Ghosts and Gears
by Alex Frasca

It was something in the ticking of the clock. What was it
about the ceaseless second hand that made silence so loud?

He set down the book. It was an old book that smelled of
dust, with grainy yellow pages and tiny font. Murder mystery.
Not his first choice, but it was the best he could find in this
rotting study. He slouched in the green velvet-upholstered chair
with snarling lions for armrests.

Someone had warned him that this place was haunted. He
didn’t believe it, but I certainly do. Son, let me tell you,
that place was haunted. Do you believe in ghosts? Are they
angry, likely to throw a mickey-mouse mug at your head? Or are
they sad, moaning wistfully behind the stained oak doors in the
drafty parlor on the first floor? And which is more terrifying?

The clock never stopped. He wrapped his hands around the
brandy glass, tightly. Down the long black corridor he peered.
What was he looking for? He hadn’t heard anything. His heart
raced. He wished his wife had come with him. “As much as I enjoy
watching you do paperwork, I’d rather stay home. Charlie still
can’t swallow pills unless I’m there to watch him.”

“Bring him with us.”

“Oh, don’t you know Charlie is afraid of ghosts?”

Just then, the tea kettle whistled and Lucky chirped in his

He sipped his brandy. It warmed his belly. He closed the
door and sat back down. He had done so much work today–mindnumbing
stuff that will make your back ache. Get out of that old
rickety chair at least once an hour. Do with that time what you
will, but you can’t just do paperwork for sixteen hours
straight. Your brain will melt.

The clock ticked. Tick tick tick tick tick tick.

He began reading again. Marshall Plackett and Dawn Fraser
seemed to be falling for each other, despite their rivalry as
detectives. Their hands brushed against each other. How
touching. They engaged in some questionable dialogue about
forensic tests. The author went to the library for this one.
Brought a cup of coffee, maybe read a little bit too much. God,
just tell me how Marshall knows the victim fixed water heaters
for a living.

Had he just heard something?

Ghosts weren’t real. And if they were, what could they
possibly do? Let me tell you, son, ghosts are real. And they can
do more than you think. They can mess with your thoughts,
possess your soul.

Surely he had heard something. No, not just the tick tick
tick tick.




Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick. Tick tick tick.

He threw the book on the desk. Slammed the glass down next
to it. Brandy drops on the pages. He grabbed the clock from the
mantle and turned it off. It kept ticking.