Since junior high I’ve had a fear of attic spaces. I blame this all on Virginia Andrews, whom many of you will recognise as the author of the supremely terrifying and twisted Flowers in the Attic (shout out to Eve, also still haunted by this book). Given the number of horror movies centering around scary attics, I know I am not alone in my trepidation about the tippy top floor.
I confess, until today, when it’s been my turn to mop the house steps, I never started all the way at the top. My reasoning has been sound – no one walks up there because the neighbour has plants on the stairs leading up to the loft. Or she had plants there, at least until she recently passed. When we headed out to sled in the fresh snow today, our Hausmeister asked me if the flat had been cleaned, and I took note the steps needed mopping. With the adrenaline from rushing down the hills still in my veins, I resolved I would take up my task this afternoon after our return. What follows is the very real account of what happened next.
Now, let’s make sure you’re picturing this properly. Snow has been falling all last night and through this morning; everything is blanketed in a pristine fluff. The sun has not emerged, but light bounces eerily blue-grey into the stairwell and the air feels completely bone-chilling (it is actually -5C). I start to hum, to pull my attention from the cast-off dead leaves littering the landing where the vibrant Christmas Cacti, Dragon Tree and Azaleas had once warmed the space. It occurs to me the tune has shifted to some creepy song from the Hitchhiker shows my parents watched when I was a little kid. Even though it was after we were meant to be asleep, I could still hear the whole show from my top spot on our bunk-beds. Even without actually seeing it myself, the audio alone was so creepy it literally scared the piss out of me (one of many times my sister wished she had been granted the top spot). In any case, I know I’m feeding my own frenzy as I trek up the final flight. I breathe in slowly and look up. There’s a door. With a keyhole. And the light is coming out like a high-beam. I wave my hand through it, and it feels warm. Warm means a friendly force, right? I have no choice but to look into the keyhole. I have no choice, people! A grown woman cannot maintain such irrational fears. I step, carefully, trying not to let the floor creak underneath me. Closer to the door. I kneel down, and draw my eye close in to look. I’m shaking a little bit, no, a lot, so I have to hold my breath to steady my gaze. I peer in.
Then I run (maybe more like leap or fly) like hell back down two flights of stairs and into my flat.
“I looked in the keyhole!” I shriek dramatically.
Needless to say, the mister looks at me with his usual “I-can’t-believe-I-married-this-insane-woman” face and resolutely stated, “I’m going up.” After he’s gone for 5 minutes, I hear nothing. I start to walk through my game plan. Call up to see if he answers, if not, run to the neighbors. No, wait. Walk up loudly to warn the creatures I’m coming. Wait, no. Just call 1-1-2 and tell them, um, tell them…
Thankfully, he walks back in at that point, smirking. He has photos. Photos!
To my horror, there, in that haunted secret attic chamber, is a genuine treasure trove of awesomeness. Now my nightmares will be replaced with longing for a vintage bar cart, which, while seemingly in bad shape now, is the thing of my dreams for a restoration project. What to do? How does one explain (in German) to one’s landlord that they happened upon some really cool old stuff in the attic in an attempt to prove to one’s crazy wife (i.e. their other tenant) there were no ghosts or starving children eating blood porridge up there, and now said wife really wants to know if she can buy the run down cart off of him?