Loving A Ghost

Loving A Ghost

Author:Maureen Elochukwu



My name is Thea Bell and I was murdered. I always assumed that death was the end. So when my life was cruelly taken away from me, I never thought I would get a second chance to say what I needed to. But then I was given a choice, a choice that allowed me to see the people I had left behind, and I knew I had to take it. I wanted to say a proper goodbye. I needed justice for what happened to me. But even in death, things rarely go to plan. I never expected to meet him. I didn't anticipate falling in love. I hadn't considered the repercussions of coming back. I never realized I would put another person in danger. I didn't know my actions were going to haunt us forever.
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Death. It is just one word. Only five letters, yet it leaves people terrified. People do crazy things to avoid it. The word death for me has always meant an ending of something or someone. I have known many endings in my short twenty-seven years. Friendships, relationships, and even lives. When I was seven years old, I lost my parents in a car accident. Just a few months ago, my grandpa, the man who raised my younger brother and me, quietly passed away.

I have always known death in my life; however, that doesn’t mean I am any less scared of it.

If I had known death was waiting for me when I got home, I would probably have done anything to avoid it. But it all happened so quickly, so suddenly, that I just couldn’t think, not properly.

I arrived home late after a quick stop at the grocery store. I stayed after school, grading my kids’ work, and lost track of time. I often stayed even later than what I had that day; however, as soon as my stomach started to growl, I knew it was time to go home.

Knowing my fridge was woefully lacking the

essentials for most meals, I decided to quickly pop into the store on my way home. I loved to cook, and that night, I felt motivated. It didn’t always happen after a long day of teaching, but the school year was growing to a close, and summer was already in the air.

The night of my death, I was looking forward to making myself dinner. Already, I was beginning to imagine all the elaborate and fun dishes I would be able to create over the summer break. Spending hours cooking was one thing I missed doing during the school year. I never had time to cook a complicated dinner. I often lived on quick and easy meals or take-out. However, the one meal I never compromised on was breakfast. Every morning, I woke up early enough to cook myself eggs on toast with slices of tomato and avocado and a side of crispy bacon, of course. Sometimes, I varied it, making an omelet or oatmeal in replacement for something I didn’t have or was not feeling. Without fail, though, I would eat before I left the house.

The night of my death, even with food on my mind, I felt nervous to be out after dark. Although I felt relatively safe in my home in Temple City, it was hard to ignore the uneasiness when all the talk on the radio, TV, and among staff was about the serial killer we had on the loose in Los Angeles. If they weren’t talking about how incompetent the

police and F.B.I. had been, then they were discussing the motives behind the murderer—who he could be, what his background must be like to lead him to be so ruthless. It was all speculation, because they were nowhere close to catching him. Even stating it was a man could be wrong, although experts were mostly in agreement that it was a man terrorizing us all.

All his victims were women, and while most of the details of the murders had been kept quiet, the media had dubbed him The Surgeon from the way he sliced his victims up neatly and methodically as well as the way he had been described as cold-hearted and indifferent. He abducted women from somewhere public, often busy places, and they were not found for several hours, if not days later.

I didn’t know what he did to them before they died exactly, and I hadn’t wanted to know. From what had been released, there had consistently been a new victim every three to four weeks, and the rumor was that the women were raped. If the police were keeping the rest under wraps, I could only imagine the horror those women were put through. After he was finished with them, he splayed them out somewhere public. No one had survived after being abducted, and unless he was caught, it wasn’t likely there would ever be a survivor.

It was awful, scary, and had made every woman in L.A. paranoid.

So, the night I died, I was actually paying attention to the people near me at the store. I watched every shadow in the car park and made sure I wasn’t followed on my way home. Nothing felt amiss.

I didn’t realize I should still be paranoid as soon as I stepped foot inside my house. I mistakenly assumed my home was my sanctuary and forgot in that moment that death can find you anywhere, even in your own home. As soon as I closed and locked my front door, I let my guard down and will forever regret that decision. Why didn’t I consider there was more than one bad person in the world? Just because I wasn’t in one murderer’s hunting ground, it didn’t mean I hadn’t just entered another’s.

I let myself into my house, not noticing the broken window, not sensing the other presence with me. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong.

Where did my instincts go that night?

Looking back, no matter who killed me—whether it was a serial killer or just an accident—there might not have been much I could do, and in some ways, that angers me even more. I wasn’t even given a fighting chance to survive, not really. By the time I realized what was happening, my fate was sealed. There was little to no chance of getting out alive.

I had no hope.

As I stood in my kitchen, putting my groceries away, I finally heard the ominous footsteps. I felt the presence of a man behind me.

I knew immediately I was in serious trouble.

I turned around, praying I would see a familiar face and the scream building in my throat was a complete overreaction.

My brother Flynn had a key to my house. He could have simply let himself in. Or one of my neighbors might have followed me in, just wanting to borrow some milk. Both scenarios were possible.

Except those footsteps and the presence had come from the wrong direction. They had come from my living room, which meant he was already in the house when I had arrived.

I finish turning, facing the man wearing a skintight mask that obscured his face and left me only the clear image of his narrowed and angry eyes that, right at that moment, appeared as though they were on fire in their rage. The man’s stance screamed at me that he was furious. His breathing was heavy, his hands fisted tightly at his sides, his imposing body taut. There was a quiet growl coming from him that sounded feral and was a definite

warning that I was in trouble. My instincts might have been dormant earlier, but right in that moment, every single one of them screamed at me to run. And I did try to get away.

