This is the original version of the short story that served a basis for Ashley’s arc. However, it’s become more of a guide on how not to write for me and heavily deviates from the story that I ended up drawing.

 

Coma Ghost

 

I struggled to breathe as his boney fingers dug deeper into my neck. As the darkness consumed my sight I could barely make out his dark, velvety face, his eyes that seemed to glow yellow with glee as my life began to slip away. My lungs burned and my throat ached, but that deathly pain was nothing compared to the feeling of terror I felt as I tried to see his face past the darkness that was still taking my vision and the devious grin of delight that was pasted upon it. I could barely make it out…barely make…it…out…

 

When I next awoke it was to the scream of a car’s horn. I bolted up, only remembering some of what had happened the night before and hoping it had been a dream. My surroundings, the same alley the boney-fingered man in the hoody had shoved me into the night before, told me I hadn’t been dreaming. My lungs and throat didn’t hurt any more, which I couldn’t tell if it was a good thing or not.

As I struggled to stand up, my legs and head felt lighter than normal (actually my whole body felt lighter then it should have, like a gust of wind might have blown right through me), I noticed that the walls of the alley were covered in graffiti, trash and liquid stained the ground, and a cracked mirror stood at the end of the alley before it joined the road. Something that immediately confused me though was the yellow police tape that stretched from one side of the alley entrance to the other.

Why’d they leave me here if they bothered to show up with tape and all? I thought to myself as I walked towards the alley entrance, using the wall as a brace, not even noticing that my hand never seemed to touch the wall but go into it.

“I still can’t believe what happened to Ashley,” I heard a voice say as I slipped under the police tape, wondering who was talking about me.

It was Alina who was talking about me, and it was Katie, Casey, Lex, Emily, and Lisah she was talking to. “Yeah,” Katie sighed, “Who would do such a thing?”

“I’m right here,” I said as they continued walking towards and talking about me, none of them noticing that the girl they were all “worrying” about was right in front of them. That’s a new one I thought both acknowledging and ignoring the victim.

They didn’t stop walking, didn’t show any sign that they’d even heard me, they just kept chatting as if I didn’t exist, which they had just stated I did. And that’s when they walked right through me. I almost fainted as each of the six girls passed through me in turn, my body just disappearing as their’s passed through the same spot then reappearing as if it had never gone away.

I didn’t realize it but I was shaking in trepidation as I watched them go, the only one among them who gave any notice that she may have seen me was Alina, who looked back at where I stood with a perplexed look on her face. But any hope I took from that was cast aside when she shrugged her concern away and turned back to the gaggle of girls she was walking with. My eyes widened as they left, my hope and maybe a little sanity going with them.

I stood there, in front of the alley, for hours. Each minute spent contemplating what must have happened. Most of my thoughts were steeped in denial, but finally I let myself realize what I should have the moment those girls walked through me:

I’m dead and I’m a ghost.

 

It sounded crazy and childish, even to me and I was the only one listening, but it was the only thing that made sense. The entire day no one saw or heard me as they passed or felt me when they walked through my hollow body, I had been choked by some random stranger the last time I was awake, and I couldn’t seem to get any farther then a few feet away from the alley, everything seemed to point to me being dead. But even with this overwhelming evidence, I didn’t believe it until I went back into the alley and looked into the cracked mirror. At first I was relieved that I actually saw myself in the mirror, but then I fell back in shock as I say that I was almost completely transparent and glowing slightly.

That was when I gave up, I walked back out of the alley, sat on the ground, and held myself believing that I had been choked to death and was now stuck here, attached to this alley for all time. I stayed like this until the sun had set and the street lamps took over the job of illuminating the street. Few people came near me in those hours; those that did had an uncanny knack at walking through me instead of by me. Normally I would have been terrified to be out on the street at night, I always believed that some person would jump out of the shadows and do terrible things to me if I were (and I had been proven right hadn’t I?), but now I’d given up. What was there for me to fear if I’m already dead?

I think I fell asleep at one point (which is weird since you wouldn’t think a ghost would need sleep) because when I next looked up there was suddenly someone standing beside me. He was looking into the alley with something like determination, so I stood up to see who it was. I knew him; he was in my homeroom and had been in at least one of my classes every year since seventh grade, it was Colin.

“What are you looking at?” I asked. Yes, I knew he couldn’t here me, but it would have been weird not saying anything.

After a moment of continued glaring into the alley he sighed, turned, and started in the opposite direction the girls had been going this morning. I thought about saying goodbye, but before I could some invisible force grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled towards Colin’s receding back. It was as if some giant arm had reached out and plucked me out of my alley prison and then shackled me to my classmate. If Colin had had anything to do with it he gave no sign, just kept walking as I was dragged along behind. If I didn’t walk I slid across the ground, but I felt strange when that happened so I chose to walk.

