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The Ghost of Levi Johnson

The ghost of Levi Johnson

Estimated reading time — 28 minutes

It was a stormy night on Welkes Street. The street sign creaked back and forth as the wind blew past it. Heavy rain water flowed into drains on every corner as debris from trees was picked up and whisked away. Toby Forest sat on his bed, watching the rain beat against his window. His fingertips tapped lightly against his crossed arms as his anxiousness continued to grow at the increasing storm. He was home alone, expecting his mom to be home any second now from work. The stress from the past month weighed against his shoulders, making him slump down in an uncomfortable position. Toby sighed uneasily as he reached for the remote on his night stand. Turning to his TV he flipped on the news for the weather report. Unluckily for him, there was no weather report, but more information on the past week’s unpleasant case. Toby had caught the reporter mid sentence. But he didn’t need any words to recall that horrible night. Or the memory of that burnt, decaying house they stood in front of now.

He wanted to look away. He placed his fist to his mouth with furrowed eyes. He watched as the news reporter stood hesitantly away from the house.

“Thanks to DNA samples, we were able to identify the three bodies lost to the house fire in Charlie Welkes Forest.” The news reporter spoke grimly to the camera. The view transitioned to the studio where two news reporters sat. Toby recognized the man. It was his father. His furrowed brows lifted and his eyes coated with an unreadable expression. His parents were divorced. Toby’s dad went on to news anchoring, while his mom was left working as many jobs as she could to put food on the table.

He addressed his eyes to the women instead as she began to talk, “the bodies belonged to a family of 3 under the surname “Johnson”. Sources say that it was a mother, named Maria, and her two children, Levi and Eliana Johnson.” Three pictures displayed themselves on screen. It was hard to look at them knowing that those innocent faces were now gone. Perhaps replaced with horror, or nothing left at all.

As Toby’s eyes scanned the screen, he lingered his gaze on Levi’s chestnut colored eyes. He felt a chill run down his spine as he tried to look away while the reporters gave a background check. Toby’s breath shook, he tried to regain his former calmness by seeming unmoved by the whole sight, but unfortunately for him past memories began to resurface as they intrusively played in his head. He heard his dad speaking in the background. Something along the lines of, “My daughter—” something, something, something. But he blurred him out of his head.

Toby’s phone began to ring, snapping him out of his dilemma. He paused the TV and picked up his phone. It was his mom calling.

“Hey.” Toby said breathily. He continued to stare off towards the screen with his phone being gripped tightly.

“Hey, yes, I’m sorry, Tobes. I’m stuck in traffic and we’re barely moving— god.” His mom stressed. He could tell she was frantically trying to get home before the weather got any worse and inevitably more dangerous to drive in. Toby tore his eyes away from the TV to listen to her attentively. “Don’t turn on the news. I don’t want you to get freaked out when home alone. I’ll try to get there as fast as I can.”

Toby looked back at the TV with a bewildered stare, unknowing if he should mention whether or not it was too late for her warning. Not like it mattered, as soon as he looked back, the pictures fell off the screen. The storm had knocked out his power, casting him in total darkness, apart from the moon light casting in from his window.

Toby stumbled over what he wanted to say but no words managed to come out. He scrambled in his drawer for a flashlight. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll uh…I’ll be okay.” He picked up a flashlight and tried to flick its light on, but it didn’t work. He exhaled sharply out of his nose. There was no response. He pulled the phone away from his ear to see he was back on his home screen. “Disconnected.” He sighed in frustration.

His window creaked as the wind pressed itself against it. The tree branches made shadows across his floor as lightning lit up his room. Toby jumped slightly at the flash. The groaning sound of his house slightly teetering made it sound like there were footsteps climbing the wooden stairs. Though, he knew that’s not what it could have been, but his mind was playing tricks on him. Toby got up quickly, taking his pills in hand, and pushed them down with one swig of water. After that, he tried to lay down to sleep, but his nerves were on edge. Eventually, after what felt like hours of alertness, he managed to slip into a dreadful sleep.

He was running. He didn’t know why. But he was running down a flooded path. There were trees everywhere blocking his vision. The path was covered in leaves and sticks and seemed unkempt. He was soaked from head to toe in rain that made it hard to run. He felt his legs burning as he gasped for air. Slipping over a rock, he stumbled down a small cliff in the path and rolled his way to the bottom, aggressively twisting around to protect himself from any danger hurtling towards his head. All he saw was his head being thrown into a rock, knocking him out.

His dream immediately jumped to a car ride. Like nothing prior had happened, but only he remembered that it did. Toby gasped as he looked around. It wasn’t raining anymore, but it was a dark night.

A dark day.

