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I wanted to try something I'd never tried before, and I also wanted to bring situations like ones in the book to discussion- not that ghosts come asking for help or anything, but what happens to Skylar has certainly happened to others, although it shouldn't. And maybe if this is talked about, it can make others more aware of these types of horrid situations.
“Alright, we should go,” I whispered to my sister, Gianna, as the movie ended. Carlie and Elena, two girls I had met through math and eventually became friends with, were asleep on the couch. Nate Taylor was somewhere in his kitchen, undoubtedly looking for some form of junk food in the cabinets. Gianna rose slowly, rubbing her eyes.
“That movie was boring,” she said. I shrugged, walking to the kitchen.
“Nate, buddy, we’re heading out.” Nate turned around, shoving a cookie in his mouth.
“See you at school, Cade,” he mumbled, pieces of cookie falling to the ground. Gianna had already gone out to the car, so I quickly pulled my sneakers on and ran out the door. Although hours had passed since we’d been outside, it was still pouring down rain. It was the first real storm of fall. I didn’t really mind the rain, though. In some ways, I enjoyed it. As I put the key into the ignition, lightning illuminated the sky.
“Wow, the weather’s really getting bad. Do you think we’ll lose power?” Gianna asked.
“I doubt it,” I disagreed, shaking my head. I hoped we wouldn’t lose power. I had an essay due Monday, and I hadn’t even started it. If we lost power for the weekend, I was screwed.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a storm like this,” she frowned.
“How’d you like your first high school party?” I asked, trying to change the subject as I drove down the highway.
“It wasn’t much of a party,” she laughed.
“It would’ve been if everyone showed up,” I pointed out.
“Just another thing the weather ruined,” she murmured.
“You got to see Carlie. You guys are friends right?”
“Kind of,” she shrugged, “I mean, she’s nice and all, but we’re just in different crowds.”
“Crowds aren’t really a thing in high school,” I said.
“Oh, sure they are. I’ve been in school for a month now and I know that much. I swear, you aren’t meant for high school.” I didn’t answer after that. She was right. Gianna was only a freshman and she was already so much more involved than I’ve ever been. She made varsity for volleyball, and she was always at every football game, cheering on from the stands, an embodiment of school spirit from head to toe. I did well in my classes, and I was on varsity for football, but I wasn’t Gianna. I didn’t go to all the pep dances. All of it seemed so silly to me. I just wanted my diploma. I didn’t need to do extra things. Maybe I did. Maybe I needed to go to the basketball games when Nate Taylor invited me, and maybe I needed to join a club and go to the pep rallies.
Gianna’s voice pulled me away from my thoughts. Frantically she yelled, “You idiot, hit the brakes!”
My eyes quickly fixated on a figure standing in the middle of the road. I pressed against the brakes as hard as I could. I closed my eyes. We were going to hit them. I killed someone. I was a killer. I’d never go to college. I’d go to jail. My sister would hate me. My parents would disown me. I was a killer. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes.
To my astonishment, the figure stood right in front of the car, her eyes wide and full of surprise, but not fear. She was drenched head to toe, shivering in the cold rain. She opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but quickly shut it. She turned after a minute, running off the road into the dense woods. I swung my car door open immediately. I couldn’t just let her run away. I almost hit her. I had to at least apologize. And where was she going anyway? The next road with houses had to be a mile away.
“Where are you going? Are you crazy? Get back here!” Gianna shouted. I didn’t listen. I ran into the woods. There was no light. I had left my phone in the car. It was completely pitch black as I stumbled through, trying my best not to fall.
“Hello? Miss?” I called out. There was no answer. Again, I called, “Hello? Miss? Are you hurt?” After a few minutes of silence, I backed out of the darkness and got back into the car.
“You’re crazy. You’re seriously crazy, you know that?” Gianna said with annoyance.
“She could’ve been hurt,” I pointed out in a quiet tone.
