Angelique Fraser and Randall Osbourne descended counter-clockwise two levels in three seconds, arriving at Level One inside the stairwell. Her feet had fleetingly passed dark gridded metal stair treads which had never exhibited any surface wear. The open frame alloy stair structure, patterned like damascus steel, made her head spin vertiginously.
Time congealed slowed thickened. Her vision narrowed and identified tiny details, inside her own home and place of business, previously unnoticed. Osbourne’s grip was hurting her. Normally, he was carefully aware of his considerable strength, manipulating items with a refined delicacy, and altogether avoiding breakables and rarities.
Right now Osborne was crushing her, compressing the flesh of her pale marble wrists, fracturing capillaries, stretching tendons, crackling her finger bones.
For the first time she actually examined up close the original smooth round stairwell sides of carved circular quadrants of solid stone, crafted during the age of Greek Halicarnassus, before Jesus Of Mesopotamia. All this time, she’d taken the place for granted, and never realized how little she knew about it.
Angelique found herself looking outside high vertical arch top windows where there was none before this day, aligned perfectly where the stairs and risers joined their slender steel frames. Something was messing with her memory, shorting out her nerve impulses. Additionally those stairs led them to an antechamber that hadn’t been there this morning.
Tungsten sunset pushed through thick mineral amber panes, falling onto leaf-patterned carpeting of plush wool, rubine. The spacious foyer filled with saturated golden light. The illumination resembled her own Showroom with the church glass display case past the fire doors; but it wasn’t morning and this new addition to The Arielle didn’t belong here.
Angelique began to panic. Earlier this day, she had no carpeting anywhere, it irritated her allergies with the chemicals, and the inevitable soil any type of fibered flooring harbored.
When it was gutted and modernized, the entire industrial complex along the Arielle River had been simplified. The new entryways were small, concise, and devoid of distractions to keep the clientele, primarily wealthy seasonal retirees arriving in sleek Bentleys and glamorous Maybachs, focused on the esoterica which could be found inside.
Randall Osbourne stood unnaturally reptilianly inert, equally astonished by the abnormal architectural manifestations and his use of awful force which had carried the both of them down two levels so rapidly and recklessly.
Angelique saw blood on his mouth.
Her sizeable new acquisition from another realm was walled solid marble variegated by blue-gray-silver lines deep inside luminous pale chartreuse blocks.
The colors in the mineral’s foggy depths polarized a dwindling sunset creating shimmery moire patterns. The walls had been cut and fitted with far less precision than the curved stairwell, suggesting that the entire area was hastily constructed. For what, she knew not.
The air was chilled but did it matter? They would likely keep descending either to the basement or the sub-level, if those features still remained. Maybe even into worse places. The Osbourne REPLICA wouldn’t be chivalrously escorting her outside into the safety and lingering warmth of that perfect late summer day.
But now Osbourne appeared to be slowing rebooting an ancient operating system of archaic engineering that was called humanity. He looked like he was reverting to a semblance of his usual self. Familiar laugh lines and characteristic serenity were returning. He crossed large brown hands in front of his chest Zen-like as he normally did when sorting and sifting unique situations.
Suddenly, Randall licked his lips, then touched them. His eyes widened. He jolted as wet crimson trickled down tanned forearms, soaking white sleeves rolled half-mast on one of his collection of threadbare yet impeccably clean shirts. Randall Osbourne always wore white shirts. Little red drops gravitated silently toward the floor.
Absorbent ruby-red weave drank graciously. His offering was taken, leaving behind no trace.
Angelique squinted. There were no beams of dusty light inside her new entrance room. She wondered about that magic technological artistry designed by eclectic inventor friend Erich Morrison. There were THINGS in his machines; like the hand-crafted laptop PCs in the showroom, and Edward Jame’s custom Hot-Rod Joule in the Level Zero parking area.
Morrison crafted sculptures of exotic metals, mysterious minerals, and occult things of unclassifiable nature. His functional pieces were uniquely self-cleaning: absorbing neither dirt nor oily smudges, no matter how people much handled them; which Morrison encouraged they did.
Angelique’s stomach was churning, triggered by overwhelming scents of crushed sweet white roses and pungent acetone.
Sunset flared briefly then gave it up. The carpeting transitioned into an inexplicable titanium hue, then red then black. Colored dots of orange, faded, and then it was dark outside.
They sat together upon a rigid sofa of green silk cushions, circa 1950’s, back when she was little. So long ago. So far away. The room apparently didn’t want night to come either, ramping up phosphorescence like a glow stick from walls and ceiling.
Randall’s breath labored, chugged. Small dark fruit flies appeared, hovered, then landed on his hands where veiny purple bruises gathered under pale thin flesh.