General Fiction posted February 14, 2021


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A Leap in Belief

by Brad Bennett

Ghost Story Contest Winner 

This is a story that I wrote a while back, and it did well on FanStory. Now I'm entering it in a national contest for short story fiction. But I'd like more feedback on dialogue. Does it sound convincing?  Comments are welcome. -Thanks, Brad

Mindy leaned forward into the cool, welcoming breeze. Shrieking seagulls and sounds of pounding surf on jagged rocks sang to her. Sprinkling sea mist caressed her face. The inviting pull of the sheer drop-off was working its sweet power. Yes, it would be easy now. Just close your eyes, lean forward, and float downwards into a dream of forever peace, leaving this horrible existence behind.

"Young lady, don't do this!" Came a man's voice from somewhere behind. "Talk to me, okay?"

The sudden interruption jolted Mindy from her thoughts, destroying her suspended trance. She looked around to find this intruder. She caught sight of the man off to the side behind the railing. "Get away! Don't come any closer!" She warned him.

The man raised his hands, revealing his empty palms. "See, I've nothing with me. I'm too old to try and grab you, anyway. Please listen, I-"

"I SAID STAY AWAY!" she yelled—her body teetering closer over the precipice, her footing precarious on the slippery rocks, wet from morning dew.

The man froze and caught his breath—she was swaying—wind whipping at her light sweater. "Listen to me," he pleaded. "This cannot be the answer. Talk to me."

"Get back! Why are you here? Get away from me."

"What will this solve?"

"Everything. It will free me from this torture."

"What torture? Tell me."

Mindy ran her anguish through her mind. "The abuse, the torment, the living hell my life is." Her face contorted in grief. "I can't take it anymore."

"Who did that to you?"

"Everybody, they all scorn me. I need to die—escape from what they say I am."

"Who are they?"

"Everyone at school. I'm a lousy student. My grades are failing—I have trouble listening to the teachers. I don't fit in with other kids. I’m not as pretty as the other girls. They laugh and whisper ugly things about me behind my back—I don’t belong there.”

"You do belong! You have a right to be there as much as they do."

"No, I do not! I’m inferior. If I’m gone, everyone will be better off." A gust of wind arose, causing Mindy to teeter closer to the edge.

"Young lady, please lean back to the rail! Have you told anybody this, your mom, dad?"

"Why? When I try to explain, they tell me I’m exaggerating. I just need to try harder and stop complaining. They don’t understand or care. Their lives are more important than my small, pathetic, little existence."

"You must tell them what you are planning to do, and why. They will listen then."

"No! It’s too late. I’m not going back. This is the only way out.”

"No, not true! If you do this, it will destroy them. You must tell them. My name is Gerald. What's yours?"

"Mindy."

"That's a nice name, Mindy. Now please lean back towards the rail. It would break my heart if you fell."

"Why? You don't know me."

"I know you now, and I know somebody just like you, and your story is the same as his."

Mindy shook her head. "How?"

"Lean back and grab the rail, then I will tell you."

Mindy reached behind her, grasping for the railing, but she couldn't find it, her body swaying in the gusty wind.

"Back further, Mindy. You're almost there!"

Her searching hand somehow found the rail, and she grabbed it.

"Oh, thank God, Mindy. Hold on tight now. Please don't let go."

"Why are you here? How is your story anything like mine?"

“I knew a boy your age. His name was Joey. He did poorly in school—just like you. He couldn't mix with the other kids, he also knew what it was like to be rejected, that nobody cared how he felt. They laughed at him—criticized him, made him want to hide, even to die! This is your life, too, isn’t it?"

"Yes,” Mindy cried, "I can't live with this pain anymore," the tears on her face now gleaming in the bright sun. "I can't go back—there is no other way out!"

"Oh, but there is. Believe in yourself, and reject others' thoughtless words, because they have no meaning for you. Do not let others deny your right to be. I know you can solve these things. You are sensitive and aware, with a keen mind. There's a complete adventure before you—see it.”

"You don’t know what I am. How can you say that?"

"Because I knew Joey, I knew what he was inside, he was full of talent and promise, but he threw that all away. He will never see the bright future that was in store for him, and now, I can see that in you. I can tell you have the same sensitivity and insight. Ignore their ignorance, and see your bright future.”

 "No, I can’t go on,” Mindy cried. “If Joey couldn’t, how can I? I am a loser. I hear it every day of my life. Loser, loser." Mindy was sobbing uncontrollably now.

“Mindy, if Joey could be here now, he would tell you to stop saying that. You know it’s not true, it's taken over your soul, and these others just reinforce it. Can you see that? Also, think of your mom and dad. Your death will destroy them on a level far longer than your suffering now. Don’t leave them with a lifetime of grief. Trust me, give them that chance, and they will make up for their mistakes. But you must tell them."

“I can’t. I can’t be stronger than Joey.”

