Posted January 2nd, 2019 by Steampunk
January 2nd, 2019
What's this?? a post?? from me??? I know, unbelievable. This is just a short story (roughly 2,500 words) I had to write for English. I figured since it was already finished (and not just one of my typical stories abandoned 1/5 of the way through) I might as well post it here! I just copied and posted from my file, so sorry if the format is off, I'm too lazy and tired to fix it all.
It had been two years since Benjamin died. Two years, six months, and an endless number of days, all spent in that darkened house, with himself and the starving mice to keep him company. On occasion, a real estate agent would stop by, and Benjamin would get to have some fun. Lamps, files, and shriveled plants would all be sent crashing to the ground as cupboards slammed and chilling winds wound their way throughout the house, floorboards creaking and mice shrieking until finally the terrified human would flee and Benjamin would be left alone once more.
No one seemed to want that old house on the hill, painted sunshine yellow with the windows all shut. After all, who would want to live in a house where a boy was brutally murdered only two years prior? Even the boy’s parents moved away, their two remaining children in tow. But Benjamin stayed, tethered to a rickety house that now was nothing more than an empty husk. It was lonesome there, with no one to keep him company. The mice got boring and humans so rarely arrived to distract him. Still, he couldn’t help but think it was better here than what might await him past the boundary of those chipped front doors.
He thought about it, occasionally, the concept of letting go. He wondered where he would be sent should he choose to move on, to be a ghost no longer. But the thoughts were infected by possibilities that sent shivers down his spine. He wondered how it would feel, to soothe the ache in his chest and drift away from the life he so desperately clung to. But the terror of what came next tainted those fantasies, nightmares of fire and pain and wicked smiles haunting him. Yet what truly shook him was the possibility of there being nothing at all. Any desire he felt to let go was ripped away when he imagined an eternity of endless drifting, no body or soul or any physical presence to ground him, just a dark empty void and his own consciousness until the end of time. He had decided long ago that that fate was far worse than boredom, or a hell, or the mice who stared through him with dull, empty eyes, so he swore to himself to never let go. He would stay, and he would be fine.
And so there he stayed, alone and aching, until one day he was alone no longer.
“Alright,” An unexpected voice chimed through the house, and Benjamin perked up as the mice fearfully scuttled back into their holes. “Time to get to work.”
Floating faster than he had in months, Benjamin quickly made his way through the hall and arrived in the kitchen to a sight that astounded him. Boxes were piled high and excess clutter was pushed up against the wall. And in the middle of it stood not a real estate agent nor a daring teen, but a young woman with glossy brown hair and eyes that surveyed the space sharply. Moving, Benjamin realized belatedly, she was moving. Into his house
Dumbfounded, he watched her begin to flit about the room, checking the taps and sweeping the floor and scrubbing the counters. Then the situation set in and he grinned, gleeful at having someone new to distract him from the stasis he existed in.
As the woman was crouching down to scrub more insistently at the bottom of the cabinets, Benjamin reached over, a smile twisting his lips. Then, soundlessly, he knocked the largest box she had set on the kitchen counter off, resulting in a loud ‘bang!’ and the sound of silverwares crashing together. The young woman startled and crept over to inspect the box suspiciously, before shaking her head and lifting it back up onto the counter. Benjamin laughed, a sound that he knew she couldn’t hear, no matter how viciously it tore through the near silence. He knew what she was thinking, this was how it always began. Nerves frayed but mind set in stubborn disbelief, she would convince herself that she had simply set the item closer to the edge than she had realized- a belief that would be chipped away with every new mysteriously open window, with every crash and bang heard from further in the house. The woman would leave soon enough, of that Benjamin was sure, but until then he would have his fun.
The woman continued to and Benjamin set to work. Floorboards creaked without reason and mice fled, squeaking, from an unknown presence. Lamps, books, and even a shelf tumbled to the ground, and soon his guest was shaking, her head whipping around at every tiny noise. She sunk to the ground in an empty corner, trembling and cursing names Benjamin didn’t recognize, for driving her to this point, to this house and, Benjamin added with malicious glee, to him.
He eased up, not wanting to drive her away too soon, and floated for a few minutes. He almost left, tired of her wailing, but then her phone buzzed suddenly, the chime of a notification that Benjamin himself had once been so accustomed to waiting for. For a moment, they both just stared at it expectantly. Then the woman reached with trembling fingers to snatch it up from where it had fallen. Benjamin floated closer, interest piqued by the torn expression on the woman’s face.
To his surprise, the only thing on the screen was the image of a man, his arm wrapped around the waist of a young blond woman. The words captioned below it were blurry and unreadable to him after years of disuse. Perplexed, he glanced between the human and her phone, only to startle further when he saw her demeanor. Her lips were pressed into a tight line and her eyes were red, and she tossed the phone away to tuck her knees to her chest, arms wrapping around them and head falling to rest on it with a muffled curse. It wasn’t until her shoulders started shaking that Benjamin realized she was crying, sobs soft and muffled by her knees.
Shaken by such a negative reaction that hadn’t stemmed from him, Benjamin retreated to his attic to watch the mice scutter through the sun and dust.
Time was slippery to him, a useless thing that he had given up on accurately tracking. Because of this, he had no idea how long he stayed in the attic. All he knew was that when he finally went back downstairs, the house he had grown up in was gone.
The abandoned halls were swept clean, the walls and surfaces scrubbed of dust and grime. New furniture obscured the scratches he remembered making and threw off the layout he had once been able to follow with closed eyes. It was unsettling to find his home, his last reminder of his life, suddenly strange and unfamiliar. He decided firmly that he didn’t like it.
