“Honey, did you leave a candle burning last night?”
“No, I don’t even remember the last time we lit a candle.”
Kimberly attempted to blow the candle out, but the flame wouldn’t budge.
“Huh. Is this one of those trick candles?” She tried to pinch it out with her fingers. “Ouch!” She yelped. Veronica rushed to her side and sighed.
“Really? Your first instinct was to stick your fingers in the flames? Are you five?” Kimberly shot her a look. “You try blowing the flame out then.”
“Alright.” Veronica took a deep breath and released a gust of air on the candle. The flame barely flickered. She tried again. And again. Frustrated, she stalked off to the kitchen, and came back with a glass of water. She dumped the entire thing on the candle. The flame burned brighter than ever.
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Great, at least all I did was burn my finger. You drenched our table.”
Kimberly moved a stack of books out of the way of the water, and shook a magazine that had taken quite a bit of damage. Rolling her eyes at her girlfriend, she headed to the kitchen to get some paper towels. When she came back, Veronica was crouched before the candle, eyes level with the flame, as if to extinguish it with her glare. Eventually, she picked it up and turned it over, revealing its smooth, waxy bottom. Not a switch in sight. She put it back and muttered “this is ridiculous”. She held her hand over the flame. “Is someone pranking us? Did you give Kyle a key to our place? This seems like something he would do.”
“No, why would I give him a key?” Kimberly answered as she mopped up some of the moisture surrounding the candle. “And while I definitely wouldn’t put it past my brother to prank us, where is he going to get a candle like this? This seems a little more advanced than the stuff they sell at the magic shop at the mall.” She finished drying the table and put the wet magazine on the radiator.
“I can give him a call, if you’d like?”
“Mmmm.” Her girlfriend appeared deep in thought. Kimberly left the room to get her phone and call her brother. When she came back, Veronica was still in the exact same spot.
“Kyle had no clue what I was talking about. Asked me if we were high.” Veronica huffed.
“Yeah. Anyway. I suggest we just put something over it. A bowl or a vase or something. The lack of oxygen should kill the flame eventually, and it has the added benefit of covering the flame for the time being. So we don’t accidentally burn the place down. What do you say?”
Veronica was quiet for a moment. “I think we should call the police.”
“You… what? Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not. What if it’s a bomb?”
Kimberly rubbed her forehead. “A bomb. In the shape of a candle. With a flame that won’t go out?”
“I’m just saying, it could be dangerous.”
“I… alright. Whatever. If you wanna call the cops, call them. But leave me out of it.”
“Fine.” Veronica slid her phone out of her back pocket and dialled the number, eyes never leaving the candle.
Kimberly went in search of a vase, hearing a rather frustrated Veronica argue with whomever had been unlucky enough to answer the call. When she finally found one that could double as a bell jar, she went back into the living room, where Veronica was looking slightly triumphant.
“I convinced them to come.”
Her face fell slightly. “I… lied.”
“Do I wanna know?”
Veronica shook her head.
“Alright, I need to head to work. Will you be okay?” Veronica nodded, but didn’t turn her head away from the candle. Kimberly rolled her eyes and leaned in to give her girlfriend a kiss on her cheek. “See you later, babe.”
An absentminded ‘bye’ could be heard when Kimberly pulled the front door closed behind her.
Kimberly could hear voices coming from the living room when she returned home from work. She hung up her coat and opened the door, surprised by the amount of people crammed into the tiny room. Most didn’t even look up when she walked in.
“Um. V, where are you?” She called out, when she was unable to spot her girlfriend through the crowd. No response. She pushed past a few people and tried again, only to see her girlfriend climbing on a chair and mounting a security camera on the wall.
“Eh, honey? You okay up there?”
“Uhuh. How was work?”
“It was… fine. What did the cops say?”
“Oh, they had no idea what it was either, but they said that since there wasn’t any evidence of a crime, there was nothing they could do.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Right. So… who are all these other people?”
“A private investigator, some psychics, some ghost hunters… you know.”
Kimberly stared at her girlfriend’s back for a moment, searching for an answer that wouldn’t lead to a fight. None came to mind. She cleared her throat.
“Do… do we believe in ghosts and psychics now?” Veronica stepped down from the chair and admired her work.
“Hmm? Nah. But we have to try something, right?”
“We could just throw it out.” Kimberly suggested. The extremely simple solution had come to her the minute she’d arrived at work, but the store had been hectic from the get-go, and she hadn’t had time to text Veronica. Not that she’d thought she needed to. A rather burly man in glasses nearly pushed her over when he bend down to get a closer look at the candle. Evidently, she’d been wrong.
