The Secrets in the Attic – Short Story

A boy walked aimlessly down a hall. Voices of the adults disappeared in the endless corridors of the large house, becoming distant as he went. The old man, who lived in the house, didn’t care to lighten all of it and he probably didn’t use more than a third. The boy glanced from side to side, looking at strange paintings on the walls and flowers that had died and withered a long time ago. And the deeper he went, the darker and muskier the smells became. He’d never been to his grandfather’s house before, he barely knew he had one. His parents never talked about him and they had never told him why. But one day, the old man had a heart attack and suddenly the old man was whisked into existence… But it was all the same to him, his grandfather was very old and talked strangely. Thankfully, his grandfather allowed him to explore the house, so the old man wasn’t all bad. As he came to the end of the corridor, he followed a set of stairs, to the third floor, where there was a locked door. He peeked inside the keyhole but it was too dark to see anything. This made him all the more curious and he hurried down the stairs to the kitchen where the adults were. He stopped half way and tightened his collar and then headed inside. They were all drinking tea and all the excitement from before drained as he entered. There was his mother who had pink hair and a small frame compared to his father, who was tall but skinny. They sat straight with tired looks that brightened a bit when he entered. To his left there was his grandfather who slumped in his chair. He was clean shaven, though the hair on his head grew past his shoulders he was completely bald on top. The boy felt his eyes on him. “What is it, my boy?” The old man said. “Found something?”

“There’s a door to the attic that’s locked. May I look inside?”

“Sure, sure,” he said and dug into his pocket but hesitated. “That is, if it’s okay by your father.”

The boy looked at his father who nodded slowly. His mouth was a thin line and he rarely smiled so it was hard to tell what he was thinking. “You may,” he said.

“Thank you, father,” the boy said and bowed lightly. He received the key and headed out as quickly as he could. It was suffocating when adults were together… He loosened the collar again and headed upstairs. The door creaked open and the light from the hallway lighted the room a little. There were boxes and boxes everywhere, covered in drapes. He looked around and noticed a small source of light behind some velvet sheets and he pulled it down. Dust spurt around and tickled his nose, but there was now light and he could look clearly around the attic. It was filled with stuff and he stared at it all, excitedly. There could be anything buried in here, he thought, and began searching. Most of the things he found were regular stuff, mostly clothes, tools, and tableware. But sometimes he found something strange which he wasn’t sure what they were for, and he put them aside and dug for more. He found a pocket watch, nothing special, then he found a gold encrusted pen. Now that’s more like it! After a while, he couldn’t stand the itchiness in his nose as he stirred the dust around and he decided to take his treasure downstairs. The adults were outside when he found them, smoking. He hated smoke because it made his eyes water but he approached them and poured the contents of his bag over a table. “What have you got there, boy?” the old man said with a smile.

“Fredric!” His mother snapped.

Stunned, he found his collar was loose and he quickly tightened it. “That’s better,” she said and leaned back and drank her tea.

The old man dug into the pile and was very happy to see these old things that had once been very useful but had no use anymore, either because they had invented something better or it had gone out of fashion. The old man stopped for a moment when he got to the pen. “It’s gold, isn’t it?” said Fredric.

The old man examined it. “It’s gold alright, but I can’t remember where it came from.”

“Do you remember everything you owned, father?”

The old man looked askance at his son. “I suppose not,” he said and put the pen back in the pile.

“Can I keep it?” Fredric asked.

The old man smiled. “Sure, why not? Take the watch too, get some use out of it.”

“Thanks grandpa,” he said with a smile and sat in the corner and waited as the adults talked. They didn’t stay for long and when they got home, Fredric went to the kitchen and polished the pen until it shone. “Can I bring it to school?” He asked his mother.

“It’s not proper to boast,” she said.

“Yes, mother,” he said and pocketed it and headed upstairs. “Goodnight, mom. Goodnight dad,” he said and stood by the door to his room. Before entering, he pinched a needle that was stuck at the door frame and a thud came from inside. A rope hung in front of him with a large sandbag attached to it on the floor. He propped the trap back into place and closed the door. He skipped over several wires that stretched across the floor, and before he undressed and went to bed, he tapped the wooden frame of the bed three times and then crawled under the blanket, sleeping soundly soon after.

