My Grandmother's Attic - Chap 3
I knew grandma locked the attic door, but I had also seen her putting the key in a box she kept in a top cabinet in the kitchen after coming down from getting some sewing stuff a while ago. I would have to wait for her to sleep, sneak down, and climb up on the counter. The rest would be- the hardest part. I’d have to work up the courage to do it. See, I was getting a sense from Grandma Bunny that she was trying to get me away from Grandma (why she said “run”) but that she also wanted me to see what was in the attic. Maybe so I could understand why she was telling me to run? Or maybe to help whatever it was. But I was still terrified. I didn’t want to know what the fuck was in the attic, but if Mom was right, it was my duty to use my gift to help. So, I had to do it. I spent the day hyping myself up.
At dinner, I was quiet. Going over the plan in my thoughts, eating slowly. Grandma stared at me.
Finally she said something. “If you haven’t been sleeping, you’re welcome to stay with me.”
“Thanks, Grandma,” I said, not looking up, “It’s okay.”
I heard the sound of her slurping up the remnants of her stew. “What’s been keeping you up?”
“The mice I guess.” I said, still staring into my bowl.
“You must be a very light sleeper.”
The way she said it made my skin crawl. It was a purr of a voice, that one people use when they want you to know they know something, but won’t tell you outright. Maybe I was imagining it. I swallowed, looking up slightly. She was glaring into my eyes. I pretended not to notice, but my hand was shaking involuntarily.
“Oh dear, you’re losing your strength from this lack of sleep. Maybe turn in early tonight?”
She wasn’t suggesting. I nodded feebly and turned from the table, heading up the stairs quickly and closing the guest room door behind me swiftly and quietly. My heart was pounding. My head was dizzy. My vision was blurred.
I blacked out.
I woke up to birdsong. It was morning. What? I had slept through the entire night? I looked at my body. I was on top of the bed, clothed just how I had been yesterday. Shit. I scrambled up, pulling my hair back so I didn’t look wild, and opened the door. The attic door stared back at me. I stood there in the doorway inspecting it. It looked different somehow. I frowned. There was a bit of dust in the shape of a shoe on the outside of the door. It was too big for me. Maybe I hadn’t seen it before. I walked down the steps.
I walked around the house. “Grandma?” I spotted her through an open window, pruning her garden. I could see her from the kitchen. An idea sprang to my head. She couldn’t see me. I scrambled up the counter as fast as I could, shoving my hand into the cabinet space where she had the box with the key. My hand grasped at nothing. What? I checked the window again, she was still outside. I put my hands up, gripping the bottom of the cabinet, and hoisted myself up all the way. I could see into the empty slot. No box. No key. Instead, a trail of disturbed dust from where the box had been taken out. My eyes widened at the realization.
I looked back at the window. She was gone. Shit, shit, shit. I lowered my torso back down, squatting on the counter and hopped down onto the ground forcefully. It took the breath out of me.
The door creaked open revealing Grandma holding some flowers. “Why are you breathing so heavy, dear? Trying to reach something?”
I didn’t have a poker face ready.
“Cat got your tongue?” She cackled, shaking her head joyfully at herself. She moved into the kitchen, busying her hands.
“Can we watch Rush Hour?” I said, trying to change the subject.
She smiled, pulling out a vase for the flowers. “Yes… you understand the words comin out of my mouth?” SHe laughed at herself. I forced a smile.
I had to figure out a new plan. I thought about how my uncle had broken into the abandoned house on that one easter… How had he picked the lock again? Was I willing to do that? For Grandma Bunny? Yes. Everyone else had such bad things to say about her, but all I could ever remember her doing was reading books to me, showing me how to taste the sweet honeysuckle that grew in her backyard, and buying me little dolls from the store every single time she went out. She couldn’t be bad, and when she visited me, she was always sad, not malevolent. Time to find some answers.
I pretended to be perfectly happy throughout the day, laughing when I was supposed to, responding when spoken to, playing with the dogs for a while. I kept my eye on Grandma, but she appeared to be acting normal as well.
“Are you sure you’re okay up there?” She said when the coyotes started calling outside.
“I am.” I said, putting on a brave smile. Since my face was backlit by the only lamp, I hoped she couldn’t see my quivering lip. Was I about to break open a door my grandma clearly wants me to stay out of? Was I seriously about to break into a room where a creepy moaning monster apparently lives. No, not a monster. It was my sixth sense making those sounds, just a message. Just something that needed me to see it.
I said goodnight and headed up, closing the door to my room. I sat up in bed silently, listening to the sounds of the house. I strained my ears for anything. I heard my grandma snoring at around eleven. Bingo. I was lucky she was snoring, it didn’t happen every night. I breathed in deeply.This was it. I had to do it.
I placed one foot softly on the ground, not making a sound. The other came down. I lifted the rest of myself off of the bed slowly, hoping the bed spring didn’t creak. It did. I froze, listening. The soft snoring flitted up the stairs, undisturbed. I kept going. Tiptoeing to the door, I open it silently and face the utter darkness I feared so much. I could do this. I could do this.
I pulled my bobby pin out of my hair and pulled it apart in my fingers. I stopped again, listening. All was quiet, except for the snores. I breathed in deeply, steadying myself. I pushed the bobby pin in, trying to feel the pressure of the lock on my fingers. Click. Got it. I turned it, holding the doorknob, now. It was cold. Frozen, even. I pressed my hand in harder, pretending I couldn’t feel it. I pushed the door open. Absolute darkness stared back.
