Stairwell

Alan wend his way down the dimly lit gray stairwell. He knew that his building had elevators, but ever since he’d moved in they’d been out of order. It had already been a week, and when he’d brought it up with the superintendent on the first floor he’d been brushed off with some vague statements about repair men and perfectly serviceable stairwells before the door had been shut in his face.

The light that illuminated the landing between the second and first floors flickered as Alan passed by it.  He made a mental note to stop by the super’s apartment later that day and mention that as well. After all, he rationalized, if he had to take the stairs each day, he would be safe doing it. If the light went out he could misstep and fall or someone could potentially lay in wait and mug a resident in the stairwell. He wondered if the building had been this run down when he’d initially been looking at apartments to rent. Certainly he couldn’t have overlooked all these issues just because it was so close to his office, could he have? However, as he stepped out into the warm summer morning, he placed aside all thoughts of the building’s flaws and began to focus on the work day ahead of him.

Alan managed to push all thought of the tenement he lived in until he arrived home for the evening to see an ambulance waiting out in front of the building. He joined the milling crowd of residents and assorted bystanders on the sidewalk. Watching as paramedics brought out a body on a stretcher, Alan managed to overhear snippets of conversations. Apparently someone had been attacked in the stairwell, just like Alan had predicted this morning.

As the ambulance drove off and the crowd dispersed, Alan entered the building and knocked on the super’s door. He stood outside the door for three minutes until the super merely cracked it, not even bothering to undo the chain lock.

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to let you know that it seems like the lights in the stairwell could be changed. I noticed one flickering this morning, and it might help prevent future incident.”

“I’ll get on it first thing in the morning.”

And with that the door shut. Absolutely typical, Alan thought. As he made his way up the stairs he noted that the flickering light was now completely out, flooding the landing in nearly total darkness, only a scant few beams of light made their way from the landing above. Alan could only shake his head as he made his way onto the third floor and retreated to the relative safety of his own apartment, making certain to secure both the deadbolt and the chain lock.

Alan had just been dozing off in his chair as the late show played on his T.V., his stomach filled with a microwaveable dinner and a couple of beers, when the buzzer near his door came alive. He lifted himself out of the recliner and pushed the talk button.

“Who is it?”

“Hey, we have a special delivery for Alan Santiago. Buzz us in so we can leave it in the lobby.”

“I’m not expecting any deliveries.”

“Hey, I don’t handle exchanges or refunds, man. I just drop off the packages. You’re my last stop for the day so if you could just buzz me into your building and I can leave the package for you, you can sort it out with whoever sent it to you.”

Grumbling to himself, Alan pressed the button to allow the deliveryman in. He slipped on a pair of sandals and made his way to the stairwell, his chosen footwear making an annoying thwacking sound against the soles of his feet. As he stepped into the stairwell he noticed that all of the lights at the landings seemed dimmer, almost as if the darkness was pressing in on them and actively attempting to snuff out their light. He started making his way down the steps, the slapping sound of his sandals echoing throughout the stairwell. Alan, lost in his own thoughts about the mysterious nature of the delivery for him that he didn’t order and the odd hour of it nearly missed the echoes of a second pair of feet in the stairwell.

He stopped, remembering the ambulance from earlier in the evening, and listened closely for the stairwell’s other occupant. The noise died out almost instantly and Alan strained to hear anything other than his own breathing and the sudden thoughts of impending violence on his person that he couldn’t seem to push aside. The second floor landing’s light flickered in front of him.

“Hello? Who’s there?” Alan called out tentatively.

After several tense moments of silence, Alan continued his descent more cautiously. As he made it to the second floor, the second set of footsteps began to echo through the stairwell again as well. Abandoning caution, Alan hurriedly rushed down the stairs, the second set of footprints picking up their pace to match his own. As he made it to the lobby he looked around for the deliveryman. Of course, nowhere to be found. As he looked around for the package, the superintendent emerged from the stairwell.

The super looked extremely pale as he headed to his own apartment, stopping only briefly to mention he had taken the package up to Alan’s apartment. Wondering how they could have missed passing each other on the stairs, Alan began to make his way back up the stairwell, cursing the defective elevator.

The stairwell was pitch black as he entered, he groped blindly for the rails that lined the way up and stepped carefully onto the first step. Making his way up cautiously his sandals slapped loudly masking again the sounds of the second pair of feet making their way toward Alan.

It wasn’t until morning when the superintendent happened upon Alan’s drained body on the landing between the second and third floors, a look of terror froze on his face.


Apropos of: The stairwell at work

-Crouse

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