Where’s Willow (Full Short Story)

Where’s Willow was my first dip into the horror/thriller genre, and I actually really enjoyed writing it. It’s 100% still a draft, but I do plan on picking it back up at some point in the future! This is the full 55 pages, so it’s pretty long for a short story.



All I wanted to do was enjoy her wedding. I went to the fancy barbershop that Mark recommended, and I picked out a great suit that cost me considerably more than it should have. I suppose Mark forgets that he’s the only one of the three of us who has money. But I think I’d be able to get over the money. My best friend, who is virtually my sister, is being married today, and I was feeling like a teary great aunt. I’d had the day marked on my calendar for two years and was as delighted as a toddler. I’ll tell you what, I wanted to have a good time. But then I believe I went insane.

She had taken a seat at a table. Except for more pronounced features, she appeared exactly the same as she did ten years ago. I just caught a glimpse of her through the crowd, so I assumed I was just reminiscing about my friends and myself at this pivotal point in our lives. I had to double-check the second time I saw her that it was her and that I wasn’t mixing up faces. Her sneaky, cat-like smirk peeked through the flicker of the crowd the third time she was facing me. In the flesh, I was seeing a ghost.

She kept the same expression on her face as before. That idiotic smile reminded me of Alice in Wonderland’s strange cat. Even if she wasn’t, she always appeared to be plotting something. Despite the fact that there was no way she could have gotten a reservation and you aren’t meant to wear white to weddings, she looked put together as if she had gone out and bought a gorgeous white dress. She was no longer alive. Or, at the very least, she was dead until now.

She returned her gaze to Arielle with a wink. I don’t think Elle would have seen her yet if she were there in person. She would have passed out by now if she had done so. I scanned the crowd for Mark, who appeared to be ill. He had to have noticed her as well.

Before the remarks began, I made my way over to Mark’s table courteously. “Are you seeing this shit right now?” I asked, grabbing the nearest chair beside him.

His eyes were wide with horror, “I’m not going crazy? That’s her?”

“I think so. There’s no way she’s really here…her casket was open, I-I saw her dead body.”

Mark squeezed his eyes shut and faced me, “What if that’s her Ben? What if she’s haunting us or something?

“I think we need to go touch her shoulder or something to see if she is real.”

“We can’t get up now though, we’ll distract everyone from the speeches. I don’t want Elle to know what we’re seeing.”

I agreed with him. Today was her day, she didn’t need to be freaking out over hauntings and ghosts. At least, not yet.

I slowly made my way up with Mark and walked along the back of the crowd, where no one could see us except the other stranglers at the far tables.

“Dude,” Mark said through gritted teeth, “What table was she at again?”

I looked over at the table that I thought was hers but she was gone. The chair was empty.

“Maybe we got the table wrong.”

“I don’t think so,” His eyes skimmed the crowd, “Aha! Look over there.”

He gestured to the flower-covered grassy landscape. Elle and her husband chose a beautiful venue for their wedding. Even with the ghost roaming amid the flower beds, everything looked magnificent.

“She looks so unbothered.” I tilted my head as Mark grabbed my hand to walk towards the ghost. I slapped his hand down.

“I’m not following her anywhere without Elle. She deserves to know at some point, we can’t just run away at her wedding.”

“Ben,” He looked at me with sympathetic eyes, “Before we lose sight of her. Elle needs to enjoy herself right now we can explain later.”

I looked back up at my best friend who was smiling more than she had in the past ten years. He was right. We needed to let her enjoy herself for tonight.

I nudged him to keep walking and we walked towards the girl who was walking through the flowers.

“Will!” I said through my teeth so no one would hear, “Stop!”

She spun around, her cat-like smile still plastered on her face. She looked beautiful for a corpse.

Her mouth didn’t move but I heard her voice in my ear, “Hello Benny.”

Hearing her words sent a jolt through my body, as if I’d been struck by lightning. I hadn’t heard that voice in years, yet it was just as menacing and eerie as it had always been. To save me from collapsing, Mark grasped my hand.

“What, what is it? What’s going on?”

I tried to catch my breath, “You didn’t hear that? I just heard her speak to me.”

He looked at the ghost that continued to walk through the fields.

“This shit’s creepy man,” He mumbled.

To keep from falling, we grabbed each other’s hands. I couldn’t stop thinking about Mark’s feelings. This was his sister on the other side. He was the one who received the news of her death, and Elle and I had to stand by him as he battled with his psychological breakdown. All of the counseling and medications had been for the sole purpose of getting her to return. I felt terrible.

She strolled deeper into the woods, frolicking as if she were at a flower festival. She had a thing for them since she was a kid. Years ago, she asked me to a week-long one in Germany, but I declined because I had college finals and thought my freshman year exam in a class I wasn’t even majoring in was more important than she was. I should’ve gone to the flower festival instead.

“Don’t you want to know what happened to me, Benny?” she asked, her voice echoing in my ear. Isn’t this something that’s been gnawing away at you for years?” She made a point of emphasizing gnawing as if mocking me. This was an enraged ghost, and I was curious as to why. Mark told me she died in a car accident that she caused herself. Drinking and driving is a dangerous combination. 

Thunderous applause erupted from behind us, and it seemed that Elle had officially gotten married. The first of our trio to do so and we missed it. 

Mark looked at me, “She’s gonna kill us isn’t she.”

I shook my head and tip-toed towards her, “I think if we weren’t actively seeing a dead person you may be right. But this is a pretty damn special scenario.”

We’d made it far enough into the woods to be able to see the crowd no longer. We had to crank up the pace because she was becoming faster by the second. With each stride, the two of us were losing the ability to breathe, but she was laughing. The trees were practically dancing around the darkness that had devoured them.

