Another one I submitted and got turned away as they said they had to many submissions. I can believe that just wished for a bit of comment on if they liked the story. So I’m posting it here in the hopes a few will read and share their thoughts. Note the story does contain some violence and a bad word or two.
By Shawn J. Micallef
Adam had been walking along the shore line of the small lake for many years. He had always started by going down the gentle slope to the water’s edge and gaze upon the water. He was fascinated on how the water would reflect back its surroundings.
The lakes surface appeared to be on fire from the orange and reds reflected back from the changing leaves found around the lakes edge. The sun shined brightly upon the left bank of the lake as he looked upon the shoreline. The glistening colors, and reflected light from the sun, caused him to cover his eyes for a moment.
Turning his neck slightly he changed his viewpoint of the lake. He looked upon the opposite shoreline that instead was displayed in a pale darkness. The sun was not shining there as brightly, and that side of the lake seemed cold and uninviting. He was reminded of the pale blues and darker colors one would see as the sunset on a cold fall day.
Adam looked in both directions trying to decide what direction to begin his walk in, and then a thought occurred to him. He realized that by going to the right first he’d be able to rewarm his soul, and mood, when he reached the left bank and continued his walk. So, with that in mind Adam turned, pulled up the zipper on his sweater and off he went just listening to the symphony of sounds that nature brought to his ears.
Adam had walked for about thirty minutes and had already managed to work his way to the midpoint of the lake. He was thankful that those who owned property had kept their bits of shoreline well cared for and brush free. It made his travels so much easier knowing he didn’t have to go through brushes and trees to complete his walk. He would on occasion walk out into the water a way to avoid someone’s water craft or other things along the shoreline.
He saw the one piece of shoreline he despised a head and this was an area that had not been maintained for years as it was the only parcel upon the lake that was not developed. Story had gone that a family had purchased the land with full plans to build a cabin of their own above the slope of the lake. Sadly it appeared something had happened to them and the land had been stuck in probate court for several years.
A breeze had started to blow as his walk begun and he had felt little concern for the wind. The breeze was actually refreshing and gave life to the trees. He could make out small whistles and the rustling of leaves as he moved along. The sounds were beautiful and so peaceful to him that he lost track of his thoughts. This continued till a strange feeling struck him. Something felt odd, almost out of place to him and he was unsure what it could be. As he pushed through some more brush he saw what was off. A clearing was just ahead and to its right a stairwell that lead up.
Surprise crossed his face as he had not heard any construction going on around the lake. His friends and neighbors had not said anything about people moving into the long empty plot of land. The stairwell looked strange as the wood appeared weathered as if facing the elements for years. The green paint had faded in areas and the wood steps showed years of use and neglect. The stairwell looked too have been along the lake for years but Adam swore he had never seen it before.
As he looked up the stairwell he thought he heard some noise at the top of the stairs. He yelled up the stairs seeing if anyone would respond to his greeting of hello. He shouted up a few times but after no response he decided he’d just take the stairs up. The slope was steeper but he did notice there were several separate landings upon the stairs so if for some reason the slope got to him he could rest.
He grabbed the railing on the left and knocked his feet against the front of the first step to knock off any grime from the bottom of his shoes. Adam then reached out to the other railing and starts the trip up the stairs by placing a foot upon the first stair and the other upon the second beginning his climb. He got three stairs up and he felt a cold chill, but this did not come from the wind. The chill began within his body dare he say his soul. The chill branched out from the core of his body before reaching his arms and legs. He went to turn around to head back and find some sun but he could not turn. He was scared and turned to his left and right with no problems but if he tried to turn around to leave the stairs something stopped him.
He felt his anxiety and fear begin to grow he looked down at his feet and closed his eyes. He thought to himself that he must get a grip. The inability to move was all in his head he bent his neck down toward his feet then opened his eyes. He saw something shimmer upon the stairs in front of his right foot. He looked down at the spot then bending wiped the spot where the shimmer was coming from and he saw writing. The writing grew more into view and he was finally able to make out the words and he felt the coldness creep deep within him as he realized his folly. The words said it all, “One can go Up, Never down.”
After man minutes and multiple attempts to turn around he stopped and leaned against the railing. He had tired himself out screaming, yelling, and jumping to try and get off of the abominable stairwell to no avail. A loud audible sigh escaped his lips and he stared off to the greenery of the woods around him. Sweat had begun to pool on his forehead and he unzipped his sweater to cool a bit from the excursions of trying to get off the stairs. After resting for a few moments he began to continue up the stairs heading to the first of the landings ahead of him.
There was a small seat built into the landing and after his excursions he sat down. His hands eventually found this face as he placed an elbow on each knee and quakes over took his body. The quake caused by the simple act of uncontrollable crying that rocked his body. He could not understand what had happened and why this weathered old stairs had such a device that kept the user from turning around. He wept for a few minutes his sobs echoing within the woods, and his tear drops landing on the faded green paint. Faint moments of the paints original color came out as the tears hit but only to fade as the tears were absorbed into the wood.
