Monday, August 10, 2009
In the back corner of the oldest child's room there was a door to the walk in closet - and in the back of the closet was a door to the attic. Up a wooden staircase like wood off a ship, still creaking, uneven, slightly swollen here or dried and splintering there - the walk up was narrow and the ascent caused arms to go out instinctively, reaching for walls for balance and guidance in the dim light. Fingers met with the crumbling surface of bricks and sticky cobwebs. Familiar was the attic's ceiling which was at its highest point in the center, but lower and lower on either side. Unnatural and unfamiliar was the utter lack of ventilation, which started over the mouth and and nose like heated gauze and slowly grew more viscous and cloying with every step. The single unlabeled box and rusted gold Christmas ornament were quiet witnesses to the unchanging light and time that passed most rapidly in the daily life of a spider and most reliably in the unimaginably subtle changes in the wearing and eventual decay of the corners of the room. But the most singular, and even most alarming, (after a person became uneasily aware of the their labored breathing) was the worn child-sized rocking chair, seemingly made of the same wood as the floor. In fact, coming up from it almost organically - as though the room had created it out of some unknowable necessity - certainly not made for a visitor, as most anyone who approached it did so reluctantly and with a feeling so strong in their gut that they curled their toes in their shoes and clutched some part of themselves in an effort to remain upright. It was almost as though there was an odor surrounding the chair- the way a person would stop at the exact distance from it and a look would cloud up their face in a new and ugly way. Once the chair made its presence known in the soundless room - it was impossibly to turn away from it without being convinced of a click clicking on the floor - the chair rocking back and forth just enough, as though a child with tiny toes and tiny pointed shoes sat in it, pushing off with an unsettling regularity. A guest would look away from the chair and then turn back to it, sick with expectancy, certain it would be rocking just that tiny bit, despite the lack not only of a breeze - but of any real air at all. Nothing but a kind of permanent stillness - so still as to resemble a death. But with that chair there, threatening to move, there was almost a new whisper - one of hostility, the moment before violence, but with a control that made even the strongest observer feel small and undeniable human - a sudden awareness of blood and fragility of bones, thin connections to the heart and of soft places like the throat, the very bottom of the belly, even the arch of the foot...and anyone who had visited the attic began an instant move away and most certainly a descent down the stairs backward - hands again on the walls - reluctant to turn their backs on the little chair, the seat of which curled upward like a toothless smile and seemed to watch them go - down, down one simple step at a time - until they finally had to turn and take the last few stairs at a leap while holding their breath.