"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


The Good House

I giggled as I put the key in the lock, turned it, and opened to the door to our very first house.  Jason pulled me inside and closed the door behind me.  He kissed me on the mouth and we made love on those exquisite hardwood floors before we had even started bringing in boxes.

His job transfer to Boston couldn't have come at a better time.  I was restless, anxious for a new adventure, and sick of the heat.  I was expecting our first child, and I dreaded facing an Arizona summer nine months pregnant.  Then, the call came, and he whisked me off on a plane across the continent, and there we were in a home of our own.

I couldn't believe our luck.  It was my dream home, a beautifully restored colonial right near the coast.  I didn't think we'd be able to afford it, but our real estate agent assured us the seller was "very motivated."  Sure, Salem was a good 30 minutes from Boston, and Jason would've liked a shorter commute, but he couldn't say no to me after our first walk-through.

Jason left me to explore our new home while he went to the moving van to begin unloading our belongings.  No heavy lifting for me, he insisted.  I visited the kitchen first, drawn to the heart of the home.  Or at least, it would be; I hoped having a kitchen to myself would motivate me to learn how to cook.  I walked into our bedroom, mentally placing our furniture so the sunshine would come through the window and wake us in the morning. Except on weekends, when I planned to keep the curtains drawn so we could sleep in.  I went to the baby's room next door and pictured a nursery decorated with my old time pal, Winnie the Pooh.

I came out into the hallway, and for some reason looked up and noticed a trap door on the ceiling.  I knew there had to be access to the attic, but I hadn't really looked for it before.  Too high for me to reach, I called Jason over to open it for me.  He pulled it down, and unfolded the attached ladder.

"You be careful up there, OK, hon?" he said.

"I know, I will, worrywart," I said.  "I'm not that pregnant, yet.  I think I can handle it just fine."

I scaled the ladder and peeked my head inside.  I could barely see around me.  It was dusty, no footprints; I guessed no one had been up here in awhile.  A thrill from childhood ghost stories ran through me, and I came all the way inside to explore.

I could stand, but just barely.  I thought it was a pretty good size.  Enough room to keep our Halloween and Christmas decorations.  And I could stash a few of Jason's boxes up here, too.  He was such a pack rat.  I could probably make a box or two disappear and he'd never notice it.  Although, of course, that would be the one time that he needed that one thing in that one box...  At least up here, they'd be out of the way.

My eyesight adjusting to the darkness, I noticed a chest in the far corner of the room.  Had the previous owners forgotten it?  It didn't look like anyone had been up here in a long time.  Maybe they had forgotten it was up here to begin with.  I took a closer look.

It was exquisitely made, a simple cedar chest with hinged lid.  The finish on top was worn, as if it had been used as a seat.  It looked old and authentic.  I pictured myself with it on "Antiques Roadshow," my eyes wide and my hand covering my mouth as they revealed what it was worth.  My conscience pricked me.  Well, if it was left with the house it was ours, wasn't it?  I should at least check to see if it contained any family keepsakes that I should try to return.

I lifted the lid.  Inside were some papers and another, smaller box.  I picked it up.  It looked like a shoebox made out of pine.  I lifted the lid.

I should have screamed, hurled the thing away from me in horror, but there was something so sweet about the tiny mummified figure laid on a faded silk pillow, curled up as if she had simply gone to sleep and not been disturbed for centuries.  I felt like I was trespassing on sacred ground, like I had stumbled onto an ancient Indian burial ground.  I carefully replaced the lid and set the little box aside.

The papers inside the chest were old and yellowed but astonishingly well-preserved.  I picked one up gingerly, careful to not crumble the edges.  I read:

(Examination of Sarah Good)
The examination of Sarah Good before the worshipfull Assts John Harthorn Jonathan Curren

(H.) Sarah Good what evil spirit have you familiarity with
(S G) none
(H) have you made no contract with the devil,
(g) good answered no
(H) why doe you hurt these children
(g) I doe not hurt them. I scorn it.
(H) who doe you imploy then to doe it
(g) no creature but I am falsely accused

Other pages, similar, witnesses testifying against Sara Good.  Then I found a water color picture of a woman being hanged, her hands tied behind her back, officers holding the crowd that watched at bay.  The picture was extraordinarily vivid and realistic.  I saw her auburn hair, her heart shaped face, even the small black mole below her right temple.

