18 The Eternal Party

The Eternal Party

              By Lizzie Elsenpeter

There are many different ideas and theories about what happens when humans die. Do those who lived the perfect, ideal way climb the golden stairs to heaven? Do those who lived in sin crawl down fiery stones to hell? Or, perhaps there truly is nothing after life, a tranquil nothingness to rest in. Well, whatever you thought was wrong. The afterlife hosts a ghost party.

Cracking her eyes open and sitting up with a groan, Valentine looked around the brightly lit room. Harsh white lights blinded her as she lifted a hand to shield her eyes from the blinding sunshine. The room was completely bare, except for a single door across from her at the opposite end and an oak coffee table in the center of the room, a yellowed envelope resting atop it with her name written across in black ink.

“Interesting,” Valentine thought, furrowing her brow in confusion and cocking her head to the side. Dangling from her neck was a ruby red rose, encased in a gold lining and looped on a black cord.

She stood up and began to cautiously walk towards the coffee table, not trusting the eerie atmosphere of the white room. Picking up the envelope, she ran her hands over the black ink mark of her name and carefully tore it open

Dear Valentine,

Congratulations, you’re dead! Is saying congratulations weird? I suppose it doesn’t sound like something to congratulate you on, but to you, it probably is worth celebrating. Anyhow, let me walk you through what’s going to happen next: you’re going to want to read this carefully. You will be attending a dinner party, what fun! You will also be playing a game tonight. By the end of the dinner, you must figure out how you died. Don’t worry though, there will be multiple clues scattered around and you’ll be talking to the rest of the dinner guests to figure it out. Listen to their stories. I’ll be in contact with you, sending notes here and there with either a clue or to let you know if you’re going in the right direction. Your outfit for the night will be dropped off soon, so just go change and have a blast: your life depends on it. Oh, I almost forgot to mention. If you succeed, you can have a second chance in life. However, if you fail, you’ll be stuck in eternity forever. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Best of luck,

Narrator 🙂

“What have I gotten myself into?” Valentine thought, grimacing as she put the letter back down on the coffee table. She felt confused, as though she were missing a piece of an obscure puzzle. Despite the headache that was beginning to take control, she wasn’t one to turn down a challenge and was determined not to lose to the mysterious Narrator.

Slipping into the midnight black dress that had appeared, she took one final look around the room. The white room stared back, the bareness almost depressing. She turned back around and opened the door to the party.

The air was vibrant with life, despite all the attendees being literal ghosts. Sitting in the center of the room was a grand oak table, with 4 chairs around it. The table had intricate carvings on it, and red roses and swirling sea waves lay indented in the wood. Minging about the joyous atmosphere were 3 other ghosts, each significantly different from the other in every way possible. Valentine softly padded across the wooden tiles and sat down at the table, her gray eyes glancing around. Shortly after the 3 ghost attendees joined her, filling in the remaining open chairs.

Sitting in the first chair was a tall man. He was dressed in a simple suit, sporting a dark green suit jacket and a gold watch, a rose carved into the side of it. His eyes were worn, wrinkles crinkling together each time he smiled and joked. His smile radiated pure joy, pink lips drawn back to show pearly white teeth. He was the kind of person who was just happy to be alive, clearly extending to the afterlife as well. At this moment, Valentine felt the pressure on her head increase.

Next to him sat an old woman. She looked to be made of dust, yet her eyes were playful and young. The green irises appeared vibrant and fresh like they were made of the dark green stems of freshly bloomed flowers. Her face held pure sunshine, so bright it could grow a garden. She wore a long dress decorated with roses and a white cardigan over it. Valentine once again felt the prodding pounding against her forehead.

To the right of Valentine was a person around the same age as her. They had an air of mystery to them, giving off the secondhand smoke of danger. Their smile was sinister, smirking lazily like The Cheshire Cat. Their blue eyes held a sea of secrets, and deceit lying under the murky cyan surface. They wore a ruby red sweater with black jeans, and rose earrings.

Suddenly, Valentine heard a whoosh of air. Another letter had appeared next to her hand, the same black ink name on it.

Dear Valentine,

Now that you know everybody, it’s time to have some friendly dinner talk! Don’t forget, you only have one shot to have your second chance at life!

Have fun!

Narrator 😉

She felt an unfamiliar tingle in her body, that same confusing feeling motivating her to figure out how she died and get her second chance.

I guess I’d better start making friends, she begrudgingly thought. She wasn’t the best at conversation, but maybe it was worth it to try if she could get the answer she needed. Starting with the first ghost, she began her questioning.

