Finally, it's part 2 of our Third Person Thursday story. Read the first part here and the conclusion later today, hopefully.
David sat hunched at the dinner table, trying to keep his eyes on his plate. Occasionally he glanced up only with his eyes to check if anyone was staring at him. He often found that Oliver was, but his parents ate, unsuspecting that anything was wrong.
They don’t think much of you, said a voice in David’s head which David knew was not his own, but could not explain whose it was. They probably didn’t even want you. They planned for your younger brother, but you were probably a mistake. Unconsciously, David scratched at the small welt just above his left elbow.
Oliver watched him do so. Oliver had been watching David for most of the meal, trying not to let him be aware of it. He watched as David’s eyes darted about nervously whenever they weren’t in his plate. He saw him continually scratching the same spot and watched him shift uncomfortably in his seat. Oliver wondered how his parents weren’t noticing the change in his demeanor.
“David’s basketball try outs are this week,” Oliver said aloud, perhaps a bit too loud, in an effort to get his parents to engage David.
Taken aback momentarily by the volume of Oliver’s statement, his father blinked as his mother turned to David. “Is that right, sweetie?” she asked of David.
David glared at Oliver. I warned you about that one, said the voice in David’s head. That so called brother of yours would see you fail so that he might step into your place. He wants to be the oldest. He wants to be the only. David began sweating. He turned his gaze away from Oliver and was afraid to look back at him again. “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” said a panicked voice inside David’s head that was distinctly his own this time. “We sleep in the same room. He’s trying to get rid of me.”
“Sweetie?” asked his mother again.
“Um, later this week, yes,” David said, struggling to get his words out. Meanwhile, he could feel Oliver’s eyes upon him. He could imagine Oliver searching for an opportunity to make him look bad, to make his parents want him around less, to make them less upset over finding him dead in his own bed tomorrow morning, prepared to blindly accept it as the unfortunate accident Oliver would paint it to be.
“Well that’s exciting,” his mother responded and turned her attention back to her food. Oliver sighed and determined that he was going to need to get to the bottom of what was going on himself.
Immediately after dinner was over, David ran off and hid somewhere, as their parents washed the dishes together. Meanwhile, Oliver made his way to the second floor hallway and stared at the fold down hatch in the ceiling. He dragged the desk chair from his and David’s room beneath it and stood upon it to reach the cord. Once he had folded out the stairs completely, Oliver stood at their base and gazed up into the darkness. He gripped his flashlight firmly in his hand and began to ascend the steps into the attic.
Oliver never liked going up there. His imagination got the best of him in the dark. It was the reason why he and David continued to share a room despite the extra space in the house. His parents claimed it would be nice for there to be a spare room for when their grandmother visited, but Oliver knew it was because he couldn’t handle being on his own. To David’s credit, he had never complained about it the way most older brothers would.
The air was noticeably colder from the moment he poked his head across the threshold of the opening. Before going all the way in, Oliver turned on the flashlight, which required shaking it a bit to get the batteries to touch, and made a careful 360 degree inspection of his surroundings.
Books were stacked in the middle of the floor, some of them lying on their own off to the side from having been rifled through. The disassembled crib that David and Oliver had each slept in at one point was propped against the wall. Clothing lay folded neatly in clear plastic bags and the limbs of their artificial Christmas tree protruded from the open top of its large cardboard.
Oliver told himself it was just another room in the house as he stepped onto the floor of the attic. He thought that if it were bathed in sunlight, he wouldn’t be the least bit afraid of being there. “It’s just dark,” he whispered aloud repeatedly. It didn’t help.
Still, Oliver searched about the attic with his flashlight, hoping to find some sort of answer for his brother’s behavior. He saw old baby toys gathering dust and a sewing machine that was easily older than Oliver and his brother combined. His beam of light passed over a folding table and a cobwebbed sign warning that the golf course would close in the event of a hurricane.
Then Oliver noticed something else. Next to a box overflowing with sporting equipment, sat a large, ornate chest. It looked to Oliver like the kind that pirate’s treasure might be contained within. There were elaborate twisting and swirling designs of some sort carved into its wood and the brass hinges were tarnished and darkened.
