The one from the basement started it. He crawled up from his underground lair, from the smell of epoxy that he uses for projects, from the array of fluorescent vests that he wears to work. He took up residence on the stairs. Early in the morning, he was on the stairs. Late into the night, still on the stairs.
Others began to gather. I never knew where they came from. There would just be another voice, a conversation, coming from the stairs. Or I would come home, and have to step around and between others, bodies leaning this way and that as I made my way through their habitat.
I didn’t want to hear them, tried to not hear them; but they were on the stairs. There was really no escape.
Sometimes I would take a long walk go for coffee invent an errand visit a friend drive to the lakefront, all with the hope that when I returned, the stairs would be a dazzling open space — no residents. No clutter and detritus of citizens who had created their own fiefdom, on my stairs.
In the evenings, the sound of the citizenry would swell like a great ocean storm. Still, occasional single voices would ring out like a carillon bell, random snippets that made no sense and created ripples of unsettledness: “ …had to escape my marriage in the cover of darkness…” “…heard you can’t ever get rid of that smell, no matter what you do…” “No, no, that wasn’t the time I got shot; that was a…”
The voices stop, a crashing silence. A million eyes turn to me.
“Hey, how ya doing?”
“Doing great, Jason. You?”