Ian, Elyssa, and Erik were good kids. Ian was nearing his 15th birthday, Elyssa was 11, and little Erik was only 4 ½, and with Ian being the oldest, he tended to take the lead when it came to almost anything. Elyssa thought that he could be bossy at times, but Erik looked up to him as a hero. But none of them asked for the tragedy of their parents’ divorce.
The day that they had to leave their mom and dad’s house was silent, even talkative little Erik was quiet the entire car trip to their grandparent’s place in East Texas. Their parents had decided to put them in the custody of their father’s parents until they were done with the chaos of the divorce court. It was their aunt that was driving them to Aldridge in Angelina County.
Aunt Josie tried to make them see the lighter side of the situation, “At least you get to stay with your Gran and Grandad instead of moving from house to house all the time!” She would say. Ian would scoff at this and Elyssa would sigh, leaving their Aunt stung by her inability to lift the children’s spirits.
When they arrived at the old cabin, their grandparents welcomed them enthusiastically and with open arms. Erik started giggling, but besides the customary “Hello” and “I’m doing good in school” from Ian and Elyssa, that was it from the kids. Their Aunt Josie got into an unusually long conversation about a few new trees that she had planted in her yard, and Ian, Elyssa and Erik went into the house, and to their room, which was rather large and had two bunk beds.
By the time they got settled in, their Aunt Josie had left, and their Grandfather was getting out the pot roast they had made for dinner. The kids’ Grandmother was at her end of the table already ready to eat. She was confined to a wheelchair after a fall from the attic stairs had left her paralyzed from the waist down. In reality, she was lucky to even be alive. She was also lucky to not have lost the ability of her arms as well, but she was otherwise able to take care of herself after the kids’ Grandfather had made a few modifications to the house for her benefit.
As everybody started eating after saying Grace, their Grandfather spoke, “Now, I know that this is very hard for ya’ll. I mean, all this movin’ around and hearing about this only this week? I imagine that it’s very stressful for everyone, but, just know that I’m here for you.” He finished with an assuring smile. Elyssa and Erik nodded as they slurped up their food, to which Gran told them to do otherwise.
Ian just said, “Sure,” in a very forced manner, trying to hide his obvious anger and disinterest at the concern of the statement.
“Now, Ian. I get that you’re the oldest and most mature out of your siblings, but even you need to come and talk to me if you’re having issues. I want all of us to be happy these up and coming months, because yall’re gonna be here for quite a while. I also understand that as an average child, that you are angry about all of this,” Grandad told them. “It is a divorce. I mean, nothing is worse on kids your age than what you’re going through right now. I wish this wasn’t happening as much as the next person, but it is, and we have to learn to deal with that best we can.”
“Will we get desert?” Erik asked. Gran smiled and looked to her husband for an answer.
“Yes, Erik, we have some leftover peach cobbler your Gran made yesterday. First, you all need to wash your dishes,” Grandad said as he tousled Erik’s curly blonde and brown hair. Grandad picked the child up and put him in his kid-chair. “Elyssa, could you get Erik’s plate and spoon for me? I’m going out to the fridge to get the cobbler.” Grandad smiled as he walked out of the hall and then through the back door.
Elyssa took her and Erik’s plates to the sink and started the water. She figured it would be just a quick rinse and dry, since they were getting more food after all. Ian joined her with his, and Gran and Grandad’s plates and silverware. Gran went over to her spot at one end of the table and started a conversation with the kids.
“So, anything special happen at school this year?”
The children got their bed clothes on, they brushed their teeth, and now they lay in their beds. Elyssa and Erik were in the same set of bunk beds, with Elyssa on top and Erik on the bottom, and Ian in the top bunk on his own, accompanied by only their luggage on the bottom half of the bed. Grandad wheeled Gran in the room to kiss them all goodnight. “Good night, kids,” Grandad said as he tucked little Erik in his bunk, “Love you, I hope that we can all enjoy this time we are going to spend together.” And he left the room. He left Gran to say prayers with them, and as soon as Erik stopped chit-chatting about a cardinal he had seen outside, she began to tell the younger children a story. Soon, every child was asleep, and the lonely cabin in Aldridge fell silent in the blanket of the night.
*BANG* A loud crashing noise awoke the children, Ian nearly falling out of his bunk, and Erik breaking into tears. Elyssa stayed silent in terror as Ian grabbed Erik and placed him along with Elyssa in the corner behind his bunk. Ian hesitantly grabbed an old wooden bat out of one of his bags of clothing, and headed out of the room, shushing his siblings the instant they asked what was going on.
