Attic ©


In the thick night I hear it scurry across the attic floor above my bed. It is a small light-footed sound, but I can easily hear it when all else is quiet. I hear it gnawing in dark hollow nooks. When it scampers about and its tiny claws brush against my attic floor, I have visions of boot-sized beetles scuttering in the pitch-black dust overhead. If the effort were not so great at those dead hours, I would light a lantern and march wearily up to the attic. But I know how hopelessly impossible it must be to corner a rodent by lantern light.
Last night, in the heavy darkness, the gnawing drove me to such frustration that I foolishly ripped back the bedclothes and pounded the ceiling with an old walking cane that belonged to my father. I stomped about the room in the darkness stabbing the ceiling with the rubbered tip of the cane. The gnawing continued calmly – I angrily desisted. As day broke, I was able to see each place I punched the ceiling with the cane. The rubber tip of the cane has left black, half-circular marks all about the ceiling. The black grins stare down mockingly, taunting me.
I draft these notes with pen to paper and realize now – now that the calming light of morning shines – how similar is the sound of my pen’s scratching to that of the tiny talons in the dark.
I have set tiny traps made from small slats of pine wood and primed them with cheese. The traps were designed in such a way that when an unsuspecting rodent releases a trip that is baited, a spring-loaded lever slams down with tremendous force, crushing the rodent’s skull and killing it instantly. I have set many traps in my attic – but I have retrieved none. Upon each subsequent visit to my attic, in the days that followed, the traps were not to be found. I imagine that perhaps each trap latched onto its victim in some unfortunate way, and was dragged away.

I believe I may have misjudged the creature. Upon a closer listen, I believe the beast in the attic is large, perhaps a squirrel. And it darts about excitedly. Silent and still one moment, then dashing forward quickly the next, the way a cat may pounce upon its prey. Then it is silent again for hours.

Today I set a large cage in the attic. The trap is a cleverly designed device that is sure to win me this battle, and thus this war. This trap is a long wire cage, about an arm’s length long, from shoulder to fingertip. The trap is readied by placing a tempting treat at the rear of the cage where, as by design, the entering beast then steps its weight onto a trip, causing the front opening of the cage to bang shut – capturing the beast. I will sit up tonight, lantern ready, and wait for the crash of the cage door.

I checked the cage in the attic after I had a light breakfast. The cage was empty of bait and the trap remained unsprung. Either the beast was too light to trip the trap, or some other mystery is afoot.

Ha! I am quite the clever one. This evening, before the sun set low, I spread a generous amount of flour in the attic. The flour will be used to capture the prints of the beast, and then I shall know what I am dealing with and thus, how best to rid my attic of its nuisance. It looks as if a soft dusting of snow has fallen. And maybe it has. I was careful to spread the flour on the attic floor as I backed my way out – so as not to disturb the flour. The attic door is a small door, only five feet tall and little more than a foot wide. The door is in an upstairs bedroom. It is an unused bedroom that is directly above my own. I mention this only because I care to keep writing on the matter as I wait for some sudden movement overhead.

I have waited quite long enough and burned my candle low. I will retire disappointed this dull evening but I shall check the flour for prints in the morning.

I have awakened and relit my candle. I am sure I heard bumps in the attic and I would like to note it.
There! Surely I heard it again.
And so much flour on my hands and knees.

I fell asleep at my writing desk with my cheek pressed into my crossed forearms. The sun comes into my bedroom, it seems, from every window at once. Today there is no sun and there is a light rain. I slept later than I thought possible, especially in such an uncomfortable position as at the writing desk. I shall hold the gloomy day accountable for my late hour in rising, and – that I am quite pale with fatigue.

Can you imagine my state of startlement when I discovered the only tracks in the flour to be my own. I was quite sure I had spread the flour out before me and was careful to leave it unmarked as I backed my way from the attic. What a strange sight it was. My own boot prints turned round and round in the flour. Round and round and round. Whatever possessed me to behave so strangely – and have no memory of it. And the hand prints. What the dickens. Had I walked about on my hands as well? Had I made an oath to the devil? I am vexed and in need of rest. I will write more later.

Today I bought rodenticide. I will spread it about the attic and wait. I purchased a large supply as I believe the beast in the attic to be much larger than I had earlier considered. I believe the light-footed beast deceived me in the beginning. But worry not, I have the situation well in hand. And I shall not crack.

I spread the rodenticide evenly in the attic. I believe I let my emotions control my actions. You may think me mad, but it seems I have spread all the poison in the attic, sparing none. I spread much more, I am sure, than was necessary. But it is done.

I am writing less often. Words come with increasing reluctance.

What a wretched night. I slept poorly and have vomited nearly half the morning away.

The rodenticide in the attic is diminishing as rapidly as my sanity. But the beast. Ah yes, the beast in the attic, it crawls about incessantly. Quickly. Slowly. Darting about. Stopping. Day and night. Continually. Round and round and round it creeps.

I have nearly slept the day away. There is a chill, here in the attic.

I believe that man is shuffling about his room again. It is a small light-footed sound. If I stop creeping about and lie very still in the flour, I can easily hear him below. Sometimes I listen for hours. After dark has taken completely, I shall steal down and have a look. I shall pad about cautiously, as not to overcharge him with fear.

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5 comments on “Attic ©

  1. Your story is so compelling I can hardly articulate its effect. It works in every way that you intended. From your precise use of descriptive language (“… black grins stare down mockingly . . . taunting”) which brings us into the room visually and emotionally, to both see (black grins) and feel (taunt) what your protagonist is seeing and feeling, to the gradual anxiety that builds as we first become concerned for his well being. In this short time, you have already drawn a character who has our sympathy – no pointless violence or self- indulgent rants, just efforts to rid the attic of an annoying creature, a creature that grows larger and craftier as we move forward.

    You move us gradually and smoothly from the familiar, into a state of cautionary unease, then to the precipice, and on to the plunge that none of us can be sure we are immune to.

    I believe this story would stand up well beside any published in literary magazines.

  2. Bree Davison says:

    Really liked this story. You had me guessing and wondering, then re-reading again in places. P.S.: I just found something today with wordpress — the links that show up (in blue) in text, that we didn’t put there, are for ads. Annoying! If you highlight the phrase that gets “linked” in the Edit view, then the link to nah-nah-land disappears in the updated text. (I still need to change them in mine) Anyway, thanks for cking out my blog, too, and for the very evocative, almost P.H. Lovecraft flash fic here. Best wishes!

    • Lovecraft huh. I have several Lovecraft books, just can’t seem to buckle down and do it. Can’t get passed the spelling of Cthulhu I reckon. It’s like a Literary stop sign. 🙂
      Thanks for reading and for the nice comment.

      Are there blue links in my story I can’t see? Is that what you mean? it’s not is it?

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