One…two…three… Step after step. The stairs descend into murky darkness, leave the light behind. Grip the handrail, feel it move against the wall. Seven…eight…nine… Dark and darker. Step more carefully. Twelve…thirteen…fourteen…fifteen… On the landing, pause. Eyes slow to adjust.
The cellar is far larger than expected, stretching beyond the scope of available light into darkness. Note the evenly spaced support beams, erect and dark; stalagmites of steel. Step off the landing into that vast space. Poured concrete underfoot, smooth and unbroken. Navigate around derelict equipment and machinery, past crates and boxes stacked one atop the other, floor to ceiling. Move through the labyrinth. Trail fingers along wood and stone and rusted metal, each a subtle guidepost.
At the far side, another set of stairs. Crudely made. Purely practical. Boards and beams and sheets and scraps of wood hammered together. Climb. Five steps in all. Hands upon the door – push. Hinges creak, and the door swings wide, allows the night to spill in, cool and damp and sweet to breathe. Fill lungs. Shed tension.
Lamplight from without casts a gentle glow, scatters across the cellar’s interior. Prop the door open. Thrust the stepstool’s feet into the turf; wedge its back under the door’s handle. Light chases along the stool’s tubular metal frame and legs, along the yellow plastic seat and seatback.
Now, return. Back down the makeshift stairs and into the cellar. Easier to see now. Easier to retrace those many steps around makeshift rows of storage and antique paraphernalia. Easier, now, to navigate. To get in and get out again.