Erin Pait, author of We Were Here, won 3rd place in the Odyssey Magazine Art & Literary Contest 2018 and 1st place for her short fiction piece at the Florida College System Publication Association annual awards ceremony. Her winner piece is reprinted here.
We Were Here by Erin Pait
“You know, if we had just stayed home we could be enjoying hot chocolate and watching bad horror movies but no, y’all wanted to go the midnight premier of this freakin’ Ethan Turner movie,” Morgan complained as she turned on the heat to the highest level.
“Aw come on it’ll be fun and plus, you can get a pretzel while we’re there. My treat,” Riley said as she pulled onto the highway.
“I just don’t get why you guys find him so hot.”
“It’s cause you’re asexual,” Ayla piped in from the backseat.
“True. Even so, I can still identify if someone’s hot or not. Like, we could be having hot chocolate right now,” a pout developed on Morgan’s face. Her face lit up though when she remembered the clip she saw on TV earlier.
“Hey, did you see the trailer for that new horror movie coming out next week?” Morgan asked excitedly turning her head towards Ayla. Ayla opened her mouth to respond but before she could get her answer out Riley interrupted them.
“Oh my god, what is that?” Morgan could feel the car slow down and she turned to face the windshield. Squinting her eyes, she could make out the form of somebody, “It looks like a person.”
“What the hell are they doing out here in the middle of the road? It’s 48 degrees outside.” Riley wondered as she inched the car closer. Only the headlights from the car illuminated her on that moonless night, oddly empty from any passing cars on the long stretch of highway. Only the trees gave audience to the situation occurring on the road.
As the car pulled closer, the girls could distinguish that it was a girl in a red dress. The dress looked similar to something one of them would wear to a party, and her feet were bare. Ayla pulled out her phone and hit the record button.
"Are you recording this right now?" Morgan questioned, and Ayla shrugged in answer. "It'll make good content for my vlog," Ayla replied simply, Morgan just shook her head at that. “Should we see if she needs help? Maybe she was in a car accident?” Riley suggested as they got closer to the girl.
“Yeah, but we didn’t see anything like that driving down the road,” Ayla countered.
"Maybe we should just ask her ourselves," Morgan said as the car got right behind the girl. Morgan rolled down the window a crack as they pulled up beside her. She walked with a noticeable limp and greasy, blonde hair hung in front of her face.
"Hey, are you alright?" No response came for her; she just kept limping along.
“Maybe you need to talk louder?” Riley said turning down the radio.
Raising her voice, Morgan asked the same question and got the same result. She turned to the other two with a shrug “I don’t know what else to do.” Riley's eyes widened, and Morgan turned back toward the passenger side window, the girl had disappeared.
“Where’d she go?” Ayla leaned forward to look.
“She just… disappeared.”
Riley slammed on the brakes, and Morgan had to put her hand out to stop her from hitting the dashboard. "What the -“ the words died on her lips as the girl they had previously thought disappeared somehow appeared in front of the car. The girl placed her hands on the hood of the car which began to crush underneath some unseen weight.
“She’s messing up my car!” Riley yelled as the hood compressed like a crushed soda can. “We need to leave she’s not fucking human,” Ayla said with hysteria creeping into her voice.
“This bitch is gonna be paying for the repairs I tell you what.” Riley slammed her foot on the gas and accelerated in reverse twisting the wheel so that the car now faced the other directions.
"I can't believe this, we were just going to the movies having a good time, and a freakin’ ghost girl decides to wreck my car,” as she said that the car seemed to slow down all on its own. “What the hell?” peering forward Riley checked the speedometer that now read 5 miles per hour instead of the original 60 they were going.
They sat in shocked silence as she reappeared at the passenger side door. With a crunch the door was ripped off its hinges and flung to the side of the road. "Why are you doing this? We didn't do anything to you!" Morgan yelled, but the ghostly girl offered no answer, instead simply laying a hand on Morgan's arm. She could feel a searing pain, and her arm sizzled and popped as if she had stuck it in a vat of oil. A horrible screech and the smell of burning flesh filled the car. Ayla could only stare in horrified shock as one of her best friends got dragged from the car.
Riley’s arm shot out trying to grab hold of her best friend, but she was too slow. The car filled with silence until the driver's door was ripped away as well.
“No, get your hands off of me!” Riley screamed as she tried in vain to push the girl’s hands away from her, but her grip was as firm as iron. The entity yanked her away from the car which only left Ayla in the back to shake in shock, unable to move from she had just witnessed.
“Oh my god oh my god I’m gonna die oh my god Oh my go-“ the roof of the car was ripped away quickly from the car, like a piece of paper being torn in half. Hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her into the cold night air away from the wreckage below.
The video ends, and the man turns to the wall behind him. The thumbnail of the video shows the faces of the terrified girls who didn't realize the trouble they were in until it was too late. He takes his glasses off and pinches the bridge of his nose; he's seen this video so many times he could quote it word for word. These girls had been missing for four years now, and he still wasn't any closer to solving what happened to them. This was one of those cases that kept you up at night, the one that made the bottle of Jack empty faster than advised. He's gone over this video time and time again but he couldn't come up with any solution that seemed logical. It haunted him more literally than some people would be comfortable with on average. The ghost of Morgan was proof of that enough as she stared at him from the corner of the room. “You know, the more you watch it, it's not going to change anything. We're still dead," Morgan chimes in and spins in the chair she’s sitting in.
"I know but I- I don't know what else to do," he drags a hand down his face. Morgan drifts in front of him, and her face comes close to his "You find someone to help, it's that simple."
“But who’s going to help me with this- this ghost story?” he could feel the anger radiate off her as he spoke the words but it was true, no one would believe him, no one has ever since it happened.
"Well until you come up with an idea on who, I and my best friends will just be you know floating around in eternal damnation forever. No big deal.” She disappears as fast as she appeared and he’s left to sit with dismay heavy in his heart. Maybe there was somebody who could help, but would it be worth tearing open old wounds? With a deep sigh, he turned to his phone and scrolled through his contacts. He closed his eyes for a moment before he pressed the contact he wanted and let the phone ring. Surprisingly, someone picked up.
“Hi, Steve? Yeah, it's me. Look I need help, and I've got no one else to turn to."