The noise started again, Ian hoped that Grandad, or even Gran, would wake up, and he wouldn’t have to use his little-league stick to try and beat up a burglar or killer who probably had a much better weapon.
The noise was coming from the back door, of course.
BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG.
Someone was beating on the door, and Ian knew it. The noise stopped, and he heard a click.
The door flew open, and without thinking, Ian swung the bat straight for the intruder’s head.
Instead of hearing a scream or a loud *CRACK* as he hit the man’s head, his bat swung at air, missing the intruder. “WOAH, EASY NOW! ITS TUCKER, REMEMBER ME, IAN?”
Ian opened his eyes, to see Tucker, a middle-aged, grey-bearded man with a bright orange hat and brown jacket. Ian dropped his bat, Tucker had been a friend of his grandfather since before he was born, “Oh, shit! Sorry, Tucker, I just-"
“Yeah, I know, sorry for trying to kick the door down. I gotta admire your instinct to beat the shit out of an intruder, but I have to find your Grandad. A… a woman discovered a den of about 20 hogs and we need to set traps.” Tucker walked in the house.
Ian looked out the door at Tucker’s truck, which was outfitted with a large bumper and antlers on the hood, and then closed the door. “I called your Grandfather about an hour ago, so he shouldn’t be surprised.” Just as he finished speaking, his Grandad walked into the mud room in hunting gear, with a bag no doubt full of traps and wire, and carrying a gun.
“Got everything else we need?”
Grandad said, “Yep. Oh, and Ian nearly killed me after hearing me beat on the door, give him a reward for that. I told you that I got the wrong key marked!”
“Let’s go.” And the men walked out to Tucker’s truck, and drove off into town. What a weird thing to do in the middle of the night. Ian glanced outside as the truck sped off into the darkness, and he had an odd feeling that their boar-hunting expedition was just an excuse for something else. They were hunting for something, but what? Ian closed the door and went back to he and his siblings' room.
"What the hell was that about?"
"ERIK! Don't say that sh- stuff!" Erik giggled at his sister's response and Ian laughed inwardly, "It was Grandad and Tucker, they're going out hog-hunting."
"At this hour?" Elyssa questioned.
Elyssa, Ian, and Erik went back to sleep.
Gran frantically woke the children up and brought them into the kitchen, where she and Elyssa began making muffins. After the two boys went to lay in the living room, which was directly next to the kitchen, Gran spoke to Elyssa.
“So, did anything odd happen last night?”
“Besides the whole going hog-huntin’ at 2 am fiasco, no not really. Oh! Erik didn’t wet the bed, that’s either strange or a blessing.”
Gran chuckled with Elyssa and continued stirring the batter, “No odd feelings, nothing… unreasonable or, unexplained?”
Elyssa was getting slightly nervous, “N-no, I don’t think so…” The door opened, and Grandad came into the house.
“Good morning, girls! I suppose you realize I had to stay at Tucker’s the rest of the night, but we got around 15 of them hogs outta that lady’s property!” Grandad lifted up a pathetic-looking, young, and very dead boar by its legs. Elyssa shuddered, and Grandad, obviously achieving his goal of grossing Elyssa out, put the boar down.
Ian glanced over to the kitchen as his Grandad lay the dead animal on the slab of wood that made up the cutting board, and his fears from the night earlier melted away.
That morning, they all had eggs, pancakes, sausage, and fruit for breakfast.
It was two days later, and Ian was now sweating after having completed a wood-hauling assignment set by his Grandfather, Elyssa was feeling nasty after cleaning the kitchen, and Erik was napping quietly. The two siblings that were awake sat on the couch in boredom, staring at the TV set.
Ian’s eyes found a moth, and they followed it for almost a solid three minutes, until he caught an idea,
“Hey we should look in the attic; I wonder what kind of stuff they have from dad’s childhood up there.”
“Are you deaf? I said we should snoop around the attic.” Ian got up and started walking towards the room that contained the attic stairs. “It’s not like we have anything else to do.”
“Ian, no! We can’t look through their things! That’s wrong!” Elyssa ran over to Ian and pulled his arm away from the door handle.
“Come on kid-sister, like I said, we have nothing to do. If we get into trouble, it’s not really our fault for being bored, is it?”
Elyssa eventually agreed to going into the attic, and Ian opened the door. The room they entered first was a simple storage room. Ian tried to flip the light switch, but the light didn’t turn on; this room had not been well taken-care of. The two kids then just walked up the thinly-carpeted stairs, and opened the attic door.
