Friday, August 24, 2012

The Attic

I was reading Lillie's post about not being brave enough to share her work of fiction (she's an excellent writer by the way), and I remembered that I have a story I wrote a couple years ago that I never shared with anyone (except my therapist and Hubby). It's non-DD, based on a recurring nightmare I used to have. I didn't share it because I didn't want anyone who knew me to think I was screwed up, bonkers, crazy. I'm definitely those things, but I'm putting it out there. I need to do this. You will see why...

The Attic

Ever since I was very young, I've had nightmares. In most of them I'm being chased. Sometimes bad things are happening. Family members are being tortured and buried alive. I can't get to my half-brother in time for the bad guy to grab him from the swing at the midnight. Why we would be at the park at midnight I have no idea. My father, the alcoholic, is being wrapped up in barbed wire and can't get out. They, the bad guys, are chasing me. Chasing me. Chasing me. And I'm running. I can't get away from the chase.
I understand that these nightmares come from a dark place in my mind. I know that coming from a broken home where fighting between my mother and her best friend whom constantly betrayed her (example; my half-brother) was inevitable but my mother still insisted on being a doormat. She did her best to protect me, but she couldn't protect me from my nightmares.

As I grew older, and especially after my mother died, my nightmares grew more detailed. The plots thickened. The answers were forever just out of reach. There was no place to hide. No place was safe. The dreams were vivid, colorful. The bad guy ever present. Still chasing me. Chasing me in color and fury and determination. It was inescapable. It was all in my head and I was trapped there with it, in the attic. Always the attic.

I opened the door. The smell of dust mingled with a slight whiff of mold, like the opening of century-old school books. Really that smell was so exciting to me. I'm reminded of adventures to be had, forts to be built, stories to be made up. Just before my mother died, we lived in a one bedroom house that had a detached garage with a mother-in-law's attic above. Although the attic needed a lot of work and there were no furnishings, I always imagined that there was a fully stocked kitchenette and a brightly furnished room. But something evil dwelt there. I could almost taste it. It lived in the smell of the mold. It was as if I could reach out and grab hold of it, if only it wouldn't slip through my fingers. I would spend hours up in that room. I would close my eyes and imagine what could have been, wherever the dark feeling took me. And it took me places I didn't want to go. It got so bad that I became terrified of that room. I didn't want to go up there anymore. It was no longer fun. And with my mother's cancer choking the life out of her, I didn't want to do anything but die with her. At almost 13 years old, I couldn't grasp reality or nightmares. But back to the attic dream...

I was in the attic. The smell of dust and mold. The dusty wooden floors. Everything was dusty. The only light in the room shown through a clouded window and highlighted the dusty, broken cobwebs strewn across the corners and on the bit of wooden furniture haphazardly placed in the room. My attention was drawn to the overstuffed armchair. Dust and cobwebs muted the orange color of the velour fabric. The warmed dust beckoned me to my hands and knees. To the right of the armchair was a small door in the wall, about the same size as a trapdoor. If only I could stop myself from opening it. As the door swung towards me, I peered through the hole, my head cocked with curiosity. I don't know that I crawled through the door so much as just appeared on the other side of it.

More dust and mold. More dusty floors. It was the same room. The same orange velour armchair. The only difference between where I was and where I came from was the diminishing light. Everything was darker. I spied the trapdoor and was instantly transported through it to the next room. Again the same room, the same chair, even darker. Another trapdoor. Another instantaneous transportation. Only this time, no orange chair, no trapdoor. I stood there surveying the dark room. After a few minutes, my eyes adjusted to the dark and I could make out a few wooden chairs. I started to explore the room and found several doorways, but no windows. Everything I touched left dust on my fingertips. The dust infiltrated my clothing and my nostrils and thickened my long, dark hair. The possibility that I had always been there, part of the room like the old, rickety wooden chairs, had crossed my mind.

I became aware of a presence. The presence. It watched me. Every inch of my skin knew of that dark entity that I could neither see nor touch. But it was there. I knew it was there as I started to move away from it. It occurred to me that this thing could be my imagination, that I could be testing the boundaries of my own sanity. Perhaps the very thought of it was inviting it in. Can you think such things into existence? I doubted so as I moved into another room. The darkness of the room threatened to envelop me. The evil lurked in the corners. In the smell of mold. In my mind.

My head started to pound as I searched frantically with my eyes and outstretched arms for something or someone to save me from the inevitable chase. I found an old wooden bed in the corner. A layer of dust veiled an old, tattered quilt draped over a thin mattress. The smell of things long dead permeated the room but I dared not move on. I dropped down to the floor and slid under the bed. My heart beat out of my chest and I was sure the sound reverberated through the floorboards, giving away my location to the invisible predator. I couldn't breathe. The very act of inhaling only fueled the abuse my heart was inflicting on my ribs as it beat wildly out of control. I had to get out of there. I was trapped. It was after me.

