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I had parents, once. They were fighting over something with me frequently… I can't remember what it was we ever fought over, but I can always feel the dread from them. Nice to think they were probably fighting with themselves, and I got roped into it. Maybe if I at least thought like that, part of the blame wouldn't be on me. Ridding myself of that responsibility makes everything afterwards easier to cope with, right?

One night, I ran away. I had to back them into a corner with a knife just to escape from it, but I ran. Something was different about that night, that much I'm sure of. My parents could feel it too. I watched them as much as I could while getting out of the house, and they never looked me in the eyes during it all. Not once did I look back as I sprinted away. For a few years after, I managed to live with some kind of peace. I changed my name, got a new job, made friends, found a place to live with my aunt for a while before having my own space…

There were oddities in spite of all that. I was still carrying that weight of my experiences around, but something else latched onto that. A sense of dread and fear, I think? It's hard to put into words but it was something more than that. Even with my friends, I'd approach all interactions with some kind of caution, as if I'd have to run away from them as well. Being a landscape contractor helped distract me from that, but as time went by, the way I went about things felt… well, have you ever had something loom over you, threaten to overwhelm your senses? It just took its sweet time with it.

Nights eventually started to get worse for me. My dreams gradually drifted towards one single recurring one. When they started, it'd probably be at the tail-end of the dream, or maybe just involving one element. I've always been frightened regardless. And for the past however many months it's been, it's always been the same.

I'm back at my house again. Everyone is sleeping. My parents, siblings, even the pet dog (though I can't remember if we had one anymore). I never start out in different places, though. Always, without fail. The same place. Right in the main hallway on the second floor, with only two places to go. The bedroom, or forward. But I can never go in my bedroom. Either the door is locked (did the door ever have a lock? I can't see why), or I just can't get through the open passageway. So there's only forward.

And forward is the ladder to the attic.

The attic always creeped me out up until the time I left the house. I could never get near the ladder without being a bit repulsed by it, and as far as I knew, no one ever stored anything up there. But it's different this time. There's more to it. A sense of loathing (from myself?), and hate (from… somewhere?), and fear, and… well, there's no accurate words. I don't think it's something someone would ever experience in their lives. It's another kind of emotion altogether.

For the first time ever, I climb up the ladder, my feet feeling heavier and harder to lift. I can feel my stomach twist and my head pulse erratically. I don't want to go up there, yet I have no choice but to go up there. I never have the choice to turn back. It's always forward. The ladder is only twelve rungs (I've been counting for a couple years now), yet the flow of time seems to get slower and slower with each rung until it nearly stops altogether at the top.

Finally, I make it and I look in. I see the attic.

The other thing that keeps repeating in these dreams is that I never can see what's in there, or remember. I see something, but I don't know what that something is, or if it's anything at all. There's a force, but there's no force to really sense in there. It's empty in there. That's what I hope for. That every time I go up into the attic, there's nothing there. Despite that, there's always something about it that fills me with worry and terror. I can't help but stare into the attic, looking around to see what's brought me there.

And I realize I never climbed up it at all. There's only forward to go. So I'm forced to go back up. Maybe this time, I catch a glimpse of my parents, sleeping with their heads buried into the wall, lights obscuring them from my vision completely. I still can't go into there to talk to them. There's only the ladder, the attic, and whatever is waiting for me in there. And for the first time ever, I climb up into the attic, feet feeling heavier and harder to lift, stomach twisting, head pulsing…

Eventually, I wake up, having never climbed the ladder at all. Of course I know I climbed the ladder, yet I can't ever get up there. Though I know I did. Nothing's waiting for me. That's the ideal, but I can feel it, something I must have left behind. Occasionally, I'll even dream about my parents trying to climb it. My mom did, once. I'm afraid to know what she saw.

I've had the urge for a while now to go back home and visit my parents. In one of my more final and relatively normal dreams, I think, I went back there. It was Christmas, and I wanted to at least see my parents one more time, to clear the air up and make things better for all of us. I snagged a few gifts for my parents and siblings on the way, and it took me almost half a day of driving to get there. Home wasn't like I remembered it, though. Everyone had acted like I'd never existed to begin with. They remembered me wistfully, as if I never had a full life with them to begin with. The attic is still there, too.

I felt myself stepping towards the attic, going to climb the ladder.

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