Uncle Jack's Attic

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt

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Mystery Middle School Kids

The light in Uncle Jack’s attic never stops flickering. It sways on its dusty cord in the rafters, buzzing like the horseflies trapped in his barn. Dust invades my nose. I know it wants me to sneeze, stumble, and retreat. 

No one is allowed up here, but I have to look. My shoulders grow heavier. The air itself wants to push me away, but I need to know if the rumors are true.

The stairs are loudest of all. If I listen too close to their creaking, I can hear threats of collapse in their groans. Even the stair rail tries to snag my skin with splinters, but nothing is going to stop me from opening the locked trunk in the corner. 

Not this time.

Ugh. By “this time,” of course, I mean “the third time.” 

The first time I fought Uncle Jack’s Attic, I hung back at the house while everyone else walked up the street to Miss Lizzy’s. She has a backyard barbecue every Saturday of Summer Break.

I thought I could do three things, quick and slick.

One.

Rush up the rickety stairs. 

Two.

Pick the lock. 

Three.

Solve the mystery of the locked trunk. 

I thought I could do all that with plenty of time to make it to Miss Lizzy’s for ribs and potato salad. I was so naive. 

The trunk lid was totally covered in crusty webs. The second I touched the lock, a thick wave of fresh baby spiders swarmed over my fingers. Pretty sure I screamed, but I don’t remember what it sounded like. I’m also pretty sure I left my t-shirt, shorts, and socks in a trail along the staircase. All I cared about was jumping in the shower as fast as possible.

Despite my best efforts, I still spent the entire weekend twitchy with the jitters, convinced some of those spiders hitched a ride inside my clothes and hair.

By the time I made it up to Miss Lizzy’s, all they had left was a few burnt hotdogs and frothy fruit salad.

I didn’t tell anyone about my first failed attempt to conquer the attic, but somehow, I think Uncle Jack knows. I found my t-shirt, shorts, and socks magically clean and folded on my chair at the kitchen table the next morning. Uncle Jack never called me out on it, but he still calls me Twitch, sometimes. 

Maybe he just likes secrets.

In this family, nothing is ever what it seems. Take Uncle Jack, himself, for example. His name isn’t even “Jack!” 

Yeah. His real name is “Paul.” Everyone calls him Jack, though, on account of he’s the oldest, tallest, strongest lumberjack to ever work in Lane County.  

There are only three things I know for sure about him: 

One.

Uncle Jack has long, curly silver hair that smells like cedar wood. 

Two.

Uncle Jack always wears blue flannel shirts.

Three.

Uncle Jack has secret, and his attic is helping him hide it.

Oh, Uncle Jack’s Attic is definitely alive. I hear it breathing sometimes, from my bedroom below. I hear the cracks and thumps above me late at night. I feel the rafters inhale and exhale when the sky thunders. I feel them shudder when the wind gets icy. I hear boxes shift across the floor when nobody’s up there.

Don’t believe me about Uncle Jack? Ask around. There are plenty whispers in Lane County about Uncle Jack's secrets.

Whispers about his unusual size and strength.

Whispers about grizzly bear wrestling matches.

Whispers about mysterious friends he made in the woods on Thunder Mountain, and the gifts they gave him.

The second time I fought Uncle Jack’s Attic, I waited til 3:30 AM, when Uncle Jack’s snores shake the entire house. Most people dislike snores, but I find them useful for three reasons:

One.

If he’s snoring, he can’t see me.

Two.

If he’s snoring, he can’t hear me.

Three.

If he stops snoring, I know it’s time to abort mission.

I thought with Uncle Jack in the house, I’d be less afraid of the task before me. I thought I had all the answers, back then. 

  I duct taped thick gloves over my long sleeved shirt. I taped the tops of my bunny slippers to the bottom of my jeans. I thought the tape would keep spiders out. I thought for sure the slippers would be softer on the noisy staircase. I thought the thick gloves and long sleeves would protect me from splinters.

My left hand carried a paperclip to pick the lock. My right hand carried a broom like a sword, to keep the spiders at bay. I almost thought of everything.

Even the weather seemed to be on my side that night. The howling wind and thunder made the house extra creaky, which I imagine made my footsteps up the staircase much harder to hear.

I was too confident.

I totally forgot about the window pane missing in the round Attic window. 

In my defense, that window is way more noticeable from outside. From the outside looking up, its missing pane looks like the black gap of a missing tooth in an otherwise bright smile. Most importantly, I forgot that animals like shelter from storms in attics, if they have a way inside.

Thanks to the storm, wind, and snores, I made it all the way to the top of the stairs before I noticed fluttery movement above my head.

None of the bats got in my clothes, thanks to the tape, but I lost my broom sword and paperclip lock pick during the hasty retreat. 

No one is allowed up here, 

but I have to look. 

I need to know if the rumors are true.

Now, I'm wiser. Now, I know three things for sure.

One.

This time will be different. 

Two.

This time, I’m ready. 

Three.

...

The light in Uncle Jack’s attic never stops flickering. It sways on its dusty cord in the rafters, buzzing like the horseflies trapped in his barn. Dust invades my nose. I know it wants me to sneeze, stumble, and retreat. My shoulders grow heavier. The air itself wants to push me away. The stairs are loudest of all. If I listen too close to their creaking, I can hear threats of collapse in their groans. Even the stair rail tries to snag my skin with splinters, but nothing is going to stop me from opening the locked trunk in the corner. 

Not after last time.

June 11, 2022 03:46

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