Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters
The Thing In The Attic
There was a polite tapping on the office door frame and a small, violently yellow and mauve colored form oozed into the room. Auntie Yaga looked up from the paperwork she’d been avoiding dealing with, glad for the interruption.
“Susan! Your timing is excellent,” she said, smiling. “What can I help you with?”
Susan was the self-appointed receptionist at Auntie Yaga’s Home for Wayward Monsters. Visitors weren’t allowed without appointments, and Auntie Yaga hated talking on the phone, so Susan had taken on the job of screening and handling the majority of incoming calls.
“We just received a phone call from a couple who have run into a problem with their home renovation. The woman, Jeannie Harrigan, said that Marika told them to contact us, as it’s likely more up our alley then hers” Susan said, her voice a warm, honeyed alto, entirely at odds with the fact that her appearance was an amorphous, jelly-like blob with a large number of eyes and pseudo-tentacles. (Some of her relatives had once terrorized Lovecraft himself, a fact which she was rightly proud of.)
Marika was a friend of Yaga’s. She was a professional spiritworker who specialized in poltergeist haunts, which explained why she’d been called for issues with a renovation. Poltergeists are very territorial and extremely averse to changes in their homes, and often react aggressively to major upheavals. The nature of both of their career paths led them to periodically send prospective clients to one another.
“Did she say what the issue was, by any chance?”
“There’s something in the attic that’s been throwing things and stomping around all night, and it’s making it next to impossible for the family to get any rest. They’ve ruled out raccoons or other wildlife, and Marika ruled out poltergeist or demons, but said that it was possibly some kind of lurk and to contact you.”
“Alright. Please call her back and set up an appointment.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Late the following morning, Auntie Yaga arrived at the Harrigan home. It was an old Victorian that had clearly seen better days. It wasn’t unlivable, but it had obviously not been well-cared for over the years and had probably been sitting unoccupied for quite some time. Just as clear, though, were the telltale signs of restoration work being done to return it to its former glory. The age and structure explained why they’d called a spiritworker when wildlife had been ruled out. Yaga was pleased that they’d not automatically assumed ghosts first, which was less common than one would think. She knocked on the door, which was answered by a younger man in his early 30s.
“You must be Tom,” she said, nodding her head, “I’m Auntie Yaga. My assistant spoke with you yesterday.”
“I am,” he confirmed, nodding back. “Please come in. Jeannie’s in the back.”
Tom led her through several rooms in various stages of repair to the back of the house where a woman of similar age was rolling painter’s tape around a window. Introductions and general niceties were exchanged, and they got down to business.
They’d bought the house a few months earlier for a ridiculously low price, both due to its state of disrepair and the local rumors that it was haunted. Eager to begin the restoration, they’d moved in and got started almost immediately after signing the paperwork.
The first few weeks had been quiet, but then they had started hearing noises, like someone banging on the walls or dragging heavy furniture across the floors, but investigation turned up nothing. First they called in a plumber, thinking that maybe there were problems with pipes, but everything was in order. They tested for things like carbon monoxide, black mold, and other hallucinogenic elements, all of which had come up negative. Next, they thought maybe a family of raccoons had taken up residence in the attic and contacted the local wildlife control, but turned up nothing. The house was surprisingly free of rodents, which was odd given how long it had sat empty, but they’d just been glad to not have to call an exterminator on top of everything else.
Nothing explained the ongoing banging and dragging noises. So, at their wits’ end, they thought maybe the rumors about a haunting had something to them after all, and contacted Marika, who came out to check for ghosts or poltergeists, but even that turned up nothing. That was when she told them that they might have a monster on their hands, and had instructed them to call Auntie Yaga at the Home. They admitted being highly skeptical of the entire idea of monsters, but nothing else had turned up answers. They were desperate and willing to explore all possibilities.
Yaga listened to them, asking a few questions here and there as they told their story and when they were done asked to be shown to the attic. Jeannie led her upstairs, while Tom took over taping the window frames. When they got to the door, she asked that she be allowed to go up alone, to see what she could find out. Jeannie consented, visibly relieved, and so she continued up the stairs.
* * * * * * * * *
The attic was in better shape than she’d expected, given the general disrepair of the rest of the house. It had a high ceiling with the original beams still strong and solid, and most of the floorboards were still intact. There were a number of storage trunks, boxes, and pieces of old furniture scattered around left by former residents, but surprisingly little dust and cobwebs. Auntie Yaga closed her eyes and listened carefully. After a moment or two, she smiled, opened her eyes, and said “I know you’re in the corner behind that fainting couch, my friend. You can come out. It’s alright. “
There was no response, but she could hear the soft sound of something roughly human sized breathing in the shadow. There was a faint rattling rasp to it that concerned her a little, but she’d be able to deal with that soon enough. For now, she sat down on top of an old steam trunk and started talking about the Home for Wayward Monsters that she ran, along with her childhood friend and former Monster-Under-The-Bed, Glatis (named for the Bête Glatisant, or Questing Beast, of Arthurian Legend), and how they helped humans and monsters learn to live with one another. After a little while, she heard the sound of something moving and a shaking, slightly-hollow voice whispered “They’re destroying my house. Can you make them stop and go away?”
She turned to look at the speaker. He was roughly 6 feet tall, but quite hunched over and painfully thin, even for a shadow-lurk. He was also very, very old and frail. It was entirely possible that he’d been living in the house for several generations. She sighed, and mentally swore at the world for the thousandth time.
“Sadly, I can’t. It’s their house now, and they don’t want to leave”, she replied, gently.
The elderly shadow-lurk bowed his head, and sat down on the fainting couch, his slight form barely moving the dust.
“They aren’t destroying the house, you know. They’re trying to fix it. Other than you, it’s been empty for a very long time.”
He huffed. “I’ve been here since this house was built in 1842. It’s my house more than it is theirs.”
“I know, but you and I both know that human laws don’t recognize that.”
He huffed again, but nodded in agreement. She sighed regretfully. He was so old, and had been here so long. She had to find a way to either convince him and the homeowners to co-exist, or to convince him to move to the Home with her and the others. He was just too old to do anything about the humans in his territory anymore, and they both knew it.
He was silent for several moments. She waited, patiently. After a time, he spoke again.
“I don’t want to leave. This is my home, but I’ve been around long enough to know how the human world works, and I’m too old to fight it. If you think you can convince them to let me stay, I will stop trying to drive them out. I’ll even make sure that they never have any problems with wildlife or trespassers, to the best of my ability” he said, then added in a conspiratorial whisper “I’m too old to be a threat to anyone, anymore, but don’t tell them I said that.”
She smiled. “I won’t. Let me go talk to them and see what I can work out. I’ll be back in a little bit.”
With that, she went back downstairs to tell the Harrigans what she had found and see what they would decide to do.
* * * * * * * * *
About an hour later, she made her way back up the stairs to the attic, this time with Jeannie and Tom following somewhat nervously behind. They’d agreed to meet the elderly shadow-lurk and were willing to let him continue to live in the house for the rest of his days, with some stipulations. In short order, an arrangement that was amenable to both the Harrigans and Eliphalet was settled on, and Auntie Yaga promised that she would check up on them all regularly as they got settled in their new lives together.
* * * * * * * * *
Later that night, back at the Home For Wayward Monsters, as she wrote up her report and documentation for the day’s newest adopted family, she smiled in satisfaction. In addition to adopting Eliphalet as a member of their own family, the Harrigans had offered to have him help with the restoration plans to include more shadowed areas for him to live comfortably in. She had a feeling they were going to get along well.
Hers was an odd life, to be sure, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)