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Image by Solé Bicycles
Come, Play with Me
By Brent Bosworth
When a ghost from the past confronts the protagonist...

Today the ghost of my past stopped by for a visit. I was sitting in my living room, going over a client's tax documents when I heard the giggle of a child, and I turned to see him standing there in the foyer. It was Charlie, of course, although this had never happened while I was awake before. Usually, he only comes to me in dreams. The light above him flickered and he said, “Come play with me Billy,” and then he laughed and ran off in the direction of the Kitchen. I had no time for the delusions, so instead of following, I popped one of my little oval pills that were supposed to make everything alright in my head and went back to work.

 

The unfortunate thing, however, was that the noises that I kept hearing were real. It sounded as if someone was rummaging through my pots and pans, and then as if someone was banging on them. These things of course were followed by the giggling; the giggling was the worst part. When I went to the kitchen, everything appeared to be as it should be. There wasn’t a single pot or pan out of place, and there was no sign of the eight-year-old boy I had seen before. I decided it was all nerves and that I needed to relax. I grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge and went to draw myself a hot bath.

 

For a few sweet moments, I thought everything was going to be okay, and then I heard the giggles again. I looked over and saw Charlie, looking right down at my head, and I let out a yell. “You’re naked,” he said, laughing. I was in awe of how realistic he looked. It wasn’t like a ghost in a movie, while he was somewhat transparent, he still had all of his color. I could still see his rosy, red cheeks.

 

“What do you want?” I said. “Why are you doing this to me?” I could sense the panic in my voice. I knew damn well why he was here. He was here because of the thing that happened over twenty years ago that I’ve tried to forget every day since. He was here because of what I did, and he wanted something from me. He was here for some kind of revenge; I knew that had to be it.

 

“You gotta tell them what you did Billy. You have to tell everyone. My folks, your folks, everybody. Then we can be friends again,” he said. He sounded so happy, in that way only excited children can.

 

“It’s not that simple Charlie. I want to tell. I’ve wanted to tell since the day it happened, but I can’t. I’ve worked hard to create the life that I have and if I tell them, that all goes away from me, you understand?” The boy didn’t say anything at first, he just frowned.

 

Eventually, he said, “If it all goes away because you tell the truth, then you never should’ve had it to begin with, Billy. I don’t know what to tell you, mister, I’m not going anywhere until you tell.” His voice had determination in it that I didn’t think possible from a child so small. I knew he meant it. This would be my life unless I willingly gave up everything. I stared back at the boy who was smiling again, with resentment, but why was I the resentful one? No, this is what I deserved. There was no way around that.

“I need to think about it,” I said, which was true. I had to weigh the pros and cons of being haunted for the rest of my life and telling the truth. “Give me a few days to think things through. I’ve got some things I need to finish up at work” This sounded lame, even to him, but the boy's face never changed from a smile.

 

“Take your time, Billy. I’ll still be here,” was all he said, and then he ran out of the bathroom giggling again. I let out a deep sigh and put my face in my palms. Is this really how it all ends? Blackmailed by the ghost of my eight-year-old best friend. What a way to go out. I got out of the bath and returned to my work, but I couldn’t quite focus like I had been able to before, so I tried to take a nap on the couch instead. The nap was not going smoothly because all I could hear was the distant clattering of miscellaneous things in my house, accompanied by fits of laughter.

 

The next few days came and went by so fast that I didn’t have time to think about what I was going to do. There was a lot of pressure coming down on me at work, and I was at my wit's end with everyone and everything. I made the hasty decision right before walking into my house that I was going to tell Charlie that I was going to do it.

 

So here I am, writing this letter. Should I have started with to whom it may concern? Oh well, never mind. I know you all probably think I’m mad, but I assure you that I am of a perfect mind. For the last four days, there’s been a ghost child sharing my dark and dreary Boston home with me. I thought leaving Ohio would put enough distance between me and the past, but here we are.

 

To Mr. and Mrs. Bynes, and Mom and Dad, I have to tell you the truth about what happened Saturday, June 22nd, 2002. We all know that day as the tragic day we lost Charlie, but some of the events leading up to his untimely death may have been fabricated or omitted, and the weight has finally become too much for me to carry any longer. As you know that day we were out riding our bikes with our friend Jimmy in the park. After a while, we found this old, abandoned-looking hiking trail, and decided to park our bikes and go for a walk.

