Harold's first tread upon the stair made it seem darker than it had before. Where he would have sworn it was light and wide, flooded by the fluorescent fittings in the ceiling, now it seemed narrow and dark, lit by a single filament hanging for a frayed wire on the rooftop. He could feel his heart pounding, the bile building in his stomach and threatening to rise, filling his mouth and spilling in an endless stream. He fought the notion, clenching his fists until his nails dug crescents into his palms. It's not real, he told himself. It's not real.
The second step made him reel with a sudden sense of disorientation. He felt as if he was on one of those fairground rides that twisted and turned him upside down until his head span and his teeth rattled in his gums. He soldiered on.
On the third step he sank to his knees, feeling his stomach churn and fighting not to be sick. He crawled up the next step and the next, feeling every inch of the concrete surface to be lined with broken glass and upturned nails. His hands felt sticky and when he looked at them they were covered in blood, his or someone else's, he couldn't tell.
Another step. It's not real. He pressed his fingers to his temples. Not. Real.
More nausea rolled over him. He looked up. The stairs stretched on for eternity. An eternity of blood and vomit. He looked back but couldn't see the bottom of the stairwell. It was as if he was walking up one of Escher's drawings.
Suddenly he grinned. "Is this the best you can do?" He'd felt more nauseous when Lucy was born. There were buckets of blood that night, vomit and faeces staining the bed. Some of it his. Broken glass and nails? His tormentor had obviously never walked through a toddler's bedroom in the darkness.
Harold laughed. The stairwell was wide, well lit and short. He walked up the remaining seven steps.