The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Toys in the Attic
by Suzanne Madron
The For Sale sign swayed in the breeze, knocking gently against the side of his sedan. It was hot, too hot to show a house, really, and especially too hot to show this house. The old Victorian was straight out of the pages of a horror novel. It had been in disrepair for decades, each generation of the family letting it fall further into ruin. The porch railings were warped and showed chew marks from squirrels and families of wildlife called the space beneath the soggy porch floor home. Pieces of the old gingerbread woodwork around the roofline and windows had rotted and fallen into the overgrown yard, now lost forever in the bramble. The real estate agent sighed at the general neglect of the place, but knew it was inevitable once the family members had moved away to the cities.
The current owners inherited the property from some newly deceased relative and had never seen the place. The agent had urged the siblings to visit the property to see if it might be something one of them might want to keep. Reluctantly, they had agreed to meet with him.
And now they were late. Tardiness seemed to run in the family, he thought sulkily. He checked his watch again and noted the delay of ten minutes had stretched into twenty. He turned the air conditioning up in his car and checked his phone. No messages.
As he was about to give up at the thirty minute mark, a rental SUV bounced along the dusty and overgrown driveway toward him. The agent smiled with relief when he saw two faces, a man and a woman, beneath the glare of sunlight off the SUV’s windshield.
The vehicle pulled up alongside him and the driver side window slid down. The man leaned out with an uneasy smile.
“Are you L’etranger?” he asked.
The real estate agent gave the man a tight smile. “Yes. And you are the Bonhommes – Cheryl and Bernard, yes?”
The couple nodded simultaneously.
“I’m so glad you could come. This place could use some TLC, but I think you’ll find it’s got a truly lovely garden and great bones.”
The man and woman stared up at the dark windows, then gave each other a meaningful glance. He knew by that simple look that they would want to sell the place to the first person who would put in an offer.
“Shall we take a look inside?”
“I think we’ve seen all we need to,” the man said. “We’ll sign whatever paperwork needs to be signed so you can get it on the market.”
He gave them a pained expression. “There are some items left in the house.I really would feel better about putting the sign up after you’ve both had a chance to take a look and make sure you don’t want anything that was left behind.”
“Fine,” the woman said from the passenger seat. “The sooner the better.”
She opened the door and her tennis shoes crunched over the gravel driveway as she walked toward the house. Her brother turned off the SUV and followed her, and the real estate agent did the same.
L’etranger motioned them around a hole in the porch floor and opened the door. The siblings paused.
“Don’t you keep the place locked when no one’s around?” the brother Bonhomme asked.
The real estate agent laughed uncomfortably. “There’s no real need,” he explained. “This place… well. It has a reputation.”
“A reputation?” this question from the sister.
L’etranger leaned in close to them and whispered, “Everyone thinks it’s haunted.” At the twin nervous expressions on their faces, he laughed. “It’s not really but I don’t go out of my way to inform the town. Fear keeps any curious would-be ‘explorers’ out.”
The Bonhommes relaxed slightly and followed him into the house. The tour was a quick one. Most of the items left behind weren’t worth anything. Old furniture with rodent nests crowded the rooms, and a layer of dust so thick it was almost like looking at layers of sedimentary rock covered every available surface. The further up into the house they went, the hotter it became, and the siblings were visibly sweating when the trio reached the stairs to the attic.
The stairs creaked as they climbed and when they came eye-level with the floor it was evident there was more than just squirrels living in the old house’s top floor. Cheryl Bonhomme wrinkled her nose at the scent and turned to leave when she saw the mummified remains of various creatures littering the floor. She turned back at her brother’s exclamation.
“What the hell are these?” Bernard pointed to a series of hand-made dolls hanging from the rafters.
“Ahhh, you’ve met the family!” L’etranger grinned. “There’s one for every one of your family members, dating back many, many years.”
Cheryl ran for the stairs without waiting for an explanation and L’etranger drew a doll from his jacket pocket. He wound a piece of her hair around it, then stabbed it through the heart with a long pin. With a cry, she clutched at her chest and fell down the attic stairs. There was an audible crunch as her neck snapped and her brother screamed.
“What have you done?” Bernard raced to the bottom of the stairs and cradled his sister’s lolling head. Her eyes stared upward, empty.
L’etranger hung Cheryl Bonhomme’s doll from the rafters next to the others then took out a second doll. “I am punishing the sins of the fathers. When you’re gone, I can rest at last.”
After L’etranger had finished hanging Bernard’s doll and burying the bodies in the garden, he shoved the old For Sale sign back into the ground knowing no one would ever see it.
Fiction © Copyright Suzanne Madron
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Suzanne Madron:
The house across the street seems to go on the market every few months, but this time nothing about the sale is normal, including the new owners. No sooner has the for sale sign come down and the neighborhood is thrown into a Lovecraftian nightmare and the only way to find out is to attend the house warming party.