Grandma Elouise had strictly forbidden everyone in the family from going into the attic of her old farmhouse. She insisted that the ceiling door was far too heavy, and that someone would throw out their back, get a splinter, or smash their fingers if they tried to lift it. She was so adamant about it, that her children and grandchildren never went further than the first or second step before she appeared around the doorway, wooden spoon in hand. Emily and Garret Newsome learned to fear their grandma’s wooden spoon shortly after their fifth birthday. The twins had been playing tag when Emily had ventured up the steps to escape her brother’s reach.
“Emily!” He had whined. “That’s not fair! We’re not allowed up there!”
Emily blew a raspberry in his direction and proceeded to climb up the steps. She wasn’t afraid of some door. She was five now and she was going to prove that she was just as brave as any grown-up! As she made her way closer to the door her brother’s whining increased to teary-eyed, blubbering threats to tell Grandma. She ignored him. When she reached her hand up to feel the surface of the door, she was shocked to realize that it was cold. Much colder than it had been outside on that mild Halloween day. Before she could think about it further, she went down crying from the sting of a wooden spoon smacking her backside. Grandma had been furious and lectured the twins for thirty minutes about how that part of the house was dangerous and off-limits before putting them both in time out. It was one of the twins’ first memories of their grandmother, and the only time they ever saw her truly angry.
Nineteen years to the day later and the twins found themselves staring up at the mysterious door. It had once been a pristine white, but time and neglect had aged it into a peeling grey. The cobwebs of long-legged attic spiders had been woven over much of it, making it sticky to the touch. The twins shuddered. Neither one of them was a fan of spiders, but Garret decided to put on a brave face and placed both hands on the door. He cringed inside at the feel of the thin spider silk clinging to his flesh. Under the webbing the door was surprisingly cold and smooth, despite the peeling paint. He braced himself to push up against gravity and the weight of the door and found that it barely weighed more than twenty pounds. Grandma had been full of it when she said it was heavy. That, or maybe that gym membership was finally paying off… With ease he lifted the door and let it fall to the other side of its hinges. The door landed with a bang and a plume of dust rose into the air. Garret poked his head into the dusty cavity and breathed in frigid air.
“I don’t know about this…” he moaned to his sister. He had never been a fan of anything Halloween, horror, or macabre and going through his dead grandma’s forbidden attic looking for old pictures for her funeral on Halloween night seemed right up his nope alley.
“What’s the matter?” she sneered. “Afraid Grandma’s ghost is still guarding the attic with that stupid wooden spoon?” She nudged her brother, urging him to get out of her way. She had never been afraid of the creepy and other-worldly. She had even joined a séance or two in college in the hopes of having some sort of other-worldly experience. Nothing ever came from them other than a girl getting so scared she peed herself at one and Emily hooking up with some frat boy at the other. Since then, Emily had decided that ghosts were nothing but a hoax and the scariest thing you could get from trying to summon them was freshmen freaking out over a draft. When Garret didn’t budge, she glared at him. “You’re afraid of make-believe ghosts and ghouls, aren’t you?”
“No… It’s not that,” he lied. “It’s just… The attic feels freakishly cold. I’m worried that there’s a hole around here letting cold air in, you know? And you know what else comes through holes in houses? Raccoons. Damned raccoons. You know how much I hate those damn trash pandas ever since the dumpster fire incident. The one where Frank Mesino ended up having to get his eye removed because a flaming raccoon ran out and scratched the shit out of his face. They could be nested right under your nose, and you don’t see them until they’re right there biting your face off!” His sister rolled her eyes and cocked a hip. She remembered how the dumpster fire incident had messed with her brother, but she knew a lie when she heard it.
“Fine,” she huffed. “How about you go look through Grandma’s library and I’ll fight the raccoons for whatever Grandma hid up here. Sound good?”
The waves of cold chills running down Garret’s spine almost had him racing to do just as his sister suggested. If she wanted to provoke whatever was up here, she could be his guest. He didn’t want anything to do with it. Not one thing. And yet…
“No… It’s fine,” he said, holding a surprisingly steady voice. His pride wouldn’t let him back down. He made his way up the last of the steps before helping his sister into the dark, frigid space. Emily cracked a joke about how Grandma Elouise was probably doing barrel rolls at the funeral home now that they were in the attic. Garret managed a small scoff. The idea was kind of funny.
