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ZD Writing Competition Round 37: Results

Which Entry is Your Favorite?

  • Entry 1

    Votes: 2 40.0%
  • Entry 2

    Votes: 2 40.0%
  • Entry 3

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Entry 4

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .

Spiritual Mask Salesman

CHIMer Dragonborn
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Site Staff
Welcome back to the Writing Competition! It's October once again, and soon we'll be celebrating Halloween! So let's get spooky with this month's theme:


Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts, supernatural beings; there is a lot to choose from here!
Please submit all entries to me via DM by October 23rd, 2021, at 11:59 PM EST (GMT -4)!

As always, if there are any questions DM me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Happy writing!

Spiritual Mask Salesman

CHIMer Dragonborn
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Site Staff
I have only recieved one entry. Another entrant has requested an extension on the deadline, and I will give it. If anyone else wants about a week to try writing something, comment below. Otherwise I might only do an extension of a few days.

Spiritual Mask Salesman

CHIMer Dragonborn
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
Site Staff
Because of the extension for entries voting will run into next month. Cast your votes by Sunday, November 7th, 2021!

The History of Ikana Canyon

Ikana is the home of the dead. There, they roam freely. It’s a place with Stalfos, Poes, Gibdos, and other eerie creatures. It’s a land that most of the living don’t even get close to. This is the history of Ikana Canyon

Ikana Canyon is in the hands of the leader, Igos du Ikana. It was a creepy, yet peaceful land. However, a tribe known as the Garo came to Ikana Canyon and killed many. Because of this, Igos du Ikana was filled with vengeance. He made Captain Keetah the general of the war with his army of Stalchildren. These battles continued, Ikana became worse and worse, and Ikana Castle was in ruin. The Garo as of now hide in the shadows around the canyon, and Igos du Ikana now sits on his throne, having no mercy for anyone who is not a citizen of Ikana Canyon.
I still came back to visit every year but it felt like a lifetime had gone by since last I'd laid eyes on the place. I suppose it always feels that way. The picket fence was mostly still intact and I bumped my palm across every plank as I shuffled up to the gate. Wild grass and unpruned trees did their best to hide the forgotten old house and every year they came closer to success. This year, the ivy that had patiently been snaking its way up the crumbling chimney had finally reached the top and had sent up bright green suckers to scout new purchase.

Weathered red shutters hung from their windows or were absent altogether, having fallen into the tall weeds long ago. There they'd sit in the overgrowth, motionless and silent as the grave as they slowly returned to the earth. I could still feel the brush strokes as I painted those shutters as a boy, my pops hanging them one by one. Not really in my mind so much but in my hand, somehow. The way a dementiac can't remember his own name but still calls his daughter every year on her birthday to sing too happily and make the daughter cry.

The name on the mailbox had entirely faded over the years, my family name. Fitting. I passed through the gate and made my way up the porch steps to the front door, the way I had a thousand times before. Ever since leaving my childhood home, I'd been making this pilgrimage, every year on the thirty-first of October. It's somewhat morbid now that I think about it. Most of the locals simply call it the haunted house so it just feels fitting. Almost everyone calls it that, everyone except the oldest crones and codgers, they still call it the old Smithe house.

This aging colonial had been the subject of fanciful tales since the land had been homesteaded a long, long time ago. Dreadful ghosts inhabited the house if the elder's whispered wardings were to be believed. Fearful backwoods degenerates with nothing better to do than spin fantastic yarns about old houses. Never in all my years living in the home, nor since, had I ever had even the inkling of a trespassing spectre or malignant presence.

The door glided silently open as if its hinges had been oiled only yesterday. The house was exactly how I had last left it. No rats had nested in the couch, no bats had roosted in the rafters, even the wealth of spiders that blanketed the exterior of the house with thread had given the interior a pass. Most of the furniture was covered in white sheets to keep it from collecting the dust that lay thick on every surface. The dust remained undisturbed as I drifted slowly through the house and my memories.

They were fond memories, images of easier times, of mother and pops smiling over Sunday dinner, of my siblings hiding beneath the stairs and behind the coats as I counted to thirty-three. The black and white photographs on the wall depicted a family which bore no smiles, but I knew, as I was the youngest boy in the pictures, that we had turned off our levity only for the flashbulb, then immediately returned to lively banter and joyous conversation. Oh, to return to that idyllic life.

