Nana’s Shroud

The steps were old and steep. Their rise was endless and mysterious. The three ancient nails holding each securely to the aging walls were like a disgusting parody of the holy trinity.  Each one almost was representing my many fears, my many tainted personalities; the father, son and ghost. I shuddered nervously at the many loud creaks the ancient boards would make.  Each one was like the crack of a whip against my conscience’s back. My nervousness that night was a mixture of many things, namely, the sheer mystery exuded by the whole situation, and also, the disturbingly burning anxiety I was feeling in my heart. The anxiety was the ill-begotten product of my grandmother’s illicit secrecy.

            Growing up, my siblings and I were corruptly taught to fear her, dear Nana. At the same time, we were told to fear whatever or whoever was at the summit of those gnarled stairs.  We were always sharply told it was the attic, and that only Nana was permitted to enter it, which she strangely did in a weekly pattern. Resembling the activities of an obsessive-compulsive, Nana would, on every Wednesday and Friday, make the long trek to the summit of those demonic pieces of timber. My sisters and brothers, and I, even mother and father too, would look in profuse wonderment as we heard Nana open the haphazard old door to the attic.

            Nana’s coldness to the family was not the only thing that had spawned my immense fear towards her, it was also her prickling nature. She had always been to us, quite a bitch of sorts. Living with us in our house only on account that she was too ill to care for herself, we learned to deal with it. Whenever anyone of us inquired as to her activities in the attic, she’d deviously glare into our eyes, burning our souls in a magnitude of wicked silence. Through my adolescence, I had developed a sick obsession with the eerie attic, but never dared to venture into it until that fateful evening.

            Often, at night, growing up in that old house, (a relic of the gilded Victorian era), I had heard very demonic and very heartless cries, muffled by our home’s immense mystery, coming from that wretched attic. For years I laid in stiff fear, clutching my blankets, listening to Nana’s old boots clanging on the floorboards above me. At breakfast the mornings following such sleepless nights, Nana would always wear her black dress, and brush her hair in the drawing room, staring piercingly into all of my family’s’ eyes. Every one of us was feeling the identical urge to rush up into that old attic and reveal to our curious minds whatever morbid tasks had been carried out for all those years. But none of us ever did…

            Years were soon to pass, and every night was progressively spent by me in fear. My grades in school were to slip from honours standing to almost failing, I would often break into freezing sweats upon merely glancing at Nana, or having her glance at me. The time was soon to come for me to cease my family’s fears once and for all.

            Walking home from school one day, I had noticed some advertisements for Tylenol. Strangely enough, such a symbol of corporate pharmacy had inspired within me, the solution to my fearful troubles, the troubles which had cursed my family.

            I was, at this time, of the age of sixteen years, and ready for a change. When I arrived home, I conversed with one of my sisters, plotting our solution to Nana’s shortcomings. Later that evening, after a very speechless Nana had ignored us at dinner as usual, she napped in the parlour.

            I quietly slipped into the dim parlour and gasped, taken a-back by Nana’s morbid nap. As she lay there, I walked over with a small, ivory bottle in my hand. As I neared closer to the ancient beast that was Nana, a tremor engulfed my then-feeble body. The contents of the ivory jar began to rattle, rattle like the boots of Nana, whose rapping on the attic floor every night of my life had filled my head with visions of horror. I knew I had to act fast. I immediately approached Nana’s tea cup and emptied into it, the entirety of the jars’ contents.

            I exited the scene, leaving Nana to sleep. The next day, mother awoke the entire household with a horrid shriek, much unlike anything I had ever even dreamt. I quickly leapt from my bed, put on some slippers and ran downstairs to find mother.

            There, in the parlour, stood mother at Nana’s side, clutching the old woman’s wrist, frantically attempting to read her pulse.  In awe, mother’s gaping jaw failed to produce any of the words it had intended. I could tell her thought was “Nana’s dead! Someone has killed Nana!” in spite of the relief we all would have unnaturally felt at the old woman’s death. My response to mother’s speechless observation was, “Nana has a fever! She’s not dead yet!” Everyone stared in sickening shock at my very blatant and disrespectful remark.

            I stood there, motionless, while the family’s glances, distraught and tired, shot to my direction. They then confirmed that Nana had not yet deceased. They had also noticed she had consumed all of her tea…

            Within that week, Nana was quickly whisked into the local hospital, while my family stressed over her condition. All the while, we temporarily forgot the shroud Nana had lived under; her secrecy had actually left us alone for that short time of confusion. My plan seemed to be working. And so it came to occur that she finally died, taking with her to her shallow grave, all the secrets she possessed of the attic.

            Years after these events, after the old house had been abandoned by my family, after I had completed schooling, after we had all moved on, I returned.  For one last time, I felt I still had yet to rid myself and my subconscious of those nightmares Nana had induced so many years before.

            I drove back to my hometown, back down the same dead avenue that had led unforgivingly to our former house. I inhaled deeply as I stepped out of my car, boxes in hand, and Nana’s urn in my other palm. I walked up to the porch and entered, knowing the door to be unlocked, since the old house had been long abandoned since our residence there.

            I basked in the midday sun as I glided upstairs, then down the hall to the attic stairs. A chilling breeze of frustration had brushed past me as I put down the now full cardboard box of old belongings we had left behind, and walked up the maniacal rise that ascended into a black heaven that was the shrouded attic. Kicking the withered door in, I slowly entered the attic. Not knowing at all what to expect.

            Inside, the air was frozen, a combination of musty smell and sub-zero temperature, strangely present during that hot summer day. I looked around this small chamber my family and I had always feared, seeing it to be nothing too out of the ordinary, that is until, I sat in a cracked wicker rocking chair, still placed precisely where Nana had set it.

            I started to rock slowly, leaving Nana’s urn on a table beside me. As I looked down on the floor, I gasped heavily, then hyperventilated as I saw carved roughly into the thick timbers that constituted the floor, scuffed heel-marks from Nana’s old pointy boots. I was in a state of subdued shock, both fearing whatever it was Nana did up there, and also wondering the truth.

            I looked slowly above my head, above where the rocker sat in dilapidation. There, suspended from the ceiling, were chains, heavy and attached to shackles. I couldn’t breathe at that point, succumbing to the fear, I jumped up. I grabbed Nana’s urn, and at the same time noticed scuff marks and cuts from the heels of her boots.

            I stood there, suspended in pathetic fury, savagely prying open the gilded urn. I slipped my hand inside. Its contents felt like the warm innards of a slain animal. I screamed. My voice becoming a thunderous echo throughout the old mansion, as the attic door slammed shut, even though it lacked a handle.

            I ripped my hand from the interior of the urn, only to pull out with it, a tattered shroud, saturated in blood. I dropped the urn, letting it shatter on the old floorboards, while I threw the shroud and ran. As I ran, I yelled obscenities as my foot became stuck within one of Nana’s old heel-scuff grooves. I fell to my knees, shrieking in horror as the shroud began to bleed; seeping from it was the blood of Nana’s secrecy, and the tainted blasphemy of her silent lies.

The End.