You know they exist.
Soft footfalls on the stairs. A shuffling in the shadows. A scurrying in the attic. A knock on the door by an unseen hand. An unfriendly gust of wind that sweeps up your hair and chills your blood on a still summer night. The sweet smell of roses that ripples past you, and evanesces in a breath.
Silvery streaks of light that whiz past the corner of your eye. There now, gone the next instant.
Little, floating orbs of light you see with eyes shut.
Fragrant fumes from an incense stick, twirling and vanishing in mid-air.
An empty glass of wine you are sure you washed and dried last night, now found lying in the sink laced with sanguine dregs.
The rocking chair, never still.
Love stains on the carpet. There now, gone tomorrow.
Things you lose, things you find. A family heirloom that wriggles out of your fingers in your sleep, turns up on the kitchen countertop months later when you stop looking for it. Memory playing tricks with your mind. The little pranks they play on you.
Doppelgangers, the cleverest of them all. Gifted impressionists. You look in the mirror, you can't believe what you see. A strand of grey hair, and another, yet another. Crow's feet. Wrinkles around your mouth. You just can't believe what you see. The brown eyes, your own, only older. They wink back at you. A figment of your imagination, you tell yourself.
The voices in your head. Louder and clearer than any you have ever heard. You think you are losing your mind.
They rise from the cracks in time. Like the second hand that falters ahead, a heartbeat too slow. The grandfather clock, whose pendulum swings a tad too fast.
They thrive on the fringes of reality. Like at the end of a dream. When you are about to fall into eternal sleep, they pull you back to safety.
It's a tightrope walk. One step in the future, one in the past. Imagination ceaselessly morphing into memory. Belonging to neither this world nor the other.
They are not the bad sort, not really. They mostly like you. Amused by how you can see but not believe. Sometimes they take offence when you believe in things you cannot see - like God - but refuse to acknowledge their existence.
The little clues they leave for you. The tinkle of wind-chimes, a rosebush that refuses to grow, a forgotten photograph in monochrome that falls in your lap, the letter that never arrives, the stranger who does you an unexpected good turn, the black cat that disappears into the night.
They don't like to be ignored. But you pack up and leave, make your way to someplace less spooky. They are left behind, like jilted lovers. They roam the corridors, flit in and out of walls in their frantic search for you, for life. The house crumbles under the weight of their grief. Colours are washed away by their torment. Gardens wither. Sunshine is now a stranger in these parts. Grey and forbidding, haunted houses speak of joy that was once there, now long gone.
But you know they still exist.