Peavey Way

Peavey Way

A Story by L.A. Carey

A ghost story that, in the end, isn't about the ghost at all.


Peavey Way
A Short Story by L.A. Carey

I want to be dead. I'm not talking about the kind of dead that people talk about where they move on to some sort of hereafter or what they've dreamed or hoped is a better place.
"The dog went to live on a farm," always sounded as believable to me as "grandma is in a better place now."
No, I want to be dead and buried. I think that's more fitting for me. It always has been, for as long as I've known myself. It's my good and deserved ending.
When my body ceases to function and I breathe my last breath, I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but I do know that I will not be moving from that spot. The mortician, or whoever plans these things for the lonely and the unnamed, will deem that to be my resting place. And I plan on resting.
The problem is that I don't know that when the day of judgement comes around, there won't be angels and their friends trying to pull me out to answer for all of my various crimes against humanity. When God arrives, He'll no doubt know where I am. But sometimes I think, maybe he'll peer down at me and say, "let's leave her be. She's comfortable down there." That feels like something He'd say.


I had a pain in the far right corner of my forehead that throbbed like something was about to burst. My two fingers trembled as I pressed them to the area of pressure and gently massaged it. My eyelids were clamped as I struggled to hear the individual words of the lecture, not wanting it all to just string together.
My efforts were wasted as my mind selected various specific words instead of concepts. "Gather," "peoples," "textbook," "colony." Every word from my professor was an audible nail in my coffin.
I had to leave.
I peeled my eyes open and looked to the guy sitting a few seats away from me. His eyes met mine and I blinked hard at his glance. "Are you okay?" He mouthed to me. I almost laughed. Did I look so bad that this sorry student felt the need to ask this? Yeah, it was time to go. Without answering the boy, I grasped my bag and rose quickly from my seat. Normally I would've given my professor an apologetic look to at least pretend like it was something urgent that was pulling me away, but no such excuses could be mustered.
I stumbled out the door, pressing my arm painfully into the handle. My feet propelled me down the hall. My mind was numb to the motion and the wind against my face.
My feet continued all the way to a study hall near the music building. I fought my desire to throw myself into one of the cushioned chairs and sleep off the filth I felt. Why did I stay out so late again? Kelly is going to be the death of me, I thought. She was so encouraging, and somehow deceptive. She never pushed me into anything.
Why was it so difficult to say no?
I glanced around to find Brandon sitting with his laptop on his knees. His headphones were perched on his temples as he stared into the screen that was comparatively small against the backdrop of his long, thin torso. He was a tower in any chair he sat in.
I plodded ungracefully to the seat adjacent to his and sat.
"Aren't you supposed to be in class?"
"Screw it." My fingers pressed shakily against my closed eyelids and I leaned my head back into the wooden edge of the chair. My breathing sounded so loud in the silence of the hall. I tried to stifle it by breathing through my nose. It was working to relax me very quickly.
"Lauren," I heard him say faintly, but my body didn't have the motivation to acknowledge it.
"Lauren," a kick to my foot caused my eyes to crack open, revealing a stinging light that I had already lost adjustment to.
"I heard you. What?"
"What are you doing tonight?" I blinked at him. Probably something with Kelly, I thought. There was no variation in that these days. I wondered why she hadn't texted me yet to present her plans.
"Are you asking me out?" I asked, glancing at his legs. I loved those long legs. They were one of the only good parts of him.
"I'm afraid not. Simon still doesn't have your number so he told me to invite you."
"Invite me to what?" My shoulders felt a little tense. Was I forgetting something?
"Simon wanted to tell us all something."
"Who is 'us all'?"
"You, me, Kelly, Josh," His voice was so monotone. It would be so easy to fall asleep to it. I forgot for a moment that I was obligated to answer him.
"If Kelly's going then I'll go."
"Then you're going." He replied quickly, without looking at me. I nodded and pulled my hood down over my eyes. As long as Brandon was there, I wouldn't be worried about somebody messing with me if I fell asleep in public. My eyes fluttered closed. I could faintly hear his fingers clicking against his keyboard.

I have this odd sense that I'm giving in: Not just in moment-to-moment situations, but in my very existence. There's some kind of force that's always been pulling me, but it’s never been sure. I don’t know. I’ve never been especially talented in anything. I’ve never been dedicated to specific causes.There have been few consequences because of my lack of speciality, and I've been so compliant about the ride until recently. Now that I feel like I might be going against my generalized way of living, I suddenly feel lost. I don’t understand the discovery of passions. Perhaps that means that I’m doomed to be void of them.