He looked at his mom in the driver’s seat. “Mom?” His voice shook. It was deep with sorrow and fear. She didn’t respond, she didn’t even look at him. It felt uncanny. His mom was always quick to respond to him. Toby looked out his window at the trees they passed. It was difficult to see past them. It was too dark to make anything out. But like it had magically appeared, a house became present over the hill of the dirt path. Only there were no flashing lights like that dark day. There was no flame seen first over the hill of the dirt path. Only a house, or what remained.

The driving seemed to get slower as they came towards it. He refused to look back at his mom. His heart began to pound and he could hear it in his ears. Pulling up to the house. He looked past his own reflection to see it all clearly. Its roof had holes in it, it was shocking how it hadn’t collapsed yet. The once yellow home was now a brown, black house. Its windows were smashed in and its front door was closed. The car came to a complete stop. The eerie silence filled Toby’s ears. He didn’t want to turn away from the house. He was afraid to.

Slowly, the front door knob twisted open with a snap. Toby’s eyes widened as his eyebrows furrowed. He looked perplexingly at the door, wondering if he was seeing things. He tried to wake himself up by convincing himself none of it was real, but it felt so. The door opened widely with a shriek. He couldn’t see anything. He really had to squint to tell if there was something there.

As his vision settled, he saw the outline of what seemed like a person. What sick twisted nightmare was this? There in front of him, was Levi’s eyes staring right back at him. They were vacant, replaced by only sclera. A transparent version of the boy he once knew. Just staring at him. Not moving. Nothing was happening. Toby shut his eyes tightly and sunk into himself. “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening.” He mumbled. He whacked the side of his head to try to wake himself up. “It’s just a nightmare. It’s not real.” He covered his face with his hand. Opened his eyes to see that Levi was gone. His heart began to cry. He couldn’t take it anymore.

He regained control over his breathing. The air around him felt cold suddenly. Turning to his mom— only expect it wasn’t. Toby screamed at the sight in front of him. A burnt corpse layed sitting up in the drivers seats where his mom once was. It was unidentifiable apart from its eyes. Those same brown eyes. Toby pulled on the car’s door handle rapidly to free himself from the sight. He began to cry from fear as the body’s head turned towards him. “Holy fuck!” He cried. He tried to unlock the door but it wouldn’t budge. As soon as he turned away and towards the car window, he felt a warm hand grip his shoulder, like it had just stood by an inferno.

His adrenaline had kicked in as he elbowed the car window several times. The glass shattered as he attempted to climb out. A probable broken elbow and several glass shards scraping his skin was nothing compared to everything he was feeling right now. He climbed out of the window and fell to the floor, knocking the wind out of himself. Standing up, he began to run. He had no clue where to go, but he just ran. “Get me out of here!” He screamed to no one. He could feel himself tiring down. “Let me out!” The world began to spin as his legs wobbled. His knees fell to the floor, followed by the rest of his body. He huffed and wheezed as he tried to get back up. Clawing at the muddy, leaf-ridden ground. He grew lightheaded as his eyes fixated on the silhouette in front of him. “What do you want?” He cried out. He couldn’t take any more of his own imagination. Before he blacked out and felt himself slipping away and back to reality he heard a faint voice. One of which he knew.

“You,” It said.

Toby screamed as he woke up. His eyes darted around his room. He wiped his forehead that was covered in sweat. He swore he could still see the image of Levi by the foot of his bed. Only until his mom burst in, switching his bedroom light on was he completely free from the horror.

“Goodness sake!” His mom placed her hand to her heart trying to catch her breath. She was in her nightgown. Must have gotten home after all. “I swear. One more nightmare, I’m bringing you to another psychologist!” She yelled, “you’re giving me a scare. It sounds like you’re being murdered!”

“Oh, well, it’s not too pleasant having them personally, Mom.” Toby stated, trying to regain his composure. Annoyed how his mom mentioned being scared, despite himself dealing with the nightmares first hand. His mom grumbled under her breath, shutting his door on her way out.

Getting up for a small breakfast, he opened his closet to find clothes to change into. As he pushed aside shirts, he found a wrinkled, red button up hidden all the way in the back. He pulled it out. It was his prom outfit. He smiled at it, remembering that night.

It was the day he decided would be his last. After seeing his then-boyfriend, making out with a girl, after being told they’d be each other’s prom dates, he couldn’t do it anymore. He remembered heading out to the Charlie Welkes Forest on foot, since his school’s prom was being held right near where the line of trees began. He walked one of the trails deeper into the forest. He climbed the tallest one, sitting on a sturdy, thick branch he knew would hold him. He just sat there for a while. He wondered if he jumped off, maybe that would be enough to let him go. After his parents divorce, after losing most of his friends, after all the bullying and after the end of what he thought was going to be his to lean on for support, it was all gone. He remembered kicking off his shoes and just feeling the relief with the wind blowing against his face. He had made up his mind. As soon as he began to lean over, he saw a person kicking a rock below him. They grumbled under their breath, angrily kicking the dirt. The rock bounced off his shoes. They stopped and looked around, eventually looking up. Their angry eyes turned to shock.

