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The Attic Door
I stare at the white, blank wall in my room. No paint, no pictures, and no memories at all. When I moved away from the small town of Maple Grove, all I could think about was all the friends and family I left behind. The thought of my parents and friends waving goodbye to me as I drove away churned in my stomach; twisting it in all different ways. My heart was torn in two ways but there was only one correct way it could go. There would never be an equal tear.
I had to move because of my job. I lost mine in my hometown because we were going out of business. But at least something good came out of it. My dream job, an elementary teacher, was the only job I could see myself being happy with. And when a spot opened up in this small school in this other small town hours and hours away from Maple Grove, I had to move. It sucks, to be honest… but it’s for the best.
I closed my eyes for the tenth time in the last five minutes desperate for at least an hour or two of sleep. There were too many things going on around me making my brain go berserk. To make it worse, my eyes kept darting in the same sequence. To the silver-framed window, that was now getting pounded on with rain, to the dark corner in my room, to my closet, to the blank wall, and back to the window.
Though I didn’t have much to think about, my head was about to explode with thoughts of this house. The landlord said that he could never get the attic door to open because it was missing a key, so he just let it go, so I let it go, as well. But then, I know it’s a little cliché, and I wish I could say my brain was only playing tricks on me, but I swear I had been hearing thumps above me for the past couple of nights. I’ve only been here about a week, and when you start hearing noises in your own house that shouldn’t be there, that’s beyond terrifying.
Crack! A huge lightning bolt etches its way across the sky and down to the ground followed by a low rumbling of thunder. “Oh my god. I just want to sleep…” I whispered to the thunder and lightning. About an hour goes by and I finally feel like I’m getting a little sleepy. I yawn and close my eyes and listen to the calm thudding of rain droplets against the window.
Just when I was about fall asleep, I heard a huge thud and my eyes shot open with anxiety and annoyance. It wasn’t the thunder for sure, and that’s all I need to know before I felt my heart gain a thousand pounds in just a couple milliseconds. The back of my neck began to get sweaty as I heard a creak in the floorboards. I gathered my hair and made a low ponytail as an effort to cool off my neck. I took a deep breath even though I should’ve been used to these sounds by now. I was also told, by my own subconscious, that these were just old house sounds but they were very boisterous and frequent.
I then heard my door creak a little open. I quickly shut my eyes only to open them a second later to look at the blank wall again as my heart was beating a thousand times per minute. It was so loud I was sure that the intruder could hear it pounding on my chest. I took a small, shaky, but extremely quiet deep breath at an attempt to calm myself down at least a little bit. But how could I? There’s someone who just broke inside my house standing in my doorway. Whoever was standing at my door probably wasn’t very convinced I was totally out so the person walked closer to my bed. I could tell he or she was trying to be quiet but I figured they had some sort of heavy boots on. I peeked at the blank wall just as a flash of lightning cracked through the sky as a sound of thunder followed behind it. But the quick flash was all I needed to see a few details about the person. Thanks, blank wall… I guess.
I was pretty sure it was a man. He had short hair or maybe it was in a man bun that I couldn’t see. I started to panic when I saw that he was pretty buff and tall.
Oh great… I thought. I knew if I confronted him or got a little close to him he would use his strength against me.
A couple of seconds passed when I noticed I was breathing pretty hard because I was panicking so much. My immediate reaction was to cover my mouth with my hand or hold my breath. But when I started to slowly move my hand, I knew that would give too much away. I kept my breathing steady and waited for the next flash of lightning to get more information about his appearance. I needed to get as much information as I could for the police when I called them.
After several seconds, I got my wish and as the flash illuminated my room I could see that the person was standing way closer to me. At the side of my bed to be exact. Shivers ran up and down my spine as I tried not to panic too much. My heart pounded harder than it ever had in life before. It echoed through my ears and entered my head; bouncing around in my skull creating a severe headache. I resisted the urge to rub my head or take out the Advil from my purse I spotted on the floor. I felt like crying out of fear but of course, I was too much in shock to cry. I closed my eyes slowly as if the man could see my eyelids and notice I was awake. I heard another creak in floorboards close to my bed and I noticed that the man was trying to lean over to where I was facing.
