Hello dreamers and night owls!
Forget everything you knew about sleep , dream, the night, the waking. Let go of the downward spiral into delirium, the steady fall into the arms of rest. Tonight, all of that goes away. Instead of a descent, for this one evening, it will be a climb. Because…
This week’s prompt is:
Stairway to Midnight
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
This is exciting for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that this prompt goes back. It was in some our earliest polls, but until now never had enough support to make the cut. And that’s sad, because it’s a supremely cool concept.
I alluded to this in that moody, sonorous intro above, but I see this prompt as a really fun subversion. Wakefulness is effort, exertion. The daytime is for work and struggle. Sleep, though? We get there by letting go. We fall into it. It’s gravity and sinking and languid descent.
So what does it mean to take that symbol and put it instead at the top of a staircase? Well, that’s the riddle you storytellers get to solve. We’re all eager to see what you come up with.
But there’s more here, because after all this is Stairway to Midnight, not Stairway to Sleep. That was only one possible interpretation. If, for instance, you take “midnight” to mean “hour of change” or “end of a day”, suddenly this takes on a whole new meaning. Now you aren’t climbing a paradoxical path toward the veil of slumber, but the necessary hill that precedes all change.
This prompt is teeming with metaphorical goodness, so go wild. This text is only here to provide a springboard for your big, beautiful, creative mind. If you don’t find what you need in my rambling, I’m sure you’ll find it elsewhere.
I’m sure some of you will even find ways to lose the metaphor altogether and spin something extremely concrete and literal from this abstract thing.
I can’t wait to see what the the twelfth hour becomes in all of your hands.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
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11.55: Another step. Another step closer to the top. I can see it, the end of the stairs. In my life I had walked them so many times. I had lost count after reaching the thousand. Another step.
11.56: There’s light. A really dim light. I cannot see where it comes from, but it’s here. It’s guiding me towards the top. Perhaps the Meniscate is blessing me with her help. I don’t know, hours are very difficult to understand.
11.57: I hear something. It’s a ticking sound. The sound of a clock. I stop for a brief moment. And the ticking stops with me. I’m confused, but then I againg start to walk. And the ticking resumes. I look in my pocket. There’s a clock there, it’s this thing that produces the ticking. I look at the time: 11.57.
11.58: Another step. I’m coming closer to the end. I can feel it, this time I’ll make it, I’ll reach the top. And the clock will tick its last tock. It’s nearly time.
11.59: I can finally see it, the end of this stair. A tear falls down my cheeck and I smile, for I know I made it. In the end I will walk past that step and my ascension will come to and end. The last step.
I wake up. At first I’m disoriented, but then reality dawns on me. It still wasn’t time for me. I still have to wait. Maybe tomorrow I will make it. Maybe not. Hope is always the last one to die.
I turn in my bed under the cover and look at the night stand on my right. I open a drawer and hear a faint ticking sound. There’s a clock in there. I look closely, for it’s dark and I cannot see well, and read the hour.
Poor children. Bravo on your portrayal of the prompt, Ottz! This here is the good shit. The message and concept of this definitely makes me reconsider any attempt to go mourn for the dead, they don’t want that, not only do they gotta stress about being dead, they gotta worry for those who come for comfort. Love that.
The protagonist at first comes off like a grump, then shows his true colours in the end. Such a sweet character. I got no complaints, very well written.
Marriage Chapter Two
“What are you doing?” I laughed. You were kneeling on the ground, glasses all akimbo and what’s left of your hair blowing in your face. And you were holding up a framed picture of a house badly photoshopped onto the surface of Mars.
“I’m proposing, duh,” you said, with that giggling guffaw I love so much. “Whaddaya say? Kids’re moved out, my last day is next week. We’re free to do whatever we want. Whole new life. Let’s start it on a high note! Will you marry me? Again?”
So here I am, getting ready to renew my vows on a SPACE ELEVATOR of all places, and just excited as I was the first time. Is that weird? I thought emotions were supposed to calm down with age, but I seriously feel like a teenager. And it doesn’t help that you can see freaking planet Earth right outside the window.
And now I’m supposed to write my vows. I still remember the old ones. I recall you talking about love like a bunch of stairs. You fall, first. But then it’s kind of an uphill battle. Goodness, we had some steep climbs, those first few years. Long easy landings. Had to help each other over some crumbling steps . . .