“Hey Ben,” Mark hyperventilated, “Do you think this is ever going to end? I think I’m going to have a heart attack.”

I thought about what could possibly be the significance of these woods. It was a pretty local hot spot over the summer. In the fall, like now, there were weddings and other events the filthy rich got to hold. I couldn’t remember any time I came out here with her though. I think just to my aunt’s memorial service years ago.

Hold on.

Willow spun around about 10 feet away from us. As her lips curled into a grin she laughed with relief.

“Finally! God, it was getting so tiring running that much. I was pretty damn good at track but I was a short-”

“What do you want, Will?” Mark asked, his hands covering his face. He was dripping with tension. His stress was different than mine; it was the stress of an older sibling. For years, he beat himself up over her death, saying that he could have saved her. It took all of that pain for her to change her mind.

“What do I want?” She pointed to herself like it was some kind of joke, “I think it’s what do you guys want.”

She paused and looked around, “Where is Elle? I would like Elle to be here.”

Mark started explaining that Willow had been so rudely interrupted Elle on her wedding day, but all I could think about was her. She hadn’t changed a bit since we were teenagers, but she exuded an adult glow. She was dressed in a white gown that swayed in the autumn breeze behind us. Her dress had darkened in places, and some of it had ashed off.

I cut her off, “Why does your dress look like it caught on fire?”

Her whole body turned toward me. Her head tilted and her mouth opened to reveal a devilish smile.

“You’ve always been so clever, Benny. Though I had a feeling that Elle would figure it out before you this time if she ever gets here. I send a little message over to get her over here.”

“I’m sorry,” Mark jumped in, “Figure out what?”

“Why,” She fiddled with a burnt part of her dress, “How I died of course.”

“You-you died in a car accident, we know this. Mom and Dad brought me to the accident site.”

Her lips pursed, “You don’t actually believe that do you?”

I heard the sound of feet crunching though the leaves in the woods.

“Mark! Ben! Are you guys okay?” Elle called out. Part of me really wanted to turn around and beg her to leave. But something wasn’t adding up…I think we were finally getting closure.

“Oh my god,” She picked up her dress to get over some rocks, “I saw you guys run out and I was worried something-”

Her head glanced up to see the ghost in front of her and her whole body froze. Ironically enough, her skin was pale like she had just seen a ghost. Which she had.

“Something happened,” She finished her statement, “Are you guys seeing this too?”

“Hi, Ellie. Great to see you again. Congratulations too, by the way.”

“Is this like that shit from the movies? Like the dead best friend comes back on the anniversary of their death?”

Willow shook her head, “No, no, no. Benny here was closest. See, it’s come to my attention, that you guys don’t know the truth about what happened.”

“What do you mean,” Elle scoffed, “You were drinking and driving. You were in all of the local news reports it was a big deal.”

“You don’t think a murderer can lie about how someone died?”

Our mouths all slammed onto the dirt underneath us. She had to be making a metaphorical statement about murder and death. Right? In the tiniest community outside of Boston, no one is murdered.

“What, the thought that one of you killed me never crossed your minds?” She nodded, “Damn, you must be really good at what you do then.”

“What do you mean you. You’re saying you like it’s one of us three, which is bullshit.”

She looked at me like I was an idiot, “If you think that’s B.S. you clearly aren’t very smart. If I were one of you I would’ve guessed it immediately.”

I could feel myself getting mad, “Well if you’re so insistent one of us did it, can’t you just say who?”

She clicked her tongue, “No, no. I don’t think I will! You see I sat here for years and watched you guys get to live happy, self fulfilling lives. I didn’t get the chance to live that life out with you. Wasn’t is supposed to be the four of us forever and always!?”

“And it was Will,” Elle took a step forward, “You died. And we went through a lot to get through your death.”

“Oh please. Each of you hated me before I died. Should I list through each thing you all said to me within a month of my death? Your misery was all an act.”

We all stared at each other at the same time. I knew Willow and I didn’t get along when she died, but I had no idea the other two had conflicts with her. That made me more receptive to the possibility that one of the other two was the one who killed her.

“Why can’t you just tell us,” Mark finally spoke after silently crying, “Why can’t this just be over for good.”

She pouted, mocking him, “Because I want you guys to torture yourselves trying to figure out the answer.”

Chapter 2


Willow was like a younger sister to me. We had an “Older sibling” program on our high school track team, where they paired a freshman or sophomore with an upperclassman. It’s like a rite of passage, where upperclassmen are obliged to get them a gift basket for their first and last meets. Will and I, on the other hand, didn’t find it as awkward as most of them did. We spent a lot of time outside of track, and I think the fact that I already knew Mark helped a lot. I was usually around Will because Mark and I grew up together, but we never had the chance to be friends until the whole sibling scenario.

I jolted upright in a room that was lightened by a single window. I originally thought my ghost encounter must have been a dream, but this wasn’t my bed. I was in some sort of cottage. 

I climbed out of the bed and noticed I wasn’t in my wedding dress anymore. I was in a cocktail dress which was an odd choice for sleeping attire. I made my way over to the door and wiggled the doorknob. It wouldn’t budge.

“Hey!” I yelled, punching the door with my fist, “Mark! Ben!”

There was no slight reaction that I heard. There was nothing but silence. I walked up to the only window in the room to check if I could get out. It was a little rusty, but with a solid effort, it finally opened, causing me to slump back onto the bed.

“God,” I muttered under my breath despite no one being nearby to hear me.

I had to push onto my toes slightly to get a grip on the window, but I had 5 years of Cross-fit to thank for being able to push myself up that height. I looked below me to see what I could jump into for safety, but I was stunned to see river rapids at least 3 miles long below me. I was trapped on both ends.