“Jesus Christ, what are you doing up there?” They spoke worriedly. Toby looked into his brown eyes that gleamed in the moonlight. He slowly placed his left hand on the tree for support.


“I’m coming up there. Don’t move.” The person spoke. Toby could tell it was a boy. He had shoulder length curly brown hair that swooped over his forehead satisfyingly. He had tan skin and was wearing a purple button up with a black vest. He climbed the tree which was definitely scuffing up his outfit.

“Oh god, no, you don’t have to.” Toby said frantically, but the boy was already reaching for his branch. Toby hugged onto the tree’s base, nervous to fall now, like he wasn’t just planning to earlier. The boy pulled himself up and onto the branch and sat beside Toby like he wasn’t around 30 feet above ground.

“Why are you up here?” He turned to Toby, who was looking at him like he was a psycho.

Toby hesitated, “My boyfriend,” he looked down shamefully, but the boy didn’t seem to bat an eye. He was just waiting for the complete story. Toby seemed a little stunned, but he continued. “My boyfriend made out with some girl in front of me without even realizing I was there. Also life has just been…meh.” Toby stared forward. He felt the boy’s gaze in his direction. But it was comforting.

“No shit. I came out here for the same reason.” He laughed slightly. Toby looked at him. “Or well, my girlfriend. She cheated on me with this dude. Life’s been hell, too.” He nodded.

Toby scoffed in amusement. “Was she a dirty blonde? Ugly high heels?”

“Oh my god.” The boy realized. He turned to Toby with an open smile out of shock. “Reddish Brown hair, stupid snapback?”

“Yeah!” Toby laughed. “Oh my god. There is no way.” Tears of amusement slipped from his eyes as he recalled the sight.

“This is great, what are the odds that I’d find the boyfriend of the man who my girlfriend cheated with?” Levi held his stomach as he hunched over from silently laughing.

“What are the odds?” Toby repeated with a giddy smile. “I’m Toby Forest.” He stuck out his hand for a hand shake.

The boy stared at his hand, using his fist to push it into a fist bump. “Levi Johnson.”

Toby placed the button up back into his closet. His smile was replaced with sorrow. That was when he first met Levi. They had climbed down from the tree and ran through the Forest together, ditching prom and their exes behind. Picking out a black hoodie and blue jeans, he changed. He went over to his full body mirror. His brown, shoulder-length hair was all over the place, but it looked normal for him. His nose freckles were barely seen on his pale skin, and his eye bags had gotten more prevalent. Toby huffed through his nose, and turned to head downstairs. When he got down. He went straight to the kitchen. As he sat down at a barstool with his cereal bowl in hand, his phone began to ring. It bounced against the counter violently, startling Toby. “Hello?” He answered.

“Toby! Hey!” A loud voice spiked his ear as he pulled the phone away slightly with a wince.

“Valerie, why are you calling me at like…” Toby glanced at the microwave clock. “11:34?” Toby glanced down at his cereal with a disappointed look on his face. He must have been knocked out to have slept so long. He pushed the sugary meal away from him as he rested his arm on the counter, ready to hear whatever Valerie had to say.

“Well, I was wondering, since it’s fall break and all,” Valerie was heard giddily giggling away from the phone. She was probably kicking her feet at whatever she had to propose. “Maybe you’d like to come hang out with me?” She pleaded. Valerie was the only new friend Toby managed to find after what happened. Though, he wasn’t opposed by any means to hanging out with her, it was just that he wasn’t sure he’d be all too comfortable yet. Toby contemplated, the pressure pushed down on him to comply was immense. Valerie was an extremely outgoing individual. The mere fact she wanted to hang out with him, of all people, was perplexing. Toby felt as if she had something else on her mind as well.

“Just us?” Toby asked, his voice slightly higher, trying to seem more polite. Valerie gave a hum of dissatisfaction.

“Well, I was thinking of inviting Kaden…and maybe Logan.” She drew out Logan’s name. Toby’s eyebrows furrowed as he scrunched up his nose. Valerie was known for being a little boy-crazy. Toby couldn’t completely be mad at her for that by any means. But Valerie seemed to have a new crush every other month, sometimes week. Toby didn’t particularly like Logan, or even Kaden. They were the kind of bad crowd Toby would avoid in school. The kind of crowd that would try to rile him up just to see him mad, then laugh at him. All because he was different from them. It made him very uncomfortable knowing he’d be hanging around people he would never be spotted with anywhere else.

“I don’t know, Valerie. I might be busy today.” Toby fibbed nervously. He stood up and threw away his cereal.

“It’ll be fun! It’ll give you the chance to hang out with new people! Not to mention maybe Logan will get to see the real you, outside of school.” Valerie reassured him. The sound of Valerie hitting her feet against her bed was heard through the phone as she groaned. “Please, Toby! You haven’t been able to hang out with me all break. This is probably the only chance I can hang out with both you and Logan at the same time. This can benefit us both!” Toby seriously doubted that. Not wanting to upset Valerie and crush her heart, he complied.

