Humor Fiction posted January 13, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
what happens when the ghost sees YOU?

The Ghosts of All Evil Things

by DeboraDyess

I'd never seen ghosts until after the accident.

To be totally transparent, no pun intended, I'd never even seen a dead body before then. Lots of kids get a glimpse of death when a cat or dog dies but not me. The minute they started getting old or sick, my parents rehomed them. The pets, I mean, not my parents. I guess they thought they were sparing me. Lucky me.   
And so death had never been a part of my thought process. I mean. I knew people died. I wasn't a moron, not even as a kid. Everything dies. Trees, flowers, grass, thunderstorms, fires in the fireplace, both anger and happiness, old people ... at least 45 or 50. If you’re a kid, you totally get what I mean. If you’re old and that offended you, sorry ...  and not sorry. I bet you can cast your mind into the far-away seas of your memories and reel up when you were young like me. Fifty seemed closer to 1000 than to anything you'd ever see. That’s how it feels to me.

My Aunt Sophie died. Or, to be more accurate, my great aunt Sophie. I went to her funeral, but I'd only
 seen her three or four times in my whole life and I was six back then. The funeral wasn't a big part of my day. All I remember is that everyone was sad and kept going on and on about what a wonderful woman she'd been. I didn't look in the casket. Why would I?

All I knew her to be was old. Very old and very wrinkly with bony fingers that hurt me when she pinched my cheeks., which she did every time we went to the nursing home where she lived. She never called me by the right name. She always called me Shirley, which was my mother's name. My mother would smile and pat her old, bony hand, and say things like, 'I'm right here, Aunt Sophie' or 'I love you, too, sweetie'. Mom never corrected her. Mom never even really acted like she thought that Sophie should know who I was… Or who I wasn't. 

And that was my whole experience with death. One old, wrinkly, bony-fingered lady that I barely knew.

It didn't exactly prepare me for what was to come.

I  understood that kids die, of course. You don't have to be grown to realize that life doesn't come with a longevity guarantee. But they were far away from my own existence and almost seemed more like a bunch of bad movies than like life. The bad movie about the school shooting. The bad movie about the dad who went nuts when he hit his kid. The bad movie about the minivan full of kids that got smashed to bits by a trash truck. Not reality. At least, not my reality.

And then it happened.

It probably wouldn't have been quite so awful if the embankment hadn't been quite so steep. But it was. And it was so awful.

I’d been looking out the rear window as we drove along, bored and waving at the guy driving the bus behind us. The driver had been making goofy faces at me and smiling … and then he made another face – one that wasn't a smile. A grimace or something like it. He reached up and grabbed his chest like he was trying to pull his skin off. I noticed right away he’d let go of the steering wheel with both hands and yelled at my dad to watch out.

The bus swerved then, went to the far lane, through a guard rail, and down. 

I screamed.

Dad jerked the steering wheel to force the car to the shoulder of the road. I could see his eyes in the rearview mirror taking in the scene in a glance, all frantic and freaked out.

He and Mom are both doctors. Mom is a pediatrician. Dad is the kind of doctor that messes around with ladies' privates. He told me never to say that. The first time I said it, Dad turned this really funny shade of tomato-paste red and Mom tried to stifle her giggle. Dad told me never, ever to say that again, especially in public. He told me it could get him into tons of trouble and that it wasn't a very good definition of what he actually did for a living. But kids love to embarrass their parents and they love to make their parents laugh. With that one comment, I'd gotten a double-header. Dad's face had flushed into an almost maroon-red, obviously stealing every drop of blood from elsewhere in his body, and Mom worked so hard to keep her laughter inside that her eyes watered. I don't say it often, but this is my story so I figure I can say it here if I want to.

 Anyway, after Dad realized what had happened and got the car pulled over, mashing the brakes hard enough to throw me against the seatbelt and send little clouds of gravel and dirt flying up behind us, he and Mom both jumped out.

Mom stuck her head back in before she slammed her door and said, “Don't move out of this car! Do you hear me? You stay here and don't you move!" Her face was tight and fierce and I knew that look. It was a look that said, 'or else' without saying it aloud.

Dad already had his cell phone out. He had punched in 911 and was yelling – no …  screaming directions and explanations and urging whoever had answered to "make it fast, make it fast! There were a bunch of kids on that bus and I don't know what the damage is! I’m headed down there now. … No, I’m a doctor—“

And then they were gone. They disappeared down the embankment, running as fast as they dared down the path the bus had created in the tall grass.

 I did stay in the car. Or, rather, I stayed with the car. I got out, climbed up on top of the hood, and tried to see. When that didn't work, I climbed onto the roof of the car, standing on my tip-toes and shading my eyes against the sun.

I've always wished I hadn't.

Although, with what happened next, I’m not sure it would have mattered. On the roof ... in the car… There would be no missing it.

