03 Oct The Last Step
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"The Last Step"Written by
Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
What are you doing right now? Are you slumped on your couch mindlessly flipping through the TV channels? Are you tiredly scrolling through your Facebook feed for the fiftieth time today? Well shut that stuff down, and get off of your lazy bum because we’re going on an adventure.
What? It’s one in the morning? Yes, I’m quite aware, but these types of adventures can only happen so late at night. You see, this is the time when all the creatures that dare not be seen during the day can come out to play…with you. This is the time when the thick, velvet darkness of night will gladly wrap its fingers around you protectively…or the thing following behind you. Everything that hides from light can safely crawl out from their hiding spots so that they can find you…feed on your fear… This is the only time when you can see them up close…
Is it safe, you ask?
Just listen to my directions, and you’ll be fine. Listen to my words, and you can make a friend for life and live to tell the tale.
All right. Got your shoes on and jacket zipped up tight? Good. It’s time to head out.
You won’t have to walk for very long on this adventure. Why? Because the thing we’re going to visit doesn’t live very far from you. You’ve probably walked past its hideout many times during the day without noticing…but don’t worry. You’re not the only one. It lives on anonymity. You haven’t seen it, but it has seen you…hundreds of times. It knows your face by heart- from the deep colour of your eyes to that freckle you have on your cheek. But don’t worry- it’s this creature’s knowledge of you that will keep you alive…long enough for you to get away, that is.
Why? You sure ask a lot of questions. But I’ll tell you. This thing has lived alone for so long, crawling around in the suffocating dark, musty rooms underground. It moans and groans as it moves…those long, sharp nails screeching as they’re dragged across the cracked, concrete floors. Its wrinkled claws have been covered in blood so many times that the skin on its hands is no longer white, but a dark, dark red- so red it looks black.
It has no one, but that is for the best since its desire for company is sometimes overruled by its thirst for blood- your blood, really. Human blood.
Oh look, you’ve made it! Surprised? I can see the recognition on your face. Yes, this is the building just a few streets down from your home. The one that’s always in a state of “renovation”. But is it really? Have you ever seen anyone go in…or better yet…come out?
Ah, now you’re starting to remember. Whenever you walked by this building, did a feeling of unease start to creep over you? The sense that someone…or something was watching you? You probably sped up a little on your walk back home, ignoring the hairs that stood up on the back of your neck, or the small goose bumps that ran across your flesh as you convinced yourself that you were just in a hurry to get back to your couch and relax.
That’s what I thought. Well there’s no turning back now.
Slowly walk up to the front entrance. No, the door won’t be locked, and don’t ask why. Open the door and step into the lobby. Yes, I know it’s dark, but you’re going to have to deal with it. Like I said, nothing that lives in the dark will like any kind of light.
You should be able to see a large empty desk right in front of you. See it? Good. Now walk up to the desk and reach over the divider with your left arm. No- don’t try and peek over the divider…they won’t like it. Just reach and feel around. Your hand may brush some objects that feel…questionable. Ignore them. There are many things on that desk, but what you’re searching for is a key.
Do you feel it? The tiny, cold object with rigid edges? Perfect. Grab it.
Wait! Don’t pull your hand back yet- there’s still one more thing to grab if you want to walk out of this mostly intact. There should be something that feels like a small, glass bottle. Don’t ask what’s inside it- just get it.
Good. Now you can pull your hand back.
Make sure to put both the key and the bottle in the safety of your pocket before you move on. Now, there’s a specific door that you’re going to have to find in order to continue your adventure. Blink for a second and it’s easy to miss, but don’t worry- that’s why I’m here. Walk down the corridor adjacent to the lobby. It should be lined with various doors, but don’t try and open any of them. They’re all locked for a reason. What you can do, however, is count how many doors there are. Make sure to count in your head.
Shh! Walk quieter! Your footsteps are echoing off of the marble floors too loudly. You can’t let it know that you’re here yet.
Okay, it looks like you’ve reached the end of the corridor. Now, how many doors did you count on your way here? Six, you say?
