by

Justin Dill

Originally published in Sanctuary: An Experimental Anthology of Speculative Fiction by tdotSpec.

Cousin Benny came to stay in the attic and I hate him. The attic is mine, where I go to explore. Papa says Cousin Benny is very sick and he needs the attic more than I do. Mama says I can explore outside. But I hate outside and I’m not going.

When it’s bedtime, I can’t sleep. Cousin Benny screams all night. He must not like the attic very much. In the morning I say to Mama if Cousin Benny can have my room. I hate my room. Why can’t I have the attic instead?

When it’s bedtime again, I sneak to the attic to go explore. Don’t forget to bring my trusty flashlight! I climb up the ladder all by myself, the way Papa showded me. Cousin Benny is screaming again. He must be very sick. Maybe if I go to the attic I’ll get sick too. But Cousin Benny keeps screaming and maybe he just wants a nightlight. It gets pretty dark in the attic when it’s past bedtime. Too dark for exploring.

Cousin Benny stops screaming when I get in the attic. I like it here when it’s quiet except when it gets spooky. Now is spooky. My flashlight does a nice click when I make it go on. I put it under my chin like I’m doing spooky stories. Maybe Cousin Benny likes spooky stories too.

The attic is real big—bigger than my room, even. With my flashlight, I can see the parts where I did exploring. Granny’s old rocking horse chair. Rocking Horse Chair is so funny when he does his creaky sounds. I tried to feeded him carrots but Papa says he’s a picky eater, like when I get green peas for dinnertime.

And there’s Box Mountain. I tried to climb Box Mountain once but Mama said no. Maybe one time I can make the boxes into a fort if I’m allowed.

And there’s Spider City. One time I was a really silly goose and got all stickied up in the webs. Papa says I can’t keep Misses Spider for my pet. Maybe when I’m older. But I already turned older this year. Sometimes Papa’s a silly goose too.

There’s a new part of the attic I don’t know. It’s a cabinet, like Mama and Papa have for grown-up books. There’s a scratchy noise from inside. Cousin Benny? He doesn’t say to me yes or no, he just scratches. Scritch scritch. Why he is doing in the cabinet? That’s pretty silly.

Cousin Benny does the scritchy scratchy noise again. Maybe he’s doing a secret code like I saw on TV. I scratch him hello. Maybe he can explore with me. No more scritchy scratch. I want him to come out, but I can’t reach the knob to open the cabinet. I say to Cousin Benny what he’s doing in the cabinet but he doesn’t say me anything back. Maybe he goed to sleep. I feel yawny. Maybe I go to sleep too.

When it’s tomorrow we’re having porridge for dinner. Mama is taking some to the attic for Cousin Benny. I askeded Mama why she’s bringing salt shaker. Cousin Benny likes salt shaker with porridge. Yuck. Why Cousin Benny can’t eat at the table, I askeded Papa. Papa says Cousin Benny is very sick. Yeah, right! He’s a big faker and the attic is mine! Papa says go to my room. I hate my room.

I wait for bedtime to climb up the ladder again. Cousin Benny waked me up with screaming. Maybe he must be really sick like Papa says. I am going to say sorry for calling him big faker. This time I push part of Box Mountain in front of the cabinet and climb it. I open the cabinet and shine my trusty flashlight inside.

Cousin Benny is hiding under his blanket. He won’t come out. He screams real loud and my ears hurt. Fine, he can stay in the cabinet then. I slam shut the door and slip off Box Mountain on accident. It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt. Maybe only a little. My feet bump over the salt shaker and salt goes spilling everywhere. I hear Papa’s voice downstairs. Uh oh. I’m not supposed to go to the attic. I hurry back to my room and hide under my blanket like Cousin Benny.

It’s tomorrow again and Cousin Benny is still screaming at bedtime. Maybe this time I’ll bring him my nightlight. It’s my nightlight, Mama got it expecially for me. But sometimes I don’t mind to share. When I go to the attic, Cousin Benny stops screaming. It’s not as spooky when there’s two of us.

I look around Spider City. I look around Box Mountain. I look around the coat rack. I look around Rocking Horse Chair. Over by the cabinet, there’s again porridge and salt shaker. There’s nowhere to put the nightlight in.

Sometimes when the nightlight doesn’t work, Papa opens the curtains and lets the starshine in. I can’t find any curtains in the attic. But there’s a loose wood near Spider City. Papa told me don’t play with it, but that was before. I wiggle the loose wood. I can see the starshine peeking through. I wiggle the loose wood some more. It takes me so long, but the loose wood comes out. Now I’m pooped and I go to sleep.

I wake up when the cabinet door opens. I’m still very yawny. The cabinet door does a funny creak like Granny’s rocking horse chair. There’s a starshine coming in from where I made the loose wood come out.

You can come out now, I say Cousin Benny. I made the starshine come in for you.

Cousin Benny climbs down from the cabinet and goes thump on the floor next to the porridge. His face is all white in the starshine and he must be very sick. He pushes the porridge away and goes yuck. Maybe he hates porridge like the way I hate green peas. I thought everybody loves porridge. But he likes the salt shaker. He spills it on purpose and plays with the salt. I askeded him what he’s doing and he looks at me funny.

Cousin Benny crawls on all fours like a kitty cat. He’s very silly. I think Cousin Benny wants a hug, but I’m scared of to catch his sick. I want to go back downstairs now. But my leg is asleep and I can’t move. Cousin Benny hugs me, hugging very tight. Brrr. He is very cold. And then he is biting. Biting my neck and ow and it hurts so much.

It hurts. Stop. Mr. Sun comes out. Cousin Benny please stop. But he doesn’t stop and it hurts. Mr. Sun shines through where I took out the loose wood. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Something smells burning. Cousin Benny screams. Smelly smelly smoke.

Cousin Benny is on fire. He runs around and crashes into Box Mountain. Now he’s burning down Box Mountain and I hate him. He’s going to burn down the attic and then where will I go to explore? But it hurts and I feel sleepy. The fire is nice and toasty. Now Papa and Mama are here and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to burn down the attic. I didn’t mean to.

Tomorrow when I wake up I’m cold like when Mama puts an ice cube down my back when it’s summer. Papa used his trusty fire extinguisher to save the attic, he’s so smart. I ask Mama where’s Cousin Benny and why he did bite me. Mama tells me hush and I dreamded it. I don’t think I dreamded it.

Cousin Benny went back home, Mama says me. Bye bye Cousin Benny. And guess what? Papa is moving all my room to the attic. He says that I catchted Cousin Benny’s sick. It doesn’t feel sick, only cold.

But it’s okay. Now the attic is mine and I get to stay there all the time.

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