Trust me, the last thing I wanted to be doing was heading back up to Michigan to go through grandma’s things. But apparently that’s part of the will- specifically, the grandkids are the ones to go through the stuff in her house. Our parents got her money all divided between them, my dad got the most because he was there for her during nursing homes and hospice, my aunt Elise got the least because she’s a bitch.
Let’s go over who my grandma was.
Grandma Garnet was, well, a pretty good grandma as far as grandmas go. I never knew her husband, I didn’t know any of her husbands. She was married three times and had seven kids between them. She never got a divorce, she just had bad luck. I know the first one fell off a tractor and broke his neck when she was pregnant with my Uncle Oliver. I really don’t know about the other two, again, all croaked before I was born or old enough to really have memories. But Grandma was good. Made cookies better than any professional bakery, was good at listening when you had a problem, and always knew all the answers on Jeopardy. She probably could’ve won if she ever went on the show, but she never really cared for that. Not like she needed the money either, she was freaking loaded.
I feel shitty to admit that I grew apart from my family these last few years. I got a job down in Chicago when I turned twenty and right before I moved there was a huge fight. The whole family got pulled into it and it was messy to say the least. Frankly I was just glad to be getting the hell out of dodge and avoid the worst of the fall out. After that I just… didn’t go home. I called my dad every week but I haven’t even interacted with my little sister Ashley outside of liking her posts on Facebook.
I didn’t even recognize her phone number when she called to tell me the news- grandma’s cancer finally took her and she’d left her house and its belongings to all of us to sort out. And she was specific. Every grandkid had to be there before we opened the will and read its instructions.
Luckily my job now lets me work from home anyway. So I packed up the car, put my dog Kass in the backseat, and drove the seven-ish hours to grandma’s house.
The smell in the air was still the same. Grandma always lived way out in the country, her neighbors were mostly corn fields and apple orchards. Radio signal is always hit or miss, either you’re tuning into a repeat of Sunday’s sermon, some really twangy country music, or white noise. I nearly slammed right into the back of one of those horse and buggy carts because I forgot to look out for them.
Still, the closer I got to grandma’s house, the more it tugged at my heartstrings. I missed this place. Even if I didn’t miss most of my family.
Ashley was waiting on the front porch for me. She’s my younger sister but she grew taller than me when we were teenagers. Annoyed the piss out of me at the time. Now I just… it’s weird, seeing someone you spent a lot of time with as a kid, and suddenly going nearly a decade without even picking up the phone and wishing them happy birthday.
“… Hey, Ash,” I said, giving the most awkward wave someone could imagine.
Ashley responded by jumping down the stairs and wrapping me in a hug so tight I heard my ribs groan. “I’m so glad you’re here, Brandon,” She whispered into my ear before swatting the back of my head and letting go. “And that’s for being gone for a thousand years and leaving me to be the only sane member of the family besides Dad.”
Still the same Ashley. I smacked her back, of course. “Quite the leap, saying you’re the sane one,” I said.
“Just get in the house, dumb ass. You’re the last one here.”
“I had the longest way to go!”
We walked into grandma’s house and into the parlor, and it was like nothing had changed.
Uncle Oliver has one son, my cousin Rory, and he brought his wife Marla and three kids. He’s the only one still on his first marriage and he’s also the oldest, both of which he tended to lord over the rest of us. Right when I walked in he was trying to direct traffic and get everyone to settle down while Marla handled the three wild children Dextyn, Corgan, and Nevaeh.
After uncle Oliver was my dad and he just had the two of us. We had to force our cousin Azalea to stop taking up the whole couch, she complained the whole time while she scooted out of the way. She’s Aunt Elise’s daughter, and she’s a bitch, just like her mom. Her son Sawyer was no better, but thankfully he was just taking a nap on the rocking chair so I didn’t have to hear him harassing me.
Aunt Rachel’s only living son, Neptune, was texting on the phone in the corner. I almost didn’t recognize him, he’d gone full Goth. Last time I saw him, he looked like so preppy. Then again, last time I saw him was before everything went to shit in the family.
Aunt Brenda’s twin daughters Haley and Heather were playing Mario Kart on the TV, much to the scorn of the oh so mature ‘Junior’, Uncle Bruce’s kid. And finally was the girl that took me the longest to place that was absorbed in whatever was playing in her headphones, Uncle Todd’s daughter.
Ashley didn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence. “Laura? Yeah, she just turned eighteen. She’s got some sort of anxiety problem, I imagine being in this house with all the older cousins probably isn’t helping. I think Junior drove her here.” With that, Ashley put her fingers to her lips and whistled as loud as she could. “Hey! Brandon’s here, we can break out the will now!”
That got the attention of the room. Rory was the one holding the telltale envelope. You could feel the anticipation in the room. Some of us just eager to get this done and over with so we could go home, others wondering how much estate we were going to get, and maybe one or two just interested to see what Grandma had thought to leave for us.
Rory cleared his throat and started to read. “Before I begin, I’d like to make clear that none of your spouses or kids should be in the room, if you have any.” He glanced up at Marla, who definitely seemed huffy over this but just herded the kids out of the room, saying that they should go check out the old barn out back. With that awkwardness out of the way, Rory continued to read.
“To all my grandchildren, let it be said that I’m having you handle my material possessions for a very important reason. In the basement below your feet, the attic above your heads, the barn out back and the spare cabin are some very important things I would like to be taken care of. This will not be a task to take lightly. Some of my earthly belongings are things that need to be handled with care. So to all of you, Rory… M-Mars,” I saw Neptune visibly flinch out of the corner of my eye, “Brandon, Azalea, Ashley, Sawyer, Junior, Heather, Haley, Neptune and of course you too, little Laura, handle them with care. Be careful. Listen to your instincts. And only trust your family. You were all such good children, so listen to your grandmother, okay? I love you all, no matter what, just don’t be in such a rush to join me by acting careless or thoughtless. Grandma.”
There was a beat of silence as Rory folded up the paper in his hands. Silence that was unfortunately broken by Azalea huffing and saying, “What the hell is she even talking about? Was she that crazy at the end?”
Neptune scoffed and openly rolled his eyes. “Even if she was, the will’s obviously over ten years old.”
“How do you know?” She snapped.
“Because my brother’s mentioned in it, dumb ass.”
World War Three almost started up when Rory whistled to regain control of the room. “Hey! Knock it off!” He said in a voice he definitely used on his kids. “Do you really think this is how Grandma would want us to act?”
Neptune at least managed to look ashamed, Azalea just snorted and crossed her arms. Rory took a deep breath before looking up. “Let’s start with the attic then,” He decided before opening up the door that led to the stairs.
We all followed one by one, Rory in the lead with me right behind him and Sawyer and Azalea trailing behind, clearly the most disinterested. I’d been coming to this house since I was too little to have memories. But I’d actually never been in the attic. I didn’t care to really go up there anyway, I mean, what was so interesting about a dusty old attic?
Rory found the attic door and after a good yank managed to pull it open. We all climbed in after him. I think even Azalea was shook by how big the attic actually was. I think we were all expecting this little room, but there was enough space for all ten of us… plus the dozens and dozens of freaking boxes.
I spoke for all of us when I said, “This is going to take a while.” If this was just the contents of the attic, I was going to hate going through the basement and the barn. Not to mention a spare cabin, which I had no memory of even existing.
Rory looked ready to start dishing out orders again when Ashley cut in. “Okay, I’m gonna step out and order pizzas. Let’s just get started,” She said. This did get her the dirtiest look from the eldest cousin but we all just started milling around and ripping open boxes.
The first one I opened up made me tear up a bit. It was the marble run set I used to play with as a kid. All of us grandkids probably played with it at least once. “Hey, Rory, think your kids might like this?” I asked as I pulled it out.