This metaphor’s getting away from me. And I still don’t know what to do for vows. It’s like, we already DID the hard stuff. We’ve proven we’ll be there in tough times. Now we’re in the easy years. What the hell am I supposed to say that’s meaningful? Oh man, why are we doing this all again?
No, I don’t mean that. I’m happy we’re doing this. I just hope I can make you happy in this Marriage Chapter Two. Heh, I guess if I’m not exciting enough, there’s a whole new planet to explore. And I’ll go with!
Maybe that’s what I’ll say. Wherever we land, I’ll be right there with you. We’re a team. And I LOVE you! We may have more climbing to do, or a long boring coast.
Whatever it is, I’m so ready to marry you.
“One Step After Another” Submitted by: Exce
I turned, taking in this lonely nothingness. Or at least what I had assumed to be nothingness.
Faint they may be, above me, pinpricks of light peered into existence. Stars as far as the eye could see pushed through the pitch black.
With nothing holding me here, I began my walk.
I was glad that, despite the weight of my limbs, exhaustion did not come for me. As I kept walking, always straight ahead, something slowly peeled itself out of the dark.
A narrow staircase rose from the infinite ground, shooting off towards the stars before vanishing from my sight far, far in the distance above.
When I set my foot on the first step, the weight of my non-existent body seemed to double at once, forcing me to lean forward on all four.
But I had never refused a challenge, especially not if there wasn’t anything else to do.
Putting one foot before the other, and hand over hand, I scaled the stairs. What would happen if I lost balance and toppled off? I decided not to ponder that train of thought…
Slowly the ground dwindled away beneath me, and I realized that as I got higher my body became lighter and lighter. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough that I stood up, walking carefully on two legs. It was then that I noticed my body’s state.
It seemed to flicker between the clothes I had worn when I died, and what I might have worn during my youth… and I had turned translucent. At least that explained the lightness…
Without a body to rely on, perception of time slipped through my incorporeal fingers. So it was a bit of a surprise when the stairs made a near horizontal turn, before rejoining with the ground.
As my feet stepped onto the black rock, I looked up.
Craters and ravines scored this bleak landscape, but at the horizon a mountain rose high, and on it stood a great temple whose insides emitted a strange blue glow.
And like a moth to the flame, I began to walk again
[Inside the Temple)
Ein feste Burg by Simon D. Field
“A strong fortress is our Lord,” the hymn’s verses ring in the clear evening air, “A trusty shield and weapon.”
The wooden church, barely saved from the depredations of men half-mad with cold and hunger, is tightly packed with officers. It’s Christmas Eve, but all joy is absent from their pallid emaciated faces.
“Nothing can be done with our own strength,” General Armfeldt whispers the holy words with numb lips, “We would soon utterly lose.”
And have they not lost? The King is dead; the cold is biting; the road is treacherous; the Russian presses from the east; is not everything lost? Despite the singing, he can readily distinguish the celebratory cannon-fire from the fortress of Trondheim; a shameful reminder of defeat.
Armfeldt rises and goes out to inspect the troops. They sing too, gathered round the bonfires produced from the village’s houses. A ragged group of Norwegian peasants lingers by the flame in which they’ve lost their livelihood, eyeing the soldiers with cold hatred. Perhaps they will take to their skis once the troops leave and add to the ever-growing number of unseen vengeful shooters molesting the retreating host. Let them; may the men have some degree of warmth at least on Christmas Eve.
“Even if the world was full of devils and threatened to undo us,” the lines sound like a dirge and a cruel jest, “We’d not fear, for we are to prevail.”
“Let them take our bodies and goods, our kinsmen and honor,” the freezing men sing, “From that they’ll have no profit.”
The bonfires are slowly dying out. The columns of wretched and weak men assemble under the darkening leaden-grey sky. The soldiers look more like walking corpses than men; coats torn and threadbare. The luckiest are clad in meager rags forcibly taken from the Norwegians. Some even lack the musket-butts, broken off to burn for a modicum of heat. The mountains they must pass over tower before them.
Armfeldt mounts his horse and rides by his troop forward and upward, towards the rising moon.
“The Kingdom must remain ours,” he utters, echoing the hymn.
Completed by feliciataylor_91
The eerie voice haunted him again.
He couldn’t shake the way the voice slid up his spine and curled around the base of his skull. Its gender and origin were unidentifiable. It was low and throaty, and it echoed from all around.
