Sunday, April 29, 2012
“Hand me that box, Chloe.” Trent stretched his arms out toward the slouched figure at the doorway.
Chloe’s long fringe shrouded her face as she fiddled with the door handle.
“Do you want that box up here, or in your room?”
Chloe shrugged lethargically. Her eyes cast low as she studied the dust in the cracks on the attic floor.
Trent opened the lid, pulling out a pink unicorn. “It’s just your old toys, dolls, teddy bears. Everything from your old room.”
A fleeting look of panic crossed Chloe’s eyes, but was quickly replaced by a dull pain.
The unicorn dropped back into the box. “How’s about we leave it close to the door. Just in case. Or would you like me to bring it down and put it into your room?”
“No.” Chloe dug her finger into the keyhole of the door. “ Its fine Dad. They’re dumb.”
Trent reached out to touch her on the arm but withdrew as soon as she flinched. “Chlo - they’re just toys. What about Fairy Fay?” He pulled out a delicate porcelain fairy doll. “You may be more comfortable if you have some reminders from the last house.” He brushed the dolls hair back and held it out to her, “Good memories. We left the bad ones there, remember?”
“I’m fine, Dad. They’re dumb. I don’t want anything from my last room. I don’t want to -” She flushed and turned her head away from him. “Are we done here?”
Trent straightened and cracked his back. “Yep, thats the final boxes to be stored in the attic. Though I have no idea where your mother thinks she is going to fit all that stuff in the lounge room.”
As Chloe scuffed her shoe against the wide planked flooring, a large splinter broke away and stuck into her sand shoe.
“Watch yourself Chloe. Your leg is still healing. You can’t go round kicking things. And look at all those nails jutting up all over the place here. I’ll have to come up and knock them down sometime.” Trent bent for a closer inspection. “Huh, They are those old iron ones. Just like the ones in your leg, huh Chloe?” The sharp tips drew blood as Trent touched one. “Yeaoww! Man, they are sharp.” He shook his hand and then sucked the bleeding digit. “Going to be a tougher job than I thought. Well, you know the saying as tough as..” He looked up at his daughters blank face, the smile on his face withering.
Chloe folded her arms and kicked a wooden crate. “Whose stuff is this?” She glared at a collection of crates and a large wooden trunk under one of the lower beams.
Trent straightened “The old owners, I guess. They must have forgotten them. I’ll call the agent tomorrow and see if we can get them sent on.” He pushed at the trunk. He frowned and bent for a closer inspection. “Now why would someone put huge angle hinges to attach this to the floor like that?” He narrowly missed banging his head on the beam as he straightened. “Damned place is a health hazard. I’m going downstairs.”
Chloe kicked one of the nails poking up from the floor, noticing that there were a number of them clustered underneath and surrounding the wooden trunk. She idly pulled at a piece of lace poking out from under its lid.
A shout from her father forced her interest from it towards him. Her racing heartbeat slowed as she realised he was dusting an old spider web away from his face.
He blustered, wiping his face zealously. “Come on, Missy. Too many dangerous things up here for my liking. I’ll bring some pest killer as well as my hammer tomorrow.” He held the door she leant against. “ After a day like today we deserve ice-cream.”
“I’m not a kid, Dad.”
He hesitated a moment before flicking her pony tail. “Girls any age will eat ice-cream. Even if they have transformer legs.”
A tiny smile graced her pale face and disappeared.
Trent’s hand faltered as it rose to touch her on the shoulder. “Honey, I can’t fix what happened. I don’t even know what to say to you any more.” He puffed his cheeks out as Chloe refused to look at him.
She waited till his footfalls echoed down the narrow stair case before looking up and around the attic. Tracing a hand over the film of dust atop one of the crates, she stopped and bent to examine the ornate latch of the largest trunk. With a swift pull, it sprang open. She opened the lid slowly, only to be disappointed to discover the cavernous trunk empty but for a broken, old-fashioned hand held mirror and a small doll whose dress had been caught under the lid and had piqued her initial interest.
Now that its skirt was free, the doll plopped to the bottom of the trunk, its clunk echoing hollowly. Chloe's eyes darted towards the stairs, waiting for her fathers impatient voice. She bent into the trunk, her hand searching the dark space for the doll. As her fingers sought to curl round the dolls waist, she dropped it, squeaking with surprise and pain. Chloe brought her hand to her mouth, sucking the fleshy part of her thumb; tears springing to her eyes. She inspected her hand, expecting to see a gaping wound from what she suspected was mirror shards. When it showed no such injuries, Chloe frowned and turned her hand over.
“Come on Chloe! Theres a fudge sundae with my name on it and you’re keeping it from me!”
She closed the lid and pelted down the stairs two at a time; soon forgetting her injuries, the nails, the trunk and its contents.
The next morning, Chloe stumbled out of bed and continued to yawn through breakfast after she’d dressed. Trent took a sip of his coffee and eyed her with concern. “Didn’t get much sleep last night, Missy? Your leg hurting? Nightmares?”
“No”. Chloe shook her head. “I dunno, I went to sleep straight away. I just feel whacked this morning.” She brought her hand up to her collar bone and unconsciously scratched. Trent offered her the rest of his toast. “Its an old house with all its strange noises. You’ll get used to it.”
“Oh honey, I thought you’d grown out of your eczema.” Her mothers eyes were a mix of disappointment and anxiousness. “You haven’t scratched yourself to bleeding like that for months.Not since - ” Fiona grabbed Chloe’s hand and inspected her fingernails. “I’ll cut these straight away. Look what you’ve done to your neck while you were asleep! You can’t afford to get any sort of infection. Not while - ”
“Fi, Chloe is doing fine.”
Chloe pulled her hand away. “I’m alright Ma. Its just the dust we stirred up yesterday afternoon up in the attic.” But the scissors had already arrived and there was little she could do about the fussing that followed. Trent winked at Chloe as she rolled her eyes.
Chloe was lethargic most of the day as the family continued to unpack and rearrange furniture. Sent to rest in her room, she stared up at the ceiling, suddenly remembering the trunk in the attic. She took her torch and slipped out of her room. Chloe cautiously opened the door to the narrow staircase to the attic, her bare feet whispering up the stairs. The afternoons weakened sun filtered through the attics only window, casting muddy shapes on the uneven flooring. Huge support beams thrust themselves from footings to ceiling, transforming the shadowy space into an angular jungle. Her feet raced over to the trunk and in her haste to reach it, she forgot about the nails haphazardly surrounding it. Wincing, Chloe bit her lip as a shard from a nail protruding from the floor plunged itself into her big toe. She sat on the floor and shone her torch over her wound. Touching it gingerly, she gasped at the pain. “Damn it. Stupid nails. Going to have to dig that one out.”
She glanced at the stairway and held her breath, rewarded by silence. Her eyes darted to the wooden trunk as a small smile crept across her face. “After I check the crates.”
Shifting over to the wooden trunk, Chloe ran her hands over the rough boards. The chill of the iron cladding tingled at her finger tips. She ginergly opened the latch and shone her torch into the depths. The small doll slumped in a corner its tattered lace underskirt pulled upwards displaying her carved wooden legs. Chloe picked it up and examined the sweet but sad smile painted on the dolls pale face. She brushed its fine woollen hair back.
“What are you doing here all by yourself? Strange thing to leave behind.”
A tiny bell tinkled. Chloe dropped the doll and shone her torch toward the other wooden crates. The bell chimed again. She reached to pick up the doll and shrieked as it was grasped firmly. Her knees slid along the wooden floor, tiny splinters or wood and nails embedding themselves as she was hauled into the dark trunk. Chloe screamed as the clawed grip on her arm dug deeper. Her fingers desperately sought to grip something to slow her abduction. The torch clattered to the bottom, the tiny bulb smashing on impact.
Her strangled screams echoed hollowly in the trunk. By now, Chloe’s throat was raw from the earthy bellows of terror she continued. She felt herself falling through the darkness and just as suddenly, landing; warm sand enveloping her. Chloe clutched a gritty fistful and struggled to open her eyes, rewarded as sunshine screamed into her pupils. A shadow above her blocked the glare. Chloe brought her arm up and tried to focus on the shape. Translucent wings shivered in the warm breeze, sending rainbows dancing across the sand.
Chloe rubbed at her eyes and went to sit up. Hands grasped her pyjamas and tore them into strips. Chloe screamed again, kicking and thrashing at the hands, a new terror filling her body. Dark memories, like icy fingers slithered across her heart its insidious progression gripped her throat.
Cold water sliced across her body as small hands scrubbed at every part. She slapped at them, shrieking profanities and struggled to stand up. “Get the fuck away from me!” Her voice was raspy from screaming. More water drenched her as she scrambled on the soft sand.
Chloe’s arms wrapped themselves around her breasts as she hunched and glared into the searing light. A lock of hair tumbled across her face as she twisted about, glaring at the figures surrounding her .
Her feet sunk into the sand as the light caressed her naked body. Chloe’s ragged breath began to even out. “Fucking freaks! Who are you?” The tiny figures around her stood silently.
A sudden wind slapped sand into her eyes and as she fought to focus again, she found herself alone.
A lithe, feminine body swirled before her and a long arm stretched out to touch Chloe’s face. She battered the hand away, shocked to find her arm passed through the figure, only to reform as the wind shifted the sand. “Where the hell am I?”
Small mounds pulsed beneath the sand around her, finally forming an army surrounding her. Chloe’s lip curled as her eyebrows wrinkled. “Fairies? But fairies don’t live in the sand. Fairies don’t even exist.”
Translucent wings fluttered as the silence buzzed.
The figure wound itself around Chloe’s body, its face close to hers. “So you say. But here you are. And here we are.” Sand tendrils slithered around the fairies before forming a slender regal figure in front of Chloe. “So tender.” She regarded her court. “ Are my loyal subjects hungry? Its been far too long since we’ve had a visitor.” A hundred rosebud lips opened into leering grins, revealing razor sharp teeth.
Sandblasted lips pressed against Chloe’s forehead, immediately recoiling with a hiss.
“Unclean and damaged.” A spray of sand seared into Chloe’s skin. “Order the doll who sent us this child to attend to me. Immediately.” A flurry of wings darkened the sky momentarily.
The beautiful face leered achingly close to Chloe’s, “Safe for now from us and you’ve no idea. ”
“How? What? Whats going on?”
Spiting sand stung Chloe’s cheeks. “You have links with your human land. Embedded inside your legs, under the skin of your knees. Protected with iron. Count your blessings, human child. Begone!”
Chloe felt small hands clutch her arms as she was dragged into a whirlpool of sand. Her world went black and her mouth filled with sand as she tried to scream again.
Large soft hands grasped her around the waist and Trent’s aftershave enveloped her. Chloe shook as he father smoothed her hair and pulled her out of the trunk.
“What on earth were you doing in that trunk Chlo? Its just as well you left the attic door open, or I’d never have heard you screaming.”
Fiona tore her jacket off and covered Chloe’s shoulders. Trent’s face coloured as he realised she was naked. He stared from his wife to Chloe’s face, unable to put any further words together.
Fiona began to lead Chloe down the stairs. “Make sure you do something about those nails sticking out on that floor tomorrow Trent. Its like a minefield around that trunk.”
“No!” Chloe struggled. “No - Leave them. Don’t touch them.They’ll find me. They’ll come.”
“Sweetie, I thought we’d left all your nightmares behind.” Fiona brushed her fringe back. “No-one is going to find you. You’re safe now.”
“I’m fine. Really.” Chloe pushed herself away from the embrace of her parents and rubbed her leg. “Turns out some things are a blessing in disguise. Fate even.”
This was written in response to Write Anything's Form and Genre Challenge , Magical Realism.