I felt a tug on my shoulder, jerking me into awareness. I let out a short shriek of alarm, causing a petite, cold hand to clasp over my mouth. I looked up angrily at Kelly and shoved her hand away.
"What the hell?" My voice came back to me in a startling echo. She laughed at me.
"How long have you been asleep here?" She put her hands over her thin hips as she leaned over me. I glanced around. The hall was completely empty. Thanks for nothing, Brandon.
"What time is it?" I groaned through closed teeth.
"It's like five thirty." I scoffed a laugh. Six hours. I slept for six hours.
"Well at least I'm not tired anymore." I stretched my hands far above my head. I could feel the ache in my back strain from me slouching in a chair for so long.
"Good, because we're going to dinner!" Kelly chimed. I shot her a sideways look.
"Are we? Who with?" She smiled. Her eyes were unbearably bright in the poorly lit hall.
"Brandon said that he told you already! We're going to Simon's and Josh's. And I told them you'd bring a dessert!" I snorted and grasped at my bag, silently grateful that nobody took it while I was sleeping.
"Well that's funny since I'm definitely not doing that." Kelly's lips pressed together briefly before she straightened her back.
"Sure you are! But we're going to be late so we have to bake fast!" She grabbed my jacket sleeve and pulled me up swiftly. Her soccer body always gave her strength advantage over me. Though she was stronger than me in just about every sense.
My head swam at my sudden adjustment. Kelly grabbed my bag and leaned on her right foot, clearly raring to go.
"And what if I didn't come? What if I actually wanted to stay home and study tonight?" I said with shaky frustration. I couldn't figure out why, but I felt somewhat nervous to say it. Kelly's brows lowered. I saw a sort of shadow in her face that was very rare for her. She readjusted her hand on my bag several times before she let out a small sigh.
"Then I'd say you were lying. I'd also say that your friend asked you to come, and even though you pretend that you don't care about anything, you at least care about your friends," She said gravely before she gave a heartless kind of shrug. That felt true. I hated how true that felt.
I blinked hard and jerked my bag away from her.
"What are we baking?"


Kelly and I were the last to arrive, as usual. The poorly lit apartment's door was opened by Josh, who greeted us and took our freshly baked brownies to the kitchen. Josh and Simon had made spaghetti and Brandon had brought the salad. It was peculiarly tame and domestic for our particular group, though no one was complaining about the anomaly.
We talked about school and Josh bored us all with football updates. Brandon discussed music theory with Kelly. I cordially listened to one of Brandon's philosophical explanations while Kelly scolded Josh for eating too many of the brownies. All the while, the subject never ventured toward Simon, who sat silently.

The event felt strange in general. I had wished we would have skipped dinner, or been able to learn of Simon's news before we had eaten. But there was a sensation that I felt from everyone, that perhaps they all knew something that I didn't. Not even I addressed Simon or his mystery. I simply waited, often mirroring Simon's countenance.

After dinner, we all sat in the living room/bedroom of the apartment. I sat on the edge of Simon's bed, pressing my hands into the scratchy fabric of the quilt. How could he sleep on that? I sighed, emptily staring at Kelly as she ranted about the other girls on her team.

Quiet side-conversations were getting more and more dull. The attention was getting thick and restless. We all felt more than ready to learn the reason for our gathering. Mutually we looked to Simon. He sat in their small recliner that was stained and worn from its previous home.

"Alright, I'm not sure how you'll all react about this, but I figured... this was what I was supposed to do. I needed to tell you all," His voice shook. I felt nervous for him.

"You're gay, aren't you?" Josh said with an accompanied chuckle. Simon gave a small laugh, but I could see that he was truly distressed. To be sure, this was a rare state for him. Kelly shushed Josh and slapped his shoulder, giving Simon a look to proceed. His mouth curved into a fearful frown as his eyes shifted between all of us. I felt ill-prepared for what he was about to say.

"I met a ghost,"

He released the unbearably deep breath he had been holding. I glanced around at the other faces in the room, trying to see if the others looked as I felt. He met a ghost? Is that what he said? My eyes narrowed, as if that would help me understand more clearly.
"I'm sorry?" I asked instinctively. He glanced at me almost apologetically.
"What does that mean?" Josh spat immediately.

"Just what it sounds like... I saw a ghost, and it spoke to me." he replied. Everyone grew silent again.
"Simon, can you tell us specifically what happened? Maybe then we can understand," Kelly asked.
Looks of question and curiosity seemed to shoot around the room in an instant after Kelly spoke. Simon sat still, his eyes buried deep within the carpet at his feet. I had never seen such a look on his face: a face that I felt I knew well. He gave a tired nod and cleared his throat.
"Sorry..." he glanced at all of the faces around him bashfully.

"It was last night,

I was sitting just there on the couch watching tv.
It was late and Josh was out, so I was alone. I felt alone in that moment as well.
As I was sitting, the tv switched channels on its own.

I know how that sounds... I know how all of it sounds.

The screen was just... white… no static or anything. I tried to switch it back but all the channels were the same. I thought it was broken so I tried to shut it off, but not even that worked.

I figured the remote wasn't working either so I just stood to unplug it when I felt something...

It was like putting an ice pack against your forehead... The floor began to change... I started falling…
falling through it slowly.

