I walked slowly to my backyard with candles and matches under my arm. The wind howled and whistled in the trees. The dead leaves crackled under my feet. It was as dark as night. That’s probably because it was night. Halloween night to be exact.
We were planning to have a seance. It was rather strange, the way it came about. All of us, excluding Curt, had dreamt about it. I was first, last Monday. Since then, one by one, we each had the seance dream. We pretended to take this lightly, as a joke to see if our dreams were psychic or something, but we all knew how serious we were about it. We tried to keep it light so that we couldn’t admit to ourselves how spooky and terrifying it was. If only we’d truly known how terrible it would really be.
Even though Curt hadn’t had the dream, he was included. We couldn’t not inc≥lude him. He was there last Halloween when the whole thing began, along with Daniel, Alexa, Edna and I. It did bother me though, that he had no dream about it.
Last Halloween had been Sammy’s death. We had been his closest friends. He’d been Alexa’s boyfriend, and Curt’s best friend. He’d died at his own Halloween party, committed suicide actually. It was something no one could explain. No one knew why, not even us, his dearest friends. Sammy had had a practically perfect life. He was popular. He did extremely well in school. He was someone who always smiled. I’d never seen him depressed. He did well in sports. His family made good money, really good money. In fact he was rich. No one could understand why he’d killed himself. He was going to be valedictorian for godsakes. He had a great future ahead of him that included Harvard. A great future that all ended a year ago today.
You’d think that after a year had pas◊sed, so would some of the pain, but that hadn’t happened. From my grief I had no relief ever. I doubt any of us did. It seemed almost as though he still lived on to haunt us. The memories wouldn’t leave my mind. The party felt so close it could have been yesterday. I really wondered what the seance would bring. A million times I debated with myself about whether or not we should go on with it. I had to, though, because the dream intrigued me too much.
I stopped my wandering thoughts and quickly walked to the back of my yard where they were all waiting for me. I set out one candle between each person, with three in the middle of our circle as it’d been in the dream. I knew I had to be the one to speak during the seance.
“Do you really think we’re going to contact Sammy?” Alexa asked in a small voice.
“Of course not. This is all bologna,” replied Edna, trying to hide her doubts, “Right, Kaitlyn?”
“I honestly don’t know. I guess we have to wait and see,” I√ answered, very unsure.
“You guys, cut the crap. You know this is joke, nothing to take seriously,” Curt interjected with a very forced smile on his face.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about Curt. You didn’t even have the dream,” Alexa shot back, annoyed.
“Guys, guys! This is nothing to argue about. Let’s just see what happens, but don’t be too surprised if nothing does.” That was Daniel, the ever-present voice of reason. “Let’s get started.”
“Okay, everyone. Let’s sit in a circle. Hold hands. Close your eyes. Concentrate on Sammy. Think of nothing else but Sammy,” I instructed. Was I trying too hard to make reality exactly like a crazy dream? Were we all just crazy? Was Curt the only sane one? Maybe they’d only had the dream because I’d talked about it so much. Power of Suggestion or something like that. Then again the dream had been so vivid and haunting, I couldn’t just ignore it. Oops, I’d allowed my thoughts to wander∏ while I was supposed to be concentrating on Sammy.
I could see his face so clearly in my mind. This face had haunted me for a year now. It seemed like eternity. My mind kept drifting to the party. There was something about it that kept tugging on my unconscious brain, something I couldn’t quite remember, but needed to, it felt as though my life depended on this hidden memory.
A very shrill whistle of wind blew through the trees. That was our signal. “Sammy, is that you?. . . Can you give us a sign?” I spoke very softly, almost afraid of the answer. “Open your eyes,” a voice replied. I slowly did and saw that everyone else did too. “Can you give us a sign that you are Sammy?” I repeated, now very frightened.
The sky flashed purple, then red. I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight. Then I saw a figure that looked like Sammy standing off to the side. “Oh my God,” I breathed. This had gone exactly according to the drevam, and this had been where my dream had ended. I had no idea what to expect next.
“Do not be afraid, my dear friends,” Sammy’s ghost intoned. He sounded very sarcastic, not like the Sammy I’d known. In some twisted way that gave me strength. “What are you doing here, Sammy? You’re supposed to be in the grave. Why do you haunt us so much?” I knew I sounded cruel, but I didn’t care.
“Because the truth lies. The truth you believe is a lie. The real truth lies somewhere in this circle.” Again his voice was quite bitter.
“You didn’t die?” Edna asked incredulously. “But how could that be?”
For some reason Sammy’s ghost thought that was uproariously funny. He let out a loud cackling laugh that echoed through the night sky.
“I know what he means,” Daniel said quietly. He went on, as if trying not to upset Sammy, who did not seem to be in good spirits tonight.¢ (Excuse the awful pun.), “You didn’t kill yourself, did you?”
“A gold star for Mr. Genius over here.” was Sammy’s nasty reply.
