Leeds Darts Champion of 1977
by Tony Noland
There was a ton of old junk to clean out, but there always was. The hard young man snorted. Old people, they never threw anything away.
This attic was just like all the others, stuffed full of junk. The old toys, old clothes, old furniture ... why save all this stuff? Maybe if there had been children or grandchildren, to give it to, but if not, why save it? Besides, he never took houses from people who had heirs. His targets were exclusively the old and alone, had been his specialization for years. When grown kids were involved, they always screwed up the deal, wanted reasonable amounts for the properties. He wasn't interested in paying that much.
His flashlight lit up stacks of old newspapers, empty cardboard boxes, empty canning jars. The dust was thick over it all. He wondered how many years it had been since the old guy had opened up the attic stairs and been up here. The bright light scanned over the shelves and stacks. It was sometimes surprising what some worthless-looking crap went for on eBay - pens, pins, dolls, collectibles like that. It had to be in good shape to be worth anything though, and this was all pretty worn. He didn't see that anything had been packaged or covered.
The old guy had said in his funny accent that he wanted good proceeds from the sale of the house, to be sure his wife's nursing home bills were paid. The young man smiled at his own industry and cleverness, at how he'd moved within 14 hours after the old man died. His maneuvers to have the place foreclosed in a probate action meant he'd been able to buy the house for a dollar at a closed property transfer auction. Too bad for the estate.
Old people were so gullible, really, especially when they were distracted with senile spouses. He chuckled and said out loud, "I'm gonna make a lot of money when I clean this place up and flip it."
He heard a low sound from the far end of the dim and dusty attic. Like a hum... or a moan. He flashed his light to that end, but couldn't make out what it was. Something glinted back at him. Something big. Gold?
As he played the light back and forth, the glinting shifted, but the sound was unchanged. A piece of equipment of some kind? An attic fan or dehumidifier?
"Hello?" he said, and then felt foolish. Even if it were a raccoon or something, talking to it was stupid.
He stepped around more piles of old stuff, to get a closer look at the glinting mass, piled high back in the dimness. As he came closer, the humming moan grew in volume, but didn't vary in pitch. What the hell? The gleaming light was reflecting back at him from a huge stack of... trophies. He brushed the dust off some to read the labels on the corroded and spotted brass.
"Junior Darts Championship, 3rd place 1962"
"Junior Darts Championship, 1st place 1965"
"Leeds Darts League Championship, 2nd Division, 3rd place 1971"
What the hell? The man played his light over the trophies. Small ones were tucked behind and beside big ones. He could see ribbons and plaques stacked on the shelves as well. On almost all of them were darts, or figures of little brass men throwing darts.
"Leeds Darts Champion of 1974"
"Leeds Darts Champion of 1975"
"Leeds Darts Champion of 1976"
"West Yorkshire Darts Champion of 1978"
The biggest of them all had pride of place, if you could call it that, on the top shelf. Atop a heavy, cream-colored marble base, a brass cylinder was capped with a single golden dart, mounted on its fins.
"All-United Kingdom Darts Champion of 1982"
He picked up a dry, crumbling newspaper from the middle shelf, the Yorkshire Evening Post, dated October 14, 1984. It was page 3 of the sports section; the headline of a half-page article read, "Darts champion to move to America; plans to establish professional darts league". The man lowered the paper and looked at all the commemorations and awards, covered in grime and cobwebs.
The man laughed at the absurdity of this pile of crap. "Darts? DARTS? What kind of a moron is a champion at a stupid game for drunks in a bar?"
The humming moan spiked louder, grew angry; the man's throat closed in fear as he finally recognized the sound.
His hand moved upwards, and there, on the wall of the attic, five feet beyond the shelf of trophies was a wasp's nest, bright in the glare of his flashlight. Larger across than the lid of a trash can, the surface of it was alive with crawling, flicking black and yellow wasps, each almost as big as his thumb. Dozens, hundreds, a thousand of them pulsing, crawling out of holes, massing on the surface of the nest. Their droning buzz filled the attic.
He lowered the light and started to back away, towards the trapdoor and the attic stairs. He bumped a pile behind him and a ski pole fell forward, striking the big trophy squarely. The golden dart snapped off and flew in an impossibly smooth arc, to bullseye into the center of the nest.
The wasps boiled into the air, flying toward the light.
The man turned and stumbled across the attic, batting at the swarm of angry wasps as they stung his hands, neck, arms, every bit of exposed skin. He screamed as he came close to the trapdoor. Three feet from it, he tripped on something and fell headfirst down the stairs to land heavily on the hallway floor below. From his back came a sound like a handful of dry sticks being bent, hard.
He felt one incandescent burst of pain, and then he felt nothing at all below the middle of his chest. His breathing went wild, as though his lungs had forgotten how to work. His arms and legs were useless as he lay at the foot of the stairs staring up into the attic.
The dense cloud of swarming wasps pulsed and writhed above him in the open trapdoor. He tried to scream as they formed themselves into the shape of a hand, a man's hand holding a large dart
A dart drawn back for a throw downwards.
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