With a rusty crowbar at hand, Link pried at the boarded-up door. With every creak, it was as though the house had become aware of its itself. It eeked in pain, the spirit of the house free to cry out after centuries of torment.
“There there,” Link muttered to the cabin, “Take it easy, I won’t hurt ya.”
Once more, Link pried at the door again. As he did, the wind whistled through the crack, bringing the faint laughter of children. Link could smell the air. No longer did it smell of Mom’s fresh pies and Ditto’s stinky dog breath, but rather, it smelled of mold and stagnant air. But yet, in the midst of the creaking floor boards was the faint smell of Father’s cigars. He shivered.
“I’m not sure about this.”
“Go in,” A voice replied behind him, “Seek and it will reveal itself.” Link turned over his shoulder to find Winter, his young sister. Winter, much like her name, was pale and chilling to look at. She wore a pink wool dress, knitted with love by Mom. Winter looked to be no older than eight, unlike Link, who was in his mid thirties. Gently, Link lowered to a knee and stared at his sister.
He chuckled softly, “It’s been so long since we’ve been here, Winter.”
“I’ve been here the whole time,” Winter replied, cooly, “Go in, Link. Seek and it will reveal itself.” A smirk grew on Winter’s face. She skipped over towards Link and passed by him.
With one final sigh, Link stood to his feet. With all the strength he could muster, Link successful pried open the door. One by one, the boards fell off until Link could manage to enter. Once Link entered, his heart felt what can only be described as vicious warfare. The wallpaper was torn, bits of it were burnt from the curse’s explosion. The cabin laid empty, most of its valuables were seized by thieves. The floorboards hummed to his Mom’s lullaby. As Link put his hand against the walls, he could feel his Father’s shouting still reverberating. On instinct, Link pulled away and shut his eyes.
“Link… Link!” Shivering in fear, Link opened his eyes. Winter was now standing in the corner, with her hands on her hips. She exclaimed, “We don’t have time for this! You need to find the antidote!”
Link nodded and muttered, “Y-yes, you’re right. We need to find something to break the curse.”
Delicately, Link stepped towards his sister. As he did, the creaking of the house grew from his Mom’s singing to Winter’s screaming. Link cringed, covering his ears. He could hear Winter’s pleas of sparing her life, only answered by Father’s sinister laugh. Tears were brought to Link’s eyes as he tried to shake off the noise. Yet no matter how hard he tried, the house echoed of that fateful night.
“Winter,” cried aloud Link, “I can’t do this!”
“Yes, you can!” shouted Winter. She marched towards Link and stuck out her tongue, “You promised!”
He nodded. Still covering his ears, Link made his way into the abandoned living room. It was there where it all had happened.
Winter was walking in front of him, until she stopped dead in her tracks. Her voice was shrill, “Link? Whose… ashes are these?”
Anxiously, Link stepped towards Winter to find a pile of ashes scattered in the center. Link felt a chill go down his spine. He bent down and touched the ash. It was then that the house around him went dark. His mind entered a vivid flashback.
“Father, please! Let go of her!” Link cried aloud. His Father only answered him with the slam of a door. With every might he could muster, Link pounded against the door. He cried aloud, “This isn’t worth it, Father! Let Winter go!”
Ceaselessly, the young Link pounded at the door until his knuckles began to bleed. He cried aloud, pleading for his Father to spare Winter’s life. Winter, on the other side, cried aloud as well. But Father did not reply to either of his children.
The front door behind Link swayed open. As Link spun around, a veiled woman walked towards him. She was a hideous hag, her face covered in warts and her nose was the size of her foot. As she neared Link, she tilted her head.
“Lady please!” screamed Link, “You need to stop Father! Winter is my little sister, you can’t kill her!”
The old lady did not respond. She stepped towards Link, carrying two jars with her. Gently, she placed one of the jars in her pocket and another in her hands. Link lunged towards her, trying to grasp onto her legs. Yet as he did, she passed right through him. Link collapsed the floor.
As the lady reached the door, she paused for a moment. She looked over to Link, who was desperately trying to raise to his feet. The old witch sighed. Then, she told him softly, “There is an antidote that will undo this all. Seek and it will reveal itself.”
She began to reach for the doorknob. As soon as Link rose to his feet, he bolted towards the woman. As if she were a ghost, she passed into the door. With nothing blocking his way, Link ran head-first into the bloodied door.
“Link!” Winter cried aloud, “Link!”
With the shouting of Winter, Link was brought back into reality. He could himself huddled on the floor, clutching his knees to his chest. As he opened his eyes, he saw the ashes again on the floor. He knew instantly that it was the witch's ashes.