The grandfather clock had long since ceased to tick, its hands resting where they had chosen to stop at some point in the distant past. I retrieved the key and cranked the spring that powered the ever-reliable time-piece, setting the hands back to the work. The rhythmic, metallic "tick...tick...tick" put my spirit at ease, recalling those nights so long ago when that clock dragged me down into the netherworld of sleep night after night. Everything about this old house was exactly how I'd left it in a past that only I remembered.

I glided silently up the stairs, neither a creak nor a groan from the steps, and into my parent's bedroom. The bed was made beneath the ghostly sheet that covered it, the dresser drawers were closed and mother's various perfumes and jewellery were set nearly in their places atop it. Aside from the dull atmosphere that clung to every exposed feature, the house was ready to once again be a home, almost as if hibernating expectantly. Above the dresser was mounted a tarnished mirror, seeming hardly willing to serve its purpose through the thick dust that covered it. Into the venerable wooden frame was tucked a yellowed piece of parchment.

Carefully plucking it from its place, I began to read the youthfully imperfect cursive penned to it. The letter was a short and sad epistle, recounting a malignant pestilence that had infected an entire family from a nine-year-old boy's vantage. It seemed as though several of the family had already passed on at the time of writing and the boy suspected he too wasn't long for this world. It was signed "Peter Smithe".

I was about to set the letter back in the mirror's frame when I sensed something shift. The dust around me lifted and danced as I heard the front door howl open slowly. The very floor seemed to quiver as the century-old iron grated and swollen wood scraped across the floor. The windows in my parent's room shuddered violently as the door shut slow and loud. Hushed voices shushed each other as the tip-toes could be heard stressing every floor board to squeel against its neighbors.

Boys come to brave the haunted house on All Hallow's Eve. Every footfall on the bone-dry staircase elicited a cry of alarm from the steps as the interlopers ascended. Slowly, the sound of measured breathing neared the door to my parent's bedroom. The knob turned clockwise slowly, dust sloughing off as it revolved. The breathing stopped abruptly as the door squealed open into the silent room beyond where I stood motionless in the semi-darkness.

Face to face we stood, the young boys and I. For an eternity in a moment we eyed each other, gazes locked and breaths arrested. Nothing in the world moved as we stared, not a quiet breeze, not a dust mote in the air, not a beat of a heart. An interminable quiet spell seemed to pass before being obliterated by an earth-shaking *BONG* as the freshly renewed grandfather clock struck midnight.

Immediately and in unison, as the color drained from their faces, the boys screamed. Not a scream of boys, not a scream of earthly fear. It was a primeval scream, a scream from the oldest parts of human minds that guards the boundary between the natural and the unimaginable. Not an exclamation of surprise or a cry for help, it was unadulterated oblivion vocalized. A wail that shattered will and reaction and left the mind with only fragments of thoughts.

Their clamor seemed to last the entirety of the twelve tolls of the clock and when the frightful cacophony had subsided, I realized I hadn't even had the mental faculties to recall what had taken place. I deduced, however, that the intruding children must have bolted back down the stairway and out the front door in a swirl of dust and tears that wouldn't calm for many minutes.

Clearing my mind, I turned to the mirror to replace the letter I still held in my hand. As I did so, I noticed that the boy's disturbance had upset the dust on the mirror leaving me a less obscured view of myself.

Returning my silent gaze in the mirror was a pale, young boy, translucent and faintly glowing in the midnight hour. I returned my letter to its place in the mirror's frame and made my way back to my permanent home in a pine box beneath a worn stone that read: "Peter Smithe".

So if this Halloween, you find yourself nervous as you walk by an abandoned manor in the dead of night, remember this: haunted houses don't exist; they're just walls and roofs and stairs and shutters that belonged to someone a long, long time ago.
The Wizard of the Summit

There once was a town at the foot of a mountain. Atop the mountain, which would cast its shadow over the town every morning, lived a powerful wizard with his wife. They had a daughter who was in her late teens, but a few years ago she had moved out and started travelling the world. The wizard loved the town and all the people in it. He would often go down the mountain and use his magic to help the townspeople with all sorts of things, and in turn he gained their gratitude. The wizard desperately missed his beloved daughter while she was away, but he understood she had to be free and spread her wings on her own. His wife was a scientist and would spend her days researching things the wizard could never comprehend - much like she could never wrap her mind around the magic arts that he practiced. The two of them met many years ago when the town was nearly destroyed in a flood. Thanks to their combined efforts the town was saved and their love story began. They settled on the mountain top overlooking the town in order to easier protect it again, should the need arise. Three decades later their love was still standing strong and the town was thriving more than ever before.

