30 October 2014

Short Story: Hallie

So I asked my friend Megan to give me some Halloween-y nails as we near the end of October. Despite the fact I've already seen what she can do with nail polish and acrylic paint, she still surprised me.

@sailornails on Instagram

Look at these. This is ridiculous. Such detail on my tiny child-like nails. 

In the run up to NaNoWriMo I've been trying to keep writing snippets of stories to get into the habit of doing it regularly, and Halloween has given me a great excuse to churn out the horror. You can read Watching and Germ in my earlier posts.

This story, Hallie, is another I've thrown together quite quickly. As with all my stories posted here, feedback is entirely welcome!

I was about four years old when I figured out there was something a little different about my sister. When I announced one day at playgroup that Hallie lived in the attic, the supervisor thought I was talking about an imaginary friend. She mentioned it to my mother when she came to pick me up, laughing at the imagination of little kids. 

I didn't go back to that playgroup after that day. Or any playgroup, for that matter. Mother thought it was best to keep me at home.

When I started school, mother unable to keep me cooped up at home any longer, I stayed quiet about Hallie. It didn't take me long to understand that sisters belonged on the top bunk bed or the big room with the bay window, not in the attic. When asked if I had any siblings by my teacher, I stayed quiet. I didn't want to lie, but I knew I couldn't tell the truth either. At first I was dismissed as shy; as the weeks went on, rude. People stopped asking me questions, stopped talking to me altogether really. I spent a lot of time hidden away in the school library.

I had always been forbidden to climb the ladder and enter Hallie's attic bedroom. Mother said that the attic was dangerous and I wasn't allowed to play there. But the loneliness was suffocating; I had no friends at school, and mother always complained of headaches and would sleep for hours on the sofa. 

Not long after the first week of school, I started visiting Hallie in the attic. At first she was as bad as the kids at school, turning her back and refusing to speak to me. I would bring a book and strain my eyes to read it in the dark, occasionally reading passages aloud just to hear the sound of a voice. Each day Hallie would sit closer, and closer, until one day she sat right beside me as soon as I'd set down in my usual corner of the attic. I smiled, but didn't mention it.

Mother cried the day she found me, reading aloud contentedly in the eaves of the house. Hallie vanished from my side the second mother's head popped up through the trapdoor, practically vanishing into the gloom of the attic. Mother grabbed me by the wrist and hauled me back downstairs, screaming that I was not allowed upstairs and what did I think I was playing at? She even took my book away. But that was okay. I found it again later, badly hidden at the back of a kitchen cupboard behind some cans of peas. 

As the months went by, I began spending more time with Hallie and less time with the rest of the world. I liked the cosy attic space, the still air, the ragged sound of Hallie breathing beside me. I began to grow resentful of my mother for depriving me of my sister for so long, those long years I was forced to spend alone. 

It didn't take us long to come up with a plan. 

At first, Hallie was afraid to leave the attic. After all, she had been up there for as long as she could remember. I coaxed her down though, speaking in a low voice that always seemed to soothe her. We stole down the stairs to the kitchen, not needing the turn on the lights. Our eyes had grown more than accustomed to the dark during our time in the attic. 

It didn't take too long to find the matches. 


Polly Harper sat nursing a cup of milky coffee, long gone cold in a polystyrene cup. She stared dully at the inspector on the other side of the desk, patiently waiting for her answer. She could feel the inevitable migraine snaking it's way into her head and rubbed hard at her temples, squeezing her eyes shut.

"Miss Harper, do you know what this is?"

The inspector placed a heavy, leather-bound book on the table between them. Polly's eyes widened at the sight of it.

"That's impossible..." she whispered. "I... I took that book away from her. I hid it in the kitchen. You said the kitchen was...?"

"This wasn't found in the kitchen," the inspector cut in. "It was in your daughter's bedroom. It somehow escaped the fire damaged." He leaned back in his seat. "Miss Harper, I have to be blunt. We are very concerned with the contents of this book. Does your daughter spend a lot of time alone?"

"She... she spends a lot of time in the attic by herself," Polly said, gripping the edge of the table. "I sometimes hear her talking. To herself. Sometimes."

"And what does she say?" the inspector probed gently.

"I don't know," Polly whispered. "It's not... it's not in English."

There was a long pause. The inspector glanced down at his notes and frowned, remembering his meeting with the young girl in the burns unit earlier that morning.

"Miss Harper," the inspector began slowly, "does your daughter have any siblings living at home?"

Polly opened her eyes and stared at the inspector in confusion.

"No, sir," she said. "None." 

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