Whatever had grabbed me didn’t reveal itself again, but I did feel that as I walked behind Colin I was also walking beside some sort of ominous presence, a presence that was even more invisible then me. I had to walk beside this presence for over twenty minutes before Colin finally stopped at his destination, which I was to see was the hospital. Who did Colin have to see at the hospital?

I couldn’t figure it out. Colin never seemed to show any emotion towards sick or dead people and unless someone related to him had gotten sick on the same night as me who he’d have to visit? Which seemed like a big coincidence considering…

He walked through the front doors, signed in at the front desk, and then walked towards the elevator. He didn’t look or talk to anyone and no one talked or looked at him, he seemed to have enough confidence as to where he was going and no one saw any need to help him. We (Colin, Me, and the presence, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something there besides just me and him) rid the elevator up five floors before getting off on the respiration level (why there’s a whole level dedicated to nothing but respirators remains beyond me to this day) and walking, just as purposely as before, to room 676. I had to let whatever force had attached me to Colin pull me into the room after I saw whose name was written on the door:

 

Ashley Burke

 

Last time I checked that was my name.

Colin walked in and placed a white envelope on the table next to where my body lay sleeping, kept alive by ventilators and dressed in a hospital gown that prominently displayed the red markings left by my attacker’s boney fingers on my neck. My mouth and eyes were closed and except for the slight raising of my chest every few minutes I looked like I was dead, which until that moment I thought I had been.

“This town wasn’t so bad until…” he mumbled, not finishing. I knew what he would have said though, Colin was the only one left in town who believed in the King and the forgotten year, which was why most people thought he was crazy. I didn’t think he was crazy, but I still couldn’t believe that Reverie had gotten bad because of some King I, like everyone else, had forgotten about like a dream.

Colin sighed once more and then turned back to the door as he prepared to leave, but I didn’t want him too. I wanted to find out what had happened to me after I passed out, how I had gotten here, and why I was looking at myself now. And then fate smiled on my wants, sort of. As Colin turned his backpack caught of the table drawer, pushing it towards my not-quite dead body and a vase of flowers on the table that I hadn’t noticed before began tilting wildly. Right before the glass could crash into my head and finish the job the boney-fingered man had started Colin spun and grabbed the vase.

Sighing, he put it back on the table and straightened up the few other things that had been there before absent-mindedly putting down on my bed to steady himself, he didn’t even realized that he had rested his hand on top of mine.

“Watch those hands,” I said half-joking, I knew he wouldn’t do anything to me, at least I don’t think he would.

Colin’s eyes widened as if he’d heard something, I didn’t even consider that it could have been me since I’d been making one comment or another to him since I’d started following him and he’d yet to hear one of them. Slowly his head turned towards me until his wide, almost fearful eyes were looking right at me, then he did something I didn’t ever expect him to do.

He yelled.

He jumped back while still yelling, tripping over a chair and falling to the floor in the floor in the process. And then he stopped. His eyes were still wide as he stood up, again they looked in my direction, but now they couldn’t seem to find what he’d seen before. He walked over to me, his eyes still searching for whatever he’d seen before, and started waving his hand through me over and over again. To tell the truth I felt a little violated every time his hand went through my chest or other places…

“Okay,” he said cautiously, “Who’s ever messing with me needs to come out right now, I’ve got enough problems at the moment and I don’t need some look-a-like pretending to be my comatose friend.”

“You saw me?!” I asked with overexcitement in my voice. “But why can’t you see me now?” And then it hit me, he’d been touching me when he saw and heard me. “Touch me again!” I demanded of him, at the time I didn’t realize how this sounded and would later be glad that Colin couldn’t hear me at the time.

But maybe he did hear me, or maybe it’s just that Colin’s a little paranoid, because instead of just leaving like most people would he went back to my limp body and apprehensively placed his hand over mine again. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he turned back to me. When he opened his eyes and looked at me this time he didn’t scream, but he did look straight at me, not through me. He raised his hand off mine and his eyes started to wonder again. He put his hand down one more time and his eyes focused on me one more time. “Say something,” he ordered.

“Why should I?” I asked, realizing that I’d done exactly what he wanted.

“You’re not dead…so why are you all ghostlike?” he asked.

I shrugged, “I don’t know. I just woke up like this, and actually I thought I was dead up till now. Why are you so calm about seeing the ghost of a still living person?”

It was Colin’s turn to shrug, “I’ve seen stranger things.”

“Like what?”

Instead of answering he asked another of his own questions, “How long have you been here?”

“I don’t know, why does it matter?”

“I was just wondering what all you’ve seen me do.”

I saw from his expression that he saw my own perturbed one before I replied, “I’ve been with you since you stopped at the alley.”

“Well that ruins some fun I could have had messing with you.”

