The Developer

No one knows what happened to my brother. They said it was an accident, but it seems to me it would be pretty difficult to accidentally find your head caved in.

Why had he been spending so much time up there? In the loft that is. There’s nothing up there but dusty old boxes of books. No one reads these days, not books anyway. I had to know what he was hiding, they say it’s curiosity killed the cat.. but hey, cats have nine lives.

Mum was visiting his grave today. Elijah, I miss you.

I waited until I was alone. As soon as I heard the clap-bang of the front door, followed on the heels of mum calling; “Alex, be safe honey. And please, stay out of the loft.”, I headed upstairs.

Mum had tried to hide the long-arm hook that pulled the loft’s hatch down, unsuccessfully. With some effort I managed to wrap the hook around the hatch handle and drag it down to the ground, bringing with it that rusted, metal ladder. This is it. I thought, resting my feet on the first tainted rung. No turning back now.

There barely any light in the loft save for the shimmer of moon that gleamed through the fogged skylight window. There was a lamp though, at the far end of the angled room. The walls seemed to close in around you, leering at angular slants, meeting in a point that settled flat in the middle. It was there in the centre that the window stood.

That’s strange. My eyes took a moment to adjust, I thought I might have been seeing things. But no, sure as day at the far end of the room was a lamp overlooking a desk. Only the desk was covered neatly by a moth-beaten cloth. Ignoring the boxes of books and photograph albums and long discarded Christmas decorations (there were at least seven trees bound in boxes up here) I climbed toward the desk, all the while faintly aware of something watching me. Not with eyes, it didn’t feel like eyes, but there was an itch at the forefront of my mind. Elijah?

“Hurry up would ya! We ain’t got all f*cking day!” there was a sigh that sounded like the tapping of keys, “Christ boy! Can ya walk or must ya crawl? Do ya have any idea how long I’ve been left up here?”

“Who’s…” I swallowed hard, feet heavy on the boards of the floor, my heart ached for retreat, to scuttle off down the ladder and forget I’d ever been up here. NO. You can’t hide from this. “Who’s there?”

Laughter was all that returned from the cloth covered desk, though not by letters, it sounded like numbers, mad as that might seem.

“Elijah? Is that you?”

“Why don’t ya uncover me, take a lil’ look-see?”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Well that’s awful rude, don’t ya think? Leaving me all covered up like this.”

Leaving who covered up like this? I didn’t sound like Elijah, but then in a certain way it did. Elijah had been a writer, not an author, he’d never had the courage to publish his work. But he was a writer, and a damn good one, I thought at least. Under the Bridge? It was a short story Elijah had written, about a homeless Troll that lived in a river. Surely not…

“Ya might have all the time in the World, but I’m getting a lil’ bored here boy. Are ya gonna uncover me, or what?”

It was settled, I had to look, no turning back now. In one sweeping move I jumped the remaining boxes, gripped the corner of the battered old cloth, and tore it from the desk.

What? It was a computer… a desktop. The screen flashed a pallid sort of blue and black, there was a fuzzy image within the shadows of the pixels. Something tall and rounded with sausage legs and bulging arms. Impossible. I searched around the desk, but my suspicion had been right, it was unplugged!

“Be a good friend and, well, ya-know…” the shadow on the screen gestured to the side, toward were the plug should have lain in its socket, “It’s just, things are awfully dark without power.”

Something in the back of mind warned against it, but still my hand reached for the limp wire of the plug… after all, I though, cats do have nine lives…

There was a spark from the extension lead’s socket, then came the whirring of fans and the quite buzz of electrics.

“Go on then, flick the switch!” the shadow on the screen pointed down to the monitors power button.

This is madness! I pushed it anyway.

Colour came first, the pallid blues shaping a long line of riverbed. There were lilies on the bank, reeds too, and sure enough a weathered bridge marked the far horizon. I could see the shadow, beside the bridge, entirely black beneath the searing sunset. A featureless mass calling my name.

“Alex! Wait right there!” the shadow called. It started to run.

The closer the shadow came the clearer I saw. It was a Troll, I’d expected nothing less. Wart ridden and grotesque – as cliche as the novels he’d read… Elijah that is – with grizzly tufts of hair poking out of its ears and nose and back. There were teeth like fangs, warped into a gruesome smile.

I could see it all so clearly now, the Troll, the club, the specs of crimson blood… Elijah’s head, beaten down to a pulp…

My heart was racing, my eyes drawn wide, I raced for the power button, but I was too late. The tip of the club came bursting out of the screen.

“Ya shouldn’t have done that.” the Troll growled, “Now I’m gonna have to kill ya too!”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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