"Don't move! I heard myself scream. "For the love of God Jennifer don't take another step!"
My fiancée, descending the spiral staircase to the round front foyer of the latest house our real estate agent was showing us, stopped mid-step, just two stairs above the random mosaic slate tile of the entrance
floor that, a moment ago I would have sworn on a stack of bibles had been a thousand stairs or more deep.
"Tony?", she asked, taken aback by the hint of panic she heard in my voice. "What is it love, are you all right?"
I could hear the concern in her voice, and as she started back up the stairs towards me I wondered to myself if I really was.
I'd lost count of the number of houses that our agent Miriam had shown us and frankly I found todays tour particularly grueling. It wasn't anything to do with the house itself so much as the hypnotizing nasal monotone of the womans voice which, to put it nicely, could drive a buzzard from a shit wagon. So as she extolled the virtues of cabinet space, dual sinks, bidets and in-floor radiant heating to Jen, I had slipped quietly away to the suspended circular platform overlooking the front entry to be by myself for a minute.
The two of them had walked out of the master bedroom, past my perch, and down the staircase to continue the viewing not even noticing my absence.
Without even glancing their way I continued to gaze vacantly down at the floor contemplating my, soon to be past, single life and the many years ahead of me being similarly overlooked in my, soon to be, wifes quest for domestic aestheticism. When the bloody floor opened up and threatened to swallow them whole down a seemingly infinite spiral staircase.
I was...a little shaken to say the least. The first thing that went through my mind was, maybe it's a flashback? I mean, I'd read about them, so someone somewhere must have had one sometime. Lord knows I had tried some things I probably shouldn't have in college, and now I'm watching my fiancée about to walk down into the floor.
Makes perfect sense.
By this time Jen had made it to the top of the flight, Miriam was still standing at the bottom of the lower banister. She did not look pleased.
"Tony, you're white as a sheet, what's wrong." Jennifer had reached me by this time and was resting her hand over mine, which had a death grip, on the slightly taller than average railing. "Are you sick hon?"
"Well you've gone and spoiled it now", Miriam quipped, "I was going to save this bit for the end but I guess that there's no help for that now, is there?" She started up the stairs, "You're man's okay dear he just thought you were about to step into the floor is all", she said coming up beside the two of us.
I couldn't believe my ears.
Visual hallucinations are one thing, but auditory hallucinations confirming them are quite another. "Wha...",was all I seemed to be able to get out.
"You see", Miriam went on completely oblivious to my sudden loss of verbal skills, "The previous owner of this house was, how do I put this delicately
a little eccentric I guess youd say." "He was quite taken with creating new and unusual computer generated random dot stereogram pictures, and he..."
"Random dotwhodamawhatchits?" Jennifer interjected a split second before I could.
"Random dot stereogram dear", she replied, "You know those hologram posters that don't look like much of anything at all until you stare at them the right way and then the picture kind of jumps out at you?" "Well the previous owner went and had one made out of tile at the bottom of the stairs, come I'll show you."
She joined us at the railing and gestured around at the walls and vaulted ceiling which were covered in what was at first glance, a badly stippled wallpaper. "If you'll notice, this platform is the same distance from the floor as it is from the ceiling, and if you stand right where we are now, it is also the same distance from any of the walls in this round entrance."
By this point she appeared to have forgotten all about being vexed at having the flow of her tour disrupted and seemed to be reciting by rote.
"And not just the floor as you'll see, look down to the front doors there", she pointed, "Now try to look past and through them until the two outer casings become merged, do you see th..."
Her words became an incoherent drone as the full effect of the illusion took hold. I could feel Jens nails digging into the back of my hand so I knew she was seeing it too but I was too engrossed to really register the pain.
With an eerie sort of extra dimensionality the staircase once again looked to be spiraling down into nothingness.
Holding the focal point of my eyes fixed I glanced slowly around. The walls, which had appeared to be just a few short feet away now took on a depth that could not easily be rationalized. With otherworldly Escher-ish stairways ascending and descending at mind boggling angles all around us.
Looking up at where I had assumed the stairs to the ceiling must lead to an attic space, they now seemed to continue upward forever and as I stared in wonder I could feel my very consciousness being pulled upwards with my gaze to reach unattainable...
At that moment Jennifers knees buckled.
I grabbed for her and the shift in gaze completely dispelled the illusion of standing in the center of an infinite space. I suddenly realized why the railings were higher than normal and found myself glad for them, certain that if they had not been there the vertigo of a moment ago would have sent both of us reeling over the edge.
"I think we'll pass on this one." I said before giving Miriam the chance to say anything further.