With a sigh, Toby smiled sarcastically. “Alright, Val, I’ll do it. Just text me the details and I’ll show up.” Valerie squealed in delight.

“Totally will! Bye bye!” She hung up before Toby had a chance to even process what he probably signed up for.

Toby groaned as he dropped his head onto the fridge door. Quickly after their conversation, Valerie had already texted Toby the plan. His phone chimed as he picked it up.

A meet up at Charlie Welkes park at 12 AM.

Toby gawked at the time. Why the hell would they be at the park at 12 AM? Texting Valerie about it, she simply responded with “That’s what Logan said!” Which did not make Toby feel any better. It was only going to be one day, only a couple hours long. He knew he could stick it out.

And so he waited. video gaming, reading, painting, solo foosball (which was very difficult), anything to pass the time. Losing his patients, he decided to head out early at around 11 PM. Pulling on his Chucks and grabbing his brown scarf, he set off into the dark night for Charlie Welkes Park. His mom was late at work again and probably wouldn’t return home till around 1 AM, so Toby made sure to leave a note for her on the kitchen fridge saying. “Off with friends. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright. P.S. please turn my TV off if it turns back on again randomly. :)”

The air was cold for October where he lived. The wind whipped Toby’s hair back from his forehead. The street lights lit up the damp street from last night’s storm. The watery streets reflected and slightly showed the moonlit sky. As Toby walked down the silent road, he was reminded of his dream. He tried to shake the thoughts away, but the breeze sent a cold shiver down his spine. He had the sensation of being followed spring into the back of his mind as he continued walking. He knew no one was there, but he still was paranoid even as he reached the park. It was empty as expected, no parent would bring their kid out to the park at 11 at night. The wind pushed the swing set back and forth ever so slightly like a kid had just ran off. It creaked back and forth and Toby’s paranoia only grew. He walked over to a park bench and sat down. He bounced his leg up and down nervously as he frantically looked around. Perhaps leaving early wasn’t the best idea.

Toby anxiously stood up and sped his way over to the swing set. He sat down on one of the two swings and pushed his legs off the ground to set in motion. He fumbled with his pocket to pull out his pills. They were for his anxiety, he needed to take them everyday, but when he rattled the bottle, he realized it was empty. Without his anxiety meds, he’d grow paranoid and be prone to panic attacks. Toby shook it off, and before he knew it, he started enjoying his time, and even when he got higher off the ground, he decided to jump off. He let go of the chains, crashing down and rolling like a desert tumbleweed. He laughed stupidly to himself as he sat up to watch the wind push the seat next to his own. “I see the wind has decided to join me.” He smiled. Getting off the floor, he felt as the wind came to a stop. But to his surprise, the swing set only kept swinging. With each swing towards him, it creaked louder. Toby raised his eyebrow at the abnormal sight. His breath was no longer consistent. “Funny.” He mumbled. Sitting back down on his swing, the swing next to him seemed to have slowed down even as a breeze pushed past Toby. He sat there even past 12, just rocking back and forth as he impatiently waited for the group to show. Toby grumbled to himself, growing physically tired. From the distance, crumbling leaves were heard approaching him. The footsteps slowed. If it was anyone he knew, he assumed they’d say something to him to let him know they were here. He didn’t dare turn around just for that reason that he had no clue who it was behind him.

Not expecting what happened next, Toby jumped off his swing and flung around at the feeling of a hand touching his shoulder. Expecting a corpse, expecting himself to have accidentally fallen back into a nightmare, he screamed at the touch. Only to have seen it was Logan with his hand outstretched, looking dumbfounded at his reaction. Logan’s confused expression twisted into one of humor as he bent down with a hand on his knee laughing like it had been the funniest thing in the world. “Chill, man! Oh my god, what’s up with you?” Kaden came up behind him with his hands in his hoodie pockets, staring at the ground.

“Where’s Valerie?” Toby asked sternly, ignoring his tease. Toby shook away his fear.

“She’s in the car putting on makeup.” Kaden stated, pointing back at a beaten up pick up truck. Toby looked up to see Valerie exiting the passenger’s seat and rushing over with her silky black hair bouncing off her shoulders. She engulfed Toby in a hug that he was not prepared for. He awkwardly patted her back.

“I’m so excited! Let’s go.” Valerie tugged on Logan’s hand as they began to walk away from the park and towards the outline of the forest. Toby’s face showed pure confusion as he looked back at Kaden and the couple existing.

“Wait what? No, I thought we were hanging out at the park?” Toby questioned as they approached the trees. He itched the back of his neck uncomfortably.

Kaden turned around to see Toby nervously look around. “Relax, Logan had a way cooler idea.” He pulled out a vape and began to inhale the air.

