Descending down The Staircase should be the goal of every scientist, philosopher, or dreamer across the globe but its existence is kept secret. The first reason for that is that as each step tells whoever takes it a deep and fundamental truth about the universe, the governments who are aware of The Staircase want to make sure they control anyone who successfully descends.
The other reason is that nobody has successfully made it down more than five steps without dropping dead.
I had hoped to be the exception, as had every scientist who had landed this assignment before I did. I had spent years proving myself worthy and loyal. Years filled with excessive overtime, more than a little flirting, and almost more moral compromise than I could stand finally paid off.
Five days ago, I was offered the assignment.
There is a ladder that you need to climb down to even reach the highest step of The Staircase. By the time my feet were off the lowest rung, I couldn’t hear or see my colleagues outside. Nobody who has gone down has said anything audible but electrical signals can make it out. Heart monitors gave us a very good guess as to which step they keeled over on.
I can’t tell you what I learned when I gathered my courage and took the first step but I can at least tell you how it felt, intoxicating and excruciating all at once. My skin felt like it no longer belonged and my mind fizzed in pleasure and panic.
But I survived.
Step Two was similar but more intense. Step Three made my nail beds softly bleed. Step Four made me nearly collapse onto the sorry skeleton to my right. Step Five took my sense of sight away entirely and then returned it with an explosion of light and color.
At Step Six, my heart stopped for fifteen seconds before returning in double time. I waited for it to approach a normal speed and then continued.
The knowledge of which I cannot speak made me elated and the pain, whilst nearly unbearable, seemed a fair price to pay.
In the last ten Steps I’ve taken I haven’t even had the energy to use my legs. I slide down, no longer afraid of falling. No longer afraid of anything, really.
I don’t know why I could descend further than my colleagues. I do know others got further than our organization in ancient times – crumbling skulls marking Step Thirty Two and Step Forty.
With every step I take, I learn something beautiful or broken about the universe. And even though it burns my senses and my mind, who wouldn’t want to know one more truth?
I can’t leave. I have to continue until it kills me. I must know everything.
Though I suppose really the only question I should be asking myself, the only question any of us should ever have asked, was who built The Staircase in the first place?
Who built it, and why?