The Thing in the Attic
Johnny Randall was bored. So bored that he couldn't say anything much. The fact remains clear that he had to stay with his grandparents for a while. Because his parents went out on a cruise vacation to the Caribbean Islands. The reason he didn't go with them, because it was their honeymoon, and it acted like a tradition that not even 10-year old kids like Johnny would understand. What did he know about grown-ups? Nothing. But he understood why they had to go, because one time, he accidentally found a stash of porn DVDs in his father's secret closet. Because he was trying to find his wrestling action figure, and he couldn't remember who that figure was. Anyways, when his father found out, he scolded Johnny, and said not to tell his mother. Because his mother would certainly get angry, and that she was so busy at work, that the father couldn't control his hard-on feelings. So, Johnny let go of that funny memory, but it wasn't that funny. No sir. It wasn't funny at all, because when his mother finally found out the DVDs, she got so angry that she threw the stash on the garbage bin. The father apologized for his behavior. At least the good thing was that he never cheated on his wife.
It's only a week, Johnny thought. It's no big deal. But it was a big deal for the parents. They were lucky enough to witness the sights and wonders of the Caribbean Islands. But God only knows why. Of course, it sounded wonderful and all, and Johnny can imagine the beauty of the place. And what else can he imagine about their parents, and what they were doing? Oh yes, he just remembered the porn DVDs.
He shook the bad thought away, and decided to come outside the back porch, where his grandfather was currently reading a newspaper. These days, old men like Grandpa sure liked to read the papers all the time. But when he saw what Grandpa was actually reading, he noticed a Playboy magazine lying on his lap. He didn't say anything.
As if that wasn't enough, Grandpa finally noticed Johnny standing in front of him. He got up all of a sudden, as if he was being caught by the police. But no, it wasn't that. Johnny knew what was coming. Grandpa accidentally dropped the Playboy magazine. Johnny didn't pick it up, because he figured that Grandpa would immediately snatch it away from his small hands. He might think that way. Not really. Johnny looked at Grandma cooking for breakfast. He had just woken up, without brushing his teeth as always. He had said that it's better to eat breakfast first, then brush his teeth, as his grandparents had never heard that one before.
"Jesus, Johnny," Grandpa said. "You scared the hell out of me." Johnny didn't know what else to say. But he was sure of one thing that his Grandpa might scold him, just like his father. First the DVDs, then the magazine. What else is new these days? Oh well, here goes nothing.
"I'm sorry, Grandpa," Johnny said. "I didn't mean it." The old man sighed. He picked up the magazine, and wrapped it with the newspaper. Then he looked through the window to see if his wife had noticed anything suspicious. Not only that, he started to remember his wife's bottom. He eventually stared at it. He used to remember when he was young that he had touched his wife's bottom all the time, when he came back from work, and saw his wife cooking dinner. And guess what? Grandpa used to ask, "What are you cooking, honey?" He can smell the food all right, and he can also smell his wife's perfume. Those days were long gone. Yes, sir.
He came back to sit on the rocking chair, and stared at the loft building, where he used to do carpenter work in those days. He remembered them all right, and how he used to build small houses, or toy houses that he preferred to call them, and then gave one to Johnny for a Christmas present. But Johnny never liked toy houses. He only liked action figures.
But the building that Grandpa was seeing right now, had an attic, and all the unused stuff went inside it. Grandpa never went back. No. Because he felt that there was something inside that attic, watching him. And the scraping sounds...
The old man shivered at the thought. It had been a long time ago, but it felt like he was witnessing a past barely remembered. At the time, when Johnny was a small child like 5 years old, he was crawling through the attic, and that Grandpa suddenly took him away because the attic doors were wide open. He was afraid of what might happen to little Johnny. He was careful enough to remember to lock the doors of the attic, after he did his carpenter work. After all, he was getting old.
Now, that Johnny is back, growing up to see the attic himself. Grandpa wasn't sure if he can still allow the kid to go inside because he knows that Johnny was bored to death. Well, he did bring his wrestling action figures, imagining them fighting in the ring, and the crowds cheering of whatever their favorite wrestler had to win the game. He had heard those sounds coming from Johnny's new room all right. The kid had a wild imagination.
Johnny stared at the attic. The old man knew that look. He figured that someday Johnny would crawl back inside that creepy attic. He couldn't let that happen, even though Johnny was 10-years old. He was still young for that kind of experience.
"Listen, Johnny," Grandpa said. "I know what you're thinking. But you can't go inside the attic."
Johnny looked at Grandpa, and was confused. He wasn't sure what he really meant by not going to the attic. It's not like he was a dumb kid, who accidentally found things that were not supposed to be discovered. Then, he remembered the porn DVDs again. He sighed.
"Why not, Grandpa?" Johnny asked. The old man didn't know what else to say. He knows only this that Johnny couldn't go to the attic, and if he had told him that there was something in it, then the boy wouldn't believe his story. He might as well try it.
"Because there's something in the attic," Grandpa said. "I was there, and noticed something... something wrong, or it felt like something was wrong. I wasn't sure." He stared back at the attic. He then looked at his wife, and noticed that she wasn't in the kitchen. She must have gone to the bathroom, he thought.
"What do you mean something?" Johnny said. "You mean like an animal? Like rats?"
The old man knew that the kid couldn't imagine the experience that he went through. Although, it sounded fair enough for Johnny not to realize what's at stake here.
"I don't think it's the rats, Johnny," Grandpa said. "It's something that I couldn't figure it out. All these years, I've tried to find an answer where those sounds were coming from, and what they are. At first..."
"Sounds?" Johnny interrupted the story. "What sounds?" He was too excited, hearing it. Of course, he was bored of Grandpa's old war stories, and he had enough hearing them for one day. But the attic story sounded interesting.
"Yeah, the sounds," Grandpa said, and wished that the kid didn't interrupt him. "Anyways, it sounded something like scraping. Like sharp nails scratching wood. You know?"
Johnny knew what the old man was talking about. After all, he knew that Grandpa used to be a carpenter those days.
"Anyways, that's what I've heard," Grandpa said, continuing the story. "At first, I thought it sounded like an animal that had never been known before. So, I decided to look it up in the library, trying to find out what this thing was. I knew I must be crazy, since I was quite young back then, and I wasn't drinking at all. Well..." He paused, and tried to see if Grandma had come back to the kitchen, overhearing the conversation. Because he remembered that his wife mentioned not to say the word, wine in front of Johnny. She still wasn't in the kitchen. He looked back at Johnny and said, "Well, I had a glass of wine. It didn't hurt much. Because I was so tired after work that I needed a drink. After that..." He paused again, and looked back at the attic, and said, "I still heard the sounds. There wasn't any moaning or growling that a normal animal can make. It was just... scraping."
Johnny shivered at the thought. It's like that time, when his best friend said that one guy tried to enter a house, whose rumors said that it was haunted. The attic story felt like that.
"Anyways, that's how the story goes, I guess," Grandpa said. He felt tired telling the same old story. Because at one time, he had told his friends, co-workers, and even his wife.
"Does Grandma know?" Johnny said.
"Ah..." The old man paused, and he wasn't sure why. He probably remembered something. But he said it anyways. "Yeah, she knows all right. I've told her. At first, she didn't believe me. But later she heard those scraping sounds in the middle of the night. She was getting her old things from our house, and trying to figure out what to do with them, because our storage room was way too crowded to hold everything in place. She was afraid when she heard those sounds. But she let that fear go away later on, since she thought it must have been a rat. Like you thought it was."
"Hmm..." Johnny said. He looked at the attic, wondering if he can go there, without the old man's supervision. But he didn't want to let him down. He had enough trouble already.
The door opened, and out came Grandma. She said, "Sorry, I had a bad stool. I never thought it could take so long." She farted. "There, you see?"
Johnny wanted to hold his nose, but he didn't do it because it would be kind of rude. After all, old people do weird things these days. So, he just held his breath for a few seconds.
"You boys must be really hungry, Grandma said. "Breakfast is ready."
