These Things Do Happen

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

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Fiction

The wind was sharp and biting, whipping around street corners and through open doors with a ferocity that sparked rumors of an early frost. Collars were raised against the brisk air, and paces quickened as through the cold could be outrun; tricked by a sidestep or left behind on a crowded stretch of sidewalk.


The young woman peering into a window of the corner store was dressed altogether inappropriately for the season. The short hem of her sundress and thin brown sandals would prove no match for the unrelenting chill - that is, if it had been able to find her. The breeze passed right through the woman, as did nearly everything; she was noticed even less now, as the cold shock passers-by would experience as they stepped through her was rendered unnoticeable by the dropping temperatures.


Her death had been tragic, but only due to her age. An otherwise unremarkable accident, the kind that happen too often in a distracted world. Head down, poor footing. So young. These things do happen.


She remembered that day quite clearly, which was nearly half a year ago, save for a convenient gap of roughly one hour in the middle. Best not to concern herself with that lapse in memory, she decided, avoiding newspapers and overheard conversation until the days became weeks and she began to consider that she might never hear her name spoken aloud again. These things do, also, happen.


It was a relief to discover she was not bound to her small apartment, cursed to one bedroom and a kitchenette for all eternity. She roamed the streets of the town she had, when living, chosen as home for the moment, and once or twice ventured as far away from it as she could. The more distance she put between herself and the place of her last breath, the foggier her vision became, and her limbs were weighed down as if trying to escape within a dream. Not that she dreamt anymore; but she remembered.


So this home would be home forever. No matter. She made due, familiarizing herself with the business of the town residents, and, to be perfectly honest, having a rather enjoyable time. She had always been one that longed for a certain level of seclusion, a kind of contentment that was free of responsibility and worry. She missed the taste of cinnamon and the feeling of sun on her face, but those memories would fade in time, she was certain. 


As the trees began to don their golden crowns, the whisper of autumn’s return brought with it the seed of an idea that the young woman first laughed away. Those stories were fiction, fairy tales, old wives tales spun to frighten and delight. She had always appreciated the goosebumps that accompanied them; even now, she would often join an unsuspecting family, occupy a vacant seat in their living room, and shriek alongside them as blooded terrors leapt from dark corners, albeit safely tucked away behind script and costume. As the families would clutch one another in fear, the young woman suppressed the need to reach out - there was no one to take her hand or shield her face. Not here.


The possibilities wandered through her mind as she studied a string of muslin ghosts hung in the window of the shop on the corner. All Hallows’ Eve. The one day a year the dead may walk freely among the living. Were the stories true? She had not been supplied with a handbook or an epiphany from above when she found herself in this state. Surely if the dead really joined the living on Halloween, the living would know? But, in the six months of her death, she had found there were many things the living did not know. These things do happen.


So the young woman waited, eagerly. She read over shoulders in the library; there were more ghost stories pulled off the shelves by hands eagerly seeking a scare as the days of October passed. She had to laugh at the dramatic antics of the spirits found within pages - although she would never be cruel, she had to admit she was slightly disappointed at her inability to rattle windows or fling open cupboards. Perhaps she was a bit lonely; after all, why did she so desperately hope for Halloween to hold some magic for the dead?


As the final day of October arrived at a crawl, perhaps once upon a time she would have felt her heart beating rapidly and butterflies in her stomach. Illuminated by the yellow glow of street lamps, the young woman watched the hour hand of the clock tower in town square hoist itself upward. Midnight; it was now Halloween. She waited for a change in herself, some feeling of being, of revival. A cluster of fallen leaves swirled in the wind at her feet, but her hair was not lifted in the breeze, her skin was not chilled. The quick beat of footsteps on pavement sparked a brief flash of hope, and she turned to see a figure she faintly recognized from town hurrying towards her. She raised a hand in greeting, but he pushed past her and continued on. Not past, rather, but through, just as she had come to expect over the months.


Despite feeling that she had found contentment in this existence, the young woman stifled a cry of disappointment. Had she really wanted this one day so badly, even without realizing it? Could loneliness hide, not unlike like a ghost, as a cold secret; how cruel that it showed itself now when she still could not.


The wind came again, carrying with it the sound of revelry from up the hill. Surprised by the lateness of the hour, she considered making her way up, to mingle unseen with the party-goers, who must be final stragglers of a day-early Halloween event. She began that way, drawn by the sound of singing and laughter. Nearly halfway up the path, her step faltered. Every day of the past six months the young woman had walked the streets, in and out of shops, even spending evenings in occupied homes. She had listened in on confessions of love, arguments, heartbreak. She had attended the weddings of strangers, silently clapping along as frosting was smudged onto newlywed noses and kisses exchanged. She had not felt alone, nor looked towards her never ending future with worry. But now, the thought of walking among the smiling faces and not seeing a single smile meant for her was nearly too much to bear. Even the hearts of those that are happily alone may eventually long for company. These things do happen.


With a hand to her silent heart the young woman stood frozen halfway up the hill as the party continued above, just out of reach. The feeling would pass, she was sure of it. But when?


“Glad I’m not the only one running late.”


The young woman turned with a start, meeting the green eyes of a girl around her age. She had experienced this confusion several times before, always peering closely into the face of the stranger before they passed through her, unseeing, to meet their companion. This girl would be no exception.


“Well, are you coming?”


The girl was above her on the hill now, but came to a stop and turned back with excitement.


The young woman opened her mouth to speak, unsure if she even still could. Her voice cracked from disuse and confusion, forcing out one word, “Me?”


The green-eyed girl flung a hand to her mouth, but couldn’t hide a smile. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you! I’m just terrible with faces, can’t remember anyone; you must be new.”


The young woman was now rendered completely speechless, her mouth agape and her complexion, if she had one, would have been white as a sheet.


“I know it’s odd at first, but you’ll get used to it,” the girl continued on. “The biggest day of the year, you know. The day we get to see each other.”


Struggling to find the words, the young woman shook herself. “Who is we?”


“Why the dead, of course!” Despite the unsettling phrase, the girl’s green eyes were lit with a contagious happiness. “You know what they say about Halloween, don’t you?”


“The one day the dead can walk among the living?”


“Well, that’s partially true. We’re not among the living, but we are among ourselves.” There was a warmth to what the girl was saying, a sense of love and belonging that the young woman had not realized she ached for. “Those that have passed here, from the beginning of time until now; we will all be together. And although one day a year doesn’t seem like much, when you have eternity it’s actually perf—“


“Perfect.” The young woman interjected. The dark cloud of fear and loneliness had lifted from her heart. The life of solace and contentment she wanted, and the small taste of belonging she had found she needed. Her’s would not be an existence haunted.


“What’s your name?” The green eyed girl offered her hand, and the young woman took it without fear. The two walked upwards, silhouetted by the lights ahead, seen only by them and the others they would soon join.


Beyond life, after all, these things do happen.


October 30, 2020 01:27

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1 comment

Claire Tennant
03:32 Nov 05, 2020

Cori this story explains Halloween better than anything else I have seen In doing this there was no murkiness about the day and a simple and realistic tale was told Well done

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