This story is part of a game on twitter, spear-headed by NaNoPals. The idea is to write a story of 1K-5K using prompts of a character, a setting and an object. Mine were the following:
- Lesbian roller derby girl
- An attic
- A low-quality statue/figurine
Without further ado, I present:
It was noon on a Saturday. Justine rang the doorbell with a dejected sigh. Her grandmother, a beatific woman with white hair in a thick braid, let her in.
“Sweety, it’s so nice to see you!” She kissed Justine on both cheeks. Justine gave her a tense smile, changing the grip on her bookbag.
“Nana, you said you needed help?” She stepped into the large hall, the scents of old hitting her between the eyes. Her annoyance melted away.
“Yes, but first, would you like some tea?” The old smell was usurped by wafts from the kitchen: fresh scones. “I have homemade lemon curd, just as you like it.”
A grumble coming from her stomach reminded Justine that it had been a while since she ate last, and she nodded. “Yes, please. Is this about grand-père?”
“What makes you think that it’s about him?” Nana’s eyes were wide and innocent, the cane tapping in the floor as she led the way into the sitting room. Justine sank down in one of the soft armchairs, resting her head back against the headrest. Her grandmother served the tea and pushed a tray of honey, fresh scones, butter and lemon curd towards Justine.
“Whenever there’s something urgently you need help with, it seems to be connected to him.” Though her tone as testy, she bit into a scone with evident pleasure before she took a sip of tea to wash it down. “And more often than not, something he found on one of his travels.” Her gaze fell on items in the sitting room, one more absurd than the other. One in particular, a fertility statue reminiscent of Venus from Willendorf, caught her glance. Her cheeks flushed momentarily.
“Well, now that you mention it …” Nana stirred a dollop of honey into her tea. “There was the small matter with a statue that seems to have gone missing.”
“Gone missing?” Justine raise an eyebrow as she watched her Nana. “How did it go missing?”
“I’m really not sure,” said Nana and sighed. “I was certain that it was on the mantlepiece, but this morning I didn’t see it.” She took a delicate bite of her scone. “So you’ll help?”
“Can I do anything else?” Justine shook her head. “But let me see if I get this straight: You called me away from roller-skate practice because you’ve forgotten where you put one of grand-père’s moldy old statues?”
“It is not moldy. He brought it back from Romania during his last travel. Maybe it’s up in the attic again?”
“Why would it be up in the attic?” Justine pushed a hand through her dark, straight hair. “And what do you mean, again?”
“Oh, you know this place. Some of the things, they’ve forgotten that they’re not where they were, so they wander. So many things end up in the attic. I almost wonder if Jean-Marie did something to it. It’s a maze.”
“It’s just an attic, Nana!” Justine patted Nana’s hand. “Alright, I’ll go up and take a look, but I can’t stay too long. Chris and I have a date later tonight.”
“Oh, lovely! How is Christina? Well, I hope?”
“Yes, she’s fine. A bit freaked about the apartment, but …” She shruggged. “I think she’s worried that I’m not serious, or that I’ll change my mind.”
“Silly girl. Of course you won’t, sweety.” Nana patted her cheek. “Well, if you’re all done with your tea, maybe head up to the attic? The sooner you find the statue, the sooner you can go to meet Christina.”
“Alright. What am I looking for, again? A statue, but how big? What does it look like?”
“Oh, it’s an old thing. Clay, with some traces of paint. Some kind of shaman or witch, kneeling. I’m sure you’ll know it when you see it.”
Justine sighed inwardly, before nodding. Downing the last of the tea she walked towards the hall and up the stairs. She remembered the attic: grand-père loved to show her the things he kept from his travels. Lovely old Nana, getting battier every year, but as long as she could take care of herself with just some help, she could stay in the house. After all, it’s where she had moved as a bride, where she’d had her children and where she’d become a widow.
“Though occasionally I wonder”, said Justine as she slid the ladder down. “What really happened to grand-père?” She climbed up, looking around the dark, dry place. She sneezed as the dust tickled her nose. One time. Two times. “Sheesh, Nana,” she muttered as she wiped her eyes and nose. “Would it kill you to have someone dust this place, if only occasionally?”
The light slowly flooded the area. Shadows danced in the sharpness of the lightbulbs gently twirling from their chains. The area was silent, waiting. A chill ran up her spine, and she surpressed a shudder. “Don’t be ridiculus”, she told herself sternly. “You’ve never been afraid of the dark before, so stop making things up.”
Her voice echoed strangely as she moved between suitcases and shelfs. Each turn stranger than the other. Here was the collection of statues grand-père had brought with him home from Ethiopia, there the one from a dig in Scotland. When the clock downstairs struck she froze.
“Wait. Three pm? That can’t be right.” She glanced at her armwatch. The battery was dead—again—and it was still at 12.35. With a sigh she turned to go back downstairs. The lightbulbs high above her still twirled in their chains, but every step took her deeper into the attic. She no longer recognized anything. With every turn she saw new statues, new figurines, new knick-knacks. The smell of dust and mothballs was overpowering. Nana was right; it was a maze, and now she wanted nothing more than to escape it.
Footsteps echoed. The lights dimmed and she froze.
“He– Hello?” Her voice quivered. There, a small figurine! She grasped it as a weapon.
There was no answer. She exhaled, her hands trembling. What was it Nana had said? “I had to call the police. He went up to the attic and never came back down.” Pull yourself together, Justine. You’re just being silly now. You took a wrong turn, that’s all! “Is that so?” She asked herself, her voice hushed. “Then explain to me how I’m not finding my way back. It’s not that big a house!” Her thoughts did not answer, no matter how much she wished that there was a logical explanation.
The dark, dry area was silent in anticipation. She could hear her own heart beat. Da-dum. Da-dum. The lights high above glittered and flickered. A shadow stepped out of the corner. The darkness parted to release the hood that shaded the face, the cloak that belied any human form beneath. Her lips parted as she stared, dread filling her eyes. Da-dum. Da-dum.