Jack and Henry were visiting the haunted house on a dare. That’s what they’d told their friends, anyway. It was really an excuse for the two of them to spend a night alone.
Jack liked to say that he was observant, but when they entered a big room on the second floor, it was Henry who noticed they weren’t alone.
Henry grabbed Jack’s sleeve. “G-g-g-ghost.” Someone was standing across the room, looking out onto the muddy lawn.
Suddenly, the figure vanished, and the room went cold. An enthusiastic voice sounded from behind them: “Ghost? Did you say ghost? Where’s the ghost?”
The boys turned quickly, and there, right behind them stood the ghost. Jack took a step back in shock. Beside him, Henry gasped, grabbing Jack’s hand.
The boy looked their age, wearing a floral snapback cap, skinny jeans, a flannel shirt, and vans. A pair of thick rimmed glasses perched on his nose.
“Oh, my God, I’m sorry I scared you! I just got so excited when I heard you talk about ghosts. You see, I’ve been looking for ghost for so long, but I can’t seem to find any.” He pouted.
“Y-y-you,” Henry stuttered.
“Are the ghost,” Jack finished.
“No, I am not,” the ghost laughed.
“You’re literally floating ten centimetres above the floor,” Jack said.
The boy looked down, confused, like it was the first time he’d noticed that his feet weren’t as firmly planted on the floor as he’d thought.
“Weird,” he mumbled. “Anyway,” the ghost said after a couple of seconds, “I’m Teddy. Nice to meet you!”
“Uh, yeah, I’m Jack, and this is my … uh …” Jack glanced at Henry, who coughed awkwardly. “… friend. Henry.”
“You’re … uh … kinda see-through?” Henry said, but it came out more like a question. He’d calmed down after the initial shock of seeing an actual ghost, but his fingers were still firmly intertwined with Jack’s.
“Rude,” Teddy pouted. “I’m not see-thr-” he started, wrapping an arm around Henry’s shoulder. It went straight through Henry, as if it was air.
Emotions flashed across Teddy’s face. Shock, confusion, anger, sadness, and settled on realisation. “Oh.”
“You ok, man?” Jack asked. A feeling of sadness tinged the air. Like the house grieved for this boy who had just realised his fate.
“Yeah … sorry,” Teddy answered, “I just need a minute.”
“Sure.” Henry threw him a tiny smile.
“I’ll be back.” With that, Teddy sank through the floor and was gone.
Jack dragged Henry with him over to the nearest wall and sat down. Talking in hushed voices, the two boys examined the room. The dirty wallpaper was peeling of the walls like dead skin, and the floor was covered in dust, their own footprints the only marks.
“Theodore Thorne!” Jack exclaimed, smacking his own forehead.
“Teddy. I’m so dumb.”
Confusion was written all over Henry’s face.
“Henry, it was all over the news.” Jack raised an eyebrow. “I know you’re an airhead, but this is just embarrassing.
“He died a year ago. Here. According to the papers, he had snuck out one night. When his parents realised he was gone, they called the police. They searched for days. In the end they found him lying in a pool of his own blood. He had tripped and hit his head.
“It was a tragedy.”
“Oh, that’s what happened.” Teddy was floating up through the floor. For a second his face twisted in sadness, but he forced on a blank expression.
“You ok?” Jack asked softly.
“Uhm, yeah. I can’t believe I forgot…” he mumbled. Then he smiled. “Thanks for reminding me. I’ll leave now.”
Leaning closer to Jack, he whispered: “Take care of him”, and nodded towards Henry. Jack’s eyes widened at the implication. Teddy winked at them and disappeared.
Henry glanced up at Jack.
“Life’s short,” he mused. After a pause, he said: “We should tell my parents.”
“Yeah, we should.”