Alright, great, cool. Toby thought sarcastically about this change in plans. They had to have walked for around 10 Minutes till Toby caught sight of the potential destination. There stood in front of him, like the nightmares he had before, the place he never wanted to see again— Levi Johnson’s house in all of its glory, burnt and decayed. Fallen autumn trees from the fire rested on the ground. Burnt grass and leaves black from char and ash. As Logan began to open the door, Toby moved before he could take in his emotions. Stepping up to the porch, he pulled back at the handle, shutting the door that had just been opened.

“What the hell, man?” Logan complained as he stepped back down a stair.

“No, we shouldn’t go in.” Toby stood in front of the door. He stared mortified at Logan and the rest. He looked at Valerie with hurt and pain in his eyes.

“Are you scared? Don’t be a wimp.” Logan shrugged him off like he usually did with a gesture like he just couldn’t believe Toby would do such a thing. He looked back at Valerie. “I knew you shouldn’t have invited this guy, Val, he’s too chicken to go inside.” He scoffed humorously. Valerie looked conflicted, not wanting to upset Logan but also confused as to Toby’s reaction and unsure of how to comfort it.

“Come on, Toby. Have some fun.” Valerie smiled with drooping eyebrows to show her concern.

Toby tried to say words but they wouldn’t come out as he looked defeatily at the trio. “No, this isn’t fun. This could be dangerous, the roof is falling apart. It’s also just…it’s morally wrong whatever you’re thinking, Logan.” Toby rambled. Logan, growing tired of him wasting his time, shoved Toby out of the way and opened the door. Toby looked longingly into the house with absolute fear in his eyes. “Guys, please. We can do something else.” He panicked. It was like he was a ghost. No one paid attention to him as they pushed past to enter the house. Toby placed a hand over his mouth, contemplating if he too should go in.

Not at ease with the loneliness of the darkness outside, he followed the group into the house. Logan jokingly splatted down on the burnt sofa, sighing dramatically like he had just got home from a 9 to 5. “I can’t believe we get to see this freak’s house. Too bad it’s not in the best of conditions.” He picked at the sofa that had debris from the roof on it.


Kaden sat next to Logan, sinking into the sofa. “Remember that fist fight in the hallway after 5th hour? He just jumped on Bradley and started hounding him, dude.” Kaden made fighting sounds as he threw his fists at the air. He mumbled words that Levi probably never even said, only to make fun of him.

Bradley was Toby’s ex. The fight was prompted because Bradley confronted Toby in the hallway, accusing him of leaving him for Levi. Though, that wasn’t the case at all, Bradley wouldn’t listen. Levi came up to defend Toby, which only led to Bradley tackling him to the ground. Levi never was the most popular, nor was he really accepted by the kids at school. There was never really a reason, maybe a 6’0 tall senior with curly long hair and several ear piercings was too different for the norm. Maybe Bradley really just had some pent up anger that he needed to get out at the nearest punching bag he could find. Maybe, no one will ever truly know. By some miracle, Levi had managed to get Bradley onto his back, punching away at his face which gave him a broken nose. Toby didn’t know if Levi even knew what he was doing, but he was somewhat glad that the outcome ended up in Levi being safe. They ran away before any teachers could confront them, that or any of Bradley’s friends that would’ve decided boxing was their new favorite hobby that day.

Toby’s fists tightened at the two boys mocking the very boy who lived in this house, all while sitting on his scuffed up sofa like he hadn’t just died a week ago. This was a fresh wound they decided to cut deeper. Deep enough to where when it healed, it would be scarred. Never it’s former, together self. Valerie rummaged through her bag for whatever she was looking for. She pulled it out and to Toby’s shock, the night had gotten worse.

An Ouija board was just displayed to Toby’s very eyes as he stared daggers into it. If Toby’s eyes could set fire, the board would have been incinerated. “Oh my god.” He spoke under his breath in disappointment. Logan jumped up from the sofa and strutted over to Valerie who was sitting on the floor.

“Let’s see if we can contact that loser.” Logan sat the planchette on the board. Kaden came over as well to join in on the fun.

“Guys, this is ridiculous.” Toby’s fear started to turn into anger as the group began to mock his friend. Logan’s stoic and confident swagger formed into an ugly expression at Toby’s reluctance.

“Then go home.” He stated simply. Toby sat down and placed his fingers on the planchette. Valerie pulled a candle out of her bag and lit it, lighting up the dark house. “First one to take their fingers off loses.” He said in a snarky voice.

Toby felt sick as they moved the planchette around the board, starting their game. He never believed in the supernatural, he didn’t want to. He’d prefer to not assume Levi was stuck in an endless state of the in-between, alone and cold. It wasn’t all too comforting to think about. He knew this board wouldn’t work, hell, if Levi was truly out there, Toby didn’t think he’d even bother to pick up the planchette. “Spirit, are you there?” Valerie asked the board. They waited in silence, nothing moved. The candle didn’t even flicker.