His steps on the wooden planks were familiar, but he had never been here before. The previous owners had long since abandoned it, and he found it strange that it had been unclaimed for so long. More than that, it was kept unlocked and unguarded. This is what had drawn Desmond’s curiosity.
The house was ancient and enormous. Yet, it seemed unaffected by time’s hold. It was still in its prime, the awning seeming freshly painted, the lacquered wood in pristine condition. Even the shingles had a certain newness to them.
Beyond the gleaming door was an immaculate parlor that led to a large staircase. At the top was an ornate redwood clock. The golden numbers glistened beneath the shimmering candelabra above. It read 5 minutes to midnight.
*Do not be afraid. It is who you are.*
Desmond looked around, his deep brown eyes widening at that voice. It had called him here, fanning his curiosity to an inferno.
“Who are you?!” Desmond demanded. He spun in an erratic circle, seeing nothing and no one to whom the voice could belong.
A deep, hissing chuckle.
*I am who I am.*
Desmond covered his ears as the loud chiming of the clock collided with the hissing laugh.
Sinking to his knees, inexplicable tears fell.
*No. YOU are not real.*
The twelfth chime brought pitch blackness, and Desmond felt himself CHANGE. Somewhere between alive and not. Then he was gone.
At the stroke of one, the house deteriorated.
Above the mantle was a picture of a man from a book. The inspiration of many pioneers and leaders.
The house was now complete.
Title: New Years Uncertainty
Written By: T.S.G. Sager
Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
Marihito climbed the staircase, nervousness and anxiety chipping away at him. He had been invited by his squad-mate Abdi to the shrine to watch the fireworks that Yokohama put on at the end of every year. What made this a struggle for him was that the previous week, he’d confessed his feelings for her, and she ran off. Why would she invite him out of the blue now?
He reached the top. There were a lot of people here. A lot of couples…
Refusing to let his insecurities consume him, he continued searching. He found her standing alone under a sakura tree, the perfect spot for viewing the fireworks.
“Hey Abdi-chan.” He addressed, slowly approaching her.
“M-Marihito-kun…” She replied.
They stood there a few minutes, not knowing what to say to one another. Marihito opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by her.
“Marihito-kun. I want to say yes. I really do. But. I don’t know. What if I get hurt?”
His heart sank, “But… I wouldn’t hurt you…”
“Marihito. You live to maybe one hundred. I could live for hundreds.”
He fumbled desperately looking for a reply, “I could be like a footnote. Or some muck on your pages after falling into the dirt.”
She laughed, then followed with more silence. The people around them started chanting:
“I’ll have to think about it. It’s a tempting offer.” She finally replied. “Could I really date a silly pervert like you?”
“Abdi, I promise. I may be a pervert, but If I’m your pervert, I’ll only have eyes for you…”
“Is that so, pervert?” She stepped closer. “Anything else you can throw in to sweeten the deal?” She cooed.
“Uh, Maybe? I don’t-”
As the crowd called out “ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”, Abdi’s pillowy lips met Marihito’s. The booming of the fireworks drowned out everything. Everything… but her.
She followed the strange gentlemen into the building. From behind her tall guide, she glanced a large room full of chairs and people sitting in them. He disregarded all of them and continued on to the wide set of stairs.
The next floor was more to her liking. It was a massive library, with little nooks to sit and tables for stacks of books to wait. She found herself drawn to the shelves but was caught by the gentlemen.
“Come along. We mustn’t get distracted,” He said pulling her away. “There will be time for that later.”
She didn’t complain. She would, however, complain about the itchy mask she had strapped to her head. It didn’t fit properly. But her guide didn’t want her talking, so she didn’t voice this thought out loud.
He led her to another set of stairs and from these stairs came the sound of music and voices. When the got to the top she saw a stage with rows of seats in front. A large woman was singing on the stage. It surprised her how high this one lady could sing. Unfortunately, her guide wasn’t interested.
More stairs followed and she was rather intrigued by what might be up the next set. She was let down. As far as she could see was office rooms with people in suits writing on typewriters of looking over papers. As her tall guide led her past, the occupants would look up with bewildered gazes.
At the end of the long row of offices was a closed door. The gentleman knocked and the door swung open. On the other side was a large room stacked with shelves and papers. Knickknacks and books littered all surfaces including a large desk in the middle of the room. If she could have smiled, she would have.
