The Ascent

Graham’s legs did not work properly. Whatever The Visitor had done to him had seriously impeded his ability to walk. Slowly he staggered his way across the room and into the hallway, all the time accompanied by the eerily pained and strenuous voice of his unwelcome house guest.

He would need to climb the stairs to reach the safe, a task that, with his legs in their current state, he did not relish one bit. Each step seemed more difficult than the last, as though the bones in his legs were steadily transforming into rubber. He fell a number of times before he even reached the stairs, the final tumble cutting open a superficial wound on his head. Yet, with great perseverance, Graham finally made it to the staircase, albeit crawling the last few feet.

Mr Nips was sat on the lowest step, his creaky little legs folded underneath him like a child at a school assembly. He regarded Graham with a professional indifference that few other humans, let alone spiders, could achieve. Graham stared at the bloated spider for a moment before hoisting his rubbery body towards the stairs.

He made it two steps before he slid backwards again, catching his chin on both steps on the way down. When he looked up again he was greeted once more by Mr Nips, who perched himself firmly on Graham’s nose.

Behind him Graham could hear The Visitor urging him to hurry up. “Faster, Graham” it tolled, like some hideous wooden bell, “I would prefer not to snuff out your existence.”

Scared, Graham flicked the spider from his nose and began to slither his way up the staircase once more. Five steps this time. Five steps before an unpleasant sensation halted his advance. His head felt like it was shrinking, that suddenly it was not big enough for its intended purpose. The intense displeasure of the feeling caused him to loose his grip and slowly slide down the stairs once more, again bashing his chin on the way down.

You’re doing it wrong. A snide voice chimed inside his head. Mr Nips was talking again. You’re supposed to use your feet.

I can’t use my feet, they don’t work any more!” Graham shot back.

Well you either use your feet or you die. On your belly. Imagine what they’ll think when they find you. You’ll be quite a humiliating sight.

I hate you.”

I’m not the one crushing your soul in his vice-like grip, chap.

Mr Nips left Graham’s mind again and gently squeezed his way through a nearby hole in the wall, disappearing. Graham surveyed the staircase a third time. It was tall as staircases go, and thoroughly dusty. What carpet there was had been ripped hundreds of times, each new rip having to be held in place with a nail or two just to maintain some semblance of order. Graham had begun to think of the carpet in the same terms as an amoeba.

The first few steps, maybe the first seven, were respectable enough, but the ones after that were in serious need of refurbishment. Many of the nails had worked their way loose, creating evil little crags that would be perfect for slicing the skin from a face should someone end up sliding face first past them. Someone like Graham.

He tried to stand but his legs gave way yet again. This time, on his way to the ground, Graham managed to catch the banister at the side of the staircase and narrowly avoided crashing to the floor once more. With this external support Graham wobbled like a house of cards, his crooked legs barely able to hold his weight even with the banister’s aid. Even with the ability to stand, however, the problem or movement still remained.

Graham tried to release the banister but that resulted only in his unreliable legs giving way once again. The only feasible method of ascent that Graham could see required him to lift each of his legs manually, using his hands.

This is getting… intolerable.” The Visitor intoned from the adjacent room and Graham slowly started to climb his way up the staircase, step by step.

Graham made it more than halfway with no problems, and would probably have made it further, were it not for The Visitor’s impatience. The second floor was a few steps away when the voice boomed up to him.

Squeeeeeeeeeze!” It said in a tone reserved for the types of children who dismember dragonflies, “SQUEEEEEEEEEZE!”

Graham suddenly could not breathe. Any control left in his legs was gone, and with it went the feeling. A creeping coldness started to rise from his feet. It swallowed his legs almost instantly, hurling Graham to the floor with alarming speed. He spun as he fell, resulting in him catching the back of his skull on one of the steps. A loose nail narrowly missed embedding itself into his skull, although the pain from the impact almost fooled Graham into believing it had succeeded.

As he lay there Graham could feel the atrophied fingers of The Visitor at his throat, choking him. Graham could see himself dying, his body being found lifelessly attached to the stairs like some urban artist’s impression of Jesus. He managed to turn his head and garner a look at the steps he had left to climb. The staircase looked as though it went on forever, yet he was sure it was only a matter of a few more steps.

With grim determination he forced himself to climb once more. He crawled, slowly and breathlessly, up step after agonising step. The wound on his head was bleeding profusely now, Graham reckoned his recent fall having succeeded in opening it even wider. On each step he left a small puddle of his own blood and, on one occasion, almost slipped on it.

Then the stairs stopped.

One hand reached up onto untarnished carpet. No loose nails, no wooden inclination, just firm and pleasant and even floor. Graham hauled himself fully onto the second floor and rolled onto his back. He stared at the ceiling, still willing his body to let him breathe, and felt as if he had just been on a gruelling mountaineering expedition rather than a mere ascension of his staircase.

As he lay he saw his vision start to darken. If he had tried he could have reached out to the door of the room wherein the safe was kept, but he did not. He just lay there as everything slowly faded to black, all the while cursing The Visitor and his spectral grasp.

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