I probably could have tried to swim the rapids, but the current looked far too strong to be safe. And besides, if I did hit a rock or start drowning, who would I call out to for help? Clearly, wherever I am, Mark and Ben aren’t here. I was still really convinced that this was all a nightmare.

I hopped back inside the room and searched the area for anything that could help me figure out where I am. There were no artwork or decorations on the walls, which were grayish. There was a bookshelf and a wall-length mirror. I walked over to the mirror because I was convinced I was in a vampire predicament for a little second. You can’t see vampires in mirrors, even if they are reflecting, you can only see them. But I’m pleased I made that mistake because it made me realize how important the dress I was wearing was. When I stood up, I couldn’t get a good look at it, but I was able to figure out where it came from. The 2012 New Year’s Eve Party.

Within a blink, I was at a new location. That bar of the New Years Party, just like I had thought of.

I was still wearing the same outfit I had minutes ago, but I saw someone far too familiar at the bar, her friend whispering something in her ear. My heart melted realizing what was happening.

“Elle!” I heard Mark’s voice yell from across the room. Maybe I wasn’t alone after all. I got up and looked around for his voice, spotting both him and Ben dressed in tuxedos on the opposite end of the bar. They were overdressed compared to everyone else at the party. They stood out like sore thumbs.

“Are you guys really here right now?” I waved my hand up and down to see if they would follow.

“Just as confused as you are,” Ben said, waving his hands back, “I woke up in some weird dark room and I was there for like five minutes and now suddenly I’m here.”

“I was in a weird dark room too. I was locked in there on all sides.”

“I’m just confused about where we are now. Like I see you at the bar,” Mark pointed to the frozen in time capture of myself, “But when I went over to you, you weren’t responding. I think we’re in some Christmas Carol type of flashback.”

This must have been my memories we were watching. Mark and Ben never came to this party, and I had intended to make sure they never knew what happened. Until now.

“Do you know where this is Elle? I think Will put us here for a reason.”

I couldn’t look them in the eyes. I just waited for the memory to play out and then maybe I could be back in that locked room forever.

“Elle? What’s happening?”

With the grip I had on that wine glass, I could have crushed it with my bare hands. My jaw was so tight that even if I was punched in the face, it wouldn’t have moved.

“Are you okay Elle? I didn’t know if I should tell you…”

I raised my eyebrows, still not making eye contact, “No, no. Thank you for telling me.”

“Could you not tell her I told you? I don’t want any drama, it’s-”

I faded her words out and spun my stool around, trying to find the face of a liar. Liars are always so easy to point out.

“What’s happening Elle, I can’t hear,” Ben whispered, trying to get closer to the scene. I wanted to stick my arms out to block him. This whole interaction between her and I at the party was fueled on impulse. No one was thinking about what they were saying.

I locked eyes with her from across the room. She was standing by the exit like she was waiting to make her great escape. She looked like a scared deer that was waiting to get shot by the hunter.

I grabbed my wine and wallet, starting to go after her by the exit.

“Elle?” I heard my friend’s voice call out, “Elle, don’t do anything without thinking.”

I rolled my eyes and walked faster towards her.

“Willow!” I yelled, drawing attention from people nearby, “Willow! Look me in the eyes right now!” 

A path started to form for me. All these rich partygoers, always wanting a little drama.

I could see her violently shaking in place, unsure of where to run. She was called out now. When I had a direct shot, I flung my wine glass at her, shards flying everywhere. 

I could feel Mark and Ben’s disgust from behind me.

“Is this real? What the hell is this?”

While she was shocked by the glass all over her, I grabbed her hair and used it to drag her into the side of the brick wall. She collapsed onto the ground.

“Ohhhh,” The crowd said, oddly amazed at this girl getting beat up.

I felt a ping of guilt flip over me. I turned her over onto her back to try and give her a chance to explain.

“Was it really you? Were you the one that sent that anonymous letter in?”

You could’ve guessed she had brain damage. Her eyes were rolling back into her head- I had to slap her to keep her awake.

I heard a faint, “Yes,” come from her. That was all she had to say.

“What are you talking about?” Mark came up next to me, “What letter?”

I finally had the courage to turn around and face my two friends, “Remember I almost got committed to UCLA for track? And I told everyone I didn’t go because of money?”

They both nodded in agreement.

“That wasn’t entirely true. I guess someone emailed the coach and told them I was a regular weed smoker so they had to drug test me. It came back positive and they revoked their offer.”

“For weed? It doesn’t even affect athletic performance, I don’t understand why that’s a big deal.”

I hit her in the head with the side of my arm and went on to get her a few more times before the crowd, who had previously been in awe of me, began to mob me in an attempt to get me off. I didn’t know what I’d done until I was standing over her, surrounded by others checking to see if I’d killed her. My mind, which had before been red with rage, was now clear and frightened by my deeds. I snatched up my wallet and bolted from the building.

Mark silently walked over to the scene and looked over his sister just like the rest of the ghostly crowd. He looked expressionless until he turned around to face us again, his pupils filling his eyes, his face looking tomato red.

“So you must have killed her! Just like Willow talked about, she suggested one of us killed her. Why else would she be showing us this huh?”

I expected Ben to stand up for me here, but he just stood and waited for me to answer.

“Guys, I didn’t kill her, I mean, yes, I was angry and I shouldn’t have done that-”

“You were angry!?” Mark shouted pointing to his sister, “You practically killed her! I know when I’m angry I don’t beat the shit out of people! And you didn’t even give her a chance to explain why she did what she did.”

