The attic. A room, usually for storage purposes, located on the uppermost floor of the suburban house. Normally unfurnished, the attic holds the same purpose as its subterranean brother, the basement; storing away the old and forgotten things owned by a family, until at some point they are fished out of the sea of dusty relics to provide reminders of a family member’s life from years passed, usually in a detailed flashback that everyone else can somehow see despite not having been there.
The attic, though it is meant for storage and nothing more, has long been a place feared and dreaded by the minors of households old and new. Why is this? Most can’t find a good enough answer. Perhaps it is the fact that attics are often poorly lit, allowing visions of things lurking in the shadows to seep their way into the subconscious. Or perhaps the poorly-kept floorboards, known for their long, droaning creaks, sending the illusion that there is something else in the room with you. Maybe it’s the way the wind rattles the loose wallboard, or how it howls just outside the window, making it feel deathly cold regardless of season.
Or, perhaps it is just the witless imaginings of scared children, who can’t get to sleep and allow their minds to wander late at night. They imagine seeing or hearing things…
The young boy was awoken by the long moan of a creaking floorboard from the floor above. He was only six, and he knew if he went to his parents they would only tell him to go back to sleep. He heard another creak, slightly louder than the first. The boy’s name was Max. He had short, messy brown hair and was currently dressed in his favorite dinosaur pajamas. He knew there was something else in the attic, perhaps a rat or a bird stuck inside, or maybe it was just the house itself settling. Even so, Max wanted to check it out.
Carefully undoing his covers, Max delicately set his feet on the carpeted floor of his room and began tiptoeing his way to the door on the other side, taking his favorite teddy bear, Tiger, with him for good measure.
Upon reaching the door, Max silently turned the knob and pulled the door wide open, slowly so as not to make a creak. Before him lay the long, empty hallway, covered in shadows only broken up by the faint light from the windows.
Taking the first step toward anything was always the most difficult, but it had to be done. So, Max gulped and placed his bare foot on the wood floor, taking the first steps forward. Grasping his bear tightly, he carefully tiptoed down the dark hall, wincing slightly every time his steps caused the occasional creaking from underfoot. If he woke any of his family members at this hour, he’d surely be sent back to bed sternly. Max halted as another whine came from the attic floor overhead.
“It’s ok, Tiger.” The child reassured his teddy. “It’s probably nothing scary at all.” But he wasn’t going to convince himself anytime soon. Max took another step.
Walking by his older sister’s room would be no easy task; the door was shut firmly, but Roberta had ears like an owl. Taking extreme caution, Max reached one his feet across the space, and then slowly slid his bodyweight across the gap with his other foot following. He dared not breathe until he was safely several steps past Roberta’s room.
With that obstacle passed, Max turned his sights on the shadows ahead. As the little kid tiptoed his way down the dark, cold hall, he let his mind wander.
What could be there, just beyond the light? What could be lurking, just out of sight? Perhaps something big, with deadly sharp teeth. Or perhaps something snakely, slithering beneath. A creature that’s slimy, with goo oozing forth? Or something quite freezing, come down from up north?
A spider, maybe? With scuttling feet? Or something that bites, drooling over meat. Or a thing that floats, hovering there, waiting in silence to give you a scare. What could be hidden, under the dark? Something that snarls, or something that barks? What thing could be out there, hidden away, at least ’til you end up heading it’s way....
Max suddenly snapped out of his internal ramblings, as another long, high-pitched creak echoed throughout the house, coming distinctly from the attic. Max stood frozen for several moments, gulping nervously and clasping Tiger even more tightly than before. He wouldn’t admit it(except maybe to his fairly intimidating father), but Max was quite scared.
Max looked back down the way he’d came. His bedroom door was still wide open at the end of the hall, beckoning him to go back. He felt a chill pass over him. He could just as easily have gone to one of his older sisters, Roberta or Marcy, and they’d have let him in with no trouble. But no, he wanted to do this himself. His Uncle Faust always told him that fear was only in the mind, after all.
Max took a deep breath, and took another step forward.
Soon, Max reached the end of the hall, between his parents’ and his little sister’s rooms. Above was the trapdoor on the ceiling leading to the attic, the chain dangling down in front of Max’s eyes. Holding his teddy close, Max carefully reached for the chain and gave it a delicate pull.
The hinges gave a rusty moan as the door came loose, allowing the old step ladder leading up to the attic to slide down to the floor with a clunk. Max could feel the cold draft from the attic drift down at him.
Taking a deep breath to console himself, Max closed his eyes and placed his foot on the first step of the ladder. Followed by the second, then the third, and the fourth, then…
Max opened his eyes to find himself standing inside the attic of the house, that place of shadows and silent dread known to all young children. A cold wind rattled the rafters, and Max shivered.
Suddenly, the room went completely still, not a sound rose about the silence. Max looked around, seeing nothing but the shadowed boxes and old furniture around him in the attic. Still, he felt a looming sense of another presence in the room.
Max took a single step into the attic, a floorboard creaking underfoot. Suddenly, an eerie glow appeared from behind an old dresser, and Max froze.
The glow was white and misty, and all but supernatural in its eerie light. Max watched, frozen like a statue, as the glow floated out from behind the dresser, revealing itself as a stream of ghostly mist. Max watched, transfixed, as the mist slowly materialized into the form of a translucent little girl. The girl was small, with short curly hair tied with a big bow on the side, and from the rim of her short, old-fashioned dress trailed a long, ghostly tail. Max breathed out silently.
“Oh, it’s just you, Mackenzie.” He said.
“Hi, Max!” The little ghost girl, apparently named Mackenzie, said in an innocent voice. “Did I wake you up?” Max was going to answer the ghost, when more of that spiritual mist began to leak into the attic from the floor. Max and Mackenzie watched as the mist formed into an adult woman, with very long, stringy hair and a gown that appeared to be made of spiderwebs. Four long, spider-like legs sprouted from her back.
“Max? Mackenzie? What’re you two doing up?” The ghost woman said, rubbing one of her completely black eyes.
“Sorry, mom.” Max said meekly. Just then, three more streams of fog seeped into the room, taking the form of three more ghosts.
“What’s going on?” Said one, who looked like a teenage humanoid owl/girl.
“Max and Mackenzie are up past their bedtimes, Roberta.” Their mother said.
“Max?” Said a distinctly lizard-like ghost. “What’re you doing up, little bro?”
“Sorry, Thomas.” Max apologized.
“Did you have a bad dream, little guy?” Said the third ghost, Marcy, kneeling beside Max. Marcy looked mostly human, except she had large eyes and a mouthless face. She spoke out of a large, circular mouth lined with huge fangs on her stomach.
“Well, kind of.” Max said softly, looking down at his feet. The ghosts surrounding him came closer, worry marking their ghostly features.
“Are you ok, honey?” His mother asked, kneeling down to his level and taking his face in her hands.
“You didn’t come all the way up here alone, did you?” Roberta asked, fluttering over.
“You alright?” Asked Thomas, the lizard ghost, slithering up to the living boy.
“Yeah, I’m ok.” Max replied to them all. “I just woke up, and I got a little scared since I was by myself…”
“Why’d you come up here, then?” Marcy asked softly. “You could’ve just come to my room and talked to me about it. You know I’ll always keep you safe, Maxie!” Marcy them took her human little brother in a hug, and kissed him sweetly on the cheek with her belly-mouth. Max giggled at how nice it felt.
“Well, Tiger was scared, so I wanted to show him that there was nothing scary in the attic.” Max said, talking haughtily. His mother laughed softly and smiled as she took her son in her arms.
“That was brave, Max, but you should still be in bed. You and your little sister.” Mackenzie offered a sheepish smile at this, before latching onto Max in a tight hug.
“Do I have to go back to bed?” Max whined, nestling into his mother’s embrace.
“You scared of having another nightmare?” Roberta hooted. Max nodded.
“That’s ok, sweetie.” Their mother said, stroking Max’s head. He still was shaken, however, and his mom knew what he was thinking. “Do you want to sleep with all of us?” Max looked up and nodded. The ghosts all smiled.
“Alright, then.” Their mother sighed, moving her spider limbs and quickly spinning a web blanket for Max, which she draped over him. Max laid down, settling his head into his ghost mother’s lap, and Mackenzie quickly snuggled up with her brother under the blanket.
All of a sudden, more of the ghostly mist appeared the attic, swirling and whipping fiercely, before clustering into the towering form of an enormous ghost, with a serpentine body of writhing mist, and a draconic head with glowing eyes that glared down at Max and the other ghosts.
“What is Maxwell doing up at this hour?” The towering spirit’s deep voice echoed.
“It’d nothing to worry about, Cantus.” The mother ghost said, standing up to talk her husband. “Max just got a little scared, and wanted us to sleep with him.”
“It is the third time this month, Morgana.” Echoed Cantus. “If we keep allowing this he will never grow out of it.”
“Just this one time, dear. I really think it’d be better for him.” Morgana pleaded. Cantus glanced over at Max, his ghost siblings curling around him as he yawned tiredly. He then turned back to his wife.
“Very well, my dear.” Cantus groaned. “But one day our son must grow up. Goodnight Maxwell, children. Goodnight, Morgana.”
“Goodnight, dad!” Max, Marcy, roberta, Thomas and Mackenzie called. Cantus then vanished through the floorboards, back to his and Morgana’s room. Morgana then sat back down beside her children, taking Max in her lap again and draping an arm and a spider arm over him. Max yawned and shut his eyes, as Marcy, Roberta, and Thomas nestled in around him, and Mackenzie joined him in their mother’s embrace.
“Sleep tight, little brother.” Marcy said, ruffling her human brother’s hair.
“Goodnight, my babies.” Morgan whispered lovingly to Max, before kissing him and Mackenzie on the forehead.
“Goodnight, mom.” Max whispered, very soon drifting into a warm, comfy sleep in the ghost mist of his family.
I guess the attic isn’t so scary, after all…