It was a dark night. Johnny can hear the other children hanging around the neighborhood. It was that time of year, but he wasn't allowed to go outside, since his grandparents were old enough to stay in the house. He also couldn't go alone because he was still 10 years old.
Since he couldn't sleep at this time of night, he had to kill time by playing action figures. But it wasn't enough. He wanted to go outside, and have fun with those unknown kids. It didn't matter to him.
But what it did matter was the attic. He can see it from across his bedroom window. It looked like it was quite far away, but not really. Just a couple of meters. That is all. Now, that his grandparents were sleeping, he figured he could go out alone, and investigate the mystery of the attic. It wouldn't hurt. This vacation could be his last time to visit his grandparents. So, he decided to go outside, and check it out.
It was still cold outside, and the sounds of the children died out. Halloween was over. He figured the time was past 12: 00 o'clock already. But he wasn't sure. He only guessed it.
When he reached the attic, he noticed a latch, and thought Grandpa must have forgotten to lock the doors. He sure did. Johnny went ahead, and unlatched it. He opened the side of the door. It felt quite heavy.
It was dark inside, so dark that he couldn't see anything. He remembered to bring his flashlight, just in case if the attic gets too dark for him. He turned the flashlight on, and crept slowly down the stairs.
With the flashlight on, he was hoping to find the switch, but still the attic was too dark, He could only see the parts of the unused furniture, and the old, dusty books. He sneezed loudly. Of course, his grandparents wouldn't hear him because they were a few blocks away.
He finally found the switch. But there was only a single light bulb. He looked around the attic. It was too crowded with lots of unused stuff. Some of the dust entered through his nose, and he sneezed again.
As he walked along, he tripped over a large book by accident. The flashlight landed on the floor. He did get hurt a bit, but not that much. When he got up, he saw the book. It looked thick, and that he couldn't make anything out of it. He opened the book, flipping through the pages, and saw the words were written in some strange, ancient language that he couldn't recognize. What was Grandpa doing with this book, anyways? He really didn't know. Maybe, the old man got it from the library, or maybe he didn't know the book was here all along.
Then, the scraping sounds... Johnny heard them all right. He started to get scared. He closed the book immediately, and looked around. There was nothing to be seen. Maybe, not yet. And he can still hear the scraping sounds. They sounded terrible.
Then they stopped. Johnny froze to death. He wanted to get out of here. He got up slowly, and left the book behind. But a voice startled him, and said, "Johnnny... Johnnnny... Please... Come to meeeee, Johnnny."
Johnny screamed. He ran outside the attic, leaving his flashlight behind. He closed the side door of the attic, and latched it tightly, so that whatever the thing was, couldn't get out. He ran, but his heart was beating too fast that he fell on the grass, and got up again. He wished that he didn't come to the attic at all.
He went back inside the house, slowly closing the door, so that his grandparents couldn't wake up. Then, he climbed up the stairs a bit fast, still his heart was beating, and he made sure that he didn’t fall this time. He went to his bedroom, and climbed into bed, shivering all over.
It has been two days now that Johnny Randall came back home. When he left his grandparents, he thought of telling Grandpa that he secretly went inside the attic, and heard the scraping sounds, and that the thing actually spoke! Not to mention he had found a weird book. Whatever that book was, it had probably something to do with the thing. But he changed his mind. Besides, he got himself in a jam already. So, he forgot about it, and moved on.
When he came downstairs, he noticed that his parents weren't there in the kitchen, preparing or eating breakfast. Not yet, because they were still sleeping. After all that exhaustion from the long trip, and the jet lag, they certainly deserved it.
Something hit the front door of the house. Johnny almost shook himself, and thought it was the thing that came after him. Then he realized it must be the newspaper being thrown by a paper boy. He opened the door, and picked it up. He stood there, and read the black headlines.
OLD COUPLE KILLED BY UNKNOWN ANIMAL
For some reason, he started to feel uneasy about the article. Somewhere in his mind told him not to read it. But he was curious. Curious enough to find things waiting to be discovered. He unfolded the paper slowly, and read the whole article. He dropped the paper, and screamed.
Next story- The Hand That Wouldn't Go Away