I pulled forcefully on the string, and with a *whoosh* the wooden stairs slid down, landing with a *thump* onto the carpeted floor. My body shook nervously as I knew it was forbidden for me to go here. But my parents were away, and my curiosity finally got the best of me. I jumped down from the bed which I had mounted so I could reach the string, and quickly ran to the foot of the stairs. Looking up I could see nothing but a Cimmerian hole, so black that it seemed to suck all light from the room like a black hole.
My palms sweated furiously, and for the umpteenth time I had second thoughts on my decision to disobey my parents. But I had made up my mind, and started my ascent up the stairs and into the attic. My foot slipped on the first rung from the sweat my feet were coated in and I fell face first into the bottom of the ladder.
“Ow!” I cried out to no one in particular. Sometimes it just seemed to make it better to yell out when I was in pain. I was on the floor now, my legs sprawled in front of me. I rubbed my mouth and forehead gently, smearing a few drops of blood that had dripped from my nose onto my otherwise unblemished head. Tears began to form in my eyes, but I quickly shook them away. I was eight years old, after all. Much too old for tears, as my dad would say.
And immediately the memories came rushing back. Memories of my daddy; far too few. My dad had been gone for five months, off on another tour of duty for the United States Navy. Every moment he was home seemed happier for the whole family; me, mommy, and even little Johnny who was still crawling. I missed him, so much. He was the one who had first given me the idea of going up here, but my mom adamantly refused, muttering things like “he’s too young.” I didn’t know what she meant, but it only piqued my interest and now I could wait no more.
I quickly stood up, rubbing my head again, knowing that I must hurry if I were to make it up and back down before my mom got home from grocery shopping. I took extra care to wipe my sweaty feet on the carpet and continued back up the ladder, toward the aphotic hole where I had no idea what awaited me.
I took each step slowly, remembering what had happened the last time when I had tried to move too quickly; I didn’t want to fall again.
My head emerged, and suddenly my eyes adjusted. I wasn’t nearly as nebulous as it looked from below; the moon- and star-light shone brightly through the large window to the right, and rays were clearly seen flying upward from the hole in the floor.
I climbed out of the portal completely, pulling myself up with my arms. I rapidly stood up, stumbling at first on my short legs, but gaining my bearings and observing the scene around me. Along the walls were many boxes, tables, shelves, and other various objects, each box with assorted items hanging out. To my right, in front of the large window, was a colossal telescope, easily twice my size.
For a moment I simply stood there, gawking at its magnificence. Slowly, as if under their own power, my legs began to move, directing my body toward the gold and silver contraption. I was completely mesmerized, taken aback at elegance of the contraption before me.
My mouth hung open, and I could do nothing as I neared it but stare. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I knew it was a telescope; my dad had taught me about stars and planets and other entities that roamed the skies, and how this device allowed you to see them more clearly. But I had never seen one in person, much less been able to use one.
A smile crept onto my lips, the joy to receive the treasure of knowledge the telescope gave clearly present on my face.
I tried to reach the eyepiece, but its towering height made it much too far away for me to grasp. I looked around the attic, and my eyes landed on an old, beaten chest on the opposite side of the room. I quickly ran to it, my stubby legs looking ridiculous as I scuttled across the wooden floor.
I flung myself onto it, searching for an opening before I found a rusted lock. I attempted to open it, but even in its antique shape it stayed true to its purpose: keeping unwanted people out. I searched for a key, but could find none. My eyes rested on the chest again, and for the first time I noticed all the stickers dotting its sides. Then I knew what the trunk was, what it contained. My dad had told me a couple years ago about his own daddy, and how he had fought in something called World War Two. He said it was in Germany, and that no one in our family had ever gone there since. That’s why the stickers, all from Germany or about the military, revealed the contents of the case.
I wanted to stay here, find a way to open it, to discover the treasures of my grandad’s past, but I heard a car pulling up in the driveway. I scurried back to the opening in the floor as fast I could, this time forgetting to be careful with my descent on the steps, only concerned with not letting my mom catch me. I pushed the ladder back into its crevice, and the flap with the string swung shut behind it. I quickly jumped on my bed and picked up a comic just as I heard the front door open.
“Jack, I’m home!” I heard her call from downstairs.
“Hi, mommy!” I called back. I tried to focus on the pages before me, but I couldn’t think about anything else except the gems I had found above my room.