After a power outage, one of my friends and fellow writing consultant, Noel, gave me a piece of useful information. He said, “Chad, did you know that when you take the stairs, just count 8 steps before a landing? Then, 9 before you turn, 10 again before the landing, and 11 steps to reach the ground floor.” I considered the information carefully, and I realized that it could be useful if I can’t see the steps. I just need to count them so I wont fall over, especially because of the phantom step effect — you know, the falling feeling that people get when they assume that there’s an extra step when there’s really none. However, after further musings, I realized that it could also be a very scary thing, counting steps.
A few months after he told me that tidbit, we encountered a huge storm. It’s that sort of thing that turns the heavens dark, and even if it’s day time, the surroundings look like it was already dusk. Aside from the darkness, the storm was angrily throwing lightning bolts everywhere, which caused another power outage.
The building’s generator, at that time, didn’t work, so there was no power everywhere. The elevator, the hallway lights, and even the emergency lights didn’t work. The atmosphere in the building was really eerie, especially when lunch time came; I had to use the stairs to go down to the cafeteria. Since the power was out, I remembered the tip that Noel told me about the stairs. I counted 8, 9, 10, and 11 as he said. I already completed the section of the stairwell that had 9 steps down, but when I was on the set of 10 steps, something odd happened.
I counted. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10… . I was assuming that I’d reach the landing. However, my feet hit another step. 11… 12… 13… 14… . God! I didn’t know what to react. I was trying my best to feel calm but something even weirder happened. With my unsure steps slowing me down, I heard laughter. It sounded like little children laughing as if they were playing a trick on someone — only hollower, thinner, almost with an ethereal reverberation that I usually hear when I talk into a large, empty metal container. Then, the laughter came closer and closer. It grew louder and louder, much like a car honking while charging at me. I tried to quicken my pace, but the laughing voices just continued and it seems that the source was catching up to me.
Gathering my courage, I said, “Run!” and that’s what I did. I ran as quickly as I could, but the sound still followed. I ran and I ran. Then, I tripped. I was supposed to hit either a concrete floor or a series of jagged steps, but luckily, it was just a dream. Nevertheless, who would think that mere counting could be scary? I think that I owe it all to my sordid imagination and my paranoia, which Noel validates with a chuckle.