His now quite unwelcome guest hurried through the door, hair tied up in a messy bun with pencils and pens stuck haphazardly in it, her arms full of papers and books. Dark bags drew attention from her eyes and her pallor was paler than Benjamin remembered. Discontent muddling a little with amusement, he joked to himself that she almost looked like more of a ghost than he did.
He followed her into the office to watch her dump the papers onto her already overcrowded desk before she fell into the chair and immediately set to work. She typed away at her computer for hours, never stopping except to jump a little when Benjamin slammed a few doors, or to gather up the papers and books Benjamin shoved off her desk. A few times, he leaned through her to peer at her work, causing her to shiver from the sudden chill. Every time, he found the tasks she was working on to be both menial and boring. He wondered why she would devote so much time and energy to such trivial things and complained beneath his breath about her being not only troublesome but also boring too.
He spent the rest of the day messing with her- opening and closing doors and windows, moving remotes and other small items to different rooms, knocking furniture over. Each reaction his tricks earned him was only a brief satisfaction. Then it was back to the endless boredom once more.
A few days later, a phone call the woman shared with her friend confirmed his suspicions- the man whose picture the woman cried over on the daily was her ex-boyfriend. He found it odd, almost ridiculous, that someone would hang on so tightly to another person, another life, that had already left without them. He even laughed a little at found it less funny when he realized the parallels between them. The hauntings she experienced were just a little gentler and a little less frequent after that.
The next few days were a cycle of the same tiresome events. Benjamin would appear at some point to haunt her until she jumped at every creak of the floorboards, she would calm then inevitably get worked up again when her phone lit up with another social media post from that man, and then she would spend the rest of the day buried in mounds of work. Most days a friend would call her, checking in or inviting her out to eat. She usually let it go to voicemail, and even when she didn’t, she would politely turn them down. She told them she was fine, and that she had moved on. Claimed they didn’t need to worry about her so much, she liked to be alone.
Benjamin didn’t much like how similar they were, but he enjoyed the distraction she provided nonetheless.
When it first started happening, Benjamin didn’t think much of it. Slamming a cupboard closed, he was surprised to find that the human barely even flinched. Instead, she kept typing away at her computer, and although Benjamin sulked, he wasn’t too put out.
The next time, he started to worry. He knocked over both a book and a lamp, and although the woman sighed, she neither panicked nor even looked up until she had stopped typing. It was only then that she got up to clean the damage Benjamin had caused.
Evey day, his hauntings and frequency, yet the woman’s reactions only dwindled. She responded to his mischief less and less, and although he was too upset to notice at first, that wasn’t the only thing that had changed. She had started crying less, and the piles of work on her desk dwindled away to nothing, as did the bags beneath her eyes. He realized it had been awhile since her phone had buzzed with notifications of new pictures, and it had been even longer since she had rejected an invitation or call from a friend. He realized, one day as she and a friend laughed on the sofa and joked about boys, that she had moved on from whatever past had previously ailed her. It was mature and healthy and so completely different from him and he hated it.
Without any distractions from the human to entertain him, Benjamin’s days spiraled back into boredom, discontent his only constant companion. The mice, the attic, the tricks and games he once played, it all felt suffocating, and every moment ached. The thought of letting go returned more insistently, but fear of that empty future still drew him away. Yet as he watched the woman smile and laugh with her friends, so much happier and healthier now that she had moved on, he wondered if the life he led now was better than the one he feared.
He desperately lashed out, trying anything to find the satisfaction he once felt. But stubbornly, the woman did no more than sigh or roll her eyes. Benjamin was all alone, trapped with thoughts and fears that refused to give up.
Watching her happiness was torturous, so he grew used to spending his days in the attic. Boredom plagued him there, and distractions from that nagging longing were even harder to come by. Dust built up around him. Sunlight came and went. Mice lived and died, seemingly in an instant. He could find comfort in none of it, and he realized one day how much it hurt to still be there.
Venturing downstairs, he drifted down the hallways in a daze. Those dents and cracks were still in the walls, and the same floorboards still groaned, but nothing else was familiar. What was keeping him here, if not his home or his family, or the excitement of haunting? Fear, he realized. Fear that what came next would be infinitely worse than whatever he was experiencing now. a fragile voice spoke from the back of his mind, maybe it could be better too.
Slowly, he made his way to the place he had avoided for years, and as he he peered into the rooms that held the ghosts of memories he had clung to for so long and creaked up the stairs that had sold him away so many times after secret nights spent out of the house. It terrified him, the thought of leaving this place, of letting go, but those rooms were now different, and the memories distant and faint. It was time, he knew, to move on.
Finally, he reached the old room that woman had yet to touch, faded posters still adorning the walls with plants left in the same places he had left them, now shriveled and dead. Breathing in deeply, he lay down in the spot he had woken from long ago and closed his eyes. Almost instantly, he felt the strong tug he felt whenever he visited his death spot, but unlike every time before this, he didn’t fight against it, didn’t resist. This time... he let go.
For a few moments, the silence was deafening. He felt weightless and adrift, and he could only squeeze his eyes tighter shut, terrified that if he opened he’d be met by only darkness. Slowly, the sharpness of the silence softened, and the empty loss of self he had felt turned into something different, still light and ungrounded, but safe. Gently, a familiar voice prodded at him to wake up.
Hesitantly, almost reluctantly, he opened his eyes, not to darkness and solitude, but to light, warm smiles, and an outstretched hand. He took moved on.
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