The attic space was old and dusty but had a surprisingly sturdy floor. Cobwebs draped the A-frame rafters, making the place feel like a Halloween display. Fitting for the time of year. The single, octagonal window had been boarded up to keep out bats, and only wisps of light from the moon trickled through. Emily flicked on her phone light and they began their search. Garret came across an old oak chest draped with a crocheted doily. The hinges creaked as he opened the lid. Inside he found some of Grandma’s old cookbooks, a ton of Christmas cards, and a bunch of newspaper clippings with various family members being recognized over the years. Digging further down, he found several faded vintage photos. In one he recognized the man and woman as younger versions of his great grandparents. They looked happier than in the other photos he had seen. Sitting on their laps he saw two little, curly-haired girls. He figured one was Grandma Elouise, but he didn’t know who the other one was. She looked like her twin, but Grandma Elouise had never mentioned having a sister, so maybe it was a cousin. Their family had been notorious for strong family resemblances. He decided that it would work for the funeral. Picking it up, he found another family photo of the four taken a few years later. Great-grandpa William had grown his signature handlebar mustache and the girls looked older. Everyone had a solemn expression on their face. Garret gasped.
“What’s the matter? You find your trash panda?” Emily snickered.
“No. Not quite.” Garret’s head was reeling. “I… I think I found a mourning portrait.”
“So, like, taken at sunrise?”
Garret gave her a frown. “No. A mourning portrait. Like, mourning. You know, what we’ll be doing tomorrow at Grandma’s showing?”
“Ohhhh, that mourning. Gotcha.” She sat down the dolphin snow globe that she had been examining. “What’s a mourning portrait?”
“It’s an old-timey tradition where families would pose with the corpse of their loved one for one last photograph.”
Emily came over to examine the picture. “Whoa. Who’s the second girl?”
“I’m not sure. I thought it may have been a cousin. But now I’m thinking Grandma had a twin sister who died young. Look at this photo. See how the one girl is clear, but everyone else is blurry.”
“Back then everyone came out blurry because in the time it took for the photo to process, people moved, they breathed, they blinked. Only a corpse comes out clear.”
Emily squinted at the image. “Then why is that doll blurry?” She pointed to the dead twin. In the corpse’s hands sat the fuzzy image of a doll with black hair and light eyes that looked directly at the camera, like it was trying to warn them.
Garret quickly stuffed the picture under the earlier one and shrugged. “No clue. Maybe the doll started slipping since it wasn’t really being held.”
Emily nodded and went back to looking through knickknacks.
A few minutes later Garret jumped, smacked his head off one of the ceiling beams, and cursed when a music box began playing. “Dammit, Emily! Give me a warning before you decide to start playing freaking creepy music from one of those trinkets.
Emily stared at him wide-eyed. “You mean it wasn’t you?” She moved her phone around to find a small music box with a tiny ballerina turning on her post. The ballerina’s face appeared to have been filed off. Round and round the faceless dancer spun until her outstretched arm pointed in the direction of a chair covered in a yellowed lace wedding dress. Emily took it off to look at. Garret gaped and saw the doll from the photo sitting on the chair. She was bound with a rope around her body and a gag in her mouth. She was no bigger than a baby. Her face was an incredibly pale shade of porcelain, with dark circles under her eyes. Those creepy light eyes from the photo turned out to be a glassy blue that felt like they were piercing Garret’s soul. Her hair was disheveled, and the red paint from her lips had rubbed off onto the gag. Emily unbound the doll and straightened out her ruffled dress. She found a bracelet around her neck inscribed with a name.
“Lucy,” she read. “Do you think this was Grandma’s sister’s name?”
Garret didn’t answer his sister. He was too busy staring at the doll. He could have sworn her face had changed in the time it took him to blink. The paint was no longer smudged around her mouth and her painted eyebrows were drawn in a look of concern. In the next blink of his eyelids, the doll’s glass eyes changed from staring at him to staring at the far wall of the attic. Just then, a sound like dog nails clicking on floor tiles started coming from the edges of the attic.
“What’s that?” his sister squeaked, clutching the doll closer.
Garret’s mouth was dry. Dread welled up in his gut as the air in the attic dropped low enough that he could see his breath. No, wait. He was holding his breath, wasn’t he?