“She also could’ve been a murderer! Who goes out walking in this kind of weather?” She crossed her arms as she spoke. I could tell she was afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid after their brother had almost run someone over?
“Let’s just get home,” I said, starting the engine.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” Gianna murmured, shutting her bedroom door. I pulled a glass from the kitchen cabinet, turning on the faucet. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. My head jerked, my eyes wide. My parents weren’t supposed to be home for two more days. Hesitantly, I made my way to the door. Again, someone knocked. It was louder this time, more urgent. I reached for the knob, turning it open. As I opened the door, my stomach dropped. There she stood, her hair black as night, sopping wet. She was shivering, as if she’d been in the cold for hours. She looked so familiar. I knew her. She was the girl I’d almost hit.
“Do I know you?” I asked. She rolled her eyes.
“Don’t play dumb,” she said, “You know who I am.”
“H-how did you-” She cut me off.
“That doesn’t matter. Can I come in? I’m freezing,” she asked, wrapping her arms around herself like they were a blanket.
“I don’t think that’s a smart idea.”
“Look, you almost hit me with your car, so I think you telling me I can’t come in isn’t a smart idea on your part.” I opened the door and stepped aside, letting her walk in. She took off her jacket, hanging it up on one of the little hooks on the wall. I was at a lost for words. Thirty minutes ago, I had almost killed her. Now, she was shutting blinds in my house and turning off lights.
“What are you doing?” I asked, bewildered.
“Shh. We have to be quiet. We don’t have much time.”
“Time? Time until-”
“There’s too much to explain right now. I’ll tell you later.”
“Well, I don’t understand-”
“You don’t have to.”
Frustrated, I yelled, “Would you stop cutting me off?”
Suddenly, thunder rumbled, the house shaking slightly. She whispered, “Oh, you’ve done it now.”
The lights went out, only for a moment, then turned back on. The girl--I hadn’t even learned her name-- was gone. There was a knock at the door. This time, though, it was coming from the back door. Something was keeping me still. I couldn’t move to the door, though the incessant knocking was turning into violent bangs. My mind was in a million places. Why hadn’t I just paid attention on the road? How did she find my house? Where did she go? Who was banging at my door now? And why at the back door?
“It’s going to be okay. Just don’t say a thing. He’ll be able to hear you,” the girl whispered, appearing right in front of me. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She smiled reassuringly, reaching for my hand. I flinched at her touch. Her hands were like ice. Abruptly, the banging stopped. She sighed in relief, walking around and opening the blinds.
“What if it, er, he comes back?” I asked.
“Oh, he will. Not for another few hours, I’d say,” she said in a nonchalant tone.
“Well, do you mind telling me who the hell he is?”
“It’s not important, really.”
“But it is! I deserve to know what’s going on!” I yelled. Her eyes widened and she grabbed my arm. Again, I flinched at her cold hand.
“Calm down. There’s no need to yell. I’ll...I’ll tell you, but you need to promise me not to freak out,” she begged. I nodded, sitting down on the couch. She stood, pacing back and forth.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity for her to speak. Her eyes stayed fixated on the ground. Something seemed to be missing from them, as if the life had been pulled out from the swirling oceanic blue. She let out a shaky breath, finally looking up.
“Four years ago, I went out this night. The weather was just as bad, if not worse. My mom begged me not to leave, rambling on about how she had some sort of bad feeling. I didn’t listen. I should have, but I was stubborn. I thought she just didn’t trust me, and I wanted to prove that I was responsible. So, I left. There was a party at..someone’s house. I can’t remember right now. My memory is getting worse and worse every year. The first year, everything was so clear. I knew who did it, but I couldn’t find them. They were still in your world, I think. The second year, things got blurry, and they showed up, and my fear got worse. I had to learn how to hide from them,” she explained, looking off into the distance.
“What..what happened to you?” I asked, trying to keep her on topic.
“I was killed,” she said in a blank, lifeless voice.
“But..that’s not possible. If you were killed, how are you here? How can I see you?” I questioned in shock.