“It’s not going to work.” Toby murmured under his breath. But right after he doubted, the planchette began to move ever so slightly. Both Valerie and Toby gave a look of startlement. Even Logan and Kaden seemed concerned. The planchette moved itself to a bold, black YES. “Who’s moving it?” Toby asked sternly, he looked up at the three around him but no one looked at him.

“Let me ask a question,” Kaden’s voice quivered. “What’s your name?” And like the planchette had a mind of its own, it dragged itself down the board to an L. Followed by an E, V, and I.


Toby’s heart felt like it was being tugged on, he still wasn’t believing it, but just the desperate idea that this actually could be him, hurt. Logan piped up amongst the silence, “my turn.” He cleared his throat, “Levi, are you gay for Toby?”

Toby’s head snapped up to look at Logan with a confused expression breaking his immersion. The planchette moved back to YES. Toby immediately lifted his fingers from the planchette. “You’re moving it.” He accused Logan. He stood up, “It’s not funny, Logan.” He snapped harshly. It wasn’t like Logan cared, but Toby did. Logan was more focused on his prior call before they began playing.

“You lost.” He pointed like a child at Toby. “You took your fingers off, you lost.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Toby threw his hands defensively in the air. He was on his brink with Logan.

“I said before we began playing, the first to take their fingers off would lose, you lost. Now there’s a punishment.”

“Lay off him, Logan. Don’t you think you’re being a little too harsh?” Valerie stood up. She was asking as politely as she could, not wanting to upset her crush. Deep down she must have known he was being unreasonable.

“No. He’s been a buzzkill this whole time. I bet you he’s afraid of his own shadow, too.” Logan raised his voice. “I dare you to stay 10 minutes in here by yourself to prove you aren’t a pussy.” He got close to Toby, poking him in the chest.

“No! No, you’re being stupid! This whole hangout was a horrible idea. I can’t believe I even considered for a second that you’d let off of me for a couple of hours. But here we are, in a dead family’s decrepit house. How sick do you have to be to suggest such a thing?” Toby yelled angrily. Logan only got more frustrated at Toby’s presence the more he spoke.

“Guys, go get in the car.” He looked back at Kaden and Valerie. Kaden just shrugged and walked out the door.

Valerie hesitated, “Toby, can’t you just stay in here for 10 minutes? Just get it over with, you know? Then maybe we could all just settle down after. After all, you did lose.” She mumbled the last part.

Toby turned from Logan to Valerie, then Logan back to Valerie. He gestured wildly. “Huh? What the fuck, Val—” He was at a loss for words once again. Logan grabbed Valerie by the wrist and began walking to the door.

“10 minutes! Don’t you want to see your boyfriend, anyway?” As he went to close the door, Toby ran up and tried to catch the door before it shut. But to his poor fortune, it locked. It was actually locked. Toby rattled the door handle and even banged on the door, demanding to be let out.

“This— This can’t be happening.” He breathed out in a panic. He grabbed at his hair once he ran his fingers through it. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out his own flashlight. “Well, I was hoping they had batteries I could use.” Toby popped open the flashlight. Trying to make light of the situation he was just forced in, he squeaked out. “Hey, Levi. Got any double A’s?” He walked across the creaking floorboards and towards the lit candle. He picked it up. “I feel so much like a white man in a haunted mansion horror movie right now.” What a horrible time to have comedy be your coping mechanism. Toby was seamlessly performing stand up to a non-alive studio audience. Not too fond of the joke, the candle blew out, leaving the downstairs in total darkness. Toby’s breathing could be heard from a mile away as he tried to calm himself from the fright.

A loud static sound filled the downstairs, Toby turned over to the TV to see it had turned on despite the wires being frayed and crinkled. The channels began to change rapidly. Toby’s breathing grew more rapid as the TV glitched onto the news. The header flashed at the bottom of the glitching TV. The whole thing seemed like it was trying to hold itself together. “The man who started the fire in Charlie Welkes Forest was found dead in his home with 36 stab wounds.” Said the woman on screen. Toby’s shaky breath didn’t stabilize as he stepped a little closer to the TV. “No one knows who could have committed this crime, no evidence suggests a break in. This was definitely not a suicide as the stab wounds had been in the targets back. Lead detectives say the wound sizes fit a chef’s knife, coincidentally a knife such as that has been missing from its holder located in the kitchen. Nowhere in the house has this weapon been found and it is assumed the killer had taken it with them—” the TV began to glitch again, and suddenly, powered off with a low hum.

“What the hell.” Toby murmured in a raspy voice.

“Toby.” A low whisper hummed into his ear.

Toby snapped out of his thoughts as he looked frantically around the place. “Huh? Wait what. No, I’m going crazy.” He spoke quickly as he shut his eyes tightly. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he snapped around. He screamed as he fell to the floor in fear. There was nothing there. “Logan? Valerie?!” Toby called out. “I’m being pranked. That or I’m stuck in a fucking nightmare again.” Toby stood up. The silence was horrifying.

