August 22, 2018
My breath quivers as I carefully open my bedroom door. Once I do, I am faced with the dark hallway that hides my family’s past behind glass panes. They hold pictures of our once happy home: my smiling mother, my loving father, my serious yet silly sister, my baby brother with the big heart, and me. It shows a time in which I smiled without thought, when my laughter would fill an entire room.
But that was before the incident.
Before my mother had her mental breakdown. Before my father began to drink heavily and began to beat us. Before my sister, Diana, lost the light in her hazel eyes. Before my brother “fell” out of his window.
Before Ryan killed himself, he and I were always together. I was with him the day he killed himself, and because of this, my father beats me in his constant drunken state of mind.
Before Ryan’s death, I spoke with a slight stutter, yet with my father beating me whenever I open my mouth, it has gotten progressively worse. Now, the damage is so deep inside my subconscious that I will never be able to outgrow it… at least that’s what the endless doctors tell me. At this point, I try not to speak at all; it’s not worth it.
Tonight, on the anniversary of his death, my eyes gaze down the pitch-black hallway towards my parents’ bedroom, and I begin to drown in my anxiety as I picture what will happen if my father hears me out of my room this late at night. I fear I won’t be able to stand tomorrow on my own two feet thanks to the force of his belt, and I dread the slurred words he will undoubtedly throw at me as he blames me for Ryan’s death. Telling me repeatedly that I should’ve been there to stop him, that I should’ve had him next to me… the usual screaming followed by my petrified silence.
I gulp down my fear as I take a steadying breath, trying to calm my racing heart as it seems to press against my rising chest. A cold sweat breaks across my forehead as I desperately try to calm myself. My hands shake as they glide across the freezing wall as I try to quietly make my way across the worn floorboards.
The floorboard creaks. I had been trying to stay silent by stepping along the edge of the wall, yet this one board still creaked. I freeze as ice-cold fear bleeds into my screaming veins and my heart rate speeds up. I remain motionless for over a minute, listening for any sound coming from my parents’ room at the end of the hall.
Taking a shuddering breath as a minute, then two, pass, I remain frozen in my fear. Tentatively, I lift my right foot and gingerly place it on the entrance to Ryan’s lifeless room. I wrap my clammy right hand around his doorknob and carefully begin to turn it clockwise.
A small smile creeps onto my face as I successfully open the door without drawing attention to myself. Softly, I place my left foot on Ryan’s carpeted floor and slip into the dark room. I close the door behind me and once it shuts, the noise fills and echoes around the deafening silence as it bounces off the walls around me.
I walk over to his closed window and pry open the curtain that hides his last moments- this was where he took his life. I press my forehead against the cold glass as I feel a silent tear trace my cheek bone, my jawline, and finally lands next to my bare foot.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper into the silence that has taken his place. “I should’ve saved you,” I whimper as my chin begins to shake uncontrollably.
My knees shake and buckle out from under me. I land on my knees, yet I don’t feel the pain that shoots out from my spiked nerves at the impact. My hands grip my hair until my knuckles turn white. Silent sobs rack my body and I don’t even try to stop the tears as they flow freely from my blurry eyes.
Suddenly, I feel a small hand on my shoulder. I snap my head up and catch the shadows shift to reveal a dark figure. They break just enough to uncover blurry, dead eyes.
My mouth drops open in a silent scream, and scramble away from the luminous body. I desperately try to grab anything I can to protect myself from this shadowy figure that limps towards me, cornering me in the darkness.
“Jack, it’s ok…” he whispers in his soft voice as he walks towards me, “it’s me, Ryan.”
“R-Ryan?” I rub my eyes as I recognize his young voice, now filled with pain. He’s been dead a year, how is he in front of me?
He smiles slightly and steps towards my shaking form. “Yeah, it’s me. Don’t you recognize me?” He sweeps his hands out to his sides, inviting me to take in his ghostly form.
