Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Short Story - The Attic

The attic was dirty, dusty and it looked like nobody had been there for decades. Mary was about to leave when something caught her eye. She glanced to the right and spotted movement behind the boxes.  When she went to investigate,  she noticed that it was only a mirror and then she felt foolish. Not only did she feel foolish, she also felt guilty, guilty that she was going thru her late father's personal possessions.  She knew it had to be done,  she only wished that she wasn't the one doing it.
Her father, Jim, had recently passed away  and Mary was the eldest child of three. Either way, this task was left to her as both of her sisters lived too far away and still had young children. Mary lived close by, was unmarried and had beeen a regular fixture at the house, looking in on him at least two or three times a week.
Jim was an eccentric little man. He was well travelled and had probably seen every country there was to see, and those few countries that nobody wanted to see as well. It wasn't uncommon for Jim to be followed by a shipment. Now that Mary thought about it, her father had always been secretive when unpacking his crate. The top part of the crate invariably contained trinkets for the girls. They were always at the top of his list. However, oncd the trinkets were unpacked, and handed out, the crate was closed up again and up into the attic it went.
Mary looked around the attic but didn't notice the mysterious crates that her father brought back. That was strange she thought, she remembered the crates coming up but had never seen them come back down. She was sure that there must have been at least 30 crates or more.
Her gaze was once again drawn to the mirror. It was well hidden behind some old cardboard boxes and only the corner was showing. The frame looked gilded in gold but was covered in a thick layer of dust. Mary moved the boxes and pulled it out. It was larger than she had originally thought, maybe three feet by 5 feet long. It was partially covered with a bedsheet.Mary removed the sheet and uncovered what she thought was the most beautul mirror she had ever seen. Where the sheet had covered the frame , there was little or no dust. The frame almost seemed to glow. However, that isn't what caught her eye. It was the mirror. It seemed to shimmer, like it was alive. Mary was about to touch it when she could hear her phone ringing downstairs. She cursed herself for not bringing it up with her. Her job as a realtor meant that that she was on call 24/7 so she ran downstairs to pick it up before it went to voice mail. She just made it and spent the next 20 minutes talking to a prospective buyer.The call was very productive and she quickly forgot the task at hand and returned to her house just down the block and went to work. Scotty, her Maine Coone took up his place in her lap, purring contentedly.
She was totally engrossed in work and just barely heard knocking at the front door. She was just making her way to the door when she heard it open. Only her best friend Harry knocked and then came in uninvited. But then, Harry was more than a friend and had spent many a cold night warming Mary up. She heard his voice calling her name. Harry had a standing invite to come in anytime he wanted. Harry gave her a quick peck on the lips and mentioned that he had been by earlier in the day but that she wasn't around. He knew how demanding her job was and didn't want to disturb her if she was at work, but preferred to take his chances and just drop in. This brought Mary's mind back to the unpleasant task at hand and went on to detail what she had found in the attic. She also mentioned that she found it strange that she didn't see any of the crates there. Harry volunteered to help her the next time she went over to the house, as he knew how painful the memories of her father's passing were. He had wasted away from some unknown disease, and his sickness had been very painful, both for her father and for Mary to watch. Although Jim had been small in stature, he was always in good health with a good physique. Harry knew the emotional toll this had taken on Mary and had tried to support her in every way imaginable. Mary still had some work to do so Harry took his leave and they made a date for the following morning to attack the attic.
The next morning dawned bright with not a cloud in the sky. It looked like summer had finally arrived in upper New England.   Mary made her way to the house and saw Harry sitting on the step, looking pensive. "Good Morning sweetheart" he chirped. She hated the way he called her sweetheart, but overlooked that as his other qualities overshadowed this minor nuisance.  Mary greeted him in her all too familiar "hello jerk". He seemed to love that and smiled. They entered the house together and made their way up to the attic. The house seemed oppressive, empty and lonely.  Since the passing of her mother, the family dinners stopped and with only her father, the house seemed dark and forbidding.
