Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2013
High School Winners

Third Place

Our third place High School winning entry was written by ninth grader Kathy Tran of Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia.


Kathy Tran

Frances glanced once more at his volunteer work assignment paper, groaned, and went inside the retirement home. He took a look around and noticed the lounge was pretty deserted. The lady at the front desk greeted him with a smile,

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Uh... I'm here for...” Frances looked back down at his paper, “Joanne?”

“Oh! You must be one of the helpers; come this way!” The lady said, motioning Frances to the dorm entrance.

Frances peered at the room numbers as the lady led him down the hall. Next to each door, there was a tiny bulletin board. Some of the bulletin boards had a sticky note pinned on with the resident's name. It was France's sophomore year in high school, and he wasn't doing very well. He decided to try out volunteer work, so some credits could be earned.

All of a sudden, the lady came to a stop; interrupting his thoughts.

“Here we are; Room 47: Joanne Abbott,” she said.

“Oh thanks...” Frances glimpsed at her name tag, “...Kate.”

“Yup, I'll introduce you to Joanne. But before we go in, I should warn you she's kind of a... cranky person,” Kate whispered. Frances's heart sunk. Oh great, this will make things a lot easier, he sarcastically thought. Kate knocked, then opened Joanne's door.

“Hello Joanne, how are we doing today?” She brightly asked. Joanne was sitting on a small couch, gazing out the window.

“Fine,” Joanne mumbled. Kate gestured Frances to walk in the room.

“This is Frances, your helper for a few days,” Kate said. Joanne stayed in her seat near the window; not replying.

“Well introductions can come later. Here's a list of activities you can do and a schedule instructing you when and what Joanne should eat. Stay out of trouble. If you need help you know where to find me,” Kate explained to Frances as she walked out and closed the door behind her. He awkwardly stood near the door, staring at Joanne. She caught him staring through the window reflection and said,

“Is this how helpers help nowadays? Stand there like a tree?” Joanne scoffed, annoyed. Frances took a big sigh and said,

“Look, I don't even want to be here, but I have no other choice. I'm only going to be around for a few days, so let's just get this over with.” Joanne stood up from her chair and turned towards him.

Fine, what does the list say?She uninterestingly asked. Frances examined the list: Go outside for a walk, BINGO night, learn more about each other? I don't want to do any of these...but I guess there's no choice.

“Well...I guess we could start off by taking a walk,” He replied.

“Then what are we waiting for? Let's get a move on,” Joanne declared; heading towards down the hallway back to the lounge/main entrance. Frances noticed there were only two elderly men at a table, playing chess. Joanne walked out the back door to the garden, with Frances following closely behind her.

As they walked past the garden, Frances was aware the plants were all dead; sending a chill up his spine. Joanne was walking way ahead of him, causing him to pace up to her. They walked for a while in awkward silence when Frances decided to break it,

“So... you got any kids?”

“Two,” Joanne abruptly answered.

“Oh... where are they now?” He questioned.

“Gone,” She replied.

“Are they on vacation?”

“No. They're gone.”

“What? Gone? What do you me-“

“None of your business kid,” Joanne muttered back; ending the conversation. There was another moment of uncomfortable silence, when suddenly, Frances stopped in his tracks.

“What now kid? We walk for a few minutes and you're already tired?” Joanne impatiently asked.

“Come on, forget the schedule. You need to break out of your shell,” Frances proclaimed.

He waved Joanne hurriedly back to the retirement home.

“Going back inside is not going to help,” Joanne said.

“We're not. There's a small amusement park down a few blocks. You ought to live life instead of sitting around all day. Plus ̧ we might as well get something enjoyable out of this day,” He replied.

“You do know you're not allowed to take me anywhere out of the nursing home without adult consent,” She pointed out. A grin lit up on France's face,

“And that's where the fun begins!”

Together, they carefully snuck out through the side of the building. Frances ducked down wherever there were windows and hid behind a bush if there were voices. Even though Joanne disregarded the attempt to be cautious, she was not caught. When they finally got to the front, Frances took a huge sigh of relief. Joanne just stood there rolling her eyes,

“Relax boy. The fun didn't even start.”

“Are you crazy?! You could've been seen!” France softly exclaimed.

