Mar. 14—It started two months ago.
A noise, short, not loud, but repeating a couple of times coming from somewhere in the house, maybe outside.
Still working from home, I'd hear it maybe two or three times a day. I'd jump up and move to different spots in the house or basement, but it either had stopped or was coming from an indeterminate location.
After hearing it a few times, I wondered if a year of home detention had taken its toll on my senses, like one of Stephen King's characters slowly going mad. Or maybe there was something haunting the house. I wondered if one day I'd be the subject of a book, alongside the "Amityville Horror" house.
At first my wife didn't hear it when she was at home. But my ears were attuned to it, like a dog keying in on a distant cat snarl.
Lying in bed I'd say, "Did you hear it?" She didn't. "It kind of sounds like a horse whinny or something," I said. She laughed at me. She does that a lot.
Finally she began to hear it, too.
Eventually she heard it while the door at the bottom of the steps to the attic was open. She slammed the door shut. "It's in the attic."
Maybe, I said, it's some mechanical noise from outside, drifting through the roof vents. Or maybe a furnace bearing going out, the noise wafting up the vent.
No, she said: It's in the attic.
I started googling animal sounds in attics. It didn't sound like any animal I'd ever heard, but then, until I heard the child-like screams barred owls make at our cabin at night, I wouldn't have thought that could come from the throat of a bird.
Bats are the most common attic nuisance, but usually they just make scratching noise in the walls, or they scare the bejeezers out of you when they're flying around.
Still, there were videos of bats screeching. But if there were bats in the attic, they should be just hibernating.
I finally ventured up the attic steps and pushed open the door panel, my bright utility light scanning the attic roof and immediate area. I gingerly crawled into the attic, stepping around the accumulated holiday decorations, suitcases and bric-a-brac. No bats hanging from the rafters. No signs of critters making nests or chewing into anything. No animal droppings.
I went back down to the hallway but left the attic door and bottom door open.
Later I heard it, crystal clear, coming from the attic. I started having a sense of what it was, but still ...
I crept back up the stairs, light in hand, my head just above the door opening. I pounded on the floor. It was right behind me, I turned and was face-to-face with the source of the noise.
A little plastic Fisher-Price barn that we'd stored up there a few years ago when the grandkids stopped playing with it. It makes a variety of animal noises when you push a button or open a door — pigs, chickens, cow and, of course, the horse. The little door to the horse pen was hanging open.
I'm still not sure what made it possessed after years of sitting there. Maybe a dying battery or vibrations that moved the horse-pen door.
I'm sleeping better now.
But I'll never go into the attic again without a twinge of trepidation.
Tim Krohn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-344-6383.