He was right. I was acting on impulses that night. For all I knew, the entire thing could have been a misunderstanding or just a rumor going around.

The people around us faded out and a new scene appeared. The locker room of our old high school.

My friend Anna, who was the one that told me about Willow, was sitting in the lockerroom, I thought alone. Will was on the other side of the lockers.

Wait, so are you serious right now?” Will asked, not looking away from her locker, “You actually caught her taking pills before practice?”

“What the hell?” I was confused as to what was happening. No pills had ever come up in conversation, from the two of them or the college official that had to take away my commitment offer.

Yeah…I don’t know what they were but I’m seriously hoping she’s not an addict or anything. That won’t start her off on the right foot.”

“Should someone say something? I mean isn’t it better to be punished now rather than in college when you’re free range?”

Anna got up and walked over to the other side of her, “I mean, I wasn’t going to say anything because it could get her in legal trouble…but. If you’re really worried, you could probably send in an anonymous letter to the track coaches there.”

“Well,” Willow shut her locker and faced Anna, “You don’t have any proof that she is doing anything illegal. You said you just heard a rumor right?”

She shook her head, “No, no, I saw her take the pills myself. Look, if you’re worried about legality, why don’t you just say she uses weed? We all know she’s smoked a few times and it’s not as big of a deal as molly or Xanax or whatever she’s taking.”

“But weed’s still illegal for minors and she’s 17.”

She scoffed, “Please, she’ll just get a slap on the wrist with a fine or something. My brother got caught with weed and got 6 weeks off his football season and had to pay a $100 fine.”

“Anna doesn’t have a brother,” I sighed when I realized what was happening. She was trying to get Will to report me. Will was just a sophomore, she knew nothing about drug fines or probation. Of course, she would believe anything she was told. Anna and I were both up for a scholarship at UCLA and the coach didn’t have enough space for the both of us.

“Look,” Anna continued, getting even closer, “If I say something, she’s going to think I said something to sabotage her UCLA chances because she knows that’s my dream school too. She won’t think anything of it if you say something because you’re her team sister right? She would never think about it if you said something.”

Willow grabbed her bags and headed for the door, “I’ll consider it.  But I don’t like this.”

The scene faded out and I was back in the dark room once again, alone with my thoughts. I was going to kill myself with anger in here. Anger with myself, anger with Anna, hell, even anger with Willow for believing what Anna told her. But she couldn’t be to blame. I’m the one who acted out poorly and now my best friends think I’m a murder suspect.

I heard rattling on the doorknob and I let out a short scream. Whoever was there was mad- the doorknob was moving so fast it could’ve fallen off.

“Hello?” I stepped back from the door, “Mark? Ben?”

I heard a click and the doorknob stopped moving. All I could hear now was my breath.

Suddenly, the entire door was knocked down and in walked a familiar figure.

I saw myself. I saw what I looked like 10 years ago standing in front of me. Me from the memory that just flashed by.

I looked around the room, confused. She, or, I mean I, wasn’t trying to attack me.

“Hello?” Was all I could say. 

“You ever been beat up before?”

My eyes widened, “I-I’ve been smacked, but not beat up.”

Ghost me took a step forward.

“Want to know what it feels like?”

“Are you crazy?” I laughed nervously, “No. Hell no.”

She smirked at me, “Are you sure? Are you really sure?”

Her nose was just barely grazing mine. She was breathing on me and I wanted to grimace. 

She didn’t give me a chance to answer before I was knocked to the ground.

Chapter 3


I opened my eyes and I was back in the room that I started in. It was so caged in here, I felt like the walls were closing in. I regret telling her I was claustrophobic, I just knew she would use that against me one day. 

I sat down on the bed to reflect on what had just occurred. Not only was I unaware that a New Years Party had taken place, but I was also unaware that Willow had been attacked in this manner. On the other hand, I don’t recall much from ten years ago. I don’t remember if I even see her again for a month or so after that. That’s the problem here. I have the impression that she expects us to recall all of the events leading up to her death, but I don’t have the memory to do so. All I remember are the major events in our lives, such as Mark’s emotional breakdown at our college graduation and the last time I spoke to her.

We didn’t end on great terms and I planned to keep that secret until the day that I die. I’m sure Elle said that about what we just saw though. She must be beating herself up- wrong word choice. Either way, it’s deserved that she feels bad. She almost killed Will. 

What if Elle did kill her? When she had originally passed, she seemed the least remorseful about what happened. She showed up late to the wake. She didn’t want to light a candle at the memorial because she was “too emotional.” I was seeing it all through a different lens now.

I pushed my hands back against the bed and I felt something underneath the pillow. I pulled a necklace with a “W” initial engraved on it from under the pillow. The necklace I gave her when she turned 16. She never took it off, or, at least what she told me.

Necklace still in hand, I felt myself transfer to a hotel hallway. I recognized where I was immediately.  I pushed myself to my feet and I looked around. Her ghost hadn’t appeared yet, so I still had some time to find Mark and Elle to explain the mess that I was about to get myself into.

“Mark!” I yelled, briskly jogging down the hall. Willow would’ve killed me if she heard me yelling in a public space like this. Every time we were in a hotel or some place similar, she would always complain about the loud frat guys screaming in the room next door. But she’s gone now. 

“Mark!” I tried to run down the hall, but I couldn’t seem to get any closer to the end. That vending machine at the end never got bigger to show that I was moving closer.

“Stop running,” I heard a voice coming from somewhere. I jerked to a halt and looked around. Will was behind me in the same dress she was wearing in reality.

“Where are they?” I asked, infuriated with her games.

“I think Mark’s doing a little exploring himself, but Elle won’t be sitting in on this one.”

Will’s silhouette flashed between her and a bruised and bloody Elle. It was so startling I had to look away.

“What did you do?”

“Oh please,” She looked proud, “Just gave her a taste of her own medicine of course. Quite literally actually.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”

She scoffed, “Not your worry. What you should be worried about is what Mark is about to see. He’ll be thrilled to hear what you did that night.” 

She disappeared and I was alone in the hallway again. Mark turned the corner.

“Dude! There you are, I was looking for you and Elle. Wait, where is Elle?”

I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t really know myself. All I knew was that she wasn’t safe and we needed to get through this memory fast.

“No clue.”

Mark looked over my shoulder and pointed, “Look. It’s you.”

I sighed, knowing what was happening, and I turned around. 

I couldn’t believe it. I actually couldn’t believe it. I looked at the necklace I gave her in the palm of my hand. I just wanted to rip it into shreds and throw each piece one by one at her.

I stood outside the hotel door with my arms crossed. I felt like a museum statue. My “friend” Jack ran out of the hotel room and started crying. He was a terrible liar.

“Look, it’s not what you think-”

“Not what I think? Why is my girlfriend’s necklace in your hotel room then? The girlfriend was supposedly on a ski trip this weekend?”

Jack paused, “Well, she’s not actually your girlfriend. You know that right.”

“It was a mutual thing Jack! And you knew that! Friends don’t do that.”

“Look,” He rubbed his eyes, “We didn’t even do anything. She just said she needed to talk about something that was bothering her so we ordered Chinese. She’s outside meeting the delivery driver.”

“Hold on,” Mark waved his hands, “You and Will had a thing? I knew you went to prom together but really?”

“I mean kind of,” I was embarrassed, “We both admittedly liked each other but we never acted on anything.”

Mark looked disgusted that I never told him, but everyone knew. It was obvious…how could he not know?

Talk about something? Why would she go to you about something that’s bothering her? She doesn’t know you. I don’t even think she likes you.”

“Well clearly you’re a terrible “boyfriend” or whatever. We’ve been good friends for years.”

I heard a heavy bag drop down the hall. Willow stood there trying to process what was happening. She quickly jogged over.

“Hey, um, what’s happening here?”

I rolled my eyes, “Stop acting okay? You told me you were going on a ski trip and now suddenly I walk into my friend’s hotel room to surprise him for his birthday and I see your necklace under his pillow?”

She put her hands out, “Look I can explain okay?”

“I don’t want to hear your explanation you…you whore!”

Both of their jaws dropped.

I nodded, reiterating what I was saying, “You couldn’t make a damn commitment to me, so you just had to run around a lie so you could get with some other guy. Well, screw you. I can’t believe I waited around for you.”

“Ben, listen,” she tried to reason.

“Listen? Listen to another lie? That’s what you do Will, you can’t stop lying. I’m just so sick of putting up with your shit day and night just for you to sneak around behind my back. You and your issues go have fun. Go to hell.” I stormed out of the hallway.

I could feel Mark’s eyes on me as we watched the scene begin to fade out.

“Why didn’t you listen to her explain?” He asked quietly.

“I just figured she would lie again,” I responded, “And besides, Jack was right. We weren’t really a thing anyway. I felt so bad afterward but I couldn’t bring myself to apologize for some reason.”

“Because you were embarrassed.”

I nodded, “I had a really damn big ego back then. But I’m a different person now I think.”

“You think?”

I didn’t know how to answer. Would it be egotistical to assume that I was a better person than I was? I did everything I was supposed to do to be a better person but is self worth defined by a list? Doesn’t self worth change from person to person?

The scene faded into Willow and Jack sitting on a hotel room bed.

“I’m sorry to barge in on you like this on your birthday. I just figured you would be the best person to talk to, I’ll make it quick.”

He shrugged, “Really not a big deal to me. No one’s really coming over until like seven at night.”

Good, good,”  She pulled out her phone, “Well I was supposed to be skiing with your sister and some other friends today and I got this text that I don’t think was meant for me.”

Mark and I walked around the scene to try and get a better glimpse of the text.

“It just feels morally wrong telling her that we don’t like her…like don’t we look like shitty friends for just using her to get closer to Ben?”

I bit my index finger in frustration. She stopped hanging out with her friends for me.

“No way,” Jack said, “That has to be about you doesn’t it?”

She nodded, “Your sister knows about Ben and I so it would make total sense. I just didn’t know what to do so I didn’t show up. She’s your sister, what do you think I should respond?”

He leaned back in his chair, “Three paths. Be honest, ignore her, or lie and pretend you’re the person she meant to text to get more info.”

“Can we make a pros and cons list or something?”

He nodded, “Yeah, I think that sounds good. Do you want to order food or something? You can chill here for a few hours, you probably shouldn’t be driving upset like this.”

She nodded and leaned back on the bed. The back of her necklace got caught on the metal bed frame.

“I can call and get some Chinese food delivered. What do you want?”

I was back in the room without Mark after my memory had cleared. Part of me had suspected all along that she wasn’t really a cheater if that’s the right word. I was so enraged at the time that I couldn’t see the small things. This is, without a doubt, what Willow desires. For us to be remorseful for the way we treated her. I didn’t want to hand her triumph, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I heard the floorboards below me start to crunch and some edging of the wall crumbled off. Sometimes when I get anxious I think the walls are caving under me, but I’ve never physically seen the walls pushing in. The floor and the ceiling were trying to touch each other with me in the middle. 

I didn’t know what to do to stop it. My therapist told me to just breathe slowly but that was only when I was imagining all of it. I never got tips for when it was actually happening. 

I got up and tried to knock over the bookshelf that was in the corner of the room. I figured it could block the walls from getting closer, but the surfaces just crushed through it.

