The Lamp in Grandma’s Attic

Welcome back to the adventures of my grandma’s belongings. I hope you’re enjoying us finding dismembered arms and possessed dolls. I’m sure as hell not.

This week though… the story isn’t mine to tell. Everything you read below came out of Neptune’s mouth, word for word. I just wrote it down.

~*~

… You know, none of you were there. None of you were there when the cops knocked on the door telling mom there’d been an accident. That we needed to come to the hospital right away. And that when we got there, there was no hope. Mars was DOA. Dead on arrival.  

You weren’t there after either. Sure, you were all at the funeral, but you all saw how that went. Aunt Elise and Mom getting into it, Aunt Elise blaming Mom for getting Mars a motorcycle and having the fucking nerve to call Mars an ‘idiot’ for not wearing a helmet. For fuck’s sake, there’s a time and a place for that kinda bullshit and the funeral wasn’t it. Not to mention he was twenty one. Doesn’t everyone feel a little immortal when they’re twenty one?  

I mean, I didn’t. Maybe I woke up the morning I turned twenty one and all I could think about was redwood sealed coffins and bad funeral home coffee spiked with Uncle Bruce’s vodka flask. I know, I was fourteen, I shouldn’t have been drinking. But fuck all of you. I lost my brother. My hero. The fact I’m now older than he’ll ever be…  

God, I just missed him. I missed him so much. My mom couldn’t even look at me, we looked so much alike. And after all the stupid bullshit fights our parents all had, I had no one to talk to.  

I mean, I thought I’d mostly recovered until we found the fucking lamp in the attic.  

It was when you were playing with the Hail Satan dolls, Brandon. Rory and I were working alone. I ended up finding one of Grandma’s wedding dresses and a photo album with all of her weddings- speaking of which, apparently we missed a husband? There’s photos of four weddings where she’s the bride, not just three. I’ll look through it again when I don’t feel like shit.  

Rory found the lamp, buried under newspapers and wrapped up in what he thinks is his dad’s baby blanket. A Victorian oil lamp, gaudy as all hell. I made a joke about dropping it from the roof and Rory laughed before he set it down on the ground and realized it was still full of oil.  

Of course he lit the wick, with a lighter in his pocket that totally isn’t for the cigarette habit he ‘kicked’ six months ago. It was only for a few seconds before he put it right back out, saying it’s probably worth something and we should sell it instead of breaking it.

That few seconds was enough. In the moments that flame flickered, I saw something. It was just a shadow, but I just… I knew. I knew exactly what it was.  

It was stupid, I know. Fucking Christ. I didn’t care. I just told Rory I’d take care of the lamp, take it to the antique shop later and get it priced. I still wasn’t sure then. But I took it down to the basement, down to one of the far corners where none of you could find it. When all of you were asleep I grabbed some snacks and a few water bottles before I went back down there.

I told myself I was just seeing things. It was a trick of the light, I told myself as I struck a match. I didn’t see anyone’s silhouette, if I did it was probably Rory’s.  

It wasn’t him, I said as I lit the wick.  

I blinked and… there he was.

Mars.

He looked exactly the same the day he went on the motorcycle ride he’d never come home from. He was even wearing the same denim jacket with patches sewn all over the back and shoulders. Seeing him in person, out of the pictures, I can see why mom found it painful to look at me when I got older. It’s like looking in a mirror, except Mars doesn’t look as much like a basement gremlin. Not as much acne, actually tanned because he went outdoors.  

We just stared at each other for… well, I don’t know how long. Then I started crying like a big baby and pulled him in the tightest hug I could. Hugging my brother again, he still smelled like too much body spray and garage fumes, but god fucking damn it, my brother was back.

Mars laughed, but I think he was trying not to cry too.  

“What happened, someone die or something?”  

