Short Story ...
Ivy had crept up the south wall of the cottage and covered the small attic window. It was once a place loved and full of love, meticulously maintained. But then the divorce. His will had gone, shortly after his family. What was the point? ‘I’d better do something about that ivy’, he sighed to himself. ‘I’ll hire the kid for an afternoon’.
Amanda awoke. She had no idea how long she’d been there, or even where she was. She peered through weave at the brilliant shaft of sun streaming in through the attic window. She was being held in a wicker basket and was unable to move. Around her, dusty boxes, stacks of old magazines and assorted odds and ends were piled on a strip of unfinished tongue-and-groove boards. The planking ran down the centre of the room, flanked on either side with blown-in insulation. Above the insulation ran a series galvanized furnace ducts. Through the cold air return, a sound drifted up from the floor below. It was voices. People were talking. She strained to listen, eager to learn who these people were. She took in what she could before the voices vanished.
Each day the sun would enter her little world and awaken her with its sweet warmth. Each day she received just enough sustenance to keep her alive. The voices from the duct would visit her again and again. With each passing day, she learned more about the people below. She came to understand that hate, betrayal and deception all played a part in their hectic lives. There was never any mention of her, or why they kept her there. The voices were her only solace. She drank it all in, eager to discover something about her fate. Trying to understand them was the only thing she had. It kept her mind alive and firing. Just a few minutes each day, day after day.
The years passed slowly. The more she came to know the voices and the lives they led, the more disillusioned she became. One of the voices claimed to have had a miscarriage, but Amanda had overheard that it was actually an abortion. How could you do that to someone you claim to love – lie to them like that? Surely their lives were not typical of what society had become while she had been in captivity. These people were clearly sick.
The year was 1979. One day, the true reality of her situation hit her hard. The voice she knew as Susan had committed murder. For the first time, she felt truly afraid for her life. Was she next? They obviously didn’t care about her. They never visited her. They never spoke about her. Her captivity must be a danger to them. If she was found one day, the world would be horrified at how she had been treated. They would all go to jail, or perhaps be put to death. She relished that thought. So now there was nothing to stop them. Once that line of morality had been crossed, there was no going back. If one murder, why not two? These people were psychotic.
From that point on, she lived in terror, fearing that, at any moment, this Susan would come up to the attic and put a bullet through her head, just as she’d done to Barbara. It struck her that, perhaps, they wouldn’t do it here, in the attic. There would be no way they could ever clean up the blood and splintered skull evidence. Not enough to avoid detection by a forensic team. Perhaps they would take her out to the woods or something. That might actually be a godsend. Perhaps, once out, she might have a chance to escape, or to scream and attract attention, on her way to execution. Maybe her salvation would come with the police attention that must accompany a murder investigation. Or maybe they would just drown her or, easier still, strangler her. Then she would just be a dead body to dispose of. No chance for escape.
She spent the rest of her years imagining how they would do it. It was torment. The more she listened and learned, the more she hated these people. But she was powerless. She couldn’t just not hear them. She found herself praying for the voices to stop. Once they had sustained her mind, but now she was so jaded that she just wanted to die.
One day she noticed an ivy creeper growing over the attic window. Day by day it spread and began to block out the sun. More and more, she lived in the darkness of the attic and the darkness of her soul. She felt linked to it. She felt like she was dying. She could feel her life ebbing, like the light from the window. For the best, she thought, to be free of the relentless fear. Even if she was freed at this point, she was ruined. There could be no normal life for her after the psychological trauma that these horrible people had put her through.
The voices stopped. One day they just stopped. She never heard them again, but it didn’t matter. It was too late for her to feel any relief. She was on death’s doorstep. She invited death, and it came. Like sand through the hourglass, those were the days of her life.
“Oh heavens, look in here,” said Charlotte. Flashlight in hand, she climbed up through the attic access. Her daughter Sarah followed, peeking her head up through the hole.
“What is this place, Mommy?” she said.
“It’s called an attic,” said Charlotte. “People store stuff in them that they don’t want anymore, but can’t throw away. Usually for sentimental reasons.” Charlotte shone her light around the cluttered, dusty room. “It appears that your grandfather had a lot of sentiment.” They began to walk through the space and examine the contents.
Sarah picked up an old magazine “Mommy what is ‘Slope offer disgust’?”
“It’s pronounced ‘Soap Opera Digest’,” said Charlotte. “Your grandfather was addicted to one. Every day when I lived here, like clockwork, the TV would come on ... ‘The Days of our Lives’. ‘The soaps’ is what they used to call them. They were popular in the 1970s. I don’t think as much any more, but I think they still make it.”
“I’d like to see one,” said Sarah, “just to see what Grandpa liked.”
“Perhaps in a few years,” said Charlotte. “The content is a bit racy for an eight year old.”
“Mommy, Mommy look over here!” squealed Sarah, shining her light on a dusty wicker basket. Charlotte walked over, unlatched the top and shone her light in. She was speechless.
“Do you know her Mommy?”
“It’s Amanda ... ‘Amazing Amanda’.” said Charlotte. “When I was your age, I spent hours with her, teaching her words.”
“Can I have her?”
Nodding, Charlotte reached in and carefully lifted Amanda out. “I bet she still works,” she said. “She’s solar powered.” Charlotte shook off the dust. She was touched that her father had kept Amanda here all this time and felt guilty that she had never visited him, but the longer she stayed away, the harder it was to come back. She felt guilty that he had never met his granddaughter and that she would never know him. Not now. “‘Amazing Amanda,’” Charlotte said again. “Such memories. She was state of the art back then. The more you talked to her, the more she learned. I’ll bet her memory is wiped now though, all those years in the dark. The words I taught her are probably all gone.” She handed Sarah the doll. “You’ll have to start from scratch.”
Amanda awoke. She had no idea how long she’d been there, or even where she was.