Suddenly it felt as if the world around him was spinning out of control. He lifted his head, looked out and what was in his line of site lost complete focus. The multitude of colors that appeared before his eyes came from the blur of objects blending together. He remained sitting gripping the edge of the small seat with both hands. Knuckles turned a pale white and red as he put so much force in holding himself in place. Eyes snapped close to stop the vertigo and feeling, no the desire, to vomit from the scene in front of him.
As quickly as the odd feeling had come upon him it stopped. Adam slowly opened his eyes, and seeing what was in front of him they jerked wide open. He was no longer with the woods but sitting upon his bed as a child of only thirteen. The problem was he was not fully there as he saw a younger version of himself sitting upon the bed crying. He searched his memories and then remembered the day in question and an instant pain gripped him.
He was watching the darkest day of his childhood, no it was his worst nightmare flashing in front of him. Unable to understand what had happened all he could do was watch and wait for what was coming. His father walked into the room and sat next to his younger self on the bed. His younger version looked up on his father, and saw the tears with the man’s eyes.
He hated having to re-witness this moment in his life and could not understand why it had happened. He wanted to go to his younger self, hold and hug him as the news was broken. He could not as he was a hopeless witness to this moment. He watched as his father spoke the words that ruined his childhood. A simple sentence that he never fully came to grips with, but he had to hear it all over again.
Then he saw the reaction upon his younger self. A look of shear emptiness as life seemed to stop. His father did not hug him or show him any emotions but instead left the room. He left his son sitting there shaking and crying at the loss of his mother. To this day he wondered how his father could come into the room and tell him his mother had been murdered, by a lover. How he would could be so could to say it bluntly and just get up and leave.
He began to scream as he wanted more information as what was happening and why did he have to re-witness this day. Why must he pay witness to the moment again? He had no idea his mother had cheated on his father and only found out on that very moment that something was wrong. His father shut him out from that point forward and he eventually moved to live with his grandparents. He would not see his father again for years. When he finally did, it was at the man’s funeral. Some say that his father died of a broken heart after learning what his wife had done. The real truth, his father drank himself to death.
The vertigo sensation he had felt just prior to having to witness that dark day in his history hit him again. As before, he grabbed the small seat and closed his eyes waiting for the feelings to pass. He opened his eyes and saw the woods before him again and nearly jumped for joy. The stairs were still there and after a few attempts he saw he could still not go back. So, grudgingly he started the climb again with a saddened heart, tears still flowed down his cheeks but he climbed.
After taking another flight of steps he found himself at the next landing of the stairs. As before there was a small seat for him to rest on if he chose to take the time. After the events on the first landing Adam wanted to keep moving but then he found he could not go forward and still could not go back. He screamed at the top of his lungs. He demanded whomever, or whatever, was behind this to let him go he did not deserve this and he wanted out.
Before he could act the feeling from before came upon him faster this time. He fell to the hard wood base of the landing his head splitting as he closed his eyes and curled into a fetal position. He waited with his eyes closed till he thought the movements had stopped. He opened his eyes and he felt he was no longer on the ground but standing now. He did not have the observer’s view of the previous flashback but this time he was seeing through someone’s eyes. He realized by the pale cream colored walls, single bed, desk and chair he must be in a hotel.
The room’s décor was not anything special. There was a figure wrapped up in the bed as he could see a tuff of brown hair creeping out from the covers. The white sheets where bundled around the man and the way they were pulled from the corners the sleeper had a fitful sleep. A lamp on a nearby desk appeared to have been knocked onto the floor. The lamp shade cracked and the bulb mercifully was not on.
A sound came from behind a doorway to his left and he realized it was that of a toilet flushing. The eyes he was observing through seemed to react to the sound as the figure looked and moved behind the now opening door. A figure walked out of the room and he saw it was a woman dressed in nothing more than a long white t-shirt. Whoever she was she was very pretty and unable to stop what happened to her as arms wrapped around the woman and pull her close. Somehow he smelt the woman’s scent and it seemed oddly familiar. The figure on the bed did not hear the struggle, or at least made no movement to react.
A hand was over the woman’s face, her brown hair just below his nose telling Adam that the assailant was taller than the woman. Adam saw the assailant guide the woman further into the small room.
Adam was helpless and watched as he two saw figures within a mirror over the dresser. It was his father who had his hands around the woman covering her mouth her hair in her face. A shock of pure fright showed in her eyes then he realized that it couldn’t be but it was his mother. The hair had flipped in such a manner that her wide eyes shown in terror as she struggled against her husband. The body in the bed moved but just rolled to one side. Adam helpless to do anything began screaming, “Father Stop, god please don’t do this, father no!”
