I can still feel it like it happened yesterday. The pain isn’t what haunts me, more the shock I felt when my husband choked the life out of me.
The year was 1962, we enjoyed a decent life, owning a small house just down the road from my parents. It was a perfect spot to raise our two kids.
That idyllic life was shattered on September 13th. My husband snapped, taking out his anger on me and my twins. He’d lost his job at the production plant in town, and bills were piling up. I kept telling him we could make it, but all Byron saw engulfed by a wicked cloud of depression and self-doubt.
I didn’t expect that sorrow would morph into a rage, but it did. I can still hear my girls screaming, he took the carving knife to their stomachs and legs first. I tried so hard to stop him.
In my panicked effort to save their lives, he ended mine, bashing my head against the doorknob and then stealing my last breath as the children looked on; they were my last thought before passing over.
Dying itself was easy. Darkness. Nothingness. Genuine freedom.
No matter what they tell you about the afterlife, I can whole-heartedly attest that the transition was effortless. Although it took some time for me to fully regain my senses. Not sure how that works exactly, but when I became conscious of my being once more, I didn’t even realize I was dead.
When I returned to the mortal plane my children were gone, and so was Byron — once again I faced emptiness. Another family had moved into our home, taking away everything that had made it my home.
I wandered the house frantically, trying to get the new family’s attention. They were a young couple, like me and Byron when we first met. I screamed until I was hoarse, but I couldn’t elicit even the most minute response from them.
It wasn’t apparent to me that I was dead yet, not until I saw my horrid reflection in the hallway mirror, only then did I realize the truth. Scars ran like bolts of lightning across my body and face, Byron’s final gesture of hate.
Towards the end, he blamed me for his failures, and with his icy cold grip, he was determined to curse me to hell. I wasn’t in hell, but I was cursed — that much he succeeded in. The house became my prison, and slowly, the young couple began to view me as a threat.
I never meant them harm, I only sought their company. The new couple, Marisa and Edward, raised a family of their own, and I watched them grow before my very eyes. Seeing their children play on the steps, the same steps mine had, was enough to make me weep.
As I wailed, the family cowed in fear; that was the first time I realized my influence could reach into the material world. They looked up toward the top of the stairs, gesturing wildly with panic-drenched expressions. I knew they were frightened, but I was so lonely.
Like a stray dog seeking affection, I tried to make the children feel at ease around my presence. Somehow, they seemed to know when I was around, and would always smile and giggle when they noticed my presence.
I grew to care about that family, and in some ways, viewed them as an extension of my own, and when the fire took two of them from me, the bottomless sorrow returned.
Edward was out on a business trip and Marisa had hired an incompetent nanny to watch the kids.
The nanny had plugged many devices in a single, faulty outlet, sparking a devastating electrical fire that left only the concrete foundation.
Their insurance company agreed to cover the rebuild, but after losing their children the couple divorced and left me, and the new house, behind.
I had wanted so bad to save the children, to reach out and grab their delicate hands and pull them free from the collapsing rafters. It reminded me of my two little ones, and once again, I was powerless.
A barren loneliness ate away at my heart. The house was an empty shell, with a sole, non-living occupant. I ambled down silent hallways, consumed with rage, flashes of Bryon’s face appearing intrusively in my mind. I was sure he was still alive, and I vowed I’d exact my revenge.
My powers had grown, fueled by vengeance, and I was sure I could make him suffer. He would suffer longer than any other human had, that was my promise.
Eventually, other couples moved into the newly remodeled home. I could see their flaws plain as day, and knew they were undeserving of the life I was ripped away from — so I tipped the scales of justice.
Like Samuel, who pretended to be a good husband to his wife, Lucia, but indulged in countless affairs and depraved sexual escapades. Using every bit of my strength, I manifested in the middle of one of his nonconsensual bondage sessions. The girl screamed as she saw my scarred body float above their bed.
I ripped his spine straight from his body, dangling up against the chandelier in the master bedroom like a piñata. I regaled in my bloody triumph as the girl scrambled away, sprinting down the stairs and out of the house.
It felt good to seek vengeance against the wicked, especially knowing I could never be able to do so with my lost lover; but the sense of satisfaction never lasted long.
After I’d have time to calm down, feelings of guilt and frustration would take hold. The years slipped by and the house became empty again. Sometimes children would roam the grounds, having heard whispers of a haunted house, and sometimes I would appease their imaginations, chasing them off like frightened rabbits.
My future looked bleak, doomed to wander empty hallways, and scare wide-eyed kids. I thought this was all that I would have to look forward to for the next century, or until my spirit found whatever peace it could find — but that changed when I met Ryan.