“I want to know what it is first, before we throw it out.” Veronica’s eyes were kind of glazed over, a look which Kimberly had learned to interpret as ‘extremely determined’, or, less flatteringly: ‘obsessive’. She was far too tired to try and argue with this version of Veronica, so she went to the kitchen to get some food instead. She had to direct some psychics back to the living room, but managed to have a quiet meal after that. It was a long time before an exhausted Veronica joined her. She yawned, and put her head down on her arms.
“Well? Did they find anything?” Kimberly asked.
“No”. It sounded muffled.
“Hmm. They found a ton of ghosts”, Veronica said, as she lifted her head up and rubbed her eyes. “But none that knew anything about the candle.”
Kimberly chuckled. “Sure. So can we throw it out now?”
Veronica sighed. “I guess.”
“Good.” Kimberly filled the vase – which had already found its way back to the kitchen at some point – with water, and retrieved the candle from the living room. She dropped it in there. It was still burning. She sighed, briefly wondering what to do with it now; she didn’t want to set any trash on fire, or have some kid think it was a toy. Eventually she settled on their balcony.
“We’ll throw it in a lake somewhere tomorrow.” She gave her girlfriend a kiss on her forehead, and held out her hand. “Come, let’s go to bed and forget that stupid thing for now.”
A very tired Veronica followed her, only protesting a little.
When they walked back into the living room the next morning, still a little bleary-eyed, the candle was right back on the table. Rubbing their eyes didn’t make it go away again, so naturally each accused the other of moving it back in the middle of the night, until Veronica remembered the security camera. They settled in front of her laptop with a bowl of cereal and watched the footage. They sped it up, and they watched it in slow-motion, but there was no other conclusion to come to than that there had been no movement in their living room at all, not even a moth. Except, obviously, the candle reappearing, somewhere around midnight.
Kimberly sighed. “This isn’t going anywhere any time soon, is it?”
Veronica just groaned.
Some nights one of them would stay up to watch the candle. Sometimes they could watch it reappear after getting rid of it. They had thrown it in the lake that second day, but it had been right back on their table again in the morning. Whatever they did, it would always reappear. And it would never be any smaller.
Other nights they’d just rely on the security footage. They’d called the cops again, who had taken it with them that time, but then called them a few hours later, reporting that they appeared to have lost it. It didn’t take the girls long to locate it.
Kimberly had received several warnings from her boss about her tardiness and her attitude, and Veronica had stopped going to work altogether. They both knew they couldn’t go on like this, but they couldn’t seem to stop focusing on that infernal candle. Kyle had dropped by, worried sick when Kimberly hadn’t show up for their annual brother/sister theme park outing. He’d taken one look at the both of them, grabbed the candle and taken it with him. It was obviously back the next day, and Kyle had to admit that he had lost it, although he wasn’t really clear on how that could’ve happened, since he’d kept it close to him the entire time.
Rarely a night went by when one or both of them wouldn’t wake up and sneak into the living room to check on it. If they did happen to sleep through the night, it usually meant they were so exhausted that their bodies shut down out of self-defence. After one such night, Kimberly was abruptly awoken by a shout from the living room. She glanced at the clock. 10 am. Damn, she was supposed to be at work right now.
“KIM! KIM! COME HERE, IT’S GONE!” Kimberly jumped out of bed and rushed to the living room. Veronica was staring at the table. For the first time in two months, there was no candle to be seen. Both girls just stood there, wide-eyed, for a few moments, before Kimberly pointed at the laptop.
“Footage”, was all she said. They sat down, and went through the now very familiar ritual of watching how their living room table spent the night.
“There!” Kimberly pointed at the screen excitedly, as a man walked into the frame. It took them a few moments to realise the implications of that, but then they hit pause and Veronica got up to check the lock on the front door, while Kimberly glanced around at their valuable things. They all seemed to be present.
“The lock is broken”, Veronica reported when she sat back down, looking uneasy.
“I don’t think he took anything though”, Kimberly said. “Let’s just watch the rest.”
They watched as the man carefully moved around the room. He kept his head down, so they couldn’t get a good look at his face, but the rest of his body was clearly visible.
“Is that a gun on his belt?” Veronica whispered. Kimberly nodded and grabbed her girlfriend’s hand.
The man had obviously spotted Veronica’s laptop on the table. He moved to grab it, but his sleeve brushed the candle. He yelped, looked up in surprise, and the camera caught a clear picture of his face. He patted his sleeve with his hand, looking around frantically, before rushing out of there.
“Did…did he not see the candle?” Veronica asked, confused.
“Looks like it. Makes zero sense though. But, then again…” Kimberly stopped talking as they watched the flame flicker and go out, and the next second, the candle was gone.
Veronica squeezed her hand, but they remained quiet for a while. Kimberly cleared her throat.
“So, eh, get new locks, call the cops about the burglary, show them the man in the footage, and never mention the candle again?”
“Yup.” Veronica nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
They kept the security camera, but after a month with neither candle nor burglary sightings, they stopped checking the footage.
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This was an amazing piece, great job!