The floor door slammed shut. Garret looked back at the doll to see her staring at him again. Bloody tears streamed down her face and she wore a look of horror and apology a second before Emily’s phone died. The clicking of the nails stopped as the twins grabbed ahold of each other.
“Garret?” his sister squeaked. “Please tell me this is some sort of joke. Some sort of prank to get me to think ghosts are real.”
He clutched his sister tighter, the doll forgotten between them. “Only if you tell me first.”
Demonic laughing like nails on slate filled the air from all around. The twins tried to cover their ears, but it did no good. Shadows darker than the blackest night rose from the edges of the room, first amorphous, and then taking on twisted shapes. The music box started playing in loud, echoing notes as the shadowy creatures began to sing…
“Poor Little Lucy, bound and gagged in fear,
now she’s free to be our cheer.
Dear Little Lucy, with the purest heart,
she can’t save a snitch and a tart!
Dumb Little Lucy, think she’ll bloody cry,
all because her friends are gonna die!”
With the last line of the cacophony the twins could hear a small voice between them crying out, “No! Please! I can’t take this anymore! Why!? They don’t deserve this!”
The demons laughed their screeching chortle once more before going silent. Garret and Emily stood petrified, like rabbits surrounded by starving wolves. Without warning the demons howled and the twins felt the pain of their souls being shredded and torn from their bodies. Claws and fingers sliced and ripped into the very fiber of their beings, cutting the sinews of spirit that held their souls to their physical forms. The pain was like nothing the twins had ever experienced before. The twins screamed and writhed, desperately trying to free themselves of the demons’ grips, but it couldn’t be helped. Lucy slid to the ground and watched through blood-stained eyes as her best friend’s family members died the same horrible death she had. To any normal onlooker, they would just see two people standing motionless with wide-eyed expressions on their faces until their bodies collapsed. But Lucy could sense it all. Every piece of their souls being ripped and gnawed on. Every twist of pain as another sinew was cut. Every scream of the twins’ souls. Images of when Lydia had succumbed to the demons came flooding back to Lucy’s mind. How they had almost snatched Elouise, too. It was too much, but all Lucy could do was sit there and cry her bloody tears as the demons screamed in delight. Their teeth glistened and dripped with black saliva as they devoured the last of Emily and Garret, each demon taking turns taunting their favorite dolly.
“Poor Little Lucy, always there to see how cruel we demons are to sinners such as thee.”
“Stupid Little Lucy, when whilst thou see that this is the fate of all sinners?”
“Defeated Little Lucy, might we lap up some of your tears?”
The demons continued to laugh and jeer late into the night before leaving Little Lucy to grieve surrounded by the corpses of Emily and Garret Newsome.
* * * * * *
Two days later the cops dragged the bodies of the twins from their late grandmother’s attic. Nothing seemed amiss. It was like they had just dropped dead. This would make all the headlines for at least the next month. Not much happened in the town of Ralleysburg, and a double homicide on Halloween was the biggest news since the dumpster fire incident several years back. Officers Elroy and Mack had been first on the scene for that incident and were now finding themselves on the scene of this one. They checked the house one last time that night before heading out. It was getting late and Officer Mack’s wife would be mad if he missed dinner because of work again. She had been hormonal with the pregnancy and he didn’t want to rock that boat tonight. Officer Elroy was just as willing to head out as he was. Something about the old house set her nerves on edge. Walking through the kitchen they heard a music box begin playing in the living room. Officer Elroy drew her gun with Officer Mack behind her. There hadn’t been any of the forensics team left in the house, they were sure of it. Perhaps some punk with a camera came in to try to get a shot of the crime scene and bumped a music box. They rounded the corner and crept into the living room. On the coffee table sat a music box with a small ballerina with a filed off face. She stopped with her stretched out arm pointing to a doll sitting on the mantle. She hadn’t been there earlier, right? Officer Elroy looked at her and then gasped. Her eyes dripped tears of blood as the room became impossibly cold and the signing began.
“Poor Little Lucy, sitting on a shelf,
eyes streaming red as she’s crying to herself.
My Little Lucy, this won’t take too long.
Soon all you’ll have will be our little song.
Sweet Little Lucy, wouldn’t hurt a fly.
She can’t help you, now you’re gonna die!”
Credit: Ralley Zero
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