One afternoon when the wizard and his wife were enjoying a nice picnic on the mountain it got very windy all of a sudden. At first they thought nothing of it, but soon thereafter they realised it was getting far worse. Dark clouds had covered the sky and the sound of thunder echoed throughout the valley. They had to go assist in the town below, but getting down the mountain in the storm proved to be a challenge. The wizard had to use his magic to keep obstacles in place that would otherwise get caught by the wind and risk disrupting their descent. He was so preoccupied clearing the path ahead of them that he failed to notice a tree behind them that had been uprooted by the storm. Before he knew it he was suddenly the only person left on the mountain. His wife had been swiftly knocked right off the cliff by the hefty tree trunk that came from behind. The wizard only saw it happen in the corner of his eye, and when he turned to face her she was already gone - out of sight somewhere far below. In blind desperation he recklessly rushed down to find her. The torrential downpour made it difficult to see but eventually he found what remained of her body after the long fall. Having completely forgotten about the town by now, he gathered the pieces of her corpse and brought it back up the mountain to their house. The people of the town would have to cope by themselves that day because the wizard of the summit had lost his heart.

The following day when the storm had passed the wizard came down to the townspeople. They barely recognised him underneath the sorrow that he wore so most of them understood what had happened without any words being spoken. The storm had caused a few casualties in the town the day before but the wizard did not bother to ask. His love for the town had been great, but his love for his wife was greater still. A woman about the same age as his wife offered the wizard her condolences, after which the wizard offered her to follow him back home. She did not know the wizard well, but she was a kind woman so she did not decline. Upon entering his house on the mountain peak the woman could smell the scent of blood, but credulous as she was she followed the wizard into the next room. There she found the twisted remains of the wizard’s wife so she screeched in shock and tried to exit the room, but the wizard stood steadily in her way.

“I am sorry,” he told her and put his hand on her shoulder. “I must bring her back, and your body will do.” With a quick spell he put the woman to sleep and laid her next to his wife on the floor. The plan he had come up with the night before was to resurrect his wife by bringing her spirit back to the physical world. However, his wife’s spirit would need a new vessel to reside within since her previous one had been destroyed, so using the body of a living and healthy woman was the only option. He performed the ritual to perfection and was able to successfully summon his dead wife's spirit, however, when it entered the other woman’s body it started moving strangely for a short while until the body suddenly exploded, leaving body parts and guts scattered all over the room. The wizard sighed and drew the conclusion that his wife’s spirit had escaped that new body because it was not compatible with her. He would just have to try again until he found a body fit for his wife.

Over the next few weeks the wizard would visit the town every day and bring new women home. Women older and younger would get sacrificed in vain as he attempted the ritual over and over again with no success. As the wizard was about to give up he thought of one last option - one last body that had to be compatible with his wife’s spirit - their daughter. But since he did not know his daughter’s exact whereabouts he travelled to the last town she had sent them a postcard from, and from there he began his investigation to locate her. Not only was finding his daughter a challenge in and of itself, but it became even harder for the wizard since he was constantly burdened with the sorrow of his wife’s passing and because he knew what he would have to do to his daughter once he found her. The search brought him to many different towns that his daughter had visited, but he always arrived too late.

After having followed his daughter’s tracks for several weeks unable to catch up, the wizard started to see a pattern in his daughter’s movements, so he took a chance and travelled to where he predicted she would go next. It was a big city, divided into smaller districts. One night when the wizard was following a lead in the inner-city slums he finally spotted her walking alone on an empty street. He figured it would be easiest to put a sleeping spell on her right away since talking to her at all would likely make the whole process harder for him. He closed the gap between them as he tailed her until he was close enough to put the spell on her, but right before he had time to do it she turned around and suddenly the wizard was pushed back by an invisible force.

“Ah, so this is what you have been doing during your time away,” he said with a forced smile on his face as he straightened his posture. “I see your magic training has been going well. I am proud of you!”

“Quit the bull****, dad! I know you’ve been chasing me, and you should know I’ve been intentionally avoiding you. I could sense your hostility from the moment you came to the first town I was in. But why, dad? Why this ill will? What’s happened to you?”