Trying to regain stability, Link slowly rose to his knees. He looked around once more, spotting two more heaps of ash. Gently, he stood up and walked over to them. He looked towards the first heap of ashes. It echoed with his Father’s screams and it smelt of cigars. He then looked at the second heap of ashes, smaller than the rest. He sighed as it smelt of flowers and Winter’s cries.
“Is that my ashes?” Winter said, floating next to Link. Link could do nothing but nod. No longer able to look at the ashes, Link turned away. He again pressed his hand against the wall. Listening carefully, Link could hear ticking from the attic.
“That’s it,” Winter exclaimed, “Seek and it will reveal itself! Link, this is it! I can get my body back!” Winter then began to jump up and down in a blissful cheer. She jumped up once more and faded into the ceiling. Link chuckled.
Remembering where the attic entrance was was easy. After all, Link spent most of his childhood cooped away in that attic. Father would often invite his fancy businessmen and politicians on the weekends, forcing the children to hide upstairs. Link was always the one that would make their adventures in the attic fun.
Link approached the left corner of the living room. With his crowbar, he thumped the ceiling tile above. Within two thumps, the ceiling tile opened. As if Link were long-awaited royalty, the ladder delicately lowered.
Excited, Link hastily climbed up the ladder. As he did, however, his foot slipped. His hands flailed, frantically gasping onto the ladder. With one swoop, he grabbed a wring of the ladder.
Winter’s head popped down from the ceiling. She exclaimed, “Be careful, Linky!” Her head then vanished.
Link chuckled and then, slowly, made his way to the attic. His eyes scanned the attic, following wherever the ticking was coming from. Everything was in order as it used to be, as if the house precisely preserved the attic in time. Link’s eyes glanced along the walls, where he could faintly see Winter’s doodles. The floor was littered in comics and old magazine covers. Occasionally, Link would pass by an origami swan or rabbit.
“Do you remember, Link?” asked Winter, “Do you remember our pet hamster?”
“Yes, I do,” replied Link, as he passed by an empty cage, “You always wanted a pet bunny, so Mom convinced you that Carrots was a dwarf-rabbit.”
She walked forward. The ticking grew louder.
“Do you remember, Link?” asked Winter, “Do you remember our dog Ditto?”
“Yes I do,” replied Link, as he passed by a tattered bed, “I wanted to Ditto to live forever, but Mom fed Ditto too much bread.”
She continued. The ticking grew louder.
“Do you remember, Link?” asked Winter, “Do you remember our Mom, Judith?”
“Yes, I do,” replied Link, as he passed by a decorative wardrobe. In the wardrobe was their Mother’s clothing, jewelry, and shoes. Link stared at a particular dress, a bright red dress with green buttons, “I was excited for Mom to return home from the hospital by Christmas, but she never came back.”
“Link!” Winter interrupted, pointing forward, “Look!”
His eyes followed her finger. She pointed to a baby blue coat at the very corner of the attic. Waving cobwebs from his face, Link approached the coat at ease. The ticking came from within the coat. Gently, he bent down and reached in the pocket. It was there that his hand grasped a bottle. As he pulled it out, the words echoed in his mind, “Seek and it will reveal itself.”
“Is that it, Link?”
Link nodded, but couldn’t respond. A smile grew on his face as he looked at the potion. Could this be true? Could he finally restore his sister to Earth at last?
Winter began to jump for joy, until she asked, “... Link, what do we do with it? I mean, I can’t swallow the potion, since…” She waved around her arms and passed through the floorboards. As she came up again, she muttered, “Dead.”
Link paused and stared at the potion. There was a bubble floating in it, towards the left side. As Link tried to twist and turn the bottle, the bubble continually pointed left. He glanced to his left, where the exit was. He cocked his head and muttered, “I think we need to follow it.”
Link then turned and followed where the bubble was pointing towards. Once he was at the exit, the bubble pointed down. Gently, Link went down the stairs. Winter swiftly passed through the attic floorboards and met Link at the bottom of the ladder.
“What now?” asked Winter. Link looked again. The bubble gently moved to the Northeast. He glanced over to the corner of the living room, where laid Winter’s ashes. Cautiously, he approached it. As he did, the bubble pointed down, directly over Winter’s ashes.
“This must be it! Winter, we did it!” As Link turned his shoulder, Winter was no longer beside him. Link rose an eyebrow and whispered, “Winter?”
She was gone.
As he looked around, the cabin was no longer filled with the faint sounds of laughter. Winter’s screams began to haunt him again. He could no longer see Winter, but she screamed out loud, "Link, why didn't you come back to the house to save me? Why did you run away?" The cries came from the ashes.
"I was just a boy!" cried Link aloud, "What could I have done?" As Link took a deep breath, the smell of Father’s cigars invaded his nostrils. It was pungent, it was fresh, and it was near. The smell was behind him.