I shivered. It was very cold. It felt like winter. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and turned on the flashlight, rubbing the arm that held it with my other hand, trying to still the goosebumps. Nothing rushed out at me. I was relieved, but almost surprised. I had believed there was something up here so firmly before. Now, it just seemed like an attic. Still dark and creepy, but just like any other attic.
My flashlight only lit up a few feet in front of me, it was more of a soft glow than a true source of light, so all I could see from the doorway was boxes piled on the floor of the attic. Like anyone would expect. But the floor wasn’t what I needed to see. I needed to see what was behind the connecting wall. I braced myself, suddenly feeling stricken. Did I really need to look? I’ve opened it, isn’t that enough? No. I had to look. I held my breath and turned, stepping to the right, into the attic. I was inside. It was colder somehow. I could see my breath, illuminated by the phone light. I took a tentative step forward, feeling my legs shaking underneath me. I could be walking into a trap. I could be walking into a vampire’s den.
My phone lit up the wall I was walking near, I could start to see scratches all the way from the ceiling to the floor. First, sporadic, then dense. I stopped moving forward for a moment, feeling the looming danger in my gut. This was wrong. I needed to go back.
A groan. Someone groaned in front of me. A chill went from my toes to the top of my head. Oh god. I forced my hand to move, shoving the flashlight out all the way, I needed to see what it was, in case I had to defend myself. The light illuminated a pair of glassy orbs. Eyes. I wanted to scream. They were looking at me, human eyes. A skeletal face surrounded them, a gaping mouth. It groaned.
“Uncle Bud?” I gasped, saying it so quietly, I couldn’t even hear myself.
His decrepit hand reached up towards me. I took a step back, unable to comprehend what was in front of me.
“Help me.” He rasped, a withered sound in the dead air.
“What?” I stepped back, despite myself. He was frightening to look at, sick, almost dead. “What happened?”
“Oh, no, dear. What on earth are you doing here?”
I whipped around, facing my grandmother. I don’t know how i found the courage, maybe adrenaline, but I yelled at her. “What is HE doing in here!?” I screamed. “You told me he was in an asylum!”
My grandmother made a face of complete bafflement. “Who, dear?”
I frowned, doubting myself. I turned around to check again. My uncle lay in the corner, starved and weak. “Uncle Bud.” I said, with more certainty. I turned back to her, accusing her. “Why have you kept him here?!”
My grandmother’s face fell. “Oh, dear, I was afraid this would happen.” She shook her head.
I took a step forward. “You just have to let him out.”
“I knew it would happen to one of you.”
I started feeling uneasy. She was refusing to answer me.
She shook her head sullenly at her feet. “I told that doctor, I said it. Schizophrenia runs in the family you know.” She raised her gaze to meet my eyes, lit like fire in the glow of my flashlight.
“No, I…” I turned back, my uncle still on the ground.
“Well, We have such a good doctor for your uncle, Dear. I can take you to him.”
“No!” I said again, realizing she was blocking my exit.
“In the meantime…” She sighed. She turned and was out the door within a second.
When she left, I dialed the police.
“You’re calling from Ms. Katerine’s place?” The dispatcher said. “If this is a prank-”
I begged and begged until they agreed to send an officer. I sat with my uncle, listening to the floorboards and whispering to him that it was going to be okay.
Finally I heard the familiar voice of the town sheriff. “Awe Ms. Katherine, wonderful to see ya.” Why was he being so friendly? I had accused her of locking two people in her attic to starve.
Their footsteps walked across the wooden floor, stopping in the living room. I could hear them through the floor.
“Did it happen again?” The Sheriff said, completely casually. Why wasn’t he asking her about the attic?
My grandmother made a slight laugh sound. “Well, Sheriff it runs in the family, they can’t very well help it.”
“Yea, yes, ma’am, I understand, it’s only that, it was very difficult to explain to the higher-ups what happened with your husband in the last house.” He sighed loudly, “I thought when you moved house, you were done with it all.”
A bit of silence. “My husband was very sick.” My grandma said with a tinge of anger in her voice. It sent chills down my spine. “He did that to himself! How could you suggest…” She was choking on her words. It sounded like she had started to cry.
“I didn’t mean it that way, ma’am. I’m only looking out for you.”
I couldn’t listen any longer, I started banging on the floor as hard as I could, screaming at the top of my lungs, “HELPPPP, HEEEEEELPPP!!”
Calm voices continued underneath me, no steps climbing the stairs while my voice became raw. I heard the sheriff leaving the house after a few minutes, tears falling freely from my eyes. The last shred of hope leaving with him. Wait. What if I could find something to get us out?
I used the last of the battery in my phone to turn on the flashlight and sift through the boxes, hoping for a weapon or something we could use to pry up floorboards. Instead, I found papers. Newspaper clippings of a mysterious death in 1987. I read the article that had been cut out of hundreds of newspapers, and stuffed in these boxes.
“Man found gutted and starved in attic of suburban home said to have suffered from a severe case of schizophrenia. The widow said she didn’t even hear a sound as she ran a knife through his own stomach just a few feet away. A chilling nightmare that could happen to…”
I dropped the paper with a shaking hand. She couldn’t have…
Darkness. My flashlight went out, signaling my dead battery.
I don’t know how long it’s been. There is never any light, but when I feel strong enough, I try to help my uncle dig us out.