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The Thing in the Attic

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The thing in the attic

by Bruin Fisher

It should have been okay. It was only one night, Jamie would be back the next day and I had my mobile phone in case of emergency. I heated a pizza and ate it in front of the TV, an old horror called The Exorcist, which grossed me out and left me a bit shaky, but it’s only a story, and I did the night-time routine, closing the windows downstairs, checking that the doors were both locked, then turned off all the lights except the stairwell and went up to bed, much earlier than usual, but without Jamie there wasn’t anyone to talk to and I thought I could read in bed for a bit if I couldn’t sleep.

Upstairs I changed my plan a little, decided to take a leisurely bath rather than my usual quick shower. I also lit some scented candles in the bathroom to help me enjoy a long soak, and took my book in to read in the bath.

Georgette Heyer isn’t perhaps the obvious choice for a gay man, but I’ve always enjoyed her Regency romps, and I can swoon over the handsome heroes just as well as her target audience does. I was well into the story, the headstrong runaway debutante throwing herself on the mercies of the notorious rake with the irresistible lantern jaw and flashing dark eyes. What are flashing eyes? And can he still see through them?

The sound I heard wasn’t anything special, just like somebody moving a rug across a floor, but the problem was that I was alone in the house, and it’s detached, I shouldn’t be able to hear anything the neighbours were doing. So I took notice, and when the sound didn’t stop and I couldn’t identify it, I got out of the bath and opened the bathroom door, and listened to try to work out where the sound was coming from. Upstairs, perhaps, which meant the attic.

Jamie’s house is one of the big old stone piles that got built when the Victorians discovered seaside holidays and the wealthy ones built holiday homes for themselves in Weston-super-Mare, because the railway reached there before anywhere else on the West coast. Most of them have since been converted into flats, ruined, Jamie says, a lot of them with great concrete staircases built up the outside. Jamie owns one of the few remaining intact buildings in the area, on the hillside with a commanding view of the bay and the sprawl that is twenty first century Weston. It’s built on four floors, a basement, the ground floor with the big reception rooms, high-ceilinged and with enormous bay windows looking out over the valley, then the first floor with the family bedrooms built on almost as grand a scale as the floor below, and then, up a further narrow staircase, the servants’ quarters, in the roof space with dormer windows and low ceilings. Jamie doesn’t use those rooms, except for storage, and I was beginning to think maybe birds had got in, or, heaven forbid, rats.

I crept up the staircase, already regretting not putting a dressing gown on, or anything on my feet, and I didn’t know where the light switch might be, or even if there was electric lighting up there at all. Looking back down the stairwell I could see damp footprints marking my progress, but looking upwards I was peering into gloom. I stood stock-still for a moment and listened. The sound was still there, clearer now, something was being dragged across the floor up there.

There was a door at the top of the staircase, I’d never been up there before so I had no idea what was behind it. Now I regretted not getting Jamie to show me around up there when I’d moved in, or exploring up there at any time in the three weeks since. Now I had to open the door in almost pitch darkness. I reached out, began to turn the brass doorknob.

The next moment I was squashed between the wall and the explosively-opened door. I had only the vaguest impression of the whatever it was that had burst out of the room and – knocked me over? - or did I just fall backwards? It was dusty and covered in cobwebs, but it was definitely human-shaped, but with heavy iron cuffs around its ankles and lengths of chain attached to them, which it was dragging behind it as it went. Maybe one length of chain, linking the ankle cuffs together. I screamed. And kept screaming, and it sort of helped. Nobody came to my rescue, it would have taken more than my lungs are capable of to make any of the neighbours hear me, but after I’d emptied my lungs I began to feel less terrified. I pushed the door away and it swung closed. Then I checked that I could move everything and established my nose and bum were sore and the back of my head was already developing an impressive bump but otherwise I seemed to be intact. I stood up.

It wasn’t until then that I took stock and cursed myself for my imbecility. Why did I go to investigate an unexplained noise in a supposedly empty house, without a stitch of clothing, any weapon, or even a light? I’d behaved exactly like so many gormless characters in so many dreadful horror movies. I remember laughing with Jamie at the antics of one such, both of us shouting at the TV screen ‘don’t go in there alone!’ as another blonde with an improbable figure and a distinct shortage, we surmised, of brain cells, headed for her inevitable demise at the hands (and chainsaw) of the mass murderer who was terrorising the neighbourhood and had already claimed multiple victims. And now I had acted just the same. Perhaps those movies are not so ludicrous after all.

My next move had to be to get back to the bedroom and phone Jamie. My legs were shaking but I made it into our bedroom, turned the ceiling light on to supplement the bedside light that was already on, and reached for my phone from the bedside table on my side. Something drew my attention to the mirror above the dressing table and I glanced at it, and dropped the phone. There, framed by the old black oak frame of the mirror on candytwist supports, I could see behind the bedroom door where we keep our dressing gowns, on hooks behind the door. But what I could see was not dressing gowns, at least not our nice clean paisley pattern silk gowns that we bought each other for Christmas last year. Far too much cobweb and dust for that.

We stared at each other. It seemed like hours, I couldn’t have moved to save my life and it really looked as though the inability to move might just be a fatal hindrance. To my shame I became aware that I was wetting myself, which broke the spell and I stood up, wanting to avoid damage to Jamie’s bedding. It seemed that my movement triggered a response from the thing behind the bedroom door. It stepped forwards, twice, dragging the chain behind it. Its arms waved, its mouth opened, I cringed, it spoke.

“For fuck’s sake, Dave, you’ve wee’d on my carpet!” - and the ghoul fell to its knees, giggling uncontrollably. For a moment my mind clouded, unable to process this. Then I remembered the date – October 31st – and I ran at Jamie in that awful disguise, and pushed him over. I’m not at all sure this relationship is going to last…


(c) Bruin Fisher 10/2018


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Funny story. The reveal was revealing including the wet spot on the carpet. It also provided useful information: Never move in to an apartment or a house without exploring all of the rooms and spaces.

Colin  :icon_geek:

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  • 3 years later...

My friends once tried to scare me like that. I was in the bathroom taking a shower and when I opened the door, two of them threw a blanket over my head and tried to tie me up. One busted lip and a black eye and it was over. I never liked surprises. I start swinging. 

Needless to say, both of those friends I still consider close to this day. Though I haven't hit either one of them in a long time. 

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