I was panicking, sweat started hitting the moving floor. The walls came so close I had no choice but to stick out my arms and scream in agony and my arms and legs were crushed beneath me.

Chapter 4


My room was dimly lit. There was nothing in the room but a single light candle in the center. Despite being in a room with no windows or doors, I felt a constant rush of wind that made me feel like I was outside. I had no idea where I was or what was going on. To keep warm, I sat next to the candle, but it didn’t help much.

I couldn’t seem to process the fact that one of my best friends might have killed my sister. My sister. I just don’t understand the motive, Willow was so kind to them. None of what happened between them would’ve happened if they just talked it out.

I thought I heard a voice from deep below the abyss, but I couldn’t place it. It was quiet as if it were far away, but the words were clear and easy to understand. I took the candle in my hand and placed my ear close to the flame. I heard a scream that I was all too acquainted with. I flung the candle from my grasp, the flame exploding on the floor, causing a fire to explode throughout the room.

“Shit,” I panicked as the flames chased me around the room, shrieking at me like that voice did years ago. I wondered if  Ben and Elle were dealing with this same thing in their rooms. I noticed Elle wasn’t at the last memory and I couldn’t help but worry that something similar was happening to her. A fear that Will was using against her.

Our house burned down when I was 7 and Will was 3. Then in college, I just narrowly missed my college laboratory burning down by just minutes. It gave me a lifelong fear of fire and the effects that come with it, but she didn’t remember the event at all. She would’ve been afraid too if she could remember any of it.

The fire engulfed so much of the space that I had nowhere to turn. It hit my fingertips and I crumbled in agony, grabbing at my arm that was suddenly bright orange. As I lay on the floor, waiting to die, I saw the faint outline of Willow walk through the flames. She was smiling, accomplished with her work.

“Will…” I coughed out as the flames attached to almost every part of my skin. She didn’t help me, she just waved her hand at me like she was greeting me. 

“What are you doing in my room?” I asked my sister who was standing over a spot that I prayed she would never stand over. She held all of the letters in her hand and stared at them.

“I went in your room to grab your converse and I found a hole in the floor,” She looked up and turned the letters towards me, “You’re running away? With your boyfriend?”

I grabbed the letters out of her hand, unsure about what to say.

“Look I don’t care if you have a boy-”

“Don’t do that.”

She continued, “I don’t care if you like guys or whatever, I’m worried about the fact that you were going to run away with him? At a time like this?”

“How does it affect you? You’re almost 19, you don’t need me.”

She threw her hands up like I was an idiot, “Mom just died Mark! We all need each other right now. That’s so…that’s just so selfish of you!”

“Selflish?” I pointed to myself, “Me? The one who let you follow my friends around for years? The one who had to leave my events to drive you places? The one who took the blame for you when you got caught cheating off me in our Calculus class? How the hell am I selfish?”

“Those things are minor compared to this. And I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience to you, Mark.”

I turned my back towards her and stormed out, pausing at the door.

“Do not tell dad. You better keep your mouth shut about this.”

The memory faded out and I looked down at myself, relieved to be alive.

Elle and Ben were standing opposite to me, unharmed as well.

“You’re gay?” Elle asked.

“No, no,” I walked towards them, “I mean, I don’t know. I don’t like labels. I just had a thing with this guy in college, we weren’t dating-”

“A guy I know?” Ben sounded confused. I knew neither of them cared, they were more confused that I decided not to share it.

I shook my head, “He was in my sophomore year business course. It was dumb but after my mom died I just felt, like, off the rails of sorts. We were going to move to Colorado.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us you were going to run away,” Elle muttered and turned towards the newly forming memory.

I stormed into Willow’s room, ready to strangle her, “Did you tell Dad? Damn you Willow, did you tell dad?”

She got up from her bed immediately when she saw my face that was covered in tears and had a bright red hand mark on it.

“Of course I didn’t! I told you I wouldn’t tell him. What’s happening?”

“He’s kicking me out after this semester! He’s not going to help with tuition anymore,” I yelled so loud my lungs shook,  “He said he doesn’t want to know me anymore.”

She looked shocked, “I don’t understand, who else knew?”

My sadness turned into rage, “Him. And you. And he’s home with his family for the rest of Christmas break so who could it have been Will? Who.”

Her eyes widened, “Look, I truly swear it was not me. I may be pissed at you right now but I’m not that terrible of a person. I promise.”

“Your promises suck Will. Sometimes I wish you went along with mom.”

“Mark!” Ben looked disgusted as he stepped around my ghost, “What the hell is this?”

I shook my head to take myself out of the daze, “What?”

“You said you wish she went with your mom. That’s an awful, awful thing to say.” Elle chimed in, still walking around the scene, “Who ended up showing your dad the letters?”

I shrugged and sighed, “My dad found them. I guess he was suspicious of it and he went searching in my room one day. Sure I had to find out months later though.”

We all jumped at the sound of a loud groan overhead.

“Have you still not figured it out! I’ve given you such obvious clues, this is getting on my nerves,” Willow’s voice echoed throughout the room.

To be frank, I forgot about the true reason we were here. Ben or Elle killed my sister and it was my job to figure out who. To redeem myself. I never forgave myself for what I said to her and I needed to figure out who did it to keep her honor.

Chapter 5


“You all need to go back to your rooms and think. I thought you were smarter than this,” Willow’s voice echoed throughout the room. I wasn’t able to get a word in before I was teleported back to my dark and empty room. 