“And I’m so sorry about that.”

“Come here,” he said waving me over. “I wanna try something.”

I went over to him, unsure what Colin was going for, I’m not happy to say that I wouldn’t have to wait long to see what he was going to do.

When I stood less then an arm’s length away he once again started waving his hand through me. “I thought as much.”

“What do you think?”

“I can feel you now, you’re like a cloud or mist.” And that’s when Colin did something that I wish I could have made him into a ghost for; he stuck his head into me.

It was my turn to scream and jump back, except in embarrassment instead of fear. His head in my chest felt even more violating then when his hand went through me. “What the hell are you doing you perverted freak!?” I furiously yelled at him.

“Sorry,” he said, holding his hands up in a surrendering fashion, “But it worked.”

“What worked?!”

Shaking the hand in the air that had been touching mine he said, “I can see and hear you, and unless you want me keep touching you, I think that’s quite an accomplishment.”

“How did you know that would work?”

“I didn’t,” he shrugged, “I just want to try it. Oh, and I have a question, why’d you wait three days to follow me here?”

“Three days? I’ve been here for three days?”

“Yeah?”

“But I just woke up this morning.”

“Wow,” Colin said like someone who was actually impressed, “I didn’t think ghosts would stay knocked out after they’ve already died.”

“I wish I could kill you right now.”

A sly grin crossed his face as a scowl crossed mine, but before either of us could continue the door to my hospital room opened, and a nurse walked in. “Oh Colin,” she said surprised. “I didn’t know you were here again.”

“You came before?”

“Yeah,” he said to me while looking at the nurse, “I brought the card that the class forgot when we came before.”

“Oh…really?”

“Okay,” the nurse said slowly. “Well that’s nice, but I need to ask you to leave now, it’s time for Ashley’s IV change.”

“Okay,” he said conceding his spot by my bed to the nurse. “I wouldn’t want to get in the way.”

 

“Don’t you have a girlfriend?” I asked him as we left the hospital.

“Yes, and I love her more then I will ever love anyone else in this world,” he replied without looking back at me.

“Then why were you reveling in thoughts of messing with my head?”

“Because that’s how I am,” and that really was all that he needed to say, but he didn’t stop there. “Besides, I wasn’t reveling in thoughts of actually doing anything to you, I’m not a necrophile.”

“Then who were you smiling about?”

“My girlfriend of course, I’m not going to risk her for thoughts about you.”

“Really…”

“More importantly,” he said after a few minutes, “what do you think you stayed here as a ghost for?”

“What do you mean what did I stay for? I didn’t even actually die.”

“If I’ve learned anything from Casper and the convenient explanations of other such friendly spirits,” he started to explain, “It’s that people only stay as ghosts if they have something left on earth to do. So, what do you have to do?”

“Did the police arrest my strangler?” I asked, knowing the answer was probably no.

“Nope.”

“Then I guess I stayed to catch my would-be killer.”

“Well that was a stupid reason,” he said bluntly. “If I’m the only one who can see you then how did you expect to do that?”

“It’s not like I had any choice about it!”

 

“Why are we back here?” Colin had brought us back to the alley and he wouldn’t tell me why.

“This alley is cursed or something,” he said, I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or himself. “Sheila was assaulted her, I found that penguin here, you were assaulted here, and Keri had her shoot out here the day after that.”

“Keri was in a shootout?” if he was talking about the sophomore in our homeroom then I knew for sure that Colin really was crazy.

“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone, I kinda goaded it out of her.”

Colin lifted the police tape and walked into the alley, I of course followed, I didn’t have much choice in the matter even though we were back to place I’d been shackled to earlier. He looked around the alley as if this was some sort of museum instead of a graffiti and stain splattered alley.

“What do you think you’re going to find here?” I asked, briefly looking in the cracked mirror to see if my hair was as bad as my body’s had been. When Colin didn’t answer I looked up to see why, I was shocked and scared to see that he wasn’t anywhere in sight. “Colin! Colin! Where are you Colin!?”

“You shouldn’t yell so much,” a voice called from the alley entrance. I turned, hopeful that the voice belonged to Colin. But instead a man stood there, draped in a black cloak with bright turquoise eyes, he stared at me. “The boy will be back when you need him, but right now there’s some place else you need to be.”

“But I need Colin to go anywhere…” I was so weirded-out by the fact that this stranger could see and hear me and actually seemed to understand what was going on that I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I’ll take you,” he said calmly, holding his hand out to me. It took me a moment, but I took that hand.

 

“How the hell did I get out here,” Colin said as he peered around the forest that he had somehow wondered into. He recognized the area; it was the woods around Reverie Heights. And then he saw the holes that no one had ever bothered to fill in and the shovel Devon had made his and Kat’s attacker drop beside the newer one. Colin walked up to the shovel, finally sure that that damn alley was indeed cursed…or something, how else could he have gone from the middle of the city to the wooded suburbs? And Ashley wasn’t even with him anymore.

