The Stairway to Hell


By Aidan Pesce, Assistant Editor

Everyone knows about the staircase that connects the SJs to the library. It is a path well-traveled by Xavier students, faculty, and visitors. Every day, hundreds of people traverse the stairwell, making it one of the best-known locations in the school. But what if I told you there was a second staircase? You might know about it, but nobody, not even the Brothers, knows where it ends…

The other day I was in SJ1 for my physics class. I was learning about derivatives and kinematics and other boring, sciency/mathy things, when all of the sudden, the fire alarm went off. Fortunately, it was a drill, but I was still ushered toward SJ4, where I discovered a second stairwell that I would use to exit the building. As I entered the dark staircase, my first impression was that I was being taken to a dungeon. The gray stone brick was cold and unforgiving, and the cobwebs warned of spiders and other nefarious creatures lurking in the darkness. Clouds of dust choked the light from the room, painting everything a frosty gray. Each step rang throughout the haunted corridor like a drum signaling the fall of the executioner’s blade, and the swish of clothing was the ax arcing down toward its victim’s head. Nobody dared to utter a word, inexplicable fear gripping every soul. The stairwell warned of some tragedy best left untold.

As I neared the exit, I felt a glimmer of hope stir within me. The open door promised freedom and salvation, an offer of life. But that was when my eyes fell on a second set of stairs leading deeper into the bowels of the earth. All thought of leaving the ancient passage fled from me, as some primordial voice called forth from the shadows, urging me to explore. I knew at that instant some secret lay buried at the end of the passage, but what that treasure was, I cannot tell. But I swore I would find out.

I spent hours researching the passageway, learning what I could from the ancient tomes hidden deep in the library. Concealed behind false shelves and hidden doors, I found scrolls that warned of a dark secret, a stain on Xavier’s past. A blight. A crime. A tragedy best forgotten. At once I knew I had to return to the stairwell. Only there could I discover the truth.

The next night, I embarked on my quest. Using robotics as an excuse to stay at the school late, I waited until the meeting ended before I set off toward the SJs. I walked the lonely hall, my only companion fear. Each step reverberated throughout the dark corridor like an alarm bell, warning the stairwell of my arrival. Every doorway hid a demon, and even though I could see nothing, I could sense their evil presence in the night. Yet I forced myself onward.

Eventually, I spotted an ugly, orange, flickering light in the distance. Hypnotized, I watched it, the brief flash of orange that was quickly extinguished by the shadows. On and on this cycle went for some time, and I was a captive to the sight until an eerie creak broke me out of the trance. Frightened, I looked around, but the darkness was a realm of secrets.

Squaring my shoulders and taking a deep breath, I moved closer to the light. As I neared my destination, each flare of light made me wince, blinding me worse than the darkness. It was only until I was a few steps away from the light source were my eyes accustomed enough to see my environment. I stared at the flashing beacon, and I made out the letters E X I T. The flickering sign cast a sickly glow over a doorway, staining the wood an ugly orange and shooting weak beams of hellfire off the metal shields that plated the doors. As I took in the sight before me, my eyes were drawn to a black sign above the entryway. It was hard to read in the unsteady, pulsing light, but I managed to make out what it said: STAIR TOWER G. I had arrived.

Nervously, I stretched out my hand toward the door, certain something would jump out of the shadows if I made any sudden moves. But as fate would have it, no creature appeared. Not yet at least. I felt my fingers brush against the cold metal, and, steeling my nerves, I pushed forward.

The door exploded open, thrown by an invisible force, and smashed into the wall with a menacing crack! Fiery red light surged from the stairwell like blood gushing from a wound, blinding me, and the hot breath of hell washed over my body with so much force that my feet were lifted off the ground and I was hurled down the hallway.

I landed painfully, and the air was ripped from my lungs, but I managed not to lose consciousness. Unable to move, I watched as seven figures emerged from the stairwell, all of whom clutched warped staffs in their left hands. They wore bloodred robes with strange, black runes that spoke of darkness and death and looked to have been painted with a thick, oily liquid that refused to reflect any light. Their faces were hidden by hoods of the same color, but I could see their onyx eyes glaring at me. Without hesitating, all seven marched toward me. With each step, they struck their staffs against the ground, conjuring a shower of sparks and the boom of thunder.

I tried to crawl away from the men, but my limbs refused to respond. Whatever blast they had hit me with seemed to have immobilized me. Helpless, all I could do was scream.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after they reached me, but I know I was taken down the stairwell. I remember two of the seven figures dragging me by my arms, my head lolling to the side as blood dripped down my shirt. I remember being thrown down on the cold, hard ground, my head throbbing as drums echoed in the deep. I remember seeing a misshapen, hideous, blackened beast sitting upon a throne of bones. But then, nothing.

The next morning I woke in my own bed, unsure of how I got there. All of my items were there, everything untouched. My car was parked in the driveway, and the keys were on my desk. Clothes were folded and put away. My laptop was plugged in and charging. Nothing was amiss. Yet I knew I had done none of these things. I spent the rest of the day in a trance, trying to find some clue of the previous night’s events. But there were none and there never will be. The ancient tomes had warned me. They had told me exactly what that stairwell was. It was the stairway to Hell.