The sun commits suicide upon the pointed spikes of the mountain slopes, and is reincarnated as a floating blue ghost glaring through the boarded window. The walls chuckle quietly, coughing as some small rat scurries to the other side. An opossum galumphs across the attic above me, making some sort of growl as it goes. I stare around at this room, then down at my bandaged body. The room looks like it has survived some sort of apocalypse in a box. Papers with writing that no one will ever read scatter the floors. The yellow glow of a candle in the hallway dies, its ashy ghost blowing down the hall in the draft. I slowly lay back on the dirty, lice-infected bed. Clawing. Banging. Scratching. Claw. Bang. Scratch. Scratch. Claw. Claw. Claw. Claw! Claw!
I shoot up straight in my bed, adrenaline and fear replacing the blood in my veins. The creatures freeze. It’s like the darkness has reached up and muzzled every little rodent up there. The silence creeps down the walls and through the window as the mountain fog slowly trickles in, like a cut artery on the mountainside.
They mock me.
I can’t stay here.
I can’t stay in this abandoned mansion any longer! In the morning, I’m taking that boy that was abandoned here and I’m pulling my car out of that guardrail and leaving. I strain to keep my eyelids open. No. No more. I am so tired I could pass out. I can’t fall…
Sunlight shoots through the window, making the shadow of a rotten ‘X’ on the splintered floor. As I stare at the window, half asleep. As I slowly recover from the grogginess of a sleep interrupted by frustration, I feel something brush my knuckle. I look down to catch a small crimson droplet fall onto my hand and glide down my finger, soaking into the dirty bed sheet. Another drop falls. Another…
I frantically pat down my body in search of any source of bleeding. I touch my neck, and as I briskly pull my hand away something softly hits the pillow. I jump up from my bed and run down the hall like a chicken being chased by some demonic fox. I turn a sharp corner and glare into the cracked mirror. A gash adorns my neck, about 2 inches long and as thin as a toothpick. My mind releases itself from my head and begins to search the grimy mansion for answers. It finds its way back to my skull, latching onto one thought – the rodents in the attic must have done this. As I sit in thought over how to kill them all, I realize what I vowed last night. In the morning, I would leave. And I won’t break my promise. I speed into the foyer and grasp the door handles. I pull back with all of my might.
The doors refuse to move.
I push forward.
I pull back.
Something barely shines in-between the handles.
A long pole of rusted metal is jammed inside the two doors, holding them together. Eric must have done this. He must think I’m going to abandon him too. But that boy that was abandoned here must still be here. The attic rumbles, like feet running across the heavens. Eric must be in the attic. I turn around, calling his name. I make my way up the rotten spiral staircase to the upper floor. I walk down the black hallway to the dirty string with its handle cut off. I pull down the attic stairs. Eric laughs.
Lies. LIES! The entire world is a lie! You sit in your room as a child and stare at the darkness and hear the creatures rustling and see their sharp teeth and pointed ears and call for your parents. But they disappear when your parents come to your rescue. They tell you there are no such things as monsters under the bed or in the closet, and you grow up into adulthood believing it too. You grow up into adulthood and think “There can’t be real monsters, because if there were I would be dead right now!” But no. That is false. You are not dead because they wait until you are naïve to their ways. In reality the children are the ones who are truly protected, because adults do not fear the dark…
But the dark is to be feared.
Fear the creature that does not fear the night.
Because when you decide that you are safe in the shadows…
You have already become their prey…
Those things that Eric calls the People in the Attic
are what humanity should fear…
They are the monsters in the closet.
They are the “Settling of the House”.
They are how the world will end…
We don’t know they’re there…
And they know it.
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