Standing in the middle of the yard, I stared up at the house, silent, empty, still covered in thick layers of blue-gray shadows.
I found myself gazing up at the old house as if I were hypnotized. I don't know how long I stood there.
Amanda didn't know. I mean, she didn't know the house called her. It was the only magic left in Dark Falls. The house… over the years, it came to be known as Amanda's house. As I aged, I watched her. Karen brought flowers to her still-shadowy silhouette. She tried so hard to escape us and didn't know it by then… And making her a tombstone felt like an insult to her memory… But every dead deserve one, right?
I killed her, but she gave me life. I mean, Josh did… because he was the one who shone that beam of light on me. But still, it was her idea to push that tree, to destroy the town.
Maybe she froze there because she spent so much energy saving her family. I remember the day when her body fell to the ground, but where her soul still stood.
She was almost like us. A living dead for a while, but a different kind. Ray hadn't fed on her… I really liked her and I used to hope she'd be with us forever, but not like this…
When Amanda stared at the house, it called her. She was hypnotized. And then, the sky lit up. Brighter than before and we all rose from our graves.
I knew something was odd when I came back to life for the second time. I hurt myself while digging my way out… And I was bleeding. The vampire-ghost hybrid that we were didn't bleed.
All of us… we stood there, looking at each other, looking at ourselves… bleeding. Mr. Dawes already had a bruise forming like most of the adults. We walked back to our house… the one we had all shared.
I was the one who found her on the verge to leave. Ray too, I mean, he was right beside me… my best guy friend since he died. I saw the Benson's car running, waiting for the Caucasian girl who was staring at Dead House.
"Amanda!" I yelled. "Don't go!"
She kind of listened to me because her soul split from her useless body. She didn't feel pain because she was already dead. Her body fell backwards on the pavement, on a bed of dead leaves. And her family's car speed away.
They left their only daughter! But it was kind of our fault: to see a quarter of the town running up to the only place they've ever lived in… was scary considering that they thought we were still seeking their blood.
Her corpse was already decaying: all the efforts it gave off came running back to it. The putrid smell almost made me choke, but I didn't step back. After all, I must have smelled that way before…
After two minutes, all that was left was a skeleton with chunks of skin and hair attached to the bones.
I turned to face the ghost she became. I tried to touch her, but I sailed through cold air. I wasn't afraid because we used to be so much worse. I waved my hand in front of her eyes, but she wouldn't budge. Ray too, tried everything he could think of, even fixing Josh's flashlight and shining it on her… Nothing worked.
The whole town gave her a proper burial. On her tombstone, we could read:
R. I. P. AMANDA BENSON. 1978-1990
FRIEND. HOLY SPIRIT. TOWN'S SAVIOR.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
SHE USED TO LIVE IN OUR HOUSE,
NOW SHE WILL LIVE IN OUR HEARTS.
"Dad! What are you doing? Turn around!"
I tried to grab the wheel, but he pushed me back to my seat. Just as I thought of getting out of the car, he pressed the lock key and hold it still.
"Mom! Make him stop! Make him turn around!"
My mother did nothing but wept. Even Dad had tears in his eyes.
"You didn't see it, Son?"
"Of course I did! I screamed frantically. The town…"
"Not the town. Her," Mom cried.
"Yes. But we could try to do something to bring her back. Or at least, take her corpse back. Do CPR. Bring it to the doctor."
Dad's hands were shaking now, so he grabbed the wheel firmer. Mom turned to face me:
"She's dead, honey."
"Mom! There's still time! You…"
"No, Josh. Amanda died a few weeks ago."
"What! What are you saying?"
Dad spoke slowly:
"We didn't want to tell you or her… We didn't think she realized it, but she seemed off since that night when Ray attacked her in the cemetery."
"No! I saved her. It's impossible."
And then I quiet as tears came flooding my vision.
"Ray ─ what are you going to do?"
His red eyes flickered. "I'm really sorry."
He started to raise himself off the ground, to float over me.
I could feel myself start to choke. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I opened my mouth to call out to Josh, but no sound came out.
Josh? Where was he?
I looked down the rows of gravestones but couldn't see his light.
Ray floated up a little higher. He hovered over me, choking me somehow, blinding me, suffocating me.
I'm dead, I thought. Dead.
Now I'm dead, too.
"I think you came too late. Amanda had her elbow poking through her skin. And she didn't feel pain nor see it," Mom explained. "She forgot to lock the bathroom door and I saw her back in the tub."
"But she doesn't belong there."
"At least, she'll be with Petey," Dad added.
And I turned around, staring at the town where I left my only sister. It wasn't fair. We didn't want to move in the first place. How am I going to explain that to Kathy and everyone back home?
When he was still alive, even the dog went to weep for her. Sleeping on her tomb, and running through her every morning, trying to lick her hand.
But she didn't see us. She stood still. Unforgiving.
If I could blame someone, it would be my parents. But I didn't need to do it. They blamed themselves every day. Especially, since they gave off this explanation: Amanda died of a heart attack.
But not me. I told everyone the truth, as crazy as it sounded. Otherwise, it would be an insult to her memory.
To honor her and her family, I named my kids Amanda, Penelope, and Jack. Ray did the same: he named his only Son Josh.
The crunch of tires on the gravel driveway snapped me out of my spell. Startled, I turned to see a red station wagon parked in the driveway.
Two boys about Josh's age jumped out of the back. Their parents followed. Staring up at the house, they didn't seem to notice me.
I didn't know how I was going to explain Amanda's ghostly shape until the family saw her and asked questions and I saw her move.
"Who are you?"
And then, just like that, the car was there. It's passengers ready to leave the house, thirty years later, to their new buyers. I smiled at the answer she gave them.
"Oh. I… uh… I… uh… used to live in your house," I found myself answering.
And then I turned and ran at full speed down to the street.
Wasn't that Mr. Dawes standing at the porch, clipboard in hand? I wondered, catching a glimpse of a dark figure as I ran to the car.
Considering the fact that he's a distant relative, she probably through it was Mr. Dawes back there, but it was actually me. Good old Ray.
I slammed the car door behind me, and we sped away.
Luckily, Karen came out just in time from the neighbor house and we gave her an ovation she couldn't hear:
"Thank you, Amanda. Thank you."
And we watched in silence the car going out of sight, straight to our memories.
Even with my back facing the house, I felt the air grew lighter. The air wasn't so putrid anymore.
"Where are we going, Dad?"
I couldn't see the end of the road. Just behind the gates stood a fog of pure white light. It rises up in distance, toward the sun to the point where I couldn't see the in-between. Josh smiled, eager to get there. My parents stared straight ahead, but they managed to say in a happy voice:
"Where we used to live."