The Resident in the Attic

The old house on the hill had been empty for 100 years. There’d always been a light on in the attic room however.

At one time, not long after the daughter of the house went missing, people had avoided it. It had scared them. Treated it as though it were a bad omen. The elderly had made the sign of the evil eye whenever they walked by it. Morbid children made up vivid stories to fuel one another’s nightmares and their teenage brothers and sisters would only dare each other to get as close as the street opposite. It had been featured in the newspaper once, and that was to acknowledge that the family that used to reside there had, essentially, either died or abandoned the place. The newspaper company soon came under scorn though as many people reported the light switching on at night. The main journalist was fired for producing false information and the newspapers were destroyed by the superstitious public.

 

But these days, it was just an unspoken feature of the town. Ignored but not necessarily avoided. It was a not-quite forgotten mystery – untouched and unmentioned for the last century. If you were to look through some binoculars, you would see the brickwork crumbling, eruptions of moss cascading down the left wall. A few of the windows had been shattered by strong winds and weak panes and over the last few springs a nest of wasps had set up house beneath the tiling on the roof. The wildlife around the place was overgrown and untended and, in the summer, long yellow grass would grow up and through the lovemaker’s tangle of thorns that lined the ground. The low wooden gate had been left to rot but still stood upright somehow. If anyone was to open the latch, they’d find that the metal had rusted into a shapeless lump years ago.

 

It was almost as if it didn’t exist.

 

Julia, however, knew different. Knew there was nothing to be afraid of. So did the majority of the locals, apparently. It seemed to them that if anything or anyone was still living in that house, then it had no quarrel with the town itself. And if it had, then it had some very delayed timing. But despite the lack of fear people showed, Julia believed there was definitely something going on. Partly because of the complete lack of acknowledgement that passers-by would give it, but mainly because every night, just after the sun set, that little light would flicker on – despite the absence of electrical supply, and so did everyone else’s in the town. As Julia watched the sun set each night, evening glass of wine in hand, she’d see the silhouettes of her neighbours cross their attic windows and illuminate the top floor of their houses. And so did she.

 

She wasn’t entirely sure why – but her mother had always done it, and Julia had never questioned it. And in a way, she didn’t want to be left out. She didn’t want to be the one who didn’t turn the attic light on and betray whatever hold that old house had over the little town. She liked to be included – in on the secret. This secret that was somehow not a secret. This secret that a whole town shared but never spoke of. It made her feel just a little less lonely and, in a way, grateful. She felt that although she lived alone, she had someone. She was happy too, that whoever was up there, in the attic room of the old house on the hill, had someone too. A lot of someones.