Imagined myself floating down the well between the spirals of the staircase. Imagined the stairs led nowhere. At the top of the stairs an open sky. You could fly bird-like from the top. Supposed that nobody ever did. Supposed it was not going to be like that. Destiny was to fall down, down, down. And never reaching the bottom of the well. Imagined life as one long fall.
Imagined opening the door I had not seen before. Where there had been no door before now there was, the one I imagined myself opening so that I might see what was happening the other side of the high, windowless wall I passed every day. Everyone passed it every day. It was there with or without a door. Today there was a door. That was because I imagined the door. Supposed it to be locked. Found it was not. Opened the door.
Wondered about not doing all that. Wondered about the world without an unexpected opening. All I saw was a high wall. The wall was one of four walls that formed a tower. Supposed there was a purpose for it, a purpose nobody knew. All those involved had fallen, one by one, from the open top. They flew like birds into oblivion. Supposed that was the purpose of the tower, to enable fools to fly. Supposed myself wise. Imagined myself coming down to earth. That was wise. That was me.
Supposed myself wise enough to open the door, but not to step inside. My eyes could see. I could look. Supposed I held the door ajar while I looked. Imagined the door closing anyway. Stronger than I was. The force of the door was stronger than my will. And the door would never open again. Not for me. There was no door. It was all my imagination. The reality was the spiral staircase that led nowhere.
Knew that nowhere is everywhere. Wherever you look is neither here nor there. Knew that I was going nowhere. Supposed that to be the end. If there were to be an end. Knew there was no end.
‘You’ll know me,’ said the man. He was nobody. He was caught in the spider’s web. Everywhere there were webs. I did not see the web I had broken when I opened the door. Supposed that the door had never been opened until now. What was now? Now was the man trapped by the spiders.
Thought he was crazy. Sensible people are not caught by spiders. There must have been a spider close by, but I saw nothing.
‘I see to this place. I do it all,’ the man said. Stared into space as he spoke.. ‘This place is mine.’
‘The web isn’t yours,’ I said.
‘Everything’s mine,’ he said. Then there was silence.
Imagined the silence lasted for ever. Supposed it would be broken soon.
It is, of course.
‘Yes, I know you.’ His thin face, very pale with skin like parchment stretched across his skull, was imploring me to respond. Supposed he wanted me to remember. Something important to say to him. He was sure of that. Was not sure what it was. If he could bring to mind my name, or in what way he knew me, then very likely he was going to bring back what it was I had to tell him
Knew what it was. Wanted me to tell me what had happened to his life. ‘What?’ A good question. Ignored of course.
‘This place is mine. Got the papers.’
‘Yes and no.’ Compromise on that point, or it would be another never ending.
‘I said yes.’ That was true. ‘Of course it’s true. I said it.’
‘I’m afraid…’ Words faded into a line of dots.
‘No, you’re not afraid,’ he said. ‘Fear’s not the word.’
‘It’s a form of words.’
‘They were the wrong words. Say what you mean.’
Meant to say nothing.
‘I’ve no machinery here. No electricity. And no help. I have to do it all. All of it. Had to learn the reason and logic of my way of life. That’s what all my thinking is about. It gives me faith. Do you know that?’
Supposed him to be a man of science. ‘So you’re a man of science, sir.’
‘Do you take me for a fool, young man?’
‘Not sure.’ Trapped in a spider’s web. Only a fool would be caught like that.
‘Did you mean to insult me?’
‘Not sure.’ Supposed he would ignore me now. Imagined climbing the spiral staircase alone in silence at last.
‘Sticks and stones can break my bones. But spiders can inspire me.’ Supposed him not to be there. Supposed him to be a shadow, an echo. Easy to mistake these things for other things. Considered him not. The world of the spider does not resemble our world.
‘The reason and logic of my way of life? There’s none that I can see.’
Supposed he was right. A life of shadows, echoes.
Dark in the stairwell. Spiders move with the light. Imagined myself a spider, moving slowly towards the light of the open sky. Forgot about the man in the web. Was nobody. Not.
Imagined looking back and seeing nothing. Looked back and saw nothing. Imagination and reality the same thing perhaps? Supposed so. Imagined myself flying. Nothing happened.
Woke in the dark. Imagined myself not waking but dreaming. Dreamed I was waking in the dark. Dreamed I was imagining things. Then there was light in the open sky when I looked upwards. Saw shadows. Heard echoes. Knew I was dreaming I was not dreaming.
Imagined life as one gigantic web. Imagined myself as the spider. Wondered about the webs I could weave. Making my way in the dark of the spiral staircase. Thread my way up the well.
Did not see the web he had broken when he opened the door. Did not imagine there was a web. Looked down. Saw nobody there. Only a hint that the thread was broken.
‘Never dreamed I’d be caught.’ Nobody had spoken. Imagined a voice. Imagined a face to match the voice. Saw light somewhere. Spiders move with the light.
Hear much that they cannot see. The world of the spider not our world. Hardly know us except as the vague, menacing presence that unaccountably breaks their delicate webs and their fragile lives.
‘I know you, don’t I?’
Imagined an old man sitting under trees in the park. A cold night the coldest of the season so far. The air was still in the frost. Leaves on the ground, dry and crisp. Crunched underfoot as I walked away. Dreamed I woke again. Thoughts faded into…
Geoffrey Heptonstall has contributed fiction and poetry to Cerise Press, International Literary Quarterly, Pacific Review, Sunk Island Review and many others. His recent performance work includes the UNESCO City of Stories project, the Festival of Firsts and a play, Groby, for the London fringe.