“It was one of us?” I inquired, hoping to dear God that he’d reassure me that no, that was impossible.
“Two gold stars for you, Kaitlyn.”
Suddenly the party replayed itself in my mind. It had started out fine, or as fine as any party did. About a zillion people showed up and the place was packed. The music pounded in our eardrums so that we couldn’t even think. Everyone was in costume. I went as Cleopatra. Sammy had gone as Dracula; Alexa, another vampire; Daniel, the devil; Edna as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Curt as Big Bird (don’t ask me why, he’s weird). His feathers fell out everywhere.
Anyway, near midnight Sammy told us to try to begin the end of the party. After all, the party had been planned by all of us, just held at his house. I understood. Sammy’s paren≈ts were strict with him. They’d be furious if they found out about the party, but his were the only ones who’d be away that night. Then he said he’d be right back. He needed to get away from the music for a few minutes. He told us he had a pounding headache.
I started showing people out the door. I saw Edna doing the same thing. Daniel turned the music down and put away all the food and drinks, letting people know it was winding down. Some people had lingered and were asking for rides. Curt offered to drive some of them home. By 12:45 we were the only people left. We were all trying to get the place cleaned up before 1:30, when Sammy’s parents were due back from their Halloween party. “Hey, Edna, has Sammy come back downstairs yet?’ I’d asked. “I don’t think so,” she replied, “It doesn’t seem right that we are the ones cleaning up his house.” “He’s not feeling well,” I defended him, “Besides this is our party too.” She only grumbled in ›response.
“Was it Alexa? Some kind of lover’s quarrel?” Daniel guessed after a long silence, bringing me back to reality. He shot an apologetic look, as though he didn’t really want to blame her. I knew he didn’t. Sammy didn’t answer right away. Again my mind wandered.
“It could be,” I added, “She was nowhere in sight when it happened.” And I knew she had a temper, a horrible one, but still. . . This was one of my best friends I was talking about. How could she? I didn’t believe she was capable of such evil, but then again . . .
“You, Daniel, don’t get any stars for that one. I’m very glad to say you’re wrong. Here’s another hint: not only does the truth lie, but so do your friends. People aren’t always who they appear to be. Don’t look for the obvious. You don’t need to come to conclusions so soon though. The night is still very young. We are only beginning.” Sammy sure did seem to be enjoying his role.
We fell into another hushed silence, and for me thÈe party resumed where it had left off. Edna and I were vacuuming and cleaning. Daniel was trying to get rid of all Curt’s many feathers that were scattered everywhere. Sammy was upstairs trying to clear his head. No one knew where Alexa was. Curt was doing his good deed for the day and driving people home. To me that seemed odd, I had to admit. I mean he was my friend and all, but he wasn’t usually that generous. Then again, he was Sammy’s best friend.
I was cleaning up the kitchen when I heard the shot. It was deafening. At first I didn’t know what to do. Then, all at once, Daniel, Edna and I raced upstairs to where the noise had come from. That’s when we saw what had happened to Sammy. Alexa had met us a few minutes later in the room. Curt showed up five minutes later in his car, and soon found us. For a moment we all just stood there staring. Then the craziness began. Someone called the police and they arrived right away with questions that I could not answer in my Ístate of mind. Alexa was hysterical. Daniel had fainted as soon as we reached the room. Curt, too was crying. He kept saying, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand.” I just stood there in shock. Completely confused and uncomprehending. There was something about that scene that bothered me till this day. Something was terribly wrong, but I couldn’t place a finger on it. It was a possibility I hadn’t wanted to think about, so I’d pushed it away. Now I couldn’t retrieve it.
I remembered the following days just as well. The incessant interrogation of detectives only made things worse, they were invading on my pain. They had no respect for the dead, or the living for that matter. They ruled out any foul play. Alexa had been in the backyard the entire time, arguing with some people who wouldn’t leave. That’s what she told them. I had no reason not to believe her. I couldn’t even think straight. I’d been told there was no suicide note. I was asked over and over, was anyoneü else in the house? Not that I knew of. Had Sammy been at all depressed? Did he seem suicidal? Was there anything going on his life to make him resort to this? Unless a headache qualified, I didn’t know of anything. All I’d wanted was to be left alone, to grieve in peace.
Sammy interrupted my memories, saying, “Remember the parts we played that night. It’s the key to the mystery. C’mon, who will get the next star?” Looking at our somber faces he continued, “Aren’t we having fun yet?” He was tormenting us and he knew it. I wondered if the murderer was feeling even more tortured.
What did he mean about playing parts? We’d all been ourselves, hadn’t we? Then it hit me. It had been Halloween, we were all in costume. That was the key. But what did it mean.
Then the realization came. The memory that I’d hidden away so long ago and tried to retrieve now came without warning. I remembered exactly whtat I’d seen that had been so terrible: feathers, soft yellow Big Bird feathers.
“Curt,” I whispered, “but why in the devil’s name would—” I whispered.
