Appledeath

Submitted into Contest #63 in response to: Write about two characters going apple picking.... view prompt

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Fantasy Friendship Latinx

“You’re wearing the sheet.”

“For the last time, I am not wearing the sheet!” Cassian crossed his arms over his Guns N’ Roses shirt, floating beside the apple tree. His heavy sigh blew a strand of white hair out of his translucent face.

Santi scrabbled up the bark like a squirrel. “C’mon, the ghost in the sheet’s a classic.”

He popped his head through the tree, inches away from her face. “Doesn’t anyone have any respect for the dead these days?”

“Pssssh. You are such a boomer.”

“Don’t call me that! I was born after the baby boom.”

“Oh yeah? When?”

“I dunno. Like, 1975 or something.”

“Boooooomer.” Santi inched along a thick branch. Her fingers brushed against a speckled apple, making it swing. “You know, I don’t really get it. They’re just people. Ghosts, I mean.”

Cassian raised an eyebrow. “Totally. Except they’re dead.”

“Exactly! They can’t hurt you! That’s why I don’t get it.”

“Get what?”

“The ghost in the sheet. Are people afraid of the face under the sheet, or are they afraid of not seeing the face under the sheet?”

“I don’t think anyone’s scared of sheet ghosts anyway. Not since that Casper guy.”

Santi laughed and gave the apple a yank. Her face paled.

“What’s wrong?”

“BEES.” She launched the apple away from her. “IT’S GOT BEES.”

The apple exploded on the ground. An angry buzzing filled the air.

“Nope,” said Cassian. “Those are wasps.”

Santi clutched the branch, frantically looking for a way down. “THEY’RE COMING! HELP!”

Cassian drifted below her, opening his arms. “Jump! I’ll catch you!”

Santi launched herself out of the tree, falling through the ghost and onto the ground with a pained yelp.

“Oh.” Cassian stared at his translucent, misty palms. “Whoops. I forgot.”

Santi scrambled to her feet, taking off down the hill with the storm of wasps hardly a ghost’s width behind her. She did a double-take when she saw Cassian pass her, his face drawn tight and wan.

“There!” Cassian pointed to the old church graveyard. 

“Oh, excellent idea! No one will have to go very far to bury me!”

“The shed, nimrod. Any better ideas?”

“Fly me into the sun?”

“No!”

“Then lead the way, Casper!”

He floated through the low fence; she jumped. Wasps swerved between tombstones.

Santi ran through the open door and slammed it behind her. Gasping for breath, she wheezed, “Why did you run? You’re already dead, remember?”

Cassian made a face. “When they fly through me it feels like being pricked by needles of evil.”

Santi’s loud, whooping laugh cut through the empty shed. Tiny spiders skittered shyly into the shadows, startled by the noise. The light from the grime-caked window made dust glitter in the air. Mats of webs dripped from the ceiling like silky stalactites, soft like dove down. 

“Hey,” she said, “go check if they’re still out there.”

“Why me?”

“Okay, I’ll do it. They might fly through the door while I’m peeking, but I’ll—”

“I’m doing it.” Cassian stuck his head through the door. He floated back, shaking his head. “Nope. Not safe yet.”

“Well, that sucks. Now what?”

“Now we wait here and try not to wake any more needles of evil.”

“How was I supposed to know they were sleeping in the apple?” Santi brushed back her hair with a sigh. Then her eyes lit on something behind Cassian. She grinned. “Is that a trap door?”

“Oh, no. I don’t like that look in your eyes.”

“It is a trap door.” She pulled the chain, lifting the splintering wood square out of the floor. The hole spat out a puff of dirt and grit. The light set upon the first of a long line of steps. “Let’s go.”

“Let’s not.” Cassian scowled into the dark downs. “We probably shouldn’t even be here, anyway.”

Santi’s eyebrows climbed. “You scared?”

“No!”

“Then let’s go.” She tested the first step with her toe. “Seems sturdy. Follow me.”

“This is a really bad idea.”

Santi hid her grin behind her mouth as she went down the steps. “Maybe there’s a dead body down here.”

Cassian’s voice jumped an octave. “Don’t jinx us!”

“Or maybe it’s a cult’s hideout. And when they find us, they’ll shrink our heads and — hey, what’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“That noise.”