I would’ve punched him if I wasn’t bawling my eyes out. I’m not even close to over it. You never think that the last time you’ll see someone is, well, the last time you’ll see someone. Not when it’s someone like Mars, who had his whole life ahead of him. Who was planning to go on one last roadtrip around the states that summer and send me all kinds of souvenirs. Then he was going to go to college, really buckle down on his studies and become a veterinarian. Who probably had a million guys or gals that he could have the pick from to marry and settle down with. He was really going to be somebody. And because life’s not fair it was never going to happen.  

Mars let me cry it out, as much as I needed. I probably looked like a mess when I finally let go. He smiled and ruffled my hair. “I like the dye job. You look good with black hair,” He said.

I nearly started crying again, but I managed to pull it together. “Is it really you?” I asked.

Mars nodded. “In the… not flesh. In the light.” The lamp flickered and he sighed. “Yeah, I know who died. It was me. I fucked up. Least I didn’t take anyone with me, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be so cozy in the afterlife. Turns out Mom was right and I was wrong- you don’t just become food for bugs. Is she okay?”

I stopped wiping the tears away to answer. “She pulled it together. Visits a therapist monthly and she goes to this meeting group every week for parents who lost kids, but she’s doing better than I am.” I uncapped one of my bottles of water and drained half of it, my throat was dry as hell. “I missed you a lot.”  

“Don’t I know it. I missed you guys a lot too. I mean, I ran into Dad once but fuck him.” Mars laughed and I felt… so much better. I never thought I’d hear Mars laugh again. “Tell me everything that’s up.”

And I did. We talked about everything. He may have hurt himself laughing when I brought up some of the other family dramas that broke loose after his death- sorry, Azalea, but your conservative bitchy mom being an adulteress is totally hilarious- and he was really excited to learn I’m working on making my own video games. I even bounced a few ideas off of him, he told me which ideas were fucking stupid and which don’t completely suck. I told him that his friends were doing okay, I stalked them on Facebook and every year most of them still share the memorial post they made back then.  

We talked about my failed relationships. About how stupid the world is and how he basically died just in time. About MCR breaking up and getting back together. We talked about how he wished he was still here to see me kick life’s ass. How he wished he was here for my twenty first birthday so he’d take me out to get drunk, and how he wished that my first drinks weren’t at his funeral. We talked about the meaning of life, the plans or lack thereof I have in the future. And of course what secrets Grandma was keeping from us, that her house is apparently jam packed full of cursed bullshit and all this time we thought that the biggest secret she had was her recipe for chocolate chip peanut butter cookies.  

We talked for two days and it only felt like two hours.  

Whoops. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t even touch the snacks I brought, just the water whenever my mouth got too dry to talk. Ghosts apparently cannot keep track of time. I mean, you’re dead, I guess time means nothing. And I was just happy to make up time with my brother.  

I’m a little sorry I worried the hell out of all you guys. I’m mostly just disappointed it took you like five hours to find me when you all realized I was MIA. I was just in the basement.  

I didn’t even realize how weak I felt until I heard you and Ashley behind me. I turned, I saw you two look scared half to death, and then my vision started to swim and I was suddenly face down on the cement floor. I couldn’t have gotten up even if I wanted to, my legs were jell-o and there was no making my wet noodle arms move. No sleep, no food, for about forty eight hours. I was fucked up.

Tell Ashley thank you for helping me sit back up. You just stood there staring like a dumb ass at my brother’s ghost. I looked back to Mars, who sighed and shook his head.

“I think it’s been a while, bro. You should go. But I’m always with you, even when you can’t see me.”

With that, he reached forward and turned the little knob on the side of the lamp. I would’ve blinked and missed it, as the flame dimmed I saw blood dripping down the side of Mar’s head, his skull caving in like a deflating balloon as his right eye swelled before popping out of the socket. His jacket sleeve was ripped away, the skin over his shoulder and upper arm ripped up until I could see the splintering and snapped bone.  

And then he was gone.  

… I slept for how long? Twelve hours? Jesus. I’m not surprised but still. I almost fucked myself up good. 

I’m still hungry. Can we get order Popeye’s through Doordash? It was Mars’ favorite. I feel he’ll get a good laugh out of that.  

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