“Ghosts aren’t just make believe, Cade,” she pointed out with a sad smile.I wanted to ask how she knew my name, but I decided against it. She sighed, “I guess I should explain the rest. Like I said, my memories getting worse. I don’t know why. I think I’m running out of time, or something, but I do know it was my fault that this happened to me. If I don’t find him tonight, I don’t know if I’ll ever move on. You need to help me.”
“Help you? How? We have nothing to go off. You can’t remember what it is. And you haven’t even told me your name, so it’s not like I can even try-”
“My name is Skylar. Could that help?” Suddenly, something clicked in back of my brain. Someone in my life had once talked of a runaway girl named Skylar. A girl they knew well, who suddenly disappeared one night. Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t run away.
“I’ve heard of you before. Does...Does the last name ‘Taylor’ ring a bell?” I asked. Her eyes widened.
“Yes. Oh my God, do you know who killed me? Has someone confessed to you?” she questioned, grasping my arm tightly.
“No! Nobody confessed to anything. But I think I know someone who can help.” As I reached for my car keys, I remembered that Gianna was sleeping just down the hallway. I couldn’t leave her alone, especially with the possibility of whoever was at the back door coming back.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go. I don’t know how much time I even have left,” she urged, but I didn’t move.
“My sister. I can’t leave her alone here. What if-”
“He always follows me. He won’t touch her, I promise.” I nodded hesitantly, quickly grabbing a notepad from the kitchen drawer and scribbling down a letter for her incase she woke up. As we ran out the door, thunder rumbled quietly. Her eyes widened. Taking that as a sign, I hurried into the car, starting it quickly.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” she whispered under her breath. A chill went down my spine. When she whispered, she sounded so much more ghost-like. Her voice was always faint, occasionally faltering, much like a radio station that you can’t quite tune into. Still, her whispers were something that could make even the toughest man jump.
“So, if you’re a ghost, why are you in the car with me?” I asked curiously as I pulled myself out of my thoughts.
“What do you mean?” she raised an eyebrow, amusement in her eyes.
“Can’t you just like...float?”
She laughed, “I could, yes. It probably doesn’t look like what you think it does, though. Anyways, I thought that me floating alongside your car might have been unsettling for you.”
“Yeah, it probably would have. I’m not the bravest,” I shrugged.
“Really? That’s surprising,” she said.
“I’m just not a risk taker. I stay safe.”
“Well, you seem pretty brave to me. Not many would drive a dead girl to go help her confront her dead murderer.” I laughed at her comment, although it was one of the darkest forms of humor. The thunder rumbled again. I pressed down harder of the gas, wishing we could get there faster.
“You said he wouldn’t come back for awhile,” I said, raising my voice over the engine.
“I don’t know what’s happening!” she cried, looking behind us in horror as if she could see something that I couldn’t. I pressed as hard as I could, the speed meter moving rapidly. I prayed that we wouldn’t get pulled over for this. She didn’t seem concerned about how fast we were going. Then again, a ghost would be the last person to get scared in a life threatening situation. Luckily, we were almost there.
“Just a few more minutes!” And then, the speed meter started to slow down.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“I’m out of gas,” I said hopelessly, “When the car comes to a stop, we have to run!”
“No, just hold onto my hand.”
“What? How is that going to help?”
“Just trust me.” And all of a sudden, the doors of the car swung open, and she grabbed my hand. I closed my eyes tightly, wind blowing violently around me as if I was caught up in a hurricane. As quickly as the wind has started, it had stopped. I forced myself to open my eyes, shocked as I stared at Nate’s house.
“That’s impossible. We were a mile away.. How did we get here so quickly?” I asked, bewildered.
“Ghosts don’t work the way you think they do,” she said in a nonchalant tone. She walked past me, walking up the stairs. I followed behind as she banged on the door.
“Can you keep in mind that he didn’t do this?” I whispered.
“You don’t know that,” she hissed in an icy tone. Nate swung the door open, eyes wide.
“S-Skylar? Oh my God. You were dead! I saw you- How did- Oh my God,” he rambled, hugging her. Her arms stayed at her sides.
“I am, actually,” she clarified.
“What?” he asked, his voice faltering.
“I am dead. And I think you know why. So tell me, Nate, what did I do that you decided to do this to me?” She questioned, her eyes becoming cold and dark.
“Skylar..Is this a joke? What’s going on?”
“It’s not a joke, Nate. Tell me. Now.” She grabbed hold of his arm. He tried to pull away, but she didn’t let go. He looked at me, panic in his eyes, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen in place, watching in horror as her anger morphed her into the monster I had tried not to picture. Her face hollowed out, her eyes turning into two black pools of nothing.
“Stop!” I shouted. Her head snapped in my direction, her look sharp and merciless. I spoke calmly, trying to sound brave, “He didn’t do this. Don’t waste your time doing this. You’re already running out of it, remember?”
She let go of his arm, stepping back. Her hands fell to her sides, and her eyes returned to their lifeless blue. She didn’t cry, but the pain was there. If she was alive, and if she had been able to cry, then she would’ve been a mess. Nate was in full shock, sitting on the steps of the stairs. Truthfully, I didn’t know how I was handling it so well.
“I’m sorry, Nate..” she whispered, clearly ashamed. I heard thunder in the distance, and I immediately tensed. My mind was racing, trying to think of what would help jog Skylar’s memory. She needed to remember. Then, a memory hit me: Nate and I sitting together on the couch, looking through photos of his brother, Cory, after he died, and looking at a picture of Cory smiling, his arm wrapped around a girl with teal blue eyes and dark hair.
“Nate! Where are those photo albums? The ones that has your brother in them?” I asked, shaking him until he looked at me.
“Uh, under the stairs, why?” he replied, dazed. I ran to the little door, swinging it open and rummaging until I found the books labeled “Cory.” I handed them to Skylar and we rushed to the dining room. I flipped the pages open, skipping through each page until I found the picture. I pointed at it, and she looked over. She gasped. It was her. I had been right. She grabbed my hand as the room morphed around us.
Suddenly, there were a plethora of people around us. On the table, a game of beer pong was set up. Music was blasting, and in the corner of the room, Cory stood, leaning towards a dark haired beauty as they laughed. We were frozen, unable to move, but gravity seemed to push us towards them. We couldn’t speak. We just watched the scene play out.
“I didn’t think you’d come tonight, Sky,” Cory admitted, smiling his famous, cheesy smile.
“Well, my mom was pretty adamant on me staying home, but I couldn’t miss out on seeing you.” She grabbed his hand, sighing contently. Even the most oblivious person could tell she liked him, and it wasn’t hard to tell that he felt the same way.
“Do you want to, uh, go to the game room? Just so we can hear each other better,” he shouted over the blaring music.
“Sure,” she agreed, walking with him up the stairs. We followed behind, still unable to speak. We walked into a dimly lit room, two lamps on inside the room. I looked around, knowing this room well after hours of playing Call of Duty with Nate. Cory shut the door, turning back to Skylar with a smile.
“You know why I brought you up here, right?” He asked. She crossed her arms, her whole mood seeming to change.
“Look, Cory, I like you a lot, but I’m not that kind of girl, so maybe I should just-”
“I like you too. A lot, actually,” he loomed over her, and she backed up into the corner of the wall.
“I think I should leave.” She tried to push past him, but he stopped her. I could feel the terror that was consuming Skylar. I had never seen Cory like this. He had always seemed so calm and friendly, but now he looked more and more like a monster as the time went on. She tried to scream for help, but he wrapped his hand around her mouth. Things quickly took a turn for the worst.