***

He went to school the next day. His clothes oppressed him, it was hard to move and the collar pressed up against his chin. His clothes were very expensive too, black and sophisticated, not at all like a schoolboy of 12, but that of a grown gentleman. It was how his parents wanted him to be, to be as far above the rest as he could be. His father even took away all his children’s stories when he turned 10, even his favourite one about the gnomes and humans who lived side by side. He remembered it clearly: the gnomes made magical things to aid the humans, but over time, the gnomes grew weary of being treated like slaves and they took back their magic from the humans and disappeared, bringing in an age of darkness until humanity brought themselves back with their own kind of magic of cogs and machinery. There are other tales about the gnomes but his father was insistent that he only read this particular one, or other’s like it. Fredric didn’t rightly know why.

On his way to school, he took the long way around, avoiding the houses of his classmates. He’d memorised them all and he knew which route they took. He walked between small dilapidated houses, and the tiny roads between them, where the grass had grown through the pavement, roads nobody cared about. For some reason he liked those roads, they seemed almost like lost ruins, but most of all, he liked it because he was alone. He’d tried to make friends once. His father never approved any of them and only belittled them because they were not good enough for his son. People stopped coming then, and after a while, Fredric stopped trying. Finally, he came out on the big road. He walked behind the school at the football yard which was empty so early in the day. There was only one or two who saw him (…)


© Christopher Stamfors

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The Truth Sayer – Very Short Story

They talked. The strangest group there ever was of four creatures of childlike stature. Their eyes wide on the man that sat across to them. Well, in reality, it was he who talked and they listened. He were their patron, showering them with words of value, of truth, which is valuable. He said many things, spellbinding things, things only he would say.  They were also words of truth for if there was one thing all four of them had learned is that he always spoke the truth. He was also the handsome sort, with a fair complexion; straight nosed, tall, and well built. The opposite of them. He was a rare breed, in these parts. Yet, with all his fairness, he hid his face under a hood. His visage always partly shaded wherever he sat or stood. One would never see his true countenance, not at once. But they, who had listened to his words of truth on many occasions were not concerned with his appearance but what he said, what he could do!

There’s a reason they believed his words and it was because he never said what he couldn’t do or show. There’s profit to be made from his words that danced from ear to ear, their grotesque deformed ears… The room was dimly lit by the hearth of the fire place and murk from pipe smoke that surrounded them in a mist. It was starting to get cold, or maybe it was his words that made them shiver, for this day he spoke of terrible things, things gruesome and void. And what we have already established, he only spoke the truth, which made it all the more terrible, terribly real!

There was a peculiar quirk about his words and that was they could never be recounted. They were words one felt. You didn’t hear them, not a singular word but the whole tale at once. It lingered and only they knew what was said. The stranger left that night, like he always did at the first howl of the night, and left the four ugly creatures to lament. They looked at each other. They knew what the other thought for they had heard the same thing, and they were friends, at least as friendly as creatures, such as them, could be. On the left end of the table, smoke rose and evaporated from the lips of one of them, the one quickest to words, and he said. “He must die.”

The others knew this as well, and nodded slowly in agreement. But the question was how and when? Next time, they agreed. The next time he came to speak, and they to listen, the stranger would die. Then how was he to die? With the means that they were able, for they were all able. Even creatures as small has them had their own ways to make problems go away…

The night came and they acted well enough, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. It was not a difficult feat for whenever they gathered they simply listened, and they listened, like always. And it was in that moment they realised: the ‘when’ and ‘how’ had been determined, but ‘why?’ Why had he to die? Like the strangers tales, it was felt, not understood, and now when they heard his words once more speak of pleasant things, their determination wavered. Why must he die? A man who made their hearts stir so? The only thing they knew was that he must. And so, as they were creatures of emotions, they struck the moment the wolf howled, breaking them from the strangers spell.

The one nearest stabbed the stranger on the side with a long nail hidden in his coat. The one on the left, furthest away, threw acid on him and the one to the right simply stayed his hand, for he was last and he saw that there was no one there. And more horrifyingly, it was not air that they smote, but themselves. Dumbfounded they looked, blood trickling from their sides, their ugly faces melting away until they were no more but one, one remaining horrified and frozen. For a full day, he waited, until there was night again, and the stranger emerged from the shadows. The stranger spoke as nothing had happened, and the creature listened and was lost in the magic that was his words. 


© Christopher Stamfors

Curious Gaze – Very Short Story

In the woods, along the river Great, there was a cottage far from any other homes. The forest was dark, with deep chasms and gnarly roots growing in a patchwork of threads, and nobody would set foot in these parts. Yet there the cottage lay, lonely from any curious gaze; which was how they liked it. In this home, there lived three witches, and their powers were only rivalled by themselves, for they had passion in what they did – to outdo the other – and surely, there was none more passionate than they.

