In The Attic
By Trish Hubschman
That sound! What was it? It was coming from the attic. She heard it again. In the two weeks Kay and her family lived in this big old house, she hadn’t had a restful night’s sleep. Her husband, Jason, lay peacefully beside her in bed. It irritated her that he could sleep through that noise. Their three-year-old son, Tucker wasn’t disturbed either or Bubba, their cocker spaniel, who slept in Tucker’s room.
She glanced around the master bedroom. It was so dark, even creepy. An ancient willow tree blocked the window outside, preventing moonlight from shining in. They intended to have the tree removed. Kay hoped it would be soon. They also had to put ceiling lights in. Table lamps weren’t enough.
One step at a time, she told herself. Eventually this house would fully become their home and any demons or ghosts that lurked in it would be gone. She shivered.
She heard a loud crash and jumped. Jason was still fast asleep. She had heard it but she kept trying to insist to herself that she hadn’t. Pulling the covers up tight around her neck, she squeezed her eyes shut. She did not believe in ghosts or unexplained things that went bump in the night. Old houses, creaked and groaned and that’s all it was. Suddenly, Kay sat upright in bed, scolding herself. Nobody had said this house was haunted and, even if anyone had, she would have brushed it off.
Her heart was pounding and she felt weak but she knew she had to go up to the attic, prove that there was no one up there. But she was afraid! No, she would stay put in bed. It was much too dark to traipse down the hall. She might fall over something, stub her toe, make noise and wake Tucker or Bubba, and he’d want to go outside. Snuggling down lower in bed, she nestled closer to Jason and tried to go to sleep. She told herself to think pretty, peaceful thoughts. When that didn’t work, she began making lists in her head of things she still had to do to get her family settled. Lastly, she counted sheep, but nothing was working.
She heard another bump overhead and her eyes shot open. Unable to bear it anymore, she slid over to her side of the bed, careful not to disturb Jason. If he woke up, he’d asked what she was doing or where she was going. What would she tell him? There was a bathroom in their bedroom and Tucker was quiet, so her two possible excuses were blown away. And she couldn’t tell him that she was going up to the attic to investigate a ghost, he’d think she was crazy. The best way to do this was quietly and unnoticed.
Holding her breath, Kay turned back the blankets and slipped out of the bed. The air was chilly. When her feet touched the bare wood floor, she shivered but she wasn’t going to stop and put on a robe and slippers. She did wait for her eyes to adjust to the darkness before heading off. She knew the direction of the door and hoped she could get there without tripping over something or stepping on a creaky floor board. She took careful steps and she did it! She was at the door to the room, her hand on the knob. Slowly, she turned it and eased the door open. Before stepping out into the hall, she glanced back at the bed. There was no movement. Releasing a breath, she slipped quickly into the hall and closed the door behind her. It was even colder out here. There was some moonlight coming in through a window halfway down the hall. Just follow the light, she told herself. She nearly giggled. This was so nerve-wracking, to be skulking down the hallway of her own house in the middle of the night. Before she took another step, she listened closely but heard nothing. Was it odd that out in the hall she couldn’t hear any noises overhead? She couldn’t come up with an explanation. Well, at this point she might as well do what she got out of bed to do, put her mind at ease, so she could start sleeping at night.
Even with the moon outside shining in, Kay put her hand flat on the wall to guide her. She knew where the attic stairs were, at the end of the hall, and she knew what the rooms in between hers and that were, but it was dark, cold and she worried that Tucker may have left a toy on the second hall floor or that Bubba left a bone. She did not want to trip. Coming to her son’s closed bedroom door, she stopped to listen. All was quiet. She held her breath and moved passed Tucker’s room, then came the bathroom. She was tempted to reach in and flip the light on, it wouldn’t wake anyone, but she didn’t. “no stopping or turning back, just keep going and get this settled,” she told herself.
She was at the closed attic door, her hand on the knob. She tried to remember the attic layout. She’d only been up there once. There were no windows up there, so no moonlight could shine in. The only overhead lighting came from a bulb at the top of the steps. She would have to walk up them in total darkness. When getting to the top, she’d have to reach for the string to the lightbulb. That was not going to be easy or fun, especially since she was going up there to see if there was a ghost or some other intruder. She hadn’t thought of this before, but there could be raccoons trapped up there. That would be sad, dangerous too. Well, she’d just have to see and be very careful about doing it.
Gingerly, she opened the attic door, half fearing something would jump out at her. What awaited her on the other side was the darkest darkness she could ever imagine. It was intimidating, though she refused to let it stop her. Gritting her teeth, she reached out her right hand for the wood rail along the side wall, found it and climbed the five steps upward, counting them as she went. When she reached the top landing, she put out her hand for the string hanging down from the bulb on the ceiling. She brushed against it, but it swung away. She took another step forward and reached up again, grabbing it and pulling it. At the same time, something sharp hit her foot and caused searing pain to rush through her. Instinctively, she took a step to the side and found herself pitching backward, unable to catch herself. Kay let out a scream. The overhead light flickered out and everything went dark again. Kay lay curled up at the bottom of the stairs, shivering and moaning softly, her bleeding foot twisted beneath her.
Within seconds, Jason was kneeling beside her. Bubba was barking and Tucker crying. The hall lights were on and seemed unusually bright to Kay. She closed her eyes to ward off the glare and unexpectedly, fell asleep.
“Why were you up in the attic in the middle of the night?” Jason asked, worried, angry and confused. After he had scooped her off the hall floor and brought her into their bedroom, he called a neighbor. Mrs. Lewis’s brother was a doctor. Jason was grateful that he was willing to come over in the middle of the night.
Kay lay on the bed, an icepack above her left temple, where a nice-sized lump was forming. A towel was wrapped tightly around her left foot, which she had gashed when stepping on a piece of glass
“Is Mommy going to be all right?” Tucker asked.
Startled by his son’s voice, Jason looked up. “Sure, champ,” Jason replied, still not sure himself, but not wanting to scare his son more than he already was. “Mommy just has a big egg on her head and will have a nasty headache in the morning.”
Kay wasn’t sure where she was or what had happened. She looked around her slowly, at Jason, at Tucker, at Bubba, then back to Jason. “My foot hurts,” she whispered, glancing down at her bandaged foot.
Jason also looked at Kay’s feet. “You could have put slippers on before you left the room. Why are you up at all instead of in bed asleep?”
“Like me and Bubba,” Tucker jumped in. Jason glanced at his son and nodded. “You scared us, Mommy,” Tucker said, climbing up on the bed. Bubba jumped up too. “How come you hurt yourself?” he asked, tilting his sandy-colored head to the side and gazing at her with rich blue eyes.
A lump formed in Kay’s throat. Again, her eyes moved back and forth between father, son and dog. They were all waiting for an answer. Why had she gone up in the attic in the middle of the night, in the total darkness, when everyone was asleep? She knew why. It was all coming back to her. But how could she say it? Jason would think she was crazy but what if there was a ghost in this house? She her to tell Jason, convince him. If he was willing to keep an open mind, then maybe he would find out for sure. “I was looking for a ghost,” she said. She didn’t look at Jason. Her gaze was on her son.
Tucker’s face brightened with excitement. Kay cringed. That she hadn’t expected. “Are there really ghosts in our new house, Daddy?” Tucker was looking at Jason.
Kay closed her eyes and swallowed hard.
“No, champ, Mommy did not see a ghost because there’s no such things as ghosts,” Jason said. “Isn’t that right, Kay?” Without thinking or pushing the issue, Kay nodded. She’d have to deal with this issue some other way, at some other time. The front doorbell rang. Jason glanced to the bedroom door. “Stay with your mom, Tuck. I’ll go get that, it’s the doctor and Mrs. Lewis.” He left the room.