“So uh, how was your life?” She questioned, not entirely sure how to figure this out.

“It was quite a good one. I led a life of giving, helping as many people as I possibly could. I passed being surrounded by all of my loved ones, and buried next to my husband,” He answered, a content smile resting on his face. Valentine began to smile but grimaced at the sharp stab from her head, somehow stronger this time. Regardless, she wanted to find the clue.

“That sounds nice, what kind of career did you have?” She responded curiously.

“I ran a local flower shop in my town. I loved seeing all the young couples, around your age, that stopped to buy flowers for each other.”

Okay, so the clue is that my place of death was a flower shop?

Nodding, she turned her attention to the old woman sitting next to him.

“Could you tell me about the life you had?” She asked her, beginning to enjoy hearing the different stories.

“I was happy all my life,” grinned the old woman, “I tried my best to live in the moment and enjoy all the small things life had to offer me in my time.”

“That sounds like a good life, but why were you so happy?” Valentine responded.

“Oh well, that was easy. I focused on enjoying life, and searching for beauty in the mundane,” She responded dreamily as if she were back in that memory.

“But it wasn’t that simple. I remember when I went on a hiking trip with my friends. Gosh, the scenery was gorgeous and I wanted nothing more than to sleep with the stars forever. But on the second day, I ate a Death Cap mushroom, forgetting to check if it was edible or not. We couldn’t get to a hospital in time, so here I am,” she sighed, grimacing as she recalled the feeling.

“That’s…. that’s terrible. I’m so sorry you went through that,” Valentine quietly answered, the confusing feeling beginning to surface again.

Seriously, I died from food poisoning? Oh, well I’m extremely allergic to daisies so that would make sense.

She turned to the final ghost, wanting to get her final clue and her second chance.

“Did you happen to enjoy your life?” She cautiously asked them, afraid to sink under their deceitful surface.

“Of course! I had an absolute blast! Although, I don’t think I can say the same about your life huh?” They smirked, looking down at Valentine as though she were a bug under their heel.

“I..how do you mean?” she shakily responded

“Aren’t you supposed to figure that out?” They answered, tilting their head to the side.

“Well, that’s what I’m figuring out right now”

“Right, what do you have so far then?” They asked.

Valentine took a deep breath, making sure she had everything sorted out, “well, I’ve figured out that I must have visited a flower shop. That’s not what killed me though, rather I probably had an allergic reaction to some daisies I didn’t recognize in time.”

“Death by flowers? What an interesting way to die,” They chuckled, somehow amused by the whole situation.

“You’ve asked enough questions, it’s my turn now,” She rolled her eyes at them, crossing her arms over her chest.

They lifted their hands and leaned back in their chair, confidence radiating off like heat waves.

“Since your life was a “blast”, how did you end up dying?” She questioned.

“Fairly normal actually. I just died of old age. But that’s as normal as it got. I was turned in by my lover for murder, so I had to rot away in prison for the last part of my life. What fun right?” They glared at her, almost as though it was her fault.

“But don’t worry, it doesn’t end there. After I died, I had to stay here for eternity forever, literally. But I’ve gotten rather bored as time passed, so I created a game that I could enjoy,”They responded, grinning maliciously at Valentine.

Valentine’s eyes widened and she looked up at them, “wait what do you mean a ‘game’….”.

Their face lit up with dangerous excitement as they started to pull out an envelope from their pocket, cursive black ink and yellowed paper flashing at Valentine.

She pushed herself away from the table and quickly stood up, looking at them incredulously.

“I..that can’t….you’re the Narrator?!” She exclaimed. They stood up and handed her the letter, smirking as her shaky hands darted out to grab the letter from them.

Dear Valentine

I guess you figured it out huh, took you long enough. I mean honestly, I expected better from you. Anyway, I suppose you want to know if you passed or not. You got some things right,

you did die at a flower shop, and of your daisy allergy. But you never found out who killed you. It’s okay though, I can give you one last hint.

It was me

Valentine felt sick to her stomach. She looked up at the Narrator in horror, but their expression was dangerous.

“Darling, it truly hurt me to kill you. But you did this to yourself when you decided to betray me,” They snarled at her.

She felt something click in her brain, the puzzle piece fit in place and her eyes widened as she realized who the Narrator was. The pressure on her head retreated, and she clutched her hand to her heart as one pervasive memory began to take control of her brain.