Mary snapped on the light and dust could be seen floating through the air. They set to work moving all the boxes downstairs into the living room which had recently been cleared during the estate sale. Mary had made it clear that everything in the house with the exception of the attic would be sold at the estate sale. The household furnishing held no sentimental value and what did, had already been divided amongst the three girls. However, the attic was a different story. Mary hadn't had the time to go through the attic until now and she knew that many of the more sentimental items would be stored there. She remembered a certain carving of an elephant in an ivory tusk that was prominently displayed on the mantle for many years until the passing of her mother. After her mother passed, Jim had made a clean sweep of the house and everything that reminded him of his wife was quietly stored upstairs.
They made slow progress, Jim supplying the bulk of the manual labour to bring all the boxes, furniture and whatever else there downstairs. It wasn't long before the living room was full and overflowed into the dining room. The dining room was large and there was no fear that everything wouldn't fit.
One of the last items to leave the attic was surprisingly the large mirror that had first caught Mary's eye. When Jim saw it, he too had commented on the beauty of the frame. Jim made his way downstairs with the mirror and Mary went to work hunting out all the small items in the far corners of the atttic. It was over 20 minutes before Jim returned. Mary was so busy that she hadn't realized the amount of time but when she saw him again, she said "What took you so long?". Jim had a puzzled look on his face, "What do you mean?" he said, adding "I just brought the mirror downstairs and came back right away". Mary didn't think more of it and together, they finished removing everything from the attic.
"That's strange", said Mary, "Dad had brought back lots of crates from the far countries that he had visited and yet, I can't seem to find them". Jim looked around and replied "Well sweetheart, there's nothing left up here but cobwebs and God only knows what other little creatures."
They made their way downstairs, closing up the attic behind them. Mary followed Jim into the living room, which was heaped to the ceiling with boxes and odds and ends. Mary looked depressed, she was trying to think how she would clear all of this out within the next two weeks when the house was going up for sale. Jim said, "wait for it, you haven't seen the dining room yet!". When Mary saw all the boxes in the dining room, she had an oppressive feeling of doom.  How was she going to clear all this out she thought within the next two weeks. Mary went on the say to Jim, "but I don't understand, I'm sure dad had crates upstairs. I remember him bringing them up there, and never saw them coming down. Maybe he did it after mom passed". Jim looked at the mounds of boxes and thought that there couldn't possibly be anything else up there. Just then, he looked at the far wall and he suddenly had a strange feeling. "Mary", he said, "the far wall of the dining room seems much further away than what I remember up in the attic". Mary looked up from the boxes and seemed to have suddenly come to the same conclusion, once she was aware of it. "Lets go back up to the attic" she said and together they made their way up.
They stood in the attic near the stairs looking at the far wall.  "It certainly looks closer than in the dining room" Mary said.  Harry went over to the far wall and started exploring.  "It's took dark here to see anything.  The light doesn't seem to reach here" he said.  Mary ran off mumbling something about a flashlight and returned a few moments later with a portable spotlight. "Woah" exclaimed Harry when he turned it on,  "that's some serious candle power! ". Harry went to work examining the wall up close.  After about 15 minutes,  he sat down.  "Sorry sweetheart,  I can't see anything here.  We must have been mistaken ". Once again Mary left muttering something intelligible only to return a few minutes later with a small sledge hammer and a large crowbar. &That wall is definitely not the end of the house& she exclaimed.
Harry took the sledge hammer and crowbar and started tapping on the wall to find the weakest point.  There was no use over exerting yourself he thought to himself. He brought the sledge hammer to bear on what he thought was a weak spot.  The hammer sailed thru the wall to the other side with ease.  Harry looked in and said to Mary &there is a small room behind this wall but everything seems to be covered up under sheets,  I can't see what is there".  He spent the next 15 minutes opening up the wall so they could pass thru easily.
The moment had arrived,  Harry passed her the light and said "after you my dear". Mary entered the small room.  Immediately,  she was overcome by the heavy dust and overpowering smell.  She noticed a light in the middle of the small room with a pull string. Turning on the light,  she was amazed by all the crates,  neatly stacked against the back wall.  They were stacked 5 high to the ceiling and she counted 10 wide,  making for at least 50 crates. Her first thought was despair,  thinking of all the work she now had to do to go thru all of the crates before selling the house.  She had no time for this she thought to herself.  Then curiosity quickly erased that feeling of despair,  wondering what could possibly be in the crates.
