|A Stairway to Heaven|
The second edit of the sequel to my other story, The First Road Out of Here, which can also be found in my archived submissions. I have no clue what genre to submit it in. This one has more fantasy elements than the previous, but I'm reluctant to put it in fantasy. I'll just go with dark and dramatic like the last.
I'm really fond of this story, and I think this series is one of my best. I'll post the third also as soon as I edit it. That is all I have now, but the rest of it has been partially revealed to me through a dream, so I do intend to finish up this plot. How many more sections it'll take is beyond me.
This edit was just to fix up some plot that was changed for the better. The prose, besides the rewritten scenes, reamains unchanged. Within the next few days, I shall edit it once more, looking more for fluidity and mechanics than changing plot and dialogue.
A large prairie spreads off into the horizon, nothing obstructing it’s endless journey into nowhere. No trees, no animals to stop it’s all encompassing expanse, just un-ending grass, dark like a field of wheat that coats the tops of gently rolling hiss. One hill stands larger than the rest, and atop it lies a small stone house; a humble little place with a thatched roof. The weathered gray stone shows age beyond knowing, and it is indeed old, possibly older than time, but the stone stands stoutly. Anyone who sees it will know that in another hundred years, the house will still be standing. Time, however, is different here. Not a single completely living soul will ever see this house besides it’s sole inhabitant, a young girl by the name of Amy.
For as long as Amy can remember, she has lived in this small house atop the hill, going about her daily life of food gathering from the small garden behind the house and learning her daily lessons from Easty, her wise old teddy bear. In her life of pleasant solitude, Easty is her companion and teacher; telling her of language and mathematics and the ways of other worlds where there are fantastic things called technologies and people just like her run rampant by the millions. He tells her of large things called towers which reach up and touch the sky; she has always wanted to touch the blue sky and feel the fluffy clouds run, like pillows, through her small fingers. Amy has always been happy in her little small house atop the hill, but Easty’s teachings have invoked an insatiable curiosity in her. She wants to see the other people like her. She wants to go to the top of a tower and touch the sky. She wants to see the wonderful technologies. But Easty has also told her bad things about how the people in the other worlds use technologies to kill each other, and how she should never think about wanting to go there, because she has a job here and it is so horrible there.
Easty doesn’t know that Amy has dreams of the other worlds. She has dreams of a forest where strangely surreal white figures walk amongst the trees and clearings. She has dreams of a massive city without a name, and knows that it is always winter and always night there. Sometimes the white figures come to talk to her. Easty knows this, but he has never mentioned it to her. They come through the stairway that lies behind her house at the base of the hill; it’s crystalline splendor rising upwards into the heavens, ever emanating an aura of glimmering light that brings even the darkest night to it’s knees. They come through the parting of the sky; a circle of clouds leading into nothing but eternally black, swirling abyss. Easty has told her never to even think of going near the stairway, but she thinks about it all the time.
The white figures look like people. Although most are bigger than her and built differently, she can tell they are the same judging by the descriptions in Easty’s lessons. They are white and gaseous, able to be seen, but not present in substance. Easty once told her that they are kind of like the people from the world of technologies and towers, but he refuses to reveal more regarding their nature. She knows, though.
It is a sunny day, just like any other day. Sunny days and starry nights with full moons are all Amy ever sees. She heard that sometimes in the other places the sky turns gray and water falls out from the clouds. She knows about water, because behind her house is an old stone well, and no matter how much she uses of it, it’s always full. Carrying a few potatoes she picked from her garden in the rolled up belly of her sweater, she walks inside, lugging a pail of water difficulty behind her with one hand. Straining her little muscles to the limit, she finally makes it, although more water ended up on the ground than in the bucket.
The inside of her house is very tidy and neat, for while living in a cottage atop a hill, often the only thing she has to do is clean and organize. It isn’t quite time to prepare dinner yet, so while looking for something to pass the time, she notices to her disdain that the house is in dire need of dusting. She has been putting it off for the last few days, and it just wouldn’t do to leave it unfinished one more day. She dusts thoroughly, lifting up a flower vase that sits on her bedside table. No place is to be left untouched; that’s her philosophy. She wipes the dust off of the wood stove, watching as the displaced particles dance in the light from the window. She even dusts the large chimney pipe which leads high into the air so as to not catch the thatch ablaze. Amy may be a good housekeeper, but she doesn’t know how to fix roofs. After dusting every counter, every windowsill, every tabletop, she scans the room making sure that she didn’t miss a spot. And she was successful. Not a spot of dust could be seen in that room, it’s beige motif granting it an air of homeliness as the late afternoon sunlight shone in the window. She sighs, for it is now time to cook dinner.
