Author's note: This is a short story that I originally posted on Reddit. I have rewritten it in the first person.
It was a dark and stormy night, and it was still raining the following day into the afternoon.
I had just finished eating lunch and was sitting cross-legged on the couch in a pink tank top and white shorts watching TV. Schools were closed as many of the roads and buildings were flooded. It was a week before Halloween, my favorite holiday. Normally, it would be an exciting time, but today I was getting a little bored and kind of tired of the rain.
I actually loved the rain, especially dark and stormy nights. I would curl up in bed under the covers and read a ghost story book, and that's exactly what I did the night before. I loved being scared. Well, not too much, though. After all, I was only 9. But this weather had been a little too much even for me. I wished the sun had been out so I could go play outside with my friends again.
I looked at my soles. They were quite dirty from playing outside barefoot the day before, and I didn't bother washing them before going to bed. And in this weather, taking a shower was the last thing I wanted to do.
Yeah, I was a free spirit who always hated wearing shoes or anything on my feet. I would take off any footwear at every chance I got to my mom's dismay.
My mom was busy in the kitchen cleaning up and preparing to make my favorite Halloween cookies. "Shoot, I'm low on sugar again!" she said.
Hearing that, I had a bright idea. "Ooh, ooh, mom, I can go out and get some sugar for you," I said with excitement. "I'll just walk over to Mr. Lee's store which is really close by. All I need is my poncho!"
"Nah! Are you kidding me? You're gonna get all wet and get sick. You're already starting to have a cold, aren't you?" replied mom.
"But mom, I wanna go and I'll be fine. Besides, I once read online that you don't actually get sick from getting wet. That's just an old wives' tale."
Mom just chucked as she listened to her smart-ass little daughter. "OK Lynn, if you insist, and while you're there you can get me some coffee too," she said.
"Yay!" I was elated as I jumped up and grabbed my poncho. Mom handed me some money and I started to walk towards the door. But she yelled,
"Whoa, wait a minute kiddo! Aren't you gonna put something on your feet?" while staring at my bare feet.
You see, mom had kind of accepted the fact that I hated wearing shoes, but she thought today was different. It was pouring outside, and I would need to wear something to protect my feet.
"Aw, come on mom! If I wear shoes, they're just gonna get wet and flip flops, forget it! It will be harder for me to walk, and I might even slip and fall. It's just water, just like going to the pool or the beach. What's the big deal?" I argued.
Mom just sighed and finally relented. "Well, alright," she said shaking her head.
I looked at her and smiled. A smile of victory. I then dashed out the door into the storm. My raincoat was protective to a certain degree. My face still got wet as the wind blew against it. But my bare feet couldn't be happier splashing in the water all the way to Mr. Lee's convenient store which was just a few blocks away.
Mr. Lee was a little shocked to see me turn up in his store in such a stormy day. The old and slightly eccentric Chinese man was sitting in his rocking chair smoking a cigar. "Whoa, what brings you here in this terrible weather pretty young lady?"
"My mom needs some sugar."
"Sugar? Can't that wait till tomorrow? How could she send you out in the storm like this?
"Well, she needs it to make Halloween cookies and dinner later on, and actually, I really wanted to go out cuz I was getting bored at home. Oh, she needs some coffee too," I said smiling.
"Oh well, alright. You just wait here and I'll get the stuff for your mom," said the old man as he got up. "Hey, that's pretty smart," he added pointing at my bare feet. "You don't wanna ruin your shoes!"
I just smiled wishing mom would have heard that. Mr. Lee walked behind the counter to get some sugar and coffee.
I was standing there humming my favorite song. I stopped as I suddenly felt I was being watched. But by whom? I looked around but didn't see anyone. Then I looked toward the door that led to the back of the store. There was a dark figure in the back room, like someone wearing a black robe and hood. But the room was dark and the lights were off. The only source of light were two candles on a small altar in the room. So I wasn't absolutely sure what the thing was. Then the figure move towards the back and disappeared completely.
"What the hell is that?" I thought. Suddenly I had goosebumps and was petrified.
"Alright, kid. Here's your sugar and coffee!" said Mr. Lee which startled me and I jumped. "Oh hohoh, sorry Lynn, I didn't mean to scare you!"
"Mr. Lee, who's in the back?"
He was caught off guard. "Huh? Back there? Oh, uh... no... no one's back there, kid. I'm here by myself, heheheh!"
"But... I think I saw someone or something..."
"Oh, no, no, no, dear, there's no one back there. It's probably the candle flickering making it look like something was moving, heheheh! Now go on home, your mom must be waiting, heheheh!"
I knew the old man was trying to hide something but I didn't want to press the issue. So I paid him and walked back out into the rain.
Mom must have noticed that I wasn't quite as upbeat when I got home as I was when I left. "Are you OK sweetie?" she asked.
"Yeah, mom, I'm fine," I replied as I took off my poncho and wiped my wet face and feet. My feet were actually pretty clean now after being washed by the rain. "Ahchoo!"
"See, what did I tell you? Your cold is gonna get worse now since you got wet!" scolded mom.
"I'll be OK, mom!" I said sniffling.
I went back to the couch, turned the TV back on, and started flipping the channels. Suddenly something very interesting caught my eye. It was a special program on Chinese folklore. I watched it intently as it mentioned the different types of ghosts and monsters the Chinese believe in, and how they try to appease them by offering them foods and other goodies.
I felt chill down my spine. Could it have been a ghost I saw in Mr. Lee's store? When the program was over I couldn't contain it anymore. I went to kitchen and told mom everything I saw in the store and the TV program, and how they all kind of fit together.
Mom smiled lovingly. "Sweetie, there's no such thing as ghosts. The program was about folklore, right? That means those are just ancient beliefs and legends which have no place in our modern society."
"But mom... I really saw something."
"Sweetie, in this kind of weather our senses can sometimes play tricks on us. Mr. Lee was probably right, it was the flickering candle light creating the illusion. Also, I think you have been reading too many ghost stories. I need to prepare dinner now, so you go back and watch TV or play on the computer, OK!"
"Ookaay," I replied. But of course, I wasn't satisfied. I knew I saw something. What got me a little worried was the proximity of my house to the store. What if... but I quickly switched my thoughts to more pleasant things, like how the sun would shine the next day, and I would hang out with my friends after school. This was something my dad had taught me to do whenever I felt scared or sad.
I walked into my room and turned on my computer. I sneezed again as I was sitting at my desk. I grabbed a tissue and blew my nose. Meanwhile, the rain continued to pour and the sky grew darker. It looked like it was going to be yet another dark and stormy night. But I decided to give the ghost story books a break that night.
Please check out my other blog for more short stories (not necessarily barefoot related).