It’s ok, I told myself. Keep your breathing steady and he’ll be out of the room. I attempted to calm myself down as much as possible when I felt his hot breath on my neck. His breath smelled of whiskey or beer or some kind of alcohol. I couldn’t muster a clear thought about what his breath smelled like. My brain was fuzzy from shock.
I must’ve fooled him because he backed up and slowly stepped out of my room. I just saw him take a last look at me as a flash of lightning lit up everything in my room.
When I heard him going down the stairs, I threw off the covers and stepped softly onto the floor scared the man would hear my footsteps from downstairs. I fumbled in my purse struggling to get it open because of my shaking and sweaty hands. When I finally got it open I realized something that made me want to faint. I left my phone charging in the living room by the chair. I had totally forgotten to move it up to the charger in my room.
I took a deep breath. “You can do this. You got this. Just go down the stairs take a left and there’s the living room. Easy … sure,” I whispered shakily to myself.
I crept out in the hallway when I noticed something that made me jump out of my skin. The attic door, the one that needed a key, was open. I realized that the ladder was down, too. “What the hell…” I said as my jaw dropped down. I was curious and I wanted to tell myself no, but I couldn’t resist the urge to go up a few rungs of the ladder. I checked around the corner where the stairs were and then climbed up a few rungs. I could only peek about half my head in because I only went up a few rungs but it looked like a normal attic. Boxes upon boxes in every corner and wall of the medium-sized room. I squinted as I tried to see more in the dark but could barely see anything so I stepped down and gathered the strength to go down the stairs.
When I got to the edge of the stairs, I took another deep breath, calmly stepping down each of the stairs. Heart pounding, palms sweating, and head throbbing, I took my last step down to the floor after poking my head out to the right and left side of the house.
I walked slowly over to the living room careful not to make sound or creak or anything that would give me away. I spotted my phone on the table next to the chair I had been sitting at earlier that evening. I felt my heart get lighter. I was going to call the cops and they’d come over, arrest the man, and I’d be saved. I kept my pace steady, eyes darting around each dark corner of the room searching for the man. Where the hell is he? I couldn’t help thinking.
I reached the chair and table where my phone was charging and pulled it quietly out of the cord. It was so dark and I couldn't see anything, but I was too scared to turn on my flashlight. When I turned on my heel, I noticed a beam of light coming out from the kitchen. A flashlight.
I crept back up the stairs feeling a little calmer now that the man was occupied in the kitchen. When I reached the top of the stairs and started walking back to my room, the attic door was still open with the ladder leaning against it. I didn’t know if I should go up there or if I should just go to my room and call the police. I made a compromise with myself and called the police quietly in my room first.
The police officer on the other end of the line, a man with a low voice, told me to not go anywhere. I don’t know why, I must be one of the stupidest individuals, but my curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t help but creep closer to the ladder slowly. I stared at the ladder for a long time contemplating if I should go up or not.
Half of my brain said, “go up! Go up! You’ll never know what’s in there in you don’t go up!”
The other half of my brain said, “go to your room! What are you doing? The police will be here any minute. Go back!”
I ended up listening to the first half of my brain. I put one foot on the first rung of the ladder and then my other foot on the next. My heart was pounding so hard I was pretty sure it wasn’t healthy to give myself this much anxiety. I carefully placed my sweaty hands on the cool metal rungs of the ladder and climbed cautiously up in the attic. I hoisted myself up onto the floor.
Inside the room, it was cooler than the rest of the house, I noted suddenly feeling a bit chilly. The floor wasn’t carpeted but rather had rough wooden planks laid next to each other in perfect symmetry. In one corner, there was a bunch of workout equipment laid around carelessly. The room had one window in which moonlight poured in, putting an eerie glow on the boxes and floorboards.
I wanted to see more so I took out my phone for a flashlight. I turned on the flashlight and looked around the room. I aimed it at a dark corner of the room where the moonlight didn’t reach. My heart skipped a beat and my jaw dropped open. My palms were so sweaty, I wiped them on my pajama pants. There, in the dark corner of the room, now illuminated with my flashlight, was an old mattress. By the mattress was an old and light-colored bedside table with various things on it. Clothes were thrown over a skinny plank of wood propped up against a wall on the other side of the mattress.
