29 - Attic

28 - Hallway 30 - Hallway
KC Farmhouse attic
Derrek poked his head above the hatch, his flashlight going left to right. The ladder came up facing the back of the house.Damn, can't see anything with all this stuff here. He took another step, the fold out ladder creaked beneath him. He grabbed for the edge. Better get off this ladder, I don't trust these janky fold up ladders for one bit. With a faster pace and some creaking later, he crawled through the hatch.
He stood upright here, the edges slanted with the roof, he'd have to bend there. All in all, there was a lot of room, but also a lot of stuff, which meant a lot of hiding places. It was well-kept, a bit of dust like every attic in the world, but nothing sneeze-inducing. It smelled dry, the roof itself was isolated from the inside too, held up by the occasional wooden beam. Not a patch of moist to be seen. Still looks pretty recent as far as I can tell.
The attic was one big open space. There was mostly stuff in the middle and the edges, natural paths remained for humans to hide away their boxes of random stuff.
Derrek wiggled his body left and right, up and down; the floor didn't creak. Sturdy. Could have been a help to give away Warren's location if he moved. I'll need to keep my ears open.
To the back of the hatch, in the corner were mostly cardboard boxes. Mostly empty he guessed, for guarantee or moving. Boxes for a television, sound system, airfryer,… Once upon a time these had been stacked nicely onto a tower. Close to the hatch, someone probably didn't wanted to come up fully and just threw it up. Classic humans.
Derrek shone his flashlight to his left, the space above the master bedroom. This part didn't go as deep as the other one. Easiest to reach the hatch, I'd hide there somewhere. Yet, not a lot of spots to hide yourself.
An old square wooden table was at the center, filled with boxes beneath and upon it. Old classical wooden chairs were stacked there. Both table and chairs were from the same kind of wood, a set. The chairs showed some burgundy fabric in the seating. Could be antique… or thrift shop. Around the edges were some more boxes, the white and blue banana box variety. Derrek could see most of the space except for the back. He walked slowly, keeping his flashlight in front of him with his left hand, drawing his rubber gun with the right.
The table was some four steps away from the hatch, he walked to the right of it toward the back. The banana boxes seemed to be filled with clothes and cloths. He didn't inspect them further, impossible to hide in of those, but held his flashlight to shine past them, lighting up every nook and cranny.
The back of this space had some built-in drawers, split into columns. As he reached the back, he looked around. No other spots to hide here. Seems unlikely he'd fit in one of these drawers… but still. Would be one hell of a disappearing trick. He grabbed one of the drawers and pulled it out. The flashlight lit up the white fabric of the duvet. Yeah, no one could fit in there. Hmm, that does smell like it's been closed for a while. They'd better air it out soon.
He heard the same sound he heard in the hallway, scratching, only lightly. It came from further behind him. Derrek closed the drawer and started moving.
"I can hear you. Come on, Warren, just come out and we can wrap this up." He came to the hatch again, shining his flashlight down the left row to the back. Only stuff.
He moved further so he could see down the right one. He shone down it, and was surprised to see the back of the left end light up too. He blinked two times rapidly, then made out a mirror to the back of the right row. Good thing it isn't covered. I've seen that one enough before. Other things were covered to the back of the long part. The mirror stood open though, only the mirror. Huh wait, but why isn't it covered? Why are all the other— No, no, Derrek. No questions, just find the guy and get down that janky ladder again.
He set a step toward the right row, but turned back toward the hatch. Better take the other one, so I can see the hatch more easily.
He moved back and shone through the row. The middle row contained some cabinets, almost the same as those from the study. They were tagged the same way, only older years. There was still some room to add more cabinets. Didn't know a farm could be this much paperwork. Probably why they are still in business. Good for them. Well, hopefully this show isn't going to ruin their image. Did they rent out their farm willingly? Since they seem to have keys for everywhere. We'll have to question them as well.
Derrek had to bend his head for the occasional horizontal beam, but beyond that, he could walk through easily. To the left side, was an home-trainer, the old type with a big floating metal wheel beneath the seat. Pretty dangerous if you touched the spinning wheel while it was in use, the thing had a lot of momentum. The metal bars were a white-turned-yellow-over-the-years, with bright blue handles and a broad mushy seat. No electricity required for these, but a hell to move. Almost impossible to break, though, as all things were made in the past. Nowadays, the life cycle of these devices is only a few years.
There were some plastic boxes stacked on and beside the bike. He made out some weights, toys, clothes,… he moved past them, shining his flashlight back to the middle. Past the cabinets was a chest, an old wooden chest. Same kind as the chairs and table it seems. Could be used to travel to Narnia as well. Good thing it's standing free here in the middle. He moved his hand to the handle. Or wait. Not good. It could be open in the back. Can't see a thing from this side. I can check it first from the other side, make sure… No, come on. Man up. I can just throw it open and see. Derrek checked to his left, more boxes followed the bike. He lay down his flashlight on one of them, aimed on the closet. He moved to the left of the closet, stretching his left arm for the handle, rubber gun in his right hand. He made sure to stay behind the door as he pulled it toward him.
A loud creak came from the door. Nothing else. He peeked from behind the door to see it filled with winter coats. It smelled a bit musky too. He released a small held breath and grinned off the feeling of discomfort. He opened the right door too and retrieved his flashlight. Ducking didn't show him any legs, but he couldn't make out the back of the closet either. Can't see a thing. Ehk, do I really need to move them aside. He tiptoed trying to see anything, still nothing.
He cringed, but put his left hand between the coats. The scratching sound returned, not from the closet, somewhere to the left in the other row. Good, now I can leave—
Something cold brushed the inside of his hand. It felt wet somehow. Derrek's eyes grew wide and he tried pulling back his hand. The right coat, a dark brown made of animal fur, came forward. As the coat moved, a different smell came loose. Leaves? And an earthy ground smell. An image shot through his mind: a dark forest, wet leaves filling the ground. The coat filled the image further, a boar rustling the leaves aside, snuffling. His heart thumped quicker.
He pulled again, but the coat followed, not letting go of him. A squeak from the closet made the image live even further. The boar turned toward him. The wet against his arm felt like a snout. It released a wet breath against his arm.
It charged with a similar squeak toward him. He let out a not-so-manly-scream and threw his full body-weight backward. Another squeak, but the resistance disappeared with an audible plink. Derrek took a few steps back, his breathing quickened.
The coat still hung halfway out of the closet, it didn't follow through with its attack. Derrek looked at it with wide eyes. What in the world was that? My imagination is running wild, now coats are charging me. He took a few more breaths and saw something on the ground between them, it glistened. It hadn't been there before.
A metal button. Derrek let out a nervous laughter and pulled in an even deeper breath. Just the button? But it felt so.. Wet. He ducked and tapped it slowly first, like touching a live wire. Just metal. He picked it up, moved it through his hand. A bit cold indeed, but not wet. Weird.
The scratching, right. Still have a teen to catch.
He put down the button at the bottom of the chest, beneath the boar coat. With slight hesitation, he pushed back the coat between the other coats, making sure to only touch the sides. Nothing felt wet, though. He looked at his arm, where the button had caught behind one of the buttons of his clothes. No wet spot. His hand had grown wet from sweating through the episode, but he couldn't feel the cold wet spot any more. He shook his head and closed the closet.
As he retrieved his flashlight from one of the boxes, he checked the hatch. Still open with light from the hallway peeking through. Good. He turned toward the origin of the scratching sound. Further down the back, beyond the closet and some other boxes containing clothes, he saw a passage through the mid part to get to the other row.
The back of the attic contained some bigger items, like the mirror, which were covered with cloth and tarp, unlike the mirror. He shone his flashlight over them, but didn't get any wiser what could be beneath them. The scratching came from further, I'll leave these be. The passage seems wide enough to fit through. He moved toward it, the mirror at the other side lit up from his flashlight. To the right of the mirror were two lower items, also covered, but with white see-through-plastic. Those look like chairs, or couches. Could it have been the plastic scratching? Just some mouses.. Or rats. This is a farm. He stopped for a second passing through the passage, swallowing. Yeah, that thought only now made it through genius. Scratching sound, attic. Ding dong.
