Running the Stairs
I know I am dreaming!I have to be dreaming! You know the one:something is after you and you run and you run but you cant get away?
So I am running up a metal spiral staircase and I being chased by some nightmare or other.I have run for seemingly forever and it is right below me on the stairs but I cant see it yet.The stairs are dimly lit and I am terrified.I don’t know what of just yet but the fear is all consuming!Suddenly I notice that I cant hear my pursuer any longer.Have I escaped or has it managed to get ahead of me somehow?Do I stop or should I make a run for it?
I stop momentarily and listen.No foot steps on the stairs above me or below me.Huh?I wait a few more seconds and still no sound of pursuit.Is this bad dream finally over?I slip back down the staircase slowly in case it’s a ruse.More steps downward and I can hear something.Not footsteps, no something else entirely.
Labored breathing is coming from below, interspersed with coughing.I slip lower down the stairs and finally come face to fanged faced with the creature that has been chasing me.It’s larger than I and covered with shaggy hair.Fangs the size of my index fingers come from its upper and lower jaw.Long claws spring from each of its appendages.Man is that thing ugly, in humorous kind of way.I cant help but laugh.
“You weren’t laughing a few minutes ago!” it gasps.“Almost had you too!”
“Yeah, well you were a lot scarier when I couldn’t see you.”I reply“Are you OK?
“Not really…”it says.“Whose damn idea was the staircase?”it asks.
“Not mine!”I say.“I hate these damn things!”
“Me, too!”it responds.“Can we take a break and let me catch my breath?Technically you’ve faced me so you can wake up now!”
“Why were chasing me in the first place?” I ask
Just a job, dude!”it says“Nothing personal!”
“Some job…”I snort“McDonalds wasn’t hiring?”
“Real funny…” it replied“As it happens I was working my way thru dental school, asshole!”
“I can see why.”I laughed
“That a smoker’s smile I see there, Boyo?”it asked“You know that shit ruins more than just your lungs!”
“I’m not the one doing all the wheezing!”I remarked.
“Run a mile with me in the waking world and we’ll talk again!”it said with a laugh of it’s own.
“Can you even exist in the waking world?”I wondered.“Arent you just a nightmare?”
“You read the news lately?”it asked.“Now there’s some real scary nightmares there for you!”
“I’d rather chase you up all kinds of staircases that take the subway in
“You’re preaching to the choir on that one, man!I said.“Not without a 9MM and a bullet proof vest!”
“Don’t forget backup, dude!” it said laughing.
“Yeah, there’s that!”I said also laughing.
Abruptly the scenery changed to country lane leading up to old store.It was the kind with bread, coke and cigarettes signs nailed all over the front.
“Man I could sure use something to drink.”It said“C’mon, I’ll buy you coke!”
“I’m a Dr Pepper man myself.”I replied
“Hey it’s your dream…”it commented.“Lets go see.”
Once inside the store, the creature changed into an ordinary looking fella with stringy brown hair.I stared in disbelief.
“Dreams work that way.”He commented.“I’m just Larry here.”
“HI, Larry!”the old storekeeper said.“Who’s your friend?”
“My names’ Connor.” I said“And we’re not really friends….”
“He’s tonight’s client, Pop.”Said Larry.“Couldn’t catch him.He turned and confronted me so here we are.”
“I don’t think I really confronted you…”I began
“Rules are Rules, son.”Said Pop.“As long as you’ve seen him and don’t die of fright, it’s a win.”
“You can die from that?”I asked, surprised.
“Course you can!”said Pop“That’s one of the Rules. But if you die here, its forever!”
“C’mon, Pop, your scaring the straights again!”said Larry.“It’s rare that someone dies here.And man do they ride your ass if that happens!The paperwork alone is enough to make you wish you had died instead!”
“Paperwork?”I ask.“What kind of paperwork can there possibly be?”
“Forms upon forms upon forms!”replied Pop.“Knew a spook accidentally killed a young fella that was destined for greatness.Damn what a mess that was!Took two hundred nights worth of filling out the forms and that spook never worked in this business again!”
“Sounds like a lot of grief to me.”I reply.“Was it anybody I’d hear about?”
“Way before you time.”Answered Pop.“About a hundred years or so ago.”
Hey, Pop.”Said Larry, “How about a cold drink and put it on my tab.One for Connor too, mind.”
“Your credit’s no good here, Larry.”Replied Pop.“And clients arent allowed here.You know that too!”
“Can I pay for both?”I asked.“ I got some cash on me or a credit card if you take those.”
Pop laughed.“Now that’s rich!A client buying a drink for a spook!That has to be a first!”
Pop and Larry both laughed at that.
“What’s so funny?”I asked.“I’ll buy you one as well, Pop!”
They both laughed even harder.It was starting to piss me off. Try to be polite and they break out the laughter.Even their kind should have manners!
“Now, look…” I began
Oh, don’t get you panties in knot, kid!”Pop said.“Our kinds don’t usually mingle much and you’re the first “Client” has even been near here.And to top it off you are being social too boot!We’re breaking a lot of Rules here tonight’s all.Got to think it’s funny cause it sure as Hell’s gonna cause me and Ol Larry a load of grief.But it’s kind of nice to talk to a mortal again.”
He handed me a cold bottle of Dr Pepper.“It’s on the house this time!Here Larry take your coke since I’m feeling all generous.Once your done with those you both have to high tail it outa here.Sun’s coming up soon and Connor cant be here after that happens.Down em and get him home!”
“Thanks, Pop!I owe you one.”said Larry“Come on, we’ll drink them on the way!Dont want to get Pop in any more of a jam.”
“Thanks, Pop.”I say as we’re headed to the door.“Best one I ever tasted!”
“It’s one from your childhood.”Pop replies.“Course it’s good!”
As we walk away from the porch steps, the scene changes once more.I am in an alley behind my apartment building.It is almost daybreak.
“This is your stop, Connor!”says Larry, back in his creature get up.“You’ve got time to get back in your body before sunrise.That’s real important!If you find yourself wandering, all you have to do is think of home and you return here!”
“This isn’t home I’m afraid.”I reply.“Just a place to rest my head.Home’s a lot farther away than that!”
“Oh, shit!”gasped Larry.“Remember, kid:home is where you’re asleep.You have to think of it just that way!You can get lost out there and your body will die!Keep that firmly in you head, OK?”
“Sure, Larry, I’ll remember!And thanks!”I say just as I am starting to fade.
“You’re welcome, kid” is Larry’s reply.He’s fading as well.“Chase you later, asshole!”
“Not if I see you first!”I mumble.
© Norman , 2018. All rights reserved.