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Staircase Daniel Shand

Day Thirteen

Today the locals started to prepare for some kind of festival. Glow-in-the-dark skeletons were stapled to the wood on most doors of the neighbourhood and government workers were hanging these banners from the lampposts, with text I couldn’t read.


In the morning, I went out and snuck through the celebrations to the travel agency, where I booked a flight home. I hadn’t slept, because I kept finding myself on the roof. My colleague was with me. He couldn’t move and was asking for my help, then the others came—the old man and the inspector, and Axelsson was there—and I would wake up and have to check the apartment door was locked.


One of Blott’s inspectors picked me up on the way back. I tried to fight through the crowd but she was too strong and turfed me into the back seat of a waiting car.


‘What are you doing?’ I said. ‘Where are you taking me?’


‘No English,’ she said. ‘No English.’


I was processed upon arrival at the Complex and led to an empty office, where I was given warm water and toast. Eventually, Blott came to see me.


‘There’s been a terrible mistake,’ I said. ‘You’ve got me here under false pretences.’


All Blott did was smile. ‘I am going to be the judge of whether the pretences are false or otherwise. Where is your friend?’


‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘But I can tell you who to ask—Erdnuss, my neighbour. He’s involved somehow. I went on the roof and there were handcuffs and—’


‘Erdnuss?’ said Blott. ‘He is a well-respected member of the community. In fact, if my memories are correct, Erdnuss worked for the inspectors in the old days. I think that is correct.’


‘Axelsson then!’ I said. ‘Dr Axelsson. She lives right around the corner and was trying to throw me off the scent. She knows more than she’s saying.’


‘Ha! Ingrid Axelsson has taught at the Institute for many years now. She attracts numerous funding bodies and has presented at conferences in the Capital and beyond.’


I looked around the office in desperation. There were clocks on the wall telling different times, a stained whiteboard. Then I saw one of the skeletons hung on the door.


‘What are the festivities for?’ I asked.


‘That’s none of your business,’ said Blott. ‘It’s traditional. Now, I will ask you once more, finally—where is your friend, your colleague?’


I explained once more, finally, that I had no idea. I told him I was as puzzled as anyone else.


‘Do you have any identification on you?’ asked Blott.


‘No, I was picked up on the street.’


‘Then how do we know you are what you say you are? How do we know you are not the missing person himself?’


It was such a strange question that I could give no suitable response. As I searched for an answer, Blott reached beneath the desk and pressed a buzzer and I heard footsteps coming down the hallway.

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