She prepares her food in haste while Easty sits across the counter watching with his little beady black eyes. Amy notes that he is about due for a bath, because his scraggly brown teddy bear fur is becoming ever more matted and entangled by the day. She doesn’t mind, though. To her, it makes him all the more cuter than he already is.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?” she asks him in jest.
“Now Amy, you know that I don’t eat.” He has a way of talking down to her which never ceases to make her smile. She loves the way his furry lips curl when he does it. If he had pupils, he’d roll his eyes.
“I’m joking,” she laughs.
“Your sense of humour needs some work.”
Amy picks up Easty and sets him down at the dinner table in the chair across from her. She never knew why there were four chairs for two people.
“Damn it all, I wish I could walk,” Easty says with bitter intonation.
Amy knows that Easty’s cynicism is all in jest, and she knows that he doesn’t mind being carried in the least bit. Not only that, she knows that truthfully, he likes it. He had even told her so back in the day, in one of those rare moments when he decides to drop his veil of false cynicism and be honest with her. Amy eats her mashed potatoes while Easty observes from across the table, propped up on logs from their eternal supply of firewood that sits beside the wood stove. That way, he can see over the table.
From the house’s single window, Amy can see that the sun is setting. Beautiful pinks and purples and sepias flood the horizon, painting the clouds like watercolour. After cleaning up the dinner mess, she grabs Easty and walks out the front door to lay back along the slope of the hill and watch the beautiful sky. She sees the stairway and is filled with a longing to break free; to see the people and towers and technologies. Never has she felt the longing this strongly before this moment; this moment where the light from the sunset gleams off of the crystalline stairs, sending prisms of light and colour in every imaginable direction. However, even the beautiful light of the sunset is shrouded by the darkness of the hole in the sky that the stairs eventually lead to. She lays there, Easty by her side, until the sun is replaced by the large pearl of a full moon that grants another sort of white gleam to the rising staircase. Tonight she will escape the old reality and enter the new, Easty by her side, voluntarily or not.
She stands up suddenly, awakening Easty with a start, for he was off in his own world gazing at the twinkling stars in the velvet sky.
“May I ask why you interrupt me so violently?” Easty asks, yawning.
She clutches him to her chest in a bear hug. He tries to escape, but after his fierce wriggling is proven ineffective, he knows that it is futile. She clutches him tightly, almost to the point of pain as she begins her descent down the hill. In all her life previous to this very night, she had not even thought of descending the hill, let alone ascending the stairs. Of course she wondered about the other worlds, but it was never more than childish curiosity until this moment.
“Where are you going?” Easty asks, his usual bitterness replaced with sheer desperation.
She remains silent.
“I must,” she says determinedly, little above a whisper.
“No!” His soft, yet accented voice yells. He has never yelled at her before. She falters.
“Do you want to stay here?” she asks, stopping dead in her tracks.
“Yes, and I want you to stay here with me.”
“I can’t do that,” she says, saddened yet blunt.
“Yes, you can!”
“I’m going and you’re going with me,” she says. “Please forgive me.”
Still hugging him, a single tear falls from her ice blue eye, catching moonbeams as it falls. Apprehensively, she takes her first step onto the stairwell. She looks up into the black void, it’s darkness filling her with fear, but the fear does little to . Without taking another moment to reconsider, she begins her ascent.
“I beg of you girl, reconsider!” If Easty had eyes, he’d cry. She could hear it in his voice. She continued upwards, not looking down and never looking back.
The closer she comes, the more she feels the tug of the gateway. It pulls at her, fiercely yanking at her hair. The hem of her skirt. Her loose fitting sweater. Her mind. Her soul. Her very essence. As she steps in, she knows that it is far too late to decide otherwise.
“If you go there, I’ll die,” says Easty, his voice fading away with every word. Right as she stepped in, she could have swore that she heard him say, “Farewell, friend,” as his voice faded to the point where it was barely audible. She has stepped through, and from the look of it, there truthfully is no turning back.