It was as if I were looking at a portrait of myself.  The woman with the noose around her neck looked exactly like me.


Today's Prompt:
A covert trip into an attic reveals something unexpected.

If you'd like to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Shelli said...

Sorry, this was a little longer than usual! I would have tightened it up a little and shortened it, but the rules are no editing.

John Pender said...

I thought it was too short! I wanted it to keep going.
Good work, Shelli.

Nikki~Down syndrome Storyteller said...

One of the most intriguing ones yet!

Adam Byatt said...

Well told. I like loose threads; so many questions to answer

Jason Coggins said...

Wow and thrice wow! I loved how the tone of this piece turned from "isn't life lovely nest building" to something dark with the opening of the box. This was so well written and the transcript of the dialogue with the possessed was chilling. Excellent.

Shelli said...

John -- Thank you! This felt like a story I could expand.

Nikki -- Thank you, I do think I'm progressing a bit. :)

Adam -- Thank you. I love loose ends, too, lots of possibilities you create on your own.

Jason -- Thank you so much for the wonderful compliment! I appreciate that you came by to read, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Angela M. said...

Chilling is right! You should work this idea into a novel. I like the premise. Hehe, I want to read why the previous owner was so motivated!

Susan G. Haws said...

A great hook for a novel. Lots of things to ask questions about.

Anonymous said...

Whoa.... I mean, whoa. Okay, not the most eloquent evaluation I've given but I'm still kind of taking it all in. Fascinating, intriguing, terrifying, all at the same time. I do hope there's more, because already I'm afraid for her and wondering what happens next. Nice going Shelli. :)

Shelli said...

Angela and Susan -- Thank you! I did feel like this was the beginning of something, rather than a stand alone story. I have so many possibilities dancing in my head!

Carrie -- Thank you so much! That was exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping to evoke. Thank you for coming by to read. :)

Renee said...

I did not know the prompt, but just reading the first couple of paragraphs...its tone or some vib made me feel apprenhensive...yet I wanted to keep
Great job once again. Now I need to forget about that scary attic find!

Shelli said...

Thank you, Renee. I'm glad I was able to achieve that effect. Tone and pace are tricky things.

J. M. Strother said...

Well, that was chilling. I knew nothing good would come of the attic as soon as you mentioned Salem.

This flows so well, very natural. Now I am very worried about her baby.

Walt said...

You really drew me in with this one. The build-up had a soft and flowing feel to it while the tension mounted at the end.

I'm curious about the female figure. Since you describe the box as being about the size of a shoe box, I'm curious as to what was wrapped like a mummy. Too small to be a child, maybe a doll, a figurine?

Well done

anastasia_wolf said...

As soon as I read Salem I was expecting something to do with the witch trials but the twist caught me by surprise! I found it really easy to get into the MC's mind, it flowed nicely.

Melissa said...

Very well written. I loved how the main character and the drawing had similar features. Like it could be a past life. I liked the spooky factor.

Shelli said...

Jon -- I did try a little foreshadowing with this piece. You're the first one to pick up on the baby connection. :) Thanks for your comments.

Walt -- Mummified, as in her skin was shrunken and preserved, but not necessarily wrapped. And I was thinking premie, maybe? We'll see where my imagination takes it! Thanks for your comments, and your tweet.

Anastasia -- Thanks! First person POV is still a little experimental for me. I'm glad it worked for you.

Melissa -- Thank you! I'm glad the tone was communicated.

Angela M. said...

Hey, Shelli, I have an award for your lovely blog here:)

Laura Rachel Fox said...

Great piece. I love how the tone changes from the ecstatic excitement of a new home and a new life in the beginning to a sinking dread in the end. Its as if your MC was meant to find this "treasure" in the attic, meant to be in Salem, and meant to be in this very house. There's so much potential for more story and I'd love to read more.

Shelli said...

Angela -- Thank you so much! I'm honored.

Laura -- Thank you! I'm glad you were able to feel the sense of inevitability. I'm looking forward to fleshing this story out some more. I think it has novel potential. :)