First Sentence Forward: “Bill and Olivia’s Ghost”

by K.M. Zahrt

Last Friday, I gave you a starting sentence to take forward and turn into a ghost story. It was the first sentence from Nicholas Delbanco’s “Pier Road” from Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them, edited by Keith Taylor & Laura Kasischke:

Some years ago [insert name or names] bought a home in western Michigan, just north of the Indiana border.

Here’s my try:

Some years ago Bill bought a home in western Michigan, just north of the Indiana border. It was a modest bungalow, log-cabin style; it was all he could afford on the Lake Michigan shore. Olivia always wanted to retire there. After their daughter, Livy, passed away in a car accident, Bill decided it was time to get away. Olivia hadn’t been talking to him for some time after the accident, and she said nothing throughout the move.

One night, while Bill was out chopping firewood, he thought he heard voices in the cabin. “Are you talking to someone?” he asked Olivia.

She shook her head.

It got so that Bill swore he heard her talking to someone every time he was in a different room or outside. He went to her and asked, “Did you say something?”

She shook her head.

“I’m sorry, dear. I thought you said something to me.”

One night, when Bill was out chopping wood, he clearly heard voices. He snuck up to the edge of the cabin as stealthily as he could. Up on his tip toes, he peeked in the window only to see Olivia sitting quietly on the couch staring straight at him with bored eyes.

“I heard you talking,” Bill said.

She shook her head.

“Who were you talking to?”

Again, she shook her head.

The next night, Bill was sitting at the kitchen table reading the day’s newspaper when Olivia threw herself down onto the couch and began to weep.

“Olivia, dear, what is the matter?”

“It’s Livy,” she said between sobs. “She’s here.”

“You’re seeing a ghost?”

“No. She’s here.”

“Olivia, dear, that can’t–”

“Don’t ‘Olivia, dear,’ me. She’s here.”

“Okay. Okay. I believe you. What is she telling you?”

“She’s telling me she’s going to take me away. She’s going to take me away from you, once and for all.”

“Olivia, we can work on this.”

She shook her head.

“Let’s go back to counseling. We’ll find a new counselor. One here in town.”

She shook her head.

“Let’s talk about this in the morning. Okay? Let’s get some rest. We’ll figure something out tomorrow.” Bill set himself up in the guest room that night. It was well past two o’clock in the morning when he finally heard Olivia go into the bedroom and shut the door.

In the morning, Bill went about his usual business until lunch time. The door to the bedroom had remained closed, and he hadn’t heard a sound. No movement. No voices.

Bill knocked on the door. “Olivia? Are you okay?” Nothing happened. “Olivia, would you like me to fix you some breakfast? Or lunch?” No sounds came. “Olivia, dear, I’m coming in.” Bill opened the door with caution.

The bed was empty and unused, still neatly made. Bill checked the bathroom. There was no sign of her. “Olivia,” he called. “Where are you, dear?” He checked the windows–closed and locked. Olivia wasn’t strong enough to open them on her own. He ran outside, calling her name. She was nowhere to be found.

Feeling defeated, Bill sat on the couch and waited. He waited for three days straight. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he called his brother, Will, the Chief of Police, and he reported Olivia’s disappearance.

Will said, “Bill, Olivia passed away years ago.”

“Will, what the hell are you talking about? She was just here. Now, she’s gone. I need your help.”

“Bill, you do need help. You need counseling. We’ve been through this. Listen to me, she died in the accident with Livy. You know this. You moved here alone. If you don’t listen to me, I can’t help you.”

Bill hung up the phone.

On the third night, his fire went out. He needed more wood. The next morning, while he was chopping, he heard voices inside the cabin again. He heard Olivia with someone. He hurried to the window and peeked in. There, he saw Olivia sitting quietly on the couch staring straight into his soul.

Give it a try. Submit your ghost stories to, and we’ll enjoy them throughout October.


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