I was sinking, and I was so afraid, but I couldn't call out! I was numbed. I kept falling through. I went through all of the apartments, drifting down slowly like I was sinking in water. I saw every floor below us and then down to the basement.

When I got to the lower level next to all of the hot water heaters, I stopped. My feet planted and suddenly it was like time caught up with me. The world wasn’t slow anymore.

My heart was pounding.

It was so dark I could barely see. I yelled and asked if anyone was there while I scrambled to find the door that lead to the stairwell. I shouted but it was like my head was in a box that restricted my voice from reaching very far at all.

That's when she came."

I never really believed in ghosts. The whole idea of ghost-dom honestly sounded laughable to me. I imagined death as a more still version of living. What's the point of life if when you die, you turn into some sort of translucent specter that feels the undying need to haunt? Then again, what's the point of life if death is just a more still version of living? Maybe it wasn't that I didn't believe in ghosts, but that I didn't necessarily believe in death. It made sense that it would exist, but I had personally never experienced it. Life so often seemed like a joke to me. Perhaps death was its punchline.

My hands felt clammy as he was speaking. It felt like nothing was making sense, like I was a child trying to listen to an adult discuss his finances. My eyes narrowed, not in disbelief, but because of the bad lighting of the living room. Why was it such a challenge to hear him? To see? To understand?

"Whoever she was, she knew my name,"

His words fell on the shoulders of everyone in the room.

"She moved toward me, hovering above the ground.

She came so near and the closer she was, the more I just couldn't breathe.

Her face was inches from mine before she said anything. Her first words were like a blur. I couldn't understand or remember what she said, but then she put her hand on me. I could feel her hand, though I knew she wasn't like me. She was so cold…

She leaned in closer. All I remember are the last words she said,

'Keep your friends, keep your secrets, and keep away from Peavey Way.'

I tried to ask her what it meant, but she faded like an overdeveloped photo. My eyes blurred and I guess I just collapsed.

Early this morning, The maintenance man woke me, wondering how I had gotten in the basement since the door was locked from the outside."

Simon sucked on his lower lip, reviewing the faces of his friends. He looked like he was going to be sick. I stared shiftlessly at him. This had to be a delusion. Clearly it wasn't a lie because of his state. My first thought was, "My poor friend is insane."

"Do you sleepwalk?" Kelly asked hopefully.
"I never have. And I certainly don't sleepwalk through locked doors." He replied immediately. Obviously, this explanation was already something he had considered.

The stillness of the room was so unusual for us. It felt itchy. I wanted to speak so badly, but I couldn't even begin to attempt a response. I imagined the others in the room were having similar thoughts.

"Wh-what did she look like? Did she look like someone you knew?" Kelly breathed. Simon's head shook minimally.
"She had dark hair. Her features made her look like she was maybe Hispanic, but I'm not sure... She was just so pale." Simon said with a faint shudder.

Brandon's lips curled into a wet frown. I could see his mind churning a response to the situation. He didn't like this story, but I couldn't figure why just yet. I knew his gritting teeth would break their seal eventually.
"Im sure there's much to be said about the appearance of the ghost," he cooed down at Kelly, "but let's discuss the validity of this story to start."

"Brandon!" Kelly scolded. Brandon glanced at her before he gave a small scoff of a laugh.
"Am I not allowed to ask questions?"

"Ask all you'd like. But this is Simon you’re talking to. He's not lying." She replied soberly. Brandon's mouth twitched at her tone.

"Really, why would he lie about something like this?" Josh huffed, taking a swig of beer into his amused and pinked cheeks. I felt a twinge of frustration, knowing that Josh wasn't about to take Simon's words seriously. At least he was defending him.

"We can discuss motive later. Right now, let's just look at the information given." Brandon stepped forward and addressed the entire group. I hated his effortless ability to take on the role of the host, no matter what venue he was in.
"Now, If a ghost were to appear to you: white, frightening, unmistakably a specter... would you dare forget a single word that it had spoken?"

I scowled at his prompt. I knew that Brandon was somewhat fiendish in my mind, but there was never a moment until then that I truly disliked him. I have my social flaws, just as everyone does, but there are a few lines in my mind that should never be crossed.

"I- I was so scared," Simon shook his head with a slightly pained expression, "I just remember the most important part."
"She said it was the most important part? When did she say that? Because you didn't tell us that," Brandon accused, looking to the others in the room as if he were a prosecutor winking at a jury.
"Well she didn't say it was the most important part, I could just tell!"
"You could tell? You can't even remember everything she said, but you can just tell?"

"Stop interrogating him!" Kelly shouted, hitting his arm with Simon's pillow. Brandon ignored her pleading and shifted his eyes to me.
"You're awfully quiet, Lauren. What's your take on all of this?" I sighed, wondering if there was something Brandon was wanting me to say; some kind of verbal trap he wanted me to fall into. I looked away from him and turned toward Simon.
"Do you think... Do you think it's possible that you're seeing things? Like maybe there's something wrong with your head?" I asked as carefully as I could. Simon's eyes shut tightly for a moment.
"I've already wondered that, but how could I have gotten into the basement?" I stared into him.
"What if the maintenance man is pulling some sort of prank? What if you did sleepwalk and he accidentally locked it after you had already gotten inside?"
Simon's face was getting more and more twisted. My words seemed to stab him, pushing deeper and deeper into his chest.
"I'm not sick, Lauren. I don't know exactly what happened last night, but I know it was real. I know she was real!" His eyes opened just in time for a tear to fall from his left eyelid. I unconsciously backed away from him.

"Simon-" I breathed.

"Hey Andrews, you got anything to drink besides beer?" Brandon cut me off. We all looked to Josh who stood enthusiastically from his folding chair.
"I have been saving this for a special occasion, but seeing as we all need to ease a little tension, I think it would be appreciated now," he left for a moment in the kitchen and came back with a tall bottle of scotch and four small glasses.
"Where did you get that?" Kelly beamed. It made me uneasy how excited she always was about booze. I looked back at Simon who quickly swiped the tear away. I couldn't help but think what I frequently found myself thinking,
'Dearest Simon, why are you here with us?'
He had such a natural goodness that we didn't even strive for. He was the only one who didn't seem to fit. Maybe it was because he didn't seem to hate himself as much as the rest of us so freely did.

"My dad sent it to me after I earned my scholarship." Josh said, holding the bottle up next to his massive grin. A warning bell went off in my mind not to drink anymore, seeing as I wasn’t fully recovered from last night, but I had never really listened to such warnings. I wasn't about to start being careful.
We all took large first gulps; owing our burning throats and disgusted expressions to Josh's cheap father.
The booze were melting the tension, just as Josh had suggested, though the subject was never changed. In fact, there was a casualness building around it.

"What was she wearing?"
Another drink.
"Was she like a nineteenth century ghost?"
Another drink.
"How tall was she? I bet she was tall,"
Another drink.

"More importantly, what the hell kind of juicy secrets do you have, Simon?" Josh interjected after a sputtered laugh.

Simon froze. His eyes glazed instantly and the smile he was beginning to develop collapsed heavily.
"What are you talking about?" he whispered in response. I couldn't stop myself from staring at him after that reaction.
"You said the ghost said three things," Josh was buzzed which caused his usual slurring speech to be much more incoherent, "Keep your friends, Keep away from a paved street- or something- and keep your secrets. If a ghost is telling you to keep secrets, you'd have to have some good ones, yeah?"

Simon attempted a smile, but the result was more akin to a grimace.
"I have no secrets. You know that." he stated flatly.
Josh laughed heartily,
"Are you serious? You're the most mysterious person I know! I've never met your family. I don't think I even know what classes you're taking!" Josh's voice was the only sound in the room.
I was beginning to feel nervous.
"Stop it. I’ve told you all about my family! Also, you're in one of my classes." Kelly snorted while taking a swig from her glass. Simon didn't seem to think it was funny at all. He stood up and went to the kitchen. I watched him for a moment before getting up to follow.

"Why are you so bothered by him?" I entered the kitchen and leaned against the counter. My hand found a stray piece of plastic that I began to fiddle with.
"He doesn't believe me. I know that I should've anticipated him not believing me, but... I don't know." Simon gathered some of the dishes and slid them clumsily into the dishwasher.
"Why is it important that he believes you?" I asked, pulling at the plastic until it tore. He glanced up, not quite making eye contact.
"I feel like if you guys don't believe me, It's like I'm failing something important. I don't know why... but for whatever reason she came to me, I think you guys are a part of it."
"And what if just some of us end up believing you?"
He stopped loading the dishes for a moment and looked to me.
"Then I'd say it wouldn't be a complete failure."
I gave him a small smile before exiting to the living room. I came back in to see Kelly stretching on Simon's bed. She was wasted for sure, whispering to Josh in lazy, painfully audible slurs,

"Ss-imon is good at keeping secrets. Such a good guy- one of the best guys I ever screwed."

Last Spring, Simon sat down beside me and without warning, removed my left headphone and stuck it in his own ear. His eyes were on the comic that he had just opened on his lap. I gave a scoff-like laugh and scrunched my nose in disbelief. He looked at me and shrugged playfully. I turned my head to allow my hair to fall and block his view of my grin. Though he scooted closer, looking at my hand resting on my thigh.
"What's this song?" He asked now looking up to my face. He was so cat-like with his movements sometimes, I never knew what to expect. His eyes were marbled brown and gold, so like a cat. The gold in his eyes was a balm to the busyness of my mind. How could he look at me so unwaveringly?
"Everything Is, by Neutral Milk Hotel." I replied, glancing down at his mouth, almost hoping he would notice.
"I like them," He whispered, grazing his tongue against the edge of his lower row of teeth. My eyes narrowed at him suspiciously.
"What?" He laughed. I shifted my eyes and considered every possible consequence if I were to grab his face and kiss him hard.
"Nothing," I shrugged, looking down to change the song. I was such a coward... and the price was too high. I couldn't risk losing that gold in my life: my soothing balm.