The next week was devoted to selling everything in the living room and dining room or dividing the more sentimental items between the three girls order to make room for the crates.  Everything was sold,  except for the mirror.  Both agreed that they would keep the mirror, for now.  Time seemed to escape them and before they knew it,  day's end had arrived.  The crates were brought down and the final count was almost 60 crates.  They were of all sizes,  some small as a bread box and others larger.  Harry didn't mind the small ones and was certainly glad he was in shape for the larger ones,  estimating them weighing almost a hundred pounds.  He wondered how Mary's father had managed to get them up into the attic.  More importantly,  why would he go thru all the trouble of building a false wall to hide them, and why did he keep this a secret from his family.   This was the topic of many a discussion between them after making their discovery. They had decided that Saturday would be crate opening day as they could both devote the entire day to this task.
Saturday dawned bright and by 7, they were at the house. The first crate they opened was one of the smaller ones.  Harry went to use the crowbar but the crates were so well built that there wasn't even a crack to wedge the crowbar in.  After a few minutes,  he noticed screws that seemed to blend in with the wood.  He set to removing the screws,  then cracked the seal on the lid.  &I will let you do the honors on this first one& he said to Mary.  She grabbed the lid and although it resisted a bit,  she lifted it gingerly,  as if she was afraid of what she would find inside.  Whatever it was,  it was well packed in straw.  The straw smelled musty.  She removed some straw and saw a figurine inside,  all black and quite heavy.  The figurine was of some deity, with 6 arms and two heads sitting on some sort of animal that was unrecognizable.  Why would dad go thru all the trouble to hide such a normal little figurine,  which in her mind was quite ugly.
It took the better part of the weekend to finally go thru all the crates. After the fourth crate,  Mary started despairing, more of the same little figurines,  different deities it seemed.  They were all about 10 inches high,  all black and probably made of iron  based on how heavy they seemed, about ten pounds each. Harry looked around the living room,  it seemed as if a bomb had went off, there was straw scattered everywhere, empty crates stacked to the ceiling and then the figurines,  neatly placed against the wall in the dining room.  Mary counted almost 400 figurines,  then a wave of despair washed over her. These figurines must have meant something to her father but what it was escaped her.  She had no emotional attachment to them and the only thing she thought of was how to get rid of them.  It just didn't seem right to throw them out and she knew that no sane individual would buy one at an estate sale,  let alone a garage sale.  They did look old and weathered and wondered if there was some value there.  She decided that she would sleep on it,  deciding what to do with them later.  Harry just said to throw them away but something in the back of her head said otherwise,  and she had learned many years ago to trust her intuition.
Just as she was about to leave the house,  her attention was drawn to the mirror.  Harry was in the other room, cleaning up a few things. She walked up to it and it seemed that her reflection shimmered.  She couldn't explain it but it appeared as if it wasn't her looking at the mirror so much as her reflection looking at her.  She reached out and touched the mirror,  she felt a slight tingle in her finger,  then her arm.  It wasn't an unpleasant sensation,  but somehow she couldn't describe it. She felt compelled to touch it,  as if it was calling to her.  This is crazy she thought and drew her finger back.  She immediately felt something was wrong,  the house was bright with sunlight streaming in and her stomach told her she had passed her normal mealtime.  She glanced at her watch,  but somehow the time didn't register.  No,  that couldn't be,  she looked again,  it said 2 o'clock.  She got up and looked outside,  it was bright daylight.  How could that be,  just a minute ago,  it was dark,  10 at night and they were just about to pack up for the night.