He smelled again. He remembered a time when he was little, when he had to help his grandparents clear out a shed in their garden. They'd turned over a box and found it filled with small dark excrements and wet patches. The smell that came with it was unforgettable. He didn't smell it here however, not even the tiniest whiff. It smells just like ordinary attic. How did I even get that smell of a forest? That felt so alive, so wild. Better catch this kid and get to bed fast.
He moved through the passage and stood in front of the mirror. The woodwork around the mirror was again the same style as the closet, table and chairs earlier. A dark wooden frame with subtle swirly ornaments. A more classical style like his grandparents would have. Another hell to dust off.
A cloth still hung fastened with one side from the right edge of the woodwork. Seems like it dropped off accidentally. Would have been weird if they'd keep this one open like this. Could Warren have knocked it off maybe? Not enough space beyond it, and I'd see him from here. He shone his light at the bottom, where it stood lifted from the ground. No feet, and indeed, not enough space to fit someone. He moved the tarp from the big object to the left of the mirror. Another closet, more like a dressoir, impossible to fit in. No space beyond it either.
Another scratch, really close this time, but from behind. Derrek whirled around, flashlight and rubber gun at the ready. His flashlight lit up a folded up tent which leaned against the big closet with the boar coat. Further was a fake Christmas tree, with boxes of ornamentations surrounding it. No way he can fit in there. Can he? Maybe behind that tent, it does seem a bit big.
Derrek moved slowly toward the tent, fixated on it. It was angled weirdly, something seemed to be poking out from behind it. A shoe? He edged closer. Yes, I got you now.
"Warren, I see you." He said calm, calmer then he felt. He was proud of how calm he was able to say it. Proud to round up the last one.
"Crazy cop." Came a voice. Warren's. But not from behind the tent. From the front of the attic, somewhere beneath the hatch. His proudness evaporated. The shoe behind the tent didn't move. It was rather small on second inspection. Like a piece of an ornamentation.
A chuckle brushed past his right ear. He felt a cold shiver run through his entire body. Something is behind me, I can feel it. But.. But Warren is not.. Who? What? His heart thumped in his chest again. He smelled the leaves again, earthy ground and something wet. The image of the boar shot through him. No, no, no. That's impossible, keep a grip. You just looked there. Just a turn around, and you'll see, there's nothing there. Just your imagination that needs some rest. He gritted his teeth and pushed himself with all he had. He pivoted and threw his attention behind him, back toward the mirror.
He saw himself. Muddy boots; standard police outfit, a bit sweaty at the armpits; a pouch and a belt; flashlight in his left hand; gun in his right hand; dark blond hair peeking from beneath a police cap; a white face with wide green eyes. All of it was there. Derrek Kane.
Yet, there was more, which shouldn't be there. His neck, where he'd felt the cold originate from just now, showed part of something new. Something dark, black like a burn. How has that gotten there? He moved his flashlight hand to swipe at it, losing sight. The patch felt cold as ice. He pulled back swiftly and checked the mirror again. It was still there, but smudged out somewhat. There was a small black circle in his neck.
Below the hatch, someone started running. Warren, crap! Derrek turned, but from the corner of his eye he caught something big and black in the mirror. Another chuckle ran by his ear. It froze him mid-turn. He saw it move in the edges of his vision, like an object passing in front of a light. What is that, my light is steady. Am I going bonkers? What felt like an hour, took only a second, as Derrek pushed himself to look back at the mirror.
White, but no reflection. The sheet which hung loose a moment ago, was back over the mirror. Somehow. WHAT? No way. He heard more footsteps from below and the pull to get out, just increased tenfold. He moved back and turned wildly, knocking over the fake Christmas tree by accident, and made for the hatch. He swung his light left and right, but his mind wasn't able to register anything any longer. There was only one thought.

Continue reading: 30 - Hallway

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