Wrong. Look again. No, don’t turn around completely…don’t even turn your head. Just look from the corner of your eye.
There. You see it? That little black door hiding right behind you? That’s the one.
What’s that? You feel unsure about this? Well there’s no point in turning back now. In fact…you can’t. You see, there’s only one way out of this building, and it’s through that little door. No, you can’t walk back through the corridor because whatever is hiding behind those other locked doors will only let you walk past them once. Not twice. If you try to…let’s just say that those doors can’t hold them back.
Are we on the same page now? Good.
Now slowly turn the handle on the door one hundred and eighty degrees exactly. No more, no less. Anything else will alert it of your presence.
Slowly…almost there, and…-perfect. You nearly let the handle slip, didn’t you? Wipe those sweaty palms on your pants before you get yourself killed on accident. Goodness.
Okay, now pull the door carefully and ease yourself through the opening. A musty odour will wash over you, so try to take shallow breaths if it gets too overwhelming. What’s the smell? I’m honestly not sure. I can only guess, but I think it’s best if you don’t hear about it.
Whoa! Be careful! There’s a steep flight of steps in front of you that leads down into a set of underground rooms. Yes, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to shut the door behind you and cut off any remaining light. The passageway is filled with the thickest darkness you are ever going to experience, but this only lasts for a bit.
Don’t worry, there’s nothing here in this part that will try and harm you…I think.
Enough of that…your only choice is to move forward so don’t second-guess yourself. Make sure to place your hand on the wall and feel your way as you walk down the steps. Some of them are slippery, so be sure to keep your balance.
Slippery with what, you say?
I’d like to say puddles of water. But I think we both know that it’s not water.
As you walk, make sure to count the number of steps you take. It will come in handy later on.
It is quite eerie to hear the soft sound of your sneakers scraping against the stone steps, yet not being able to see anything, isn’t is? Right now, your senses are working at their highest capacity- making up for your loss of sight. You can hear every raspy breath that shudders through your throat. You can feel every dip and crack in the cool brick that makes up the wall currently beneath your fingers. You can literally taste the air- it has a metallic tang mixed with the stench of rotting trash that makes you want to desperately gag…
What number are you on? Fifty-seven? Good. Keep counting. Don’t lose track of those steps.
Oh? What was that? You feel like something’s breathing on your neck? Warm, moist air brushing across your back?
That’s because there is.
No, don’t react. Don’t stop walking. Yes, I did say that nothing would harm you…I didn’t say that that there was nothing that couldn’t harm you. Just keep counting your steps- it will keep you sane. This thing will try to trip you up- to distract you from your task at hand.
But don’t pay attention to it. Pay attention to the numbers.
Yes, it will keep edging closer and closer to you until you- no! What are you doing? Don’t reach back! Don’t touch it, don’t-
You felt it, didn’t you?
You felt the slimy texture of decaying flesh on your fingertips. You felt the greasy strands of unkempt hair falling across your knuckles.
The mistake has been made- there’s nothing you can do except to keep moving on and to not react. Act like that touch was an accident and that you thought it was part of the wall. Because if you react…if you flinch in disgust or scream in horror, it will know. It will know that you know about it. And it doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
You’re not a very good listener, are you? In any case…
Finally! You’ve reached the end of the steps! Have you kept track of your number? Yes? Good.
Yes, it’s still there…I know you can sense it, but you’ve got to ignore it. Keep that number in your head and don’t forget it! It’s trying to make you forget by making you scared. Don’t let it succeed.
Now that you’re at the bottom of the steps, I need you to take ten strides forward to another door. Here’s the hard part. The thing that was following behind you on the way down? Well now it’s standing in front of you…right next to the door.
In order to get out of this passageway, you’re going to have to act like you can see. I know it will be difficult, but you’ve got to trust me. Reach your hand out and feel around for the knob. It shouldn’t be too far since you’re standing right in front of the door. If you accidentally touch the thing again, just keep moving your hand around in search for the knob.
Do. Not. React.
