Here’s part 2 of the Gothic short story I am working on since it’s October. To those who haven’t read part 1, read it first here.
Now, on for part II.
The more she thought about it, the more she wondered why she was waiting around. She could handle staying up a night. When her mother was in bed, she’d go to the attic. It was a long wait, at least over two hours. But finally, she heard her mom open the door to her room and shut it. But it wasn’t time yet. She had to wait at least another hour to make sure her mom was asleep. After an hour, Anna carefully opened her own bedroom door to the hallway. Her mother’s door was closed and the light to her room was off. That was a good sign. Next Anna grabbed her flashlight stowed away in her dresser. She was good to go.
She tiptoed down the halls, annoyed at the old floors groaning under her feet. With this noise it was certain that her mom would wake up. But she didn’t. Anna slowly walked up the three flights of stairs to the final hallway that would lead to the attic. Until then, she had felt her way around the house. Now she turned on the flashlight, shining it on the doorway to the attic. Trepidation, she had not felt prior, now shot up her spin. After all this time of being determined to explore the attic, Anna was now asking herself if this was a wise decision. She shut the door of her fears and locked it tightly. Of course it was a good idea! With a house this old, who knew what secrets were waiting for her at the top of the stairs. The attic was her King Tut’s tomb, waiting to be explored and excavated of priceless artifacts. That settled it. She opened the door and walked slowly up the steps.
The attic smelt archaic, a musty smell that was almost suffocating. Anna felt a sense of excitement partly birthed out of rebelliousness and partly out of wonder for what was waiting for her in the attic. Her flashlight shined a beam cutting through the dust and the darkness as she quietly made her way up the stairs.
She found a spacious room when she reached the attic, stuffed with boxes and chests overflowing with all manner of trinkets, and old furniture scattered about, some in a state of decay. A couple of antique lamps, dating to the early 20th century, sat upon a couple of tables. Paintings lay on the side of the wall, their canvas torn, their frames rusting. Some of the paintings were those of landscapes, others of portraits. The portraits were unnerving. The people on them looked despondent, some even dour. Anna looked away from the paintings to find that one of the couches had an old blanket covered in mildew spread it across it, as well as a late 19th century porcelain doll of a girl.
Anna picked up the doll gently, for fear it would fall apart in her hands. The doll had many cracks in the face, as well as grime coated onto it. Most unnerving were the stains coming down from the eyes. They were a dark black, but it still looked like she had been weeping. The doll’s dress, once a vibrant white, was now stained a sickly orange and yellow.
Anna placed the doll back onto the couch and looked for other things she could find in the attic, maybe something more pleasant. A chest, brimming with clothes, in the corner of the attic popped out at her, the light of her flashlight dancing off the rainbow colors of the cornucopia of different fabrics. She searched through the chest, finding a myriad of different dresses dating back from the 19th and early 20th century. The dresses were elegant, and Anna even tried some of them on, finding that many were too big for her.
When she was doing looking through the chest of dresses, she pulled out one of the boxes. Opening it, she found an old canteen, a rusted knife, a worn out wallet, and a small box currency from the 1880s. Tired of that box, Anna looked through another chest to find lots of brittle notebooks. But it wasn’t a waste. There were many photos in the chest, too. They were black and white photos of people whom Anna assumed were the old tenants. They were dressed like proper Victorians, with their nice suits and dresses. Anna wondered who they were, what their life story was, and if she could find out, or if the story of their lives was buried under the years gone by.
Deciding to continue her exploring, she stood up causing the beam of the flashlight to land upon a door she hadn’t noticed before near the back of the attic. Curious as she was, Anna couldn’t muster the courage to open the door. There was something ominous about it, something sinister that she couldn’t put her finger on. She grew frightened just looking at it. She asked herself if perhaps there was a curse in the house, some horror laying dormant under the sands of the years that passed by, something hungry for darkness, something whose hunger could never be quenched. Anna told herself that her imagination was getting the better of her. Those were just silly stories that illogical adults believed and immature children believed in.
