This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.
The rigid trees had a silver glow cast on them by the moon, resembling white, temple columns of civilizations long past.
The wind blew through them, bringing the night’s chill on to the skin of the four teenagers trudging through the undergrowth. The blond boy who walked at the front of the group kept his flashlight trained ahead of him as he shivered.
“Are you sure the park ranger said that the legend really took place this far into the forest?” Alec asked, stepping over a scraggly root protruding from the ground. To his right, a girl with short, black hair who had been looking the other way, tripped over the same root not even a moment later.
Alicia cursed in Spanish as she picked herself up, dusting off her jeans.
“You okay?” The taller girl of the group stopped in her tracks to look over the shorter, the other two group members stopping as well.
“I’m fine, Makayla,” Alicia huffed as she caught up with the rest. “I just don’t get why you guys thought it would be the best idea to come out here at night.”
“Because that’s when the ghosts come out,” Stated Avery, Alec’s twin. They adjusted the camera around their neck so that it wouldn’t press their spiral amulet into their chest.
The group carefully traipsed down the side of a hill, Alicia paying more attention to any rogue root as she said, “I get that, but we couldn’t have come earlier in the evening? Sunset maybe?”
“The sun’s an attention hog, you wouldn’t even notice us at dusk,” A whispery voice said from behind them.
The group turned around, coming face to face with two translucent figures who almost looked as silver as the trees. Unlike most ghosts seen in movies, the two both wore jeans and hoodies, instead of some older fashioned style, the one on the right additionally donning a hijab.
Alicia stared wide-eyed at the spectres and was about to say something before being cut off by Avery.
“Hey Badr!” They called, waving to the ghost on the right. Badr waved back with a smile on her face.
“You know these ghosts?” Alicia questioned, incredulous.
“It’s a… long story,” Makayla offered. Alicia whispered to her about telling it to her later.
“Anyways, yeah,” The ghost on the left intercut. “We’re ghosts, shocker, but I take it we aren’t the phantoms you were looking for tonight?”
Alec shook his head. “Nah, we’re looking for the one from the old miller’s legend.”
“Ooh, nifty,” The ghost exclaimed. He noticed Alicia staring at him and smiled. “I’m Dave by the way, and they’re Badr, as you’ve already heard.”
Badr raised a hand in a small greeting with a kind expression on their face. After introductions were finished, the gang picked up their pace again and continued through the brambly vegetation, now with two undead helpers in tow.
The moon’s vision was lost behind the dark leaves, and the wind brought rustling sounds through the foliage into the almost quiet atmosphere. Alec shivered again, and seeing as there was nothing else to do when walking through the forest, he decided to start up a conversation.
“So, I heard my neighbour went missing a while ago because of a ghost,” Alec cringed at how unoriginal of a topic that was. “Or, maybe it was an enchantress?”
“Really?” Makayla asked, her brown eyes meeting Alec’s green ones.
“Wait, enchantresses are real?” Alicia asked.
“Nah,” Avery said, before smiling and turning to look at Alicia. “But witches are.”
“What does that me—” Alicia started before being cut off.
The group tensed. To their right, there came the sound of a quick tapping, that slowly but sure got louder and louder. In a split second, everyone came to the sudden realization that it was footsteps, and they were getting closer. Alec stepped beside Makayla and the two both held out the flashlights. Alicia latched onto Avery’s arm and started subconsciously squeezing. Dave hugged Badr in terror.
Everyone in the group stood tight against each other, gaping out into the darkness, searching for what was coming their way. The bush in front of them rustled and just as everyone sucked in a breath, there was a flash of light brown hair and a body tumbled out.
The girl looked up, staring wide-eyed at the group. For a second, under the darkness of the trees and the stray beam of moonlight that had seemed to follow this girl, she looked like a ghost. Avery put up their camera just in case.
The girl stood up and looked like she was about to say something, before from behind her, there came a spectral light. A wispy white tendril that danced through the air as if in a search for something.
The girl ducked out of its way and edged towards the group. As she got closer, she accidentally bumped into Avery, making it clear she wasn’t a ghost.
“Who are you?” “What is that?” Alicia and Makayla asked at the same time.
“Name’s Samara,” The girl huffed out. “That over there is just a piece of essence of the bloody forest phantom.”
“The what?” Badr asked, a confused look on her face.
In the distance, the sound of a massive crack shook the air, unlike nothing but that of a tree splintering in half. A noise, like wind chimes made out of stones, whispered in the wind.
“I’m guessing that,” Dave said.
Not even a second later, a figure emerged into the light of the group’s flashlight beams. It hovered above the ground and its head pulsed red, not something that looked friendly.
“Well, we found it,” Avery said. “... I think that’s enough ghost hunting for tonight. Run?”
“Run,” Everyone agreed.
Badr muttered a prayer and Avery threw down a charm tied in ribbons, then the group took off while the creature was distracted. Having ghost friends was very helpful, especially when escaping a dark forest. And the moon guided their way.