Benjamin gazed up at Peter. Before he could speak though, a crash from the attic made them both look up. As brothers, both boys’ hands took grip of the banister and, after a second of intent listening, both used the banister to help them sprint up the stairs.
A small cloud of dust blew from the attic; something up there had been knocked over.
Benjamin yelled up the stairs:
“Phillip, what are you doing?”
There was no answer.
“Are you okay, Phillip…?” Peter took a step up the attic ladder, un-popping the doors with one hand.
He squinted up through the dark and dust, the debris that remained of a fallen bookcase, to see Phillip standing by the open window. It was obvious that he was the one who, in anger, Peter assumed, had toppled over the bookcase with his bare hands.
On the other hand, Peter could tell that something was not right.
His brother turned to him, but Phillip’s eyes were wide open and glassy.
“He’s sleepwalking,” Peter called down to Benjamin.
Phillip was indeed the only brother who had been burdened by this medical affliction. It did not strike him often, or hard, but Phillip had been known, in childhood, to sleepwalk when there were a lot of things on his mind…terrible things. It was the first sign of his distress.
Peter shrugged back down to Benjamin.
“You go, brother. I can deal with Phillip. I can take it from here.”
“Yes, you seem to be the only one. Be careful, Peter.”
“I will be.”
“I shall be in the lounge, or with mother. I do not expect to be disturbed though, if you please.”
Peter nodded and hoisted himself up into the attic, where Phillip blindly stumbled. His eyes were sorrowful and longing, yet distanced from life’s entirety.
Peter knew, from a lifetime’s practise, that it was bad to wake a sleepwalker and that the sleepwalker must get to the end of their episode, so he stood watching Phillip for a second and thinking. Phillip blindly turned on the spot and started to make his way towards his brother.
Peter stumbled backwards, trying to avoid Phillip’s swinging arms, and made his way back down the stairs. Through every step, though, he kept an eye on his older brother. Still unsure how exactly to alert the deep slumberer, Peter suddenly found himself slipping down the rungs of the trapdoor ladder. He lost his footing and crumpled to the floor, momentarily taking his eyes away from Phillip.
In that short space of time, the sleep-worn Phillip had made his way to the trapdoor as well, but he too fell down, and just as Peter himself was getting up, the man fell flat onto his face with a bang.
Peter trembled as the upstairs lights flickered; Phillip’s bad leg had caught a cable, and pulled it down with him.
The bloody body at the foot of the small steps groaned and lifted himself up, clutching at his right arm and trying to clutch at his nose too, which was pumping crimson blood down his face.
Peter’s own blood chilled with fright.