“I really hoped it would not need to come to this,” the wizard responded and sighed, while dropping his forced smile. “Your mother has died and her body is ruptured. But I can still save her! I can summon her spirit and place it within another’s body. It has proven to be difficult but with the right vessel I know I can do it. Sweetheart, yours is the body I need to make it work. You are her only daughter. You are my only hope…”

“You’re out of your mind,” the wizard’s daughter said with tears in her eyes and a disgusted expression on her face. “You can’t undo the forces of nature itself, no matter how powerful you are. On my travels I’ve studied and practiced both magic and science, and I’ve learned that there are some things that you can never control, regardless of your abilities. Don’t you see? Humans aren’t supposed to interfere with everything just because they think they can.” Her voice was trembling more and more as she spoke. “I want mom back just as much as you do, but death is a part of life, so we have to accept it even if it’s really hard. Please dad, stop this. Mom would have never wanted you to go this far.”

“You do not understand how I feel. I have already done terrible things so I am past the point of backing down. I have to see this through to the end, no matter what it takes. Sweetheart, I am so sorry for what I am about to do.” The wizard then flung a large fireball at his daughter, but she was able to block it in time with a magic barrier. He followed the fireball with a shieldbreaker spell and summoned a magic whip to restrain his daughter with, but she managed to dodge out of the way and attack her father with a lightning spell. He tried to redirect the electricity but he was not fast enough so most of it damaged him badly. His daughter followed up with a needle spell to try to pin him to the ground. He avoided getting stuck but some of the needles still pierced his skin. He was getting more furious by the second, so next he used a long distance strangling spell which required immense wrath from the user. His daughter was caught off guard by it and started choking where she stood. The wizard had a firm grip around his daughter’s neck, and it only kept tightening. She resisted and she tried to speak, but to no avail. She lost consciousness shortly thereafter, so her father picked her up and brought her with him.

The wizard came back home late at night, and the first thing he did was bring his daughter’s unconscious body into the ritual room. By now the room was full of dry blood and rotting flesh after all of his previous failed attempts. He laid his daughter on the floor next to her mother’s cadaver, and began the ritual without delay. Everything went smoothly. His wife’s spirit entered their daughter’s body as it had done with so many other bodies before, but this time the body did not start moving strangely and it did not explode. For a while nothing happened at all, but then her eyes shot open and she sat up and looked around the room with a blank expression on her face. She then stood up and approached the wizard with rigid steps.

“Darling,” he said with an emotional tone. “I have finally brought you back. At last we can be together again!” But the figure in front of him did not reply. It just gazed at him in silence with the blank expression slowly turning into one of despair. Then suddenly it screamed. It screamed like a wounded beast, and shadow-like tentacles started emerging from all over her body. The dark tentacles rapidly grew longer than the room they were in, and even then they kept growing. The relief the wizard felt a moment ago had now turned into dread. He had no idea how to deal with this situation. Soon the countless shadow tentacles coming from his daughter’s body had grown so large and strong that the house was falling apart. It broke through the ceiling and quickly reduced the building to rubble. The wizard made it out with slight injuries, and when he looked into the night sky he saw the monster that he had created towering over him. It was now using several of its massive tentacles to walk around while elevating his daughter’s body high into the air, and it used several more of its tentacles to wreak havoc to everything around it. The wizard tried every spell in his arsenal to stop the chaos, but nothing worked. However, the monster did not seem to care much about the wizard because it had spotted the lights from the town below. In one move it leapt all the way from the peak of the mountain down to the town and disintegrated several blocks of houses on impact. From there it continued its destructive rampage and all the wizard could do was to watch helplessly. Due to the efficiency of the undead monster the town was in complete ruins after only a dozen minutes. While it continued its chaotic raid through the town, killing any remaining humans, the wizard came up with an idea to stop it. From atop the mountain he performed the ritual to summon his wife’s spirit, but in reverse. He did not know if it would work, but it was the only thing he could think of. After the ritual was completed he gazed down at the town. He could still see and hear the destruction, but moments later - to his delight - it stopped. The wizard let out a deep sigh, but he did not feel any relief. He had been too late to save anyone, and his endeavour to resurrect his wife was no more.

