Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 22, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #62. Penny.

School is where you assume you'll be safe from the things that make themselves known to you in your home.

Your parents tell you that it's an ability passed down in the family from both sides. Supposedly, your parents are cousins, twelfth or thirteenth removed, but they look like they could be siblings. There's that, and there's also your uncles who linger around the perimeters of your school campus. They know exactly where you'll be so they can see you've seen them. You're still determining what they do for a living, but they always seem to have money. You realize that school is not safer than home because there are spirits here, too. They use that teenage angst energy to latch themselves onto the most emotionally and mentally unstable of your friends. Still, more often than not, they mainly latch on to the innocent ones. Couple that with the physical changes where your body matures out of proportion, and you've got the perfect parapsychological stew for everything from poltergeists to possessions. You as the sensitive? You must keep your head down and ignore it all because you know they will never let you go once you acknowledge them.


Penny and I became fast friends last year when all the other awkward 7th graders tried to fit in without appearing desperate. I told her everything about how I see spirits. She didn't laugh at me or stop talking to me, so it's cool. This year was the first time Penny invited me to dinner before we went to the 8th grade dance, which was being held in our school cafeteria. It was the strangest experience because, aside from Penny, her parents and older brother just sat there, quietly eating from their plates and staring at me like I was some kind of novelty. After we were done, Penny and I washed our plates. As we were leaving, Penny's mother stopped me at the door, "You can't see anything in this house, can you?"

"No," I replied quietly.

"It's just that Penny has been telling us how you see spirits and everything, so I just wondered," her mother said. 

"Is that why your family didn't say anything to me while we ate?" I asked Penny a few minutes later while we walked to the 8th-grade dance. "Is that why they stared at me the whole time like I was a freak?"

"I don't know how to handle it when you tell me those things, okay? My family, they're the only ones I can talk to about this because it bothers me," her voice squealed. 

"You never said that to me all this time!" I screamed at her. I turned the other way and walked back home.

"Where are you going?" She called out from behind me. "I thought we were going to the school dance?"

"I'm not going anywhere you're at!" I yelled back at her. "We're not friends! I hate you!"


I almost thought about not going to school today, the Monday after the 8th-grade dance. Instead, I got there as late as possible without being tardy. I was pushing it. The usual spirits roamed the campus: the ancient Hawaiians, the missionary settlers, plantation workers, and those kids my age who died for one reason or another but were somehow attached to my school. They looked every bit like us but were dim like their spiritual light wasn't as bright as it should have been. I took my usual seat in my homeroom class, trying to avoid a conversation with Nancy Bumalag. She was a very pretty local Filipino girl, and I couldn't understand why she wanted to talk to me every morning. I felt like it was some cruel trick she would play on me once I took the bait like Penny did. Speaking of the devil, she walked into the class and made a beeline for her desk. Simultaneously, our homeroom teacher pounded her gavel on the table, getting our attention.

"Class, I received a note from our principal. One of our friends was found murdered by some of our classmates after the 8th grad dance this past weekend near the cafeteria. Her parents were informed and had to officially come to identify her body. Trevor?" Mrs. Murakami looked right at me. "You and Penny were close friends, weren't you?"

"What?" I asked her, too terrified to reply. "I don't know what you mean?"

"Penny Holi, you and she were friends, right?" She asked.

"No," I answered. "We weren't," I said matter-of-factly. "We're not."

I couldn't tell Mrs. Murakami that Penny's spirit was there, sitting at her desk, trying to get my attention as her murder was announced over the weekend. She was dim, like all the others. The light of her mortal life was gone from her soul. She was resigned to wander the halls of Palolo High School, never to return home again. I couldn't acknowledge her. If I did, I'd be acknowledging every other spirit in the school. Then I'd be screwed.

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