The phone rings at 1:30 in the morning, 3:30 her time. I answer, Hello? She replies in a shaky voice I...I need to talk to you.

What's wrong? She's silent for a minute then says, I had a dream. I'm known as the Dream Interpreter, so I tell her to go ahead.

There are stairs, she says. I break in. What kind of stairs? What color? How many? It is my belief that the details of dreams can be important, and people don't realize how much they remember.

Please, she says. Just, let me tell it in my own words. 

Okay, I reply. I'll be quiet. She starts in again: 

I'm walking down stairs....


I've never seen them before, but somehow they are familiar. And endless. At one point, I started counting, but I got confused and lost track completely.

But I know I'm on stairs, and they go on forever.


But here's the really creepy part: through the gloom, I can only see 11 stairs in front of me. No matter how fast or how slow I walk; they look like the same 11 stairs. Somewhere in my mind I'm afraid they are the same 11 stairs. Even though I know I'm walking, because my legs are sore, I can't shake the feeling that it's the same exact 11 stairs in front of me, always.

Then, another thought creeps in my head...what's behind me?


The moment I think of that I wish I didn't. Now all I can imagine is whatever is behind me. Is someone following? I strain to hear even the faintest whisper but I am not making any sound as I descend, so the absence of noise proves nothing.

I imagine that whoever it is (or whatever it is) stays just out of sight in the gloom, following at the same pace, slowing down when I slow down, speeding up when I speed up; stopping completely when I pause to rest my aching calves. He never comes close enough to be seen, but he's right there.

I'm on those stairs, walking forever, and I start feeling claustrophobic. If I reach my arms out, I'm still several feet from the edge in both directions. I can't see what's past the banister railing, and I stay in the middle of those stairs. I’m afraid to get too close, in case I might fall off. But I still feel claustrophobic.


I have this itch in my shoulder blades, from being watched, and I start trying to get up my courage to turn around, or even go back up a few stairs-just to see what would happen-when another problem comes up. The stairs stop feeling solid. At first it's just every 30 steps or so. They just feel weak, like they're bowed a bit. Then those stairs start to come more frequently. They sag in the middle, and I'm terrified they're going to break. I think that if the stair breaks I'll fall through, and who knows where I'll go?


I try to stop, but when I do the stair I'm on feels like it's splitting, and the only thing I can do is move faster and faster, so that I'm only on each stair for a fraction of a second, and now I'm running, ignoring my burning calves and lungs and trying not to breathe too loud and I'm running faster and faster and faster and suddenly the stairs stop.

They what????? I said apprehensively, for I had gotten into it. They just stop, she says, panting a little, with the exertion of remembering. They don't go any more. 

Is there a wall or a door, or something? I badgered her, feeling her unease, "in the moment" with her. There's nothing, she says.

She continues in a frantic whisper: 

I can't explain it. It just stops and the stair I'm on is sagging and I can feel it slowly start to give, and I know if I stay there it's going to crack, and I know I have to turn around and go back, but I know that he's there, and if I turn around he'll be there but if I stay there the stair will break...and I...

I can barely hear her last sentence as her voice trails down below even a whisper. I think she says and I turn around and then...

but I can't tell. What happens next, I ask impatiently, excitedly, nervously, for I have to know. But she doesn't answer. After a few seconds I can tell by her ragged breathing she is crying, but she doesn't say another word.

[This story was a word-for-word conversation I had with a friend; originally published in 2003.]

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1 comment:

Kim said...

Creepy, I will never descend stairs quite the same.....