“I don’t hear anything.” Cassian tilted his head, craning his ear. “Wait, now that you mention it…”

“Is that party music?”

“No. That’s ridiculous.”

“It’s party music. Someone’s down there.” The farther down they went, the more intensely the music pulsed. “A lot of someones.”

Cassian shielded his head protectively. “I told you not to jinx us, dammit!”

“You’re dead, Casper.”

“Oh. Right.” He lowered his arms. “But it’s still bad for you! You know I can’t do anything to protect you. Everything goes right through me.”

“Don’t worry.” Santi winked at him. “I’ll keep you safe.”

“Wow. I’m totally not worried anymore.”

“Really?”

“Of course not really! We gotta bounce, like, right now.”

Santi hopped off the last step. Before them was a door with multicolored light sifting through the bottom. The music was loud enough to sing. 

She only opened the door a crack, but the music blasted it fully open. Blue light washed over them, blinding them for the few moments it took for them to take in the party scene.

Santi blinked her streaming eyes. “Whoa.”

“Radical,” whispered Cassian.

The vast basement was crammed wall-to-wall with jumping, twirling, glow stick-swinging ghosts. The air was thick with ecstasy and sub beats. As the light passed through them, they lit up like fireflies in neon shades of blue and purple.

“Let’s go check it out!” Santi charged into the crowd, passing through ghost after ghost.

“Santi, no!” Cassian took off after her only to crash into the chest of a tall, burly man. He floated back with a wince, glancing up at the phantom’s face.

The Ghost Bouncer scowled, tapping a pen against his clipboard. “I need to see some ID.”

“…ID?”

“I don’t like having to repeat myself, Chief.”

“S-Sorry, I…” I’m talking to someone other than Santi! What do I do?! “I, uh… Where are we? What is this place?”

“This is the Raveyard, and I can’t let you in unless I see some ID.”

“Like, my driver’s license? I don’t know where it is. I’ve been dead for thirty years!”

“Sorry, Chief. No ID, no entry.”

“But my friend’s in here! She’s alive!”

“Yeah, right.” He rolled his eyes. “Lemme tell you something, Chief. Any live person who’s stupid enough to stay here overnight wouldn’t be able to come back out the same way they came in.”

“What do you mean?”

Alive, Chief. They won’t come back out alive. Now get the Hell outta here.” The Ghost Bouncer picked Cassian up by his shirt collar and threw him outside. The door slammed shut.

“You think that’s going to keep me out? I’m a ghost!” Cassian hurled himself at the door. His forehead cracked against the splintery wood. “Ow?!”

He floated back, rubbing his aching head. What is this? Some kind of barrier?

“Ha.” The corner of his mouth twitched upward. His head tapped lightly against the door. “This is pathetic. I really can’t do anything, can I? I might as well not exist.”

Santi’s face floated unbidden to the surface of his mind. “Don’t worry,” she’d said, with that wicked grin and a slow wink, “I’ll keep you safe.”

“You nimrod.” Cassian smiled despite himself. “If I had your guts— If I was alive, maybe I could…”

He raised his face to the door.

“Think, Cassian, you major spaz, you. What would Santi do if she was in my position?”

Ghost Santi cackled as she put a lighter to the door. “Burn, b*tches, burn.”

“Let’s most absolutely not do that,” said Cassian. He sighed as he watched the light shift through the crack under the door. His eyes widened. “Oh. OH. WAIT UP, SANTI.”

He misted under the door, slipping back into the chaos.

The Ghost Bouncer spotted him and started floating in his direction. “Hey! The Hell did I just tell you?!”

Cassian dove into the crowd. 

“Santi!” Dancers jostled him, tossing and squeezing his ghostly form. Cassian cupped his hand around his mouth. “Santi, where are you?!” 

The party raged on, drowning him out. He lowered his hands with a groan.

“PUT YO HANDS UP!” blasted the DJ from across the room.

Shut up, already! Cassian shouldered his way through the crowd. You’re making it so much harder to… 

“I’m an idiot,” he muttered, blasting through the mob and heading straight for the DJ.

“Hey!” a woman yelped as he knocked into her.

“Watch it, kid!” her partner yelled. 

Cassian floated onto the stage, jerking a microphone off its stand. Feedback screeched, and the aura wavered.

“HELLO?” The microphone whined, and he jerked it away from his mouth. The glares of the partygoers made his heart shrivel up. He winced. “I’M LOOKING FOR A SANTIAGO CORALES?”