What they found wasn’t surprising. They found things like old photographs, moth-eaten clothing, antique tools, and creepy old dolls and toys. They fiddled through the items, excited to learn about their grandparents.
Ian found a pair of wooden swords and started acting like a child, while Elyssa kept to rummaging through clothing and photographs. “Ian, quit acting like a dumbass and put those back!” Elyssa growled.
“Oh-ho HO! Midget girl SWEARS for once! Ha ha HA-ough!”
Ian tripped, and with a thud, knocked over a large dress-mannequin, which fell over, and flipped a couple of heavy books. The books dragged away an old pink and white picnic cloth as they slid, and underneath where the books and cloth once lay, there sat a chest.
Elyssa rushed over to Ian’s side, “Are you ok? What’d you trip on?”
“Nothing! I tripped on air!” he exclaimed, obviously startled.
“Woah. Ian, look.”
Elyssa pointed to the chest. The two children got up, and moved closer to the old wooden box. “Try and open it!”
Ian instantly broke the rusty lock, but the chest wouldn’t open. “Maybe… the… hinges… are… rusty… or… something…” Ian grunted in effort to open the chest. Elyssa thought up the idea to turn the chest on its side, and to try and bust it open that way. “This is useless, let’s just leave, you were right.” But Elyssa would not give up, and turned it haphazardly on its other side,
“NO, I have… to… open iiiiIIT!” Elyssa growled, pressing with increasing force against the lock-loop of the chest with her foot.
The chest flew open. Some of the wood had been stuck together after years of being shut, and splintered under the unexpectedly powerful pressure of Elyssa’s effort to open the chest. Ian crouched back down and lifted the chest to sit it back up.
Ian leaned in to open the chest, and flipped it open. All that they found inside was a lamp.
Elyssa and Ian stared in disappointment at the ancient, oil lantern. No old weapons? No war uniforms? No old relics that might link them to anyone important in American history? Just a lamp, with the date 1903 stamped on a sliver of steel on the base of the thing. It was pretty damn old, 112 years based on the date, but not anything they were expecting from a chest that simply wouldn’t open before.
The lantern, strangely, was standing upright, all in spite of the fact that the children had turned the chest over; on its side, and then on its back.
Ian looked at Elyssa, and back at the lantern. It still had its oil, and despite its age, it looked as if it had never been used. “Well, you pick it up. You wanted it so badly.”
“I… don’t know, it... I… don’t feel the same pull to it anymore.”
“What do you mean?” Ian questioned.
“I… when I was opening the chest, or trying to at first, I felt like I needed to have it. This lamp is bad news.” Elyssa looked at Ian in desperation, with a face that read, “I think we should have never come here”.
However, as soon as Elyssa stopped talking, Ian felt a twitch run through his face. A sudden urge made him forget any notion of danger, and he stared at his reflection in the lamp; he wanted it.
Before he could even outstretch his arms to lift the lantern, he heard a loud crash from the attic door, and Elyssa and Ian’s grandfather came in through the door.
His eyes were half-wild with fear and anger at the two children. Elyssa and Ian quickly stood up, which caused Elyssa to fall over. In her fall, the chest fell with her, and the lantern instantly rolled out of the old wooden box.
“What in the fucking hell are you kids doing here?! Get out, NOW!” Grandad yelled at the stunned children. Elyssa tried to put the lamp back into the chest, but her grandfather stopped her before she could touch the ancient object. “Get out of here! You should have never come up here! Leave now!” the kids’ grandfather pleaded.
Ian and Elyssa sat on the couch, awaiting their punishment for going in the attic without permission. But instead, as the kids’ grandfather came in the room and looked at them, he leaned in to hug them. “I’m powerful sorry for scaring you two, please, please don’t go in there again…”
Elyssa lay in her bedroom ashamed. She should have never went into the attic with Ian, and she knew it from the beginning that something would go horribly wrong. You can never trust older teenage boys with anything.
She listened to the quiet noises escaping out of her little brother’s mouth from below, and then to the heavy wind escaping from her older brother’s throat just a few feet from her own bed. Elyssa stared hopelessly upwards at the oak ceiling, the solid floor of the attic above. She wondered about what else was up there, and thought about how all of those opportunities to discover more were ruined. If only they had gotten permission before entering the room upstairs.
She just had to find out if everything was back in its place, she just had to! She wanted to make up for it somehow, by organizing everything and cleaning the whole attic top to bottom.
Elyssa got up to do just that.