“Toby.” He heard again from behind him.

Not looking back, he ran up the stairs frightfully. As his foot planted on one of the stairs, the wood broke in and his foot went sinking into the splintered ground. Tripping on the raggedy stairs. He screamed in pain as the splinters and jagged wood stabbed into his ankle. He quickly pulled himself up and out of the stair. He hobbled his way onto his feet and hopped quickly into the nearest room he found. He slammed the door behind him and slumped down with a painful sigh. He had a feeling this stay would be longer than 10 minutes. Pulling up his jean pant leg, he saw a bloody mess of wood sticking out of his ankle. Just the sight of it made him almost pass out.

Toby took in deep breaths, he began to feel jittery and started to shake and jolt. He felt an uncomfortable bile rise to his throat and rest there like he swallowed a rock. He looked at his bloody, dirty hands which twitched in the dimly lit room. He looked around, pushing his back against the door to leverage himself off the ground. Once he got to his feet, it all dawned on him.

This was Levi’s room. Or what was left. The only way he could tell was the placement of the windows, the peeled gray wall paint, and the old box tv he had on his nightstand, which sat directly to the right of him, across from his bed. As Toby limped across the room, he grabbed onto the bed frame for support. It was ashy, and as he pulled his hand away it was black with char.

“How much smoke am I inhaling? This has got to be a hazard…” Toby cringed through gritted teeth. Startling him, a blue light emitted the right of his face, making his eyes feel funny as one eye took in the blue light while the other relaxed in the dark. He squinted, turning to face the source. Levi’s TV was stuttering, to blue, to static, blue…to static. It was the kind of old tv where you’d only be able to watch with VHS. The only way it would be working is if it had a cassette in it. But there was none, the socket was empty. And yet the TV was buffering, like it was struggling to show him something. But honestly, after everything, Toby knew it wasn’t a weird coincidence.


The charred screen morphed into a news broadcast, then to a cooking show, then to stuff Toby didn’t even recognize. Some were old Sitcoms and others commercials. But the screen only conveyed it for less than a second, it was hard to make out. Toby felt an odd fascination with the TV, and sat himself down on Levi’s burnt, holey sheets. Toby listened, as best he could to the sounds of the TV. It was distorted, and hard to make out, but he knew there was an underlying message.

“He. Murder.” From a shrill voice to a low one, with every word a different show played. The screen twisted into an alleyway with a few 1950’s smokers lighting matches, then to screams and an opening intro of a house.

“…who?” Toby drew out his word, he was so quiet, it was a shock how it heard him over its own static.

“Daddy!” A little girl’s voice cried on the TV.

“Who are you?” Toby asked, even though he had a feeling. He wanted confirmation, he wanted to know exactly who it was based on their own show of hand.

The TV hesitated, like it was searching for whatever it was next. The news broadcast from last night displayed itself, and the words cut in, “—o children, Levi.”

Even though he expected it, Toby’s breathing became irregular, and before he knew it he was hiccuping as tears trickled down his cheeks, he was sobbing on the ashed bed that once held Levi. The same Levi who cried on his bed, wondering when his step dad would leave the house and stop hurting his mom. The same bed that held Levi when he was talking on the phone with Toby, telling him about his plans to leave as soon as he turned 18.

And he did turn 18. But he never left.

“This isn’t real.” Toby gripped his face, his sobs were deep, and gut wrenching. They came straight from the chest, and his heart. “It’s the medication…I didn’t take them, I’m tired, it’s just side effects.” His eyes were bloodshot, and open in only the capacity a wounded soldier would have on the battlefield. “Stupid brain, stupid, stupid…” Toby’s voice quieted, until he was left with just the movement of his lips.

“I. Murdered…him.” The TV buffered. Toby was late to react, as his head slowly looked up at the TV with his hands covering his mouth. His eyes shook back and forth as videos shifted back and forth. “Let. Out.” It played again.

Toby shook his head. “I can’t let you out.” He whined, his sobs heaved his body back and forth. It was selfish, but whatever he’d see if he let him out, scared him. He wasn’t even sure what he was asking for, but he didn’t like the sound of it.

“Let. Out.”

“I can’t.” Toby was stricter this time.

“Out” the TV glitched harder. Toby’s breath was heaving harder. He no longer believed it to be Levi, he was fighting himself to believe it or not.

“No.” Toby raised his voice.

“LET ME OUT.” The voice boomed, a scratchy voice that was layered with several other voices Toby didn’t recognize. But the one he could hear clear as day, was Levi’s own. His voice was full of rage, of pain, it was guttural and shook Toby to his very core. He gripped his ears and his sobbing turned to angered screams. Screams one would do when yelling into their pillow, noises humans wouldn’t normally make, more like a wounded animal.

“It’s not real!” Toby lunged at the TV. He raced with adrenaline, throwing the TV to the ground. It slowly seized, dead. But he kept hitting it. He swung at it. He released any anger he had, any pain, all into that electrical box. Sparks flew everywhere, but he only stopped punching and kicking until his body went limp. He cried into the screen.

Toby felt the room change from its fiery warmth of ash and soot, to a cool breeze. He saw his breath in the room. His cries grew silent, but he still whimpered from the amount of pain he was in, be it physical or emotional.

Toby felt a hand grasp his back. He completely froze. He stopped breathing at that moment, it felt familiar. It felt like the hand from his dream that grabbed him in the car, but cooler. He slowly turned his head as he was met with nothing. Nothing at all. But as he blinked away the tears, a mist of some kind appeared before him.

He looked up with a gaping mouth. White, soulless eyes stared into his green, lifeful ones. What was left of Levi, his soul, something, it was here. It was touching him.

“Ghost…” Toby spoke out. His voice was hoarse.

Levi didn’t respond, nor did he move his hand. He just stood there, like a photo of a memory that once played.

Banging from downstairs was heard with muffled shouts. But Toby didn’t even realize, he didn’t even jump or blink, just stared.

“Levi?…” he asked softly, with just a single breath. He turned his body slowly to reach his hand up to Levi’s face. His fingertips passed through his outline, like he really was a hologram. Toby stood up, shuffling on his hurt foot. He furrowed his brows with confusion. Levi’s hand was through him, but he dropped it. Toby could feel he wasn’t a threat, if it wasn’t just his imagination.

“Levi…I’m sorry.” He whined, his breath began to hitch again. He tried to hug him tightly, but braced himself as he fell right through him and past. He tumbled to the floor due to his hurt foot. He began to sob again. “I miss you.” He held his head as he sobbed violently again, his head pounding.

The banging grew louder, along with the faint sounds of police sirens. But Toby’s sobs covered the piercing sounds. Toby turned over his shoulder, Levi’s head was looking back at him with the same uncanny expression. Toby screamed through his teeth. “Don’t look at me like that…please.”

A crash came from downstairs along with yells and shouts. Footsteps rattled the broken house as debris began to fall once more onto Toby’s body. He shuffled up once more and tried to hug Levi again. He swore he felt him that time, he felt warm, he felt contact. But as soon as he opened his eyes, there was nothing. Nothing but the warmth of the room and a broken box TV. Toby began to shake again, slowly realizing Levi was nowhere in sight. He gradually began to scream again, he fell to the floor. The door to the room was busted off its hinges, and a few police officers came running in.

Everything was inaudible to Toby, he could only hear a handful of police commands. He didn’t know if they wanted his hands up or whoever else there would be to direct. He was ushered down the stairs, but he thrashed and clawed to get out of their grasp. Supposedly, the Police were called to help him, as Valerie and Logan explained to the 911 operator that they heard screams of distress. But it eventually turned into them being here for him, as he began to shout stuff only a crazed person would which frightened several.

“He’s real! I saw him! You gotta believe me, he’s real! He’s real!” Toby repeated as he became a jumbled mess of a human, trying to stop the police from taking him away by putting his feet out in front of him. His bad foot kept crumbling under his weight, but the police officers still seemed to struggle. As soon as he got outside, he realized it was pouring rain and there were more cars than he’d imagined, all with blaring lights. Police ran back and forth into the house and outside. His ears rang like a TV static. He didn’t even hear one of the officers yell that there was no sign of anyone else inside.

Toby bit down on an officer’s hand, this startled the officers and made them both fall to the ground. Like a cat running from wolves, he slipped out of their grasps and began to sprint as far as he could into the forest. He was running. He still wasn’t completely sure why. But he was running down a flooded path. There were trees everywhere blocking his vision. The path was covered in leaves and sticks and seemed unkempt. He was soaked from head to toe in rain that made it hard to run. He felt his legs burning as he gasped for air. His scarf whipped around, loosening itself until it eventually flew away from him and polluted his escape path. His bad foot burned with pain, to the point half his lower leg felt numb. As the wind pushed him from side to side, he heard whispers in it. Murmurs of past memories, past events. Some his, some not. He didn’t pay much attention, as he saw in front of him, past a couple of trees was the silhouette of Levi. The same he saw before. Without stopping, he ran right through it. His heart dropped to his stomach as he was overcome by cold. His bad foot never hit the ground, only barely missing a ledge. It’s like he was falling in slow motion. He’s been here, he’s done this. But this time it was real. It was all real. Toby’s body lumbered over the small cliff, rolling down the rocky hill. He hit sticks and rocks, and tumbled out of control. He screamed as he was propelled into the air. And in a split second, his head smashed gracefully into a TV sized rock. He stirred, but there were no more screams. Just the wind whipping around him, and the chill of what loomed behind.

Credit: Munchii



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