Amy finds herself standing in a forest of tall, dark trees. It is night time here, and she finds it extremely cold; she’s not used to this weather, for where she comes from, the weather is always comfortable. Unchanging. Snow falls gently, coming through the cracks in the forest’s canopy and lightly coating the forest floor. In her arms, Easty hangs limp. An unused vessel that’s soul has evacuated. She hugs him near for comfort, realizing that he is gone now. Because of her. It takes her a small time to comprehend, but she starts to cry, knowing that she has killed her only friend. Crying, she trods forward into a clearing, where the floor of forest is covered in dried up pine needles and snow that almost tops her small black boots. Looking upward, she sees the one familiar thing in this world: the sky. The stars and moon casts their shafts of light upon her white face. She takes comfort in these small similarities.
Through the circle of trees that encircles this clearing almost geometrically perfect, a figure walks to her. The white figure, almost material, wears loose fitting jeans and a heavy jacket, and is puffing casually on a cigarette.
“Why are you crying?” the figure asks Amy.
“I killed my only friend,” Amy says, embracing Easty tight to her chest.
“He isn’t dead.”
“But he told me that if I brought him here, he’d die!” Amy argues.
“Teddy bears aren’t allowed to live in this world, but he isn’t dead.”
“How can you people talk to me?”
“I can’t talk to your kind, usually,” the girl admits, “You are different. You aren’t from here.”
“It’s so confusing,” Amy cries, falling to the ground despite the coolness of the snow which sends a shiver throughout her body
“Is there any way I can go home?” Amy ask hopefully. “I want to see this place, but I don’t want to stay here forever.”
“You can’t go back the way you came, but there is someone who can send you back. You will have to find him on your own.”
“Why can’t you help me?” Amy yells, pounding her closed fists on, no, through the girl.
“I’m truly sorry,” the girl comforts, placing a hand upon Amy’s shoulder. “I have told you all that I am allowed to tell. Find the one who can send you back, he will cooperate. He’s the one that brought us here.”
The girl fades slowly, leaving a gaseous trace that wisps away in the wind.
Unsure of her destination, Amy walks to the other end of the clearing, holding Easty in one arm. Feeling the sting of the weather on her fragile fingers, she pulls them into the sleeves of her thick, black sweater and walks down a trail that leads to an unknown place. The snow doesn’t coat the ground as much now, because the thick canopy of coniferous trees catches it before it can hit the ground. Dried pine needles mark the path. Gaseous breath, like the white figures, floats from her mouth. Dawdling in the air before her face, it serves as just another reminder of how alien this world is to her, and how cold. Her toes go numb in her boots. She walks across a frozen stream and almost slips, thinking that although the big huge city she has heard about is near, this place doesn’t look like many of the other people have been here.
The forest slowly dwindles, making way for a large park with a giant lake covered in ice and an empty parking lot. Amy can hear the distant city sounds and see in the far distance the towers. Before she steps away from the boundary of the forest, the ethereal girl from before appears.
“It’s dangerous out there, so be careful,” she says.
Amy takes a step forward into the city, and when she looks back, she’s gone.
The snow shines under the streetlamp in random pulsations as the light flickers. Amy walks down the street, hearing the gray slush as the cars drive by and feeling the beats of their stereos. Night loiterers are about; not too many in this weather, but still the occasional loitering teens smoking their cigarettes and lovesick couples making out against the buildings. Two females walk hand in hand down the street, drunk and stumbling into each other’s arms as they laugh about their night. A young black lady sits on a bench at the corner with a small child on her lap all bundled up. The mother, wearing a forlorn look, hugs her child closely, providing shelter from the weather. The buildings here are all red bricks, rising up two or three stories. In the distance she can see the towers, standing so high and majestic, an aura of purple haze surrounding them that renders the stars invisible.
Across the street, the sign says don’t walk in orange, prohibiting letters. Black vehicles are crossing the intersection, so Amy waits patiently her turn, noticing that another man waits with her. He is a well built man, dressed fairly normal in blue jeans and a heavy work jacket. A black stocking cap sits upon his head and his long hair protrudes from under it, touching the sides of his unshaven face.
He looks down at Amy. “What are you doing out here all by yourself? There are lots of bad people out here that could get little girls like you.”
Amy doesn’t know anything about other people, but he sounds nice.
“I’m going that way,” she says, pointing towards the highrise towers.
“I’ll give you a ride,” he says, “but first, let’s get ourselves a little something to drink.”
“Okay,” Amy says. She is cold, and something warm to drink sounds good right now.
