Thanks to all of my cool followers on Twitter and Instagram, this is a user generated story! Its’ a paranormal story featuring two characters. The main character’s name is Charlie and they are non-binary. The twist will be that the main character dies, and the ending will be a cliffhanger. If you helped make this story possible, thank you! If you didn’t directly vote, that’s okay, I hope you enjoy the story anyway!
Charlie took one step onto the creaking wooden floor of the farmhouse and sighed deeply. They were still dressed in their ill-fitting suit from the funeral. Tears came to their eyes as they glanced at lace pillows, dusty knick-knacks, and pastel colored clothing peeking out from a stack of boxes in the foyer. Their grandmother, Martha, had passed just a few days ago and the pain was still unbearable; to look at her things only made it worse.
“Hey! You made it! I didn’t think you would come,” a voice called from the room to Charlie’s left. A man shorter than Charlie slapped a hand across their shoulders and squeezed tightly. Charlie was immediately uncomfortable with the physical contact and froze. With a glass of whiskey in his hand, he sloppily gestured towards the room from which he’d just emerged. “Why don’t you come eat something, grab a drink, or talk to your family?”
“Oh, uh, yeah sure Uncle Bill, I’ll be over in a minute” Charlie replied. Without a word, Bill sauntered back into the room, falling on a nearby server in the process. All Charlie could see while staring at the sea of relatives huddled around folding tables in the otherwise bare dining room, were traumatic memories of their childhood. Growing up different in the south wasn’t an easy task, especially when your father is the minister at the local Baptist church. Charlie would have been erased from the family altogether had it not been for Martha.
Their paternal grandmother was as proud of Charlie as she was of her son, but when push came to shove, she defended Charlie’s rights to be who they wanted to be and chose them over the church. On Sundays, Charlie would walk down to this farmhouse and sit with Martha in the living room. They’d watch Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Magnum P.I while Martha taught Charlie to knit. Since the rest of Charlie’s family accepted Martha as family, they were forced to feign interest in the life of the only non-binary member of the Patterson clan. Now that Martha is gone, no one has to care.
Charlie wanted so badly to grab a finger or two of scotch, but decided against it and climbed the stairs to the upper floor. Renovations had already begun on the house and Charlie’s Aunt Cleo and Uncle Titus had already started tearing off the wallpaper and removing old boards from the floor. They had plans to turn the 5 bedroom estate into a quaint country bed and breakfast.
The staircase led to the center of the top floor. Amid the paint cans and plastic sheets that lined the floor of the small hallways on either side of the banister, Charlie made their way to one of the doors on the right wall. The door was a heavy oak and creaked a bit when Charlie pushed it open. Inside, it was a perfectly preserved bedroom. A made twin-sized bed with pink gingham sheets laid flush against the wall before them, a white wicker vanity set to their left, a white dresser set to their right, and a pink oval-shaped carpet in the center of the room. Makeup brushes were still laid out across the top of the vanity and photos and figurines adorned the top of the dresser. Her worn bible lay neatly across her pillow and the closet was still filled with pantsuits and old shoe boxes.
It took Charlie’s breath away to see Martha’s room so perfectly preserved among the renovations. They entered the room and smelled that sweet yet musty perfume Martha loved so much. It brought a smile to their face, which then only reminded them of how much they were going to miss her. Alone, in the last place that felt like Martha, Charlie crumbled to the ground and wept. They let everything out and cried until they fell down to the fuzzy pink carpet. They could feel their heartbreaking and their entire body tense up and relax in quick succession with each noiseless sob.
After some time, Charlie devolved into staring blankly at a penguin sticker on the bottom drawer of Martha’s dresser, their mind blank and their eyes dried of tears. After some time, they heard a voice call their name. They hadn’t realized how long they had been up here, so they assumed it was someone downstairs telling them it was time to leave. They stood, rubbed their eyes, and straightened their suit. Upon opening the door, the air was yet again stripped from their lungs. Before them, in her favorite purple sweater and black corduroy pants was Martha.
“Darling, what are you doing up here? Dinner is nearly ready” she said, a concerned look on her face. Charlie was speechless, in a daze of tears and sadness. “And what in the world are you wearing? You can’t be comfortable in that! Pick something out of my closet and wash up. I’ve made your favorite!” Just above a whisper, Charlie mumbled
“Mashed potatoes and steak?” Martha’s face contorted into that sweet smile Charlie loved so much and she replied
“Of course; mashed potatoes and steak for my little duckie.” Martha ruffled Charlie’s short choppy hair and left them to change.
Charlie made their way downstairs now in their favorite dress, a white A-line cocktail dress with pink and blue flowers across the bodice and a white cotton skirt with lace on the edges. They noticed, as they walked, that this time they weren’t tripping over paint cans. The farmhouse looked like itself again; wallpaper in-tact and frilly furniture filling every room. Martha looked overjoyed to see them when they entered the kitchen.
“My, my, aren’t you beautiful,” she mused with a hand over her chest. “You always take my breath away in that dress.” Charlie smiled and took a seat, still slightly bewildered, yet overjoyed that this was the mental breakdown their brain chose to have.
“Martha,” Charlie said, having called her by her first name since childhood. “What is all of this?”
“All of what?” Martha replied setting a large bowl of cream cheese mashed potatoes on the dining room table.
“Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve died,” Charlie said, all tact thrown out the window at the revelation that this had to be a dream.
“Charlie, don’t you talk like that. Now let’s eat, shall we?” Martha said, a bit taken back. Charlie’s face fell and they apologized. Silently, Martha brought the rest of the meal to the table.
After a few bites, Charlie mused about how delicious the steak was and how much they’d missed this meal. The two caught up as dinner progressed and Charlie started to feel loved for the first time in months.
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