They knew secrets about the world (and others yet conceived by any other) and they loved to outdo one another in their spells. Puffs of green and red would spark in the night, for nighttime was the only time for magic, they often said. At day, the world was as it has always been – it is what we all see. But at night, it is different, and many secrets can be found where normal people don’t look. And normal, they were not, at least not in the eyes of one man; a straggler that had wandered poorly, taking paths he thought he knew – moving against common sense towards the witches hut.

At first, the puffs of colours had sparked his amaze! And without knowing its source and intent, all he saw was the beauty that was manifested. But as he got closer, seeing now the cottage in its dilapidated glory, shabby, and part of nature, he heard the cackles of the three witches as they congratulated one another on another successful spell. But their congrats were only half sincere, for they were proud beings and they would do better than the other and show who had the greatest powers. Though his heart new the voice only spelt trouble, he moved forward for he had not listened to his senses from the very beginning, why start now? It was not hard to get closer unnoticed, for though the witches were powerful, they were not without fault. They did not expect any strangers to brave their forest, much less approach, thus they expected none.

The man, now trembling, peeked through the glassless window, showing as little of his face as he could, and gazed only with one curious eye. The inside was as dark as the forest, but every now and again, when puffs of colours engulfed the room, he could make out what the witches looked like. At first, he had a clear picture of their countenances, resembling more that of a rat and hog than a human being. But in other moments, and between spells, their faces were different and they laughed in their cackling ways as they outdid one another.

“Good, good,” one of them said, only immediately to supersede the other by a motion of her hand and a few choice words. PUFF! The colours sparked, and their faces were different anew. Indeed, the entire inside was not as it were before, but a burning landscape of charcoal trees and panicked animals skittering! The witches laughed and peered at their making, delighted in what they saw. But the man who had seen all of it, his nerves finally broke and he sent out a shriek as if his very flesh was burning of his bones. But as he lost his grip on the wooden frame, he landed in the grass and felt the cool wind blow against his face. The cottage was again lifeless and part of nature. But it was also silent, as if though none was ever there.

Indeed it might as well be, for the man did not recall what he had seen. He tried hard to recollect but as he came out blank, he began to wander home, whichever way he thought was right. But within just a few steps, he crashed into a tree on the left part of his face. He was baffled, how had he missed the giant tree? He felt upon his left eye, the very same he had spied upon the witches, to only find a hollow where the eye should have been. A spark of pain shot through him, for though his mind was lacking, his body recalled, and he listened for once to his senses and ran as fast, and as far away as he could, leaving once more the witches to practice their craft without any curious gaze. 


© Christopher Stamfors

Artwork by ChrisCold

Tales of the Old Coot – Very Short Story

Rain drummed on the copper roof, dripping through that which was missing to hold it together. Water streamed through the cracks onto the moulded wood, soaking through the third floor, then the second, onto the first. The musky smell that had been overpowering upon entry subsided as he ascended the stairs to the top floor. The wind was fresh but chilling and howled in between the gaps where the wall had once been whole. A mist came out his breath as he looked through old books, vials and trinkets. The vials still stood neatly on their shelves with green mould which fused the glass to the wood. The vials were filled with colourful substances as wide and varied as a prism. He didn’t know what they were for and he didn’t care to find out, it wasn’t why he was here, after all.

He searched the wall until he found a shelf filled with books. They were also neatly stored, except on the lower shelves, where they had been torn out in a flurry.

He grinned hungrily at the sight.

There was always something valuable to salvage in these ancient towers, especially in old spell books. Even if only half the formula was readable he would still get a fair price from a collector or a scholar, which the city had many. But a frown touched his lips as the pages turned into a slush as he opened them. The tower was old… too old, it seemed. He should have known it was too good to be true to find such a tower so close to a village, seemingly untouched. He glanced through a gap in the wall and looked down at his vessel – it was still there.

And why shouldn’t it? He was alone, after all. Though, there were the tales…

He shook his head and continued rummaging. He’d stayed one hour too long with the old coot, her tales getting to him. Course, the forest was haunted in one way or another, they always were; stories to keep children from getting lost in the woods or adults away from treasure.

He glanced through the gap again and saw his boat still there on the shore waiting for him.

He considered leaving then.

With his eyes fixated on the vessel, the building howled louder than it had ever before and he shot to his feet. He stood frozen with his blade half drawn, listing. The howl died as the wind did and he swore beneath his breath. He swore again, louder. He stomped on the floor to create noise but stopped as he saw the mushy footprint his shoe had created. The silence; the gloomy surroundings; and the stories, they were getting to him. He kicked the pile of books on the floor and rummaged much more carelessly.

