Nellie Figgenbottom didn’t believe in ghosts. They were nonsense, figments of weak minds.
They were for the hopeless who wanted desperately to believe there was something else — something better — beyond this cold world.
But Nellie knew.
She knew the bumps in the night were just a raccoon or bat thumping against the side of Grandma’s house.
She knew the creaking floorboard was just the old place settling under the weight of all the visitors who had arrived when Grandpa died.
And she knew the voice that whispered in her ear as she dozed off that first night, the one that sounded like Grandpa’s, belonged to an uncle or a cousin in another room, carried to her through the ancient duct work.
Just to be sure no one was pulling any shenanigans, though, like sneaking into her room while she was asleep, Nellie had taken precautions.
First, she draped a sash of ribbon from the doorknob to the dresser against the wall. If anyone so much as brushed against the door, the ribbon would fall.
Then, she stationed a candle on that dresser, and one on the floor, and one on the nightstand next to her.
If a draft stirred, the flickering light would tell her.
And then, Nellie waited.
She watched and listened all through that third night, until long after the voices in the other rooms had died away and the sconce lanterns in the hallway had burned down.
She glanced at the door — the ribbon was still in place.
The candles burned steady.
And Nellie’s eyelids grew heavy.
She succumbed to slumber, then instantly realized her mistake.
She had forgotten about Grandpa’s mantel clock, broken and in pieces on the desk in the corner of the room.
The clock began to tick.
And then, the candles went out.