Welcome to the new series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the second post from Darlene Foster and was her short story entry into Stevie Turner’s Short Story Competition for February 2019. I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.
Ghosts in the Attic by Darlene Foster
The attic above the barn sits empty. Some say it is haunted. Others say it is cursed.
The room is possessed with many stories.
When Jim and Alice bought the farm, they decided the attic would be a perfect place for the farm help to live. So they purchased some paint and fixed it up. Then they placed an ad in the local paper seeking someone who enjoyed working with horses.
Mature, buxom Gladys responded first. They showed her the spotless attic room smelling of fresh paint and polished linoleum. Gladys took the job and moved in the next day – with her seven cats. Alice warned Gladys to keep the cats confined to the barn. This was after they jumped up on the picnic table and ate the cream cheese dip she had put out for her croquet party guests. Gladys worked hard and knew her way around horses but had her own ideas about how to do things. After several disagreements with Jim, she packed her meager belongings and left, cats in tow. She left a note tacked to the barn door with a forwarding address to send her last pay cheque.
Gladys seemed unfamiliar with the concept of a litter box. Alice scrubbed the once pristine room thoroughly. Disgusted, she left the doors and windows open for days to get rid of the acrid smell of cat pee. Alice believed she could still smell it years later.
The next ad included, ‘No pets allowed’. Joy, a university student with a love of horses, became the second resident. Young and eager, she did a good job. A light shone from the attic late into the night while she studied. Occasionally a young man spent the night. Jim and Alice didn’t mind. Better than cats. One day Joy told them she was sorry but had decided to move into town with her boyfriend, to be closer to the university.
The attic didn’t take much cleaning. Although the wax on the floor caused Alice to shudder at the thought of candles burning in such a flammable structure.
Against his wife’s advice, Jim hired a writer with a bushy beard. Alice didn’t trust men with bushy beards, or writers. The man slept until noon every day and did only the basics of the job. Days went by without fresh food and water for the animals. He was soon asked to leave. The attic smelled like a biker bar. Crumpled pieces of paper mixed with stale crumbs and tin foil TV dinner containers littered the floor. They took two truckloads of empty wine and liquor bottles to the recycling depot.
Alice didn’t say anything but had that smug ‘I told you so’ look on her face.
Two women in cowboy hats, big belt buckles, and fancy boots drove into the yard one summer afternoon. Jo and Jean had been in the rodeo circuit for a time and knew a thing about horses. They told great stories sitting around the picnic table with Jim and Alice, sharing a cup of tea. One day, Jo approached the house in tears. Jean had left in the middle of the night. Jo sobbed uncontrollably and said she didn’t know how she could go on without Jean. Alice made her a cup of chamomile tea and tried to calm her down. She had never seen anyone so upset. Two days later Alice called the paramedics when she found Jo in the attic, passed out in a pool of her own blood. Alice and Jim hired someone to clean up the attic.
A couple in their forties showed up in a pickup truck with the job posting in hand. The wife, a meek little thing who made no eye contact, let her husband do the talking. He convinced Jim he was capable. Jim gave him the job.
Alice had a funny feeling. “She looks like a battered wife.”
“You watch too much Oprah.” Jim shook his head and walked away.
Things went well. The chores got done and the couple kept to themselves. Jim decided they were the best yet. Perhaps Alice should admit she was wrong.
One peaceful, sunny day while Alice washed dishes, she looked out the kitchen window and detected someone hiding behind the big apple tree. Sure enough, it was a man – with a gun. Alice tensed. Another man behind the car shed placed a megaphone to his mouth. “This is the police. Come out with your hands raised and no one will get hurt.”
The husband emerged from behind the barn and ran toward his truck. The police officers moved faster and seconds later he was in handcuffs. Alice never imagined she would witness an arrest in her own back yard. She needed more than a cup of tea to calm her down.
The plain-clothed police officers explained they received an anonymous call to the farm. The husband, known to them, had two previous charges of assault. After they took him away, Alice made her way up to the attic. The wife held her head and rocked back and forth, moaning. Her swollen right eye was turning an ominous purple. Alice offered to call an ambulance but the woman insisted she would be all right until her sister came to pick her up. Alice couldn’t stop shaking for days. Jim refused to talk about it.
Alice took over the hiring process.
Characters of all sorts paraded in and out of that attic over the years. Eventually, Jim and Alice got fed up and moved back to the city. Except for a few items left behind, the attic has stood empty ever since.
A chipped bookcase, holding dusty paperbacks waiting to be read, leans against one wall. A beaten up trunk remains in a dark corner; one item too many to be allowed on the next journey. A moth-eaten blanket, an assortment of old newspapers and a cowboy belt rest inside. A rusty, wrought iron headboard covered in spider webs, holds secrets of amorous nights and lonely days. Extreme happiness and deep sorrow ooze through the faded walls. A poster of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ hangs lopsided on one wall surveying the scene with wide-eyed wonder, and silently shrieks.
On windy, rainy nights, some say they hear sobbing. Others say they hear hideous laughter. Children say the attic in the barn is haunted. But don’t children always say that?
Image from Pixabay.com
©Darlene Foster 2019
About Darlene Foster
Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.
A selection of books by Darlene Foster
One of the recent reviews for Amanda in Holland on Goodreads
This is the third Amanda Travels I’ve read, and in it, Amanda, 12, is heading to the Netherlands to join her British friend Leah Anderson and her father, who is there on business. Of course, the girls are there to see the sights, learn about Holland’s history and culture, but Amanda has another purpose to be there. She would like to solve the mystery of what happened to her great uncle Harold, who went to the Netherlands with the Canadian army during World War II and never return home.
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
and: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Darlene: Goodreads
Connect to Darlene
My thanks to Darlene for sharing this story with us today and to you for dropping in… as always your feedback is very welcome.. thanks Sally.