Elyssa grabbed a lighter to use as a light source, a lock that she had used on her locker in the 6th grade, and a pair of rubber gloves. She ignored all possibilities of danger, and forgot the look on her Grandad’s face when he told them to “Get out now!” When she got in the attic, she began to fold the clothing, organizing the photographs by date, and then went to restore the mannequin.
She lifted it up, put its garments and scarves back on, and ended with its large hat. Elyssa then instantly felt the presence of the lamp. It was still on the floor, and the chest lay open as if welcoming the emptiness inside of it. Elyssa reluctantly nudged the lamp to the side with her foot, and lifted the chest back up. The old wood felt sticky on her fingertips. The paint-sealer used on the old box had melted and blended together in the years it had been up in the stuffy, warm attic, explaining why it was so hard to open.
All that was left was to get the lamp back in the chest, and seal it with the combination lock. Elyssa fought herself to not run out of the attic in that instant and instead stay to finish her self-assigned job. After all, her grandfather would be happy and proud of her efforts to make up for her mistake of following Ian.
Elyssa grabbed the elastic gloves from her right pajama pocket and slipped them on her fingers, for she did not want to directly touch the object. Something that old would be ruined if she touched it with bare hands, even if there was oil in the lamp, oil on the glass would not be a good thing.
Elyssa picked up the lamp by its handle and examined it as best she could. She lit the lighter in her pocket and The thing was made in 1903, looked as unused as a child’s toothbrush, and still had oil in it? This was either a fake relic, or something that had been as well-kept as the queen’s crown.
Elyssa couldn’t help but wonder, what would happen if she lit it? She figured it wouldn’t hurt… no… she couldn’t. She knew the odd feeling she felt pulling at her from earlier that day was bad news, and her fears had been confirmed when her grandfather didn’t even punish them for going into the attic in the first place.
But still… the curiosity burned in her heart and mind, and it pushed her to do it anyway. She opened up the chamber, and with a quick motion, she closed her eyes, took the lighter in her hand, and lit it.
Elyssa heard a snap. She opened her brown eyes and saw the lamp, lit and glowing a perfect and playful fire. Her eyes followed the little flame dance inside of the lantern, and her worries melted away.
The chamber containing the fire exploded, and the glass shattered in Elyssa’s face, causing her to drop the lantern. The lantern made a loud thud as it landed on the oak floor. Elyssa pulled her lighter out of her pocket, and stared in terror at the spectacle before her.
The lamp shattered further when it crashed into the floor. The oil chamber was broken, and the yellow liquid slowly seeped through the maze of broken glass. The fire was out, and the only thing that remained unbroken was the base and the wire surrounding the glass in the lamp.
Then, Elyssa heard a whisper. She turned towards the direction the voice came from, but saw no person, only the shadows of the boxes in the attic. It only took a few seconds for her to hear voices in every corner of the room, she cried for them to stop, but they grew louder with every plead. She saw a flicker of light.
The lamp had somehow lit itself, and the voices grew louder. Elyssa now merely stared as the lamp began putting itself back together, piece by piece of glass inside of the metal frame. The whispering became more enraged, and they echoed throughout the room. With every shard the flame grew brighter, and then, when Elyssa felt that her ears would collapse from the pain of the whispering, the lamp stood upright, and as the whispering ceased to exist, the flame went out.
Elyssa stood still in shock. Stunned, she picked up the lantern idly, and placed it in the chest. As she did so, she felt a sting in her side.
The stinging began to spread throughout her body, and she jumped and scratched at the feeling. She did so to get whatever was on her off her body. Elyssa fell over, but managed to open the attic door to escape.
When she opened the door, the stings intensified. She backed out of the room, and as she jumped to claw at her right leg, she tripped on air.
Ian woke with a start. It was only 4:36 in the morning, but he might as well get up now. Ian quietly hopped out of his bunk and walked towards the door. Ian stopped abruptly as he went over to check on his little brother and sister. He first ducked down to look at his little brother, Erik. Erik was sleeping silently, and the only noise he made was of him turning in his bed to face the wall. He stood back up to check on his little sister, and his heart nearly stopped, as did his breathing…
She wasn’t in her bed.
Ian forgot about being silent, and ran out of his bedroom, half-slamming the door as he left. He ran down the dark hallway in a panicked craze; she couldn’t have, how stupid was she?
He was surprised at how fast he got to his destination. The room he entered was somehow darker than the rest of the house, and the only window in the room faced the opposite direction of the moon. Ian blindly fiddled around the drawers in the room to try and find a flashlight, for he was both terrified of flipping the switch for the overhead light, and he knew from yesterday that the lightbulb had not been changed in years and didn’t work.
