“You’ve had your fun, now leave! Do you hear me?! Johnny angrily shouted out into the not so empty space. 

He always lived in the room next to me. Our complex is a dump. Roaches, rats, paper-thin walls. And it smelled… it smelled like Autumn. Like rot, decay and shedding. I never did take the time to investigate that.

Let’s talk about Johnny. He does little of importance. He doesn’t go outside. He has no hobbies. He’s unwittingly lonely. The only thing this guy enjoys is the screaming. There’s no silence. There’s no respite. He white knuckles that last marble as if losing it would be the only sure-fire way the tenants would be able to claim him certifiable. 

The truth is…well, we’ve all known he was  for quite some time.

***

I no longer sleep– I just stare out the window. There’s little of importance there. Just varying shades of black and brown as far as the eye can see. It stays cold all year long. The day the boom happened, I also walked into the bleak. 

I’m not sure how I got there, but I haven’t been able to warm up since.

***

I watched him as his hands flailed about, predictably piercing my eardrums in the form of screams anew. He found a pot this time… the fool, he was trying to light a fire with dried out Autumn leaves inside it. Two matches left. He already wasted four. He was being too gentle. He needed to apply more pressure. He needed help. Even though I knew I owed him nothing. 

He always behaved as if he didn’t realize I was standing right in front of him…

***

Together we lit the match.

He threw it in the pot with trembling hands.

“I-I-I thought I told you to leave!” Screaming again. But this time it was fear. It was unadulterated consternation.

He wasn’t the looney one after all…

“God, why did you do this to us?!” I now soberly scream. Johnny, he can’t hear me. He can’t even see me. And yet I’m still so damnably cold.

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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
1 month ago

Who is Johnny screaming at? A ghost? An intriguing chilly tale, Melissa.

Bella Minyo
Bella Minyo(@bella-minyo)
1 month ago

Melissa, I absolutely loved this story! I like how the reader is not explicitly told who or what Johnny is yelling at. My guess is it’s his “neighbor” or someone he wronged who is the ghost narrating. It may be something/someone else though I may need to re-read it to find out. Wonderful job, as always, with your writing!

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 month ago

Hello, Melissa. I love it so much. The way you let the reader think about who Johnny is yelling at is challenging. I think Bella is right, the narrator is a ghost in the cemetery. And I guess Johnny is yelling at his loved one who is already dead and lying in the grave next to the ghost who narrated. Johnny could not accept the death of his loved one, so he also lived there beside his loved one’s grave. Johnny is yelling and screaming so he can release the sadness, anger, and longing he feels. His just pretending that he wants his loved ones to leave but he doesn’t want to let them go yet. I hope my guess doesn’t stray too far from the story. Great story, Melissa. Well done.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Melissa Taggart
1 month ago

I missed the ‘boom’ clue, Melissa. Thanks for pointing it out. You’re most welcome.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
1 month ago

You have us all guessing with this one, Melissa! My take is that the narrator is dead but only realises this at the end of the story (rather like Malcolm in the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’). Poor Johnny screams because he is the sole survivor of a nuclear explosion (the boom) but feels the presence of another. Of course, I may be totally wrong! Another intriguing story from you that tests my understanding! Well done!

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
Reply to  Melissa Taggart
1 month ago

Oh wow! Not that you made it easy Melissa, I did read it 3 times and the clues you outlined to Lotchie helped! Great story!

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
1 month ago

Melissa, your stories are getting better and better. Full of mysteries, with many possible interpretations. Even though you’ve quite clearly said the boom was a nuclear explosion, I still prefer my original interpretation of a more localized explosion of some kind – perhaps a gas leak or even a gun. I thought Johnny was personally responsible for the death of the ghost. It makes his guilty screaming even more understandable. The part where the protagonist says “he found a pot this time” implies that the last time he lit a fire there was no pot. Another clue.

Such a great story!

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