Editor's note: Dylan Hilpman is the winner in the youth division of the Journal-World's Halloween writing contest. Dylan is a junior at Free State High School. The winning story in the adult division will be published on our book page in the Sunday D section.
Kenny was nervous. The attic had been sealed tight for more than 30 years, and the stories about what was behind the locked door were plenty. What Kenny knew about the mysterious attic came from his sister, Jody: One night long ago, a scream was heard from the attic. Man or woman no one really knew; dead or alive no one really knew. Why the door was sealed no one really knew.
But now, Kenny held the key to the attic in his hand, a key that had inexplicably appeared in his mailbox a few days earlier. He put the key in the door and turned the handle. The door swung slowly open to the loud protest of the rusting hinges. The dry musty smell of cobwebs and house dust filled Kenny's nostrils as he stepped into the room. The only illumination to the chamber was the faint light, which managed to seep through a thick canvas sheet blocking off the window's view of the early evening.
As he stepped from the door, he congratulated his own bravery and denounced the stupidity of his older sister Jody for thinking she could instill a sense of fear in him through a tale cheesier than the monster under the bed. He remembered her hushed words and solemn tone as she narrated the attic's tale to him all those many weeks ago:
"In this very house there used to live an old man who had no children, no family and no life. What he did have was a guitar which he tuned and played for hours on end. The only voice heard from the house was the melancholy dirges of the guitar, heard by neighbors every so often. He never slept, and often children would wake from their dreams to look out the window and see the man's emaciated shadow flickering through the covered window by candlelight. No one could claim he was cruel but tormented and depressive to say the least.
"One teen-ager, acting on his destructive impulses, watched carefully for weeks and, when the man left for his monthly grocery store trip, entered the house silently and broke the guitar's neck. The tormented cry of the guitar was heard no more and yet locked in the silence that now filled the night was a greater mystery devoid of comfort.
"The boy took $50 that he'd been saving and went back to apologize to the man, but the house was silent. He entered, searching for him. Walked through the house, up to the attic. The door opened and the man was there as sad as ever, swaying back and forth from the middle rafter of the house, hung by a guitar string.
"To this very day the man's spirit haunts the attic. Of course, you don't believe in ghosts, do you Kenny? No, that would be what little kids are afraid of. "
"I'm not afraid of stupid ghosts, Jody" Kenny retorted, fearing inside that she'd call the bluff.
"Then do it you found the key in the mail box, just go up and walk into the room. Unless of course "
"Oh I'll do it, and when I'm done, I'll rub that stupid story in your face" he exclaimed, storming off to his room.
As the boards creaked underneath the weight of Kenny's light step, he regretted having made the decision. But at least there was some daylight, if he would just pull off that sheet he could see the room and be satisfied with his ...
The solid close of the door made him jump, and pulling off the canvas covering, he pushed it out in front of him as a weak defense from whatever was behind him. Recovering his composure he tried the handle, but found that it was locked.
"Jody?" he asked. "Jody, this is not funny. I'm serious, open the door. Jody! Please, I'm begging you." The knob suddenly was freezing in his hands, his breath could be seen in plumes of mist from the sudden change of temperature in the room. The soft melodic sound of a classical guitar could be heard.
"NO! Someone for God's sake, someone get me out of here!" His frantic cries went unheard. The footprints which had been left in the dust of the isolated loft were wiped clean, as if an ethereal hand was erasing every trace that he had ever been in the room. Afraid to look up, he looked out the window, hoping to get someone's attention, but the thin panes were darkly illuminated with the portrait of a sad man, his empty gray eyes holding Kenny in sheer terror, no longer able to scream, his desperate attempts to cry out were as soft as the guitar's strum in the darkness of the attic.