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X. Sweet Dreams
Back at Thurston, we huddle together on the Greek Quadrangle, watching our house from a safe distance. At this hour, the rest of the Quad is in sleep mode, but our house is lit up like a carnival ride, lights flashing in every room. Objects are being tossed around inside, their shadows flying across the windows. There’s even music blasting from downstairs, the walls throbbing in time with the bass.
“I didn’t know the Alphas were having a party!” says an eager male voice. One of the Sigma Iota brothers has walked up to us, a wide smile on his face, and gives us a thumbs up. “I’ll get a few of my brothers and we can—”
“We’re not having a party,” I say quickly, and his smile falls. “A few of our pledges are…rebelling.”
“Yeahhhh,” Sam chimes in, nodding. “They don’t want to do house chores.”
“Oh. Bummer.” Sighing in disappointment, he shuffles away. “Show those pledges who’s boss!” he calls back before disappearing inside the Sigma Iota house.
Julia looks back at our house. “I don’t want to go in there,” she says, biting her lip.
“We have to,” I say. “We have to put a stop to this.”
“I know she’s not the real Genie anymore,” Gwen says. “And I know we might not have any other choice, but I—I don’t want to destroy her soul. It sounds so…so final.”
“Don’t think of it like that. Genie never would have wanted to lead this kind of tormented existence, even in the afterlife. We’re not destroying her. We’re…freeing her.” I look to Sam for…I don’t know. Reassurance. A snappy remark to lighten our grim mood. But Sam just frowns at me, giving a sad shrug.
“Let’s get this over with,” she says.
As one, we inch closer to the house. Something crashes inside, and everyone shudders. The others stay behind me as I throw open the front door and march inside, trying to act confident despite my pounding heart.
“It looks like there was an earthquake!” Julia yells above the music. The entire living room is trashed. Furniture has been upended, artwork knocked down from the walls, vases smashed. Books and stray sheets of paper are scattered on the floor, along with pieces of broken wood and glass.
“Watch your step!” I warn the others. “Turn that off,” I add to Gwen, and she obediently kills the music. Apparently ghosts like dubstep. The ensuing silence is short-lived, the house instead filling with Genie’s moans of agony.
Sam glances up at the ceiling. “Sounds like Hurricane Genie has moved upstairs.” There’s a loud scraping noise overhead, like someone is moving the furniture around, as well as more banging and the shriek of breaking glass.
“Genie!” I shout at the ceiling. “Genie, get down here!” The commotion upstairs stops. Then, Genie’s ghost whizzes downstairs, coming to a stop in front of me.
“Oh. You’re all still alive,” she says, looking disappointed. “I guess the giant wave didn’t do the trick.”
“Genie, stop this,” I demand, gesturing to the chaos around us. “This is madness. It isn’t you.”
“It is now.” As she says it, the small chandelier hanging in the living room starts swinging violently back and forth, lights flickering. The chain attaching it to the ceiling gives an ominous groan.
“This was your sorority house, too,” I remind her. “Your home away from home.”
Genie laughs wickedly. “It’ll be just a pile of bricks and dust when I’m done with it.”
“Why are you doing this?” Julia sobs, watching the swaying chandelier with wide eyes.
Genie glides over to her. “You all love this house. Well, I’m taking that away from you. Everything you love. Everything you care about. Just like everything I cared about was ripped away from me when I died.”
“We don’t care about the house,” I insist. A few of the others gape at me, but I ignore them, continuing, “It’s just a house. It’s just stuff. We care about each other. We care about you.”
“Apparently not enough to help me when I needed it the most.” Genie’s tone is bitter, but the chandelier stops rocking.
I take a step closer to her. “You don’t have to destroy the house—you don’t have to hurt anyone.”
“No.” Genie recoils, floating away from me. “You just want me to stop so you can send me back to that place—”
“No one’s going to send you back to the Underworld,” I assure her. “You can stay here. With us. None of us would mind having a…friendly ghost around.” I glance at the others encouragingly. They look uncertain, but nod anyway.
“Well, if I see Casper, I’ll let him know,” Genie sneers. “But for now, you’re stuck with me. And I’m not a nice ghost. All I feel is rage. I hate everyone. Including all of you.”
“You don’t mean that—” I start to say, but at that moment the chandelier comes loose, crashing to the ground. The sisters closest to it jump out of the way, shielding themselves as shards of glass come flying out. Julia cries out as her bare forearms are bombarded, small red lines breaking out where the glass bites her skin.
“Wimps,” Genie says, rolling her eyes.
Sam glares at the ghost. “This is over.” She leans into my ear and says, “Read the note Persephone gave you. Finish this.”
“Not yet,” I whisper back. “Let me try one more thing.”
“Note?” Genie repeats, overhearing us. “What note?”
“It’s nothing,” I say, shaking my head. “Genie, listen—”
“I’d love to,” she interrupts me, “but it’s time for a pop quiz!” She does a midair somersault over me and Sam, coming to land somewhere behind us. We spin around to face her. “Anybody know what happens to your body at the bottom of the ocean? Anybody? Anybody?” Before any of us can answer, Genie continues, “Well, first off, it’s cold down there. Like really fucking cold.”