Ah! There it is! The cool, metal of the doorknob is finally in your grasp. Now take that key you got from the desk earlier, and insert it into the keyhole on the knob. Try not to scrape it on the metal too much, or it will know that you can’t see what you’re doing and it will take full advantage of that.
Good! You managed to fit the key into the lock! Now turn the knob fully and pull the door open quickly. No, there’s no trick to turning this doorknob this time. Once the door is open, just get through it and shut it as fast as possible so that thing can’t follow you.
Make sure to- wait, look out! Watch out for the step that drops into the room! You don’t want to trip on it and mess this whole thing up, especially not when you’re so close to freedom.
Phew! You made it. This is the last room you need to be in to get out of this building. Yes, the temperature has dropped quite drastically, hasn’t it? Pull your jacket around you a little tighter and suck it up, because you’re almost there!
It’s still very dark, I know, but there should be a faint light coming from the corner of the room- atop a small box. Can you see it?
Yes, it’s the glow of a dying candle. Why is there a candle down here? Well, to put it simply and honestly…it’s bait. Bait for you.
You see, this thing I told you about earlier has studied you for long enough to know that most humans are attracted to light. It sees how you stay out of the shadows at night and stick to the bright shine of the street lamps. Even its underdeveloped and uncivilized mind can put two and two together. After all, it’s got the mind of a hunter. And hunters know how to get their prey.
And right now, it’s watching you in this very room. You can’t see it or hear it because it knows how to hide. It’s perfected the art of hiding. Even that sixth sense that most people have that alerts them if something is watching them won’t work with this thing.
Carefully walk over to the light. Don’t make any sudden movements.
Pardon? Well, yes, I know I said it’s bait, but do it anyways. Once you’ve reached the candle, sit down next to it and stare at it. Don’t try and look at anything else, because you won’t see anything. The darkness is too thick to reveal anything.
I know you’re probably scared at this point. You can feel your heart beating rapidly- desperately trying to burst out of your chest with anxiety. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins at one hundred miles an hour, warming your muscles up and keeping your mind sharp. Your brain is ready to make the split second decision of fight or flight…
But no. Don’t pay attention to any of that. Just pay attention to one thing.
Remember that number from earlier? Good. Now take that bottle out from your pocket- yes, the one you got from the desk. Slowly unscrew the cap and place it on the floor next to you.
Dip your finger into the liquid in the bottle, and write that number on the box in the candlelight. Yes, I know it’s warm and sticky, but that should be the least of your worries right now.
What is the liquid, you ask? I think we both know the answer to that.
See, whatever happens now is going to decide your fate. If you write the correct number, the thing will let you go without interruption, and you will have earned a friend for life. Albeit, a friend who will still watch you from the shadows, yet it will never let any other monsters harm you as long as you keep it company from time to time… But write down the wrong number and…well…let’s just hope you get it right, because if not, there’s nothing I can do to help you.
Okay, have you written your number?
Good. Close the bottle, set it down next to the box, and wait. That’s right. You have to wait.
It’s currently crawling around the room to take a look at that number. In fact, it’s actually right next to you at the moment, studying the figure you jotted down. Quite disturbing, no? Even with the candlelight, you won’t be able to see it, and you definitely can’t hear it. But maybe…maybe if you try hard enough…you’ll be able to smell it.
Go on. Take a whiff.
There. You could smell it, couldn’t you? The faint stench of rotting meat and death in general?
Try even harder, and you’ll be able to feel it. Because you see, right now, it’s running the edge of it’s razor sharp nails right next to the skin of your throat. Oh, you thought those goose bumps on your neck were from the cold temperature of the room? No. It is because your body somehow knows that this thing is sitting next to you…that it is reaching out for you with its claws and-…
-Look! I believe it’s made a decision…and-
Oh, I’m so sorry.
That’s not the right number.
Yes…you heard me right. You wrote down the wrong number…it was one off.
How, you ask?
Oh dear. I forgot to tell you to count the step you almost tripped on, didn’t I?
The last step?
My apologies. You really did seem like a very nice person…
But unfortunately, I can’t afford to lose this thing’s friendship.
After all, who else will protect me from the monsters?
Credit: Teddy Silva