“Life can change in a heartbeat. Live it to the full and have no regrets.”
Climbing a mighty spiral staircase is a great feat of endurance. It requires a mastery of fear, good stamina and a desire to see what awaits at the top. The view will either astonish or leave you bitter with disappointment. What if you are forced to climb by some unknown force?
‘Find the oldest spiral staircase in the city and climb it by 11 AM. I’ll be waiting at the top. Disappoint me your peril’
Dalian had woken up to his phone beeping. He read that text message seven times with a growing coldness in his chest. The sender was unknown and yet the message struck a fearful note. Not in the least because it was already 9:45 AM.
‘What if I don’t feel like playing games?’ he texted back.
The I-phone immediately beeped the new message.
Dalian looked and almost dropped his phone. There on-screen was an image of Kerry his girlfriend. She was duct-taped to a swivel chair and gagged.
‘You’ll pay for hurting her!’ Dalian vaulted out of bed setting a collection of gold medals clanking against the shelf they were hung on He dressed in a hurry. Black jeans, tight, white T-shirt showing his muscles beneath. Trainers on and tied, he went downstairs and left the house.
Having grown up in the city, Dalian was of no illusion as to where he needed to go. He drove his Prius in a manner somewhere between aggressive and reckless. Kerry was in danger and he was going to rescue her.
Tyre screeched as the car roared into the underground multi-storey car park of the Castle Mall. The big clock there read 10:35 AM
Dalian abandoned the Prius in a parking space and dashed into the lifts. He smashed the top floor button with an impatient finger and flinched as his phone beeped in his pocket.
’10:40 – Can Kerry fly?’
‘Someone is going to fly today but it won’t be Kerry. I hope you have a wing or two up there!’ Dalian replied.
The lift ascended through the shopping floors and came to a stop at the food court.
The doors slid open and two mothers with pushchairs screamed as Dalian rushed by them.
“Pardon me!” he yelled as he ignored the fast-food counters and dashed between tables. Shooting through the automatic doors into the castle gardens, he made a right and thundered up the steps.
All the trees, herbaceous borders and colourful planting here were done within the castle’s ancient defensive ditches.
Dalian loved to walk and picnic here with Kerry. Now, he just hoped he could rescue and hold her again.
The tourist group was crossing the centuries-old black flint bridge between the rows of rose-filled flower planters lining the railings.
“Coming through!” Dalian barged a path through the throngs of people. He grimaced as a man fell into the flowers but that couldn’t be helped. The castle clock read 10:50 AM.
‘Ten minutes until take off,’ messaged the unknown caller.
Dalian ran into the square shadow of the castle keep. He swore up at the arrow slit windows and elegant tracery of the grey and white sandstone structure. Sweating with fear and exertion, he pushed through the thick oak doors.
“Welcome to the Castle, sir. Two adults and two children?” said the ticket seller greeting a family.
“Yes, please. We’re very excited!” said the youngest boy.
“Excellent! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Egyptian mummies, and knights we —Hey! You have to pay before going in!”
“Sorry, no time. I’ll pay on the way out!” Dalian sprinted past the kiosk and blasted through the door into the keep.
He was greeted by a blast of cold, ancient smelling air. It had been years since he came in here, but he remembered it well. How, he wished he had time to enjoy the tapestries, armour and weaponry on display along the galleries
“Sir! You didn’t pay!” yelled a security guard.
Dalian yanked out his wallet and threw a handful of notes at the man. “There are more important things than money. Excuse me,” he ducked beneath a low, thick stone arch and entered the darkness.
It wasn’t completely dark, the odd orangey light lit the ominous, narrow, spiral staircase.
Taking a deep breath, Dalian began to ascend the winding, ever-turning claustrophobic stone steps. He felt his mind spinning faster than his legs as he marched up the deep treads. What was waiting at the top? Would he be in time to save Kerry? How many people were going to fly today? If Kerry was killed, her murderer would be thrown from the castle behind her.
Fifty-four steps fell behind and below Dalian. The narrow, winding well echoed with the sound of his footsteps and laboured breathing. Splashes of sweat glistened upon the steps as they fell from his reddened face. Dalian was breathless but he would not, could not stop until Kerry was safe.