As soon as she says it, the room is plunged into an arctic chill. Teeth chattering, I wrap my arms around myself in a feeble attempt to stay warm. A numbness starts in my hands and feet, spreading throughout my entire body.
“There’s also no air, so you wouldn’t be able to breathe. And the pressure is high. It would push in on you, crushing you. Then your lungs would start to collapse. Your body would shut down.”
My body tries to take its next breath, but it feels like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest. The harder I try to breathe, the harder it pushes down on me, squeezing the air from my lungs. Stars dance before my eyes, and I crumple to the floor, managing to catch myself before hitting my head again. Arms shaking, I lower myself gently, resting my head against the cold hardwood floor. I lie there freezing, suffocating, an invisible force crushing me from all sides. Genie speaks again, her voice sounding thin and very far away.
“Sweet dreams, sisters.”
Genie. Please, I want to call out, but the thought never makes it past my lips. The darkness is coming for me again. It places an icy hand on my shoulder, giving me one final tug, and I relax into it, letting it drag me away…
All at once, the darkness releases me, and a warmth rushes through my body, bringing the feeling back to my arms and legs. My eyes fly open, and I let out a gasp, breathing hard and fast to pump oxygen back into my burning lungs. Still a little lightheaded, I slowly push myself off of the floor and sit back on my heels. Around me, my sisters are also coming to, blinking in confusion as they sit up on the floor, gulping down air. I look around for Genie, catching sight of the tip of a ghostly fin before it disappears upstairs. Getting stiffly to my feet, I fight through another wave of dizziness, half-walking, half-crawling up the stairs after her.
The sound of muffled sobs reaches my ears, and I realize they’re coming from my bedroom. I crack open the door to find Genie hovering above her bed, shoulders trembling as she cries into her hands.
“Genie?” I say, pushing the door open wider. She doesn’t do anything except wail more loudly. I close the door softly behind me and walk over to sit beside her on the bed.
“I’m sorry,” Genie sniffles, dropping her hands from her face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just—”
“It’s okay.” I go to put a hand on her shoulder, but of course my fingers just slip right through her. Pulling away, I fold my hands in my lap instead. “We know you didn’t.”
“Do you forgive me?”
I hope she misses my hesitation before I say, “Yes. Yes, of course we do.”
“Everything hurts.” She turns away from me, dark hair falling in front of her face. “Everything is cold, and pain, and anger. I want it to stop. I just want it to stop!”
“I know.” I finger the folded up piece of parchment, still tucked safely inside my pocket. “I can make it stop…if you want me to.”
Genie steals a glance at me, dark eyes sad but hopeful. “Can you really?” I nod, and her entire being seems to relax. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I caused everyone so much pain. I wasn’t always like this. At least I think I wasn’t.”
I purse my lips together and shake my head. “You weren’t. You were nice, and smart. Funny. Brave.” Tears spring to my eyes, but I don’t bother to wipe them away. My lower lip trembles as I say, “You’re my best friend, Genie.”
“I’m sorry,” she says for what feels like the millionth time. “And I know you did your best. I know you would have saved me if you could. Did I…kill anyone?” she asks quietly, avoiding my gaze again. Although she doesn’t elaborate, I know she’s talking about the night she died. In her final days, Genie had joined forces with the bad guys and helped lead an attack on the Gamma Lambda Phi’s fall dance. Just like tonight, she created a giant wave that took out the restaurant where the formal was being held.
“No,” I whisper. “No one was hurt or killed.”
Genie laughs bitterly. “Except for me. I am sorry, though. For causing so much destruction. I lost myself at some point. Forgot who I was.”
“I’m sorry, too. I should have known that you lost your way. That you needed help.”
“It’s not your fault, Becks,” she says with a reassuring smile. She stares off into space, looking intently at something that only she can see. “I think I’m ready to go now.”
I nod, taking the note out of my pocket. As I unfold it, my tears splatter the thin, gray parchment, making some of the black ink run. “Be gone, restless one,” I read, looking between Genie and the paper. “Let your anguish cease.” Even after the first few words, Genie’s transparent form starts to fade, oblivion chipping away at her. She continues to look straight ahead, a peaceful expression coming over her face.
“Severe your chains to this life,” I continue. The poem is so short, I’m already at the last line. “Find eternal peace.”
All that’s left of Genie is her head and shiny dark hair. She turns back to me and smiles. It’s the happiest I’ve seen her since before she died. “’Bye, Becks!” she says, eyes sparkling with mischief. Crumpling the note up in my hand, I squeeze my eyes shut, another painful sob racking my body. When I open them again, Genie is gone.
“Sweet dreams,” I say to the empty room.
I hope you enjoyed my short story, Revenge! I wrote it relatively quickly, but I’m planning to go back and polish it and publish it as an e-book short story or novella. Feel free to let me know your thoughts, either in the comments section, on any of my social media sites, or in some other fashion!