Her heels clacked against the rough, crumbling remains of the chalk steps of the grand staircase. The shoes were impractical for climbing, but they let her know when she was on unstable ground. After all she was far too preoccupied with what waited for her at the top of the stairway, the answers she would receive, the peace it would bring the world below her, to consider even such important matters as her own safety. It was trivial in comparison to the task ahead, her distracted mind told her, unable to realise how much she was shaking in anticipation, not even stopping to realise how long the way down was by now.
It felt as if she had been climbing the staircase for days, and if it were not for the fact that she could see a faint light on the edge of her visual horizon she would surely be unable to carry on. She was incredibly tired, fatigued in fact, but it didn’t matter, this was more than just more important than her health, it would solve all of her problems, she was promised that much, but of course she hoped for much more.
If she had taken the care to look behind her she would have seen a breathtaking vision; the masses of steps behind her were illuminated steadily less as the staircase descended, illuminated apparently by the light she was currently following despite all of her body’s cries to stop and take a break.
The steps were of a yellowish-white hue, their stone chipped in several places but otherwise surprisingly sturdy considering its age. None could truly say how old the stairway was, it was only known that since historical records had begun it had been there, looming over the planet, staring down over the heads of all who lived below it. It was unsurprising then, from its place in the planet’s history, why so many legends arose about the stairway. But one was always more prominent, the one that held the most weight on the planet’s inhabitants. The story that God was up there, the knowledge that if one were to climb the thousands of steps to the top of the stairway, they would found the answers they sought, they would meet their maker and by extension enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Paradise was at the limits of the perilous claim, the forgiveness of all sins, the place where the spirit would surpass the body as the vessel of consciousness, a realm that filled in all of the gaps in the inhabitants’ understanding of the universe with a clear and concise answer.
But even as her heels knocked away another loose chunk of stone she knew that she was the first to make it this far, the damage done to the stairway was purely geographical, erosion building up from the time the huge structure was built or formed.
She must have been, surely? No-one who saw the beauty of the light before her could even think about stopping, and there were no bodies on the entire staircase, there was no-one who had returned to tell the tale, and from what she could see before her, there was no trace of intelligent life anywhere on the great staircase.
Clouds gathered behind her as she continued to climb, contrasting against the black of the drop on either side, a drop that by that point should have been at least a thousand feet straight down. The clouds obscured a great many of the steps from view, but she was only looking upwards. What lay behind her was no longer of any interest to her, she was past that, far past that, and she knew that her drive would keep her going.
There was no barrier at either side of the staircase, just a point where the rocky steps ended and the increasingly thin atmosphere around her began. She had not lost her footing here however, no matter how much vertigo there may have been to begin with, she had always found herself firmly stable aboard the humongous ordered rock.
Whoever built it, she thought to herself, must have had a hell of a job getting down. She then firmly shook her head to wipe those thoughts from her mind, she was certain of who built it, and they certainly would not have had any such trouble. Her thick, black, wavy locks whipped her nose as her head shook the bad thoughts out; reminding her of how odd it was that the winds acting against her weren’t stronger.
Was she just lucky? Perhaps, but the fact that all she could feel of the wind build up was the firm breeze blowing her hair slowly into a left-facing position, this however, was enough to make her wonder another point before she realised the solution to her problem.
She was indeed feeling incredibly light-headed, her mind not entirely in the right place. The lack of oxygen was indeed getting to her through the thinness of the air she was breathing at such heights.
And if she had been feeling particularly inquisitive, she would have figured out what had happened to the strong winds, had she placed her hand off to the side of the stairway and over the blackness that represented the sheer drop below, she would have found her arm quite difficult to return to her side, the staircase however was protected for now, the wind was blowing the other way. In certain ways yes, she had been incredibly lucky, in other ways, well, there were other factors involved.
The final clack of her heels against a new step was welcomed not just by a sigh of relief, but by a plethora of senses taking over her already fuzzy mind state.
The most distinct of these was the bright light, the bright light before her that seemed now to be coming from a single point, and as the visual stimulation dimmed, it was clear where exactly it was coming from, it was coming from a seemingly ancient lantern held by a familiar looking statue, the same yellowish-white as the staircase, a large staff in his free hand and a sombre look on his bearded face, the statue appeared to bow down its hooded robe flowing in hundreds of folds of stone fabric.
He seemed to be mourning something, something lost, but shouldn’t he be alive? Should he not be welcoming her into the secret world that surely lay behind him?
All she could see behind him, as well as all around her, was blackness. All that remained lit was the way she came, the thousands of steps covered by clouds was lit up more than ever, and this time she did indeed feel the vertigo, her mind could barely process what she was seeing.
Stumbling with the surprise and disorientation that had come over her, she almost fell into the statue, stopping herself just as her face fell upon the edge of the stairway, one hand on the statue’s staff, she pulled herself back up as her face was attacked by harsh winds, winds that appeared to scream at her as she struggled to pull herself back up onto the stairway.
There was a relief of sorts as she rose to her feet, but that feeling lasted all but a couple of seconds, for when she once again looked at the lamp in the statue’s hand it pulled her in. Suddenly her mind was warping; her perception of space shifting from side to side, flashbacks haunting her from all the wrong times, flashbacks of a life she had long ago left behind and yet this was the truth. Surely this was the world she had yet to live?
Reality suddenly began to lose its grip on her, she tried to look back at the statue’s saddened face, but she was distracted from between the flashbacks, from between remembering the truth, by a figure stepping out from behind the statue, a figure that looked all too familiar, even to the mind alluded to in her warped flashbacks, the figure was far too close to home to handle, and as the figure opened its mind to speak she found it hard to stay gripped on this world. She held on with all her might but she was not allowed to hear the figure speak, and she was flushed from this world as fast as she had entered into it, knowing that this was not reality, that this could not be reality, and yet the compelling nature of it was enough to leave her to scream, a scream that continued as the boy who had been dreaming this awoke.