I am standing on the stairs to the attic with my left foot above my right foot and my left fingers touching the raised pattern of the wallpaper in the dark. I am waiting for my eyes to adjust to the gloom and it smells like mothballs and misery and misheard arguments in here. I am frightened of the attic. It is dark and dusty and filled with the ghosts of a hundred dead flies who’ve met their ends in its many spiders webs. or met it batting their heads against uncomprehending glass trying to reach the outside. Or perhaps they met it somehow else. Don’t come up here, whisper the ghost flies, it’s a trap.
But I go up anyway. Step by unsteady step like I am 5 and 105 alternately with each one. The flies are nervous they hover about my ears with a tinny something. Like a telegraph pole in a field, humming discontent.
I can smell the inside binding of bleak house curling down the stairs like I’ve fallen asleep with it over my face in the garden on a summer evening. I can smell burning.
The door at the top of the stairs has a face and he looks distraught that I might dare to grasp his handle. He is worried. He twists his wooden mouth as if to say “this isn’t wise” and I whisper into the dust that “I am not wise” and twist the handle. The flies hold their breath, the door is unhappy, the dust sips loudly on his cinema Diet Coke and i can hear the rustle of his hand in the popcorn. Here comes the jump scare. My heart has run a marathon in three steps and is safely situated 26 miles down the road in Helmsley and then
Nothing much, really. The door swings inward to the hallway and a shaft of morning sunlight breaks into the stairwell revealing the dust for what he is. A moth makes a break for downstairs. On one side by two windows the dessicated carcasses of my companions shift in the draft. Behind me the door inches closer to its frame, his face set in consternation and worry. On the other side of the attic a shadow shifts it’s weight taking over a little extra space than usual. A photo album twitches it’s memory on the shelf. The flies are still worried but I don’t think they mean anything by it. You would be worried too if you found yourself at the site of your own demise.
The door closes. The shadow shifts. The pages flutter. The flies hum. The sun: dims.
The flies r silent. Hush listen here it comes.
You r hovering behind my shoulder to get the best shot of it as it swells. The music has taken on that pastiche of Hitchcock, all tight strings and tension. The light dims a little and we hard cut to my face backlit by the sunshine, and you wonder at the directorial choice of setting this movie in the day time and then it dawns on you that things that come out at night can be explained away by low light and superstition. In the day time things are harder to chalk down to an overactive imagination. I am walking down the corridor and you are hiding your face behind a cushion. Then suddenly the music stops with a bang. There’s the jump scare come late.
“Its only the door slamming” I say to the flies, but the flies whisper amongst them self that the door closed quietly earlier. You’re sitting there saying the same thing. I can’t hear you though, so I just keep walking towards the other side of the attic, the other room. It gets dimmer and dimmer. The music is gone now, we’ve got no score but the sound of socked feet on carpet creaking intermittently with the age of the boards. Please don’t, whisper the ghost flies. Shhh, says I.
The mirror on the wall of the hallway glints in response to my shh. I thought I heard it sigh. I thought I heard it whisper that I’d come up here to die. But perhaps I’d only heard another whisper of the flies. I put my hand on the frame of the attic bedroom door and poke my head over the threshold. It is like making the sign of the cross. I announce my presence. One bed is already made but another has been slept in. The wall paper peels revealing dreams papered over through the years. As My feet cross the boundary of the room it is like someone’s out their hands over my ears. The flies have stopped their pleading. I can hear only the breaking waves of my own blood flow against the flood barriers of the self.
My shadow shifts its weight in the corner and I pick up a picture from the bedside table.
You’re on the edge of your seat.
My shadow shifts again as I move around the room and I sit on the made up bed and look uncritically at the crumpled linen of the other. It’s just been slept in — just left.
On the floor is a photograph face down and I pick it up. The ghost flies clamour at the doorway, light dims.