My name is Roy Peterson, I’m a handyman and we get the weirdest jobs. Anything people deem to difficult or disgusting to do themselves is what I get called out for. That’s why it was not unexpected that Mrs Celia Walsh called me to clean out her gutters. The drawback to this job is that the Walsh house is as close to a mansion as this town has, that’s if you think of mansions as Gothic monstrosities like the one in the Adams family movies. It has gutters all right but they are way up high. My instinct was to suggest she call a roofer but we are short on money and the holiday season is coming up so I took the job.

Arranging the date was another point of difficulty the only time Mrs Walsh seemed to feel was appropriate was the afternoon of October 31st which would be alright if it weren’t for the fact that I like to take my daughter’s Jilly and Kate out trick-or-treating. I promised them both I would be back in time for us to head out. My wife gave me one of those dark looks that told me there would be trouble if I didn’t.

It is perhaps fortunate that one of my hobbies is rock climbing so I had the gear to do the job safely. I put everything I could imagine needing in the truck and headed out. The Walsh house stands alone on the edge of town. It has a tall central tower and casts a looming presence over it's surrounds. There is an air of neglect about the house, the garden is over grown and the paint is peeling. I know this is mostly because Mrs Walsh is getting older and is not as rich as some imagine.

When I got there she greeted me in her quiet way and we walked together around the house necks craned eyeing off the guttering. We negotiated over the cost, I tried my best to be fair to both of us. When we had settled on a price she took me upstairs and she showed me the attic and the access from there to the roof. While we were up there in the dim dusty light a strange piece of story came to her mind.

“My great aunt Alexandra killed herself up here, she went right through that window”

She indicated a circular window at the end of the attic,

“Poor woman she was so unhappy, married the wrong person, we should have seen it coming but we didn’t”

“That’s an awful way to go,” I agreed

Mrs Welsh nodded, “It was a long time ago but I remember her”

 “You be careful up there.” She patted my arm and left me to get on with things.

After Mrs Walsh had gone I set about investigating the situation. Working cautiously I set up places to tether my gear and strapped myself in to abseil down to the gutters. I worked as quickly as I could all the time the thought of taking my girls trick-or-treating was at the back of my mind. Towards the late afternoon the sky above me began to darken and before I knew it drops of rain were falling on my head. Being on a roof in a thunder storm is not where you want to be so I began the slow climb back up to the attic entrance. Before I could get there the wetness underfoot made me slip and I came down with a hard crack. I must have blacked out for a moment because when I came to the rain was pouring down in earnest. I groaned rubbing my head. The rock climbing gear had saved me from a more serious fall and so I managed to ascend the roof and crawl back into the attic.

Un-clipping myself I looked around. It was even darker than it had been before but it lit up bright as day as the lightening flashed outside. The attic was full of unrecognizable shapes, old furniture and piled boxes. Between flashes of lightening I thought I saw the figure of a woman, she was strangely dressed in old fashioned clothes. Tremulously I called out Mrs Walsh's name but as the figure came towards me I realized that it was not her. The woman seemed to look at me but not see me for the next thing I knew she was running straight past me towards the round window. Reflexively I reached out a hand to grab her but she was gone and I heard the distinct sound of smashing glass.

As I stood there wet and breathing hard the story Mrs Walsh had told me came back to me and I realized that perhaps I had seen her great aunt’s ghost. Shakily I laughed and shook my head. I trudged down stairs hoping to find Mrs Walsh and tell her the story but search as I might I couldn’t find her in the great house. It was strange, an odd time for her to leave the premises especially with me still up on the roof for all she knew.

I went out to the front and noticed that an ambulance had pulled into the drive and the drivers where maneuvering a covered form into the back. It was suddenly clear why Mrs Walsh wasn’t inside. The old lady must have had an accident while I was up on the roof. Shaken I watched as the ambulance pulled away.

There was nothing for me to do then but to return home. I don’t remember much of the drive, I must have been lost in thought. It had been an eventful afternoon. It was only on the front porch of my own house that I took a breath. I was suddenly grateful for all that we had. Despite our money woes I had a beautiful family. I opened the door ready to call out and welcome my girls with hugs. Instead my wife rushed up to the door. She bumped straight into me and stopped. She looked around, looked right through me and said my name in a questioning way. Then she stepped back still looking puzzled and closed the door, leaving me there on the porch. I went to put my hand on the door knob but this time it slipped straight through. That’s when I knew with a cold kind of dread that perhaps my fall on the roof had been worse than I thought.

October 26, 2019 23:24

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