Ryan was different from the other homeowners. He was an aspiring photographer and a single parent. It was readily apparent that his love for his child, Chloe, was absolutely genuine. I would hear him read lullabies to her every night, and watch them play in my yard during the day.
Despite all the ways I had been hurt over the years, Ryan made me remember what it was like to feel happy. I felt a need to protect them the way I did Edward and Marisa all those years ago. I was more powerful than I had ever been before, being able to manipulate the physical world with ease, but it was thanks to them that I found a new sense of purpose.
One day, I was looking on as Chloe used her swing near the old oak and I saw her slip and fall, tumbling down the hill. Her face hit a rock, and she fell unconscious into a pond that lay at the base of the hill. Ryan was blissfully unaware of what had transpired, cooking eggs with the music turned up in the kitchen.
I didn’t care that the sun would harm my ghostly body, nor that my presence would be known. All I cared about was saving her.
Appearing above the pond, I pulled Chloe from the water, frantically attempting to bring life back to her lungs. Thankfully, she spit up the water, staring at me wide-eyed.
Ryan finally heard her cries of alarm from the kitchen, and sprinted, panic-stricken, to his daughter’s side, “Oh my god, are you all right?” he asked, filled with concern.
“I’m okay Daddy… the nice lady saved me,” Chloe responded with a crooked smile.
Ryan looked about, clearly not seeing me. At the same time, I could feel my power draining from the sun’s unrelenting rays; I needed to get back to the house.
“A nice lady, huh? Sounds like you made a new friend,”
Ignoring the rising pain, I broke out into a pleased smirk. He thought I was the figment of his child’s imagination, it was… touching.
“What’s her name?” Ryan brushed a lock of hair from his daughter’s hair.
Chloe looked toward me inquisitively and I answered back, “Call me Jesse.”
“She says her name is Jesse,” she stated plainly. I was surprised she didn’t find this new connection to a spirit odd, she was so at ease with my presence.
They walked inside and Ryan didn’t seem to think anything more of it, but Chloe could still see me. I realized my small act of kindness had formed a connection to the world I’d never known.
Over the next year, Chloe and I played all over the house, chasing each other and going on adventures. She would beam anytime she saw my ghostly face, which in turn, brought me great joy.
I began to feel guilty, getting so much love from a child that wasn’t mine. Also, I had come to the grim realization that Chloe might forget about me. I didn’t want that to happen.
In my selfishness, I convinced her to tell her father that I was real, and relay the wicked history of the house. He may not have believed that I was real, but his curiosity was piqued, and he decided to keep listening.
Her father listening intently, Chloe spoke in hushed tones as she explained that I had lived in the house for ages, that it had once been my home. She continued with the story of my death, the fate of my children, and Edward and Marissa. There were other parts I’d left out, they didn’t need to know about the dark times.
Initially, Ryan laughed it off as a child’s wild imagination, but after doing some research, he realized it was all true. Just like Chloe, once the facts were there, he readily accepted, and believed, in my presence.
“I guess I owe you a lot,” he said one day in his study.
I froze. Could he see me? No. But he believed, and that’s all that mattered.
“How can I repay you?” He whispered.
I wanted more than anything to thank him, to let him know he was the one deserving of appreciation. He was making me feel alive, per se, in ways I’d long forgotten.
A light bulb going off above his head, Ryan scrambled to his new computer. He searched online for hours, and I watched silently in curiosity. There were slightly different searches, but practically all the same question.
How do you bring someone back from the dead?
I held my breath. I couldn’t get my hopes up, but hope was stubbornly there.
Over the next few months though I saw his attitude changing. He bought books online about the occult, alchemy, and necromancy. He was determined to make contact with me, a fire burned in his eyes.
After almost a year of failed attempts, Ryan finally was able to successfully make contact using an enchanted mirror. After finishing an unholy chant, my bloodied face appeared in the mirror, causing him to fall back in his seat.
“You… I knew it was real, but I just couldn’t believe it until…” His eyes were fixated on me, unblinking. Even though I couldn’t say a word, his shock soon melted away and turned into affection. Gently caressing the glass, Ryan wiped a solitary tear from his cheek.
“Jesse… I’m going to save you,” he told me.
He studied harder than ever after that. Every spell, every ritual he could find he read from cover to cover, from dawn until dusk.
On an overcast Sunday, he approached the bedroom where the mirror hung and announced he’d finally cracked the code — he was ready to bring me back.
