The Attic

The Attic

Horror Fiction by Thomas Cavazos

First, there was nothing. Not even thought or awareness. Just nothing. Then there was something: the smell of blood. A faint cold light. The feeling of rough wood against my naked body. Overwhelming confusion.

I was lying face down in Mark’s attic. I’d only been in the room twice in the year we’d been dating. The first time was when we’d gone hunting for his Halloween decorations, and the second was two months later when we went looking for Christmas stuff. But now the moonlight coming in through the attic’s lone window showed that the boxes of old junk were gone. The space was empty.

I pushed myself up off the floor. I felt unstable, weak. My eyes didn’t seem to be working right. The details of the room flickered in and out of existence like candlelit shadows on a wall. “I think I’ve been drugged,” I said to no one. I didn’t really believe it, but there was some truth behind the joke.

How had I gotten here? Had I, what, hit my head? What the Hell had happened to my clothes? The last thing I really remembered was driving to work. It had been a sunny July day, warm enough that I’d rolled down the windows of my little black sedan so that I could feel the breeze. I was playing with my phone, had just sent Mark a message saying I loved him.

What had happened to my memory? My mind filled with half-formed thoughts of strokes and aneurysms and brain tumors.

I shook my head. Leave first, worry later. I put my hands in front of myself and walked hesitantly forward. Between the dim light and my absent night vision, I didn’t see the door leading out of the attic until my hand was on the knob. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned it.

Locked. It didn’t budge an inch. It didn’t give even slightly, didn’t so much as rattle. It was like trying to twist steel with my bare hands.

“Okay. Don’t panic. Stay calm.” I stood there, annoyed and a little frightened, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Finally, I looked around the room, and it became immediately apparent why it stank of blood.

The walls were covered with the stuff, not bright but still fresh, just beginning to dry. My breath caught in my throat. Someone had dipped a pen into the inkwell of someone else’s life and drawn strange arabesques and sigils and runes with it.

Piles of clothes sat in each corner of the room. My clothes. Flats and heels, shirts, dresses, bras, panties, all of it arranged into distinct outfits like someone had gone through my closet and laid them out for me.

There were photos of me arranged on a table with candles. Jewelry taken from my apartment caught the light. And for the pièce de résistance, a dove with its wings spread out like it’d been crucified, its chest carved open and its heart sitting next to it

That was enough. I gave the doorknob one last tug, then sprinted to the window. On the street below me, groups of smiling parents accompanied laughing children wandering around in costumes. I screamed for help as loud as I could and slapped my open palms against the glass. Not one of them looked my way.

“Fine,” I whispered. I’d just have to break the glass. I told myself it’d be fine, that people didn’t bleed to death from cut hands, that I could get help and go to a hospital before I even came close. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and swung my fist as hard as I could.

Nothing. Like punching stone. The bones in my hand had shattered, but the glass hadn’t even cracked. As I stood there staring at my broken hand in disbelief that it didn’t hurt, I heard someone outside the room.

“Baby?” Mark’s voice called out. “Baby? Is that you?”

I froze.

“Baby?” He was closer now, right outside the door. I turned and ran to a corner. I didn’t want to face him naked, could at least grab a shirt and—

The door creaked open. He stood there, a shadow in the doorway, and we stared at each other motionlessly, wordlessly. He looked bad. Face unshaven, skin sallow, eyes sunken. He was smiling, grinning, tears ran down his cheek.

“It worked,” he said, his voice soft and strained, catching in his throat. “The-the-the ritual, I did the ritual, and nothing happened, and I walked away, but it worked!”

“What worked? Mark, what the fuck is happening?”

“You died,” he said. He was walking towards me, hands outstretched, grasping. “The car crash. You died, and then my parents died, and-and-and I was alone. For years! But now I don’t have to be alone anymore. I brought you back, baby! I brought you back!”

I backed away from him. I could feel cold blood smear across my legs when I hit the wall, gasped at the sudden feeling. He didn’t even notice.

“It’s not perfect,” he said. “There was a price. The book said there’s always a price. But I can fix it! We’ll get another sacrifice, something bigger. Whatever it takes, we’ll get it! We’ll fix your hands, you’ll be able to leave the house and go back to work, see your parents. We can have our lives back!”

Mark wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. He smelled of sweat and unwashed clothes and too many drinks. I tried to pull away, to push him off of me, but it was no use.

“Oh, baby,” Mark cooed into my ear. “We’re going to be together forever.”

I Know What You Need

I Know What You Need

Quitters, Inc.

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