by Nikki Lynn Barrett
The one person who makes me feel alive for the first time in ages is a spirit trapped in her own version of hell with no recollection of her life or death.
But he’s the only link I have to the living world.
I remember nothing.
A cold blanket of fog surrounds me as I sit up from the hard surface I must have been sleeping on, wearing a wedding gown, once white, now stained in red. My mind races a mile a minute, scrambling to retrieve a memory of what happened, like a dog scampering for his ball, but I come up empty.
Who the hell am I?
Where am I?
What happened to me?
Why is no one here?
Another thing that catches my attention right away is the fact that I look like death, but I feel nothing. Based on the condition of the wedding dress, whatever happened must have been brutal.
Nothing at all. No aches. No pains.
Okay, fine. Maybe the blood isn’t mine, but that means it’s someone else’s, and I have no idea who, what, when….
I’m repeating myself.
Rather easy to do when I am trying to piece together the missing fragments that make up my life.
I stand with ease and interpret my surroundings. It’s dark and foggy. Cold winds snap in my face. Shivers slam my body relentlessly. Maybe that’s shock, though. How can I feel a chill when there’s pretty much no other feeling?
Not that I expect an answer, but I call out, “Someone help me!” My voice brings no recognition. Not even a spark of who I am.
Panic settles over me.
My mind is blank. Empty.
How do I not have any memories? Did I fall? Crash? Hit my head? There’s no pain, but that doesn’t mean anything. Maybe shock has taken away the ability to feel pain. But I’m cold. So that’s something.
Next step, check my body for wounds. My hands travel up and down my torso, searching for any tender spots or any blood seeping from an open injury. There’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. This isn’t promising. It doesn’t calm my chaotic mind.
This is my chance!
“Hey! Can anyone hear me?” I scream into the foggy abyss.
No one responds, at least, not to me. The talking continues. Someone is sobbing hysterically, and it’s most definitely not me.
I can’t see them, and I don’t think they can see me. Still, I scream and cry, running frantically until I can find someone.
I shouldn’t be able to move this easily. I shouldn’t feel nothing. Not with blood on my dress. One would think I rolled around in a pool of it. This isn’t a few drops, I look like I bathed in it.
There’s a crowd of people huddled together, surrounding something. And they’re crying. Bowed heads, gut wrenching sobs.
I’m in a graveyard.
In front of the crowd of people is a coffin.
Is that me in there? Am I dead? Is that why I’m here?
I run … well, I don’t even know if I’m running, because hell, I don’t know if I’m alive, to the crowd. I’m like an animal ready to pounce at the first sight of a person.
“Somebody! Please tell me you can see me!” I scream, waving my hands.
No one turns my way. No one flinches. It’s as if I’m invisible, which I think is becoming more and more likely. Because I’m dead. I have to be. It’s the only explanation I can come up with, not that it’s an option I’m happy to think about. I don’t know who I am. How did I get here? Why does it seem like my memories are wiped clean?
How did I die?
Why do people say rest in peace to the dead? They don’t rest in peace. How do I know? Because I can fucking see ghosts. The ghosts who seek me out aren’t at peace. It takes time and a willing human to help them find that peace. I’m not willing, but they don’t leave me alone. I’ve never been a big people person, and I’m sure as hell not a ‘ghost’ person, but does that stop them? Nope. Not in the least.
It hasn’t always been this way. Only in the past three years have I been able to see the dead.
I blame it on the fact that I died once. For ten minutes, until doctors managed to resuscitate my sorry ass.
Today is the day we’re burying my uncle Floyd. It’s cloudy, and a slight drizzle is spraying us with a light mist.
There are ghosts everywhere.
I’ve learned to ignore them, for the most part. They find me no matter where I go. I can’t even take a shit without a ghost appearing, frantic for help because they eventually know I can see them. That stupid split second where I let my weakness show, and they descend upon me like a vulture chasing its prey.
Not only have I come back from the dead, but the dead want me. Sure, fine. Why not? No one else does. Not for me, anyway. My parents ignore me until they see fit to have their son at all of their important events. Other than that, I’m an outcast. Pretty much used to it. They throw money at me and tell me to have a good day.
I thought when I died and had my life flash before my eyes, it would change. It did for a little while. Then they went back to normal. Work, work, work. At least, for Dad, that was the case. Mom did her little parties and women’s charities and pretended like she gave a shit about all of it.
She goes to the bar and screws the bartender. Dad pretends not to notice.
Want to know how they gain sympathy?
By using me.
“My son Scott has a hard time of it. I think he’s gone a little crazy.” I heard my mother tell someone this a few months ago. I’ll never confront her on it. What the hell is the point?
Living with this shit is crappy, but it is what it is. One day soon, I’ll blow out of town and make a new life. Maybe I’ll even be famous and my parents will come begging for my forgiveness.
Aunt Sara steps forward and places a rose on Uncle Floyd’s casket. She’s sobbing hard. Together for thirty-nine years, his sudden death is devastating on all of us. Floyd was the only one who gave a rat’s ass about me. We always did stuff together. He gave me my first cigar, and we got drunk together once when I was seventeen.
It dawns on me then. Why don’t I see his spirit?
I finally look around, knowing all too well these other spirits are gonna have a field day with this. I’m not about to make myself look crazy in front of family and friends. Not today, of all days.
Shudders ripple through my body. Damn, some of these deaths were gruesome. Not only can I see the ghosts, but I see them in their death form.
