No path ahead, no path behind. Just four flights of concrete stairs embedded into a hillside invisible beneath a blank blanket of snow. These, for some reason, just damp, not buried along with everything else. Upward, the pale hill sloped into the pale sky. Downward, more snowy hills rolled away into infinity.
It felt like this had gone on since this world’s beginning and would continue long after I left.
I stamped my feet with cold, my shoes slopping in the dark ice melt dripping down the steps. Fast falling snow clung to my eyelashes and had already filled up my tracks, so that I could not even say which way I had come to get here.
Indecision cascaded over me like the warm, buttery light cast from above by the lamp topping a nearby wrought iron pole. Piled snow just about snuffed out the glow. A metal box clung to one side of the pole. I wondered if it contained a control switch I could use to make the light brighter. To help me see a way out of here.
The box popped open beneath my fingers with a cold clank. Inside, a dial. But it held directional markers rather than a scale for brightness output. Frowning, I twisted the dial until the needle pointed southward.
The ground beneath me shifted, almost toppling me. I clung to the wet metal rail as the entire ensemble of stairs twisted ninety degrees. At one end, presumably the southern end, the snow sizzled and melted away, revealing a concrete path snaking off into the distance.
I didn’t really need to go south, but I would take it. Smiling, I snapped the dial box shut. Then, as an afterthought, I took out a thick marker and wrote across the box’s surface:
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