Winding corridors and low but expansive windows made up the dilapidated building’s immaculate architecture. Residents took little notice of the unique structure, coming and going being aware of little more than the affordable rent they were asked to pay by the first Friday of the month. Without constant tenants, their home would surely have long ago been demolished to make way for some more valuable riverfront dwelling.
Tony was unlike the other residents and did what he could to avoid them. Although no understanding could be reached without confrontation, he envisioned them to be shiftless derelicts and ne’er-do-wells. But who was to say? He neither knew nor cared to know. What he cared for was the building, which had taken on a life of its own for Tony, a mass of bricks and plaster with stories going back decades. He knew within the walls there were tales of love, despair… possibly even murder or suicide. The forbidden knowledge of the macabre that lurks so dangerously close to everyone’s reality, but just out of reach.
More mysterious than any old stain or crack was the stairwell on the second floor, cascading downward into darkness. Tony’s curiosity gnawed at what little soul he had, imploring him to open the locked wooden door protecting the stairwell and venture into its depths. But he was held back by some sense of duty when his eyes came upon the sign reading, “Do not enter. Here be dragons.” He didn’t believe this, of course, but feared the consequences of his landlords spying upon him in this forbidden zone.
But today was a Thursday, and what could the odds be of the landlords stopping by a day early? Slim, thought Tony, like a virgin’s tampon. So out from his apartment he crept, sun reflecting on to the beige walls from a poorly-painted flower affixed to the wall. The hallway was empty of sound, even the pipes slumbering furiously on this warm April day. No residents could be found, which was for the best. This was one adventure that didn’t require a sidekick or tag-along.
The door at the end of the hallway, often ominous, was waiting and for some odd reason appeared unlocked. Its treasures and secrets would soon be laid bare. Tony turned the brass knob oh-so-slowly, making sure the squeaks and creaks would remain obstinately unmoved. The door was ajar, with its angle to the frame widening from fifteen to ninety degrees in a matter of moments. Beyond the door was sheer darkness, the dimly-lit stairwell appearing no less dreadful than it had through the door’s yellowed and dirty window.
Tony’s stocking feet pressed down against the antiquated carpet at the top of the stairs, its dampness making the room almost terraqueous and hard to stand firm on. The air was dry, contrary to what the carpet’s moist nature would have implied. Stars and garters, thought Tony, the mysteries are already accumulating like leprechaun gold. And then he thought perhaps a leprechaun would be what he may chance to meet, but quickly shrugged it off as a flight of fancy.
What was needed here was a flashlight, or maybe more appropriately a lantern or paraffin candle. Alas, such things were not worth going back for. Tony pushed the door tightly closed behind him, paying no heed to the possibility that it may have locked behind him. He didn’t bother to check, figuring that locked now or locked later, there was no sense in turning back before the ensuing expedition. What lived down in the dank basement of this complex? What could live in such a place? Not even Gollum himself would find such a home agreeable.
One foot after the other, socks soaking up the moisture of the carpet, Tony slinked down the steps into the abyss, light fading behind him as if he’d just received a five finger punch of death. It was now pitch black — quite literally the color of pitch — and if not for the railing, Tony would be blind and lost. But as long as he continued towards the bottom, certainly something must be waiting. Who had left the door unlocked?
Then his right foot hit a cold, hard surface, not unlike concrete or stone. The icy ground combined with the prior dampness chilled Tony’s extremities. Pressing on, he ran his fingers along the brick wall, rough and jagged on his young, tender skin. The hallway seemed to go on for quite a long while, much longer than the building let on from the outside. No windows were present, no passageways, no portals and no turns. Just one continuous path into bleak, hopeless oblivion.