Oonah V. Joslin
Just Another Step
Oonah V Joslin
Sofia could see no one above her; no one beneath her. There was just the stair spiralling on and on, upwards and downwards, thicker in the far reaches below, ever narrowing towards the top and with one, slim central support.
Here the stair comprised crystal wedges, difficult to make out as steps and more than a little disconcerting. She could see through them to the vertiginous depths. Exhausted from climbing, overwhelmed in scale and dizzied, like in an Escher painting, she felt at any moment she might faint and fall -- fall to doom.
‘If only I could step off. Take a moment’s rest.’
As if in answer to her thought, beside the step on which she stood, a wide, grey expanse opened up all around, extending as far as the eye could see like a great lounge in some endless hotel. She stepped off and stood ankle deep, in a carpet of thick cloud, furnished with soft hummocks, whiter or darker, that formed chaises-longues all draped with rainbow quilts, deep armchairs piled with pillows; fluffy footstools. Not far off, under a silver canopy, a waterfall flowed into a drinking basin of ethereal blue. Sofia drank and splashed her face and arms. Never had she known anything so refreshing.
“Sit, Sofia!” It was barked out like an order rather than an invitation and a great white dog bounded across and shook itself so she was drenched in silvery raindrops.
“Toby? Toby is that really you?”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” it laughed. “You were always telling me to sit so I thought...”
“Toby!” Sofia buried her head in his thick coat and remembered that wet, doggy smell she’d complained about so many times. Now she welcomed it. He jumped up beside her and his tail thrashed happily against her leg. Dear Toby! She had a million questions but she was so tired now that she just lay down, feeling safe as she always had with Toby by her side.
When she woke Toby had gone. ‘Strange dream,’ thought Sofia. Then she realised she was indeed lying on cloud and through its middle a little way off, she saw the glimmering stair. “It was no dream.”
“No. It isn’t a dream.” The speaker was a child.
“Should I know you?”
“I never lived but you carried me once.” The child sat beside her.
“Where did Toby go?”
“I expect he’s in a field somewhere chasing sheep. You’ll see him again.”
“Is this Heaven?”
“No that’s far above.”
“It’s such a climb! I thought they just – took you there, you know?”
“Do you remember the first steps?”
Sofia nodded; black, volcanic glass, wide and slippery, and full of dark memories. At least she’d left all that behind. Higher up they’d turned to granite then narrowed to silvered glass and now the purest crystal.
“You are doing well,” assured the child.
“Why did I not see this platform before?”
“You didn’t need it before. You became discouraged and fearful and it is here. What more can you ask?”
“But what if I’d fallen?” Sofia shivered to think of the untold depths.
“You weren’t allowed to fall,” said the child. “Higher up, when the steps become invisible, you must remember that.”
“Invisible? How will I know where to put my feet?”
“Eventually you will climb without steps, without feet, even. Rest now.”
“How long can I stay here?”
“Until you are ready to leave.”
Time had no measure here and Sofia lacked nothing but eventually she felt she could climb again and approached the spiral stair to begin. Ahead she could perceive only three crystal steps, barely visible, and she remembered what the child had said. There was no telling how far she had still to climb. Perhaps there would be other resting places, other friends.
This was just another step but every step demanded new courage. As soon as she took it, all the other steps disappeared and she found herself drawn upwards on glowing wings; climbing without feet. Perhaps one day she would fly without wings too, ‘towards the light,’ she thought. ‘Always towards the light.’
Oonah V Joslin is currently Poetry Editor at The Linnet’s Wings. Follow her at http://oovj.wordpress.com/ E-mail [email protected]