The Spiral Staircase

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Articles | 1 comment

He sits with his head down, shoulders slumped, back pressed against the cold, hard stone wall.  The darkness is closing around him with each passing day, the damp air penetrating his lungs with each breath.  Occasionally, he lifts his eyes to look into the darkness below him. He can’t look for long, though he knows he will see it closer each day.  He raises his hand to wipe the sweat from his face, feeling the weight around his wrists that reminds him of the shackles that he cannot remove.  His ankles are encompassed by the same heavy weights.  He lets his hands drop back with the weight, wondering how he can be so hot in a place so cold.  He drifts off into almost sleep, trying to ignore the wails below him. 


He wakes to find he’s another step down into the darkness.  Each day is the same – another step, further into the cold, murky depths.  He steals a glance back up, to the door at the top.  He can’t look long.  He feels a shiver cover his body.  No, he can’t look long.  The light shining below the door is more than he can handle.  The darkness is easier; he’s adjusted to it, more comfortable.  He puts a cigarette to his mouth and inhales deeply, not really feeling the weight on his wrists as heavily as he did before.  Reaching for the bottle on the step next to him, he thinks, “Maybe it’s not so bad.”


Another day finds him much closer to the bottom.  The smell is stronger, the wails are louder and the darkness is closing in like a tomb.  The walls around him are crumbling more severely; the stairs are cracked and painful.  Now and then he feels something brush against his feet.  The weight around his ankles makes it impossible to move his feet.  He squeezes his eyes closed, unable to look down into the darkness or up at the door.  He drifts back into sleep.


He is awakened by deafening thunder and shouts of anguish.  He forces his eyes open and looks down into the darkness.  Nothing.  The silence is overwhelming.  He no longer can sense the light under the door.  Looking up, he realizes that the light has faded and the shouts and thunder are coming from the door.  Afraid, he presses himself tighter against the cold, stone wall.


In an instant, the door flies open and the light is so bright that even with his eyes closed painfully tight, he can see it.  The door closes and foot steps are heard coming down the stairs.  He can feel the presence coming nearer; soon, it’s right beside him.  He doesn’t want to look, but he has to.  He lifts his head and sees a man, blood pouring from his side and running from the wounds on his hands and feet, pain engraved on his face.  Their eyes meet for a moment.  He can’t look at the man.  He feels shame and fear.  He can’t look.  The wounded man continues down the stairs, walking boldly, without fear into the darkness.


His heart pounds loudly in his chest.  How could that man walk willingly into that place, that horrible, stinking, darkness?  Shouts are heard, metal against metal rings through the air.  Then, soft foot steps once again on the stairs.  As the man comes back up the stairs, he sees in hands a ring of keys and sword flaming bright.  As the man passes him, he looks into his eyes, pleading.  He reaches and touches the man’s tunic, tears streaming down his face.  The man looks loving into his eyes, bends down and inserts the key into the shackles.  He is free!  The weight is gone!  The man lifts him off the step and helps him up the stairs.  Oh, it’s so warm and has such a sweet fragrance!  As the door opens, the light closes around him like a blanket and pulls him into the room, the door closing behind him.


The staircase is filled with many now – the numbers uncountable and the shackles strong.  The door opens and the young man, now released and free, comes down the stairs, holding a key.

One Comment

  1. This creates a powerful image, Eileen. Thank you.

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