A Ghost at the end of the world

December 2021 (Round Two)
Genre: Ghost Story
Word: Agree
Action: Pulling a String
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 250 words

Tara woke slowly in her bedroom, the oppressive air silent and thick on her damp skin. She placed her bare feet on the rough wooden floor and considered the peeling floral wallpaper marked with rows of neat tallies.

Today was the day.

She rose and glided through the creaking farmhouse to the decrepit kitchen where her parents awaited. Her mother bustled between the sink, oven, and refrigerator—not at all bothered that they’d ceased to work years ago. The rocking chair swayed in the corner where her father gazed out the broken bay windows, surveying their overgrown lawn, forlorn without his attentions. In death, they orbited the house as they had in life, like a black and white photograph that refused to fade.

Here, at the end of times, Tara wasn’t sure what to make of them. After all, in an emptied world, perhaps Tara was just another unwitting phantom.

“Today’s the day.” She pulled at a rogue string on her fraying t-shirt, the line of pills waiting on the table. “I can’t do this anymore.”

No reaction. If her parents disagreed with her choice, they didn’t show it.

Tara picked up the first capsule and raised it to her mouth.

The screen door banged open, and Tara nearly leapt out of her skin. She turned to find a wide-eyed stranger standing at her door. Trembling, he fell to his knees. “Are you… a ghost?”

Tara squeezed her hand around the pill, a slow smile curving her lips. “I guess not.”

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one didn’t place, but the feedback is below!


{2104}  You successfully created a setting that was evocative and ghostlike. The line about the end of times combined with the reference to an emptied world gave your story a feeling of loneliness that came across very clearly.

{2086}  This story creates a superb sense of atmosphere, in a setup that is equally original. From the non-functional appliances to the overgrown lawn, and the dark decision that Tara has reached, the narrative exudes presence and mood.

{2035}  I loved the repetition in Tara’s life with the ghosts that surrounded her. The paragraph about her family going through orbits was particularly compelling, drawing us into Tara’s reality.


{2104}  I found myself confused about Tara and her place and role in the house. You wrote some things that suggested that she is also a ghost:

#1 – she glided through the farmhouse,

#2 – the appliances were not working so if she were alive, how would she be able to feed herself,

#3 – you suggest that she might be an “unwilling phantom”.

At the same time, you make suggestions that she is corporeal:

#1 – her skin is damp,

#2 – she is about to take some pills suggesting suicide, however this could be just the repetition of her death,

#3 – the stranger at the door asking if she were a ghost, yet he might be a recent ghost not realizing that he is also dead.

Was this house real or was it a stopping off place for the newly dead? Is Tara’s role to meet them?

These were all questions that went through my head as I read. I think your story would have been made even stronger if the ending were more clear.

{2086}  It might be interesting to consider whether there is some specific reason the stranger shows up at the moment Tara is about to take the line of pills she has set up for herself. This coincidence creates a compelling twist, but with even more context or catalytic purpose, it might land just that much more effectively.

{2035}  To me, it was a little too unclear who the man was that bounded through her front door. I think that trimming back some of the detailed description in the first paragraph would free up six or so words you could utilize in the ending to clarify the man’s sudden appearance.