I wasn’t supposed to be outside, but Milly had messaged me, asking if I’d seen the ghost, and that just made sneaking out an even better reason.
The lake was only a mile or two up the road, but it was getting on toward winter so I took my sweater, wore m boots, and even had a small scarf wrapped around my neck. Clutched in my sweaty palm was my phone, and I was desperate to catch some evidence of this ghost or show that she couldn’t possibly exist.
Whichever happened, I would be the talk of the school, a legend, and would be free of bullies for one blissful, final year before heading off for university.
Something crunched nearby and I froze. There were other horrors that roamed the woods at night. There shouldn’t have been any wolves here (hadn’t been for decades) but there’d also been that attack the other night, and I’d heard that farmer Ben had needed to slaughter two of his dairy cows.
No damn dog had done that, my brother had thundered at home, slamming his fist on mom’s dinner table. It could’ve only been a wolf!
Maybe a coyote offered my mother, trying to play peacemaker.
Dad hadn’t said a thing, and I’d blurted out that if it was a wolf, I’d protect everyone with the gun I’d just gotten for my birthday. They’d laughed, but out here now, in the woods, by myself, my hands itched to be holding that beauty.
I didn’t hear anything else, so I started walking again, making sure to get off the road whenever a car came roaring down.
Thirty minutes? I wish I’d timed myself so I knew how long it would take to get back – but thirty minutes later, I was standing at the edge of the lake, listening to the water lap at the boats. The smell of moss was deep in this area, along with that wet-earth scent made by leaves and other detritus falling in the water and only half breaking down.
While my other senses calculated that yes, I was indeed at the lake when I should have been sleeping soundly in my room, my eyes were locked onto one thing. A bright light. Shining on the dock. Where no lights should have been.
There was more than one as well. Two ghosts then, for the price of one night sneaking out. I took out my camera and turned it on. Looking through the lens brought the light into focus.
The first one was a young girl, probably around my age. I say probably since I was short and the ghost was certainly taller than me, so she might have been younger, might have been older. Her dress was older though, and by years. She reminded me of the pictures my parents looked through when my generation did something especially stupid.
“Okay Boomer,” I chuckled to myself, knowing I’d never dare say that to my parents.
I continued to look, noting that she had only one shoe on and that her hair was wet, plastered to her clothes. I had to move closer to get the details on the other ghost.
Another woman, this one dressed in ripped jeans and sporting a ripped shirt. They had short hair, done up in spikes, and were wearing a leather jacket with studs on it.
The second ghost walked up to the first one and said something. The first one shook her head. Then she was pushed off of the pier and disappeared through one of the boats.
“HEY!” I yelled, angry that there was nothing to look forward to after death than more bullying. The second ghost looked at me and I felt the blood drain out of my face. I’d just shown them that someone was watching, I’d given them something to focus on.
I cut and run like Milly’s dog had found a rabbit.
It was when I had hit the road again that I realized hitching a ride in a car would be the best way to lose any ghost that wanted to follow me – and with that great idea in my head, I ran along the road, hoping against hope that I’d see some lights behind me, and not lights belonging to a ghost.
I kept running though, breathing steadily as coach at school had taught me, and then I let out all my worries when I was illuminated by a car. I put out a thumb, and though my heart was pounding I was happy when I heard gravel crushing slow down a little bit.
“Ey there sprout! Need a ride?”
“Boy do I ever!” My smile reached beyond both sides of my face, and I pulled myself into the backseat. The car was a classic – even my dad would’ve had a hard time finding fault with this beauty.
I sat next to an older guy and flashed a grin at him. He didn’t smile. Didn’t even look at me. Just sat there, eyes closed.
“Don’t mind him none,” said the voice in the front. “I’ve been trying to get some life back in him all day. Where you comin’ from kid?”
“Came from the lake,” I said, proud of myself for having beaten those ghosts. “Saw some ghosts too!”
“You don’t say?” There was a flash of light as he tilted the driver’s mirror. “Let’s get goin’ then, long night ahead of us.”
I nodded, then shook my head as the car BACKED. UP.
“Wait!” I said, leaning forward. There was a rush of pond smell, but I shook that scent out of my mind. “I need to keep going!”
“An’ you will sprout!” The guy laughed again. “You need to confront your fears, see those two women again.”
I felt a sickness creep into my stomach.
“Yep! Hey, cheer up kid! You’ll be joining me on my date.”
My breath caught. Slowly, I looked back up into the mirror, and this time when he looked back at me, the light didn’t fade away.
”You know the stories, right?
I shook my head.
“Guy like me was taking two girls out for a fun night. We were gonna hit the next town over, go dancing, meet up with my friend. Tomboy said she didn’t think I was a good driver; wanted to get outta my car. I let her out at the lake and shoved her in. She was being a square an’ I was lookin’ to have fun. Besides, I didn’t know the girl couldn’t swim.”
“What happened?” I asked, my voice raspy.
“Went divin’ in after her. Swear I didn’t mean it, an’ I’m not the type of guy to just… murder a woman. But she was caught by something; think it was weeds. When I surfaced I yelled for my girl to get the car closer to the lake so I could pull her friend out.”
He looked back at me.
“Whaddya think happened after that?”
“I dunno,” I whispered. They were dead, that was for certain, but how did the other girl die with them?
“My girl brought the car over, and it went over the bank. Hit the deep end. I swam over, thinkin’ I could at least save her, but we became trapped in the car together as it went into the deep. Used to be a quarry here, did you know that?”
I shook my head.
“What do you want with me?”
“How well can you swim?”