I saw Rory’s expression change almost immediately, I wasn’t the only one tearing up now. “If I can get them off their damn iPads for more than ten minutes, I can’t see why not.”
The twins’ eyes almost popped out of their head when they saw the set. “If they don’t want it, then we call dibs!” Haley piped up. “The marbles still in there?”
I dug through the box, not finding a sign of the old cookie tin, but I did find a small wooden box. “Maybe she put them in here?” I flipped open the box’s lid.
Well, they kinda looked like marbles. I frowned as I plucked one of the glass balls out. In the light shining through the window, it genuinely looked like the muddy red contents were swirling around. “Are these the marbles we had?” I asked.
Rory took it from me and examined it up close, I resisted the urge to make a crack about him needing glasses. “I don’t think so? I don’t recognize these.”
Azalea squealed as she lifted out a gaudy gold necklace with a bright red jewel. “You think grandma will mind if I sell it?” She said.
Junior shrugged. “If it’s up here, it’s obvious she didn’t want it,” He said.
“Maybe wait until we’re done to decide what we’re selling,” Rory said.
I rolled my eyes and continued sorting through the marbles. The more I looked through them though, the more I was sure these were not the marbles we played with. They came in all sorts of shades from sunshine yellow to cobalt blue, with swirling contents that glittered or sparkled or did nothing at all.
Then Heather screamed bloody murder. I dropped one of the marbles and it smashed on the floor, but I didn’t care as I ran over to my cousin’s side. Her face had gone completely white as she pointed at the box she’d dropped on the ground, made of a reddish wood and lined with blue velvet on the inside.
I would’ve thought it was a large jewelry box if there wasn’t a human arm inside.
It looked like it was a thousand years old, all shriveled up and its dried up fingers curling inwards like talons. I’m a little ashamed to admit I nearly bolted right out of the attic right then. Of all the things I expected to find in grandma’s attic, I didn’t expect human body parts to be high on the list.
Laura was the only one, shockingly, not too disturbed. She scooped it up, brushed off the lid, and started to examine in. “You know, there was a time in history when people would loot the tombs of pharaohs, taking home the body parts of the mummies inside as souvenirs,” She piped up with, the first words I’d heard her say all day.
“Yeah, fucking great, where did Grandma get it?!” Heather managed to get out before she dropped into a dead faint.
Rory and Junior were by her side first, scooping her up and scrambling to get her out of the attic. Laura continued to examine the arm like it was no big deal, murmuring quietly before setting it down and taking out a pen and pad of paper from her pocket. “One… human arm, right… with a golden ring on its middle finger… in red wooden box… with carvings all over it…” She shut the pad of paper and smiled. “Okay, that’s taken note of!”
“Is that what you’ve been doing this whole time?” I asked as I wiped the sweat off my forehead, trying to ignore the queasiness building up in my gut.
Laura nodded. “I’m not sure how good I am at lifting and sorting, but I am great at taking notes. I think someone should be taking account of all the things up here, right?” She said.
“There’s a ring on it?” Sawyer asked.
Laura lifted up the box and sure enough, the mummy arm was sporting a ring. “I think it’s an old signet ring. I’m not gonna risk damaging the arm by taking it off to get a better look, but I bet we could donate this to some kind of museum! Who knows, this might be history!” She said.
Ashley poked her head up into the attic.
“Pizza’s ordered, why the fuck does grandma have a mummy’s arm!?”
Why did Grandma have a mummy’s arm indeed. We ended up shuffling back to the living room, Laura taking the arm with us to get a better look at it in the light. She probably took a million pictures from a dozen angles as she jotted down more notes. I did notice Sawyer’s greedy look at the golden ring on its finger, but I didn’t put too much stock into it at the time. After all, most of us were here for the money we could get from selling this crap.
We agreed to continue sorting the next day, Laura said she could call her professor tomorrow morning and see what we could do about the arm that was clearly older than all of us in this room put together.
Least that’s what we figured.
I really, really wish Grandma was more specific about how dangerous the things in her attic were, but she was always bad about specifics. She had way too much faith in us to not somehow fuck this up.
Because around midnight I woke up to Sawyer screeching like he’d been murdered.
We’d all passed out in various parts of the house, I managed to seize the couch while Rory and his family laid claim to grandma’s bedroom. The arm was left in the kitchen beside the empty pizza boxes. When I heard the screaming I ended up rolling off the couch and landing on Ashley, who definitely didn’t appreciate being crushed by me judging by her immediate reaction to punch me in the head.
We all scrambled to get up, Rory was throwing on his bathrobe as he bolted out of the bedroom. In the kitchen I could see Sawyer bent half over as another agonizing scream echoed through the house. I threw on all the lights to see just what the hell was going on. I nearly fainted when I realized what I saw.
The mummy arm’s middle finger had been broken off, the ring now on Sawyer’s rapidly shriveling up hand. Beads of sweat dripped down his bloodless face as he attempted to rip the ring off, all in vain. His arm was withering away from the elbow down, muscle and fat being drained away so fast I couldn’t barely even process it.
None of us could process it. The only one to react was Azalea, who bolted forward and grabbed that ring. With a banshee yell she ripped off her brother’s finger with a snap and a small spurt of blood. He collapsed on the ground, babbling complete nonsense as Azalea threw the ring away and curled up by her brother, wrapping both arms around him as she tried to soothe him.
Finally we were jerked into action, Heather and Haley ran to the bathroom to get towels and Rory dialed 911 while Junior herded our brother’s kids back into the master bedroom.
Laura was the first one to notice it, and her gasp was the thing that oddly jerked me from my stupor. She gestured me over to the box where the mummy’s arm was, and I walked forward. It felt like a dream.
The mummy’s arm was no longer a mummy. It was as healthy and alive as my own, with healthy brown skin and the middle finger grown back. It even twitched and jerked around in the box, unable to get out because of the straps, something I was so fucking grateful for. Laura walked over to where Azalea had thrown the ring, picked it up and with trembling hands, put it back on the middle finger of the arm.
It stilled right then, fingers folding in as it seemed content to have its ring back. Laura slammed shut the box before collapsing in a chair.
“That’s… I’m not seeing things?” She asked, her whole body shaking like a leaf.
I shook my head and pulled up a chair beside her. “You aren’t,” I said, looking over at the box.
Funny how it took me so long to realize what the carvings on the box. They were eyes. Dozens and dozens of eyes. And now they were blinking and looking all around.
It was sort of an unsaid agreement that we didn’t tell the paramedics what actually happened. Ashley hid the box in the laundry room when they showed up, and even Sawyer managed to get out that he just ‘woke up like this’ before he passed out.
He’ll be okay, but he’ll be in the hospital for the next few days, and his arm is absolutely done for. The ex-mummy arm’s back on the kitchen table, and Laura’s added a new thing to her pad of paper- ‘Don’t wear the ring’. If that was the only weird shit in grandma’s attic, I feel we all could’ve gotten over it.
But remember when I mentioned how that ‘marble’ broke? When I went up to continue sorting the morning after Sawyer nearly got himself killed, right where that marble broke a plant had sprouted from the floorboards. It was the same rusty red of the marble itself with shiny black leaves and crimson berries. I poked one of the berries with a pencil and it popped like a balloon, splashing something that smelled and looked like blood.
The plant’s now been scooped up and put in a small garden pot in the kitchen. Without consulting with each other, we’ve all been making plans to stay here for a while. Junior’s getting his dad to loan us a camper, Rory’s going to run up this weekend and get his too.
Whatever other morbid curiosities our grandmother has in her house, we’re all in it together to figure out just what the hell to do with them.