This story is for the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge, Photos Of Impossible Places.

Those were all some amazing photos but I chose the one for Chand Baori – Abhaneri, India. I was immediately struck by it and could have put together a longer story based on this one, but alas only 1,000 words. So I laid this down.

Link here as the original link at TM is broken now.

“I think I found it,” Frank said.

I was skeptical.

Two days and we hadn’t found a single thing. Unless you counted the stairs. The hundreds upon hundreds of them that rose and fell all around us. I didn’t count them. I would have ignored them if I could.

I let the skepticism show on my face. Frank ignored it.

“Now look here.” He pointed to the stairway beside him. “We follow this up.” The stairway rose ten feet along the hundred story wall we found ourselves perched on. One side was stone, and the other was a nasty drop. I made sure to not look over the edge and keep my eyes on the stairway. Each step was a block of stone the size of my refrigerator in college. The whole place was composed of them. As if the entire world had never made it past eight-bit. I saw their stark edges along the wall for a thousand feet in either direction. Then the wall turned and there were more stairs.

There were always more stairs.

Frank was still talking. That was pretty normal for Frank. “Then at the top we go down, after that it’s right, left, left, right, up, down, up, down, and voila.” His finger had traced out the route and was now pointing to a stone platform some distance away.

The platform was white. We both knew what that meant.

“Frank, that platform’s white,” I said insightfully.

“No, no,” Frank said. “I’ve got it figured out this time.”

I looked flatly at Frank’s left arm. Or I would have if it wasn’t missing just below the shoulder.

“That was only the one time. Besides it’s not gone, it’s right over there on nineteen.” He pointed with his remaining hand.

I had no idea what nineteen meant. He’d taken to numbering the white platforms, but with a dozen dozen of them around us, I had given up keeping track of them. I just looked where he pointed. His gray arm lay atop a platform across the “room”. How we’d ever get back there to retrieve it I had no idea.

I looked at him again, “I’ve still got another one and I’ve really gotten it figured out this time.” He wiggled his fingers and started pointing again. “So we wind up on thirty-four. Thirty-four goes to fifty-three.” His arm swept far up the wall. “Then we make our way to sixteen, and that goes to twenty-one.” His hand darted to the next platform. My insides lurched. The block was on the ceiling, winking down at us in the pale sourceless light of the place.

He kept rambling. I let him ramble. My eyes flickered back to where I knew Frank was trying to get us. Platform one, the only black stone in the place. It was where we’d come in and where we hoped to get out. We hadn’t managed it yet.

Frank had trailed off as he lost my attention. For once he saw I wasn’t convinced. He started to speak again and I cut him off.

“Let’s go,” I said. We didn’t really have a choice.

Frank lit up, spun around and started creakily up the stairs he’d indicated. I carefully followed after him.

Block by block we followed the path he’d indicated. Him clambering up and down each step, me striding after him. After a few tense minutes we got to the first white block and paused. Well I did anyway. Frank’s enthusiasm overcame any sort of common sense and he climbed right up.

He vanished.

Just like that. My eyes darted expectantly to what should be the next platform. And there he was. Waving. I shook my head.

With an appropriate pause for the moment, I stepped onto the platform. The world seized tight, or maybe just my body did, but there was sudden pressure and then wasn’t. And I was on the platform beside Frank. He was still beaming.

We started climbing again. The next white platform appeared. Thirty-three, or nine hundred fifty-four, whatever it was. Pressure again.

Block after block, I clung to the stone wall and kept moving. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the black block creeping closer on the far wall.

We were at the next block. The one for the big move.

Frank went first. Without any fanfare he was there on the ceiling. I gave it an even more appropriate pause this time and stepped forward. The motion was fine but the disorientation almost knocked me over. Down was left and up was somewhere south of Albuquerque.

I took a moment to recover and we set off again. The black block was just ahead of us. Frank had figured it out after all. One more scramble and the final white block was before us. I didn’t even pause this time but stepped forward with Frank, braced for the sudden pressure.

There was no pressure, and we were still standing there. Then we weren’t standing at all. We rose up off the block, our feet dangling. Then we were moving faster. Falling up (down?) toward the far wall.

I flailed and kicked but it was no use. The stones were rushing towards us. I uselessly braced for impact and we were suddenly jerked sideways. Then jerked up again. There were stairs in front of us. We hit them. Hard.


Time passed. Who knew how long. I didn’t, and didn’t care.

Eventually I shuddered and sat up. I was still intact it seemed. The blocks were still there as well, the stairs.

“That block was ecru, not white,” Frank said obviously.

What kind of sick designer chooses a color scheme from white to eggshell to designate their platform types?

I eventually found the black block again. Now it was on the ceiling. Of course it was.

Frank was staring at me. There was now a noticeable dent in his forehead. He didn’t seem to notice.

“I think I found it,” Frank said.