A little round man with a shock of white hair sat at the desk. He asked them to sit “What can I do for you fine folks?” he asked.
“I need to talk to Midnight,” Said her tall friend. “I’ve found something of interest.”
I’m Not Running
George Lafayette looked around the Isandlwana camp, breathing in the stench of death. The company had taken harsh losses, and those that remained were afraid.
“Break out the spades, men. We’re digging in before another attack comes,” he ordered.
The junior sergeant nodded. “You heard Sergeant Lafayette! Get your backs into it, men!”
George tipped his helmet off and mopped his brow with the sleeve of his tunic, then started for the center of the camp.
How he let his father talk him into coming to Africa, he’d never know.
Lieutenant Merryweather was found in his tent, his revolver in his lap.
George stood at attention and saluted. “Hello Dad,” he muttered
Merryweather looked up, then looked around nervously, hoping no one heard George. He looked far too young to be George’s father, appearing only a few years older than his sergeant.
“Hey, Lafayette,” he answered nervously. “What’s your status?”
“I’ve ordered my men to start digging redoubts for the next attack,” George explained.
“Good job, Lafayette. Good show of initiative,” Merryweather praised.
“How many officers are left?” George asked.
Merryweather yanked George into his tent and pulled the flaps shut. “Durnford’s dead, so is Pulleine, and no one’s located Shepherd yet.”
“What the hell did you get us into, Dad?” George clenched his teeth.
“Honestly, I didn’t think things would be this bad, George,” Merryweather confessed.
“Some adventure! We’re going to get killed!”
Merryweather hushed George. “Not if I can help it.”
“You have a plan?”
Merryweather nodded. “We run for it. Been doing some calculations. I expect an eclipse happening in the next hour.”
George glared at his father. “We have men looking up to us.”
Merryweather sighed. “This is a lost cause. Trust me. This isn’t my first war.”
“Then maybe act like it, dammit!” George cursed.
Merryweather winced. “Technically, we’re not even British. You’re French by birth. And I’m…well, you know. We have places to lie low.”
George shook his head in disgust. “I have men to command, and I’m staying with them. For better or worse.” He heard a whistle, alerting them to another attack.
Aww this is so bittersweet. All those poor souls just crying out for comfort, and the living are oblivious to it. Whoever this is, good on him for taking the time to give them the comfort they long for and deserve. I always love seeing the cranky angry type with a big soft heart. Bravo, my friend, bravo.
“The Ascent” Submitted by Connor/Dragoneye
Teniaja sat within the alcove, gazing out into the desert’s cold night.
Out of the flame that she created slithered Sifai. “Tomb.” rang the serpent’s smooth voice in her mind as he coiled beside her. Teniaja exposed her charred palm to Sifai, saying, “A tomb, huh? Well, you better lead me there.”
The serpentine maw exposed the long fangs that sank into Teniaja’s skin. She winced at the pain, filing her teeth together. She could feel the purifying water entering into her bloodstream, and the sting from both Sifai’s bite and the burns she received before faded away.
Teniaja watched the singed crust on her hand flake off, revealing the smooth restored flesh. “Thanks.”
“You know, I’ve been wondering. Why pick me? Why drag me into all of this?” asked Teniaja, taking a bite into a skewered rodent.
Sifai’s tongue flicked into the air as his beady eyes met his witch’s. “Blood. Pure.”
“Really? You think I’m a good person? I’ve treaded along the stairs of midnight and everything before it.”
“I don’t have time to be patient, okay, Sifai? I’ve been running from crazed maniacs in the desert that’ve been doing nothing but try to kill me or pull my intestines out!”
“If you had left me alone, life would have been easier!”
Silence hung in the air, and the snake retreated back into the flame. Teniaja lowered her head in remorse, mumbling, “I’m sorry. I just… want to know what this is all for.”
Within the dimming embers of the fire, the snake’s form arose like a resurging flare of light, with his voice thrumming, “Sunrise.”
Stairway to Midnight by Jesse Fisher
The locks were set and the single bar window with a pale moon sitting beyond it as the blue colored robot with a dark visor and yellow lights began to fade, pulsing as if a heart beat. Sitting down a guitar, that was picked up for this moment, came to his hands and began to move as a haunting tone began to cry from the soon to be broken instrument.
“There is a bot who lost his bet,” He spoke as his light continued to fade. “And he is paying for a stairway to midnight.”
