“Something?” she said, clearly thinking about the scads of something they had already seen just in the first few feet of the room.

But he was too preoccupied with jabbing the meager beam into the darkness, searching for something that might have presented a shadow like a human and finding nothing. There was no choice, really, but to make his way to the area where he’d seen…thought he’d seen…

“Where are you going?” Rachael asked sharply.

“Not far,” he assured her absently. He wound between a couple of rows of leather- and canvas-covered flat top trunks where he’d seen the figure, his heart hammering painfully against his ribs, but there was nothing there. He shone the light around, searching for evidence that someone might be in the attic with them, and again found nothing. He stared into the gloom for a long moment, searching, and then sighed. Obviously his eyes had been playing tricks on him, producing images his overactive imagination expected to see. He turned to go back to Rachael.

The shadow-man stood right behind him, a coalescing darkness blacker than the rest of the gloom, almost a void in space. His heart leaped in his chest. He opened his mouth to draw breath to scream; there was no air, only a vacuum of nothingness. The shadow engulfed him; mind, body, and soul reeled from the contact and shrank in terror at the discordant chorus of inhuman jubilation that seemed to come from both around and within him.

He remembered nothing of his journey to the floor; he came to his senses to find Rachael crouching beside him, her hand on his forehead seeking evidence of illness.

“It’s really stifling in here,” she admitted. Her glance finally held what he thought was an appropriate amount of nervousness as she looked around them. The flashlight was wedged between two trunks, aimed at the floor. He stared at the small puddle of light until his vertigo passed.

“Come on,” she said finally, her hand under his elbow to urge him upright. “Let’s go get you a glass of water and some fresh air.”

She led him to the door like she would a small child, and he offered no protest until they were outside the storage room and she remarked that perhaps they should leave the door open to air out the confined space.

“No, I‘m closing it up,” he disagreed vehemently. “No one needs to be coming up here.” He was on his knees, ramming the screws back into the holes to secure the hasp to the plywood again, before she could protest. It wouldn’t hold—a child would be able to break in—but it was the best he could do for the moment.

At last he followed her down the stairs and out into the hallway. As she closed the door and locked it, he swore he heard the screws dropping to the floor above.

 

© 2010 Sharon Gerlach

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