Ghost Whispers

The back door wasn’t locked but the house was dim – all the lights had been switched off because of the bright sunshine earlier on – and felt empty, lonely. But it wasn’t. He could hear light footsteps upstairs. It was his mother. His father was still at work and besides, his footsteps were heavy and clumsy. Yet there was something odd. The footsteps did not sound as if they were coming from the floor above. They seemed softer, further away. Paul climbed the stair quietly, not knowing why he felt he should make no noise. At the top of the stairs he saw a ladder. It stood below an opening in the ceiling, the entrance to the attic. Just then, the front doorbell rang. Immediately, the footsteps became louder and were moving towards him (although above his head). Moments later his mother appeared through the gap and began to descend. She had her back to him, so she did not see him. For some reason, he felt as if he shouldn’t be there, so he slid through the open door to his bedroom and waited silently until he heard his mother tramp downstairs. Then he came out onto the landing again: the steps were still there and the trapdoor to the attic was still open.

He had noticed it before, of course, but had never thought about it. He had never seen his parents go up there and they had never mentioned it. He never knew they had a proper attic. He had realised there was space up there but had never thought there was anything else but that – space, and perhaps wiring and pipes and a lot of dust. But why would his mother have been wandering about up there if there wasn’t more to it than that? If it wasn’t a proper attic, if it didn’t have some old stuff stored in it? But what? He was afire with curiosity. And yet he felt a strange reluctance, even as his feet stepped slowly towards the ladder. He stood for a moment looking up into the square-shaped gap in the ceiling. It was dark up there. But his mother had been walking about up there. There must be a light. He began to climb the ladder. As his head reached the level of the ceiling, he saw the dim glow of a low-powered light bulb, hanging from a cord at the end of the attic. He looked back down. His mother’s voice could be heard faintly from downstairs. He wondered who she was talking to, how long she would be. He was overcome suddenly with a strange feeling. It was as if the attic just above him was the friendly, familiar place and the house below it, where he had lived all his life, was strange and forbidding.

You can find the complete version of Ghost Whispers in issue 60 of TBD.

Stuart McPherson