Salty tears flowed from her eyes, leaving streaks of regret under her eyes as she ended the phone call with the police. It’s not like she wanted to, but they had gone too far. Her heart ached with each step as she began walking to the garden she was meeting Eden. She walked along the wet stones, smelling of fresh rain and her stench of sorrow. The green vines slept in the cracks between the stones and climbed up the fence that enclosed the garden. The numerous flowers seemed to glow in the moonlight, showering in the stardust leaking from the sky. She heard light footsteps behind her, turning to see Eden. They smiled at Valentine, their heart jumping into Valentine’s tainted hands.

“Hey love, I’ve missed you,” they softly whispered to Valentine.

“I’ve missed you too,” she responded, lightly grasping their hands.

“And I’m sorry for what’s about to happen, but I can’t support your decision to kill him. I can’t support the wrong you committed,” she stated, guilt creeping into her voice as she turned

away from Eden. She began to walk away, not wanting to see their face as she heard the wails of sirens and the bright flashes of blue and red lights.

The moonlight seemed to go dark, the flowers drying off from their star bath and the vines creeping away from Valentine. She folded her arms over her chest, tears once again flowing down her cheeks as she heard the painful shouts of Eden calling for her. Valentine wanted to leave her heart in the garden, to bury it with the weeds that would overtake it. The paradise had been destroyed by pain, their memories would only serve to be poison-laced nostalgia.

Back in reality, Valentine looked up at Eden. She felt as though she were overdosing on guilt; it coursed through her body but left only pain in its wake. The ruby rose looped around her neck began to turn black, but Valentine failed to notice.

Eden stared down at them, curling their lips back in disgust and pain.

“How does it feel? To be drowning in anguish, have it be shoved down your throat and into your heart?”

Valentine shook her head as she gasped, taking heaving breaths.

“I’m so sorry, I truly am. Please believe me that it hurt me to do that to you,” She pleaded, her eyes filling with tears.

“Oh, don’t start crying yet. If you think it hurt you to turn me in, you should know how I killed you,” They sneered, crossing their arms over their chest.

Valentine fearfully looked into their eyes, wanting nothing more than to melt into the ground under their fiery gaze.

“That day you were visiting the only flower shop without daisies? I had the store clerk dust daisy pollen over the flowers in the shop. When you got distracted by the roses and

inevitably went to smell them, as you always did, the floral scent filled your nose while the pollen sent you into cardiac arrest. And now, here we are.” They darkly chuckled to themselves, briefly glancing at her.

Valentine felt a sinking sensation, her brain suffocating in the betrayed air. She wrapped her arms around herself, drawing her knees up to her chest. Her eyes desperately searched Eden’s face, trying to convey everything she felt at that moment. To show them how much they meant to her, and how her heart had an ugly scar. Their face showed nothing back but blank eyes, and their sinister smile lay in emotional stone.

“If you hadn’t already guessed, you failed. You’ll be stuck here forever, but not with me. Oh no. You’ll suffer alone, just like I had to do. Have fun!” They smirked at Valentine, reaching forward to stroke her cheek. They pressed their fingers against her cold skin, feeling a slight wetness from dried salty streams. Valentine and Eden looked at each other one last time, both feeling regret and sorrow grow inside them as they searched for the connection they once had. But that had been left behind in a dusty, weed-covered paradise.

Removing their fingers and standing up, they spared one final glance at Valentine before turning around and walking away. They disappeared into the animated room, leaving Valentine in her turmoil.

Valentine stood up, her legs groaning in protest as she did. She kept her head down as she walked back to the bare, white room. Once inside, she shut the door behind her and slid down it. At that moment, the gravity of the situation finally hit her: she was happy and had felt alive during her life with Eden. She had found the missing clue, but now it was all gone. She wanted to throw herself back into the memories, to go swim in the love she once had.

She buried her face in her hands, seeping into a pool of despair. After everything, there was nothing she could do. The ruby rose looped around her neck had turned completely black. The final clue had been with her this entire time, and it finally hit her that she never could’ve won. It was all a game in the end.

While this felt like true hell to Valentine, it wasn’t. All she had done was attended a ghost party.


Anoka County Library Write On! 2023 Short Story Contest Winners Copyright © 2023 by Avrie Siedschlag; Ella Howard; Greta Graham; Renad Taher; Rachel Mueller; Daniel Gbati; Julia McBride; Audrey High; Lucia Floan; Rhett LeBeau; Anna Moline; Hannah Jemming; Valomi Lewis; Fen Hendren; Kathryn Downs; Megan Nguyen; Lizzie Elsenpeter; Sophia Accord; and Sophia Acord. All Rights Reserved.

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