The screams went unheard; the attempts to reach out and stop his father were useless. He was an observer and could not stop the past from happening. He was forced to watch in horror as his father choked is mother into unconsciousness. Eventually she passed out and her body stopped fighting and the limp body was tossed on the bed next to the lying form. The body still had not stirred and Adam could not understand how the sounds of the fight did not wake the sleeping form. As he watched through his father’s eyes he found the reason to the forms lack of attention. A bottle of chloroform was brought into view and Adam made the leap that it must have been used on the man but why, oh why, not on his mother.
His father then went over to the bed and kneeled next to the man. Adam watched wondering what his father had planned next for the unconscious couple. A knife slowly came into view, and placed into the man’s sleeping hand, and forced to grip the blade. He watched and wretched as his father used the man’s arm to stab his mother multiple times. The first thrust into her chest, between his mother’s breasts causing a dark red to instantly soak the white of the shirts material. Adam tried to close his eyes but could not; he was forced to watch as the knife went in and out of her body several more times. Blood pooled onto the sheets around her body and sprayed onto the sleeping man before he felt that sensation of vertigo again.
The vertigo left him and he knew he was back in the woods on those damn stairs. He lied there and felt the breeze wash over him. The air around him smelt of pine mixed in with that of fresh air. He kept his legs tucked in close and just wrapped his arms around himself. Simply he was in a deep shock unable to reconcile in his mind what he had just witnessed. The passage of time was lost to him as each gust of wind crossed his prone body.
Eventually he rolled over and using the nearby railing pulled himself back up to his feet. No words where uttered and instead he turned, looked up the stairs and lifting one leg placed his foot down on the next step and began the climb again.
The pace was slower due to the emotional mess he found himself. His mind full of those images from his past and the truth of his mother’s death now burned into his mind. A blank stare focused on nothing particular in front of his gate to the next landing. His mind told him there could be more to come but he did not care. He was broken in mind and soul, and knew these damnable stairs could do no worse. They had beaten him into a pit so deep there was no chance of escape.
He reached the next landing and knew the stairs were coming to an end. He again tried to turn to go back down but saw there was still no escape. He shouted a primal scream of agony scaring the nearby wildlife and causing the squirrels and birds to chipper in alarm. All that could be done now was to wait for that vertigo feeling. He waited and waited with nothing coming feeling that maybe the stairs had taken pity upon him.
He slowly tested the next stair that lead up only to be punched to the ground by an unseen force. He landed hard his back side and his tailbone screamed from the pain he felt upon slamming into the wood. His head was next to bounce nearly missing the edge of the landing which would have brought death. Then it came as he felt the sores in his body, the pain in his head still lighter than that of his soul, the vertigo.
He awoke into darkness unable to see anything at all he felt his body turn to the left and right but saw nothing. “Where am I,” he asked into the darkness. There was no response to his questions, but then a cold presence came upon his body. He could not see where it was but he felt the presence. It was as if a cold wind was settled upon his body. A cold clammy feeling came upon his shoulder and he attempted to brush the sense away with a hand. The feeling did not leave his shoulder but dug in deeper. His hand met no resistance as he brushed and brushed his shoulder again. He was being forced down to the ground and could not fight the sensation.
The unseen force was so strong he eventually fell to his knees placing his hands out in front of him to stop from hitting face first on the hard surface. His knees where sore from the way they hit the ground below him, and yet he was still unable to see anything. This was not true to a point, he did see the light sparkles in his eyes from the pain caused by hitting the ground, but this showed no light on his surroundings.
He crumbled then he burst out in tears as he cried hopelessly. His body shaking with each needed breathe as he just cried and cried. Stuck alone in the dark hands outstretched in front of him and on his knees that is all he could do at this moment. He could not tell how long he cried but his hand felt wet from the salty liquid that had poured through his eyes, down his cheeks and onto the ground. His heart and soul had finally burst and the darkness around him made that hopelessness more evident. What was he to do, where was he and why was he being made to suffer. All questions he found himself screaming out into the darkness waiting with fear for any sign of an answer.
He was able to calm himself down a bit as he closed his eyes and just breathed. He took a few deep breathes that pushed his chest out to its extremes and felt his lung collapse as the air escaped his nose. He no longer felt the force upon his shoulder so he began to stand back up brushing off his hands on his pants. He stood and turned his head from side to side hoping to see some small sign of light but there was none to be found. So he did the only thing he could and took a very tentative step forward sweeping with his foot to ensure he did not hit anything. After finding no obstruction he then reached out his hands and waved them in front of him to ensure nothing was in front of him at a higher level. He then began a slow movement in no particular direction but just felt he needed to move and not give up to the darkness.