I felt like I was in a vacuum. I imagined this was what space felt like. So dark. No air. No sound.
Josh elbowed Kelly when he saw me standing there. Motionless. In space. Even through her slurs, it was clear what she had said.
Kelly grumbled cluelessly until she sat up and saw me staring.
"Lauren," was all she could get out of her loose, w***e lips.

There were so many things I wanted to say. I needed to let her know just how much I hated her for this. I needed her to know just how horrible she was for lying to me when I asked her if she was attracted to him. I needed her to know how much I wanted to throw up right in front of her.

But I couldn't even take a breath.

"What's the problem, Summers?" Brandon said, playfully jerking on my sleeve. I ripped it away from him and sat in the recliner. My heart felt like it wasn't beating at all. Suddenly, I didn't know anything. All I knew was that I couldn't cry. No matter what.
My eyes glanced up to find Brandon's weighing on me.
"What’s the big deal?" He chirped. His brows lowered, but his smile seemed unchanged. “What, are you hot for Simon or something?” His voice seemed to cut me. I too was close to letting myself weep.
"No," I huffed, "Kelly can screw whoever she wants." I could feel the bitter coldness of my voice as it was expelled. Brandon scoffed, looking truly insulted.
“Then why are you so bothered?”
“Because you’re annoying me.” I choked, clearing my throat quickly to hide the break in my voice. His sudden yelling made me jump in my seat,
"Why do you always have to pretend like you don't care about anything?"
“Hey! Leave her alone,” Kelly shouted clumsily.. I sent her a hateful look unconsciously, despising her jumping to my defense. She didn’t seem affected by it.
"It's just so depressing! Why do we even invite you?" Brandon continued, ignoring Kelly’s interjection.
"I don't know! Why do you?" I shot back. My arms folded defensively and I tried not to wonder about where his hostility was stemming from.
"Maybe we're just waiting to see you feel something." He growled. I clenched my teeth behind my pursed lips, doing my best to replace pain with anger. My breathing stifled and I tried to calm the pace of my heart.
“Sounds like a waste of time.” I uttered faintly. Brandon cocked his jaw as he stared at me. I could see his anger rushing through the engorged vein above his left brow. His sudden motion startled me as he stood and looked around at everyone.

"Alright, let's find this street!” He announced confidently. “Peavey Way, was it? Where is that?"
I looked at Simon. His reaction said it all. His face was void of blood instantly and I caught a slight quiver in his lip.
"No! We can't go there!" he pleaded.
"You trust a ghost more than your friends?" Brandon teased, gathering his coat and thrusting his arms through its sleeves. I looked to Simon again. A child-like terror lined his eyes. I felt almost as frightened as he was.
"It's getting late, we should call it." I urged.
"We’re not calling s**t! There's more for us to learn!” Brandon’s faux playful tone wasn’t hiding his anger very well.
“Yeah, we got to find ourselves a ghost!" Josh barked in agreement. Kelly looked around somewhat indifferently. Their words didn’t seem to be affecting her as much as they were affecting Simon and me. I felt an enormous sense of abandonment.
Brandon laughed at Josh’s approval and looked down at me with hazy eyes. Without pause, he scooped me up and threw me over his shoulder. I screeched and started hitting him, disoriented from my sudden change of position.
"And everyone is going to be on board!" He announced.
"What the hell?!" I squealed and cried angrily, banging my fists against his back as powerfully as I could.
Commotion drowned the room and then went through the front door of the apartment. I heard shouts from Kelly and Simon demanding him to put me down. I heard Josh shouting about getting more to drink while we were out. My capacity to move and fight was stunted by how much I had been drinking and how tired I was, but I still fought.

Josh pulled out his phone to look up a map.
“It’s all the way across town, man!” He laughed. My protests increased as we approached Brandon’s car. He threw me onto his back seat and Josh promptly slid in beside me.
“I can’t go with you guys!” Simon shrieked. I felt a chill at the desperation in his voice.
“Come on, Simon!” Josh beckoned him through the window. Simon shook his head and started in the opposite direction. Josh hopped out of the car and ran after him. He grabbed and hoisted him just as easily as Brandon hoisted me.
“Josh!” Kelly’s voice slurred. I guessed that she snuck a few more glassfulls than everyone else, judging by her compared composure.
“Stop it!” I cried, though I remained unheard, especially through Simon’s yelling.
“Pop your trunk!” Josh shouted.
“Don’t you dare, Brandon!” I threatened, watching his hands. I could see him hesitate for a moment.
“He won’t come if we don’t,” he said, as if it were a sound justification. The trunk flew open and I started screaming again. Josh quickly slid back in and tried to shush me. I refused to quiet and threatened repeatedly to call the police. Though I never would have. They were drunk and they were stupid, but I wasn’t about to ruin their lives with a DUI charge or get them kicked out of college.

