You all remember the night I subtly stole Wil Wheaton’s wife away from him, right? We formed our bond over a mutual fear of our attics and everything blossomed from there. Since that day, life has been one highlight after the next. I was there (on Twitter) when she wanted to talk about attractive tall Dr. Who actresses, I was there (on Twitter) when Wil “hurt his old” and she was nursing him back to health with Ben-Gay and Epsom Salts, and together (on Twitter) we have invented jants, jights and jondoms – for when you just need everything on your body to be made of denim. Since Wil has been so busy working on a”SUPER SECRET PROJECT” that he continually refers to in all capital letters but can’t talk about for months which has rendered him unable to participate in socializing with anyone, I’ve been there to fill the enormous, gaping void in Anne’s life.
I am a bit sore that despite everything, she never found it prudent to actually follow me (on Twitter). Then again she can’t give it all up right away, so it may just be another of her teases.
The point is that we are both scared of our attics. And while she conquered her fear a few weeks ago by entering her cryptic high room to find a suitcase for an upcoming trip with
her husband Wil that other loser, I hadn’t yet taken the frightening journey into the dark, dank, dusty summit of my abode. As many know, my house was formerly my grandfather’s house, and he lived here since the place was constructed in 1952. Day after day, I wandered the rooms of my house with great interest of what boxes of mysteries loomed above my head, but wrought with the fear and trepidation of what monsters may be guarding my treasures. The desire to find out what was up there remained constant, as did the stunting malice that I expected to find. Even with the support of many Twitter followers, Mrs. Wheaton included, I couldn’t bundle the willpower to throw caution to my curiosity and pop my head through what could be the gateway to the death of my body or soul.
The courage finally came from my wife. And a delicious Bob Evans omelet.
“You want to go up there today after we clean the fish tank and get it over with?” she asked me casually, as if it were just some ho-hum mundane everyday household duty to enter one’s attic and stare certain evil in its cold, hollow eyes.
I took a bite of my Border Scramble, a fluffy omelet stuffed with spicy pepper-jack cheese and smothered with crumbled sausage, home fries, diced tomatoes and onions in a zesty ranchero sauce, and while visions of cadavers, corpses, dementors, fist-sized spiders, ten pound rats, specters, ghouls, Faith Hill and every other horrifying creature I could imagine spun through my mind, I took a solid bite of delicious eggy, cheesy, chili-coated confidence and replied:
“Yes, I will do that.”
We had a few bits of shopping to do before returning home, so it was a few hours before we got back. We had a lot to do around the house that day, so there wasn’t a lot of time to
prepare for death waste if I was going to get this done. Regardless, I did find it prudent to engage in a few preparatory measures. If I was going to have my head ripped off or my soul evacuated from my living body through the black teeth of a translucent winged demon, I at least wanted to do it prepared.
First was a tweet to Anne, the woman I knew I could count on for support:
Second was to consult her earlier suggestions for tackling the attic alive:
Oh, crap. I don’t have a light saber, I don’t have a helmet, and while 911 is fine and dandy, I’ve never heard stories of them un-killing someone when the cat boy from The Grudge shows up. I decided the best I could do was a 2 million candle-power spotlight and a gross old purple tea towel. The plan was if I saw any creepers charging at my face with hungry zeal, I would beam them with the spot, then swat them with the cotton fabric as I dropped back down the opening.
My attic isn’t one of those cool attics that has stairs and a door, or even a drop-down ladder attached to a hinged board. It’s literally just a piece of wood with insulation strapped to the back of it that covers up a gap that leads above the ceiling. I have to lean a ladder on my food pantry and stand on its top to access the hole. Inside, there isn’t even a floor for most of the attic, just about 4 feet of wooden planks in all directions where the crap sits. Behind that stuff is a mountainous terrain of insulation and fear.
As I started up, my wife got the camera. She thought this was fun. All safe and secure down in the house.
“Sure, go get the camera,” I said. “That way you can photograph the blood geyser spouting from my shoulder stump after the beasts lop off my head.”
Yes, that’s how I get in my attic. Yes, behind me are my washer and dryer. Yes, that giant wooden cabinet holds all my liquor. At least if I was to die, I’d fall near my Tanqueray.
The wood had been painted more recently than it had been opened, so it stuck a bit. Particles of insulation and dust fell onto the cabinet. I think it was dust. It might have been pulverized bones.
That sort of looks like a grin, but it isn’t. I grabbed the light, blew my wife a kiss, and popped through.
And then it happened…
I pulled the string hanging near my shoulder and turned on the dim attic bulb.
My hand gripped the trigger of my spotlight, emitting a massive glow, and I quickly surveyed the area.
No corpses were evident, which was a good start. No mysterious pockets of insulation were blowing around in the corner from an impossible breeze, which added some comfort. And even though I was completely surrounded by thin strands of spider scariness, no actual spiders were in sight or upon my person. I grabbed my towel weapon and beat them all down.
“Ok, well, I guess I’ll send some stuff down,” I said to my wife waiting below.
“It doesn’t look like anything up here is going to kill me. Though I can see where our dryer vents out!”
I started getting distracted. “There’s an awesome pile of lint.”
Now, just because nothing killed me immediately didn’t mean I felt all safe and cozy up there. For the next hour, I wiped the dust and insulation off of various boxes and sent them down to my wife. Most were filled with decades-old Christmas decorations, empty packaging from glassware my grandmother had purchased, and general trash. I kept focusing on my duties, because every time I really stopped to think about where I was and what was going on, I got this suspicious feeling that something was going to suddenly charge across the attic and possess me. I was almost certain that if I turned around and faced the direction where there weren’t any boxes, I was going to catch a glimmer of a terrifying ghoul just long enough to wonder if I actually saw it. Which of course would make me weep and fill up my pants with a completely huge amount of crap. So I just kept my head down, cleaned off boxes, and passed them to the Mrs.
Then, after moving a box, something was staring at me. Literally. With eyes. Cold, dark eyes. It was perhaps the most frightening thing one could be greeted with in a dark, cold attic save for the supernatural.
My grandfather was a watercolorist. My house is full of paintings. When we moved in, we uncovered them everywhere – in the garage, tucked behind every piece of furniture, one he didn’t like was patching a hole in the wall behind the mirror in the bathroom, there was even one under the broken couch cushions to keep them sturdy.
But this was scary as sin to find upright, against a support beam, looking at me in the dark.
I assume it’s my great grandfather because it looks a good bit like my grandfather, but was signed and dated by him in 1946. I guess he didn’t like it. I do, even though I’m fairly sure its eyes move. It’s on my piano behind me right now, and I keep turning around to see if I can catch it looking my way.
A nice piece of my grandfather’s very early work. But good lord. The timing… Not awesome. I thought of Anne and her suitcase and gained the courage to finish up.
My wife and I sorted through the rest and found some pretty neat Christmas decorations, a few small trees, a box with some of my baby toys, and a lot of really obvious trash because my grandma didn’t believe in throwing anything away. There was literally a 10″x4″ scrap of torn, used holiday wrapping paper she had no doubt saved because something really little could have been wrapped with it. We found my copy of Willy Bear, my blue sippy cup, and a baby toy called Big Mouth Singers, complete with a massively corroded C battery that was fresh until 1988.
Then I uncovered another interesting gem. One final sign that I had Anne’s protection from the evils of my attic this whole time, and quite possibly the only reason I’m alive to write this now. Unwrapping some really old, disgusting newspaper revealed a tiny red glass bottle. Embossed on the side were the words “COL. SAM JOHNSON – PROPRIETOR – RICHMOND , VA – 1852 – A. LANCASTER’S – INDIAN VEGETABLE JAUNDICE BITTERS.”
And on the bottom, “WHEATON, W. J.”
I can only assume that means one thing…
“Wheaton, Watching Jeff”
Hey, I didn’t put it in the attic. This is clear guardianship.
So thanks, Anne. You saved my life. Who needs a helmet and light saber with a protector like you?