A/N: Another creepy story I wrote for university!
She stood, facing her once humble and welcoming street. Soft, white snow covered the cobbled street; it covered everything in a thick and puffy blanket. An icy wind blew through the streets as pretty, delicate snowflakes fell from the grey sky. It was quiet, so quiet. There were no whispers or hushed voices, no human could be seen or heard for miles. She was utterly alone. There was no traffic, no moving cars; it was a ghost town, unlike anything she remembered. There was no music or laughter, no bird song or the quiet meows of cats. The winds seemed to whisper a lament for the once busy town, as it blew through with a bitter touch.
The charred remains of the houses that once stood tall and wide, with beautiful flowers in the front gardens and vines on the cream walls, were now blackened beneath the snow. In the ten years since she had been away, since her family had moved after the fire, she could never forget the screaming. It was awful. The fire had devoured everything in its reach, people were fleeing as fast as they could but those who were stuck, died burning and screaming. Of course, people tried to help the lost or trapped, but they could not save everyone.
She had been fifteen years old and the memory had haunted her ever since. Walking down the cobbled street, her wide eyes drifted over each house, remembering who used to live there. An old man who was a retired soldier, a woman who had been in the navy, a man and his children who had recently moved in, a newlywed couple, a librarian, a journalist, there were so many faces, so many she could remember.
After some time, she arrived at her old house, or what was left of it. Staring up at it with teary eyes, she barely remembered why she had come here. Was it for closure? Was it to finally put the screams to rest? Or was it because she didn’t think she should’ve survived when so many died? Walking into her old house, she barely recognised anything. Everything had been destroyed in the fire and now most of the charred remains were covered in ash and snow. Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered how much she had loved living here. As a sob died in her throat, her phone began to ring.
“Hello?” she asked, without looking at the caller ID. Wiping her eyes, she took a deep breath and sniffed, trying to control her quick intakes of air.
“Hey, Emma, it’s me,” a deep, gentle voice replied, “are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Matt,” she answered her boyfriend, “I’m just…I’ll be home soon.”
“Honey, you don’t sound alright,” Matt said, worriedly, “do you want me to come meet you? Maybe it was a bad idea going on your own.”
“No, no, I’m alright Matt,” Emma said, her voice breaking slightly as a lump and dying sob crawled up her throat, “I uh, needed to do this.”
“Em, it’s okay you know, to feel guilty. But you have to know, what happened, wasn’t your fault. You were just a kid and the sadness you’re feeling is completely normal,” Matt said softly, “just take your time. If it’s closure you need, which I think it is, just remember that you could not have possibly stopped what happened.”
Emma smiled through her tears, sniffing, “thanks Matt… I love you.”
Matt half chuckled, “I love you too.”
After her conversation with Matt, Emma explored the remains of her old house. She couldn’t go upstairs, the roof had collapsed and the upper levels had been completely destroyed. The only thing left in a stable structure was the living room and half the kitchen. She couldn’t make anything out, but she could see in her mind, she could picture where everything had once been. The tables that had been set every night at dinner, the TV that had once played films and programmes, the radio that had once played music and the garden that had once been long, full of little adventures for her younger self. Now, all that was left was an empty shell, never to be rebuilt. The council had decided that the town would be kept as it is, as a memorial for the people who lost their lives here. There was a plaque, flowers and lights just before you entered the town. The lights shone all night, like stars for those who had died and each house of those who had died had a plaque on the front in memory of them.
Turning, she decided it was time to leave. As she stepped outside her old house, she could’ve sworn she saw an old man sitting out on the front porch of his house. However, after a second, he seemed to disappear, as if he was never there. Shaking her head, she rationalised that she was seeing things and just needed to return home. As she walked back up her street, she felt as though someone was watching her, but when she turned back, she couldn’t see anyone. Even as she looked into the houses to check for watching eyes, she saw no one. Of course, she saw no one. There was no one left here. Apart from the spirits of the dead, but perhaps, hopefully, by now, they had passed on. Besides, she didn’t believe in ghosts.
Getting into her car, she took a deep breath and sighed, relieved, about to put the car in reverse, when she noticed something. It was a faint glimmer. It was coming from the house where she had thought she had seen the old man. It was as if someone had turned on a light in the upstairs window. Shaking her head, she blinked and looked again. The light was gone.
Breathing quickly, heart thumping, she drove away from the town, away from her past. It was time to put the dead to rest and even as the old man in the window watched her drive away, he smiled. Perhaps, it was time they all moved on.