Stairs. It always starts with stairs. He’s standing on a ledge, a strong wind whipping his hair to the left, grabbing greedily at his clothes. The cold metal railing is the only thing stopping him from being blown over the side, and he’s holding onto it for dear life, although at times it slackens…but only for a moment. Around him is air; as far as the eye can see. Below him, is the world. Cities, towns, country, the faint glimmer of sunlight reflecting off the ocean, cars zooming around the streets, narrowly missing you…him. People as small as ants going about their lives. Looking up, he can see a segment of the landing above him, before it disappears into a straight line.
He walks up those stairs, like he always does. And then he’s on the landing and he’s looking around. There is no wind up here. In fact, Troy is pretty sure there is no air at all and he wonders how he can be still breathing. The area is pretty barren up here. A chaise. A table. A door. Troy’s attracted to the door, and with his heart pounding he reaches for the knob. There is a white light, and then more darkness. Suddenly blind, he panics, and then it’s like a switch is flicked and the room is again engulfed in light…not strong…more comfortable.
The room is plain white, but it looks like he’s in a nursery. The blue carpet looks like it’s just been installed. A crib—made of light wood resting against the far wall with green sheets and a brown teddy bear. The crib is empty. There is a rocking chair on the other side of the room, next to a chest-of-drawers with a changing station on top. The drawers match the crib perfectly, but the rocking chair stands out. Its wood is dark, and unlike the rest of the furniture, or even the walls…it’s rough and old. He feels like he’s touching a relic when his hand slides along the armrest.
“Do you like it?”
He freezes, his hand resting on the back. It’s a girl’s voice. He can tell because it’s an octave higher than any boys. But…it’s not quite what you hear in a High School. He’s guessing sixth grade. Maybe seventh. Its a few seconds before he turns around to stare at her.
She’s a brunette. That’s obvious from the brown tresses framing her face. She’s also around 5’2 and so thin he thinks that if she turned sideways she’d disappear. She’s wearing a brown dress, nothing special about that, but she’s not wearing any shoes or socks, and there’s no other way out so she must have come up those stairs. And that’s cold.
“What? How did you get here?” He’s a little nervous, and he backs up a little.
“That’s not important.”
It takes him a minute to get his thoughts straight again. “What do you mean?”
“You brought me here…so…it doesn’t matter.” She plays with a strand of hair in a way that makes her look four years older.
“What? I…I brought you here?” In all his trips up here, he had never met another person. But really…every trip was a little different. Last time he had had to climb a rickety ladder above a roaring ocean. And the room had turned out to be a broom closet.
“I’ve never met someone up here before.”
She smiles at him, and he doesn’t like it. Then she’s crossing the room, and leaning back against the dresser. He steps forward this time, and reaches out to her arm. Her skin is cold, and he recoils. He feels bad, and wishes he had a blanket to give her. “I was wondering if you would ever have the brain capacity to bring me here.”
“You’ve…you’ve been watching me?” He’s so close to panicking…and just a few degrees short of running through the door and off the side of the landing.
“It’s not time to wake up yet.” He jumps again and he wonders if she could always read his thoughts or if she just started to because she felt like it.
“What do you want?”
“To talk. Then I promise…I’ll bring you back and you can do…your thing.”
He pauses, and considers his options. He could jump now, and save himself the aggravation. But then, what if she showed up next time? Or the time after that? And so he has no choice but to nod in consent and grab her hand…he shivers, and she whispers to close my eyes. He does, and then there is a sudden pulling. Then he’s flying.
When he opens his eyes, they’re sitting down in a booth in the middle of a crowded diner. He wonders if any of these people are real…and how many he actually made up. How many are people he passed on the street? But he sees his old Bio teacher and he feels slightly more at ease. “Still here?” He jumps, and turns his attention back to her.
He nods. “Where are we?”
“The diner down the street from your house.”
He nods, acting like he knew all along and is just testing her. “What are we doing here?”
“I thought we’d go somewhere less private to talk. Usually keeps you people from running.”
He wonders how many people she’s taken on a trip like he is on right now, but he doesn’t actually care. There suddenly is a piece of pie in front of her, and she’s already digging into it before her eyes lock onto his. “Do you mind? I haven’t eaten in three years.”
He nods, not sure what she would do if he said no. He’d really like to die on his own terms. She savors her next bite, then slides the half eaten pie toward the window and turns back to him.”Ok. Just listen…and let me talk.”
She takes a deep breath and then “you need to stop. You can’t keep doing this Troy.”
He sucks in breath he didn’t know was there and he frowns. “Excuse me?”
“You can’t keep coming back here. It’s not healthy.”
“Who are you to tell me what to do?”
“I’m the keeper.”
She starts this big tangent about what she does, and who she is and he is only half listening. That pie suddenly looks so good. He interrupts her once to ask the waitress for a slice, but she ends up giving him French Onion soup. He doesn’t complain. As he sips, she resumes her long…most likely rehearsed speech. Turns out this door is some kind of…he hates the thought because it makes him sound so Harry Potter but he’ll say it anyway…magic door. And it turns out she’s the spirit of the door, in charge of protecting and utilizing the door. She has to listen to any visitors request on what is inside…but that can’t be right because I wasn’t looking for a baby and I got a nursery.
“I brought you here because—“but he interrupts her.
“Excuse me?” Her eyes are burning with anger, and the room goes quiet. Everyone in the diner freezes, in whatever they’re doing. Troy stares around for a few seconds, before turning back to her.
“I DO NOT SUCK!”
“Then why did you give me a nursery? And the time before that? You gave me a broom closet!”
“She smiles. I only gave you what you needed.”