“I beg to differ. Enough of the chatting though, let's get where we need to be,” She replied starting down the block.

When they arrived at the carnival, Frances gazed upon the towering Ferris wheel. He heard kids' playfully screaming, music, and saw colorful lights.

“Man, my entire childhood is coming back to me," Frances said in astonishment.

Joanne exhaled for a while; looking straight up at the sky.

"I remember taking my kids to carnivals when they were younger. My oldest son loved it," Joanne ceased her sentence. She looked down and chuckled,

"He'd beg me to buy him caramel popcorn or cotton candy. Boy...he was a riot." She took an additional pause then continued, "It's a shame he died at a young age." Frances glanced up at Joanne's face and saw a look of sadness.

"I'm sorry. I know how you feel. My father died when I was a little kid," He comforted.

"But... we did come here to have fun, so let's loosen up and do something," Frances said with a heartwarming smile.

For the rest of the hours, they had a blast. At one point, they decided to go on a roller coaster.

"Two tickets please," Frances told the guy in the booth.

"Are you going for two rides by yourself?" The guy reassuringly asked with a puzzled face.

"No... my friend is riding too clearly," Frances replied pointing at Joanne. Still confused, the guy gradually nodded and handed him the tickets. When they were strapped into their seats, Frances eagerly asked,

“Are you ready?”

“Ready than ever,” Joanne beamed.

As the rollercoaster rose up, Frances got a knot in his stomach. A rush of excitement went through his entire body as he clutched the handle bars. When the rollercoaster reached the top, everyone could feel the thrilling tension. The same thoughts repeatedly went through Frances's head, What if I die? What if we all plummet to our deaths?

Just then, the rollercoaster started to race down the tracks. Frances clenched his hands onto the bars tighter than ever. He could hear screaming behind his seat, except for Joanne; who seemed to be having the time of her life; flailing her arms in the air. Throughout the ride, his heart was pounding harder than ever. The cool wind brushed against his face and he had this sensation of relief overcome him after a rollercoaster loop.

When the ride was over, Frances stepped out dizzily.

“And you asked me if I was prepared,” Joanne laughed.

“Wow, give me a break. I haven't ridden a rollercoaster in a while,” Frances said irritated.

They started to walk off; until the guy in the ticket booth called after them,

“Hey kid! Don't you want the photo of when you came down the rollercoaster?” Frances looked up at Joanne,

“We should go look. I want to see if we pulled a stupid face expression.”

“Alright,” She replied.

When they showed up at the booth, the guy handed him his picture. Frances studied the photograph.

“Yup, our faces are priceless. What do you think Joanne?” Frances questioned. All of a sudden, the guy blurted out,

“Okay kid, I didn't want to ask this earlier because it seemed rude; but aren't you a bit old to be having make-believe friends?” He sighed.

“Make-believe? She's not imaginary, she's standing right...” Frances started to say, pointing at his right. Looking around, Joanne was nowhere to be seen. Where'd she go? Frances thought.

“Joanne!” Frances shouted.

“I still don't see anything,” The guy interrupted. Frances stuffed the photo in his pocket and dashed off; searching for Joanne in the amusement park. After minutes of trying to locate her, he decided to check back at the retirement home. He ran swiftly; thinking at the same time,

What if I don't find her? What will Kate say? Oh man, she'd kill me.

When he arrived inside, Kate was not at the front desk.

“Kate?” He called out. He paced down the dorm hallway, realizing all the sticky notes were gone. Joanne wasn't in her room; in fact, nobody was in a room! The whole place was empty!

“The garden,” Frances said out loud, remembering. He sprinted out the back door and immediately dropped his jaw. The garden had become beautiful. The trees had color, flowers were blooming, and birds were chirping. Frances noticed there was a note next to one dead flower out of the entire garden; he picked it up and read it:

I had a magnificent day. Thank you for taking me to the amusement park. It was great to feel alive once more. You are quite the resemblance of my son; an excellent kid. In fact, it was like spending time with my son again. Now, it's time for me to join him. Good luck in life.

Yours Truly,

Joanne Abbott

In amazement, Frances stood there speechless. He took the photograph of them out of his pocket to observe it for a second time. And to his surprise, Joanne had vanished from the photo.

Continue to the 2nd place story

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