 

Jimmy and Charlie were both discussing their new bikes that they had gotten for Christmas, and I remember growing increasingly jealous, especially of Charlie because he got the exact model and color that I had asked for. Mom and Dad just couldn’t afford it that year I guess, but that doesn’t make the blow any easier for a child whose best friends get all the nicest things. I remember just zoning out on the scenery while they continued their discussion. I was taking in the breathtaking beauty of the trees and overgrown flowers. No one had been that way in a long time.

 

Eventually, we came to a large clearing, and we were standing on top of a great cliff that led down to a long-forgotten part of the park. Jimmy and I were playing at the edge of the cliff, but Charlie was hanging back a bit. We both knew why but Charlie still reminded us of how terrified of heights he was. Now, I don’t know if you guys know this, but that’s the wrong thing to say to your two best friends when you’re a young boy because we immediately started messing with him. We were pulling him closer to the edge and then pulling him away again.

At some point, he began to cry and plead with us to stop. He was begging for us to just let him go. When we didn’t stop, he got angry with us and even though he was still crying he began to say things to us out of anger. He said that we were only doing this to him because of everything wrong in our lives, like how Jimmy’s parents were going to get a divorce and how all the grown-ups talked about it, and how my family was too poor to even get me a new bike.

 

We snatched him up quickly when he started saying these things and then he just started sobbing again, saying he was sorry and that he just wanted us to let him go, but at that point, we were so mad that we began again, and when he screamed let me go, we did. The only problem was we were facing the edge of the cliff.

 

We let go and Charlie was flung over the side of the cliff, still sobbing, but now he was pleading for help. “Please save me,” he said, all the way down. The worst part was when he got halfway down, and his shirt got stuck on the branch. He was suspended in mid-air for a while, just crying. “Please save me,” he was calling for us. “Billy, Jimmy, please, anyone save me.” Then the branch broke free, and seconds later, we heard a loud, thump and crunch as his body folded in itself and he was impaled by the branch.

 

We both looked down at our dead friend, knowing at that moment how easily preventable it was, and we started crying together. I remember Jimmy hugged me, which was odd because young boys don't hug each other, but in that moment, I think we both needed comfort. We ran as quickly as we could to our bikes and sped straight to Charlie’s house and told a fabricated version of the story, I vaguely remember Mr. and Mrs. Byers calling 911, and then having to stay there so we could lead the ambulance to the body. 

 

Both of our parents were furious with us for not doing more to prevent Charlie’s death. The story we told was that he was trying to show off to us and that he had slipped. In the story, we both tried to catch him of course. I remember Charlie’s parents being skeptical from the beginning because they knew how afraid of heights he was, but eventually, they just accepted it as fact. I think the worst part of the aftermath was when they asked me if I wanted to keep his bike. They said it wasn’t going to get any use and that they knew I had asked for the same one. I remember breaking down into tears again when they asked but accepting the gift, nonetheless. I wish I could go back and say no. I wish he could’ve been buried with that bike, and that I never had nice things again because I don’t deserve nice things.

 

That concludes the telling of what happened that day, I think. I also think that this will be the last anyone hears from me. Talking about what happened, actually typing it out and thinking about it, has made me realize that I can’t go on as I did before. For the first time, I think I understand why Jimmy ended up overdosing before we finished high school. This weight is too heavy, and I can’t carry it, nor do I want to. Mr. and Mrs. Bynes, I took your child from you, and I can't put how sorry I am for that into words. Mom and Dad, I’m going to take your child from you as well, and I’m sorry, but I can’t keep going. I love you and take care.

 

I finished typing, clicked print, and immediately broke down into tears. How did I go a full twenty-two years with all of this weighing on me? “It’s okay, Billy. You did the right thing,” came a small voice. I looked over and Charlie was standing there, only this time his face was void of emotion.

 

“I’m telling them all, Charlie,” I said while stuffing the pages into envelopes, and putting stamps on them. I just have to go put these in the mailbox real quick. I walked out into the cold December air, stuffed the letters in the mailbox, and walked back inside. I sat back down in my chair and put my face in my palms again when I heard Charlie clear his throat. I looked up, and he was holding my gun out to me. “Do it, and come play with me, Billy.” Without thinking, I took the gun, held it up to my head, and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang, and everything went black, and I felt so free. 

Image by Thomas Griggs

Brent Bosworth is a writer focusing on horror stories. He’s a new writer with publications through HellBound Books, and Horror Sleaze Trash. For more info he can be found on twitter @brentbosworth

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