The bus hadn’t just driven over the edge of that drop-off. It had rolled. And rolled. Books and purses and backpacks and papers were strewn everywhere. I could only imagine what the people on the inside looked like. I didn't want to imagine it.

And … as it turns out, I didn't have to.

A man came stumbling up the hill. The bus driver, I realized, and saw that he was holding his head. He wasn’t holding it the way you do when you have a headache or even the way you might to hold your blood inside because you’re bleeding. No.

This guy had one hand on his right temple and the other under his left jaw. He was literally holding his head in its place, kind of, on his neck. And his neck… Well, that’s a different story entirely.  It was smashed, almost gone. His throat had been torn away and a huge piece of glass was sticking out of it.

At first, I remember thinking, “Why didn’t the safety glass work?” but then he turned his head and I caught the reflection of the trees next to him in a mirror, the big one they put on the side of buses to watch for cars coming up from behind.

A bizarre thought crossed my mind: at least the heart attack hadn’t killed him. Maybe the mirror-to-the –throat thing had been faster, more merciful.

He started toward me, toward our car, and I shrank back. As he crossed the road, though, a semi-truck swept past. Not between us. No, that would have been okay, as far as okay was going at that moment. The semi sped through him. It made the bus driver kind of splash out, like a pond does when you throw rocks into it. You know… First splashes and then ripples and then the water is calm and normal again. Although there was nothing normal about the bus driver now.

I could almost see through him. Almost. Not like in the movies or like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Just almost, the way you can see through stained glass, with things distorted and the colors of stuff on the other side all weird and wrong.

The semi had evidently spun the old guy. He stopped walking toward me and started for a car whose driver had, unfortunately, stopped to help.

A young woman jumped out of that car. She yelled down the hill, “Has anyone called 911?” like she was the only thinking person on the road.

If my parents answered, it was lost in a low wind that was blowing to my back, making my hair fly in aimless strands around my face. I shoved them back ferociously, staring in horror at the bus driver. He lurched toward the woman, stumbled a time or two because walking without a head when you’re already dead must be pretty hard, and stood, staring at her.

She ran toward the destroyed guard rail, got to the edge and kind of tried to not scream. It didn’t work. The cry escaped her lips like a tiger released from a cage and even I could hear it, even with the wind working against my ears.

The ghost-of-a-bus-driver walked toward her and, as she turned to throw up in the road, he …

This part is harder to explain.

When he and the woman collided in space, completely trashing the second law of physics that we’d learned about in science class, he kind of … wobbled inside her for a second. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open like she’d lost her train of thought the same way she'd lost her lunch. An awful snarl came out of her then, and so did the bus driver’s ghost. She shook her head, dazed, and stared down at what had projectiled from her stomach, now lying in a disgusting puddle on the asphalt.

I watched. Breathless. Horrified. I really wanted to jump off the car and hide, but the ghost never looked at me again. I guess he’d found his mark and, thankfully, it was the woman who’d made the mistake of imagining herself a good Samaritan.

No good deed goes unpunished, right?

I was so freaked out that I almost missed the second ghost to ascend the hill. It was a geeky-looking teen with zits and wire-rimmed glasses. There was a mushy-looking spot where his ribs were supposed to be protecting his insides, an obvious fail in this case. He evidently didn't notice me, standing like a terrified witness to his rising, because he turned and started down the road.

In total, six ghosts left that bus. Edwin Newton, the bus driver; Abel Gonzoles, the geek; Emma Johnson-Wright, who was a great artist and a bit of a mean girl; Thomas King, son of the principal of the high school I'd be attending in a couple of years; Blake Henderson, captain of the hockey team; and Joy Freidrichson who, by all accounts, fit her name perfectly. 

I didn't know all that then, of course. I found out later when I started reading newspaper articles and watching the endless TV news spots about the accident.  Mom and Dad decided that, since we'd been some of the first people on the scene, it was our civic duty to pay our respects to the unfortunate dead, so we went to as many of the funerals as their schedules allowed. Our school let out for all of them and there were grief counselors on campus, none of whom I spoke to. It was all a really big, emotional deal.

Stuff like that happens, I guess. There are bus wrecks and plane crashes and horrible apartment fires that steal the life from people all the time.

But ... Ghosts. That's new. And then I had to wonder. Is it new? How many people are living their lives all drugged-up or in psych wards because they talked about what they saw?

About what I saw.

Here's the thing I couldn’t figure out, no matter how hard I tried.

Six people didn't die in that accident. Not six. Ten people died. And I can do math. In fact, mathematics is like my second language. And Ten minus six leaves four.

Four dead kids unaccounted for in terms of ghosts. 

Four dead souls or spirits or whatever they’d become unaccounted for.

Which begged the question: Where were they and why didn't they rise?

A First Book Chapter contest entry

I started this novel near the end of last year. It is NOT on my to-do list for this year, although I have my outline blocked out.
I'm trying a new 'voice', one I've never written with before. Let me know how it works for you. :)
Thanks for reading!
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