The Boy in the Attic
I live in C.S. Lewis’ attic. Laying on my stomach with my ear pressed against the floorboards, I listen for every echo and hum. I wait in patience for a mere mumbling of words to be broken into sound.
When I read Lewis’ books, the spaces between the lines on each page become the cracks between the floorboards. They allow a glimpse of light to shine through and offer a glance into his life. Every so often I observe his pacing back and forth, talking to himself, pondering what to write. He then sits down on his matured, leather chair. It cracks with age. He leans in towards his desk as his head collapses in his hands. Holding the weight of his mind, he begins to unpack it. Characters without names, land in need of giants, a world waiting for danger to find it; the hunt has begun.
Suddenly his head raises. His eyes hold fast; each breath a stretch longer. I wonder if he’s found me.
“Did I make a sound? Did I blow my cover?”
I hold my breath and freeze all movement. I stare at his eyes waiting for them to move; waiting to be summoned; racing through memories what I might have done wrong to give away my position. Seconds past but they feel like minutes.
Lewis’ eyes unlock from the ceiling. He bends down to the wooden floor and picks up his pencil. He pauses, then begins to write as I learn how to breathe again.
When Lewis walks away from his station, perhaps to turn the kettle on, I lean closer to the slivers of light and try to discover what he’s written. Often his sentences are left unfinished. Often I cannot decipher the words from his poor handwriting. And sometimes the paper is too far away. But on this occasion, I see something. Or I think I did. I reread it. I whisper the words aloud. I squint as I press my head to the floorboards as far as possible. Abruptly, Lewis walks back in. He forgot his mug. As he gently walks out of the room towards the kitchen, he lights his pipe and starts to whisper something to himself. I wonder if they’re the words on the page I was trying to read. And that’s when I take my chance.
Each step on the staircase shrieks louder than the last. My heartbeat follows suit and pounds from my chest into my throat. Tracing the outline of the handrail, my clammy hand keeps me balanced. Without turning my head, my eyes fasten on the doorway. They stay there till I reach the last step. From the distance I hear the kettle begin to boil. I imagine I only have a minute to get the job done. Bit by bit I tiptoe my way across the wooden floor toward the desk. It seems larger than I thought. Remembering the sound of his matured, leather chair, I keep my distance. The ring of a teaspoon can be heard as I lean in. Like a child peaking at the presents under the tree before Christmas morning, I scour the vicinity, studying every detail, learning where every unit belongs. And then I find it. I find the page. Held in the glow of the overhead light, I digest the first words, trying not to distract myself from the weight of the moment. Suddenly footsteps begin to strike.
I’ve been here too long. What am I doing here? I’ll be caught. My panic sets in.
I grip the page and look to the closet nearest the desk. Lewis rounds the corner with his pipe and cup of tea. I hold my breath and slowly close the closet door. He places his tea on the desk and sits in his matured, leather chair. It cracks with age, seemingly louder than I recall. Lewis examines his desk. I’ve been caught, is all I remember thinking. Below me I notice light at the bottom of the closet door. Now's my chance. It may be my last. Leaning ever so close I attempt to read the page. He’ll surely find me in a minute. He’ll surely find me and…
And that’s when I see it. After all this time. He’s been writing about me. I, am the boy in the attic.