The unfailing sound of the ancient grandfather clock keeping time downstairs, echoed through the thin walls of the old Victorian home. Audra, wide awake in the wee hours of the morning, couldn't help but count the seconds as they ticked by.
It was almost time.
The teenager's long, pale fingers balled her fuzzy purple comforter underneath her narrow chin. Her dark brown eyes watched the paneled door at the opposite end of the long bedroom. Audra knew it was coming, and yet, her whole body jerked with surprise when the first step at the bottom of the staircase creaked.
The quickening drumbeat of her heart, pounded in her ears until it and the protesting stairs were the only two things she could hear. Audra's entire world suddenly focused down to one small point: the brass doorknob. She had to force herself to draw air in and out of her lungs. Her mouth was completely dry.
Ten steps... Nine... Eight... The footfalls of someone, or something, slowing climbing the stairs.
Five... Four... Three...
A single tear escaped Audra's wide-open, terrified eye. Her breath suddenly caught in her throat.
Two... One... Silence...
Audra began to shake involuntarily. She wanted so badly to scream, but her throat was restricted with fear.
The doorknob turned...
The hinges on the old door cried out as the archaic metal ground together. The door swung open, bumping lightly against the wall. The clock continued its persistent chronicle of time in the foyer below. Audra used to love listening to the antique time piece that had been passed down from her grandmother's grandmother. Now, she wished only to smash the horrible thing into a billion splinters.
Audra was frozen in absolute terror, waiting.
Despite being bundled beneath her thick, queen-sized bed spread, Audra felt the chill that stung the air. She felt it all the way down to the tips of her neon green, sock-covered toes. What little breath slipped passed her lips was visible in the air before her.
The gossamer vision of a girl, perhaps a few years younger than Audra, came into view in the small space at the top of the stairs, just outside of the terrified teenager's doorway. A second door stood opposite Audra's. It remained closed, for now.
The girl wore a long, white nightdress. Her feet were bare. Her straight, blond hair came down to the middle of her back. Wisps of it covered her face. She turned to look at Audra with her pale blue eyes and the terror rose higher, making Audra's chest feel heavy and tight.
The ghost raised her arm and beckoned to Audra. The door behind her suddenly swung open, revealing the small storage room beyond. Audra couldn't even shake her head to deny the phantom's request.
“Play with me,” the ghost said, but her lips never moved. She just smiled pleasantly and beckoned again.
Audra squeezed her eyes shut instead. More tears leaked from beneath her closed eyelids.
Seconds passed. A light breeze blew through the room.
The grandfather clock 'bonged,' signaling the half hour. Audra whimpered in response. She knew it was over, but it took a few more moments for her to build up the courage to open her eyes. The chill in the room was gone and Audra was covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
Audra turned her teary brown eyes in the direction of her still open doorway. The storage room door was once again closed and the ghost was gone. When it had all began, a week ago today, Audra wondered what it would be like to accept the girl's invitation: to have a play date with a ghost.
Audra didn't wonder anymore. She knew. She could still see her younger brother's curiously smiling face as he looked back at her once, before disappearing behind the closing storage room door.
That was three days ago. Audra had not seen her brother since... And neither had anyone else.