The Attic

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Once she reached the top step, she realized there was no going back as she listened intently to the moaning and groaning coming from behind the door. She turned the knob, half expecting the door to fly open of its own volition or be inexplicably locked. Josephine wasn’t sure which of those two would terrify her more but it didn’t matter. She heard a soft squeaking sound as the latch released. 

Suddenly, it was dead silent. No more wails of pain or grievous cries laden with misery. No more rattling of the walls or creaking of the floorboards. Not even the crickets, which usually chirped around the house from their dark corners, dared to make a sound. It was as if the whole world had taken in a breath and was now holding it, waiting for her to open that door. The air was thick, heavy and cold, yet she felt sweat dripping down the back of her neck, even as chills raised the hair on her arms like lightning about to strike.

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Josephine steeled herself, thinking of the countless nights she had been awakened by such a terrible symphony, unable to go back to sleep, begging her husband to check out the noises and being at first humored, then all together dismissed. Rolf was never awakened by the racket, she always had to shake him awake and tell him it was happening again. Josephine didn’t understand how he could sleep through it. Sometimes it was so loud that the windows chittered in their frames, threatening at very least to crack if not shatter. Rolf would get out of bed in a huff and go upstairs grumbling to himself. He would open the door and have a look around, inevitably saying she was just dreaming again. Nothing and no one was in that attic room. Tonight was different. She had finally gotten the courage to check it out herself and she wasn’t going to stop now.

She thrust the door open, as if aiming to catch some prowler in the act of disturbing her peace and locked eyes with a…a woman. There was a woman huddled on the floor of the attic. She was filthy and nude. She had long, matted hair, like a mane grown out around her head. Her eyes were panicked and pitiful all at once. Those eyes…Josephine stared at them, trying to place where she had seen them before. She found herself walking towards the woman, neither of them making a sound. Josephine sat down next to her on the floor, and stared ahead at the door. The door? The door was closed…Josephine didn’t remember closing it. Those eyes. She turned to look back at the woman and found herself looking at an empty space. She looked around frantically and there was no one in the room but her. No. “No!! She was there!” Josephine said it outloud, her heart hammering in her chest. “She was RIGHT THERE!”

Leaping from her spot on the floor, Josephine ran for the door, grabbing the knob and yanking at it. It wouldn’t budge. The damn door knob wouldn’t even turn. “ROLF!! ROLF HELP ME!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. She heard him lumbering up the steps, grumbling to himself, but she didn’t care, as long as he got her out of here. “Rolf, thank God. There’s a woman in here and I can’t open the door. Get me out of here!” Unbelievably, Rolf laughed. A loud, belly laugh that was somehow jolly. Why would he be jolly at a time like this?

“Oh here we go again, Jo. How many times am I going to have to remind you?” He scoffed audibly.

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“Rolf, I don’t know what you are talking about but” –

He banged on the door, hard and loud. “Shut up bitch!” He shouted. “You know I am never letting you out. You keep this shit up and I will forget to feed you for another week.” 

Josephine was dumbfounded, her jaw dropped and she was struck speechless. She looked down at her hands, convinced this must be a nightmare. Her blood ran cold. 

Her hands were filthy, her body too as she looked on in horror. She lifted her hands to her hair and felt matts and grime, and suddenly became aware that her mouth was so dry her tongue was sticking to the roof of it and her stomach was beyond empty. It all came rushing back in a wave that knocked her to her knees. The eyes. Josephine finally placed them. She had last seen them in the mirror.   

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