“Oh, she is quite a good one, isn’t she? I believe you deserve five gold stars, Kaitlyn,” Sammy said quietly, his voice mixed with melancholy, resignation, and bitterness. “Although, I too, cannot figure out how or why.”
“Fools! It was so easy, it wasn’t funny! All I had to do was offer to bring people home. I finished that quickly. Then I parked a block from here, sneaked inside, did what I needed to, sneaked back out, got back in the car, drove around for a few blocks and came back to find all of you in Sammy’s room, hysterical. No one ever suspected a thing. How could they? I’d been gone the whole time!” Curt laughed heartily, as if still amazed and awed by his own stunning, cunning cleverness.
“But, but£ why?” I wasn’t even sure who asked that. It was barely audible. Maybe Edna.
“Because I hated Sammy,” he replied simply.
“And what ever did I do to you, dear friend,” was Sammy’s cold reply.
“I-I don’t really know,” Curt stammered.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Sammy’s ghost boomed, relentless.
“If I tell you, you’ll think I’m crazy.”
“I already do, old friend, so go on and try your best to redeem yourself.”
“I hated you because you had the perfect life, and you just loved to shove that down my throat! It drove me close to the point of insanity! I just couldn’t take it anymore!” That was rage if I’d ever seen it.
“You’ve got your facts messed up, just a tad, but I do say I agree with the insanity part.” Sammy laughed. “Anyway, I never shoved anything down your throat. I had a far less than perfect life. I never pretended it was perfect. You of all people should have known that. I don’t know w∑here you got these crazy ideas, but you’re deranged!” the ghost shot back.
“You want to know where I got these ideas? I guess then that I’ll have to tell you. I heard these voices in my head—please don’t think I’m crazy—that told me what to do. They started out as just whispers, they soon grew stronger and louder as time went on. Soon I couldn’t take it anymore. They pounded in my head. They told me what to do and how to do it. They said they’d go away once I listened, but they lied! They’re back and now they want me to kill Kaitlyn! I try to shut them out and ignore them, but it doesn’t work! If I didn’t kill you, Sammy, I’m sure they would have killed me.” My, the way things can change so drastically in a such a short span of time is amazing, wouldn’t you say?”
“Let me guess, they told you that, too?” Sammy inquired, mockingly.
“Wh-what are you going to do to me?” Curt asked, his voice quivering with fear.
“Exactly what you did to me.” Sammy was a very bitter ghost. Then, right in front of our eyes Sammy grabbed Curt and, ghost or no ghost, he had a strong grasp. A hole opened up in the middle of our seance circle. Sammy shoved Curt into the hole and the hole disappeared. Besides being a bitter ghost, he was powerful as well. “What goes around, comes around, buddy.”
Then Sammy was gone.
Whoa. We all looked at each other, rather shocked. “I guess our seance is over,” I said quietly. With that Daniel got up to put out the candles. “See you guys tomorrow,” Alexa said, and left abruptly. One by one everyone left. I was too tired to think, so I just fell asleep right away. I did not dream that night.
The next morning I woke up to read the paper. The story was there. It said &that Curt had committed suicide and that he’d left a note saying he couldn’t live with what he’d done to Sammy. The whole scenario at last year’s party was spelled out, this time with the truth of what Curt had done. I was sure everyone would believe it, too. It was exactly a year after Sammy’s death, it seemed the perfect time for Curt to have had a guilt attack. I wondered if detectives would come to intrude on my pain again. I hoped not. I was sad. Curt had been my friend. He’d also been crazy. I knew that now. That didn’t make everything better though. I knew I’d miss both of them for a long time, but it felt as though a burden had lifted from my shoulders. I knew that eventually I’d be okay. I’d get over it. I knew I was free of the memories that had haunted me so much. I cou%ld go on to live a normal life no longer tortured by scenes of the past.
Sometimes I still wonder if we should have had the seance at all. It killed a friend of ours. But the truth had been discovered. It may have saved the rest of us. We were all a little relieved. Probably if the dream hadn’t ended as soon as Sammy appeared, and continued on to show me what would happen, I wouldn’t have gone through with it. But in a way I was glad. Curt had been insane. He could have killed more, including me. That didn’t mean I was glad about his death or anything like that, though. I was glad Sammy’s name was cleared. When I seriously thought about it though I had to remind myself of one thing: that the seance had happened and there wasn’t anything I could do about it now, except accept it.
Following the trend of last week, this is another old story. This one was, like last week’s Night of Evils, written in 1997 when I was a junior in high school. In fact I wrote this one maybe a week or two after NoE. I feel sort of iffy posting this one–even for early work, I think this one is particularly cringe-worthy. I wasn’t going to post any of these, but you know, what the hell?
As always, for more writing samples, you can always check out the Samples page. There’s also a section for Published and more mortifying Early Work.
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- Night of Evils
- A Star is Born
- Josie – Sunshower Chapter One
- Reading Eyes and Faces