Bottom to top

I was walking up the stairs as I always do. Nothing different, nothing special.

The steps are almost exactly as big as my feet, but just a few millimetres too short. On the fourth step there’s a mark I always put my right foot on. Sometimes I start my walk up with that right foot which means that my left foot is the one that lands on the fourth step. So I stop, take a step back, and change to my right foot. Right means right, means wrong.

I like the feeling of walking on stairs. When they are solid, I feel safe, and when they are hollow, it is exciting because it means that I can fall straight through if I carry something heavy, like a big rock or at times my own head. But that would raise the questions of why I would carry a big rock, and why I can’t leave my head at the bottom?

All staircases are built to take you somewhere, so this one too must have a purpose. Maybe someone wanted me to find something. So I walked on. I wanted to see what was at the top.

Thirty-seven 10 ½ inch sized steps later I was there, at the top of the staircase. My left palm which had followed the handrail felt a bit soar. The metallic bar was cold and rusty. It’s strange that I didn’t realise that before I took my hand off.

But as the stairs ran out of steps, the handrail did not end as you would have thought. It made a left turn and continued further than I had expected. I raised my eyes up from my usual walking-on-stairs-look, with my head down looking at each step as my feet touched it, and found what I was meant to see. Or did I?

I had got to the top of the stairs, but it turned out not to be the top after all. I found that I was on another bottom and in front of me was a world that was upside down. I frowned and got a weird look on my face, which I couldn’t see but knew was there, as if I asked myself a question. What was in front of me was not just upside down; it was inside out and backwards too. There were stairs going in all kinds of directions. Up, right, down, left. Some of the staircases did not even go at all. They were just there.

People were walking on the stairs, quietly touching the steps with their 10 ½ inch sized feet. They all looked like me, but no one could look as I could look because none of them had faces. They just walked as they had been walking the eternal steps for their entire life, and none of them looked as if they were asking themselves a question.

As curious as George himself, I wanted to explore and see if it worked. Could I walk sideways like them? I put my right foot up on the wall next to the top of the staircase, or was it the bottom of the other flight of stairs? No matter what, nothing happened.

I figured that if I lay down it would at least seem as if I am in the right angle to walk up the stairs. And as I put my hands on the floor and lifted up my left foot to put next to my right, the whole world I was in turned. A fragment of a second later I found myself crouching by the wall that used to be the floor.

After another couple of seconds later I had realized that I was on the right side of the world, so I rose up and started making my way up the second staircase. It felt the same as earlier, but I was horizontal to the position I had had just minutes ago. I could almost see my shadow drawn on the floor, or wall. It looked like it was done with an etch-a-sketch.

Half way up the stairs I saw a light from the top. I could not ask myself more questions, because the answer was not there. I got the feeling the light might have something to do with the others and the reason why they were there. And that smell. The scent coming from the top was different. It was like fresh flowers mixed with paint thinner. I didn’t know what to make out of it.

I just got scared. What if I got caught in the light and wrapped up in the smell, and ended up walking on an endless flight of stairs like the others for the rest of my life, without being able to show any emotions or how I felt about it?

It was not worth finding out. So I turned around and walked down the stairs again to where I had come from. I saw another mark on the fourth step but did not bother to step on it with my right foot. Again, not worth it. I wanted to get out but did not know how since I was still in the turned around world. But after all it did not really matter because I did not even know where I had come from anyway.

On my left there was a dark wooden door that was unlocked. The handle was hot, telling me not to touch it, but I had to get away from the stairs. I opened it and started to walk. It was dark but I thought, ‘rather darkness than that light on what might have been the top of the stairs’. My hand was burnt from the door handle, but I could not see it so I could not feel it. Darkness did not scare me as it did when I was a child. I felt more relaxed in there. The darkness is known, it always looks the same. Light doesn’t.

I walked on for a while. Nothing was there. No walls, no people. I walked and walked when I suddenly saw a glimpse of daylight. If I had seen it just minutes or steps ago I would have avoided it. But now it had all changed. I wanted to get out of the darkness and into the daylight. I wonder where that change came from?

So I kept walking towards the light. I walked and walked and walked out of bed, up the stairs, stepping on the mark on the fourth step with my right foot, into the kitchen, made breakfast and went to work.

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