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Four Ghosts

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By the end of your sophomore year of high school, you're pretty sure that Sunnydale High is haunted.

You've broached the subject with a dozen of your friends, though they seemed unwilling to discuss it, as if seeing ghosts were some embarrassing social disease. Eventually, though, you match the stories up and come to a few conclusions.

There are four ghosts that everyone admits to having seen at least once. One in the library, one in the quad, one in the girl's bathroom, one in the cafeteria. One at each end of the school. You've heard a few other stories that don't match the pattern-- a woman who runs through the upstairs hallway, chased by no one; a boy who sits in the clock tower-- but they're rare. You have four ghosts whose habits you know, and that's enough.

Of the four, two are stationary. The girl in the bathroom sits in a stall and cries; sometimes she makes the sinks run with blood, but mostly she's quiet and inobtrusive. In the cafeteria, the ghost-boy keeps to himself unless someone's getting picked on. The girl in the quad runs across it forever, fading out at the far corner only to reappear in the near. The library ghost is the only one who's aware of the living on a regular basis. If you spot him, you can ask him for help finding a book, or how to use the antiquated card catalogue. He doesn't appear to realize you aren't one of the students he worked with in life. He seems nice, generally harmless. He only causes trouble when someone tries to set up computers in the library.

None of the four seem to know that the others exist. None of them seem to know that they are dead.

You start doing research. Old yearbooks, old newspapers; you even volunteer at the old folks home and listen to the rambling stories the seniors tell. Eventually, you start to find things out. You find the right yearbook, match it to the right disaster headline. You figure out who died, and how.

Once you know who they were, you start to wonder why they're still here.

You ask the library ghost for books on communicating with the dead. He's more than happy to oblige. He doesn't seem to take the hint at all. You don't recognize the book he leads you to, or the shelf. When you turn around, he is gone, the stacks he led you to are gone, and you're holding a musty old volume not written in English.

You get a group of students together over the next few weeks, kids who trust you despite the obvious insanity of your plan, who have Gothy tendencies or who just feel bad for the poor dead people. You find a twelfth-grader who takes AP Latin, a friend of a friend, but you're able to convince her to help you. You assemble the things you need: candles, chicken feet, sage, and other things, stranger and more arcane.

One night, you and five other kids sneak into the school after hours. The doors aren't locked, which surprises you, but you've got black arts to practice and you don't want to waste time. You set up the circle on the spot you chose from the school map, central to the four ghosts. You set up the candles at the compass points, wave sage as the Latin-speaking senior chants. You hope you don't accidentally loose unholy terror on Sunnydale's unwitting population.

The spell works fast, faster than you expected it to. The last word of Latin has hardly been said before four ghosts materialize around the edges of the circle. They ignore you and the other living kids. They only have eyes for each other. They don't say anything.

You realize you haven't planned past this point. What, exactly, are you going to do now that the ghosts are here? Explain politely that they're dead, and they should probably move on to the next world? Ask them if they have any unfinished business at that keeps them at Sunnydale High? The other kids are looking at you for their next move-- you planned this, you're the leader. You draw breath to ask them a question, but before you can, the bathroom ghost speaks.

Did we win?

Her voice is all whispers and echoes and sobs, and it's maybe the saddest thing you've ever heard. You remember one of the yearbook photos--the were mostly black and white, but she was in one of the color shots. She had red hair then, and a wide smile. Her ghost is washed of color by a nonexistant light, and doesn't look as though it's smiled in a hundred years. Maybe it hasn't.

One of the other ghosts answers the question. In a general sense? Looks that way. But I think we, specifically, lost big time. Just our luck, huh? He can still grin, and does, but the cafeteria ghost's voice is as faded as the girl's.

The other girl, the one who's been running across the quad since the day she died, looks like she's thinking of something. I think maybe we can go now. Now that we're all here. I think I'm ready to leave. Are-- are you guys ready?

The library ghost smiles gently, paternally, at the girl. I think we've all got a lot of catching up to do.

Not that much, says the ghost boy. We haven't done much of anything since we-- since we--

We died! says the crying girl, and she's more animated now, more alive, than anyone in Sunnydale High's remembered history has ever seen her. Oh, I get it now! We died, that's why we're here, that's why we were stuck. She pauses, and frowns a little. That's kind of disappointing. I though I was having a really long bad dream.

The running girl says Well, now we know. Now we can wake up, or move on, or whatever it is we should do now. She looks for a second like she's going to run again, but instead she says I've missed you guys. So much. I'm so glad we can go together.

The boy and the no-longer-redheaded girl agree, and the three of them link arms and head off down the hallway, as they must have done every day in life. You can hear a fragment of their conversation (So I guess we finally get to graduate...) before they fade.

The library ghost stays behind for a moment, and wipes his spectral glasses with a nonexistant hanky. Thank you.

He's talking to you now, directly, though the other ghosts didn't even seem to know you were there. "Me? For-for what?"

For helping them. I wasn't sure there were still here, or if they'd left a long time ago, but now I know. Now they're together, as they should be.

"You knew? You knew you were-- why didn't you leave? If you knew, you could have--"

Oh, I couldn't, he says, and for a moment he looks even sadder than the crying girl. He smiles anyway. I couldn't leave without them, you see.

He turns, then, and floats down the hall after the other three ghosts. He has faded away to nothing by the time he reaches the end of the hall.

When you come back to school the next morning, there are no more ghosts at Sunnydale High.