Standing Room Only

A World of Short Stories

The Woman in the Attic

I didn’t realize what was happening until Jake nearly yanked my arm out of its socket.  The smoke – why didn’t I notice it before?? – was slowly curling up the stairs.  Jake flung himself down the first few stairs, dragging me behind him, only to stop halfway down.  The heat was becoming more pronounced the longer we stood there.  What was he waiting for?  Why had he stopped?  I tried nudging him down the stairs, but he shook his head and stared blankly ahead.  I tried yelling at him, shoving him, but he seemed to have fallen into some sort of a catatonic state.  I wiped my damp hair out of my eyes, feeling as if hours had gone by, but knowing it had only been a matter of minutes.  If even that. 

Then I heard it.  The echoes of a woman screaming coming from the attic.  Only I knew that no one was there.  And no one had been in the attic for several years.  The last person to go into the attic had died there and no one had even known who she was or how she had gotten there.  Jake’s lips moved silently and somehow I knew.  That he had known the woman.  And that he was responsible for her death. 

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