As Oliver moved closer, he could see the designs in the chest appeared to be snakes, writhing and wrapped around one another. In the center of the lid was a large lion’s face. At least that is what Oliver believed it to be at first. The longer he stared at it, the more he seemed to think it looked like the face of a man. A man with sharpened teeth and a mane of hair resembling a lion and the hair of the mane being as thick as the snakes that surrounded it.
Oliver stared at the chest for what felt like a great while before deciding he ought to open it. Even after deciding that he ought to, Oliver knelt before it and stared for a while longer at the man-lion head.
“Enough,” he finally said out loud, grasped the locking hinge on the front of the chest and swing it upward.
There was nothing inside.
Oliver shrugged. He was about to shut the lid again when he noticed he could not see the chest’s bottom. Even as he shone his flashlight into the gaping opening of the large box, he could not see a distinct floor. It looked almost as if the box actually contained darkness.
He thought this must have been an optical illusion. Perhaps it was a black velvet or thick material that lined the box. His flashlight still shining into the interior, Oliver went to reach his hand into the chest to try and feel its bottom and confirm his suspicions.
Just as he was about to, something gripped him. Not a physical force, but a feeling, a very urgent, pressing feeling. Oliver’s flashlight extinguished suddenly and he threw himself backward from the box, landing on his butt on the attic floor. As he began to scoot himself away, Oliver swore he began to see something rise from the chest. The darkness it seemed to contain began flowing from it, reaching toward the ceiling like great fingers. The fingers appeared to break up and reassemble about their edges like a dust cloud.
Oliver scampered backward, lifting his rear end off the planks of the attic floor and crawling backward on his hands and feet as he watched the darkness begin to reach toward him. Fear washed over him in a cold wave and he froze momentarily.
“Yesssss,” he heard a low, raspy voice whisper. “Fffff-ear meeeee.”
One of the fingers bent toward Oliver and reached to touch him. As it came closer and closer, Oliver could see that it was made of many parts that swirled around one another. As it came closer still, about to touch Oliver, or perhaps lift him from the ground and take him into the chest he thought, it became clear that the large limb was made of insects, thousands and thousands of insects. They were wasps, in fact and all black as night.
Just before it reached him, Oliver felt a sudden charge enter his legs. He thrust himself backward as hard as he could. As the black, spinning finger reached to touch him, he moved from beneath it and the wasps bounced off the wooden floor hundreds at a time before they took flight again and continued after him.
Oliver pushed with his legs again and slid several feet across the floor, this time sliding right into the opening for the stairs. He dropped like a stone and landed on the carpet of the second floor hallway with a loud thud.
Oliver stared above at the attic entry as the insects swirled and pulsed above it. The wood beams of the attic ceiling were eclipsed by the black mass of flying insects, but Oliver noted, with no small amount of relief, that it was not advancing after him into the main part of the house.
Oliver became acutely aware that he had not been breathing and gasped like a rescued drowning victim. As he did so, he heard his father’s heavy footfalls coming up the stairs.
“Ollie! What the hell happened?”
“Dad, I was in the attic and…” he looked back to the opening in the ceiling, but the darkness was gone. “And I fell,” Oliver continued. “I fell on my way back down the stairs but I think I’m okay.”
Oliver convinced his father that nothing hurt, contrary to the truth. The attic stairs were closed again and Oliver searched the rest of the hose for his brother. He found David curled up in a ball on the basement floor, next to the couch.
“What did you see in the attic?” Oliver asked David bluntly.
David looked at him in a panic and scratched his elbow. Don’t answer him, came the other’s voice. He’s trying to make you look crazy.
“I…” started David. If you tell, it will come down and get you, interrupted the voice. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Oliver was furious. He lunged across David and grabbed his arm. “What have you been picking at,” he shouted.
“Leave me alone,” David yelled and tried to push him away, but Oliver had gotten a solid hold of his left arm and was pulling his face close to it. “Stop it!”
“Something stung you!” Oliver said before David finally wrestled his arm away. “You did see it and one of them stung you!”
“Leave me alone,” David said and turned his back on his younger brother. He’s going to tell somebody and then it will come and get you, said the voice. “I’m fine.”
Oliver stood up, clenched his teeth and glared at David, then turned and stormed back up the stairs. In the low light of sunset coming through the basement windows, David sat alone again, his knees pulled to his chest on the floor and he began to cry.