Josh gave directions to Brandon until we saw the street sign. We were in the more industrious part of town. There were no residences over there, and very few businesses. We turned onto the gravel road. Nearly the whole area was under construction. They had been planning on building apartment complexes on the right side of the street, but the street still needed paving. It was lined with many older, empty buildings that were yet to be demolished. The lack of streetlights added to the overall eerie feeling of the road. Brandon pulled off to the side and parked the car.
“What’s your plan here, Brandon?” I asked in exhausted frustration.
“Exploration,” he mused. His door opened abruptly and he crunched his large feet onto the gravel. He bent down and popped the trunk before shutting the door. Simon crawled out of the back, breathing heavily. He glanced around and then ran over to Josh and started hitting him frantically. It was almost comical how much smaller Simon was than him.
“Hey,” Josh sputtered, “Stop it! We needed you to come!” Simon stopped and looked around with wide eyes.
“This is Peavey Way?” He muttered breathily. Josh nodded, giving Simon a shove before walking to catch up with Brandon.

Kelly stumbled a bit in the gravel and turned to take in the area.
“Very dismal over here,” she remarked, seemingly to herself.
“We need to leave. We shouldn’t be here,” Simon’s eyes darted in every direction, though he continued following Brandon, just as we all did.

I watched Brandon’s long strides until they stopped and his hands rested on his hips.
“Okay, Simon. It’s time to tell us the whole story,” He said, turning to face all of us.
“Why would this ghost come to you?” We all looked to Simon. His pale face caught the moonlight perfectly. It made him look so like a ghost.
“I have no idea!” He assured, glancing at everyone’s faces. For the first time that evening, I got a small sense that he wasn’t telling the truth. I couldn’t tell what was different now. Maybe I was angry with him about sleeping with Kelly. Maybe it was something magical; something to do with the street, like the ghost knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep his secrets here.

“I don’t believe you!” Brandon crowed.
“Simon, you want us to believe you, but you’re leaving things out.” I cringed at my own words. I didn’t mean to gang up on him, but I knew he was holding back. Why would he only tell us pieces? If he wanted to keep secrets, why wouldn’t he just hide all of it?
“I’m not!”
I watched him become progressively more tense. His shoulders tightened from the pressure around him.
“What did you do, Simon?”
“What did you do?”
His arms wrapped around his shoulders. He bent at the waist, curving to the demanding voices.
“It was an accident!” He bellowed. His eyes were shut tightly, but tears still escaped through the folds of skin. He took a sharp breath in, like he had been holding his breath until then. I watched his shuffling feet as my chest felt like it was imploding.

“…What was an accident?” I asked with a severity that I didn’t know I was capable of. He looked up at me with the most genuine of fearful expressions.
“I’m so sorry, Laur-“
“What was an accident?” I repeated sharply. He cowered and looked away shamefully.

“The woman who visited me… I know who she is.” His voice was thick with tears. I listened breathlessly.

“Almost three years ago, I was working for a packaging company that had really late hours. One night when I was driving home from a shift at about three in the morning, I just- I couldn’t keep my eyes open.” He let out a small whimper before continuing.
“I knew that I should’ve stopped and slept, but I just wanted to get home. While I was driving, I closed my eyes for just a moment.

The sound of a scream woke me and my eyes shot open, just in time for me to watch… as the front of my car slammed into someone who had been walking on the side of the road. I stomped on my brake, but she had already been pulled underneath the car.

I panicked and reversed quickly. I couldn’t believe what ad just happened. When I pulled back, I looked at her distorted body, well lit from the beam of my headlights. I realized, I hadn’t just killed a woman. I had destroyed her.

I knew that there was nothing I could do, and I was so afraid. So I left.”
He sniffed and wiped his face. I don’t think he was physically able to lift his head to look at us.

“You left her there?” I muttered. My whole body was trembling. I prayed silently in my mind that this was a lie, though I knew it wasn’t. He nodded in silence. I bit my lip hard. I could say nothing.

“You coward,” Josh snarled, balling his fists. He had known Simon long before I did. They had lived together for almost two years now, and for anyone who knew them, it was fair to say that they were best friends. Though, Josh’s behavior that night certainly didn’t suggest so. I had only considered my own feelings of betrayal until that moment.

Simon’s head jerked up to shoot Josh an unexpected, defensive look.
“There was nothing I could do!” He shouted, acting like his statement was justified.
Josh tensed even more, physically showing his building rage.
“You didn’t even get out of the car, you b*****d!”
Within a second, Josh leaned and picked up a piece of rebar, swinging it full force towards Simon’s side.

He flew out of the way so quickly that I almost didn’t see what happened.

The rebar swung in an upward motion and collided with the side of Brandon’s head.
I watched as he fell onto his side, crumpling like he had just been deflated. He was so still. My stomach lurched and I knew I was going to be sick. The clear damage to his head was seeping blood rapidly. It pooled in the gravel and leaked into cracks in lightning-like patterns.
“Is he breathing?” I mouthed helplessly.

"I could never be with Simon. I would just ruin his life." I remembered telling Kelly that when she had first entered our little friend group. She said that she felt Simon and I were closer than I was with the other guys: that I always put him on the same level as myself. I didn't understand what she meant by that. I still don't... But I think I loved him. I certainly couldn't say that about Brandon or Josh.

Josh’s hand released the bloodied metal and let it slide from his fingers. His legs shook before they gave and he fell to his knees. I was so disconnected from all sense that it took me a full minute to hear Kelly’s screams. They shook me as if I had fallen asleep for a moment.

The body before me looked less and less like Brandon with every passing second. Blood was splashed in his open eye. I waited to see him blink or wipe it away, but he didn’t. Simon was a statue. He seemed to be barely breathing. My vision fixed on his eyes until they looked up at me.

I’m not sure why I looked to him. Perhaps somehow I thought it would fix things or make me feel more secure. I thought that I knew those eyes. I thought those eyes could fix anything. I wanted those eyes to be with me forever. They just seemed so lifeless now. Their panic and shiftiness made me almost sick to my stomach.

Before I had the chance to blink, his eyes clamped shut, and he had taken off running down the street. I watched his feet strike the pavement, causing the only sound to be heard for several blocks. It didn’t take long for me to lose sight of him.

“I’m sorry. I made you come here… I’m so sorry,” Josh said brokenly as he wept. I couldn’t tell who he was addressing. It didn’t seem like he noticed that Simon was gone. His shoulders shook uncontrollably with the force of his sobs. As I watched him, his tortured cries made me realize I had just witnessed the end of two of people’s lives.

I stood still, feeling oddly composed. Simon had left. Brandon was dead. My only other friends in the world were weeping next to me. I had no idea what one was supposed to think or feel in that situation. All I seemed to feel was the nighttime breeze grazing against my bare arms.

Silently, I moved towards the body and removed the keys and wallet from its pocket. There was a pay phone I had spotted about twenty feet away. When I entered the booth, I dialed 911 and got an immediate answer.
“911, what’s your emergency?” I was so numb. It was difficult to remember how to speak.
“I was walking down the street and found a guy lying in the road. I think he might be dead.”
“What is your location?” She asked urgently. I could feel the tears that had been building up fall down my cheeks and soak the collar of my shirt. My vision was too blurred now to check the time on my watch.
“Peavey Way.” I pulled the receiver away from my ear and could only hear the operator’s voice faintly until I hung up.

I walked back over to where Josh was kneeling and picked up the rebar with the fabric of my shirt, leaving large stains of dirt and blood. I scrubbed it over several times before letting it drop.
“What are you doing?” Kelly asked shakily. I didn’t answer.
“Josh, we have to go.” I said in a whisper. Josh stood obediently and followed me. Kelly followed closely behind. If Kelly or Josh had spoken to me as I drove, I couldn’t hear them. I parked the car in Brandon’s designated spot at his apartment complex. After I wiped down the wheel, I locked it and threw the keys and his wallet in a nearby complex’s dumpster. I left both Kelly and Josh standing beside the car. I left, believing that I did all I could do for them.

There's a strange kind of quiet that feels like there's an awful lot of pressure in your ears. It's so uneasy, like you're not sure that you're going to hear anything else ever again. No air, no heartbeat, until even just a sharp inhale breaks the silence. You don't think about the relief that comes, but it's there. Almost like when you feel a sudden hand on your shoulder and you see, half a second later, that it's someone you know. That pressure. Just thinking about it gives me chills. You’d have to be alone for a quiet like that.
News had spread about the sophomore student who was found murdered across town from campus. Though there was never any explanation for why he was in that part of town, police suspected that it was a robbery that had become violent. His wallet and car keys were not found with his body.

The following weeks felt as if they were shrouded in a thick fog that seemed to hide us all from each other. We couldn’t speak of Brandon. It made sense to avoid the temptation altogether. We kept busy, looking for various outlets for our pain. Though, we each came up with our own particular remedies:

Josh decided to simply sleep it off. The idea of lying awake at night alone with his thoughts made him sick, so he found a way to get as many sleeping pills as he wanted from a guy who knew a guy. Eventually, he stopped going to class. Eating was a miserable chore. Sleep was the only way he could pull himself from the reality he despised. His escape tactic worked for about three weeks, until one day when Simon made a trip to the store, Josh panicked about the pills not working fast enough. He ended up taking about 23 of them, accompanied by some over-the-counter generics. He was dead before Simon had reached the check-out line.

Kelly’s remedy had always been drinking. She never told me why she needed to drink before. I don’t know why or when she changed into what she was. I don’t know why she pretended like she didn’t have limits. Her explanation was that, “every college girl loves a good party.” It was a pitiful excuse for a clear masking. Kelly was found on the floor of an engineering major’s apartment three weeks after Josh had died. She was one of many who had attended his birthday bash and passed out drunk. Only, she died of alcohol poisoning while everyone else was sound asleep.

My own remedy was simple. I needed to die. Josh and Kelly needed to die, but they didn’t know until fate took care of it for them. But I was ahead of the game. I went into my bathroom and set the door to lock from the outside before closing it. Then I lied down on the floor and began to wait. I was too much of a coward to do the deed quickly, but I knew that I could at least wait until it was over.
I lied there for six days until my landlord broke down the door because he had a feeling he should check on me. I spent the next three weeks in the hospital. My only visitor was the counselor on staff.

I couldn’t help but think Kelly would’ve hated me for doing that. Though I’d rather have hatred than nothing at all.

After I left the hospital, I went to my apartment, packed few necessities, and started heading toward Chicago. I had an aunt living there who had always wanted me to come work for her in her tea shop. I didn’t know what was going to happen or what I’d become. I knew I couldn’t stay there. If I wasn’t going to kill myself, I’d have to come up with a way to love life. I felt a strange, new commitment to learning how. I didn’t believe in many things, but I did believe that some kind of happiness existed and that I might deserve that happiness one day.

There’s a lot that I used to not allow myself to think about. I didn’t think about my childhood. I didn’t think about my high school boyfriend. I didn’t think about Brandon. I definitely didn’t think about Simon.

So much didn’t make sense to me, but Simon seemed to make the least amount of sense. Before I left, I went to see him one more time.

His door was unlatched, held open by a shoe. I pushed it open, feeling sudden pulses of emotion. It was so empty. I couldn’t tell if I was hurt or grateful that it lacked any remnants of Josh. I glanced around until he came around the corner.

“Hey,” I greeted. His face was a strange mix of surprise and a twinge of fear.
“Hey,” He greeted back. I shrugged, feeling his discomfort seep into me.
“Going somewhere?” He asked, gesturing behind me. I had forgotten that I was still wearing my backpack, completely packed with everything I needed to abandon my college experience.
“Yeah,” I said simply.
“Where?” He cocked his head in that funny way he always did. I pursed my lips, not
Really wanting him to see me smile.
“I don’t know. Not here.” I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want him to know where I was headed. It was an almost unconscious decision. He smiled and gave a small laugh through his nose.
“I don’t blame you. I’ve been thinking about doing that myself.”
“Where would you go?” I glanced around his apartment again. There wasn’t much holding him there. He was almost done with his bachelor’s. He could go anywhere.
“I don’t know. Need a traveling companion?” He laughed again. I smirked apprehensively and looked at my feet. If he had asked me that at the start of the year, I would’ve moved mountains to make it happen. I sighed deeply before looking back at him.
“Simon, I have to ask,” His brows furrowed curiously. I studied every slight movement in his face.
“Did you really see that ghost?” I whispered, as if there was someone else who could’ve overheard us. I swallowed hard, continuing to study him. He went stiff and cold. There was no fear in him now, but I saw something else. It felt like anger.

“Yes,” He averred. I nodded, still so unsure.
“Okay,” I breathed. My eyes filled instantly. My backpack suddenly quadrupled in weight. I closed my eyes, letting my tears fall one after the other. I didn’t want to ignore the pain anymore. I was sick of putting bandaids over deep wounds. My shoulders trembled as I realized that I was finally going to let myself heal. Simon moved closer and took my face in his hands. He pulled me closer, giving me a perfect view of the pained and empathetic expression on his face.

“I’m so sorry, Lauren.” He whispered, sliding his thumbs gently over my tear-stained cheeks. I stared as he did, unchanging and unmoving. I was studying him again, looking for breaks or tears in his composure. He was just so unbroken. I pulled away, letting his hands drop back to his sides.

“I didn’t have any expectations when I came here… but I think I wanted you to be more sorry than that.” My voice cracked. I caught his minute response to my anger.
He frowned deeply, but remained silent. I knew there was nothing he could say. That’s all he was and that’s all he could be.
“Goodbye, Simon,” I swung open the door, leaving for the last time.

Simon is the only one to knows the truth of whether or not he met a ghost that night. All I know is that he didn’t get to keep his secrets, and he certainly didn’t get to keep his friends. Part of me feels like it was all a delusion and that tragedy struck by coincidence. Though, I think most of me wants to believe him so I can blame some otherworldly presence for the loss of my friends.

I just can’t bear to think that we destroyed ourselves so naturally.

© 2017 L.A. Carey

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Added on July 23, 2017
Last Updated on July 25, 2017
Tags: Fiction, suspense, literature, shortstory, college, friends, characters


L.A. Carey
L.A. Carey

Vancouver, WA

The fact that I'm a feeling-based person shows very clearly in whatever I write. I am 21 years old, and I am constantly writing. The compulsion to write has been a fire burning in my belly since I was.. more..


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