This month, your story must follow these criteria:

  1. Your story’s first sentence must contain exactly THREE WORDS.
  2. Your story must include A FIRST of some kind. (Open to interpretation.)
  3. Your story must include A CANDLE.

Do Not Enter.

The sign was cracked and beaten – shards of wood strewn across the ground – but the warning was still clear. I gingerly stepped over it and made my way in, almost losing my footing in the process. Try and keep it professional, I kept reminding myself. People pay you to do this.

Adjusting my pack, and acutely aware of how heavy it was with Egon crammed inside, I quickened my pace and crossed the lawn. The house loomed in the slipping light, two ominous stories, front door boarded, windows black. Desolate, definitely. Empty? Well, we were about to find out.

Investigating the paranormal is not something you put on a CV. It’s also not something you tell your parents. I can’t remember who started it, exactly. I mean, In this town, everyone is at least a little superstitious. Too many people seeing things that can’t be explained. Catching a glimpse, I call it. A flash of a silhouette in the dark, mysterious noises in the dead of night. Electronics going haywire, losing time, that sort of thing. I always figured they were messages trying to get through. You know what’s weird? Cats are actually a great detector. They can see it, or smell it, I don’t know. But I’ve learned to trust the feline senses. Egon let out a soft mew from inside the bag.

This particular house had been on my radar for a long time. It was condemned, having been abandoned for almost a decade; a creaking, dilapidating reminder of the inefficiency of our council. Rumour has it that an old woman lived here, alone, never spoke to anyone. As far as I can tell, she never really left the house. One day, she up and disappeared without a trace. It gets murky from there, but the legend is that on some nights, you’ll catch a wisp of white hair by a window, a movement in the shadows. Scared the local kids enough, and one concerned parent later it ended up in my inbox.

Pulling a crowbar from my trusty pack, I pried open the boards covering the front door and managed to push it open. Walking inside, I set Egon gently on the floor, his white fur luminous in the dimness. He looked around, uninterested, and began cleaning himself. Fair enough.

I was stood in a tall hallway, the rays of sunlight from the open doorway cutting through a thick blanket of dust. Suddenly, without so much as a meow, Egon sprinted, full pelt, back out the front door. Huh. That was a first. Common sense told me to follow my cat. But if I had common sense, I wouldn’t be in this line of work.  My eyes began to adjust to the blackness when I noticed something at the end of the hall.

A chill ran down my spine. I had just come in from the door. The only way inside. But there, in the gloom, was a single candle flickering in the dark.