“There’s got to be something…” He murmured to himself.

“Worthless… Garbage… Disgusting,” he announced as he found them. Everything in the tower seems to be one or the other, often all three at once.

After an hour of searching, and the floor littered with items, he sat by the pile and looked at them. This was pointless after all, he thought, letting silence engulf him, once more. Then, there was a faint growl, reverberating through the wood and his body. He stood, slowly, and looked out the shore – his vessel was still there.

It was time go.

With careful steps, he made his way down the first floor and to the outside. He jerked his head around and watched the tower, seeing how it was crooked and parts of the wall littered the surroundings. He wondered why he’d dared to set foot in it and then remembered the promises it had held; it didn’t seem as bad when it held potential treasure… He pushed the vessel into the muddy water and climbed aboard. The mist went thick the further from the tower he went, surrounding him in a dark, yet luminescent, green. Another growl echoed as he went, creating waves in the water. He turned nervously and saw a faint murky light shining, spiralling up and down the tower that was now fully out of sight. Maybe there was something to those old stories, after all?


© Christopher Stamfors

Featured image by ChrisCold

Lonely Road – Very Short Story

Have you ever walked a lonely road at the dead of night? When a few leafs still sway on the naked branches, refusing to be whisked away by the wind? When all that is ahead of you, and all that is behind you, is darkness? Making you wonder why you braved such an ominous night, to begin with?

I have, and I wouldn’t have dared such a venture if it wasn’t for the charm that I clutch to my chest whenever I’m out and about. Looking at it now, it’s a strange item, for several reasons: it’s shaped in a perfect sphere with inscriptions in a tongue that look far too foreign to be pronounced. Not that I would be able to read it properly, anyway, for the charm is scorched in black, giving a scent of burnt flesh and lavender… It isn’t a pleasant smell. Yet, it held me strong several times through the forest and back again.

Charms aren’t something a gentleman ought to have, I understand this, for I too was one of those that held such a mind in these mysterious things; a mystery no less attributed to the ones that make them. However, I was lucky to have encountered one and I sincerely hope you’ll too change your mind after reading this: It all started one evening in east part of town where the soot from the factories lay thick on the houses and on the streets. It was not a path I usually took, mind; frankly, it’s the part of town a civilised person ought to avoid. Yet there I was, strolling about for no particular reason whatsoever. I can’t say what was on my mind that day, only that I had a strong urge, or perhaps it was a premonition? Whatever may be the case, the urge led me through the alleys until I found a strange looking shed made of wood that stood out amongst the brick walls and copper ceilings. The shed was heavily dilapidated, too, with loose planks and obvious infestation of fungus, yet, it emitted a sense of cleanliness for the soot hardly touched the shed – as if an aura of country-air emanated from it. 

I entered the shed without apprehension (though I should have), the inside seemed bigger than the outside, but not by much. Perhaps it was all the oddities hanging on the walls? The small figurines and jars filled with liquid and strange creatures that made it look bigger than it was? In either case, there was a lady behind the counter, looking at me as if expecting me. I pardoned myself, of course, for I didn’t know if it was a store or a poor home I’d entered. She assured me she was selling. And before I could ask what that was, she brought out the strange looking charm which I now clutch in stormy nights.

She was well versed in the horrors that had befallen the town, almost intimately so for she described vividly what was lurking… Perhaps I should have asked her how she knew this but I didn’t have the sense at the time as I was too enthralled by her words and cunning. I was certain she knew what she was talking about and accepted the charm without hesitation. She didn’t want anything in return, strangely enough. My gratitude, spoken verbally, was all she wanted. I, however, as the gentleman I am, promised to return the next day if the charm ended up working to give her her proper due. But when I returned, every trace of her and the shed was gone from existence, even the memory was gone, except the very fact that it was a woman and there had been a shed of some kind.

I chose not to question what I had seen and felt blessed for the gift. Even my beloved, who has had trouble conceiving, got pregnant a few weeks later. I pray that the child will be healthy and that we one day will be rid of the monsters which stalk our town so my child can move freely without fear, as all children should. 


© Christopher Stamfors

Featured image by ChrisCold

Arts – Poem

Fingers crossed against his face.

Worlds colliding, in a dimly grace.

Here lie the things that was never seen.

A world without magic, that had never been.

Fearful of those graces which doesn’t make sense.

We search in vain for those moments

where the world become sane.

We hoped and hoped we would never fail.

Arts are never wrong for they are simply minds led astray.


© Christopher Stamfors