Looking on from the mirror, I clenched my fists as Ryan used a knife to male slight cuts on his wrists, allowing the blood to spill into an abnormal design on the floor. Lighting a trio of pale candles, he covered all the mirrors in the room.
Breaking out into a frenetic chant, sweat dripping down his body, Ryan remained in a frenzied state for hours. It was obvious that he was putting everything into the ritual, and after keeping such a furious pace, he broke down into a defeated stance and passed out.
I touched his cheek, and smiled, appreciating his effort — even if it was in vain. Then, he woke up, eyes lighting up with a sense of recognition.
“Jesse?” he asked in earnest surprise.
“Ryan… you can… you can see me?” I asked, earnestly surprised as well.
He grabbed my hand tightly, kissing my scar-covered face. The blood ritual had worked, and my tears flowed like the crimson liquid dripping down Ryan’s arm.
We sat on the floor crying and laughing as he kept looking at me. Then he took me by the hand and said, “Come on then, let’s go show Chloe!”
I followed him eagerly to her bedroom, and he knocked softly on the door. It was so late I knew she was asleep, but Ryan was acting like a schoolboy showing off a frog in front of the class.
Finally, unable to wait any longer, flung open the door and flipped on the light.
“Chloe, look who it is!” he shouted exuberantly.
But Chloe wasn’t there, she wasn’t anywhere. The room was empty, the house was empty… it was dead silent. Ryan’s face turned pale, checking every lock and window. I floated outside to see if there was any sign of forced entry. A maniacal laugh echoed from inside, so I rushed back in
Ryan stood at the top of the stairs, holding the same blood-stained knife he had performed the ritual with.
“You did this. The sanctum… when it brought you back, it took her,” he shook as he spoke.
I couldn’t think of anything to say. He was right, and honestly, I knew there were consequences, but I blindly ignored them. Eyes brimming with hate, Ryan moved toward me to strike.
Lurching down the stairs, as if in a drunken stupor, Ryan lost his balance and tumbled down the steps. The knife slashed his face as he fell, slamming through his throat as he hit the bottom, impaling him on the floor like a gruesome skewer.
I cried out, yelling to the heavens. Was this my fate? My destiny?
I ran to the room where he kept all of his secret books. I spent years studying them in an empty house blocked off by police tape. I needed to know what the ‘sanctum’ was, and how I could get them back. I was willing to do anything, the consequences damned once again.
After years of tedious research, I finally found the mirror ritual. After enchanting the bathroom mirror, I was able to freely look into the spirit realm that Ryan had unshackled me from.
I could see Chloe. I could see other children there too. Edward’s and Marisa, as well as my own — I barely recognized their faces. They were all trapped in an endless void of despair. Trapped because of my selfishness. Having returned to a mortal form, I vowed to set things right.
I bought the house off the market and turned it into an orphanage. I continued to diligently study arcane and dark texts, hoping to find a way to bring them all back. After years of fruitless efforts, I grew old — too old to run an orphanage.
It was a breezy May morning when I met the wealthy benefactor interested in purchasing the orphanage. I was dressed in slacks and a white blouse, waving gently as his Buick drove up the side of the hill.
He was old, ancient really, about as old as I would have been if I hadn’t died. Inviting him inside for tea, the man seemed oblivious to the fact that there were no children inside.
We sat down in the study and he told me about himself, “I traveled all across the country, in my day, like a vagabond. Just me, myself and I,” he laughed heartily, setting down his drink
“Have you ever regretted anything in your life?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Nothing to regret my dear, except maybe never seeing your smiling face before,” he laughed again, lungs wheezing.
“Oh, but we have met before… in this very house,” I retorted as I took his utensils.
His face twitched, a semblance of recognition boring through his mind. “Jesse…?” he finally realized the truth — but it was too late, for him at least. The drug I’d slipped into his drink made it impossible for my aged husband to move. I went to the bookshelf and retrieved the dagger Ryan had once used on himself, and then, carefully removed Byron’s shirt.
He sat there helplessly in a leather armchair as I made excruciating slits in his chest and arms, the exact proper length and the depth for the ritual.
“What… what is this? How…” he screamed in woeful agony.
“A life for a life… and yours will be the last this house ever gets,” I snarled.
Stabbing the knife straight through his heart, I watched with sick pleasure as the life drained from his eyes. Then the blood from his body poured onto the floor, into the freshly etched hardwood.
A gaggle of familiar faces emerged from the blood, the children leaping into my arms. Ryan remained off to the side, eyeing me with suspicion and gratitude.
In the end, we all shed tears, walking through the dark halls and into the light.