Halloween Contest 2023

Giving Up the Ghost by Sarah Ellis

Roxanne was goal-oriented. All it would take was three drops of Fix-All potion in Robbie Ramone’s bottle of Swamp Sludge. Then she would finally, in her senior year, have a date to the Goblins and Ghouls Halloween Dance. She was dressed for the holiday as the lead singer from Sami and the Ghost, her favorite band. No one understood her costume.

“Did you hear he’s handing out bandages instead of candy?”

“I can’t believe he asked her mom as his date!”

“Earthworm is not a sexy costume, I don’t care how tight her dress is.”

Once Roxanne forced her earbuds into her ears and pushed play on “Love Eternal,” Sami’s sweet, husky voice obliterated the voices of her classmates. Love hurts sometimes, love stings / But what else is there that sings?

True, the potion was from Discount Brews and claimed it “fixed your problem,” which technically could be anything. But listening incessantly to Sami and the Ghost songs while her classmates held seances or whatever those shallow, insecure automatons did in their free time, had made her problem clear: she was living in the Before Love half of the song, with too much silence. She was ready for After.

Roxanne slipped around her lumbering classmates, easy as she wasn’t trapped in useless conversation. I could give up food and drink / but not you standing by the sink. In the lunchroom, she spotted Robbie immediately: bored expression, bags under his eyes. She pulled a bottle of Swamp Sludge out of her bag and squeezed in three drops of potion; the soda sparkled.

Suddenly, drums clashed in her headphones. You don’t love me alone / and I know darkness now you’re gone. Roxanne shuddered—she hated this song, the first Sami released after the band fell apart. She tossed the soda onto the table and pressed skip until flute music filtered through her earbuds. She turned back to the table, and her heart stopped—the soda was gone.

Roxanne careened around and watched, horrified, as a girl in a blue wig tilted sparkling Swamp Sludge to her lips. A solid green soda sat right beside it. It was like breathing through cotton balls. A stupid soda switch, and there would be no love, no date to the dance. Just her, alone. Like always.

The girl had eyes the shape of quarters, and they were crinkled in concern.

“Hey, you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? You look like Sami Sanderson did when she painted her face green.”

Roxanne stopped breathing. “You know Sami and the Ghost?”

“Oh, Sami slays, but I prefer her new stuff, once she dumped the transparent guy. She’s been collaborating with amazing bands lately—did you hear her sing with Manic Pixie Nightmare?” Roxanne shook her head. “Here, take my earbud! I’m Amelia, by the way. Want to sit down?”

Roxanne searched the lunchroom for Robbie Ramone’s vacant stare. “Sure,” she said, a smile cracking open her face. “It’s time for something new.”