At last! The Masters Review is proud to present the grand prize winning “Ghost Story” by Becca Anderson, selected by Tope Folarin as the best story in our 2019 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers! Becca’s amazing story of two young friends on a road trip to a haunted bridge earned her a $3,000 prize along with publication and agency review. Tope commented on the story after selecting it, saying, “This is such a fantastic, moving story. And so well-crafted. It’s the kind of story I love–the kind of story that calmly leads you along, and then you realize what’s happening, and it’s too late to protect yourself. It’s a heart-rending, devastating tale that is incredibly beautiful as well. I read it once, and then I immediately read it again.”
Riley says that after the woman died, they started to see her, hear her, walking along the bridge. The tattered train of her wedding dress, the dirty veil hanging over her face. The echoing call as she searches for her fiancé. They see her climb over the edge of the bridge and plummet. That’s where Riley’s taking you. To the bridge she haunts.
Saturday afternoon. You and Riley lay flat on your backs on the living room floor, teenager-bored, your legs propped up on the sofa seats. You’ve tossed a basketball back and forth in the driveway; dealt multiple hands of three different card games; dug the year-end homework out of your backpacks with great intentions. That homework is now scattered on the rug around you, ignored as much as the cat hair tumbleweeds fluttering beneath the sofa. You watch the ceiling fan twist in lazy circles. The breeze does nothing to cut through the close air of almost summer. It will rain later, all that heavy breaking to pieces, but right now it’s only hot.
Riley’s phone pings. She sighs, digging it out of her pocket. Her elbow rests on your arm while she reads the text. You should tell her to move, that it’s too warm for any kind of touching. You don’t. Besides, you’re sure that she will move soon enough. She’ll tap out a response and the two of you will drift back to your weekend stagnation. Instead, she looks at you in darting glances. She says your name, a question. “Mia?”
“Yeah?” The dust is a faint line of grey on each edge of the fan blades. You wonder if anyone has bothered to clean there since your family moved in. You never could figure out how the fuzz stays there, how it keeps from shaking loose to drift as the fan turns and turns.
“Nate says the car’s free. Want to go somewhere?”
“Don’t you want to know where?”
You shrug with one shoulder, the carpet fibers catching on your polyester tank-top. This isn’t new. It’s something you two sometimes do, ever since Riley got her license. You get in Riley’s Geo, a complete beater, and just drive. But not often. You won’t take the test for another four months, and the beater, older than you both are, is shared with her brothers. But the thought of it comes on you in fits. It’s freedom, or close enough. Freedom set on rails.
You tell Riley it doesn’t really matter. It’s something to do, isn’t it?