And then a thought occurred to Colin, if Ashley was a ghost because she was meant to get back at her attacker, then maybe the alley had sent him here because something here, like this shovel maybe, could help with that goal. Of course, this line of thinking came from both the year only he seemed to remember and the overwhelming amount of fiction he digested weekly. But that didn’t bother him any, he just wanted to do what anyone with something of a hero complex wants; to be a hero.

 

The man with boney fingers stood outside Ashley Burke’s hospital room, only once before had his prey escaped him, the fact that now a second girl had survived an encounter with him made his yellow eyes glow with a fierce hatred. But now he stood unobstructed except for one thin door from finishing this girl off, an act that would make his yellow eyes glow with an intense joy.

The overhead lights began to flicker as the man slid the door open and saw the girl, laying there defenseless. He stepped in and the door slammed shut beside him, items began to shake around the room, sliding towards the edges of whatever stand or shelf they sat on before falling to the ground and shattering across it. The TV turned on, began flipping through channels before settling on one full of static. All of this would have scared the average person into leaving, but as you might have gathered, this man was nothing even remotely normal.

“I see,” he said amusedly as he watched the paper flap and static cry. “If Devon had been in yar position he might still be alive, ya on the other hand don’t have the will to stop me,” he sneered as I tried to think of a way to scare him off, my little tricks weren’t working, not that I really expected them to, I had just figured out how to do them myself.

He chuckled at my simple tricks he walked towards my almost lifeless body, then raised both of those boney twigs he called hands (one was horribly mangled, as if from a bullet) toward my throat, this time I couldn’t even fight back and even worse, I had a feeling that once he finished the job he had started three days ago I wouldn’t be around anymore, as a ghost or any other odd apparition.

So I did the only thing that I could think to do, as he placed his hands around my neck and I became visible I rushed him like a banshee (which some might say I was at the time). His eyes turned towards me and at first there was only amusement there, but then terror became their base as the shovel Colin had run here with swept through me and into his face.

“Colin!” I yelled, relieved that he had gotten here and confused as to why he had a shovel.

“That’s mine ya little bastard!” the man yelled. His hood had fallen off with Colin’s swing and the memory of when he strangled me came rushing back. He wasn’t human at all, more like a living shadow with glowing yellow eyes. He showed no pain from the blow (and the dent that followed it) to his head, only anger at the boy who now stood above him, wielding the very shovel that the shadow man had once wielded in his previous life and work.

“Really?” Colin said, a sly grin like the one from earlier in the day on his face. “Well then you and it should get re-acquainted.”

But before the Colin could bring the shovel down on this ‘man’s’ head and end his life for a second time the door to this overcrowded room burst open yet again, this time for a stream of hospital attendants. “What’s going on in here…” the lead one began to yell before trailing off at the sight of the raised shovel in Colin’s hands. “Get him!” the lead attendant yelled, and all the attendants did just that.

“Not me you idiots!” Colin yelled as the attendants piled on top of him, I would have been amused by this turn of events had the one who wanted to kill me not been getting away while the attendants dog piled the wrong man. “He’s the one who strangled her in the first place!”

This actually seemed to get their attention. “Really?” one of them asked skeptically.

“Yes, so go get him…” but as the men turned their attention to where the shadow man had been they saw that he was gone and had probably been gone for sometime. “DAMNIT!” Colin yelled his anger at these med-school drop-outs more then apparent, but then an idea occurred to him. “You idiots have surveillance cameras right?!”

“Yes?” one of the attendants said with shame, none of them knew why they believed this boy, but all of them did.

“Call the cops and get a tape of him running and we can catch the guy,” the excitement was building in his voice. “You hear that Ashley?” he said, turning to where I had been when he ran in, but I wasn’t there any more. In fact, the only reason I’m able to tell this part of the story is because Colin and the doctors told me about it later.

“Look at the girl’s graphs,” one of the attendants exclaimed.

All of them stared at the equipment I was attached to as Colin continued to look for me until finally he gave in and said, “Tell me what that means, we can’t all read medical equipment.”

The closest attendant turned to Colin and said, “It says she’s waking up.”

 

It was such a weird dream to have while in a coma. But even though I know it was a dream and Colin’s never tried to say otherwise (and he has a habit of making his view of an event clear to any and everyone around), I just can’t shake the feeling that he knows something about my little hallucination, though I can’t say why. They’ve yet to catch the man who attacked me, and even though the only real thing that came of it was that I have to wear turtlenecks for a while and a little memory loss, I don’t want the police taking their time so he can’t come and strangle me again. It really was a weird dream though…