Blood. Torn skin. I won’t go on. The visuals churn acid in my stomach. Gotta give credit to doctors. I couldn’t do it. I’m not even good with scary movies. They make me want to hurl.
Trying to stay casual, I scan the cemetery for any signs of my uncle. There are none. Disappointment settles in the core of my soul. I have this ‘gift’ of being able to see spirits, but the one I would actually love to see, I don’t get to.
There’s a young woman in a blood stained wedding dress, and she’s waving her hands frantically. Why this one grabs my attention over all the others is beyond me, but she does. I can’t tear my eyes away from her.
She notices that I see her, and relief floods her eyes.
Before she can get to me, a hand lands on my shoulder. “You all right, son?” Dad’s concern is almost genuinely touching. Too bad I call bullshit. It’s all for show.
“You know the answer to that,” I snap as I jerk my shoulder away. Too much crap within the last few years has left me jaded. It can’t even be denied.
Dad gives me a cold look, like he can’t even believe I got upset at him. Instead of arguing, he pivots and storms off. What does he expect? Seriously!
Whatever. Let them go off. I came in my own car, and I don’t have to answer to anyone.
The woman spirit is still there, frozen in the same place. I only have eyes for her. Her mouth opens in shock as I strut toward her. “Y-You can see me?”
Ah, a first timer. She has no idea where she is or what’s happened. Confusion taunts her pretty green eyes.
“Wish I couldn’t, but yes.”
She frowns. “Does that mean I’m dead? No one else can see me.”
“Fraid so.” No point in beating around the bush.
“That funeral over there isn’t mine, is it?” she whispers.
“No. It’s for my uncle.” Back at the grave site, most of my family has already left. The empty spot and the coffin ready to be lowered in the ground breaks me a little more inside. At least Uncle Floyd lived a damn good life. I loved his stories. If my aunt knew half the shit he did even while married, she’d have a stroke.
The more I think about it, the more it seems the ghosts who come to me have unfinished business. That show Ghost Whisperer comes to mind, except it’s been recent for me to be able to see them.
“Why can you see me?”
She narrows her eyes. “You’re not very nice.”
“I’m not nice? That’s my uncle buried over there, and I’m talking to a ghost. Wanna try that again?” Frustration pumps through my body.
“At least you aren’t dead! I don’t even know who I am!” she shoots back.
Touche. Despite my irritation, Ghost Bride makes a valid point.
“You put things into perspective for me there,” I admit, scratching at the back of my neck. The rain doesn’t hold off. Too much more of this and I’ll have to leave. What’s stopping me from doing so already? Why does this one ghost gravitate toward me above all others today? “You don’t remember anything about who you are and how you died?”
She shakes her head. “I woke up in a foggy abyss. I don’t feel pain, even though it looks like I died in a horrible way. I wonder where my husband or husband-to-be is.”
My gaze flits to her left hand. No ring. Hmm. Interesting. “You don’t even have an engagement ring on your hand.”
She gasps and raises her hand. “You’re right. So maybe I ran from him.”
“A paranormal version of runaway bride? Hmm.” The words tumble from my lips before I can even think about how callous I’m being.
“Ugh. You’re not one to hold back, are you?” Ghost Bride mutters in disgust.
“I’m talking to a ghost. Do you expect me to be a perfect gentleman?” I retort.
“I guess not,” she relents.
“You’re going to follow me if I leave, aren’t you?” Most of them do. Why bother asking?
“I- I don’t know. Can I even do that?”
Newbie ghost problems. “Wouldn’t be the first. I can’t speak from a ghost perspective, but they never leave me alone.”
“Have you always been able to see us?”
There we go. The loaded question. Man, spirits are damn talkative. “Nope. Just a couple years.”
Wait for it….
Holy hell. She’s silent. Ghost Bride doesn’t ask me why it’s only been recent.
My next words surprise me. Damn, I’m a sucker. “I don’t want to get drenched, but I’m not about to leave you here alone and confused. You can go home with me, and we’ll figure out who you are and how to get you to wherever it is you need to go.”
Her eyes light up. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” And then she tries to hug me. Ghost Bride’s hands go right through me. I’m used to it, but she isn’t.
She gasps, stepping back. “Okay, that’s weird.”
“Right, so…let’s go.” I gesture to the parking lot, which is fairly empty now.
“Umm…” Ghost Bride hesitates. “How exactly do I do this?”
Another sigh escapes me. Newbie ghost problems, and it’s like I have the answers. Why do I do this to myself?
No matter where she goes, USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett hears voices in her head. Instead of calling her crazy and locking her up, her family realizes it’s just a product of being an author and allows her to write the stories so that the voices shut up.
But they don’t. And probably never will. There’s no need to lock her up, Nikki knows she’ll never escape the voices, not until each and every last story is written. And for every story she writes, about ten or more ideas pop up.
When she isn’t slaving away at her computer writing books that will probably make you cry and keep you in suspense, Nikki plots to take over the world one book at a time. What? It’s a sickness. One she can’t escape!
Books aren’t her only addiction, though. Nikki can be found making up parodies to drive her son crazy, and bantering back and forth with her husband, who somehow manages to steal her away from the fictional world she lives in all the time.
Nikki lives in Arizona with her husband and son, where she can be found using every creativity outlet she can find through music, photography, handcrafted things, and random interests that she may pick up from time to time.
If you want to learn more about the author who makes people cry for a living, check out her website.