in this life and even more so in the next
Silas liked old things. He liked old measuring spoons; he collected vintage Shinola Shoe Polish tins; he adored polishing up rusty old water jugs.
He also loved that he lived in an old house.
And the house really was old. Built in 1924 and renovated twice since, one time in 1957 and the next in 1992, the house had seen through almost the entire 20th century. Silas had researched it very thoroughly and found, to his equal delight and disgust, a horrible story about his house in a very old history book.
Apparently, the original owner of the house had been a rich miser. He had been quite unkind, and was known to turn away poor people asking for money or food.
One cold winter night in 1926, there was a knock on the door. The miser was angry, as it was very late. He did not answer the door, though the knocking continued.
The next morning, a young girl was found dead on his doorstep.
It seemed that the girl had died of cold and starvation on his doorstep, waiting and waiting for him to come to the door. The miser was unalarmed, and ordered his servants to bury her. Her parents were not informed of any of this.
But here the story strays from the facts. It states that the miser began to hear whispers in the night, driving him mad. Eventually the miser couldn’t take it anymore and he killed himself in his attic.
This fascinated Silas.
One morning he walked casually into the kitchen where his father was drinking coffee.
“How do you get into the attic?”
Silas groaned and walked away. “Nothing.”
He went into the office where his mother was typing up a document for work.
“I’m really busy now, honey; go ask your father.”
Silas muttered a few choice curses and stomped back up to his room. He was about to walk in when he saw a dislodged square on the ceiling. He craned his neck and looked at it closely.
It was the entrance to the attic.
Silas raced downstairs to his father.
“Dad, I’m borrowing your ladder.”
After he set up the ladder with much cursing, Silas climbed up it and eased the square away from the ceiling. It came off easily and he climbed into the attic.
It was very dusty, and extremely dark. But there were so many treasures here; a painting over there that looked like a Monet, a decrepit old vanity that looked like it was from the 1890s, even a vintage coin collection! Combing through all the things, Silas was immersed in history until he heard a sound that made him jump.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
It sounded like shoes. Mary janes, to be precise.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
Silas looked at the ground; footprints were appearing on the dusty hardwood floor, coming closer and closer until he could swear he could hear someone breathing.
The most dangerous enemy is the one you cannot see. Cautious words spoken in dying breath.
Beware. Everybody is a killer inside.
Silas stopped breathing.
A girl was taking shape. Sad, beautiful, and thin as a piece of yellowed paper.
She wore a pair of battered mary janes.
“It’s been a long time since someone came up here,” she said in a small voice. “That miser was the last one, but he's gone now. The body scared me, so I hid it over there.” The girl pointed to a tarp, which was wrapped around an awfully human-looking shape.
Silas stepped back.
“No, don’t go,” the girl pleaded. “Stay with me.”
Silas stopped. He took a tentative step forward.
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Anna.” The girl floated so close their noses almost touched. “What is your name?”
Silas shuddered and took a step further back. “Silas.” This girl was pretty, but she was as fragile as a vintage painting. You could admire her, but only from afar.
Anna smiled. It was not a nice smile. “You know, I could kill you too, if you like. I know you like me. If you’re dead then we can be together. Truly together.” She had been inching toward him again as she talked, her smile widening to the point where her cheeks seemed to split open.
Silas shook his head. “No, thank you. I like being alive.”
The girl sighed. She glided closer and stroked his cheek. Her hand was like ice, and Silas flinched away.
“You know what you want,” the girl whispered. “You want to be with me. I want to be with you. But we are separated by the invisible wall between life and death. I cannot come to your side, but you can come to mine. Would you really deprive me of this?”
Silas studied Anna. She was persuasive, sure. And so very beautiful. But Silas could see through her distractions.
“What do you really want, Anna?”
Anna stopped and smiled. “To be with you, of course.”
It was Silas’s turn to smile. “No, that’s not what you want. I know that.” His smile flickered. “I want to know your true desire, hidden in your locked soul. I will ask again, but only once. What do you really want, Anna?”
Anna paused. A single year traveled down her ivory cheek.
And after over 100 years, Anna finally opened her soul.
“I was born in 1910. My mother had died of consumption after she had my youngest brother. My father was away with work. I was left at home to take care of all my brothers and sisters.
“My father was an irritable man, and he often gave me thrashings if I did not do the washings on time or finish ironing his work shirts. He said it motivation, to keep me on the right track.
“One day, my father died in a work accident. I did not love him; therefore, I did not mourn for him. But now we were penniless. I tried to get a job, but no applications were available. We started to run out of food. Starving and cold, I dragged myself to the miser’s door, for I was very ill. No one answered. I died on that doorstep.
“I found the attic a comfortable place to live, and I could sneak around and look at the morning paper. A few mornings after I had died, I saw it had reported that my family had died of disease, starvation, and cold. That night, I cried for them, but they did not come. They left me for the afterlife.”
Anna took a shuddering breath. “And here I have waited.”
for what, Anna? Why did you stay here?” Silas asked quietly.
Anna looked at him, and her eyes were glittering with beautiful malice. "Come with me, Silas. We can be free together. Please, don't leave me like this."
Silas thought for a moment. “You do not love me―”
“Of course I―”
“You want me to love you.” Silas regarded the silent figure. “That is what you want. To be loved.” He stood up. “But I can't help you.”
Anna stood up as well. “Why not?” Tears fell down her cheeks like rocks on a mountain.
Silas sighed. “You can't stay here, Anna. I can see it's ripping you apart.”
Anna hung her head. Silas stepped forward and tilted her chin up.
“Why do you stay, Anna? Go back to the afterlife. Save yourself. Find someone who can love you like I can't."
Anna sighed and shed one last glistening tear. She enveloped Silas in a hug and planted a soft kiss on his cheek.
“Goodbye, Silas,” she said softly. Tears streamed freely down her face. “I will see you sometime.”
Silas gave her a sad smile. “Goodbye, Anna.”
"In this life and even more so in next, Silas."
Anna let him go and dissolved into thousands of tiny silver dragonflies. He watched as they flew upwards, through the roof and into the sky.
Only a small silver locket remained, resting on the ground like it had always been there. He picked it up and opened it to reveal a picture of Anna, looking fresh, happy, and very much alive.
Silas clasped it around his neck, and sat down on the floor in the attic. He glanced over at the tarp.
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