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Crystal Crawford
Ghost Trouble book cover

Ghost Trouble

"Miss Jayana Merryweather from Tampa, Florida!”

Jay plastered on a smile and stepped out of line to sashay across the stage. She hoped it wasn’t obvious that she was barely keeping her balance on these heels. Did the judges deduct points for wet pit stains?

The rest of the girls floated across the stage like they were born weightless, a bunch of bronzer-covered goddesses, every one of them perfect. Jay didn’t belong here, and she knew it. 

“And now for our final event... the talent competition!” the announcer called. 

Jay filed backstage with the rest of the girls.

“You’re going to have to do it,” a voice murmured over her shoulder.

Jay stifled a squeal. The other girls glanced her way, eyes questioning.

“Go away,” Jay whispered.

The girl closest to her took a step away, as though Jay’s crazy might be contagious.

“Look at me, little Jayana,” the voice cooed. “Need I remind you you’re here to win? You must.” 

Jay turned, fighting the urge to run as the spectral eyes stared back at her.

“Nice to see you.” The ghost laughed.

“I would say the same but it’s not,” Jay hissed. “Go away.”

“Your song isn’t going to be enough. You need something with more bang.”

Stupid ghosts. They used to only bother Jay at home, but now they followed her everywhere. 

“You know what to do!” The ghost shouted as it faded away.

Jay drew a deep breath and stepped out of line.

The Talent Act Coordinator gave Jay a look of annoyed concern. “Why aren't you in line? You’re next.”

“I need to change my act.”

“Absolutely not. You’re up in twelve seconds.”

Applause erupted from the other side of the curtain. Oh no oh no…

“Up next, Jayana Merr –“

A deafening crash came from the stage, then screams.

The ghosts had taken things into their own hands.

The Talent Coordinator rushed past Jayana and whipped the curtain open.

The auditorium was in chaos. Massive wooden beams from the ceiling had crashed down onto the stage, knocking loose one of the giant spotlights. Its shattered glass sprayed across the stage as it swung on its broken cable like an eye-searing, spinning pendulum. Its blinding swath of light swept across sections of the room as it spun, revealing new bits of chaos with every pass. Swing—people stampeding for the doors in the back corner. Swing—rows of seats mangled by the falling beams. Swing—glass like bits of scattered diamonds across the stage. Swing—the bleeding leg of a—

Oh no.

Jay shoved past the panic-stricken Talent Act Coordinator and out onto the stage. She had only gotten a glimpse, but she’d definitely seen blood. Her high heels crunched glass with every step.

“You see what you’ve caused, Jayana?”

The familiar voice and accompanying laugh made Jay stumble. “Stop it. Go away. Stop it!”

She reached the end of the stage and leaped down, catching her balance on the edge of the stage as her ankles faltered on the high heels. Jay had to crawl over some of the broken seats to get to the person she’d seen; from this angle he was barely even visible. She felt and heard her dress rip as she stepped high over part of a broken chair, but she reached the guy and dropped to her knees beside him. “Sir, can you hear me? Are you alright?”

The guy was trapped partially under one of the seats, and there was a small pool of blood beneath his left leg. It seemed to be stuck beneath the chair and had been cut from some of the metal and glass, but it didn't seem so bad. Jay breathed a sigh of relief and moved around another seat to get a view of his face.

He looked up at her from the ground. “I’m stuck.”

“I know, I—I’ll try to get you out.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” that familiar voice sang again.

“Why not?” Jay asked.

“Why—what?” The guy looked up at her, his large brown eyes focused and intense despite the fact that he was clearly in pain.

“No, I—not—“

“His leg is cut badly, but the chair is keeping pressure on it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” A maniacal laugh drifted away, as though moving into the distance.

Jayana nearly cursed under her breath. She wasn’t the kind to curse, but right now she felt it would have been appropriate.

“Can you... can you help me? I’m still stuck,” the guy said.

“Oh! I’m sorry, I— “ Jay looked down at the guy’s leg. The ghost could be messing with her, but... what if it wasn’t? “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can move you. I think we should wait for help.”

“Better get moving, Jay!” an echoey voice called from the distance. “More is coming.”




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