When I discovered the injuries my ghost self had given me were returned, I silently grieved. During the memory flashback, the pain had temporarily vanished, and I couldn’t help but wonder why. But I was too preoccupied with the misery I was experiencing. I dropped to the ground, blood dripping from my mouth into the floor. I caught a glimpse of my front tooth in the corner of my eye after it had been knocked to the corner of the room.

I swore my ribs were broken. I pulled my dress up high enough to see my stomach and ribs which were the most horrid shade of black and blue. I instantly threw up in my hands at the sight, which triggered more vomit. I hated having emetaphobia.

I couldn’t bring myself to stand up on two feet. It took too much energy to stand, so I sprawled myself across the floor and curled into a fetal position. I was so damn cold. This room was frigid and I felt like a corpse lying in their coffin.

I attempted to keep myself occupied by playing detective. Even though I didn’t want to believe it, a part of me believed it had to be Mark based on the memories I saw. Neither of them seemed like they’d be a murderer at any point, although Mark’s story seemed angrier than Ben’s. Ben had been harmed. Mark’s eyes glowed with a rage that could only come from someone who could kill. The most extreme level of rage a person may experience.

My whole body jerked when I reviewed it again in my head. The fire. The fire in his eyes. The ash stains on Willow’s dress. Their house burning down all those years ago.

It was Mark.

Holy shit, it was Mark.

I winced, pushing myself to my feet, and I walked over to the door with no other side. I banged on it nonetheless, hoping for someone or something to realize.

“Ben!” I smashed my already blue hands into the door, “Ben! It’s Mark! Mark killed Willow! Anyone! Anyone?”


I wasn’t transported back to my room, but to the forest we started this adventure in. It had snowed a lot, clearly not a surprise in Massachusetts. I looked down and scooched backward at the sight of my arms.

They were almost completely burned and bleeding. I didn’t want to look at my legs because I was preoccupied by the fact that my finger bones were visible. These were serious third-degree burns, and my nerves had been destroyed as well, since I couldn’t feel any of my body’s limbs. I guess the fire wasn’t my imagination after all.

“Hey Mark,” Willow whispered, but her voice echoed into my ears. I looked up and saw my sister, who was drenched in blood. Parts of her hair had charred off and she had similar burns to mine. Blood soaked through her clothes that were damaged by the fire. I had to hold back vomit at the sight.

“Oh,” She raised her eyebrows, “You don’t like this? That’s odd I mean, if I remember… you’re the one who did it.”

I tried to talk, but my mouth couldn’t open. It felt like it had been super glued shut.

She laughed like a villain, “You think you get a say right now? I don’t want to hear any of your shit Mark.”

I thought about Elle and Ben and if they had figured it out yet. They weren’t in the woods with us right now, but assuming that I had been brought back to reality, something had happened.

“Your friends are starting to put the pieces together, you know. I never pegged Elle to be the one to guess but she got it pretty quickly.”

I collapsed onto the snow, giving up completely. It was over. Even if I survived this, Elle and Ben would probably go to the police immediately afterward.

Willow approached me on the ground. She picked me up by the collar of my shirt and stared at me. She had the same anger in her eyes that I had the day I killed her.

“Did you like how it felt when I lit you on fire Mark?” She threw me back onto the ground and held me there with her foot.

“Did you like feeling your skin melt to your bones? Having your vision go black when the flame hits your eyes? Looking so messed up when you’re dead on the ground that no one can recognize you? And your murder is framed as a car accident?”

She kicked me down the hill we were on. It was like she gained super strength while she was dead, though I suppose as a ghost you can customize yourself. While she continued to torment me, two things kept coming back to my mind. Elle and Ben.


“Ben!” I heard a faint call, “It’s Mark! Ben!”

I was pressed in between walls. My cheek was compressed against the cold cement and I could only barely wiggle my arm. My nose was in excruciating pain and it felt like there was blood coming from it. All I could see was the ceiling.

“Ben! Ben please! Please, I think I figured it out!”

It hurt to breathe, never mind yell back. I think my lung collapsed. I’ve seen this happen to people at the hospital I work at all the time. Usually, they stop breathing entirely.

I tried to maneuver myself to stand up, my shoulders and knees getting scraped up by the cement. I managed to get to two feet, but my body was still crunched by things far heavier than me. I had to get out of here fast before I collapsed again.

“Elle,” I coughed out, “Elle.”

“Ben? Is someone out there?” I heard more banging. I sucked in my stomach as far as possible and pushed myself through the walls of death. The feeling of your skin scraping off is not the kindest. I saw where the wall went back to normal and it was just within my grasp.

“Ben! Are you there?”

I grabbed onto the edge of the wall and gave myself a final push through, coughing when my free lung had room to breathe. I limped over to the door and I was surprised that the door was unlocked. We must have solved it.

“Elle!” I called out louder, limping through the darkened hall, “I’m okay! I’m okay, I’m in the hall.”

“I can’t get out of my room…follow my voice.”

I continued to painfully walk towards her voice. I came upon an oddly illuminated door with two silhouettes of Elle carved out on it. One looked demonic with fire eyes and a knife in hand and one of them was just Elle. Each of our doors must have represent our last interaction with Willow. I wish I had seen mine before coming over here.

I turned the knob on her door and stepped in.

“How did you do that?” Elle was turned around on the floor.

“I think it’s locked from the inside,” I limped over to her and sat down parallel so I could see her face. When we both looked up, our eyes widened.

“Dude,” I sounded raspy, “You’re purple.”

“Says you! Your nose is diagonal,” She gagged slightly. She could never handle the gorey stuff.

She put her head in her hands, “I’m 95% sure it’s Mark. Willow was insinuating that she really died in a fire right?”

“I mean yes, but Mark is terrified of fire. It wouldn’t make sense for her to die that way.”