What was this dark thing? What was this pernicious spirit that threatened me? I smelled it coming for me. I scrambled out from under the bed and started to run. A room. Another room. All dusty and dark and endless. Where were the windows? How do I escape. It's coming for me. It's almost here! A scream caught in my throat. The adrenaline coursed through my veins lighting every muscle on fire. I was trapped. Trapped in this endless attic, this dark and musty labyrinth. It had me cornered with no way out. I could almost reach out and grab hold of it. As my fear grew, so did this malevolent being that chased me. It started to become a physical substance; a black fog that sucked up all light in it's presence. And I was next. I tried to run but my legs were jello and every effort yielded little result. I tried to scream but the sound was nothing more than a hum. I threw weak, wild punches at it.

I gasped and shot up all at once. My heart beat loudly as I looked around my bedroom. A cold sweat dampened my nightshirt, sending chills down my spine as the breeze from the fan swept past me.  I couldn't go back to sleep. I couldn't go back to that monster.

I couldn't stop myself from falling back into the blackness. It lured me back in. Over and over again. That night and many nights since, I'd awaken to a gasp or a strangled scream. Sometimes it would try to trick me into coming to it willingly. A Southern Belle shows me around her plantation, all bright and sunny and painted pale yellow. "Let me show you the upstairs," she gushed in southern accent. No. No I won't go upstairs. I know there is a wide, welcoming hallway at the top of those stairs. But I also know what's beyond that. Somehow, after making the decision to follow her I would be instantly transported to the attic. You can't make me go back there. I won't. I won't do it. I can't.

Through the years, the dream has changed. The last time I had it, the dust and cobwebs were gone. Large windows offered a view of the coastal landscape below. The wood was warmed from the sun and had no signs of dust or mold. A wide, open staircase invited me upstairs. I explored the rooms, none of which were furnished save one. The room that captivated me held an empty, white, wooden crib and a rocking chair. As soon as I spied the chair I was transported onto it. I sat their knitting, a skill which I did not possess at the time, watching the empty crib with intense longing. My heart was broken. A puddle of blackness formed under my chair as I rocked. It spread beneath the crib and I knew we were about to fall through the floor. But I awoke. I was still intact as was my heart. I equated the dream with my fears that I would never have children. That was 7 years ago.

It scares me still to think of those dreams. I don't dare set foot in an attic. I have to catch my breath when I think of the demon that my fear became. I'm still running. I'm still being chased.



  1. Oh lilmissess - you are an excellent writer and your story captivated me from the moment I started reading. You engage the reader with very powerful imagery.
    Now.....this story is based in reality. correct? So, because I am hopelessly invested at this point, I hope you will endure my witch doctor analysis of your dream...

    So. When you are talking about an attic, I think that means upper, and uppermost in our selves is our mind. The senses of smell and sound are very engaged. So your attic might be your mind, symbolically speaking.
    When this dream began to haunt you, you were a teenager in a rather unfortunate family situation, all beyond your control. The mind of a 13 year old intelligent (obviously) and sensitive (without a doubt) girl would be a place of conflict and some pretty dark thoughts. Scary thoughts.

    I found the park at midnight interesting, because a park is a place for families to play. In your dream you seem to acknowledge the fact that given the alcoholism that has your father imprisoned and your family victimized, your family only goes when no one else is there.
    I think that is significant because it shows the longing of a little girl for normalcy, or what she perceives normal to be.
    As a female, you undoubtedly identified with your Mother, who sounds like she was a caring person, who loved her daughter but was in circumstances that drained the happiness from her life. When your Mom died (and I am very sorry you lost her so young, Sweetheart) you must have felt so alone and so scared.
    And so you begin a progression in to a series of circumstances that while they never change (the rooms beyond the trap door are all the same in furnishing and state) they grow darker (as despair and hopelessness settle in on a young girl trapped in a situation until she is old enough to escape).
    The chair and the bed are important also, because a comfortable old chair and a bed with a welcoming quilt should be sources of comfort - but in your situation - there is no comfortable place.
    As your life situation changes, you marry a wonderful man - your dream now changes again, more pleasant, but any insecurities you have (the question of having a family) are waiting to get you alone in the attic of your subconscious and terrify you.
    Now the beautiful ocean view - the future is bright. The knitting may be the skills and achievements you have as a woman, your business and your triumph over the unfortunate circumstances you describe as your childhood.
    I hope you aren't offended with my take on it, but I just couldn't help myself from reading what I see in your powerful story.
    Thank you so much for sharing it with us all.
    AND you should be writing every chance you get - you are an excellent writer!

    1. Lillie! ((HUGS)) ((HUGS)) ((HUGS))
      I very much appreciate your witch doctoriness. You know, because of the dream, I learned how to knit (years later). It's strange because my mother always crocheted. Maybe, even that tiny revelation, there's a glimpse of my desire for my life to turn out differently. So far, so good!
      Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and encouragement!

  2. lilmisses, I thought this was a very powerful story. I was really drawn in from the first few lines. I've had some pretty intense nightmares in my life, but I think yours is even more so. I can relate to losing your mother at such a young age, I lost mine at 2. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I agree, you have talent and should continue writing. :)

    1. Thanks Cowgirl. I am truly sorry for your loss as well. No one helps define who we will be more than our mothers and to lose them is a tragedy indeed. Thank you for the encouragement. ((hugs))