Why did I agree to this dare? Was it the mystery, the rumours, or its intriguing backstory behind this famous house?
Creak! Creak! Creak! The prolonged, piercing racket swirled in the spine-chilling breeze each occasion my foot touched the weathered, fragile, moss-covered deck. I studied every inch of the outer structure of the mysterious house. It had sunken into the earth, the paintwork decayed, and there was no way anyone in the house was alive. However, the town folk suggested otherwise.
Rusty debris ground against my palm as I turned the fragile door handle. A tetanus trap if ever there was one. Another painful, screeching noise erupted as I opened the door, followed by a horrific odour that made me gag.
My right leg shook as I forced it through the gap in the door. My hand followed, sliding across the door frame, ignoring the instant pain from a splinter that planted itself in my finger. Moments later, and with a few deep breathes engulfing the last fragments of positive smelling air, I peered into the connecting room.
The lounge room was a bomb site. Papers scattered all over the damp, mouldy furniture and rotted floor. Here I was, inside the house of my favourite author, Mavel Mocha, and this was the last scrap of evidence of her life.
Click! Click! Click! Cockroaches hopped on keys on a series of typewriters spread throughout the room. Some of the typewriters were in surprisingly good condition, others in pieces that rested on chairs and tables that were an inch away from crumbling. One cockroach strained to push down on a rusted key. Were they . . . typing? How could they? That was ridiculous.
I walked through the kitchen and admired the scientific experiment occurring within the sink water. Flies buzzed around what was left of food on a plate. The food. Not more than hours old. Not a scrap of mould on it compared to the rest of my place.
I loved crime novels. They always taught you to look for an angle. My first clue to whether she was dead or alive. Even the smell of it lingered.
‘What are you doing in my house?’ screamed a voice. It was old, bitter, the kind of voice I imagined an actress auditioning for the part of a witch would put on. ‘Here to discover my secret?’
Whack! The blade of an axe whooshed past my head and smashed into the wall. It shook for a moment. How the impact did not force the house to capitulate into rubble had me baffled. I glanced back. A blur of a woman stood nearby. Her stench was unbearable. Was this her? Mavel Mocha? My idol? Where were her arms? Her fingers? Her famous fingers? They did not exist.
I panicked! I ran in the first direction. Fire-stained burns decorated the wall of the hallway to a staircase leading to an Attic. In the background, the cockroaches continued to hop on the keys as if typing the unfolding story.
‘Enter my Attic, and you will never come out.’
Her voice was urgent. Like something secretive lingered beyond the hinged trap door that I was about to open. There was a rumour Mavel had been working on one last novel. Book publishers had hounded her for her final piece, but she would not part with it. Was this where she hid the manuscript? I ignored her warning. In a flash, I had unlatched the door, forced my way in, slamming it shut.
‘Fool!’ her muffled voice cried from the other side of the wooden barricade. ‘Now you will be like the . . .’
She stopped. As if someone had pressed pause on a movie. The pounding of her feet, no longer a warning of her fast approach.
‘She does that when the sun sets.’
I jumped. The faint illumination made it difficult to see who, what or where the voice came from.
‘She was waiting for the final piece to her story. Her final character. Now, her story can be complete.’
‘What story? Who are you?’
My eyes searched the dark space as she spoke. Her voice was familiar. One I had not heard in a long time. A kid from my class. One of five who went missing from our country town over a year ago.
‘Her final novel, “The Author’s Attic”. And you are the one who can help us escape.’
She appeared in the light, along with five other children. I recognised them all instantly. The biggest unsolved mysteries of our town had revealed themselves inside this horrid attic. Yet while I could recognise them, the appearance was not what it once was. Pale, lifeless, supernatural. I had discovered Mavel Mocha’s secret. More than one! How she wrote her stories and that the manuscript she had worked so hard to hide from the world was indeed hidden up in her attic. However, the words were not on the page. They were creatures hidden in her attic who came alive at sunset.