Take the Stairs by Zeke Jarvis
I would never push you down the stairs. Never. Even if we were at the very top of a tall, winding staircase, the kind that would certainly break a person’s neck, and there was no one else around to see the results. I still wouldn’t do it. Even if watching a body bounce down all of those stairs, turning this way and that, losing control as it continued to roll, would look a little cool, like a movie or something. I still wouldn’t do it. Not to you.
Even if I had found out, just a few moments before, that you were secretly a murderer and serial arsonist who was responsible for torturing dozens of people or ruining the lives of families because of your vile actions. And even if I knew that people would applaud me for having taken you out once the truth was revealed. They would buy me a beer when they saw me at a bar. Women would look at me admiringly, and I would be able to get free donuts or slushies or something at the gas station. Even then, I wouldn't push you down the stairs.
Of course, I should point out that, if you were secretly a murderer, then you really wouldn't be you, so I wouldn't be pushing you down the stairs, really, if I were to do the pushing. Because you would never do that, you see, just like I would never push you.
There are other scenarios, I suppose, where you could imagine a temptation. Not enough to pull me in, but visualize a set of stairs with razor-wire railings, littered with landmines on each step and with a large, flaming pit at the bottom. Just for the sake of argument, just as an intellectual exercise, picture it. Also there are sawblades that are constantly whirring and extend and retract at seemingly random intervals. And there's a shark tank at the bottom. You'd feel that it was a waste to not send someone down that staircase. When you were to look at it, you would clearly see that it was designed for someone to be pushed down it so that we could all marvel at its brutal elegance. A sacrifice would have to be found. But not you, I wouldn't do it to you.
If there was a staircase where, at the bottom, there was a demon or, say, a werewolf coming up the stairs, and it was you or me, I tell you, I would not push. When we both knew, in our guts, that the last person up the stairs would surely be eaten and/or mauled and the other would stand a chance of getting a way, I would run, but I would not push. I mean, if you fell, that would be one thing. That would just be the way that things went. But I wouldn't push you, I promise.
The point, then, is that I would never push you down the stairs. So you're safe. There's no reason to fear. I'll see you safely reach the landing. Though you do have to admit, don’t you, that it’s a bit odd, calling it a landing. Why would they call it a landing if they didn’t expect someone to be falling? You see the problem, don’t you?
© Zeke Jarvis, 2016
Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Moon City, Thrice Fiction, and Posit. His books include So Anyway…, a collection of introductions to poems that don't exist and In A Family Way.
Take the Stairswas read by Jere Williams for the Short & Sweet Flash Fiction edition on 3rd August 2016