The narrow staircase spiraled deep into the earth. A wall of stone closed in tightly on either side of Echo while evenly spaced bulbs overhead provided just enough light to see each precarious step. Ivan, comfortable and practiced with the descent, was nowhere to be seen. Jack exercised patience following behind his friend who took each step with exaggerated caution.
Echo recalled a trip to the Holy Grail Cathedral in Valencia, Spain years ago. He had paid two Euro to climb a spiraling staircase to the top of an 800 year old bell tower. From the bell tower he was able to look over the city. Though the view was extraordinary the whole ordeal left him sweaty and breathless, and as far as he was concerned, it was a once in a lifetime experience.
This experience, however, was not about contemplation in the journey as much as it was about simply getting to the destination without looking like an out of breath and out of shape lump. Strangely, Echo noticed he did not feel exhausted and out of breath. He had picked up speed and there was a spring to his step. Each step grew more comfortable, almost familiar and practiced.
The air was fresh, not dank as he would have expected. A rejuvenating energy coursed through the stairway becoming stronger the further down he travelled. After sever minutes he pushed off the final step into a small foyer.
Before him was an open door. Ivan rested comfortably in an old chair just inside. Beyond Ivan were shelves packed end to end with books lining every wall he could see. He spied a wine rack just beyond that in another part of the room.
“You can go in, the room won’t bite.” Jack said stepping around Echo.
“How far down are we?”
“About fifty feet. Took Ivan and me a couple years to build, but we know people. Called in a few favors.”
“Any other secrets I should know?”
“In time.” Jack walked through the door and disappeared around the corner.
Echo walked towards the door, but felt nauseous as he drew near. A ringing sounded in his ears, and a searing pain burned just beneath his skin. Sweat beaded along his forehead. The ringing now reverberated in his skull. He tried to call out, but his mouth refused to open. Only a muffled whimper sounded in his throat.
The cigar he had carried with him rolled across the floor. The stone felt cool against his cheek. He could not remember falling, but knew he must have. The room spun wildly around him. His vision darkened. The last thing he saw were his friends running towards him as everything grew black.