This story is by Peter Allen and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Upstairs Man
Oh Nooo!!! Why, oh why, did I have that last glass of lemonade? Mum and dad are watching TV, the cat is playing with our shoelaces in the hall and Tracy’s at her friend’s house. AND – The upstairs man is where he always is – upstairs, and I HAVE TO PEE!!”
I know I’m 10 and a big girl now, so my mum keeps telling me, but it’s so dark and scary up there, I shiver just thinking about it.
Course, Tracy’s 12, but she still won’t go up on her own at night time, so how can they expect me to?
We’ve searched everywhere for the upstairs man, but we’ve never found him. We’ve looked under the beds and in all the cupboards, even behind the cupboards, and I know he could never squeeze in there. I know what he looks like too, well, his size and clothes, because he has no face it’s inside his hoody thing, he’s so scary.
OHHH! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW? I HAVE TO PEE URGENTLY!
“Mum, can you come upstairs with me please, I’m scared?”
“Don’t be such a baby Chrissy, there’s nothing to be scared of, there’s nothing up there.”
I knew she’d say that! She never listens to me. I think there is something up there! The upstairs man doesn’t care about old people like mum and dad, they would never see him, but he’s there alright, watching and waiting, somewhere upstairs.
Why do we have to live in a house with an upstairs anyway? Jilly, my friend, lives in a bungalow and that doesn’t have an upstairs, just an attic and a couple of boarded-up fireplaces.
One night, while on a sleepover, we were watching TV, when we heard the sound of scraping and scratching from the fireplace. Jilly and I looked at each other, then at the fireplace neither of us sure that we heard right. We leaned closer to the fireplace and put our ears next to the board that covered the opening.
Nothing, we must have imagined it. Jilly went “Oooohhhh” like a ghost sound and I tapped on the board and said in a deep voice “is anyone there?”.
Suddenly, a crashing and banging came from the fireplace, we both fell back in shock and ran out of the room screaming and didn’t stop until we bumped into Jilly’s dad and hid behind him.
Jilly’s dad wasn’t a tall man, but he was very wide, not fat, just wide and strong. He could pick us up, one in each hand without any trouble.
He walked bravely into the room with us clinging tightly around his waist, dragging us along the floor after him.
The noise had started again. Jilly’s dad calmly undid a couple of catches on the front of the fireplace and gently opened the top of the wood covering. A bird. A bird had been blown into the fireplace.
Jilly’s dad caught the bird with his coat and took it outside and set it free. Guess where it flew, straight back up to the top of the chimney, but I bet it didn’t sleep again that night, I know Jilly and me didn’t. We laughed and said that we weren’t really scared, but truly we were terrified and that night, couldn’t relax unless we held each other close with our heads under the blankets.
I REALLY HAVE TO PEE! I don’t know how long I can hold on. I wish I was a boy. I could just ‘do it’ out the back like cousin Bobby did one time.
He was a dirty little boy, only 6, but he used to fart and pinch my bum all the time. I’m glad they moved away to Seaford, maybe he’ll fall off the pier and be swept out to sea. I had to smile at the thought of him jet propelling himself out to sea with little farts.
“What are you sniggering at Chrissy? Giggling away to yourself there.” Dad asked.
“Oh. Nothing dad, just thinking about Cousin Bobby farting all the time.”
“Hmph.” He said, “Well I’m glad you’re not like him then, that’s all I can say.”
“Dad? Where you ever afraid of ghosts when you were a kid?”
“Well Chrissy, I’d have been quite happy to have seen a ghost or two when I was a boy, but then, that’s boys for you eh?”
Mum joined in.
“When I was a girl I used to believe in ghosts and me and my sister would fall asleep hiding under the covers. Why? Do you want me to go upstairs with you Chrissy? Are you afraid of ghosts and you’re scared to go up alone?”
“Yes, mum and I’m dying for a pee.”
“OK let’s go then. Come on I’ll race you to the bathroom.”
Gratefully, I chased her up the stairs.
I let mum win, of course, there was no way I was going up there first. Just as we reached the top, we heard a hollow thump come from mum’s bedroom. We stopped and looked at each other with our mouths open.
“What was that?” Mum said in a hushed voice. I didn’t answer, just clung to her arm ready to push my face into her side if anything appeared.
“Well. Let’s have a look, shall we?”
Mum threw open her bedroom door and looked all around. Slowly mum, with me clinging tightly to her arm, walked into the room, inspecting every corner. She got down on her hands and knees and gingerly lifted the bedspread from the side of the bed.
“Nothing under here. Let’s look in the wardrobe.”
Mum walked to the big wardrobe. I seized her arm again,
Mum grabbed the wardrobe door and in one quick move, flung it open.
The thing leapt out of the wardrobe and threw its arms around us. We fell to the floor screaming. Mum jumped up and crouched in Kung-Fu style facing our attacker. I scrambled up and stood and stared at mum ready to attack one of her long-sleeved dresses. It had somehow got hooked up on the inside door hook. When mum threw open the door the hook had pulled the dress off its hanger and threw it straight out and over us.
Cherry the cat, had got in the wardrobe through a hole in the back and given the dress life trying to free herself from inside one of the arms.
The sight of mum standing there in attack mode and her dress in a pile on the floor started me laughing. If only I had a camera, it was a scene I’ll never forget.
My laughing came to an abrupt end as I felt my legs go very warm.
Mum, still laughing just stood pointing at my wet legs and the spreading pool at my feet as dad burst into the room.
“What on earth is going on with you two?”. Then he spotted me peeing, grabbed my arm and rushed me to the bathroom and went back to tend to mum.
When I finished, I picked up Cherry and went back into the bedroom to see mum and dad standing over the offending dress with mum hitting it with a clothes hanger.
“Bad dress, frightening Chrissy and me like that. Take that! And that!” as she hit it. Well, that did it for me and dad. He put his arm around me and we burst out laughing.
“It’s not funny, you two!” Mum said, but as she looked at us, she couldn’t help but join in.
Just as we all started to calm down, a voice from the doorway chirped up
“What’s going on here mum? What are you all laughing at, and why are you hitting your dress with that clothes hanger?”
It was Tracy, back from her friend’s house. We were so noisy that we didn’t hear her come in and climb up the stairs.
We explained everything to her, but she couldn’t see the funny side of it at all and said that she thought we were all mad and went to her room to listen to music.
Mum and I cleaned up the mess I made on the floor and I had a nice hot shower and got ready for bed.
I went downstairs in my pyjamas, sat on the arm of the chair and gave mum a hug and a cuddle.
She then told me
“Chrissy, next time you need to go to the loo and want an escort, just ask and –”
“I’ll send your dad with you. Just joking, Eh? I’ll go with you.”
“Come on and I’ll take you upstairs to bed.”
That night I had no scary thoughts of ghosts or people hiding upstairs, although I promised myself that I would never, ever open mum’s wardrobe without her being there.
Donna Harper says
Oh my, Peter. What a wonderful, punchy, tale you weave. First, you stir the imagination pot, then leave it simmering with a tale of your neighbours, before circling back to the issue at hand and slap us with our own fears of the Man Upstairs. Loved the pacing, the story, the cranking up of tension right before the explosive release. Great writing – gotta go, I need a pee. Is anybody free to go too?