“You can get stronger, put all those negative thoughts in a box, seal it—and then set it on fire! Leave this place. Mindy, I came here to cry for Joey. Please don't make me cry for you, too."

At that very moment, a black and white police car drove up the hill and stopped nearby. Two officers, a tall male, and a younger female got out. They approached the railing along the park's cliff.

"Go to them, Mindy," Gerald pleaded. "Leave this place of death. Go back to the living. Do it now!"

"Are you okay, miss?" the woman officer asked as the two people neared. "Please come away from the edge."

Mindy hesitated, her hands trembling on the railing. The policeman, sensing her indecision, rushed forward, reached over the fence, and grabbed Mindy away from the drop-off.

The policewoman wrapped her arms around the distraught girl, holding her tight—reassuring Mindy she would be okay. Then she nodded to the other officer, and he pulled out his cell and called for a support group.

They began walking back toward the police car—the woman still clasping Mindy tightly. "I'm Nancy," she told the shaken teen. "Sweetie, do you have any ID?"

Mindy fumbled in her jeans. She produced her school pass.

"Mindy, we'll have some people take you home now, okay?"

"No! I want to be with Gerald. I want to talk to him."

"Who is Gerald?" she asked.

"The man, the person I was talking to."

"Honey, we didn't notice anybody with you."

"But, there was an older man with me. He talked to me!" Mindy's voice was insistent. "He told me he knew a boy named Joey, whose life was just like mine."

Nancy looked at the police officer, "Jim, have you heard of a Gerald, or a boy named Joey from around here?"

The policeman hesitated. "A… Gerald? No, sorry, Nancy. I haven't."

"Mindy, are you certain this man was with you?"

"YES!" Mindy cried out, "He was here. He talked to me. You have to believe me." Tears welled up in her eyes again.

"It's okay, honey." Nancy held the girl tighter. "I'm sure Gerald was here, when he saw us coming, he probably backed away. We didn't notice him, did we, Jim?"

"That's right," Jim said. "Mindy, we were focused on you. You were the only person we noticed."

Soon a van pulled up with a Youth Services logo on its side. Two women in plain clothes got out and approached the distraught teen. They introduced themselves to Mindy and told her they worked with kids like her. They would take her home and talk with her mom and dad—and help them to understand her problems.

But Mindy was still upset. She didn't want to leave yet. "Please find Gerald," Mindy sobbed, her voice broken. "I want to say goodbye to him."

"You should go home with these people now, honey, but don't worry, we'll find Gerald and tell him you got home safely."

Mindy climbed into the van with the two women. Jim and Nancy waved goodbye to her as the van descended the mountain parkway. The two officers then returned to their squad car to continue park patrolling. But Jim seemed edgy. He glanced at his patrol partner—his voice apologetic, "Um, 'how bout we drive down to the café in town?" He said, "I know it's too early for lunch, but I need a break. This whole incident's bothering me a bit."

"Sure, Jim." She noticed her partner was shaking. "Tell me, what's going on?"

"I'll tell you when we get there."

The restaurant server took their orders and hurried away. Nancy picked up her coffee and studied her partner's somewhat ashen face. "Okay, what's going on, Jim? It's not like you to go hinky on a suicide job?"

"I'm sorry, Nancy, I couldn't discuss this in the girl's presence. But I do know this man Gerald."

"What? No way, how?"

Jim set his coffee down, his voice direct, serious. "Many years ago, before you and I started working together, my previous partner and I met a kid named Joey. We discovered him standing over that same cliff ledge Mindy was standing on today."

"Good, God! What happened?"

"Nancy, I couldn't get the boy away from that ledge—he was too far away for me to grab him. Both of us were getting desperate, so we contacted his dad—he worked somewhere downtown. We had a squad car rush the poor man through downtown traffic to get there while I pleaded with the boy to wait. But just minutes before the father arrived," Jim hesitated to parse his words. "The boy jumped."

"Oh my God, Jim! You've never mentioned this to me before."

"It gets worse, Nancy. That boy's father's name was Gerald. I'll never forget the poor man's tragic grief."

Nancy remained silent for a moment, trying to fathom the meaning of this incredible story. "Jim, could that father, Gerald, have been there today? Could he somehow have come upon Mindy on that ledge and talked to her by some incredible coincidence?"

"No, Nancy, that's not possible. Gerald died of a heart attack just a few months later. That was over eighteen years ago."

"But how? How could Mindy have known about Joey and Gerald? They both died before she was even born?"

"It's an unexplained phenomenon, Nancy. That's all I can say to you right now."

Nancy nodded. Then she smiled. "Yes, and that is how it must remain on our report, Jim. An unexplained but beautiful phenomenon."



Writing Prompt
Write a Ghost Story. No limit on the word count. No poetry.

Ghost Story
Contest Winner

Recognized


This is a story I wrote a while back, and it did well on FanStory. Now I'm entering it in a contest of short story fiction. But I'd like more feedback. Comments are welcome.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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© Copyright 2022. Brad Bennett All rights reserved.
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