Short Stories

The Stairs

(I was given a writing prompt that was a picture of stairs here is the result.)

Sam lived with his parents on the 15th level of the stairs. Every year as far as he could remember, they had moved up one level on his birthday. He was told his parents were able to go back to the first level to have him, but soon they must go to their own level as he would be able to take care of himself.  He did not want them to go even though he wanted to know what was on the next level and the next and the next. His mother and father both told him to not rush. The levels would be there when it was time for him to do so. He had everything he needed on this level.

It was true. He did have everything he needed. He had food, shelter he could go back down to the level his family had left and talk with those who took their place. He had books, toys and his parents. The air was better on this level as well. Truly, what more could he want. Sam was not satisfied with his parent’s explanations and platitudes. He wanted to see what was up ahead. He had read about the the sun and the sky  and wanted to see for himself. He wanted to smell the air on the top. Really that was what he wanted, to be on top. His parents were content and those below them were content but Sam had that yearning. He did not want to be on this level until his 16th birthday with the same worn stairs that were once painted orange. Only bits of the paint remained on the sides where they were not scuffed by the feet.  There was a faded mural on the wall that once depicted a happy smiling woman holding a tube that his dad said was toothpaste. Sam did not know what that was. He could not imagine pasting your teeth. Somehow, every time they moved up a level ,a new tent and anything else they would ever want or need was waiting for them.  His mom always thanked the Provider and made Sam and his dad bow their heads with her. She could pray a long time and his neck always seemed to cramp. Sam hated thanking the Provider. It was boring and , maybe, if there wasn’t stuff for them they would be able to explore the upper landings. Yet there was always stuff and his parent seemed content.

It was the day before his half birthday that Sam decided to go upstairs. He just couldn’t wait anymore. So he packed up a bag of provisions which included his childhood teddy bear and started to climb. His parents were still asleep and he figured they would not miss him for another hour. By then he would be beyond their reach. He could always come back if it got too weird.  When he reached the last landing of his level, he paused a moment. He looked down at the tent he had called home for 6 months.  With a twinge of guilt at leaving, Sam turned and stepped on the next step.  It was solid and felt like the ones he had lived on his entire life. He took another and another, until he reach the next landing. He was surprised to find there was no one living on this landing. He wondered where they went. He was also surprised and much disturbed to find he could no longer see his tent or his level. It was shrouded in a mist that was thin enough you could almost see, but thick enough to obscure what you almost saw. That was weird but he was more intrigued by the emptiness of the landing he was on. He always thought that since others took his families place, that they were taking someone else’s place.  Maybe they were at the next landing.

Sam went up to the next landing, it too was empty. He went to the next. Empty. After that was empty as well. Sam was getting scared. He was also getting hot. Sam had never been uncomfortable a day in his life. The temperature was always perfect. He always had the right amount of exercise to stay healthy but never too much to hurt his limbs. Sam had never experienced sweating. At first it made him scared. He thought he was melting, but as the droplets evaporated and cooled him a bit he was calmer. Sam found that in his fear he had run up several more flights of stairs. These too were empty. Did no one live up here?  Maybe his level was the last one? Sam was confused. There should have been people up here. There should have been something, but there was nothing. Just faded paint, faint pictures on the wall showing happy people doing different things, there was nothing.  Sam could hear his footsteps echoing into the nothing. He was tired and hungry. He thought he could find food and shelter up here so he had brought nothing to eat with him. He looked ahead. It was dark and getting darker up there. Maybe he should just go home. He turned. The mist was gone replace by total darkness. Sam took a deep breath and walked down until he reached the edge of the darkness. He stepped forward and his foot hit a wall. The darkness was not darkness it was a wall.  He pounded on it, his fists making dull thuds with each blow. He continued until he fell exhausted to the landing, his fists throbbing. Sam fell asleep.

When he awoke, he tried to feel around the wall. There were no seams nothing it was solid. He looked up the stairs; the darkness from up above was closer as well Sam wasn’t sure what to do. He could not go back. He decided to go up and see if that the blackness up there was a wall as well. It was. Sam was trapped. He sat down. Sam was not feeling brave or curious anymore. He wanted to go home. He couldn’t not. It was too much. He put his head in his hands and sobbed. When he had no more tears he just sat there. Sam did not know how long it had been, but his mildly hungry stomach had turned into painfully hungry when he heard the voice.

“Feeling sorry for yourself are you?” The voice came from everywhere and had a slight metallic ring to it.

Sam was startled.

“Poor baby”

“Am not a baby.” Sam couldn’t help it, he was insulted and his voice reflected his indignation. “I am fifteen.”

“Yes we know”, the voice replied. “Why are you here Sam?”

“Because I wanted to see. Where are the people? Why can’t I go back?” Sam was starting to feel a bit panicky.

“You haven’t experienced that which you left behind so you can’t go back. The people. The people don’t live here. They live on the other side. “ The voice was changing and becoming clearer.

“What other side? Where? I don’t see”

“Open your eyes”. The voice now sounded like a woman’s voice

“They are open.” Sam was perplexed about why the voice thought his eyes were closed.

“Open your eyes Sam”, the voice was now demanding.

Sam opened his eyes. He was drowning. There was water all around him. He tried to close his mouth but there was something in his mouth preventing his lips from meeting. He was in full panic mode when the voice said

“Wake cycle now complete. You may open the door”

Suddenly the black lifted and someone was grabbing him out of the liquid, pulling the device out of his mouth.

“Sam, old boy!  Wakey! Wakey!” this voice was different. It was a man’s voices and it was overly cheerful. “Come on Major Sam we are here in the beautiful Sirius system. Time for work.”