Start With a Ghost
rating: +3+x

The city skyline had never looked so appealing as it did the night I first met a ghost. It looked black, choked with fog, and all-consuming compared to the vibrant streetlights around us, which emanated blinding neon shades of what used to be my favorite colors. In this glowing concrete maze I called home, the messiness of which I used to appreciate before it impeded my wild sprint, I dashed frantically through the streets and wondered if the smog was what allowed the ghost to appear despite all of the lights around. I thought of asking Darryl after we escaped. I would never get the chance.

I glanced to my left and saw the person running next to me. Darryl was a lanky young man who did not seem like the type of person to want—or have the strength to, for that matter—to dash through the streets and weave between cars and passersby to help someone, but that is exactly what he did for me. He didn't have to help me. After all, I was the one who triggered the chase, and the ghost wouldn't go after a second target after it had me. I knew he knew this, but he still refused to leave me on my own.

As we hurried through the city, I tried to suppress the torrent of emotions that could have caused me to lose my nerves completely.

I recall myself as a teenager standing in the basement of my grandparents' house. Or, rather, my grandmother's house now. Granddad had just passed on and I was visiting Grandmother to make sure she was mourning all right. It was a Saturday afternoon, however, and I forgot how she used to leave on those afternoons with her friends before her loss. In effect, I visited an empty house, but I didn't mind; she hadn't really stirred much since Granddad's death, and it was nice to see her going out again. I used a spare key to get in, deciding that I would wait for her to return, and wandered around the three-story residency for awhile until I came to the basement. I stood next to Darryl, who I invited along the way. Well, not exactly "invited". What happened was much more similar to him inviting himself and me reluctantly agreeing. At any rate, he had been excited—probably even thrilled—at the prospect of going to a house that once housed someone that recently died. His family dealt with what he called "Spectral Activity", and he wanted to attempt some of his weird demonic rituals or whatever. I hadn't been paying attention. Now, he was staring into the depths of the basement that served as additional storage space for the house. He was muttering something, akin to either an intense spell or a harshly said recipe for banana cake. I stepped a little closer to understand what was going on…

Darryl's light voice snapped me out of my thoughts. "Turn right right here, Liz." We had reached a calm intersection, mostly devoid of human presence. The intersection was near the border between the hectic center of the city and the outskirts of the city. I looked down the right street and was greeted by dilapidated buildings. The left had newer houses and shops, filled with tantalizing lights that warmed me to the core.

"Why not go to the left?" I wondered aloud, stupefied as to why we were heading towards a rundown row of houses for my death.

"Because you might not have to die after all—if you follow me." With that, he ran off down the right-hand path, not looking back to ensure I was following.

I looked behind me. The enraged ghost was only a blue speck on the horizon, but I knew that would change soon. I needed a way to save myself, but running seemed to be pointless. Darryl seemed to know what he was doing, though, and that was more than what I had. I ran after him, my feet pounding on the concrete, similar to how my heart was pounding in my chest.

During the dull patter of my feet, I slipped back into my mind.

As I approached Darryl, he turned to me with a grave face. "There's something wrong here," he said. "Give me a moment to think." He looked toward me, and I, not being able to withstand his gaze looked off behind him. I could make out a dim glow in the darkness; it was an eerie blue. "What's that—" I started. The blue thing began to move. It started to turn lethargically. In the next moment I saw its face and I almost screamed.

After about a minute of running, I managed to catch up with Darryl, who had stopped in front of a red-bricked building that vaguely resembled an apartment complex. "Why have we stopped?" I asked. "This doesn't seem like the proper place to hide from a ghost."

He responded, as cryptic as ever, "But it is the proper place to get to one. Hurry, now! Get in." He flung open the front door without further care and nearly leaped through the foreboding boundary. I stepped through carefully, starting to doubt the soundness of Darryl's solution.

Thinking back, Darryl must have known what was going on. Right after he saw my expression, he pushed me back up the stairs to the basement. "It's time to take our leave!" Darryl was practically shouting. We ran up and out of the house together in a frenzy, with me trying to ask questions and Darryl trying to convince me that it was not the time. The rest of it was a daze, except when the glowing thing creeped up behind us. We were almost out of the house when I heard a desperate groan. I turned to face the shade and my veins were filled with fear. It had the face of my grandfather, wrinkles and all, but the body of a hag. The thing wore stained robes, ripped at the edges and crawling with some presence I later found out was fear. Before I could be horrified any longer, Darryl stepped in between me and the specter and chanted faster than my mother did when she was berating me for leaving the house without telling her. The ghost was pushed back all the way through the house to the basement—only a one-minute walk. Once more, Darryl turned to me. "Let's go now." I didn't argue with him and leaped outside.

The inside of the first floor was bare. There were marks about the tiled floor that showed where furniture had previously been, and a layer of dust coated what remained. To the left, there was a kiosk with a granite tabletop and a blue elevator leading to the upper floors. Straight ahead, there was a stairwell leading downstairs. Darryl yanked my hand towards it and dragged me to the mouth of the stairwell.

Out of nowhere, Darryl began to instruct me. "This is what's going to happen. You are about to travel to a Library that exists outside of our realm of existence by means of a super-secret Way. This will keep you safe. Do not panic. Do not try to go back. I will not follow you. I will try to solve the problem here."

I was too busy giggling at the fact that he had used the phrase "super-secret" that I didn't have time to stop him from pushing me down the stairs. I tripped and fell all the way to the bottom, confident that I was about to split my skull, until I was blinded by a white light. I did not hit the ground and smash my body painfully; rather, I continued to have a sensation of falling, down into the unknown.

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