There was no reference to time, or space, but he kept moving to the best he could. He could not tell how long he walked in this fashion but with each step no sign of life, or light awaited him. The darkness was the only constant around him, that along with the sound of his own breath. Each step gave him that small glimmer of hope that maybe; just maybe, he’d find a way out or be taken back to those stairs. He laughed to himself for a moment when he thought the stairs were better than the darkness. At least here he had not been forced to witness dark moments of his life.
A sound eventually hit his ears and he could not make it out but it was a sound. He stopped and tried to pin point where it came from but in the darkness there was no way to find a reference. His pace stopped and he listened as the sound got clearer and he swore it was moving closer. The sound at first sounded like a rumble that comes with a thunderstorm miles away in the distance. The sound one hears as the clap eventually travels far enough to reach the ears. He finally was able to place the sound and again a chill ran through him as it was a low bellowing laugh.
Adam stood frozen in the darkness not knowing what to do. Should he risk a blind run away from the laugh, or stand and hope that due to the darkness it passed him by. As he contemplated his decision he realized two late that the laughter had stopped echoing in the darkness and something or someone was there with him.
A deep dark voice came from the darkness in a slow soothing tone that immediately gave Adam pause, but fear left him. The simplest of words reached his ears and he should have jumped from shock but instead just listened as he heard the word, “Hello”.
“Who’s there,” Adam asked with trepidation in his voice to the voice in the darkness.
A laugh met that question but again the voice spoke to him, “You have not figured out what is happening to you? It will always amaze me how a humans soul can be crushed to the point of despair and not realize who is behind the test.”
“What do you mean test? I’ve witnessed the worst event in my life and found out the man who raised me was behind that moment. You call this a test, well you can just go to hell,” screamed Adam in no specific direction still unable to determine the source.
A snicker and then that bellowing laugh came again this time it seemed to shake the darkness around Adam and a wind seemed to come from all sides.
“Oh my boy, you are just too funny. Thinking there is such a place as hell and thus you must believe in heaven, but I am not here to discuss religion. I am here to give you a choice. You see, I am not a demon, a devil or a god, but I am you. I am the dark corner of your soul which you kept dormant for so long and I am here to give you a simple choice.”
“I don’t have time for games, or any crap you are trying to sell. Just tell me what you want from me and let me go home. This bullshit that you are me is just that, shit. If I could see you, I’d kill you where you stand”
“Oh, see that is what I wanted to hear my dear self. That hatred feeds this darkness and feeds me in turn. Your soul was so easily broken with just a few memories and images of what may have happened to your mother. “
“SHUT THE HELL UP AND TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT!”
Another laugh, but this one did not seem as forceful as the other and seemed to have a tone of a parent ashamed of their child.
“Ok, as you wish I shall tell you what I want from you. It is simple the stairs you stepped upon are not there but were fragments of your mind. You have climbed only two feet up the hill around the lake. The rest was a war between the darkness within you and the light of your soul. You chose to come down the dark side of the lake to allow the sun to warm you upon its return. The problem is will you get to make that return. So choose Adam, shall you forever walk in this darkness and lose yourself to the deep despair of your soul, or will you fight for the light?”
Adams emotions were wound up but he willed himself not to give the obvious response, but instead weighed his response in the hope of escaping. As he stood and thought he noticed a light in the distance and it moved toward him.
“Oh, I see you are showing your answer as the light has begun to come. It is a shame as I had thought for sure you would follow in your father’s footsteps and take the dark. This of course is not over as I will test you again and again through your life and at some time you will go with me into the dark.”
Adam just stared at the growing light a small sphere moving closer toward him in the darkness. Finally able to put words together to form a sentence in his mind and utter it’s response.
“I wanted to tell you to go to hell, but then I realized this could already be hell. So, Yes I made my choice and I don’t care if you like it or not. This is my life, my mind, my choices and what I do only matters to me and not to some fuck in my head.”
As the outburst was drawing to an end the light was nearly upon him and the dark shape began to disappear without a whimper or another thought. Adam found himself waking on the ground just feet from where he had started up the hill. The darkness had collapsed around him as the day had passed into night. He was covered in pine needles and dead leaves as he had obviously rolled around on the ground. Voices broke his confused state as he heard people calling his name and he recognized one being that of his father. How could that be? The man is long dead.
Adam’s heart skipped a beat and then begun a fast cadence as he had a conflict with himself. Was that all a dream? Was any of that just happened real or did he just pass out from the heat of the day? The voices began coming closer and closer and Adam got up and dusted himself off. Leaves and pine needles fell to the ground around him. He saw the flash of lights coming to him from the right and heard his father’s voice appearing to come from the left. There was no light in that direction and he had to make a choice. Should he just go to those with the lights or find the voice of his father. Adam thought for a moment and then finally took a step and went toward the darkness and his father’s voice.