I stared at the printouts on the table in front of me. Each one was dated June seventh for the last five years and detailed similar deaths of different men. All were found in hiking clothes in the same stretch of land, and all had no apparent signs of trauma. But they were all estimated to have died the day before, on June sixth, and they were all my fault.
Have you heard of a Woman in White? I hadn’t in either, not until a couple of years of ago, not until I realized that I had created one. A Woman in White is considered folklore, just a story told that no one actually believes, something that’s fun to scare yourself with around the campfire.
A few years ago, back before all this started, I had a fiancee named Penny. I loved her, I was going to marry her after all. But I was stupid, like so many people are. I strayed, I cheated on her. I had a relationship with another woman that lasted about six months and Penny found out. She apparently knew for awhile but decided to wait to confront me about it until we were alone, with no hope of anyone interrupting us. She had a plan, you see.
I didn’t deny anything, she knew the truth and trying to convince her otherwise would have been pointless. Plus, I was done with all the lying. Penny told me she just needed to be alone for awhile so she could decide what she wanted to do, about us, I guess. I left her there, in that field. Like she asked. I told her I would come back later to pick her up, there was nothing close by she couldn’t walk to anywhere from there. When I went back a couple of hours later, I found her hanging from a branch in a tree. She had apparently hidden a rope there earlier in the day, knowing all along what she was going to do.
At the moment she had died, I created a Woman in White; a jilted woman who takes her own life doomed to remain as a ghost taking vengeance on unfaithful men.
And every year, on the anniversary of her death, Penny killed one man in the same spot. They were far enough apart and that spot was frequented enough that no one seemed to catch on, except me. But this year would be the last. I was going to stop her, one way or another. This was my fault and I couldn’t let her hurt anyone else.
I wasn’t sure when she normally appeared, but I’d wait all day if I had to. I gathered up my supplies and left my truck in the same spot where all the other victims’ vehicles were found. I was going to do everything they did, leaving nothing to chance. I started at the head of the trail and hiked into the forest, knowing eventually I would end up in the field where Penny and I fought, and where she died.
The trip took the better part of the day, but I welcomed the exercise. I used the time to go over, again, what I would say to Penny to when I saw her. How I would apologize, how I would tell her that killing these other people didn’t set right what I had done and couldn’t she see that? I had to make her see that. She wasn’t this person, or hadn’t been in life. I didn’t know what she was anymore, I guess.
Once I reached the field, I sat down under the tree where she had died and noticed that someone had carved her name into the trunk, as a memorial I assumed. I waited for Penny to appear, thinking I probably wouldn’t have to wait long. I fit her criteria and I had to be her ideal victim, I just hoped I could get her to listen to me before she did anything too permanent.
As afternoon turned into evening, I was starting to lose confidence. I saw no sign of her, felt no chill in the air. I had read that was a sure sign that a ghost was near. I refused to give up though, I would wait all night if I had to. I must have fallen asleep at one point, I woke up suddenly when a branch from above broke off with a loud crack and landed on my ankle. Crying out in surprise and pain, it was then I noticed that the temperature had finally dropped.
And there, in front of me, was Penny. She looked just as she had on the say she died, same long dark hair and white sundress. But her eyes, they were black and angry. Her mouth opened and she screamed at me, but no sound came out. And in that instant, she was no longer my Penny but a vengeful demon. I didn’t know if reasoning with her would work, but I had to try. I pulled myself to my feet.
“Penny, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry about what I did to you, that I cheated on you. That I treated you like that. But what you’re doing now, it’s not right. These other guys haven’t hurt you, they haven’t done anything to you. You shouldn’t be killing them.”
Those black eyes just stared at me, I couldn’t tell if she even understood anything I was saying to her. There was no change in her expression, just a further drop in the temperature around me.
“What can I do so that you’ll stop? Is there anything I can do to help you move on from this, whatever this existence is?”
At that, the expression on her face changed. She broke into a horrifying grin and the temperature dropped yet again.
Oh god, I knew what she wanted. “Is that what it will take? If you kill me, will I be your last victim? Is that what you’ve been waiting on this whole time, for me to show up?”
Slowly, she nodded.
“And if i die, you’ll leave this place?”
She nodded again.
I didn’t even have a chance to tell her to do it. I felt a cold hand reach inside my chest and wrap around my heart, squeezing it until I thought it would burst. I started to black out from the lack of oxygen but the last thing i saw before I died was Penny, my Penny, brown eyes and all walking off down a path in the early evening light.
So, you wanted to know how I ended up a lonely ghost wandering this stretch of the woods? That’s my story. In order to move on, you have to complete your unfinished business. Penny was my unfinished business, but she’s already gone, so I don’t have anything to finish. I’m destined to wander here for eternity, unless you think you can help me somehow?
Check out the links below to the read the other stories this week: