A young boy comes face to face with the secret that's been hidden in the old loft above his father's garage, and the horrible consequences that come about because of it.
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There's a light burning in the loft above the old garage. It's a place that little boys aren't ever allowed to go, but the older Eddie forces his little brother to go with him. What they witness there is a harrowing tale about the dark nature of promises made and kept, and the truth behind a terrible family secret. This is that story -- the story about The Light Upstairs.
My dad always told me that “good boys always keep their promises.” My older brother Eddie and I heard those words all our lives, especially when it came to our mother. “Good boys always do what their mothers tell them,” he would say. But the words I’ll always remember my father saying had nothing to do with what good boys did or didn’t do.
That was before tonight -- that’s when everything changed. Eddie shook me awake; my vision was too blurry to read the clock, and that meant it had to be late. But all it took to wake me up were seven words: “There’s a light in the upstairs window.”
We peered across the backyard strewn with pale shadows and jagged edges of black, like the dark side of the moon. The shades were pulled back and showed a glowing light -- a throbbing, pale blue-green light that I was all too familiar with.
“What do you think it is?” I asked in a whisper.
“I bet it’s a robber,” he said. “Pro’lly someone who’s hiding out and doesn’t want to be found. We could scope them out, then come back and call the cops. We’d be heroes!”
“I dunno, Ed. Why’d they pull the shades back if they wanted to hide?”
“Oh, you’re just a scaredy-cat. Are you coming or not?”
“Coming?” I’m sure my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “You can’t go sneaking out there when it’s dark out!”
Eddie could, so we did. Out into the dark he went and me with him, the two of us in flannel pajamas and hi-top tennis shoes. Carrying the flashlight was my job, while Ed had his trusty pocketknife out, blade drawn and ready to turn the tables on any villain that got in our way.
The garage in our back yard had been an actual house a long time ago. My father had converted the first floor into a workshop, and it was always full to bursting with overflowing tool benches, bicycles with flat tires, discarded paint cans, rusty tools and anything else you can imagine. There were countless boxes of old children’s clothes, too, stuff Ed and I never remembered wearing; my father just told us to be thankful for what we had. Dad even kept his gun out there too, a long, matte-black shotgun that hung high over the window, and we were told to never go near it. Eddie got his backside tanned real good one time when he tried to take it down to get a better look.
Dad was always out there working, sometimes disappearing for hours at a time, but he never told us what he was working on. Dad didn’t even have a job; he said he hurt his back, so he stayed home and took care of Ed and me. Of course, hurting his back didn’t stop him from leaving late at night after my mother came home from work. On some nights I’d spy him out of my bedroom window carrying heavy bags into the garage when he thought the rest of the family was asleep, but I saw him. Those were the first times I saw the light on in the upstairs window, but I never talked about it or asked Dad what he was doing; he went to so much trouble to hide that it didn’t seem right to bring it up.
The one place where not even Dad went was up the set of narrow wooden stairs at the back of the building. “Don’t ever go upstairs,” he told us. That was the only warning Dad ever gave us on the matter, and he said it over and over again. A group of tall, heavy boxes stood against an uneven row of boards that covered the entrance. The boards were held in place by rusty nails, so many that I could never count them all. There was no way to peek around the corner and look to see what hidden treasures were tucked just out of sight. The second-story window over the basketball goal was splintered and covered in spider-web fractures -- probably the fault of one too many high-arcing free throws -- but the blinds were always drawn and did nothing to satisfy our curiosity. Now they were pulled back to show off the light upstairs, and Ed was determined to find out where it was coming from.