He began looking on the edges of the dressers and tubs of stuff to see if anything useful had fallen off of the tops of the containers. The second time he stooped down to try and find a light source; he found a lighter. When he lit the thing, he froze in horror.
The lighter was Elyssa’s, a white Bic lighter with a small turquoise sea turtle sticker on the side of it, that she had stolen from their mother a year ago.
He half-sprinted to the corner of the room, and stopped suddenly about three feet away from the foot of the stairs. Then, the teenage boy broke out into tears.
It was Elyssa at the foot of those stairs. Her body was battered and broken, one of her arms was bent at an angle that simply was not capable of the human body, and her left foot followed suit. Her eyes were stretched wide open and twisted with the pain she had felt straight before death, and were glazed with a strange and savage terror. Her neck was twisted and hung at an odd angle, it had been snapped during her long fall from the attic.
Ian threw the lighter across the room and shuffled to his sister, grabbing her in his arms and crying aloud. “GRANDAD! GRAN! ERIK! PLEASE! PLEASE, SHE WON’T WAKE UP!”
The autopsy took only a couple of hours to configure, as it was quite obvious at what had happened to Elyssa, despite the odd rashes that had appeared throughout her body just before she died. Still, Grandad and Gran wanted to make certain of what occurred. Ian sat in the waiting room with Erik, straining not to cry in front of the small child. Erik had only a slight idea of what was going on, all he knew is that he didn’t have a sister anymore.
Erik felt overwhelmed at his own emotions. He felt angry, sad, scared, and confused all at the same time, which made him begin to cry if he thought about his sister. Erik did not want to believe in it, but he knew in every corner of his heart that Elyssa was gone forever. He always wanted to speak when his grandparents or Ian talked about Elyssa's death, but he couldn't find the words. Erik did not know exactly what to feel, and the talkative little boy fell silent.
Ian, however, knew exactly how to feel; enraged, sorrowful, and determined to harm whatever had caused Elyssa to fall down the stairs. Although Ian had not been tasked with calling his parents and telling them that Elyssa was dead, he felt the burden worn by his grandfather to do so.
It weighed in his head and sat heavily on his heart.
When they got out of the hospital, they were told that they would send her body to a funeral home for preparation for a funeral. The four people had gone to the community center and then an outdoor restaurant, and they ended their somber evening at 9:49.
Grandad had called Tucker, and told Ian alone about what he and Tucker were doing. He said that he had investigated the attic, and that the lantern was missing.
Gran, Erik, and Ian sat at the kitchen table, awaiting Grandad and Tucker’s return. No one spoke, and the atmosphere became more intense with every second that passed. Eventually, they were forced to call it a night, and turned in to their beds.
Ian listened intently as Erik let out a little sniffle and went to sleep. Every minute felt like an eternity, and the anger from earlier still burnt in his throat, threatening to make him scream. All of his senses were standing on their toes, adrenaline throbbed in his head, and it was if his eyes were sewed open as they darted carefully around the room. He knew that something supernatural had happened in the attic the night before when Elyssa died; when he woke up, he had sensed something strange, and he had ignored it.
Ian had to know why she went in the attic. He had to!
Everything seemed to click when he went upstairs.
Ian looked at the spectacle before him, and realized that Elyssa intended to clean the attic up as a means of apology. Everything was put back in its place, even Elyssa’s signature of facing trinkets on windowsills towards the outside was present in the attic. Ian couldn’t help but cry.
She was trying to make up for his mistake when she came up here only yesterday. His decision to go through their grandparents’ private things is what killed her! It was all his fault!
Ian felt a twinge in his spine that pulled him in the direction of the chest. Fury engulfed him as he stared at the damned, moldy, evil wooden box. He picked it up and threw it towards the wall behind him, but only managed to move it a couple of feet. He fell down on the object and started beating on it while crying. Ian then pushed it on its backside, slouched over it, and continued his cries to his dead sister. When he was done, he got up, and walked towards the attic door, leaving the chest; he would find the entity that did this to Elyssa, and kill it.
Ian turned sharply as he heard the noise and stared at the chest; it had opened. He slowly creeped towards the chest. Ian felt a wave of new horror crawl through his spine, and he felt a small pressure on his right shoulder as he looked inside of the chest...
And there it was, oil-less, and untouched.
The lantern had never left the attic.
Written by Elizabeth Lind