It turns out their daughter was right all along. The very forces of nature are not to be meddled with. You can try to work with them, but you can never defeat or undo them. Even the flood that the wizard and his wife had saved the town from three decades prior had only been redirected in the end. Unbeknownst to them it ended up flooding another town in the vicinity. But none of that mattered once everything was said and done. The wizard was left all alone on his summit. When the sun rose the next morning there was nothing left for the mountain to cast its shadow upon. There was no longer a town at the foot of the mountain.
The dead have always spoken to me. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been able to see and hear the spirits of the former living. It’s never scared me. Actually, it’s been a comfort to me at times. Getting to experience the past, and the lives of people who I never would have met otherwise. My interactions with them are just like any interaction I might have with ordinary people. Well, that had always been the case until one fall when I was 13 years old.

I remember once as a young boy, visiting my grandparents in the middle of the sweltering summer. As I sat out on the front porch with my grandpa, him rocking away in his rocking chair with a glass of iced tea gripped in his hand, he turned to me and leaned in close. “Ya know what they say about cameras, boy?” His voice was lowered and serious. I shook my head. “They say that if you snap a picture of someone the moment they die, you can capture their soul in it.” Silence. The only sound coming from the rhythmic creaking of the rocking chair swaying forward and back, because I was too scared to choke out any response. My grandpa looked at me, noticed the nervous expression on my face, and threw his head back laughing. His laughs were loud and raspy, decades of smoking ringing out with each guffaw. His big, calloused hand smacked me across the back as he managed to catch his breath long enough to say, “Oh c’mon don’t be so serious. It’s just an old tale!” But just the thought of it was enough to horrify me.

Over the years, what my grandpa told me stuck with me. My experience with spirits was a pleasant one. I couldn’t bear to think that somehow they could be captured during the moment of their death. Most of them just wanted to have a peaceful “life” after death, and be able to keep an eye on their loved ones. I tried to put the old tale out of my mind as much as I could, and was somewhat successful with that. Until my grandpa died.

It was a chill October day. My family had gone to my grandparents house to clean out my grandpa’s belongings. Grandma was too old to go through everything, and with grandpa gone my mom thought it was best for her to move in with us so she wasn’t in that big, empty house all alone. While everyone else was downstairs, I made my way up to the attic. It was one of those attics that’s opening is just a square hatch in the ceiling, so no one had been up here in quite some time. Cobwebs decorated the rafters, and an old, itchy smell filled my lungs from the layer of dust on everything. But one thing caught my eye pretty quick - a small wooden chest tucked away in the corner. It had a tower of other boxes stacked on top, but I could see small scratch marks in the wooden floor, where it had been dragged out continuously over the years. And something about it just called to me.

After a good few minutes of struggling, I managed to move the stack of heavy boxes off the chest and was finally ready to see what secrets it held. My hand reached for the latch, and a sense of dread washed over me. I paused there for a moment, my hand slightly shaking from the sudden omen. But I was still curious, and so I shook the feeling off.

Inside was a scattering of polaroid pictures. Most of them decades old. In the dim lighting of the attic, I couldn’t immediately make out any of the subjects. Fumbling from my still trembling hand, I managed to pull out my phone and turn on the flashlight. Just as I did, I heard a gurgling sound somewhere behind me. I slammed the lid of the chest and quickly spun around, canvasing the dingy attic with the light from my phone. But there was nothing. I was no stranger to hearing odd noises, ones that other people couldn’t hear. This time felt different.

I turned back to the chest and lifted the lid once again. This time the cast of light revealing the morbid secrets kept inside. I picked up a handful of the polaroids and started rifling through them in horror. Every single one was of someone being murdered. Dozens of them, almost all of them women. My stomach dropped and I felt the sudden urge to vomit. I dropped the pictures and started scrambling backwards when I heard that same gurgling noise. My heart racing, pounding in my ears, I whipped around and saw it. The distinct familiarity of a ghost. Only this one was different from all the others I had seen countless other times in my life. It was a younger woman, maybe late 20s, long blonde hair, dressed in ‘70s garb. She was grasping at her throat, her eyes wide and full of fear as if something was choking her. She slowly lost the energy to fight back though, as her arms went limp and her eyes dulled. And then she vanished.

“What the hell was that?” I was gasping for air myself now, trying to make sense of what I had just witnessed. This had never happened before. None of the spirits I’ve seen have been anything other than just your normal, everyday person going about their usual business. But as I sat there stunned, the apparition of the woman appeared again, and repeated the exact same thing that happened before. The choking, the life leaving her body, the disappearing. It was like she was stuck in a loop. Then it dawned on me. That day years ago when my grandpa had said something that had stayed in the back of my mind. “They say that if you snap a picture of someone the moment they die, you can capture their soul in it.”

