The International Writers Magazine: A Bigger Splash: Dreamscapes
Flights, Ninety Five Steps
A short story by Eric D. Knapp
it took an effort to get there, we were suddenly in a cradle of
Prior to our departure,
in a fit of uncontrollable anxiety, I surfed the net. It had been
a long time since we had been able to take a vacation together. Sure,
Miki spent enough time in fancy resorts, but she was always on her own.
Even if I tagged along it was all about business. There was always a
meeting, or a conference, or some urgent email that needed to be written
or read. There was very little time or space left for romance.
© Eric d Knapp
- March 2004
The solution was easy enough: a vacation, but not to one of those fancy
resorts where Miki would struggle against corporate habits and her shrewd
business instincts. Wed go somewhere that didnt have email,
or even telephones. There had to be somewhere left that was still out
of range of a cell tower or a WAP, and I was just the person to find
it. And find it I did. We would go camping. Not camping in the mountains
near home, though. No, that means sweaty hikes through buggy country,
and stiff necks due to imposing rocks and roots, which insist on visiting
the back of you head for nights on end despite your efforts to avoid
them. Like an unwanted relative, the roots are never there when you
need them during the dayto balance a cook-pot or provide a welcome
perch for sitting tired bodies; they only come out at night when you
are trying not to sleep on them. Oh no, camping locally was simply not
an option. Camping around here means aches, itches and a quickly developing
body odor, which manifests itself subtly during the first hike and then
evolves over days of sleeping in dirt into a robust cologne of rank
human. Not nice. Not relaxing. Definitely not sexy. Still
very escapist, and that is what I was aiming for. The thought inspired
an ideaa brilliant idea.
The epiphany was this: if we were to sleep in a tent, the tent would
be much better if it were positioned in southern latitudes. A volcanic
island, maybe. In the Caribbean, perhaps. I looked there, and such a
place did exist. I made the arrangements.
The web was full of advice, and warnings too. One of these came in the
form of a bad review: "They neglected to tell us about all of the
stairs." the critic complained, "You had to climb flights
upon flights of stairs to reach anywhere
it was so much work that
no enjoyment could be found at all. It ruined our vacation." I
stared at those words, nervous, when Miki snuck up behind me to read
the screen over my shoulder?
"Not a place for the elderly and the spoiled, I guess," she
reassured me. "It looks like a great place. I cant waitand
I dont care if they dont have fancy banquet halls and five-star
yeah," I agreed, still wondering in the back of
my mind if I had made a mistake. "I mean, hiking up steps has to
be easier than hiking up an un-groomed mountain, after all. This is
if people dont want to move their bodies around
a little they should stay at home and ride around Walmart in their little
motorized shopping carts." But even with my outward display of
confidence I was still unsure. "Right?" I added. I couldnt
help but notice that we were clinically researching such a spot from
the comfort of our home, thousands of miles away, over a rather sophisticated
home network. No, we werent spoiled. Not us. This would be perfect.
And four days later, we arrived. It took two connections and a lot of
time in the air, plus two terrifying roller-coaster taxi rides, with
a short trip on a ferry in between them. Normally, boats make me seasick,
but after thirty minutes in that taxi there wasnt an ocean swell
large enough to discomfort me. All in all, we made it there alive and
amazed. Though it took an effort to get there, we were suddenly in a
cradle of paradise. We checked in and were given directions to our camp.
It was down several flights of steps this way, and then down a boardwalk
to some more stairs. A few more flights down, and a few more turns,
and we were home. At least, we were where home would be for the next
"The stairs arent bad at all," Miki assured me, sensing
(correctly) that I had been counting each step with growing concern.
And they werent bad. The sun was beautiful, the sound of the surf
was beautiful, and most of all Miki was beautiful. A thousand steps
wouldnt be enough to ruin this.
We unpacked and then walked several more flights down to the beach.
Where we come from, the ocean is grey; where Heaven joins the Earth
it is a sizzling bluelike a flame that has been stretched out
to the horizon. We sat, and relaxed, and had a drink. And then a few
flights back to the camp. The "camp" had a bed and an electric
window fan, and (as previously mentioned) was nestled in a tropical
heaven, allowing us to feel rapture and relaxation at once. It may have
only been screens and two-by-fours, but to me it was the most elegant
structure in the world. It was nestled among the treetops, where it
caught a steady ocean breeze. The steps were required to reach it because
it was above the Earth, like Heaven itself, but connected to baths and
beaches and bars. The paths consisted of sturdy suspended boardwalks,
further blurring the boundary between man and nature. It was almost
elvish. It was magnificent. Though humble in construction and meager
in its luxury, this was my Xanadu.
We stepped up and down literally hundreds of stairs that day, and each
day thereafter, and loved every one of them. The first night there we
slept well; calm air, cool breeze and an active day easing us into a
sound sleep. Tight muscles eased apart during sleep, having earned their
rest from a hard day of climbing. Until 4am. Miki began to fidget. She
nudged me awake.
"I have to pee," she whispered.
"Mmm. Me too. Ill go with." And we grabbed a flashlight
and went upupupto the bath facilities, hand in hand.
The quiet night kept us from conversation as we walked, so instead I
counted steps. Upon our return, we climbed back into our bed and snuggled
into the thin blankets. "Nine flights of stairs," I commented
with a kiss to Mikis forehead. "Ninety five steps."
" and then we were both asleep again.
The following night was similar, with one exception. After climbing
and walking so much the day before, we were beginning to really feel
it in our legs. Pleasantly tight muscles were no longer enjoying a nights
sleep so much as they were demanding one. Again, Miki began to grow
restless, and again I followed. The restrooms, nine flights and ninety-five
steps away, seemed unreachable. We waited until we could hardly hold
it any longer.
"The restaurant is only a few flights higher upwell
just stop on the way to breakfast." Miki suggested. I wondered
how early breakfast was served. Very early, I hoped. I thought about
the online reviewer. I pictured the writer as an elderly lady, although
there was no indication of that in the review. I began to underside
her side of things, although I was by no means sorry for our decision.
Xanadu had a lot of steps, but it was still Xanadu.
The following night, we again found ourselves drifting in and out of
sleep. Its a side effect of relaxing days, rum, and the whole
experience of camping. I didnt have my watch on, but I figured
it to be around two or three in the morning.
"Im just going to pee off of the deck," I announced.
"Dont!" Miki exclaimed, waking a bit more and turning
to face me. "The people here dont want to go walking around
finding people pissing off the decks," she added.
"Who the hell would be walking around at this hour to see me?"
She sighed, and with an incontrovertible logic she whispered, "Everyone
needs to pee, stupid."
I settled back down, and tried not to move. I tried to hear the steady
rhythm of the waves. I tried not to picture the waternot more
than a hundred yards awaylapping up at the beach. After an eternity
I got up, threw on an over-shirt, and padded half-naked up nine flights
and ninety-five steps in the dark. I passed Miki on the way back, and
couldnt help but smile. We touched hands as we passed each other,
like two strangers flirting in the early morning. This was great.
By the time we left, wed climbed those nine flightsplus
innumerable othersdozens upon dozens of times. We joked about
it on the ferry ride back to the airport. If you figure that one thousand
steps would have only been eleven trips to the bathroom plus a one-way
walk to the beach, we figured that collectively we had placed foot onto
stair no less then six thousand times.
Enough energy to illuminate a light bulb? Probably. Enough energy to
start a car? Make it drive? If only there had been a mechanical engineer
nearby to join us in our discussion, we may have learned the answers.
What we were certain of is that nine flights and ninety-five steps is
a great number of steps to exercise the mind, the body and the soul.
Miki still runs up stairs to use the bathroom now. "Its not
the same thing without the climb," she insists. But more often
than not, one of us will wake to natures mid-night call, and there
will be a momentary thought that passes between us. A memory of walking
hand-in-hand through the still night, up nine flights and ninety-five
steps. But the moment always passes; there are no steps here.
Stories in Dreamscapes
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