Attica - By Garry Kilworth

CHAPTER 1

Encounters in a Garden

The attic smelled of dust and ages. Jordy peered through a shaft of sunlight speckled with motes to a dim network of beams and rafters. He reminded himself he was a boy who wasn’t afraid of eerie places. But the silence and the gloom of the attic, along with that atmosphere of dead air, were enough to disturb the most resolute of boys. A sound came from the depths. Were there birds up here, inside the roofing? Or worse still, rats? Who could tell? There could be rotted bodies in trunks, old festering secrets from bygone years, evidence of horrible crimes. Anything.

‘Jordy, come on, this box is heavy – my arms are falling off!’

He jumped at the sound, which seemed very loud to him.

‘Sorry, Clo,’ he said, reaching back down the steps for the box of oddments. ‘I – I was just …’

‘I scared you, didn’t I?’ cried his step-sister. ‘You jumped a mile then.’

‘Not scared, exactly,’ he replied through gritted teeth. ‘It’s just a bit spooky up here. Come and look.’

‘No, thanks. Too dirty. Just push the box in. You don’t need to go all the way up. Those places get filthy. My mum and your dad’ – none of the children had quite got used to the new arrangements yet, and were still awkward with what to call their parents – ‘will have to bring the heavy stuff up themselves.’

‘I’m quite strong.’

‘Me too, but not when it comes to lifting furniture …’

She continued talking, but Jordy wasn’t listening. He was staring into that half-lit world of the attic. You couldn’t see the walls: they were hidden in darkness. The pillar of light coming from a single window tile seemed to be the only substantial thing up there, and of course that wasn’t solid, it was just air, sunshine and swimming dust. He could see a pile of old clothes under a rafter, with what looked like a crumbling hymn book or Bible on top. The rags looked like the carcass of some grotesque animal, but he could see now that they were a soldier’s uniform, by the black buttons and the battered cap perched on top. Probably a long-dead soldier from a forgotten war.

Jordy shuddered and retreated down the steps.

Then, to rid himself of his dark mood, he put on a mock hoarse voice and said to Chloe, ‘Don’t go up there. It’s horrible.’

‘Oh, you—’ Chloe punched him on the shoulder.

They went downstairs together, to join the rest of the family.

They were in the front garden, staring at the furniture which was left over now that they had filled their new three-bedroomed flat. Not that it was much to look at, Dipa conceded. Most of it was junk. When two single parents set up home together, it resulted in the meeting of two great furniture tidal waves. The contents of two separate homes rushed together and formed a huge pile of tables, chairs, sideboards, dressers and other household goods.

It was Dipa who took charge as usual.

‘From what’s left we’ll keep our sideboard and your desk,’ she said. ‘The rest can go to a charity shop.’

‘What about my old piano stool?’ said Ben, sounding a little peeved. ‘I made that myself. Look, Nelson needs it.’

‘Nelson would sleep on a bed of glass if it was warm enough,’ snorted Dipa, ‘and you know it.’

Nelson, their three-legged ginger cat, was stretched out on the satin-covered seat in feline bliss, his warm furry body soaking up the sun. Nelson had lost a front leg in an uneven battle with a pickup truck. He now used his disability to attract sympathy when he wanted something, limping more than usual and letting out a pathetic yowl which soon turned to a rumbling growl if he didn’t get what he wanted. He could also move like lightning still, chasing the sparrows in the yard.

Smiling, Dipa placed a hand on her new husband’s shoulder. ‘Your woodwork skills are astonishing, darling, but we don’t have a piano.’

Ben sighed in resignation. ‘All right, one of each. That’s fair, I suppose.’

The three children, fed up and bored with moving difficulties, stood by and watched. Jordy was Ben’s only child: a tall lean boy with a languid air of superiority about him. Next came Chloe, very pretty, her pitch-black hair inherited from Asian ancestors. There was a defiant look which made you wary of upsetting her. Finally, two years younger, there was Alex, with a squarer build than the other two and a quieter disposition. Alex had

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