Still, the darkness of the attic was palpable, and the little amount of light from her flashlight couldn’t chase away all of the shadows that smothered the attic like a thick black cloak. Anna decided it was wise to come back another time when she was feeling more rational, perhaps during the day when her mother was out.
Anna was making her way towards the door when she accidently knocked over an object upon the table. She had not seen it initially, and was only alerted to it when it landed upon the floor with a clack followed by music playing. She looked down to see a music box, which she picked up and examined. The lid had come open to reveal the figurine of a ballet dancer, wearing 19th century ballet clothes consisting of a tight-fitting bodice and a long tutu – certainly not like the short ones of the 21st century – that poofed out like a white rose in full bloom. Upon the figurine’s head was a floral crown. She danced upon a pedestal that rotated, a mechanism causing her to spin around with one leg stretched out in the back of her like a swan. In truth, the mechanism for the music box was very intricate, as one moment she’d be leaning her body forward, leg outstretched in the back of her and her arms outstretched as though she were getting ready to fly, the next standing tip toe on one foot, the other leg lifted up and bent so that the other foot could lightly touch the knee opposite as she spun around. The chime of the music that the mechanical ballerina danced to droned despondently out of the music box in an embodiment of pain and sorrow, sending a chill into the deepest recesses of Anna’s heart, filling her mind with images of shattered wishes and broken dreams. The sorrowful symphony melted like ice into the darkened attic that was voraciously feeding off of it.
As the music box sadly sang on, Anna at first didn’t notice the apparition in front of her. It wasn’t until she felt a gust of frigid air that she looked up to see the white luminescent form of a ballerina dancing around her. Anna would have gasped if her breath had not of been glued in the back of her throat out of fear and wonder. She also would have dropped the music box, but it was frozen to her hands in fright. The ballerina looked just like the dancing figurine of the ballerina within the music box. The pale specter danced around Anna, her dress like the petals of a white rose blown gently in the wind, while the sad tune of the music played on. As the ballerina danced on, flowers fell from the wreath on her head, the petals withering away in twisted pain within the agonizing abyss of shadows.
Anna wanted to run, but she was too petrified by shock to do so. And yet it wasn’t just shock that held her captive. The ballerina, though ghostly, had a grace about her, moving nimbly throughout the air.
When the music ended, the ballerina faded away into the darkness, leaving Anna perplexed.
A low groan emanated from the doorway near the back of the attic. It could have been the house settling, but it sounded more akin to a human groan, like the groan from a man, one twisted and tormented. Slowly the door in the back creaked open ever so slightly.
This time, Anna didn’t wait. Not even letting go of the music box, she ran downstairs. She didn’t care if she woke her mother up. She slammed the attic door shut and ran back down towards her room. It was a miracle that she didn’t fall down the stair and break her neck.
She expected her mother to come in at any moment to ask her what sort of tomfoolery she had gotten herself into, but her mom was still fast asleep in her room. Anna had forgotten that her mom could be a sound sleeper. Anna shoved the music box into one of her dresser drawers in the hopes that she wouldn’t think about it.
She didn’t know if she’d be able to sleep the rest of the night. Would what was ever in the attic’s closet come down to get her? For that matter what was in that closet? Furthermore who was that ghostly apparition of a ballerina she saw? Sure enough, Anna didn’t sleep that night.
When the sun arose to kindly banish the shadows, Anna finally fell asleep. It was then that her mom woke her up to ask her if anything was wrong. Anna lied, telling her she was a bit sick. Though her mom told her it didn’t feel like she had a fever, she still convinced her that she was feeling sick. Her mom let her have the day off from school, and Anna, exhausted, fell back asleep.
Sleep offered Anna no solace. In her dreams she found herself back up in the attic. This time the attic door was wide open, and standing in it was the ghost of the ballerina she had seen. She had fear in her eyes and she cried out, “Anna, help me!” before the door closed on her as if it was a mouth devouring her.
Anna awoke in cold sweat.
That’s where I’m currently at. I have found the story to be a challenge to write, but I am eager to finish it up.
(C) Jonathan Scott Griffin