Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

The Stairs

Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

The Stairs

Article excerpt

I do not know and am not capable of understanding what is happening to me, or what has, perhaps, finally transpired. I cannot find a name for it, short of calling it madness. This might, of course, represent the only solution, but for obvious reasons, it is an option neither pleasant nor convenient. Maybe my malady has been assigned a completely different name or has no name at all; possibly, what is happening to me has never happened to anyone else. In any case, I have found nothing analogous either in scientific literature or in that literature which deems itself scientific. Probably, I should be exploring fiction, which I've ignored until now, postponing such research for a state of utter despair and hopelessness, since I'm fully aware that it's fiction which deals with the subject of madness seriously and truthfully. For this very reason, my turning to fiction would mark me as a not-so-respectable outsider at least according to the standardized canons of thought shared by most people. I've lived my whole life as if what was happening to me were not happening at all, passing over reminders with feigned bravado and indifference. Who can tell what twist my life would have taken were it not for my deplorable cowardice?

Presently, I feel confused not so much by the inevitability of my condition as by its recent reversal. I still would like to try to comprehend at least a part of it all, but I am distracted by this new offer of hope which fate, or something else, has confronted me with; it's an offer I can perceive only as a second variant, replacing the one I rejected. It worries me, because secretly I had already begun to reconcile myself to some form of a gradually progressive, not particularly bothersome madness. But madness, as I understand it, is a steady and one-sided quantity, a particularly limited obsession in which the narrower the range of possible oscillations, the more severe the disorder.

However, my madness has acquired a new form, and if I imagine that I safely avoided going mad from that first offer thrown at me by some external force, then I'm afraid that this time I won't have enough time to adjust to this new phenomenon so easily.

It all started a long time ago, in childhood. I was at an age when all things are perceived as self-explanatory, as though they existed solely for my sake, or, if they were independent of me, then for the sake of just existing--they were unnecessary, a part of the world, nothing more.

It was a bright spring day, I'm absolutely sure of it, although many years were to pass until a sudden and violent fear triggered by what was happening made me rewind time like a reel of film to locate a similar chain of events in my memory; they lit up as if marked by a radioactive isotope. So, it was an exceptionally bright spring day, and I was on my way home from school. My route took about half an hour, and I covered it on foot. We lived and still live in a resort town which stretches like a bent sausage along the coastline; the distances are short if one's route is perpendicular to the coast, but long if one has to get from a point A, located at one end of the sausage, to a point B somewhere at the other end.

My mood was as bright as that spring day--I suppose I might have been bringing some good grades home to my parents. Humming and skipping, swinging my bag in the air, I was trotting down the hill of a sandy side street and was about to gallop up the next hill when suddenly my attention was arrested by a stairway. I knew very well there should be no stairs there. This was a stretch I covered every day. But, as I already mentioned, I was at an age when--"Stairs, so what? What's the big deal?"--was about the only reaction to expect of me.

To be sure, I paused for an instant, but that was just a reflex evoked by the unexpected situation, nothing more. I stopped and stared blankly at the stairs, which led up the very hill I was about to climb, though a little off to one side. …

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