I slide my round eyes across his body, and have to cover my mouth as I finally register what he looks like. His skull is smashed in, his dark blood streams down his young face and soaks into his clothes. His left eye is bugged out, hanging out of the socket and his right eye is so full of blood that you can’t see his pupil. His left arm is broken and twisted behind his back at an odd angle, while his right one is scratched up from the impact of hitting the ground. His legs are bruised and broken so that when he steps towards me, it seems as if he is walking in two different directions.
I gag and cover my mouth as I feel bile begin to flood my throat. His cheekbone is broken in the left side of his face, which is what caused his left eye to pop out. As all these grotesque details coalesce in my brain, I press myself closer to the wall behind me. Ryan may be dead, but somehow, he– or his horrific-looking ghost– is here now, in this very room. My mind reels at the thought as I stare up at what was once my little brother. Ryan was handsome when he was alive, his baby blue eyes always sparkling. Yet now, he gazes down at me through dead eyes and a still expression.
“Why are you afraid of me, Jack? I thought you loved me? You don’t know what fear is. I will show you true fear which you have never seen. You think your st-st-stutter is bad now? Haha! Just you wait.” He limps up to me with pure malice shadowing his features.
“R-Ry-Ryan… how are y-you here? How is th-this po-possible?”
“Because, dear brother,” he sneers down at me, looking twenty feet tall, “this is your fault.” He gestures towards his battered body.
“N-no… what happened to you was n-not my f-fault!”
“Yes it was,” he sneers, leaning into my face, the stench of his breath breaking through his ghostly form. “You started the fight between us, and you pushed me back, which caused me to fall from my open window and land on my head two floors below. They thought I killed myself, yet the truth is that you killed me. You let everyone think I killed myself! I was only 10! And you KILLED ME!” The walls begin to shake as his voice continues to rise in volume.
The tears stream down my face as my fear rises like a tide in the ocean, crashing down on me and drowning me in the process. “N-no, it was an accident! I-I didn’t me-mean to…”
“That doesn’t matter! You killed me, and now you must pay.” With that, he thrusts his broken hand into my chest, and I feel my heart skip a beat as he grips it in his ice-cold hand. Fear spread through my veins as I slowly move my gaze down to his luminous arm deep inside my chest that feels alive once again as it sits inside my rib cage.
Blood begins to drip down my chin as it leaks from my agape mouth. His sinister smile is filled with blood and broken teeth as he sits mere centimeters from my face. I feel his ice-cold fingers squeeze as his tight grasp increases, squeezing the life from my fading heart beat. I feel the color drain from my face as my heart stops it melodic rhythm all together, my fogging eyes drift to Ryan’s dead ones. He smiles as he sees the light fade from my eyes as he kills me. I see a faint light invade my vision as my body gives in to Death.
Suddenly, Ryan rips his once again opaque hand from my chest, and I slump forward, gasping, as I try to catch my breath as it slams back inside my weary lungs as they scramble for the oxygen that only moments before was forbidden. I lift my shaking right hand up to my chest to try to find my heartbeat now pounding again in my frantically rising chest.
He whispers in my ringing ear in his raspy voice, “I stopped your heart long enough that you died, yet I brought you back from Death’s outstretched hand. Now, you will see Death in your everyday life as if he is nothing but another stranger on the road passing your breathing corpse. You will feel his wretched breath on the back of your neck, feel his cold grasp as he tries to bring you to the land of the dead, and you will know what true Hell is.” His voice screams in my face as he pulls away just enough to watch my terrified expression as I register his words.
I try to speak, yet no words escape my mouth as it hangs slack; only a mere squeak slips through my lips. I lift my head to connect with the eyes of my dead brother, yet he is gone.
I snap my eyes around the dark room in shock, but I don’t see him anywhere. I catch the shadow of the moon through the window as the curtain flows, the aggressive wind shifting violently. I hang my head in shame as his words float in the air above my head: You killed me. You killed me. It’s YOUR fault. You killed me…
“I’m sorry, Ryan,” I whimper, and even though I know he is gone and won’t be coming back, I swear I hear his gleeful laughter on the howling wind.