Mary called out for Harry but got no answer.  She reached for her phone and pressed redial.  Harry answered just after the phone rang,  "where were you?" he said with desperation in his voice.  "You just left last night without saying a word and you haven't been answering your phone!  Even the office called me asking about you".  Mary tried to explain that she never left the living room but it seemed to fall on deaf ears,  "I looked all over the house half a dozen times,  you weren't there,  I thought you took it in your mind to go for a walk without telling me.  I waited until sun up and you never came back. Where did you go?"  he asked heatedly. Mary was on the verge of tears,  she was a strong woman but somehow this was almost too much for her.  "I need to talk to you in person" she said,  "meet me at the house after work".
It was 6 o'clock when Mary arrived at the house.  Harry was sitting on the doorstep waiting. She could tell he wasn't in a good mood. Mary tried to explain that she too couldn't explain her absence,  that the next thing she knew,  it was daylight.  When she mentioned the mirror,  Harry stopped her . "That's funny" he said, "I too had a strange feeling when I touched the mirror", "and you were gone for 20 minutes" she added excitedly. "Where is it" he asked and Mary showed him.  
The mirror looked anything but unassuming, it seemed to shimmer.  Mary felt compelled to reach out and touch it,  her fingers just inches from it.  She could feel it pulling her in,  feeling it's energy in her finger tips.  Suddenly,  a heavy weight slammed her hand down and away from the mirror.  She could hear Harry calling her name.  When she looked up,  Harry had a worried look on his face.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  "I called you at least a half-dozen times but it was as if you were on another planet". "Harry, that thing is evil,  get rid of it now" she screamed, "and whatever you do,  don't look at it or touch it!"  Harry turned the mirror so it was facing away from him and as he was walking away,  Mary could have sworn her reflection looked somehow different,  almost like it was another person. A minute later,  she heard a shrill scream followed immediately by the sound of broken glass,  then silence.  Harry came in looking ashen,  " reflection" he said, "just as I was throwing the rock,  my reflection put up its arms, as if to shield itself from the rock". "What was that thing?". "I don't know" Mary answered,  "&but I'm glad it's gone".
That night,  Mary refused to sleep alone and held onto poor Harry  all night.  Neither slept,  the ramifications of what that mirror was weighing heavily on their minds.  Mary tried to remember what trip her father returned from with that mirror but her father was always so secretive with his crates. With the exception of their gifts,  nobody knew what he returned with.
The next day,  Mary called in the office to say she was taking a few days off. She was determined to clear the rest of the house,  especially all those figurines.  After the affair with the mirror,  she was almost afraid of touching the figurines.  She called Harry to grab two of them and putting them in a box in the trunk of the car,  they made their way to an antique dealer in town. They had just stopped at an intersection when they heard a loud bang coming from the back.  As they were both on edge,  Mary screamed and Harry jumped.  Just then,  they saw two kids running after their soccer ball yelling sorry as they ran by.  They both collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
An hour later,  they were in the store, explaining to the owner that they wanted to sell them.  The owner carefully examined the figurine,  turning it over to look for any identifying marks but there were none.  Finally,  he said that for him,  it was probably modern with no intrinsic value.  He was about to hand it back but suddenly stopped.  "Wait one minute" he said.  Mary could see that his demeanor suddenly changed,  he seemed excited.  There was someting he wasn't telling them, she could feel it.  He disappeared into the back and came out no more than a few seconds with a metal file. "Do you mind" he asked,  "this is worthless as art but I think you may have something valuable here". "Not at all" she replied.  The shop keeper took the file and ran it across the bottom back corner.  She could see the change in his expression.  He slowly turned the figurine toward them to reveal a gold color where the file had bit into the soft metal and thru the paint.  "Unless I'm mistaken,  which I seldom am" he said,  "this figurine is gold! It weighs about 10 pounds so on today's market,  it would be worth about $200,000." Mary looked at him in disbelief,  more like dumbfounded.  "Are you sure" she asked, her mouth suddenly dry.  He replied "pretty sure but I'll double check".  He disappeared into the back and returned a minute later, "I just tested it,  this is pure 24k gold.  Did you say you had more of these?". Mary looked at Harry, then started to laugh almost uncontrollably,  "oh yes," she replied,  "about 400 more!". I don't know where they came from but I know what I'm doing with them thought Mary to herself.

The End.

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