“Sky, calm down! You’re fine, I’ll take care of you, I prom-” Before he could finish his sentence, Skylar grabbed a lamp off the table, slamming it against his head. Blood trickled down his face, and in that moment I realized what the little scar on the right side of his face was really from. It was not from a highly competitive game of football, as he had once bragged about to Nate and me, but it was from Skylar, fighting to leave the room. If he wasn’t already angry, he definitely was now. She ran for the door but was pulled back violently by Cory. She screamed again, but nobody came. Couldn’t anyone hear her? People had to have been standing just outside the door, and, still, no one came to help her. He dragged her out to the balcony by her hair as she let out another blood curdling scream.
“You just need some fresh air, sweetheart,” he cooed, although the words came out like venom, filled with bitterness and anger. She nodded, not looking at him and not moving. He stayed standing, looking out to the woods in his backyard. Suddenly, she kicked her foot against his knee, causing him to fall down in pain. She stood, running for the doors, but he wrapped his arms around her waist. As if I was watching in slow motion, I saw detail by detail what happened next:
Skylar yanked desperately at his locked arms in her last attempt for freedom. Cory held her with one arm, slamming her head against the door-- why he felt the need to do that to keep her there still doesn’t make sense to me, but the Cory I was witnessing didn’t make sense, either-- with his free hand. She blinked a few times, as if she was about to lose consciousness. He tried to pull her away from the door. Unfortunately, he didn’t know his own strength. She hit the balcony ledge, the wind knocking out of her immediately. Shock consumed her face, not having enough time to process what was happening before she hit the ground with a loud bang.
“Oh my God,” Cory whispered, “What did I do? What did I do?!” He sprinted downstairs, running to Skylar’s side. It didn’t matter how fast he had run. Skylar was dead the second she hit the ground. If Cory had not shut all the blinds before the party started, everyone would have seen Skylar hit the ground. Everyone would have known what he did. Fortunately for Cory, everything always went the right way for him. Panicking, he dragged Skylar’s lifeless body to the old shed in the back. The blood from her head covered his shirt. Tears ran down his face as the reality of what he had just done set in. He collapsed to the ground, holding Skylar in his arms, rocking back and forth.
In an instant, we were back in Nate’s dining room, alone in the dim lighting. Skylar was shaking, undoubtedly upset. I hugged her, although I knew nothing could help her feel better. Nate walked in, confusion in his eyes.
“You guys okay? You were staring at the wall for like half an hour,” Nate said. Skylar’s eyes widened.
“Half an hour? He’ll be here soon,” she realized.
“Looks like you’ll be confronting him, then,” I said.
“But..I-I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do yet! What if-”
“When you see him, you’ll know,” I told her reassuringly. She nodded, taking a deep breath. Thunder rumbled loudly.
“Do I even want to see whatever happens?” Nate asked, obviously scared.
“Probably not..Just, um, go to your room?” I suggested. Nate laughed uneasily.
“This better just be a really weird dream, Cade. You better not tell me on Monday that this actually happened,” he warned.
“Just a weird dream,” I agreed. He ran up the stairs. Suddenly, there was a loud knock at the back of the door. Skylar nodded, giving me the signal to open the door. As if he’d never been dead, Cory stood at the door. The only way I could tell that something was off was because he didn’t smile and his brown eyes were now a golden, eerie bronze.
“I know what’s going on, Cory. I’m here for, uh, moral support.”
“That’s…” he paused, “kind of weird.”
“Is anything about this situation not weird?”
He shrugged, moving past me. I didn’t object. He stopped as soon as he saw her, and the silence felt much more painful than before. She was angry again, but she didn’t look as monstrous as she did when she’d confronted Nate. Maybe it was just because I had seen what made her so angry, so it seemed fitting for her to hold so much hate for Cory.
“Skylar...You finally stopped running.” His smile made my stomach twist.
“I don’t need to run anymore. I’m not afraid of you.” Her voice was clear, much more confident than it had been minutes ago.
“Good. So, you finally forgive me?”
She laughed bitterly, shaking her head. Glaring, she said, “No. I’m never going to forgive you for that. What you did...I’ll never understand why.”
“Let me show you, then,” he insisted. He looked at her, and, once again, the room changed.
We were in Corey’s room now. Tears streamed down his face as he held his dad’s pistol in one hand. He picked up his phone, putting it on speaker as he dialed a number.
“Hey, it’s Skylar. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you,” the voice rang like a bell, full of cheer and happiness. Then, there was a small beep followed by silence. Cory sobbed uncontrollably. It was hard to watch. He had bags under his eyes, making it clear he hadn’t slept in days. I never noticed a difference in Cory. The bags were never there when I saw him. How could I have missed that? Was it really so obvious that he was coming to this sort of conclusion, and somehow we all didn’t see? He ended the call and buried his head in his hands.
“It’s all my fault,” he groaned. He raised the gun, placing it against his temple. I looked away. I couldn’t watch anymore. A few moments passed, and then we were back in the dining room.
“I already knew about that. It changes nothing.” Her voice was cold, her expression not changing, not even in the slightest.
“How? I felt so awful about what I did to you. I know it was wrong, okay? That’s why I’ve been trying to find you, but you kept running away-”
“That’s not true!” She yelled.
“It is, though. I just want you to forgive me, so we can both move on,” he begged.
“We can’t though. You know that. I want justice. I want revenge. All you’ve ever wanted was to get rid of me for good. That’s always been your goal, and I won’t let you get your way. Not again.” She was gone in an instant. Cory’s golden eyes turned into a deep red as he slammed his hand on the table, shouting angrily.
“Damnit! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING NOW?” His voice almost hurt my ears with the sheer volume of it. I felt sick to my core as he shouted. Hearing him that angry made my entire body feel like I’d just ate a bowl of rat poison for dinner, washed down with a glass of arsenic. As soon as she had left, she was back. In her hand, she held a small ceramic shard. Cory’s eyes widened, his powerful demeanor deteriorating as he stepped back.
“W-where did you find that?” He asked.
“It wasn’t hard to find myself after I watched you drag me to the shack after I fell. Really, Cory, I thought you would’ve found a smarter place to hide me after the accident, or at least your dad might’ve thought about somewhere better, but no. Right behind the shed, with everything broken from that night, touched by me, every single memory of me. As if I never existed.” She looked almost sad as she smiled at him. I could understand, knowing the situation. At one point, they had been a crucial part of eachothers lives, and then it was like she never was alive. She shook her head, as if shaking the memories off, and said, “I guess it’s a good thing, though. Now that I have something that I used on you that night, I can end this for good.”
“Please stop this, Skylar. Please! I..I didn’t want you to be gone. I didn’t! But you never listened to me. I begged you to listen, to just stay with me. I would’ve taken good care of you, but you refused to stay. Why’d you have to go and ruin it, Sky?” He fell to his knees, grabbing her empty hand.
“That’s the thing, Cory: you never did know what no meant.” Before Cory had time to react, she dug the shard into his scar from that night. He howled in pain as a bright light consumed the room. I stared at Skylar as she smiled brightly at me. Her eyes, for once, seemed full of happiness. She had nice eyes when they weren’t sad. They weren’t empty anymore. They were soulful. The light got brighter, and then it extinguished altogether. Cory and Skylar were gone, and now I was alone in the dining room of Nate Taylor’s home.
The rest of that night was a blur. I drove home in a daze, the shock of what had happened finally hitting me. When I got home, I called the police anonymously, letting them know of Skylar’s body behind the shed. I fell asleep at an ungodly hour of the night, and when I woke up in the morning, life went on as usual. On Monday, Nate came up to me, talking about the events of the weekend.
“It’s crazy, man, knowing my own brother did that to her,” he had said, “and I know you called them. I don’t even want to know how you knew where it was. I guess it’s a story you can finally tell when you’re older, right? Somethin’ crazy that you actually did for once.”
But he was wrong. The story wasn’t mine to tell. That belonged to Skylar, and it was a story that now even she couldn’t tell. Her eyes, though. Those were something I’d remember until I died.