On the corner is a small convenience store with barred windows and a large sign that reads, ‘MAC’S’ in red letters. It is well lit inside, although empty save the few late night stragglers that peruse tightly packed aisles for snacks to feed their stoner munchies. Amy and the man both get cups of hot chocolate and wait in line behind an old man who’s buying some cigarettes, and when her turn comes up, she places both the styrofoam cups atop the counter, which she can barely see over. An old, chubby man rings up the drinks to a dollar ninety-five, and the man she came in with tosses two dollars on the counter and walks away with her hand in his, not even bothering to get his change.
A blue car sits parallel parked in front of Mac’s. A large dent is embedded in the right side, showing signs that he‘d been sideswiped pretty badly. He pulls the damaged door open with effort, letting her in before slamming it shut with equal force. Amy notices a small shoe upon the floor, a white sneaker with a blue star on the side. It would fit her. He gets in the car, starts it, and shifts it to first gear. The light is green, he runs through it, shifts to second. Gradually gaining speed and rising in gears, he puts it into overdrive. The speed limit here is forty-five, but no one has ever really paid it much mind. Amy watches intently out the window as the inner city speeds by her at sixty miles per hour, she stares in awe at various urban features that are utterly alien to her: pawn shops, liquor stores, dirty city parks.
“Are you taking me to the towers?” Amy asks.
“Yeah, I’m heading in that direction.”
“Thank you for the ride.”
“Hey hey; no problem. It ain’t right to let a young girl like yourself walk out there alone. It’s a fuckin’ jungle out there.”
The remainder of their ride into the jungle is in silence, only exception being the static-filled radio tuned to the classic rock station. The towers approach, and Amy hugs Easty’s empty stuffed shell with anticipation.
“Is this a tower?” Amy asks the man as she exits his vehicle onto the snowy sidewalk.
She looks up at the high rise apartment building, looking at the dark windows and noticing a few that were still lit. ‘Tis late, and most people are bundled up under their covers as the snow falls gently and perpetually outside their windows.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Can I go in?”
“Yes, I live here,” the man says, locks his door.
“You must be really lucky to live in a tower,” Amy says, awe in her voice.
“It’s really nothing special,” he replies.
The lobby of the apartment complex is dimly lit, providing just enough light for the duo to find their way to the elevator. The old elevator takes it’s time arriving at it’s destination, and Amy and the man wait in silence, staring at the dim lights that flicker on the ceiling. His apartment is a small one-roomed place with a couch slash hide-a-bed, an old coffee table, and a small television on a cart with antennas lifted to heaven. Newspapers are laid out on the coffee table along with old dishes, and clothing is strewn about the floor.
“You live here?” Amy asks.
“Sorry,” the man says, lighting a cigarette. “I live by myself, so I don’t see any reason to clean. Go ahead and sit down.” He motioned to the couch.
Holding Easty by one arm, she plops down upon the comfortable padding.
“I’ve got to piss,” the man says as walks to the bathroom puffing on his cigarette.
Amy notes the newspapers strewn across the coffee table with molding dirty plates and half empty cups of coffee and cans of beer. A pair of panties lay under the table, and from the look of them, they would fit a girl her size.
“Are you a Really Bad Man?” Amy asks him when he comes back into the room.
“Why do you ask that?”
“Easty has told me about the Really Bad Men,” Amy replies innocently.
“Who the hell is Easty?” he asks curiously.
“Easty is my teddy bear.”
“Your teddy bear talks to you?” he asks, mocking.
“Yes. He can’t talk in this world, though.”
Amy notices the devious smile spreading across his face, and she doesn’t know what she should do except for hug Easty and hope everything will be alright .
“Where are you from?” he asks her, reveling in her strange responses.
“You wouldn’t know of it if I told you,” she replies bluntly.
“You’re from outside of the city?” he asks, a tinge of skepticism in his tone.
“Is that possible?”
He walks to her slowly. In an abrupt swing of the hand, he sends all the cups and plates and newspapers and beer cans flying across the room, clattering violently upon the floor with a sound that made Amy jump with a start. He straddles her and strokes her soft cheek with hardened, callous fingers that felt rough across her cheek. Amy tenses, gulps.
“You are a Really Bad Man,” she forces.
“No I’m not!” the Really Bad Man yells, prying Easty savagely from her fierce grasp, ripping his head off at th shoulders and sending stuffing airborne. Amy watches Easty fly across the room as her world stops almost completely. She visualizes every piece of stuffing as it falls slowly to the ground, like the snowflakes in the city. He may have been asleep in this world, she thinks, but now he’s dead forever. A tear falls down her cheek, and she sniffles.
“Why did you do that? You killed my only friend.”
“Because you called me a name.”
“You ARE really bad!” Amy yells, standing up and pounding the Really Bad Man on the chest. In less than an instant, she finds herself constrained by him with a switchblade at her throat. Sweating and fearful, she rasps out a sentence:
“You have a brother.”
He throws her against the couch with all his force. If she would have landed elsewhere, she wouldn’t have stood up uninjured.
“What in the hell are you talking about!?” he yells at her.
“You have a brother. He died in a car accident. He was driving your car.”
“I’ve never had a brother that I know of!”
“That’s because you forgot about him. He was erased from reality.”
“How do you know, then?” he asks skeptically. She can tell by the look in his eyes that he wishes death upon her, yet he can’t bring himself to do it because he is enamored by her eccentricities.
“He has visited my home from the forest,” Amy tells him, now calm.
“You are full of shit!” the Really Bad Man growls.
“Do you want to kill me?” Amy asks. “Maybe rape me?”
“It’s okay. You can kill me if you want, but first, I want you to take me to the roof so I can touch the clouds.”
A door for maintenance men which should be locked leads to the roof. She walks to the edge, feeling the frosty winter wind in her cold black hair, cheeks reddening and ears growing numb just from this short exposure. She sees the small red and white lights from the cars down in the road and the snow that gently passes through the beams of light from the windows of the higher towers. She sees the midnight sky, dark blue, stars visible even through the urban haze. She reaches upwards, hoping to touch the cloud; hoping for the chance to feel it slip between her numb fingers, but proves futile, for her fingers find nothing but more frosty air and the soft sting of falling snowflakes.
“You should know that you can’t touch the clouds,” the Really Bad Man says.
“Why not?” Amy asks stubbornly with an air of disbelief.
“They are too high,” he says.
Releasing the blade of his knife, he lunges atop her body. His weight holds her against the edge as her hair flies, a bird fighting the winter winds. He presses the knife into her throat, drawing blood, but not penetrating her trachea. Amy figures that the molestation must come after death, so she closes her eyes. She hears a door slam shut. The man, still holding the knife pressed gently to her throat, turns to see a man dressed in black, face shrouded in a ski mask. Amy fights his grasp enough to look upward, which sends the sharp knife even further into her soft skin. It would require the force of his push, however, to penetrate. She sees a man garbed in black, his face shrouded by a ski-mask. She sees him release the chamber of a revolver, letting gold plated bullets fall to the ground. The man replaces the gold bullets with normal bullets, cocks the hammer, and pulls the trigger, sending a .45 caliber bullet through the head of the Really Bad Man, causing him to careen over the edge of the building and fall slowly to the surface. Amy, in shock, wipes the blood from her face as she watches the Really Bad Man descend until he is a bug-sized splat upon the sidewalk.
Amy looks up at the hooded man. “You saved me.”
“You shouldn’t be here,” he said.
“You know who I am?” she asks, frightened.
“I’m the one you seek. I’m the one that sends the lost souls where they belong,” he says, holding up his gun before placing it in it’s holster, “The job He has appointed me with is the job of eradicating the loose threads from the travesty that these people call existence. To send away the people who begin to notice the truth, even if it is impossible for them to ever discover it.”
“But you killed the Really Bad Man,” Amy says. “Is he a loose thread?”
“Indeed I did,” he replies solemnly. “He isn’t. He was real, and this was the first time I’ve killed a real person. It’s not something I‘d care to do again.” He rubs his gun at his hip and hangs his head, pulling off his mask and looking at the ground. Unmasked, Amy sees that he carries the appearance of a young man. Long blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes that shine with ageless wisdom. He is crying.
“I’ve put myself through hell for you, and it is time for you to go back. You must come here later, but it isn’t your time yet.” He releases his revolver’s chamber once more, loads it with a golden bullet, aims, cocks, and pulls the trigger.
Amy wakes up on the side of her hill, holding Easty in her arms once more. He appears to be sleeping. She looks into the night sky and notices that the stairway is no longer there.
“You must come here later, but it isn’t your time yet.”
Surely the stairway will return someday, and as surely as the man’s words, she is destined to travel back through it. Until that moment comes, she will watch and wait. Easty opens his beady eyes and hugs Amy.
“We’ve been through a lot,” she says.
“Sure have,” he replies.
Amy cries tears of joy.
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