As much as I hated it, I turned back to the polaroids. I quickly searched for the older ones, looking for that specific ghostly visage. Sure enough she was there. The woman I kept seeing appear before me, the same lifeless look on her face, and a hand still wrapped around her neck. A hand I knew all too well. That old bastard hadn’t just told me a silly old tale. He admitted straight up to his sick crimes. Multiple pictures taken at the moment of death for those poor victims. Capturing their souls, keeping them stuck in a grisly loop of experiencing their own murders over and over.

The anger overwhelmed me. How could he do this to them? He stole their lives, and their afterlives too! I was beginning to shake with rage, when I felt a presence behind me. Then that laugh I heard that day, raspy and loud echoed through the attic. “Well I’ll be. The boy can see ghosts. Guess it runs in the family.” He let out another hearty laugh.


“Look kid, you’re not the only one with this “gift”. I had it my whole life too. Never told a soul. I hated it. I didn’t want to see all these people that no one else could. They disgusted me. So weak, wandering around after their lives were up because they cared so much about their families or friends. I didn’t understand how someone could want to live such a pathetic afterlife.”

“Of course they wanted that. Everyone wants to know how the ones they loved are doing without them.”

“Not me. I could barely stand the bunch of ya while I was alive. Thankfully I had my outlet here. Something that actually did give me pleasure.” He chuckled and glanced towards the chest of pictures. “And it wasn’t long before I stumbled across something even better. I loved seeing the life leave their eyes. Hearing them take that last breath. And so I wanted to relive that moment over and over. That’s how those came to be. The first time I just took the picture so I could look at it whenever I wanted. But it just took the one. When I went back to look at it later, she appeared before me. Pretty little thing she was. Even prettier gasping for breath. And there she was, experiencing it again right before my very eyes. I couldn’t believe it! And that’s when I realized that I had discovered something wonderful. If I just took a picture of them the moment they died, their souls would be stuck in that moment for eternity. I could revisit their deaths any time I wanted, and much better than just some old image.”

I wanted to scream. I couldn’t believe this was the man I called grandpa all my life. Sure we were never the closest, but I never expected he was this twisted. That he could see all these spirits and choose to do what he did. It wasn’t right. “You’re a monster.” My voice was trembling and I was holding back tears.

“I guess you’re right.” His grin was disgusting. “At least I’ll have an exciting afterlife. Unlike these miserable old things. I took matters into my own hands and created the life after death that I wanted. Now I get to really experience all these murders over and over again, just like I used to.”

Once again the woman from before manifested in front of me. This time with that monster’s hand clenching her throat. He had a look of pure joy in his eyes. This is how he wanted to spend his afterlife. Still having that power he had when he was alive. Using this gift he had, that I inherited from him, for the sickest of reasons.

Without hesitation, I took the photo of the woman, still clenched in my sweaty fingers, and ripped it straight in half. Within an instant her spirit vanished from his clutches before he could get the satisfaction of draining her life once again.

“What did you just do, you son of a-”

But before he could stop me, I had grabbed another handful of pictures and began destroying those as well. With each one he grew more and more furious. He tried swiping them out of my hands, forgetting in the moment that spirits can’t interact with the living. Stumbling and spitting in fury, he fell before me on his knees as I kept tearing one after another. Until I came to the last picture. A girl, late teens, short black hair, and wearing a punk outfit was imprinted on the polaroid.

“Please, just leave me one. You can’t do this to me. I set this all up for my afterlife, and I don’t even get to enjoy it!”

He kneeled before me, powerless like he had made so many others. Begging for just one thing to hang onto in this hellish afterlife he hated so much. And with glee, my fingers pinched the top of the photo and slowly ripped it in half, the pieces falling to the ground in front of him. I turned my back on the pathetic old man, groveling before me, ready to leave this awful place. But before I could, I saw a quick flash as a spirit appeared once again. It was the punk girl in the last photo. Except this time she wasn’t having to experience that dreadful moment again. She gave me a slight smile, one that was present in the picture, but was beautiful to see now, and a knowing nod. Then she left. Off to live the peaceful afterlife that was stolen from her before.

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