Stay Out Of The Attic

Matt Roberts

The old man reached the top of the steps on the third floor with ease while Flynn and Jess huffed and puffed behind him.

“I didn’t think we would make it!” Jess said, holding onto his husband’s waist while Flynn was pulling himself up by the banister.

“Yeah,” said the old man while unlocking the door to their new apartment, “these places were made with tall stairs back in the day. Every floor is tall so the heat could rise and keep you cool in the summer.”

“I love the architecture,” said Flynn, “and I’m sure we’ll get used to the stairs, but wow, I was not prepared.”

The old man chuckled and pushed their door open. The large, solid wooden door creaked but seemed to glide well. He motioned for them to enter, and they did.

They were excited to see the crown molding around the 14-foot ceilings, the worn hardwood floors, and the general feeling of the 100-year old building.

“This is the living room and over there is the small kitchen.”

They turned to look at the kitchen while the old man walked past them and rounded a corner.

“In here is your bedroom. I told you, it ain’t much, but it’s a home.”

“Oh, I love it!” said Jess, as he walked into the big bedroom.

“The bathroom is there in the corner. However…”

The old man turned and walked to another door, and looked it up and down. Without turning to them he said, “Don’t open this door.”

Flynn and Jess looked at each other and back at the man.

Before they could say anything, he turned back to them and continued, “This door is nailed shut for a reason. Don’t open it.”

“I don’t…” Flynn started, “we don’t need to know why at all, and it’s none of our business. But if we could know a little more, that would be…”

“That’s fair. You will be living here.” The old man placed his hands on his hips and looked at the floor, thinking. A moment passed and he looked up again. “You gotta get your things?”

They nodded.

“Okay. Let’s go outside.”

The three walked down the long staircases which were original to the building, and were so thick and strong that they didn’t creak.

When they went out onto the street, the men walked to their car and opened the back hatch, revealing boxes and suitcases.

“The trip down was so much nicer,” joked Jess.

“Yeah,” said the old man, smiling. “So, about the door.”

The two turned back to him. Jess folded his arms.

“I don’t like to talk about it because I don’t like to run people off, and I hope this doesn’t run you off, but I understand if it does. That door goes up to the attic space.”

“That’s creepy enough for me. I don’t want to go up there,” shivered Jess.

The old man nodded. “Agreed. It’s not much of an attic. It’s really just a small space to access wires and pipes. Above that is a hatch that goes up to the roof, which of course you don’t need to be up there anyway. Nobody does. No reason.”

Flynn nodded. “So, is that it? Just the small attic and the roof?”

The old man nodded again.

Flynn looked from him to Jess and back again. “Did I see that the door was nailed shut? And why would that run us off?”

The old man sighed. “Okay. There’s something not right about that staircase. The attic space. Whatever.”

Jess took a step back as if to distance himself from the man.

The old man looked at each of them for a second, then said “The last three tenants I’ve had there have complained about things. Strange things. Two years ago I had someone come out to inspect the wires and pipes in that small space to make sure everything looked good, and when it all checked out we nailed that door shut. No reason to go up there, and as long as there isn’t one, that door stays shut.”

Jess’s mouth hung open in shock.

Flynn nodded and frowned. “I might add more nails.”

The old man agreed enthusiastically.

Several weeks later, the two were sleeping in bed, which they decided to put against the wall opposite the one with the bathroom and evil door.

Jess fussed, his mind showing him all sorts of strange things, haunting his dreams. He sat up abruptly, his eyes flew open and he gasped for air.

His eyes were instantly focused on the door. The evil door. At first he couldn’t quite figure out what he was seeing, or if he were still dreaming. But the longer he stared at it, the more it bothered him.

The door was wide open, and there was a light on inside the staircase. Jess stared at it for what seemed like an eternity, his heart beating hard inside his chest.

Finally he decided to lay down and attempt sleep. He pushed himself back up against Flynn, and in his sleep Flynn reached his arm over Jess and held him. Despite the comfort, Jess couldn’t take his eyes off the door, and he stared at it until he fell back to sleep.