Tucker curled up next to Kay, his head on her shoulder. “Tell me more about the ghost, Mommy?” Tucker pleaded.
Kay didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to scare her son or get him excited.
Jason returned a few minutes later with an older woman, Mrs. Lewis, and her brother. “Come now, Tucker,” the neighbor said. “It’s long past your bedtime and the doctor here needs to take a look at your mother, make sure she’s okay.”
Tucker was hesitant to leave Kay’s side but finally, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. He jumped off the bed, Bubba too, and followed Mrs. Lewis out of the room.
Dr Crabbs unbuttoned his coat. “Windy out there. Been windy the past couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s that time of year again. Trees are blowing mighty hard.” He chuckled. “Mmm, let me take a look at that foot there,” he said, leaning over and unwrapping the bloodied towel from Kay’s foot. She winced. “It doesn’t look too bad at all,” he announced, he took the sharp piece of glass out of her foot and gave her a shot, then wrapped it in a clean gauze bandage. “Maybe a little sprain too,” he added, tapping her ankle. A few minutes later, he was buttoning his coat. He told Jason to keep an eye on her, if she didn’t feel better in the morning, to take her to the hospital. At the bedroom door, he turned back to Kay. “As for you, young lady, stay off that foot for a few days and no more chasing ghosts.” Then he and Jason left the room
When Jason returned to the bedroom, he stared at Kay questioningly. She tried to avoid his eyes. It wasn’t that difficult to do since she was putting all her energy into trying to sit up. She was hit with an overwhelming surge of nausea and sank back down on the pillow. “So, do you want to tell me about the ghosts?” He sat down on the bed next to her.
She hesitated, looking at him warily. “Do you promise to keep an open mind?”
“Right now, I’m listening, that’s as much as I can promise. I don’t believe in ghosts, and as far as I know, you don’t either.”
Until tonight, she didn’t. She told him everything, about the noises overhead in the dark and about her going to investigate. There has to be something up there, something pushed me. How else would I have fallen down the stairs?”
He had his theory on that and it had nothing to do with unexplained beings haunting their new home. Getting off the bed, he went around to the other side and slid open the night table drawer.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
His hand came out of the drawer with a flashlight. “Going up to the attic to see for myself. You stay here. “
She reached for his arm. “Wait, you can’t go up there alone. What if something happens to you? What if you see it?”
“I’ll be fine,” he assured her, shaking his arm free from her trembling grasp. “I’ve got sneakers on, so if I step on something, it won’t hurt too much.” Kay hadn’t noticed until then that he was fully dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, sneakers too. He leaned over and kissed her nose. “Take a nap, I’ll be back soon.” And he was out the bedroom door.
Kay wondered how long it would take for him to come back to her, if he did and in what shape. But there was nothing she could do, just sit and wait, which she did. The minutes passed by so slowly. She thought she would scream in frustration and fear. Finally, as she was starting to drift off to sleep, Jason appeared in the bedroom doorway. She sat bolt upright, nearly blacking out from the dizziness that struck her. “Jason?” she asked.
“It’s me,” he replied, coming into the room carrying what looked like a stick or a branch.
“What is that?” she queried.
“Your ghost,” he replied, holding the stick up, then explained. “This is our soon to be gone, willow tree.” Her eyes widened. “This branch was poking through the roof. Apparently, when the wind blows, which it’s doing a lot of lately, the tree pushes more heavily into our house. It’s causing some major problems up there and if you hadn’t gone up there to investigate and nearly killed yourself, the roof might have eventually collapsed.” Both winced at the thought. “I’ll call a tree guy tomorrow about having old Willie removed and a roofer about the repairs.”
And with that settled, they could finally go to bed and get some much-needed sleep. They hadn’t bought a haunted house, just one that needed more costly repairs than they had bargained for.
Trish is the creator of the Tracy Gayle mystery book series. Tracy is a Long Island private eye. Her sidekick, Danny Tide, is a well-known musician from the band Tidalwave. To find out more about her books and the links to them, please visit: