The Last Halloween

ACTUAL WARNING: Contains discussion of suicide, death, and depression. 

Sharon’s note: So, here’s this year’s entry into our annual Halloween contest. Subject: ghosts. So far it’s one to one, and I won last year’s bout. I’m hoping this one helps me keep the crown. Hope you enjoy!

My heart ached as Maggie picked at the short gray carpet. She hunched down, like she was trying to disappear. The room wasn’t big, but the empty floor and bare white walls made her look tiny.

Two years of hard living, and we didn’t look like twins anymore. She was too thin, bones sharp under the skin, and her hair was lank and unwashed, hanging down her back in a tangled mess. In days gone, she’d been incredibly vain of her hair. To see her neglecting it . . .

“Hey,” I murmured.

Maggie’s eyes flicked up, and the corner of her mouth twitched in a weak smile. “You came.”

“How could I not with a snazzy get up like this.” I gestured at the chalk circle that was ground into the carpet and the five candles that were supposed to be at the corners of a pentagram, but were kind of off. Maggie had admitted that she’d gotten the “spell” from the first page she’d found on the internet, but this year she’d put no care into it. I placed my hand to the very edge of the circle. “Mom’s going to kill you if she finds you messing with her new carpet.”

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes. “The house still smells like smoke. She’s not selling this pit anytime soon.”

I pointed a finger at her. “Do not call Grandma’s house a pit.”

Maggie looked back at the floor, but that didn’t hide the tears that were starting to brim. She reached her hand across the circle and through my hand. “How is Grandma?”

“She’s wonderful.” Grief over not being able to touch my sister and comfort her constricted a chest I didn’t have anymore. “We’re both wonderful, and you need to stop worrying about us.”

“I can’t help it.” A full-throated sob wracked her body, making her shoulder shake. “I miss you so much. I miss you both so much!”

“I miss you too.” I curled my hand up inside hers and slapped at the floor in frustration. It didn’t hurt. Being dead meant you were beyond physical pain. “But please, Maggie, you have to start taking better care of yourself.”

“Why?” She pulled away to curl her fingers in her hair and pull. Her face contorted, ugly in its agony, as she screamed at the ceiling. “Why bother? What the hell am I supposed to do? “

“You live.” Sweet mercy, I wanted to cry with her. I needed to show her she wasn’t alone. “You go to that therapist you told me you’d see. You go back to college, or you get a job, or you do something, anything, to move on with your life.”

“I want to be with you!” Her howl echoed off the bare walls of my old bedroom, cacophonous in the empty house. “I’m tired of acting like everything’s okay. I’m tired of Mom and Dad pretending like they never had another daughter and never wanting to talk about it. Most of all, I’m tired of people saying that it wasn’t my fault because I wasn’t there when it happened. I wasn’t there. That’s kind of the whole point. If I had been there, either I would have woken up in time to save you, or we would have died together, and I wouldn’t be going through all this.”

“If you try to kill yourself again I swear I will spend the rest of our afterlives hell.” I bared my teeth at her, and panic roiled through me as she laughed.

“You think I care?” Her laughter was a broken, jangling sound. “Besides, I can tell when you’re bluffing.”

I stood in the circle, looking down on her as I snarled. “How about this, then; all that pain that you feel, all that guilt, if you commit suicide, I’m going to feel all that. I will spend eternity knowing you never get the life you should have, because of me. And you know what? I’ll always hate you for that. Just a little bit.”

Maggie froze. She knew I was serious. Her manic energy failed as she crumbled in front of me and curled into a fetal position on the floor. When she spoke again her voice was so small. “How am I supposed to do this? It hurts so much.”

I lay on the ground in the circle and put my hand right next to the line again. Something inside me relaxed when she reached out. “I know you’re sick of hearing it, but you take it one day at a time. You can do this, and get some help. Watching you try to muddle through this on your own is as painful as watching Dad try to fix the plumbing.”

Maggie nearly choked on her laugh. “Yeah. Okay, I’ll get help. I’m not going to stop missing you, though.”

“You’ll barely have time to. We’re going to be together again so fast you’ll say it isn’t fair. Life is too short.” I patted through her hand. “You don’t need to keep calling me back like this. I’m always with you. Promise me that you’ll do whatever it takes to be okay?”

“You know, it’s not as easy as you make it sound.” She began to cry again, but they were quiet, slow tears.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever ask of you,” I agreed.

“I guess I’d better get started on it then, huh?” Her fingers passed through my skin as she tried to touch my cheek. She whispered, “I love you.”

“Love you too. Now please, Maggie, let me go.”

As she nodded slowly and pulled away from me, I had a moment of selfishness as I wanted to tell her to stay. I didn’t. I let her blow out the candles one by one and allowed myself to fade from her sight. She didn’t clean up her mess before she left. Mom really was going to be ticked.

“She still hasn’t figured out that stupid ritual doesn’t do anything.” Grandma walked through the wall into the room. Even if Maggie had still been in the room, she wouldn’t have seen anything. Being visible took work.

“When you’re grieving you overlook a lot. I’m just glad she hasn’t fallen victim to one of those fake mediums or something.” I sighed as I watched her pull out of the driveway through my old window. “Think she’ll be okay?”

“I think so.” Grandma gave me a hard look. “So maybe if she’s ready to move on, so are you? You can’t stay here forever, baby. Besides, I want to go, but I’m not leaving without you.”

I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around my stomach. “I can’t. I can’t go until I know she’s going to be okay.”

“You are just as clingy as she is.” Grandma put a hand on my shoulder and, ghost on ghost, it didn’t pass through. “At some point you have to decide to let her go it alone. So when is this going to end? Hm?”

I opened my eyes and looked at the shoddily made circle on the floor. “One year. If next Halloween she doesn’t come back, then it proves she doesn’t need me anymore. If she doesn’t come back, I’ll go.”

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