastily stuffed these things in my bag, dumped it under the bed and lay inside my blankets, pretending to be asleep. I must have actually fallen asleep,because the next time I opened my eyes, my watch, with its screen broken, read 1 am. I scooted down on tip-toes, closing the door softly behind me. Once outside my home, I was finally free. 


I ran forward, mostly to avoid the scary thoughts that would creep into my mind lest I should walk at my own leisure. The silence in the streets was deafening. Occasionally, I was greeted by a barking dog, while at times, the street light flickered dangerously. I kept running, and I could hear my pounding heartbeat echoing. The pool was deserted, and the guard sitting outside was dozing in his chair. I ran over to the other side and jumped over the edge. Landing with a thud, I glanced cautiously at the guard, who still snored peacefully. 


Walking to the room, I felt my sweaty palm clutch my rucksack, my knuckles going white. I knew my step was faltering and could hear Alice laugh mockingly at my discomfort. I am not sure what kept me going, but the walk seemed to last for ages. Beside me, the pool reflected the starry sky, it’s water calm and tranquil. This seemed unusual, for the community pool was always flocked by overly enthusiastic children, me being one of them. The floor was wet, and prevented my shoes from making loud noises. 


I gripped the cold knob of the room. Turning it made a squeaky sound, indicating it hadn’t been opened in ages. With cautious steps, I went inside, the gleam of the torch moving fitfully across the room. The lockers were on one side, all closed, looking frightful in the dim light. There were two rooms opposite it, meant for changing. Clambering up to the switches, I switched on the light, surprised to find it working. I looked around, it was strangely calming. I had successfully completed my dare and busted the myth of the ghost. Removing my camera, I clicked a couple pictures of myself and the deserted room. Soon, I would be driving around in an air-conditioned car. Better yet, the look on Alice’s face would be priceless. I was snickering soundlessly, immersed in my thoughts, when the lights flickered. 


Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind it. Voltage fluctuation was quite frequent in our locality. However, now, it sent a chill down my spine. My hair stood at their ends. I knew I was doomed when I heard a voice behind me- not very loud, but it reverberated in the stillness of the room. Nervous and scared to the bone, I turned around. I felt an adrenaline rush, and my feet prepared to run for dear life. However, the next word spoken seemed to pin my feet to the ground. 


“Please”


The helplessness of the voice initiated something in me. I squirmed, trying to see something, failing miserably.


“Who is it?” I mumbled, only to realize that the voice had hardly escaped my throat. I repeated it again, with feigned confidence. 


“You know who I am” replied the voice, sounding like a teacher trying to explain a difficult algebra concept to a preschooler.


“The...The ghost?” 


“I prefer Albert, but yes, I am the ghost.” He laid a special emphasis on the ‘The’ making it sound weird.


“Why can’t I see you?” No sooner had I said it than I realized how stupid I sounded asking it to a ghost.


“You, missy, cannot seem to stop asking questions. However, if I must tell you, you can see me, your eyes just don’t want to. But you seem like a decent person. The earlier guy, now, he was something. Barged in here like he owned the place, in a stinking uniform, mind you. I like your attire better, I must admit. Is it the new fashion out there? But that watch looks broken, if you ask me. Though I ain’t sure why you’ll ask me. Not much of a style expert, am I? In my defense, I haven’t been out in quite a while now, haven’t I? Let’s see, the last time….”


However, I stopped listening to his rambling halfway through. I had just realized a tiny detail- I couldn’t see him while he could clearly see me, which meant that I was in a vulnerable position. He must have understood that his listener was no longer attentive, and stopped mid-sentence abruptly. After a short pause, he said,


“Don’t mind me, missy, you see, I haven’t had a visitor in quite a while.”


“Yeah, I know the feeling.” I don’t know what made me say it. Why was I discussing my social life with a ghost? Then again, he seemed good, and friendly, not to mention, in a similar position. Even as I thought this, I had a feeling that I was being intently stared at. I backed down, a bit conscious. A silence had settled. A gloomy silence. 


Suddenly, my cracked watch started beeping. A harsh noise, to break the ice. 


“Ahhhh, missy, stop it, puh-leasee” shouted the ghost. I immediately obeyed, managing to steal a look at the time through the broken glass. It was past two thirty. My excursion had taken longer than expected.


“Umm...I must go, ” I said, wondering how to take leave of a ghost. Then again, I doubt anyone had done it earlier. 


“Oh yes. Yes, you must, mustn’t you? They always do. I wish you could stay. You’re really sweet, I must say. If only I could reward you. Nice to know there are good people out there, you know? Relieving, really. Anyways, this is goodbye, I see.” 


“Yes, goodbye” I muttered, scurrying out, “and sire, there are lots of good people out there.” If ghosts can smile, I swear Albert just did.


As I reached forward, I slipped, barely managing to stand on my feet. I left the room, not looking back once, and skipped all the way back. It had been a pleasant encounter. Why do people think ghosts are scary? 


I climbed in my bed, still on cloud nine. Exhausted, I dozed off. 


I was greeted by golden rays of sunshine. No sooner had I opened my eyes than memories of the previous night rushed to me. Getting dressed, I decided to have one look at the pictures that would confirm my courage. To my utter surprise, all the photos of the changing room had vanished. No single trace of proof to show Alice. I felt my nerves tingling. Was it just a dream? It felt so real. Was Albert my own imagination? Had I lost the bet? The last thought hit me with a pang of disappointment. 


I braced myself. It’s just one small dare. She would probably forget it. Unable to convince myself, I slung my bag over my shoulder and snatched my watch from the bedside table, not wanting to miss the bus. As I stole one look at the time, I was surprised to see the glass repaired. Not even a single crack. 


The words of Albert came rushing back to me. He wanted to reward me. Maybe, yesterday night wasn’t a dream after all!


May 21, 2021 20:31

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4 comments

Priya Senapati
14:12 May 28, 2021

You are just mind-blowing. Can you please say me this story is of how many words

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Prisha Vadhavkar
17:56 May 28, 2021

Thank you! The story is of approximately 1600 words.

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Sherly Fuentes
17:03 May 25, 2021

Reminds me a bit of ''Casper the friendly ghost.'' Such a nice ghost story.

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Prisha Vadhavkar
17:57 May 28, 2021

Thank you. Glad you liked it

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