The last six steps came like the stairway to heaven. Brilliant white sunlight beaming into the much darker well.
Dalian bounded up into the light and enjoyed the sun and airflow on his arms. Freedom from the claustrophobia even if only temporary.
The phone beeped in Dalian’s pocket. “11.00 AM — Times up!’
“Sure is!” Dalian yelled as he emerged on the breezy battlements.
A woman shrieked at his loud outburst and tutted him as he raced by.
Union Jack flags hung fluttered above the thick, grey-and-white stone crenulations spanning the four sides great stone castle keep. In their midst, a new glass roof providing an uninterrupted view into the castle’s interior.
A tour group were peering through the embrasures between the stone merlons. Each enjoying the views over the city spread all around the castle. City Hall and its green, clock tower, the two cathedrals. The multicoloured roofs of the medieval marketplace.
Dalian saw none of it, his eyes were only for finding Kerry.
Applause from a single pair of hands rose on the breeze.
Dalian snapped around; his eyes fell upon Kerry. She was perched in an archer’s niche beneath the south battlement looking terrified.
“Bravo, Dalian. By my watch, you were two minutes late. But I’ll give you a pass,” said a man looking every bit the tourist leaning by her against the wall.
“What do you want?” Dalian struck a strong pose ten feet away. He was unafraid as he took in his opponent. Expensive grey shorts and a matching T-shirt. Top of the range camera with a large lens around his neck. Fashionable sunglasses and Italian shoes.
“Straight to business. I like that in a man.”
“Too much wealth, pointy nose, and assumption he owns everything. I hate that in a poncy git,” Dalian retorted. Locking eyes with Kerry, he gave her a reassuring nod.
“He has jokes!” The man straightened and looked at Dalian through his viewfinder. The camera flashed as he snapped off a photo.
A bullet zinged off the wall behind Dalian. He flinched in momentary surprise, “A camera which takes real shots. Nice one.”
“Impressive, isn’t it?” The man removed the strap. from around his neck.
“I’m glad you think so. The city mayor will be giving a public address at City Hall at 1 PM. You will use this camera to assassinate him whilst he’s on the steps. You …”
“Sod that plan! I happen to like my life without prisons in it.” Dalian felt shock draining the blood from his face. “You want him dead you go and bloody-well kill him!”
“Does he always interrupt people?” The man asked Kerry.
“Only those who piss him off,” she replied,
“So, I struck a nerve. That’s good. Dalian …” The man waited for some tourists to pass by him. “You will go down there and carry out the task I’ve given you. Kerry and I will be watching them here. If the mayor walks back into City Hall alive. Kerry will fly, splat, and die!” he finished holding out the camera.
“I watched you win gold in the Olympic trap shooting event. You’re perfect for this job. Kerry will ensure you don’t fail.” The man sneered, “Not so good being famous now, is it?”
“Please, don’t let him kill me,” Kerry begged. She shifted her uncomfortable position in the archery niche.
The man dealt her a withering slap, “I told you not to move.”
Dalian felt the slap as much as Kerry did. Fury boiled along his veins, causing his jaw to clench with his fists. “Ok, I’ll do it, you bastard!”
“Jolly good,” replied the man as if he just asked Dalian to complete a menial task like making tea.
Dalian closed the gap, grabbed the camera and smashed him in the face with it. Without pausing to survey the damage, he looped the strap about the man’s neck twisted and squeezed.
“Argh, don’t … kill … me!” he choked.
“You get the same remorse, gave Kerry!” Dalian lunged into a hip throw. The man sailed over his head and slammed down on the glass roof.
Several seconds ticked past to stunned silence from the milling tourists.
“Let’s go!” Dalian help Kerry to her feet and hugged her for all he was worth. “You’re safe now, sweet —”
A painful cracking sound broke the breezy silence.
The man had tried to sit up. His movement caused the frame to buckle and the glass to shatter. He screamed and fell.
“Next stop, dungeons!” Kerry remarked with a cheeky grin as she kissed Dalian.
“He might get stuck in the well, actually.” Dalian jested as he allowed her to lead the way down the spiral staircase. It was then he realised every turn of the staircase was like the twists and turns of life. It’s important to roll with the punches. Come out swinging and live life to the full.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!