I love exploring.
The black square of the open attic hatchway gazes down on me. It sighs cold air my way, frustrated to be stirred this early on a Sunday. The chilly breath finds its way down inside my shirt as I stand at the foot of the metal ladder.
I wonder what's up there?
Five minutes ago, I listen to the complaints of ageing glosswork as I apply leverage to the painted-shut hatch. The heavy screwdriver–discovered in a kitchen drawer, but too wide for any fixture I've come across–seems well-suited to the task. I twist its heavy handle, and the wooden frame flexes and begins to splinter; it looks like I’ll need to work my round the square, else I'll be doing more breaking than entering.
I wiggle the tool free, choose a new spot, and thump it into the sealed crack.
Back in the now, my shoulders covered with a dandruff of paint shards, I poke my head up into the attic. I can now hear the wind outside through the tiles, but no light makes it past them. And again, the cold strikes me, tho I detect no damp or moisture in the smell of the place. As I look about, unable to see anything beyond the few inches illuminated from below, I pick out the familiar odour of old newspapers.
So far, no surprises. Emboldened, I thump up a few more steps and stand, my hands tracing a circle around me as I search for an upright. I curse as my wrist finds one, and proceed to fumble up and down the treacherous sawn edges of the wood for a light switch.
My shredded fingertips find a control, and I flick it hopefully.
A conical lampshade lights up above an antique table in the centre of the attic. The light from the bulb is surprisingly clean and constant, and picks out tall piles of yellowing newspapers on all sides before being swallowed by the darkness. I can't see the corners of the room, but I know they're equally full of old newsprint.
Something sits at the centre of the table, but I can't make it out from over here. Intrigued, I step up and tread the old bare boards for the first time; they move beneath me, but are quiet. The newspapers slumber on as I amble over to the table, emerging into the circle of light. I expect the small, square table to be dusty. It's not; the dark lacquered wood could have been cleaned this morning.
In the middle of the immaculate table is a small box covered in lace. The decoration is delicate and intricate, a complex asymmetrical pattern that must have been tricky to weave.
None of this makes any sense.
As I pick up the shallow box–my hands bright in the overhead lamp's beam–the outside feels sticky to the touch. Dry, but sticky. I draw it closer, and see the faint seam of a lid, and feel hinges on its back edge. I flip the lid up. It's reluctant, and to my surprise the lace shell stretches across the opening.
I frown. It's not lace.
It's covered in cobwebs.
Instinctively, I drop the box, and the cobweb disintegrates as it hits the table. Something small and metal drops onto the lacquered surface, bouncing once.
I glance about, unnerved. The dark attic gazes back, indifferent.
The light flickers momentarily as I reach for the shiny object, and I snatch my hand back. I laugh quietly, chiding myself, tho my heart continues to pound.
I reach and pick the whistle from the table. It's slim and perhaps three inches long. I turn it over in my hand, seeking markings; there's nothing there, and no corrosion or blemish. And there's no room for a pea in it, like there would be in a sports whistle.
Is this a dog whistle?
I raise it to my lips and give it a blow.
I blow it again, harder this time.
And from the corners of the room, there is movement. Scratching replies, a faint tearing of thin newsprint, as many coordinated legs stretch and find purchase.
An arachnid scrabbling of creatures awakening, responding to my call.
No, not a dog whistle.
I love exploring.
But sometimes you have to leave places alone.
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009-2014