100 stairs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
it's a story of Iana and her ghosts

Submitted: September 20, 2011

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Submitted: September 20, 2011

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And when Iana was eight, she tripped initally.
It happened in mid-summer. Iana was walking home from the docks again- she went there on a daily basis to check if "Satera", her father's boat, was back with the food yet. It wasn't back. Yet. The road home was uphill all the way, the house erect on the second tallest peak of the mountain. The forest was noisy that day, the periwinkle birds chattering endlessly, leaves bustling. Iana reached the last clearing, and it was two sets of stairs from here, a hundred stairs each.  Iana looked up, and couldn't see the top- the sun blinded her eyes.
Can you climb two hundred stairs?
According to Iana's father, everyone can. The key, he said, is to lower your expectations. And that can be done by counting something of quantity entirely unknown. Like trees in the forest that you saw today. Or people that you know. Or stars, if you're walking at night.
The first flight of stairs Iana counts ships that had returned since Satera had left. (Let's see, "Adam" with sheep, "Chastity"- silk and gas,"Aurora" , the twin boats "Lindsay" and "Laura", and "Maria" (chocolate!) , and "Gavin", and...")
Then, at the second flight, she starts counting times that she's gone to the docks. She's a little tired now, more time at each step. First one- the counductors said no. Fifth time- the conductors said no, and a sailor from "Monique" gave her a seashell, which is in her jewellery box, so she can look at it as soon as she's home... Twenty-third, the conductors said no, and showed her around the docks, she kept looking out for "Satera", maybe they've hidden her. Fourty-seventh, the third time that the girl from the floating diner made her scrambled eggs for free, and this time she said "come again". Top of the stairs, this time when Diezel, one of the conductors, gave her a doll... Just yesterday.
With her leg in mid-air, Iana realized that there wasn't another stair for today.
At that thought she lost her balance, tripped backwards and slid seven stairs on her bottom.
When she got up, her backbone ached too badly to stand. She gripped around, but there was nothing to provide support, and she dropped back on all fours. This way, on knees and arms, she mastered the remaining steps and pulled herself to the top. Those seemed longer than the hundred-ninety-something stairs she had already climbed. The top looked so far away, almost unreachable.  Once there, she plopped back, and bawled her eyes out like only eight year olds can.  
It seemed ages that she was crying there till she became aware of the rustle of skirts . Athin shadow fekk over her., she just opened her eyes and there it was- the top silky white skirrt, over the bending knees, white hands clasped over them. Smooth, billowing black hair. It was the woman that shared the house with her.
The woman had always been there, as long as Iana could remember. She'd wander the rooms of the house, or sit in the chair in the living room, or stand at the gates just looking out. She had a son , with the same smooth black hair, that Iana pined for. The son, mind me, not the hair. She played with the kid often, only somehow she was 'it' all the time. And the boy would run too far to catch. Or hide too well to find.  Father didn't get to answer Iana before he left, so she still had no idea in which room of the vast house did the two actually live. They seemed to be everywhere.
Now that tall lady is here, in front of her. A white hand pulls Iana's swollen face up, and she glances in the woman's eyes.
The portal to nowhere.
The endless space compressed.
The other side of the moon.
Or like... How you can't look at the sun, the light being too powerful. Imagine the exact opposite- could you look at it?
Of course an eight year old can't tell herself any of those things. The warm puddle that Iana is starting to feel around her, now, that speaks to her more clearly.
The lady straightened herself and walked away.
Iana realized for the first time that she was sharinf the woman's house all along...
And never went to the docks again.
Or played with the black-haired boy.
Or cried.
It's been years since then, and Iana only trips from time to time, usually able to hold herself. It's summer again, and the black-haired family is getting restless.  It's becoming difficult to sleep. 
Even now, at sundown, she can heat the flop-flop from the top floor. The father has gotten bored around the afternoon hours, and now he's rocking from side to side. She can't see it , but she can hear the sound- smack- smack, his bare dangling feet are hitting the walls of the closet. Every time the man gets bored, he starts swinging on his rope from side to side, and his feet hit the closet walls with a smacking sound. Iana would bet that he regrets having hung himself in that closet, now that the summer came, bringing about the smell of young leaves and the sounds of birds and cicadas. And the wind, oh the wind… 
It's nothing though. As soon as darkness falls, the woman in her white robe sneaks upstairs, stealing a smile in Iana's direction. Iana can hear her climb into the closet. Every night of the summer she comes to her husband at night. And he softly sings her love songs. 
To Iana they are like lullabies.
Their boy is the most annoying part of the deal, though. Iana blossomed ad age fourteen. Then, he started to be everywhere. Not a day older, all these years, he comes to the kitchen-"feed me." Peers from the top of the stairs- "Play with me." His head peaks from under her covers-"I want a bedtime story." Iana had the appearance of a woman ever since she was fourteen, and then the boy stopped asking her to play tag. Now he wants her to be his mother.
Only the woman is silent in the summer. She usually just sits in her living room armchair, and looks out of the window with a calm, happy expression on her face. It's the winter that stirs the woman, when the snow comes. Then she comes out every now and then, and goes to the gates, stares into the distance with darkening eyes, troubled and upset. As if awaiting something horrible.
One of the older sailors once mentioned that the family was killed in a raid on the house. He said the man made explosives and some bandits showed up one day, "to collect the merchandise". They were going to take over the island using the bombs the man made in his basement. So he hung himself in the closet. His wife drowned the boy in the tub. Then she went into the basement and detonated everything. Their house was built a couple of meters above Iana's. Her father built it on what was left after a chunk was blown clear off the peak.
Funnily enough, they seem to be at peace now. The wife has her own lounge chair. The husband hums to himself happily, swinging on his rope. The boy listens avidly, as Iana reads him the story about the long-nosed hermit.
As she closes the book and dives under the covers, Iana wonders if that may be the shortest way to peace of mind


© Copyright 2020 Lovisa. All rights reserved.

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