“I needed a broom closet and a nursery?”
“In a way. You needed to clean up your life. I thought by giving you a symbolic room, you’d get the message. I didn’t count on the fact that you were so stupid though.”
“I am not stupid.”
“You chase pleasure and run from pain. Your whole life you’ve had others do everything for you. I wanted you to change.”
“Why?” He really didn’t like her.
“There comes a point in time when you have to grow up.”
He grimaces. “And the nursery?”
“You’ve had a rough childhood at times. And you never had a real chance to be a kid. I wanted you to reconnect.”
“Thanks…but that wasn’t for you to decide.”
“It was though actually. Remember, I’m The Keeper.”
“Right. I don’t have time for this. Thanks for lunch…but I’m out.”
He stands up and makes his way to the door. She’s outside, and he swears, turning away. “If you don’t stop coming, you’re going to waste your life away and die a bitter, crazy, young man. You won’t make it past thirty.”
“And why’s that?”
“Don’t you realize you fall farther every time you jump? And one of these days, you’re going to end up hitting the ground. And when you do…you’ll die in the real world.”
He scoffs. “Yeah ok.”
“Fine. Don’t listen to me.” She grabs his arm again, and he closes his eyes. There is another rush, and then he finds himself on the landing again. She’s standing in the cold, unfazed and he wonders how she does it. “Please…just listen. I’ve seen too many people kill themselves over this. Remember what I said…about hitting the bottom.”
He rolls his eyes, and waves her off, and she sighs and turns. “Bye Troy. Don’t kill yourself.” She walks away, into the door and disappears.
“Yeah right. He’ll die…it’s just a dream. A nice…induced…dream.”
He sighs. The world below him is so undefined in the darkness that it looks like if he jumps he’ll just fall into oblivion. But he really can’t care. He doesn’t care about anything. There is suddenly no railing, and for the first time, he smiles. He closes his eyes, and then runs. When he gets to the edge, he leaps off, somersaulting once before diving through the air. He screams, and then laughs. He feels so…amazing. It’s only after he passes by one of the skyscrapers that he freaks. Maybe she had been right.
The ocean disappears from view. The country fades. So does the towns. The cars and people grow bigger, and he’s afraid he’s going to slam into one of them. He doesn’t want to really die, and he flails his arms. He passes the spear of the tallest skyscraper. And then…darkness.
He awakes in bed, and for the first time he’s happy to be alive.
Its two weeks later, and he’s had a bad day…and he just wants to see his stairs again. The girl and that stupid room feel like a long forgotten dream, and he can only faintly remember what transpired. He throws his backpack across the room, and it lands in a heap by his closet.
With a sigh, he lies back in bed, and pulls out the white bottle from underneath his pillow. There is a few rattles, and he can tell he’s almost out just by feeling the weight. But…he’ll deal with that later. Troy pops open the bottle and takes out two of his best friends…and swallows them in an instant…then closes his eyes.
He’s back on the landing…which is odd because he’s ALWAYS started out on the stairs. Instead of a bright and shining day like it usually is, it’s dark and stormy out. The waves of the ocean are high and foreboding, but he doesn’t mind. He wakes up long before he hit them. A cold spray hits his face, and he is startled. There has never been wind either.
The door is still resting in its usual spot, and that’s the only thing he’s comforted by. But he doesn’t go near it. He remembers what happened before. He doesn’t want to face that little girl again…the little girl with those dark eyes that can somehow see into his very soul. So instead he turns. He doesn’t have much time. His dad will be home early and he needs to be awake when he gets there. He decides that he’ll make this quick, and then dump the rest in his toilet. He suddenly doesn’t feel like coming here anymore.
He thinks the image of the girls face coming out of the door really fazes him, and that’s what makes him jump so quickly though. He hears her scream, and then he’s falling. He laughs again, but then he hears it. The crash of the waves getting louder. And now, the laughter of the girl above is loud in his ear and he’s afraid. He tries to pull up, but there’s nothing to help him. He tries to scream but his voice is caught in his throat. The waves are closer…closer…closer. He has time enough to think of his mom and dad. He’ll find my dead body. He wonders who will come to my funeral. He wonders what everyone will say. But mostly he wonders why he didn’t listen to the girl. To The Keeper. He braces himself for impact, and mentally prepares himself for Hell. He must be going there…no way he’ll make heaven.
When he opens his eyes, he’s back on the landing, which means he’s dead because he’d be awake if he wasn’t. He’s also translucent…and he’s not cold anymore. The girl is standing there…only now she’s got a smug smile on her face. “I knew you were this stupid Troy.”
“I’m dead…aren’t I?”
“Yes. And I’m glad you are…because now I can finally leave.”
“You see…when you die YOU replace the last Keeper. I replaced the keeper who replaced the keeper who replaced the keeper…you get the gist. And untill you can find another sucker willing to die…you can be free too.”
“I was here six years. The last kid got smart. But luckily for you…there is always someone stupid enough to not listen to reason. Have fun kid…and remember to do your job right…if you don’t this…place will fall to pieces…and you’ll be stuck here forever. She starts to fade.
“How do I know what to do?”
“The Manual will guide you.”
And then she left. He doesn’t know where she went…but he doesn’t care. He guesses some things never change. But now he knows what hell is like. And he’ll be stuck here…in my domain…in my hell for a while. But one day…he’ll find someone…maybe even you…to take his spot. So be careful…because you never know what the outcome of your decisions will be.
Hey Guys! So…I hope you like this. I think it’s the darkest fic I’ve ever written. This story was originally written in first person…and the main character was named Jake for my Trig project. We had to use ten trig words for this thing. I hope everyone has a really good Christmas! :) Review!