The Ghost Bouncer yanked him by the collar of his shirt. “There you are, you little turd! Give me that!”

Cassian held the microphone out of reach, craning his head so he could speak into it. “SANTI, WE HAVE TO GO.”

“Why?”

The crowd parted like the Red Sea, recoiling from the one living human in the Raveyard. The Ghost Bouncer’s grip loosened, and Cassian tore himself away.

Her eyes were glassy, and her voice was all wrong — as if someone had recorded her and cut away all the Santi from it.

“Why?” she asked again in that bright, hollow voice. “This place is great. I could party forever.”

“YOU CAN’T.”

“Why?”

“BECAUSE YOU CAN LIVE.”

The music stopped entirely. All eyes were on him, but the only eyes that mattered were Santi’s.

“WE—” Cassian glanced at the Ghost Bouncer. “WE GHOSTS CAN’T DO THAT ANYMORE. THAT’S WHY THE RAVEYARD IS HERE. ISN’T IT?”

The Ghost Bouncer gave a slow nod.

“THIS PLACE IS HERE SO GHOSTS CAN REMEMBER WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND. BUT YOU STILL HAVE THOSE THINGS, SANTI. YOU CAN STILL LIVE.” 

He lowered the microphone and floated off the stage. He hovered in front of Santi, staring into her terrible hollow eyes. 

“Please,” he said. “If you have any respect for the dead, please cherish your life.”

Santi blinked. “Okay.” 

She held out her hand. Cassian’s hand passed through hers when he closed his fingers, but he could feel her energy. Her life, beating away into the palm of his hand.

Her face cracked into a grin. “Let’s go, Casper.”

October 17, 2020 03:11

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10 comments

10:21 Oct 18, 2020

The Raveyard — that's a stroke of genius. 😂

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Ari .
18:26 Oct 18, 2020

Thanks!

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Ariadne .
05:20 Oct 17, 2020

OMG, this is SO good. I found no mistakes. The idea of Cassian and Santi being friends despite her being alive and him a ghost is so cool. Well done! ~Ria

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Ari .
06:19 Oct 17, 2020

Thanks so much! At first, I was afraid it’d be too far-fetched, but I had so much fun with them that I couldn’t resist. They just resonated so much with my own friendships. So I’m really glad you enjoyed the story!

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Rachel Macmorran
19:22 Oct 19, 2020

Really well done. You timed the reveal of Cassius being a ghost perfectly, just after we had made the assumption they were two, uh, living people, but early enough that we had time to adjust before the real action of the story. The only critique I could find to offer is that occasionally, the dialogue feels a little too scattershot, and one or two consolidations might make the whole run smoother. For example: “Pssst. You are such a boomer.” “Don’t call me that! I was born in 1975–way after boomers.” “Booooomer.” Sometimes short dialo...

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Ari .
21:59 Oct 19, 2020

Thanks for calling me out! Lately I’ve been trying out some things to see what works and what doesn’t. I liked my approach to this story’s dialogue better than last week’s, but it looks like I still have some ways to go! So thanks for pointing that out for me (: I’ll definitely try to smooth over the dialogue. Anyway, I’m really glad you liked the story! And thanks again for the feedback!

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Rachel Macmorran
16:51 Oct 20, 2020

Oh gosh, I hope it didn’t feel like “calling out”! I thought the dialogue was great—very much how people actually speak to each other. But I’m always looking for something to improve. And I thought that, while this represents actual conversation pretty well, sometimes actual conversation can seem disjointed in written form. Just a small thing, overall It was great!

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Rachel Macmorran
16:51 Oct 20, 2020

Oh gosh, I hope it didn’t feel like “calling out”! I thought the dialogue was great—very much how people actually speak to each other. But I’m always looking for something to improve. And I thought that, while this represents actual conversation pretty well, sometimes actual conversation can seem disjointed in written form. Just a small thing, overall It was great!

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Ari .
17:09 Oct 20, 2020

I think it’s great that you’re honest about what works, and I really am glad that you pointed that out. I’m trying to get better every day, and it helps a whole lot when someone pinpoints something I can tweak a bit.

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Rachel Macmorran
17:58 Oct 20, 2020

Great! I’d love to get your feedback on my story if you have time. I, too, love a good critique!

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