I had hoped that they would have not been there, gone to movies or shopping or just out, giving me an opportunity to avoid a confrontation. Just one fucking hour without “Judge Judy” vomiting her brand of vitriol into the living room but no. At the very least, he wasn’t there with all of the base intellect and pudgy limbs to get in my way. It was just her, in the den, with the TV spewing its poison.
There was no reason to be there, it had been sixty years since anything of interest could have been there; very doubtful that something remained. If I had known what I was looking for or where, maybe I could have tried to sneak around but no.
I feel sick recounting this, about what I’ve done. This was supposed to be just about the files, just the facts as they related to that first box found down in Portland. However, I’ve somehow been pulled into a mess. I don’t know how to fix this.
She screamed when she saw me barefoot and just as terrified to be there as she was to see me again. The tire-iron in my hand, however tight my grip, kept slipping down my sweaty palms. She saw it shimmer and made no attempt to un-park herself from the couch.
Tied with a torn power cord, she wasn’t going anywhere, I was free to search the house. She screamed and struggled for freedom at one point, testing the strength of her bonds. My hammering into the wall with the tire-iron quieted her, bits of drywall falling down into her hair. My hands were shaking as I looked down.
“Where is it!?” I barked; it was barely English.
She whimpered into the folds of her couch. She didn’t know, how could she.
I ran upstairs, continuing my hunt, ripping open doors and tossing their wares. My heart was pumping violently, forcing hot sticky blood into every fiber of my body; the scar screaming in pain with every passing pump. It was good, though. The pain focused me. My attention was singular, unmoving. Even though it forced me to switch hands with tire-iron, as my wound twitched and spasmed as if possessed. God, it hurt.
I stumbled, hanging on to the walls and furniture for support, each wave of pain driving me further to my object and from myself. The walls and doors, family photos and junk littering the floor, all of it started to fade. The edges of my vision slowly bleaching away. Slipping, I caught myself on a doorknob, the tire-iron’s thud muted on the carpet.
After catching my breath, I turned the knob and fell into the room before me. It was covered in worn plastic toys and the clothes of a child. I knelt there for a while fighting my emotions, unsure of them really. I wanted to, I guess, protect this child; a child I’d never seen or met. I wanted to take them away from here and keep them safe from the monsters called “mom” and “dad”. At the same time, I knew how insane such a feeling was, how dangerous. Crawling away from that room and sitting on the floor a while, I waited till my heart began to slow, my sweat cooling, getting sticky between my chin and neck.
Then I noticed the attic door, its cord reaching down toward the floor, toward me. It was there, I was certain, whatever “it” had lead me this far. There was no noise coming from downstairs, my make-shift bonds must still be working, I thought, she must have resigned herself to her predicament.
Dust fell into my eyes as the tired springs screeched in protest rattling against the warped and worn steps. The switch, placed awkwardly high, did nothing; a great black mouth rest above me, waiting for a meal. Light from my phone pierced its way through those shadows but, there still remained plenty of hiding places, ever shifting nooks and alleys filled with a living darkness that danced with my every movement. It was dusty and cluttered there, with an unfinished floor and deteriorating insulation. I started tossing everything in my way, searching for something, anything that felt right, that had the weight of fate. Boxes of musty clothing, Christmas decorations and extra dining room chairs were all tossed, all in the way of my goal.
Something was slinking in the dark, just out of range, wrapping its fingers around an exposed beam claws digging into the dry wood.
I remember straining to hear it; all while cursing at the thrown items, crying out as they settled into their new positions, crinkling their way lower, obscuring the movements of what may be lying in wait.
My heart was loud and beating into my throat, ears and eyes as alert as they could be, prickling from the nerves firing. I waited.
Nothing came; I hurried with my search.
Then the screaming started. She was hollering and beating her body against the floor downstairs, each piercing utterance tearing its way through me, each scream louder and shriller than the one previous. They stunk of desperation and of pain. Fear sloshed its way through the house, filling every room, sloshing between the furniture, dripping off of tattered wallpaper.
Boxes fell on me, striking from behind, I screamed and dropped my phone. The darkness took hold, a thick cloying blanket wrapping itself around and inside of me.
Scrambling I tore at the detritus and bullshit accumulated over the years, fishing for my phone, my only weapon against the black. Other boxes fell, across the attic. I hadn’t been there yet. It had, though. Her screaming, my tossing of items and its movement; I could hear nothing because I was hearing everything. My light shone out from under some yellowing books, blinding me momentarily. I snatched at it and out the light fell around me. I couldn’t see it but, I heard the beast recoil, scampering back to the safety of the shadows.
The screaming had stopped.
No longer doubting, I knew it was there. The Beast. The Monster. My lupine interloper. I could feel him clinging to the rafters, slinking in the shadows, knocking over boxes. But, why? What did it want from me, of me?
No matter, no time to matter. I pushed one more pile of crap out of the way and there it was, lying atop a pile of ratty old blankets, an old firebox dented with rust spots pushing their way out of the chipping paint. There was no glow about it, no great sign from up on high but, I knew. My search was over. Sweat dripping down my face, my clothes sticking to my body, I went to open it. No luck, it was rusted shut. I beat at it with my palms and fists till my hands hurt. Nothing.
A great rattling started. I thought the unfinished floor beneath my knees was giving out. Tossing the firebox through the entryway, I stumbled after it, the whole house creaking and shaking as I did so. I wanted out, I’d had enough. It was on my tail, swatting away all of the junk between us, reaching outward, ever nearer to my backside. I jumped, it struck out and I tumbled down the folding stairs. Grabbing the metal case, I ran, or rather limped away, not giving myself the time to process the pain. Down the stairs. Through their kitchen. Past the pool of blood. And out their front door.
It wasn’t until I was speeding back up North on 95 that I thought about the blood. What did it matter? No one saw anything and I had the box. One more piece to the puzzle falling into place.
I flexed my scar on my hand, relishing the pain.