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The Last Step

It happens to everyone once in a while. You’re walking up a staircase in the dark, and at the end of it you put your foot out to step on the last stair.  But your foot doesn’t make contact where it ought to. Your entire sense of balance is pitched off and for a split second you have no idea where your body is located in space. Then your foot comes down on the floor with a jar, your heart skips a beat, and everything teeters madly while your brain and your body try to synchronize their signals. When you finally return to proper orientation in reality, your heart is pounding and you have a sensation that you’ve just narrowly avoided a potentially fatal disaster. All because you lost count and thought there was one more stair where there really wasn’t.

In truth, however, the missing stair is an illusion. You see, the extra stair really does exist, just not strictly in the physical realm. Ordinarily you don’t know it’s there. When the lights are on and you can see where you’re going, your physical senses are in control and you only sense the steps that have a solid physical form. But when it’s dark, or you’re carrying a large object that obscures your view of your feet, or your attention is simply elsewhere, then your subconscious awareness of things that are not purely physical can become engaged. The stair you tried to step on isn’t really missing- it’s just hidden from the physical world.

That heart-wrenching feeling of impending disaster that you feel when you try to step on that extra stair and pass right through it is not a lie. Every stair step leads to somewhere, and this one isn’t an exception. If you were to succeed in stepping on that extra stair, you would step up into a different dimension and cease to exist in this one. Although these dimension doors can exist in many places, they tend to show up in stairways because stairways are by nature liminal spaces- that is, they are transitional, in-between, neither of the floor below nor the one above. The dimension that the extra stair leads to goes by many names- the Ether, the Great Beyond, the Afterlife, the Spirit Realm, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the Happy Hunting Grounds- what you call it isn’t significant. The main point is that if you step on this stair, your life on this earth is no more. When your feet are both solidly on the ground again and you feel that you’ve just had a near-death experience, it's because you really have.

Even so, there’s no reason to fear the extra stair. Though our occasional encounters with it may be startling, there is little risk of accidentally stepping out of this world and into the next during a routine trip up the stairs. There is a specific time appointed to each person when passage between the dimensions is permitted. If it isn’t that time, then your foot will simply fail to contact the extra stair, and you will stay in this world.

When your appointed time does come, and you step onto the extra stair and find that it is solid beneath your feet, do not fret. It’s only a small step up to a floor you haven’t yet explored.

Author's note:
This piece is inspired by the following quotation, which I found to be of great help when my Grandma took the final step up.

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
-Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 24th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC)
I really liked this interpretation! Well written, too. :)
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 24th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
Lemony Snickett always did have the best quotes. :) I can't help but smile that you partly based it off that.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
It's nearly impossible to go wrong with Lemony Snicket.
Mar. 24th, 2014 11:27 pm (UTC)
oooh. Made me cock my head a little to one side like a curious puppy, and it is an intriguing treatment of the topic!

nicely done, you've tickled my brain!
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'm starting to think that maybe this could become the basis for a larger story sometime.
Mar. 25th, 2014 12:00 am (UTC)
OOOoooh, what an interesting take on the idea.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Due to the Lemony Snicket quote, I automatically associate "The Missing Stair" as a metaphor for dealing with loss. But I wanted to make it more of a creative piece and less of a "let me tell you about my life" piece.
(no subject) - elledanger - Mar. 25th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cheshire23 - Mar. 28th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - violaconspiracy - Mar. 28th, 2014 02:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 25th, 2014 04:14 am (UTC)
I love your style, your voice, and I especially love your take on this prompt. Well done.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I am curious to see how my style and voice will evolve as I do more writing for this event.
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:34 am (UTC)
I thought this was a good take on the topic - well done.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 25th, 2014 07:23 am (UTC)
Damn onions and insight. <3
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
I've heard that onions won't make you cry so much if you avoid reading LJ Idol entries while you cut them.
Mar. 25th, 2014 01:22 pm (UTC)
Nicely done.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
Mar. 25th, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
If my slipper falls off while taking that step, does it fall into Heaven? Suddenly considering a delivery system for those who are already there.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
I think that might be where all those odd socks go.
(no subject) - fodschwazzle - Mar. 25th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 25th, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
I loved this.
Mar. 25th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 25th, 2014 11:57 pm (UTC)
Very well-done. I like your description of passing into the afterlife.
Mar. 26th, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
Thanks. I do like to think of it as an alternate dimension rather than an end.
Mar. 26th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
Interesting theory!
Mar. 27th, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
It's very scientific. I did research.
Mar. 26th, 2014 10:32 pm (UTC)
I really like how you handled the topic. This reads like a homily, which is fitting for me right now. Great work.

P.S. Adding you, hope that's okay.
Mar. 27th, 2014 03:14 am (UTC)
It does kind of have an instructional tone. I think, without really realizing it, I adopted a little bit of the tone Lemony Snicket uses when explaining the meanings of words or how a particular thing works.
Mar. 27th, 2014 04:51 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this!
Mar. 27th, 2014 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )