Like much of the house the narrow stairway was made of solid stone. On either side of him roughly hewn stone walls followed his spiraled descent. Bare bulbs hung over head every few feet providing just enough light to see each perilous step before him.
Ivan was already well out of site, comfortable and practiced with the stairway. Jack followed only a few steps behind Echo exercising patience with his friend who took each step with caution.
The decent reminded Echo of a trip he once made in Valencia, Spain to the Holy Grail Cathedral. He had paid two Euro to climb a spiraling stairway to the top of an 800 year old bell tower. The exhausting experience resulted in a beautiful bird’s eye view overlooking the entire city. A clash of time where ancient buildings stood tall against an ever growing encroachment of modern day sky scrapers.
This journey lacked the spiritual mysticism of that adventure, but there was a palpable energy pulsating through the stairway becoming stronger with each step closer to their destination. The air was surprisingly fresh as if he were in a wide open field rather than a tightly confined space somewhere underground.
After several minutes Echo pushed off the final step standing in an empty hallway before an open door. He could see Ivan resting in a worn recliner beaming proudly having made it down the stairs in no time. The walls behind him were lined with shelves heavy with worn books. He spied a wine rack just beyond Ivan in another part of the room.
A library? He thought to himself.
Jack stepped around Echo making his way towards the room.
“You coming?” Jack called over his shoulder.
“How far down are we?” Echo asked curiously wondering what kind of time and energy went into constructing this secret room.
“Fifty-five feet. Took Ivan and me a couple years to build. We know a few people. Called in a few favors.”
“Any other secrets I need to know?”
“In time.” Jack entered the room disappearing around the corner.
Perhaps it was the long walk, the lack of food, the sheer depth, or those puffs taken on his cigar to revive the burn after stepping off the stairway, but each step Echo took towards the door grew increasingly difficult. A wave of nausea churned the contents of his stomach. His mouth went dry; tongue like sandpaper clinging to the roof.
The closer he drew to the room the worse he felt. A high pitch cacophonous ring resonated in his ears like a drill burrowing into his skull drove away all outside sound. He couldn’t hear Ivan and Jack calling out to him when his legs refused to carry him any further.
Time came to a crawl. Only the ringing in his ears and a searing pain burning just beneath his skin remained constant. His mouth refused to open, a muffled whine escaped his throat in place of the scream he desperately wanted to sound forth. The cigar rolled out his hand past two pairs of feet shuffling quickly towards him.
The world shifted as Ivan and Jack rolled him onto his back. Panic held their faces. He couldn’t remember falling. Jack held his head in his lap while shouting to Ivan. Echo’s vision grew dim. Ivan running back towards the room was the last thing he saw before everything went black.