The tone stayed the same as the singing began to shift. “When the change finished, and his form has gone. With a roll he has left this place with a stairway to midnight.”
“There is a note that was left behind, for none will recall a creature that would have been. In the walls there will come an echo of a laugh, that will chill all that pass and be shaken.”
The moon began to shift from pale to blood red and the song began to be distorted. Still the bot played on as the guitar began to grow farther damage.
“Oh it makes me think, makes me think.”
A growl began to grow in the tone of the bot, and yet he still played on.
“The feeling of consumption is not one I wish, for it makes it hard to move. In my mind I feel it fading, the thing I once was. Walking a stairway to midnight.”
The barely held together instrument was set to the side as the crunch of metal echoed in the locked chamber. Bone, flesh, sinew, and fur began to grow out of the bot as the lights finally faded to a dark with a part of the visor cracking showing a yellow eye as bright as the lights once pulsed on the bot. Howls filled the cell as the mechanical being died as another creature seemed to molt as the bot laid there unmoving.
“Lady faith was with me this day, now how to get out?”
“Excerpt from the journal of Matthew Campbell” by gregovin
[Me and my family] came into the airport, and checked in at the international terminal. An hour and a half later, we boarded something that resembled a train car. We sat down. The safety talk was awesomely ludicrous, telling us to buckle up as the acceleration would be near constant throughout the trip, and that if something happened the whole gondola could parachute back to ground.
A few minutes later, the doors closed and I felt my weight increase significantly as the gondola accelerated surprisingly fast at a nearly vertical angle; the city disappearing beneath us and the horizon getting slightly further away.
After around ten minutes the orbital ring was clearly visible as a well-lit thin band of light green with periodic bright spots stretching from horizon to horizon in a sea of blackness.
After another two minutes, our weight decreased. We had been accelerating almost straight up, but now we were slowing down. The orbital ring looked like a light green road, and I could see the curvature of the horizon as well as most of the North American continent.
After 24 from launch, we reached the ring. We could now clearly see the arctic as well as north america, and as we pulled in the ring looked like a road to infinity.
The inside of the orbital ring was like a futuristic and spacious airline terminal. We boarded a vehicle similar to a normal train, but more spacious, with only one car, with all the seats near a wall of some sort, and with tracks on the walls which went from the ceiling to the base of the seats. When the train accelerated, it felt like gravity was at almost forty five degrees. We got going so fast that I felt my weight decrease due to centrifugal force. Then the acceleration stopped, our chairs spun around, and we slowed down again. During the whole trip, I could see the surface of the earth spin by, the blackness of space, and the endless road of the ring.
We arrived and took another gondola back to ground.
Pas De Deux
Riona descended the cliff side path, feeling for the mixture of soft grass and weathered flagstones beneath her bare feet. The old path zigged and zagged downwards, guiding her to the pool below. Her feet sunk ankle deep into the waters of the Willow Pool, and she shivered.
She removed her knit shawl and placed it on the dry ground, leaving her in just a simple white nightgown. She took a breath of the sweet air.
This was his favorite part.
She raised her arms, and proceeded to dance through the water in a series of pirouettes, assemblés, rond de jambes, and jumps. She was as elegant as always. The stars reflected in the water seemed to dance with her, the very universe moved by her grace and beauty.
She danced closer to the willow, coming to a stop.
“Will you join me?” She held her hand out towards the tree.
Cillian held his breath. She couldn’t know he was there… could she? Wasn’t she blind?
“Do you not speak, Fomorian?” she asked, tilting her head up in his direction.
“Your hair. I’ve found it stuck to my clothes before.” She giggled softly.
“You’re not afraid of me?”
“I’ve no reason to be.” She replied gently.
“But your people’s stories say I’m a monster. A beast.”
“Simply because it is written as such doesn’t mean it is true.” She kept her hand extended to him, “You’re here every time I am, and you’ve not hurt me yet. You’re no more a monster than I am.”
His heart skipped. No human had ever shown him this kindness. His kind weren’t welcome among hers. Yet here she was, asking him to dance.
He dropped from the branches, splashing the water as he landed, “I do not know how to dance.”
She followed his voice, moving closer and taking his hands in hers, her cloudy gaze as gentle as her touch, “That’s alright. There’s no wrong way. Just pas with me.”
She pulled him away from the tree, leading him through a dance across the night sky.