Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One More Step

The door closed behind him and no sound was made as the old oak door latched itself into place. The entry way was void of atmosphere as if the air had been vacuumed out and replaced with white noise. The staircase in front of Andy seemed to stop in blackness at the top as if when you reached the top you would be greeted with nothingness like the nothingness that existed before anything else came into existence. And inside this nothingness lay the promise of escape, of silence, of being absolutely nowhere. Andy had travelled for the last year and he had hated every minute of it; day after day in airports and night after night in the kinds of hotels where if armed with a black light would potentially reveal the birth and death of generations that had never made it past the sheets or floor or if the hotel was really bad, the tub. So in this house at this moment, Andy took the deepest breath he had taken in 364 days. The hangover he had from the night before finally washed away and the sense of being at home settled in its place. He stretched his arms and cracked his ankles and began up the stairs. The banister felt wet and a little sticky and the stairs felt soggy under his feet. But there was no water or evidence of water that he could see. And as he took the stairs one at a time, they became soggier and by the time he reached the top, he was standing knee deep in the final stair. The wood closed around his feet and felt cold and wet, but not quite like water. The banister had changed to but into more of a gelatinous substance and now seemed to hold his hand in its belly. That is exactly how it felt, like the belly of some blob creature. And that was it. The nothingness was right in front of him, but he couldn't take another step. His feet were too heavy to move and his hand was just stuck. Fear started to replace the comfort and dread began to replace the fear. As if coming from his own mind, a low resonating laughter filled his ears and echoed in the empty house. But it was not him laughing, it was the house. The house was laughing at him and it grew louder with each minute. Reduced to nothing more than the butt of this twisted joke, Andy closed his eyes and screamed.

The house seemed to hear his scream and the laughter stopped. He looked down and his feet were standing on solid wood again. The nothingness was gone and in its place there was an ornate hallway filled with priceless paintings and sculptures. Doors made of beautiful oak and aged to perfection with just the right amount of knotholes and creases – the kind of look people spent lifetimes creating and still not getting it right. The air had changed too. Instead of white noise now it felt more like a classical jazz piece with the perfect blend of harmony and melody with just a hint of dissonance to give it that rebel edge. It felt wrong to Andy. He had come to this place, this house, this stairway to finally find silence and darkness and nowhere. But now he was somewhere. He didn't know where, but he was somewhere. Could the house be taunting me, he thought to himself. There he stood, still frozen in place on that last stair, not because the house held him but because he just couldn't get himself to move. The surroundings now frightened him more. The perfection of the environment touched his deepest fears and cranked them up a notch. Something not right, something off, something maybe even evil had painted this picture and behind its facade, he knew there lay pain and perhaps even death. Andy closed his eyes again and screamed.

Submitted by Dan

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