 “But on the other hand, it makes perfect sense. He lit a fire because he knew we would never think a guy afraid of heat would do it. And besides,” She paused, “In that memory, he seemed angrier than you. You just seemed hurt.”

I heard slow claps coming from the ceiling as the room shifted into a science lab.

“Oh god,” I grabbed Elle’s arm, “I think we’re about to watch a murder.”

“Hey,” Will turned into the laboratory, “Are you almost done? I’ve been waiting for you to drive me home for like four hours. You said this would be a quick stop.”

I stared at the mixture with a locked jaw. Potassium permanganate and glycerin. My chemistry teachers would kill me if they saw me right now.

I looked up at my sister one last time. My heart was beating so fast that you could power a car. She looked so happy and it made me furious. She ruined my life and she thought I would just move on? What a joke. What a big, sick joke.

I plastered on a fake smile, “Yeah. Can you just watch this for me while I go to the bathroom really quick? I’ve been standing here for hours.”

She shrugged and made her way over. She was so naive. God forbid she knew what a potassium permanganate and glycerin mix causes. Then I would be in trouble. 

The mixture itself wasn’t inherently hard. I had just locked myself in the lab for four hours contemplating what I was about to do and if I really wanted to do it. I didn’t want to be a murderer, no. That usually implies two people. What I did want, was to kill one person. Willow.

As she made her way over I poured the final mixture together and quickly hurried out of the room. I had previously turned the lock so that it would lock from the outside rather than the inside.

I heard a loud yell and a panicked rush to find a fire extinguisher. The fire extinguishers I removed and put in the bathroom.

“Mark…” I could hear her hyperventilating on the other end, “Mark!” Her scream got louder as she banged on the doors. The fire must have spread now. With a typical mixture I made, the fire dies out in a minute. I made sure to pour rubbing alcohol over the desk and parts of the floor.

“Mark!” She screamed as fire hit her skin, “Mark what did you do!”

I peered through the glass center of the door to get a quick look. Her hair and clothes were immersed in flames. It was only a matter of time now.

She was swinging across the room before she turned around and saw me in the mirror. All I could do was smile and wave.

She looked like she was about to charge towards me, but she collapsed almost instantly. My work was done.

Neither of us could speak. Both of us vomited within seconds of each other. We had just watched our best friend burn to death. Watched her skin melt off her body. Watched her clothes turn to ashes. I had never seen someone die before and I never wanted to again. I wish there was a pill to block out that memory.

The scene switched out almost instantly and Elle and I were suddenly where we started. On a now snowy hill.

The cold wasn’t good for my lungs and my breaths were short. Elle could barely stand. She was badly beaten up and would need to go to a hospital the minute this was all over. I probably needed to as well. I heard Mark yelling from the bottom of the hill and I crawled over. Willow was at the bottom, kicking him into his own grave.

Chapter 6


It was finally coming together. Ten years of sitting there and planning for my return was finally coming to a successful close.

Mark was coughing up blood on the ground, but I couldn’t stop now. I had no sympathy in my heart. My heart matched his; dark, cold, and empty. I was his replica in a different body.

“Willow!” I stopped and spun around to see the practically dead bodies of Ben and Elle.

I bent down and picked up Mark by the neck, “Hello Benny! Hello Elle. How are you!”

They looked panicked, “Don’t kill him! We can talk through this!”

I tilted my head, “Talk? You can barely yell without coughing. I would offer you a pen and paper if I had one.”

Elle stepped forward, “If you kill him that’s it. His suffering is over instantly, you’re giving him a free out.”

I scoffed, “A free out? A free out? Have you experienced that “out” Elle? I’m the only dead person here. I’m the only one that knows what it’s like to sit there in eternal darkness by yourself for ten years. There is no God, or heaven, or angels. There is endless loneliness.”

Neither of them said anything. Ben sat down and slid down the hill like he was going sledding. That must have hurt, it was a very rocky hill.

He got up and walked towards me, hands out like I was some animal.

“Why do you want to save him?” I stared disgusted, “You know what he did to me know. So why would you be on his side?”

“Because I care about you,” His arms dropped, “And I know you’re being rash. Think about the final outcome if we put him in jail for this. A lifetime of suffering locked away.”

“You underestimate how much I planned this,” I laughed, “Do you think any court of law is going to believe two of her friends ten years after death? You have no proof, the lab was completely rebuilt and the “car” is a bunch of scraps right now. My story ended a decade ago and I’m not getting re-written.”

His broken bones became soft and in my eyes, he looked identical to what he looked like all those years ago.

“I’m sorry for what I did.”

All I ever needed was a sorry and I got them from all the wrong people. I knew he was sorry and I knew Mark would never be sorry for what he did. 

“Are you sorry Mark?” I looked at the body and shook him slightly. He was unresponsive. 

I grabbed his jaw and started moving it like he was talking, “No Willow. Why would I be sorry when I murdered you and burned you alive!”

“It’s just not you.”

I rolled my eyes, “Please Ben. This isn’t the end of a superhero movie where the bad guy realizes his mistakes and turns good. Because I’m not the bad guy here! He is!” 

I used my free hand to pull a blade out of my dress’s pocket.

“He’s the bad guy,” I muttered as I plunged the blade into Mark’s chest before Ben could lunge towards him.

I heard an ear-piercing scream from the top of the hill and Elle practically threw herself down the mountain. What dramatics this was.

I dropped his body and wiped my hands on my dress. Seeing the two of them sit over my killer’s body crying was pathetic. The people that were so remorseful for the way they treated me were now doing the worst thing they could ever do to me. People never change. I pulled my blade out of Mark’s chest and smiled at the mess in front of me. People really do never change.

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