Friday, October 23, 2009

FailSafe - The Stranger Upstairs (Part 1)

"Mr. Gryphon I've been trying. Really, truly."

I hear a sigh behind me. I'm getting winded as we climb up old narrow stone steps of a black tower. The stone walls look like they're straight out of some kind of medieval dungeon. The staircase curves claustrophobically upward.

"I've been going to and opening up a new post for days. I keep staring at the blank page but I didn't know what to write."

Still no answer but at least my imaginary friend is behind me. I can hear the slight scraping of his claws on the stone steps. He can easily take many stairs at a time and has to walk hunched over because he's 7 feet tall. In fact, I'm having difficulty climbing the stairs myself. It seems they were made for people with small feet and short legs, smaller and shorter than mine even.

"This is not comfortable, Miss Turtle. You should have just let me fly us up to the top," he says. He's not winded at all. The light from the day is turning the stones a bluish color. Shafts of light play bright rectangles on the opposite wall. There's no glass on the windows, just the open air.

I say nothing because I'm breathing hard now. I haven't been swimming so I'm in lousy shape. My thighs are starting to burn as we wind our way up and up the tower.

We're on our way up a new building in the Forest of My Imagination. Both Mr. Gryphon and I saw it the other day while having tea on one of the small roof patios of my cathedral style Library. It was far off in the distance in a direction we hadn't spent much time exploring. The tower is on a slight hill, very tall and narrow. The stones are weathered and black. When we got there the gate was looked up tight but since this is my imaginary place I was able open the gate with my ring of keys. The door was locked too but when I opened it the huge octagonal ground floor was old but quite clean. No cobwebs at all.

There's nothing on the ground floor, no furniture, no rugs. Nothing but open stone space. I insisted we climb the stairs. Now the stairs are feeling drafty as the sun is about to set. I lean out of one of the rectangular windows and look up. And scream. Instantly, Mr. Gryphon pushes me aside and looks out the window. He looks around a bit and looks back at me.

"What did you see?" he asks. His claws are just visible under his talons. He does that when he thinks I'm in danger. I am leaning against the wall, just to the right of a sunlit rectangle. He is single-minded.

"I saw," I close my eyes and open them again. "I saw someone upstairs looking down at me from one of the windows. They were wearing a dark cloak and the place where their face would be was pitch black."

"You saw someone upstairs?"

"Yes," my heart is beating faster because of what this means.

"Was this person at the top or on the stairs?"

"Stairs," I say as my throat goes dry. We both look up. I can't hear anything. Mr. Gryphon cocks his head to one side, listening.

"I hear something, but I'm not sure what it is. I'm going ahead. You stay here and don't move. I'll come back for you."

"Why can't I come with you?"

"I have to find out what's up there first," he says. I'm looking down at my shoes. I'm afraid. I don't want to be left alone. "I'll be right back," he says leaning close to me. I get a whiff of his warm furry smell.

"Mr. Gryphon if something happens you're not going to be able to get out of this tower through the window or by flying down the stairs."

"Don't worry about it. I'll be right back," he says. I take a deep breath and slide down to the floor. The rectangles are starting to turn orange in the setting sun. I watch my friend disappear around the curve of the stairs. I wait, listening to his progress until I can't hear him anymore. My friend is my confidente and protector. He would never let anything bad happen to me. It's built into his nature.

The stones up here in the tower are clean too and there's a slight musty smell of old rocks. I hear a strange sound, a low buzzing sound. I cock my head. The buzz grows louder and then I heard a terrible screech that ends with a roar loud enough to vibrate the walls. Then there is a tremendous jolt that knocks me down a few stairs. Then another and another. Small pebbles scatter loose and fall down. I stand up and then the screech starts again. It's Mr. Gryphon and he's screaming now. I run up the stairs as fast as I can, falling and stumbling, but I keep going. The roaring and screeching gets louder and louder as I get closer. I fall and hit my knees and get up again. I run and run but I feel like I'm in a dream where I'm running from something and I'm not going anywhere. More jolts that slam me into the wall but I recover. Now, I hear a sound I've never heard before, the sounds of wailing. It's my friend and he is in pain and terror. My heart seizes up and I fall again. I get up and realize I've been calling his name over and over. Now I'm screaming and I see the top of the landing of the stairs, the door is slightly ajar. I throw myself through the door and stop cold.

I collapse to my sore knees, panting. Lying on the floor is my friend, Mr. Gryphon, or at least his body. The cloaked figure is holding a sword in one hand and Mr. Gryphon's head in the other. Mr. Gryphon's body is weeping blood and still twitching. His mouth is open from his last cries. I lean over, gagging.

I can barely speak, "What have you done?" I say to that, that thing. My voice is hoarse and a coldness is starting at my heart and spreading slowly outwards. The thing merely nods towards Mr. Gryphon's body. It's starting to turn to the color of ashes.

"No, NO, NOOOO" I scream as I run to his body. I reach out to grab his leg but he's already gone and all I have in my hands is a fine gray powder. I shove the powder into my pockets but I know it's no use. His body disintegrates and then the powder vanishes.

I try to stand up, weaving. There's grief, yes, but mostly there's a cold fury. "Give me his head," I say evenly. I advance towards the cloaked figure, limping but single-minded. I need his head otherwise I can't bring him back. The figure steps away from me and I realize his cloak is a very dark, almost black purple. There's a thin line of red around the opening where the hood is. Inside the hood there is nothing but blackness. The hands are bones covered with shrunken gray flesh. The thing holds the sword out to me. I hesitate since I'm unarmed.

A familiar blue door fades into existence next to the thing. I stare at the door not comprehending. In one quick motion it slips through the doorway taking Mr. Gryphon's head with it.

I scream and scream as I run towards to the door but I slam into the stone wall as the door closes and disappears. That thing and Mr. Gryphon's head are gone and I slip to the stone floor as everything goes black.

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