The Man in the Attic

Carey crept into the attic closet on her hands and knees, pushing shoeboxes away and then disappearing into the hanging drapes of clothes and long winter coats, a little giggle escaping her lips. Situating herself, quietly her small hand snaked out and grabbed the door, pulling it closed. But a crack she left, to see out; she had to know when her brother was coming. A curiosity she couldn’t resist.

She could hear his loud counting, though faintly, unable to truly make out any words. When a silence hit, she knew him to be on the prowl. Jacob never announced when he was about to hunt; it was a trick he had learned, so Carey had adapted and became adept at finding good hiding places quickly. The pair were evenly matched, for the most part. Jacob was crafty but Carey was small and swift, a good maker of snap decisions. Hide and Seek was like a war game; they were guerilla masters of their homestead jungle, always vigilant, sly, and at the ready. Carey bit her lip as she heard Jacob’s heavy footfalls on the floor below. She thought for a moment she would hear the creak of the attic flap being opened and then the sounds of the stepladder being lowered, but it didn’t come. She listened to a flurry of footfalls descending the stairwell, and a breath escaped her, followed by a smile.

She had him this time. No one was allowed in the attic—no one. Not even her older sister! He’d never think to look, a slave to his stickler nature. She knew he’d likely be upset once he discovered where she had been hiding, how exactly she had outsmarted him, but in the end she new it would be over in a hand wave, or perhaps even a high five. Clever move, sis! I’ll get you next time! Her body tingled from the thought of praise for her cunning.

The footfalls came again, but this time they lingered. Moving up and down the hallway, and then she heard the trapdoor swing open. Drat! she thought. He would find her for sure now. The closet would be such an obvious first mark. She cursed herself and bit her lip, trying not to laugh. She always got a tickle feeling in her stomach when she was about to be found out. But maybe she wouldn’t be found out. The creaking of the ladder emitted upwards into the room, and she tucked herself best she could into the back of the closet, trying so hard to resist the temptation to peek.

A heavy boot met the wooden floor, and long, slow strides could be heard that didn’t sound like her brother’s footsteps at all. She became confused, in a worried way. Was someone else up here? Did her father get home early and Jacob had blabbed? But maybe it was Jacob. She wanted to peek, she had to peek, and cautiously she inched herself forward, shielding her face behind the streamline skirt of an old silk dress, and peeked.

There was a gentleman she had never seen before, garbed in black robes with a hood. His face was sharp, hawkish, and his skin rich ebony, as dark as those African people she had looked at in her mother’s Smithsonian magazines. He had an aura of dignity, tall and well groomed, and his eyes scanned about the attic space, as if searching for something yet aware of all his surroundings. Carey’s eyes drifted down the man’s left side, and there she could see a thin sword hanging from his belt. Her heart raced, and she sucked her breath in, holding it, knowing she had stumbled upon something never to be stumbled upon. The man at last moved to an antique vanity dresser, and pulling a large, copper sheened key from his robes, he placed it into the middle drawer lock, and clicked it left.

Quietly, secret-like he opened the drawer, and from inside Carey could see a strange sapphire glow radiating. Her chest thundered. What was it? She couldn’t see. Her curiosity, once again getting the better of her, she inched forward, leaning out, and in a sudden crunch of cardboard beneath her she stumbled forward, knocking the door with her head and swinging it open. Terrified she looked up, waiting for the inevitable.

But the man of black, was gone.

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