“Oh my god. Holy crap...” I said. A sudden wave of dizziness came over me as I made the connection. The man… the thumps… the attic door suddenly being open… He’s living here… I thought jaw still hanging open.
I whipped around when I heard a creak in the floorboards behind me. There, standing only inches away from the attic door was the man I saw from earlier. I could make out his facial features. A mess of brown, curly hair matched with a short beard that was matted at the bottom had food stuck in it making me want to gag. His face was surprisingly calm with only a hint of anger in it. He was in an athletic stance like he was ready to fight.
He slowly walked towards me keeping his faint glare on me the whole time. I was so scared when he took the first step towards me I dropped my phone. Oh, fantastic. Great job. That’s helpful, I thought.
I guess he took me dropping my phone as an indicator to start running at me because he did just that. He launched himself on top of me shouting things that I couldn’t decipher. We were on the floor now and I could barely breathe as he pinned me down.
After he shouted those awful things to me, he did something I knew was coming. He raised his fist in the air and swung it down at my face.
I felt a searing pain in my nose and I felt like my bones and everything around that area had exploded. I tried to move my hand up to my nose as the pain crept up in my eyes and my forehead making the throbbing in my head even worse. I felt a thick, warm liquid flow out of my nose. Blood. I knew that feeling and it was definitely blood. I finally couldn’t take it anymore - I was terrified. I sobbed and tried to talk yell at him to stop, but all that came out of my mouth was a bunch of timid squeaks.
After another blow to my left cheek this time, he moved his hands down to my neck. I immediately knew what he was doing. I slapped his hands around my throat as they tightened closing my windpipe and cutting off my air supply. His grip was so strong and I knew he was intent on actually killing me. My slaps and punches to his arms were getting weaker and weaker. I knew I had to do something else. I searched with my hands around for anything at all. Please, something… anything… I begged. I looked straight into the man’s dark green eyes. He was actually trying to kill me… murder me. But I realized something even scarier than his eyes: my vision was blurring. I knew what this meant: I'm going to die if I don't do anything.
I felt around again. This time, I found something metal. I guessed it was a water bottle because of the shape. I grasped it by the top and with all my remaining strength, I hit the man as hard as I could with the bottle. He fell over and his hands that were just on my neck went to his right eye. I allowed myself to catch my breath for a couple of seconds before hitting him again on the side of his head.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I put my head close to his chest. The last thing I need is a dead man in my attic. I heard his heart beating steadily. Thump Thump, Thump Thump.
Just as I was checking the time I heard people breaking into the house. “Police…” I breathed. They came thundering up the stairs. They were talking to each other in low whispers. “I’m up here!” I said still out of breath. I felt like I was going to pass out. My palms were still sweaty and my nose was still gushing blood and throbbing.
I saw the first policeman climb up the ladder cautiously. When he saw the man knocked out on the floor, he pointed his gun at me and I had to have a small talk with him so he’d know it was only self-defense. After a couple of minutes talking, they arrested the man who woke up just a few seconds after they put the cuffs on. I heard another policeman ask me a question, but it was like I was wearing noise-canceling headphones. It sounded muffled. My vision then started to blur and the last thing I remember was the color black.
I woke up to a beeping sound. I opened my eyes and saw a woman sitting in a chair next to my bed.
“She’s awake!” My mom’s voice said.
“Mom?” I asked in a small voice. My vision started to clear and it was, in fact, my mom. My dad was there, too, sitting next to my mom. They both hugged and kissed me and when I asked what happened they exchanged looks.
My mom finally explained my injuries and what happened. She said I had suffered a concussion and a broken nose. I would be out of the hospital in a day or two depending on my strength and time of recovery. They explained everything about the man and apparently he was living in the attic shortly before I bought it. He had the key in his pocket at all times. They told me other things about him that I wasn’t really concerned about, so I tuned them out.
Several days passed before I could go back to work and several weeks passed before I could openly talk about the situation without having a nervous breakdown.
Eventually, I went up to the attic to check it out again. Just the way we had left it. I intended to leave it that way.