I took a quick, two second glance around my kitchen for any appropriate weapon yet found nothing within close reach.

Then I fled. I made it to my front door, screaming at the top of my lungs, but in my haste to get away, I was blinded by my fear. I struggled with the door, forgetting to unlock the latch first.

Those few seconds were all he needed to catch up to me. He covered my mouth with his large hand, pulling my head back into his chest. I felt his muscles bunch, feeling the strength he had over me. I squirmed, trying to free myself. I elbowed, kicked, and punched. I scratched, kneed and bit.

I did everything I should do, but sometimes, it’s just not enough. He was completely covered in dark clothing, and my nails couldn’t make contact with skin. My bite only found a glove, and nowhere I kicked or punched appeared to harm or hinder the man. He was too strong. I knew it was over.

My life was over. I vaguely remember him moving me upstairs and feeling the impacts to my body as he hit me. I sort of remember him calling me names, swearing angrily at me. Mostly, I only remember hurting, remember being scared. And then, I remember nothing. I felt as though I had been stuck in the nothingness surrounding me for centuries. I felt panicked, scared, and angry. I felt sick and confused. I felt everything until, for a moment, I was calm. I settled and was finally able to breathe, surrounded by a bright whiteness. Bleached walls, blinding white light, and I was alone. My fear had disappeared from my body.

This is where I find myself right now sitting without knowing where I am or what is happening to me. I am able to recall what has just happened to me, and I wonder if my mind has taken me to a different realm. I consider that this might be my brain’s way of protecting my sanity. Perhaps I blacked out and am only waiting to wake up. I never saw the face of the man who decided to harm me, so I might get out of this alive. Although, deep down, I know that won’t be the case. Whatever this place I am stuck in is, it isn’t any place on earth.

Feeling distant from the event of my possible murder, I wonder who the man is who is attacking me. Is he a stranger? Maybe someone who was stealing from my house when I interrupted him? Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? That is definitely possible. Regardless, there is a niggling feeling in the back of my mind.

What if they are someone I know? What if someone wanted to hurt me?

I shudder merely considering it, my first traces of fear reentering my body since arriving in this stark and too white place.

I hate not understanding what is happening, and the peace I found earlier begins to slip away completely as I see a man approaching me.

As I hold my breath, my thoughts suddenly racing, I shakily get to my feet, my knees wobbling so badly I worry I will collapse under my weight.

The man waltzes towards me slowly, his eyes kind and his smile gentle. The closer he gets to me, the more I realize something about him.

His frame is that of a tall, chubby man. His hair including his wavy beard is greying, and his cheeks are heated as well as the tip of his nose. He is dressed in light blue jeans and a large, cream, button-up shirt; however, I can’t get the sudden image out of my head.

This man walking towards me is freaking Santa Claus! Now what does that say for my sanity?

I’m speechless when the man finally stops in front of me. He is slightly taller than my almost six-foot height and his body much wider compared to my slim figure. I hold my breath again, afraid of what craziness is about to happen, and Santa doesn’t disappoint me.

“Hello, young lady. My name is Barry, and I’m here to guide you to the next stage.” He stares at me expectantly, just as I stare back at him blankly. “Miss? Can you hear me?” He reaches out to touch my hand, his gesture far from violent, but I can’t help my reaction as I jump back from him.

“I’m sorry; I don’t mean to scare you. I understand

your death has not been a pleasant one and very much before your time. You’re far too young to be here.” He pauses as he shakes his head, his eyes turning sad as they gaze over me. “And I’m so very sorry for that.”

I open my mouth, wanting to ask him to explain, but my throat closes over and tears well in my eyes, instead. Even though I know what being here really means, hearing it confirmed is overwhelming. My life is now over. My hopes, dreams, and plans are gone. I’m only twenty- seven years old. How can my life be finished already?

“Right now, you’re in the transition stage. It is my job to help you move on to the next stage.”

“The next stage of what?” I finally find my voice, although it comes out sounding small and feeble.

“The next stage of life,” he states bluntly, his gaze turning sympathetic.

“I don’t understand. Life? Didn’t you just say I died?”

“You did die; however, it isn’t just an ending for you, but a beginning, too. This is, in some ways, the best part of life. You get to choose a memory the happiest time in your life and you go back to that moment. You choose which age you are, which place you get to spend eternity; and you can be at peace. Your family and friends who have already crossed over may visit you whenever you please.

You never age, you never die, and it is bliss.”

Fresh tears fall down my face, and I immediately think of my parents. I have often wished I could see them again in the twenty years that has passed since their deaths. Santa is telling me I can see them now. I can choose a memory of when they were alive and live in that place forever.

For a brief moment, I feel a small bit of excitement at that. It feels too good to be true, though, and I soon realize why.

“What about my brother, Flynn? Will he be there?”

“Your brother hasn’t joined us here yet. He won’t be able to join you until his time has come.”

I consider his words, just as I think about the fact that, before I died and came to this strange place, it was only the two of us. He is my baby brother, and when we were younger, right after my parents died, I used to promise him every night that I wouldn’t ever leave him. He might be twenty-three now, but I still feel the need to be there for him. He has so much going on with his life. He only came home to L.A. a couple of months ago, leaving behind all the friends he had made in New York. I helped him buy a house with the remaining money from our parents’ life insurance. It was enough to get us both through college and

enough for us each to purchase a modest, small house.


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