“Don’t go in there.”
Those words still haunt me to this day. When you’re young and you’re told not to do something, of course, you need to know why not? Even as adults, our curiosity can sometimes get the best of us. But, when my mom looked at me and my little sister that day, straight in the eyes, and said, “Don’t go in there.” We listened.
She was pale and her eyes were wide. She stared right through us as if we weren’t there.
“Mom? Are you okay?” we asked. But, she just kept gazing ahead down the hallway behind us. “What’s wrong?” I begged as both my sister and I looked over our shoulders. Finally, she shook her head and looked right at us. We had her attention.
“It’s okay. We’re okay. Let’s go now.” She stuttered as she shut the attic door behind her. She grabbed us both by the arms and ushered us down the stairs.
“Mom, what happened? You look like you’ve seen a–” but, she squeezed my arm before I could finish.
“I’m fine girls, really.” Is all that she said.
Once we made it down the stairs, our mother busied herself in the kitchen and my sister and I reconvened in the living room. We knew better than to keep asking. She wasn’t ready to talk to us about it, yet.
But, we knew that she had seen HER.
It was only a matter of time before she’d show herself to the rest. We tried to warn them, but they always told us that we let our imaginations get the best of us.
Part of me always thought Mom believed us and wanted to know more, but perhaps she knew that if she let on, we may get even more scared. I mean, if an adult believes that there’s a ghost living in your house, then they very well can’t tuck you in at night and tell you it’s all in your head and you’ll be fine. No one would ever sleep soundly again.
Even though we followed our mother around for the next few hours, and took turns asking as many questions as we could, we still don’t know exactly what she saw in the attic that morning. We do know, however, that a metal eye hook latch was installed on the outside of the attic door shortly thereafter. She told us that it would help keep our cat, Kitty, out of the attic. She was forever getting herself stuck in there and no one ever knew how.
I, for one, was happy about the lock on the attic door. Maybe now, I wouldn’t find it open at strange hours of the day.
– I thought back to the night that I just couldn’t hold it anymore and had to embark on the terrifying journey of having to use the upstairs bathroom at the end of the hallway. Something, that my sisters and I agreed you just shouldn’t do, EVER. The entrance to the bathroom was adjacent to the dreaded attic door; and you had to go over an added threshold to even enter that dark and desolate end of the hallway that laid just past the stair well.
Taking care to watch the closed attic door as I crossed its path, I was proud of myself for making it down the long hall on my own. I had been quick and quiet on my feet, careful not to disturb anyone or anything. I flicked on the bathroom light to reveal a bright, well-lit, safe place to do what I had to do and get back to my bed unscathed. And, all was well, until I left the bathroom and found that…
the attic door was open, just slightly, but OPEN!
I scolded myself for running the sink water to wash my hands. I must have missed the sound of the door creaking open. Without thinking, I kicked at the door to slam it shut with my foot and ran back to my bed to snuggle myself deep under my warm, safe, covers. It wasn’t until moments later, as I laid in my bed shaking, trying to calm myself, that my mom came in to check on us. She started with my sister, only to find that she was still fast asleep. When she approached me, I sat up and tried to tell her what had happened, but she assured me that we could talk about it in the morning and now wasn’t the time.
She tucked me in tight and I laid there the rest of the night imagining all the reasons the attic door could’ve opened itself and why on earth it had to do so while I was in the bathroom?
Maybe now, with the lock on the attic door, we’d all be able to rest better. My younger sister, Kate, and I rejoiced as we sat in our beds giggling that night. Even our older sister joined us for our read aloud time. Everyone was just a little more relaxed and happy, something that wasn’t exactly normal during our bedtime routine. Once our dad finished reading a couple of books to us, he tucked us in and enticed us with the promise of his famous pancake breakfast in the morning. My sisters and I went to sleep that night with smiles on our faces and happy thoughts in our minds.
But, that would soon change.
At exactly 3:33 am, my eyes shot open and darted to the digital Donald Duck clock that sat on top of my sister’s dresser across the room. The red numbers glared at me. I hated this time of night. It called to me often, just enough to wake me, but let me fall back asleep shortly after. Tonight was different, though.
SLAM… SLAM… SLAM…
The thrashing of the door echoed through our whole house. Kate and I shot up in our beds and trampled to our bedroom door. We held one another as we inched it open to peek into the hall. We saw our parents and then our older sister, Jenn, rushing out of their rooms. They huddled together just outside their doors as they stared ahead. My mom gasped and covered her mouth. My sister let out a cry. We scurried to them, and once we were safely in their arms, we turned to see that the attic door was WIDE OPEN. It was dark inside. Pitch black. No one said a word.
Finally, my mom broke the silence when she whispered my dad’s name. He knew what he had to do. Leaving us at the end of the hall, he rushed to the attic door and shut it. I could see the fear in his eyes, but his words were still strong and comforting.
“It’s okay, it was just the wind from the storm. Nothing to see here. Let’s all get back to our beds.” We let him usher us back to our rooms and tuck us into our beds. My sister and I knew not to ask if he was frightened. We knew not to ask how the wind slammed the door shut exactly three times. We knew it was HER. We all did. I’m not sure when my body gave out and finally crashed into sleep that night, but I was delighted to see the sun shining through our bedroom windows the next morning.
Kate and I got up and just looked at one another. No words were needed. The smell of pancakes wafted into our bedroom and we could hear our older sister and parents talking downstairs. We entered the hallway together to find that an old wooden chair was positioned in front of the attic door. The metal eye hook was just dangling, broken from the wind.
No one spoke about what had happened at the breakfast table and for nights the wooden chair sat wedged in front of the attic door.
“Don’t go in there.” Is all we were told.
(c) 2018 Abbie Richey Butler
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