Jess’s night was full of more terrible dreams and torment. He had more nightmares in that one night of sleep than he had his entire life.

When he woke that morning, his eyes were instantly focused on the door. Not only was it shut, but the nails were back in it. As he tried to figure it all out, the only thing he could think was, did the old man somehow know and come in to nail it shut while they slept? Or had he dreamt the whole thing and it just felt so real that he thought it was?

He didn’t want to tell Flynn and scare him, or make him worry with how scared he was, so he kept it to himself completely. As far as anyone else was concerned, nothing happened.

The door swinging open forcefully is what woke Jess up a few nights later. He couldn’t believe Flynn didn’t wake, but was thankful he didn’t.

The door bounced off the wall so hard it closed almost completely before stopping. And the light was on inside.

Jess wanted to wake Flynn badly, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Nor could he bring himself to go close the door. He didn’t want to get that close.

Jess gathered all the strength and courage he had and leapt up from the bed and ran out to the living room to sit on the couch. He grabbed his favorite fleece throw blanket and covered up with that, then he stared at the light on the floor until he fell asleep.

As soon as he fell asleep, the door slammed shut, startling him awake. From the bedroom, he heard Flynn jump up and cuss.

Jess was so happy Flynn was awake and he didn’t have to wake him, he called out loudly.

“Oh my!” Flynn yelled from the bedroom. “Are you okay? Where are you?”

“The couch! Come here!”

Flynn ran to the couch and dove on Jess. They held onto each other tightly.

The next morning, Flynn woke Jess up, and suggested they leave for breakfast, so that’s what they did. They spent it mostly in silence.

When they were done eating, they sat across from each other, sleepily staring at the table between them.

“I don’t wanna go home,” Jess said without looking up from the table.

Flynn took a minute to respond, but when he did, it was just as lifeless as what Jess said. “Why?”

“Because I…I didn’t want to tell you. I didn’t want you to be scared.”

Jess told Flynn all about his experience and what happened just before the slam woke Flynn up.

“Oh my God! Jess, don’t you ever! Wake me up and we are gone!”

Jess nodded, then they went to the car, drove to the nearest cheap motel, and got a room.

“I don’t even care how nasty this is. I need sleep,” said Jess.

Flynn didn’t say anything. The two of them crawled into bed and were out immediately.

The following day they went home and checked the place out. Everything seemed fine, and the attic door was still nailed shut.

“Do you think it’s safe?” Jess said, his hands clasped together by his chest.

Flynn nodded. “For now, I guess. We’ll see.”

Jess made his way to the couch and plopped down.

Flynn went into the kitchen and came back with two glasses and a bottle of wine.

“It’s so early!” Jess said, grabbing his glass.

“You took that awfully fast!”

“Shut up.”

Flynn sat down and poured, then the two took a long drink. They sat there, drinking wine in silence, staring off at nothing in thought. They were both kind of numb from the whole experience.

The rest of the day was a lazy one and that night they went to bed exhausted and ready for sleep.

After a kiss and a goodnight, the two curled up in each other's arms and fell quickly to sleep.

A thud startled Flynn awake and he lifted his head, though his eyes didn’t open. He listened for another noise and was almost back to sleep when Jess screamed and Flynn’s eyes darted open.

From the bed Flynn saw the attic door wide open with a light shining from inside. He sat up in bed and that’s when he saw Jess laying on the floor, halfway inside the door. His arms were extended along the wall as he frantically tried to pull himself out of the doorway.

Flynn jumped up and crawled to the foot of the bed, never taking his eyes off of Jess. The more Jess struggled, the more he was pulled into the stairwell. Flynn lunged forward, arms stretched out, reaching for Jess’s hands, but just as he got to them the attic door slammed shut with Jess on the other side, still screaming.

The nails flew up off of the floor and back into their spots into the door, nailing it shut, and from under the door Flynn watched the light go out at the same time Jess’s screams stopped.

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