[This is a fictionalized account of a true event that happened to one of my grandmother's relatives, likely her sister's child, a little girl called Ivy.]
The two little girls were sitting up in their double bed, chatting quietly. They could hear their mother downstairs, opening and closing cupboards, setting the table for breakfast. Soon, they heard her heading upstairs. They lay down quickly.
She peered in the doorway, frowning.
"Ivy, Sarah, go to sleep now!"
Her footsteps faded down the hall, and they heard her shut her bedroom door.
After a few moments, Ivy whispered, "Are you sleepy yet?"
"A little," Sarah replied, yawning.
Ivy stretched her arms and legs, bouncing a little in the bed. "I'm not."
Then, "Sarah!" Ivy's whisper was sharp.
"What?" Sarah sounded impatient. She was half-asleep, had just been dozing off.
"Look!" Sarah looked where Ivy pointed. A jolt of what felt like electricity shot through her body.
At the foot of the bed sat a little old man with a long gray beard and ancient eyes. Slowly he raised his hand and pointed a long, boney finger at Ivy. Then he disappeared.
The two little girls were clutching each other.
"Who was that?!"
"Did you see him too?"
"He looked like Grandpa, but so old."
"Why did he point at me, Sarah? What did he want?"
Then both of them called loudly, "Mum!"
Their mother's footsteps sounded heavily down the hall, her impatient voice muttering, "What is it? Cant I have a moment's peace?" She appeared in the doorway, looking harried. "What?"
"A little old man was sitting on the end of the bed. He pointed his finger at Ivy," Sarah told her.
"Oh, you're imagining things. There's no one here, only us."
"But we saw him!" both girls protested. "He looked like Grandpa. He pointed at Ivy!"
The mother paused. The girls' grandfather had died a month earlier. Because he had been especially close to Ivy, they had not yet told the girls of his death for fear of upsetting them.
"Well, there's no one here now," she said, using her most reassuring voice. "Everything is fine. Lie down and go to sleep. Morning comes early and we're all tired." She went back down the hall.
The girls lay there for a few minutes in silence. Then Sarah said, "We saw him."
"Was it Grandpa? Ivy asked. "I wonder what he wanted. He pointed at me."
"I know. He's gone though. Go to sleep, Ivy." After a few moments, Sarah reached over and took Ivy's hand for comfort. Eventually, both girls fell asleep.
Three mornings later, while their mother was out in the barn milking the cow, Ivy decided to make a pot of tea, for when she came back in. She climbed on the rickety stepstool, reaching carefully across the woodstove to lift the iron teakettle off the warming shelf above the stove. One of the metal rounds had been left open, to spark the fire. The kettle was heavy. Ivy teetered on the stool, both hands on the handle of the kettle.
Her long white cotton nightgown billowed across the top of the stove, catching fire.
The kettle clattered onto the stove and then down onto the floor. Ivy began to scream, and flail her arms at the flames, which traveled quickly, igniting her entire nightgown within seconds. Sarah rushed into the kitchen and began to holler for her mother.
Their mother, crossing the farmyard, heard the shrieks and began to run. Flinging open the kitchen door, she took in the scene: her daughter alight and screaming in agony.
She grabbed Ivy, rushing her outside and rolling her in the snow to quell the flames. But the girl was burned over most of her body.
For three days, the little girl lay in the kitchen on the daybed in agony. In 1898, in the remote countryside, there were no doctors, there was no pain medication. One suffered whatever calamity befell them. On the third day, Ivy died.
For years after, the family spoke of the litle man at the end of the girls' bed, pointing his gnarled finger, with his sad wise eyes. "It was her Grandpa," they told each other. "He was coming for Ivy."