Stairway to Heaven

Eric woke up screaming. His heart was pounding; sweat was dripping out of every pore. He sat for a moment to catch his breath before throwing the sheets back to make his way to the bathroom.

He looked himself over in the mirror, rubbing the stubble on his cheeks and wiping the sweat from his brow. He opened the mirror-cabinet and withdrew a glass and a bottle of pills with a prescription on it reading 'to be taken with food'. He popped two of the pills back in his throat and downed the entire glass of water in one swallow.

Eric made his way down the stairs to the kitchen, slowly and quietly as not to wake anyone else in the house. He could see the light on at the kitchen table beneath the staircase and called out, "Who's up?"

"Me," his father replied solemnly.

"What're you doing up?" Eric asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"I heard you yelling about something, those nightmares back?"

"No, I ummm, just forgot to take my pill" Eric said.

"Which pill is that?" his father said, concerned.

"The lithium." Eric said.

Eric moved to the breadbox, brought out a brown paper bag of poppy seed bagels and cut one of the bagels in two, then inserted it in the toaster. "You want one?" he asked his father, who shook his head in response.

"Come, sit, while you wait for it to toast."

Eric took a seat across from his father at the kitchen table, with his face in the shadows, as if to hide his expression from his father.

"What happened in the dream? Same thing as last time? You see your sister and everything?"

"No, no, it was different this time, a new one. It's been the same dream all week, this new dream, and each night it gets further along, and its just scaring the hell outta me."

"What happens?" said his father, leaning into the table and stretching his arm across the table to grab Eric's hand.

Both of them jumped as the bagel POPPED from the toaster. Eric got out of his seat and grabbed some herb and garlic cream cheese from the fridge to butter onto his bagel, as well as a large glass of milk. Dead silence rung throughout the entire household as Eric spread the cream cheese on his bagel, and neither he, nor his father spoke again until he sat back down at the table and finished eating the bagel.

"You want to know?" he asked his father.

"Yes, if you feel like telling me I do." He replied calmly.

"I'm walking down some country road, its dark and dim-"

"What?"

"I'm talking about the dream, Dad."

"Ok, go on…"

"So, I'm walking down this country road. It's dark and dim; I can barely see ten feet ahead of me. There's this forest to the left of me, storm clouds hang above it, but it's not like raining, it's snowing, and hailing, and thunder and lighting, and tornadoes and tsunamis and all sorts of crazy stuff is going on in there. And like even though I'm walking down a straight road, it feels like its bringing me closer and closer to the forest. And then I just see this gate. Black steel bars, brick posts, trees on either side of it. It's like some weird kinda Biblical sh-"

"Watch it, Eric" his father said.

"Well, sorry Dad, forgive the language and the religion, but it's just all screwed up. Like the Apocalypse or something."

"Oh, come on now Eric!" his dad yelled at him.

"Fine, you asked…" Eric said as he quickly rose from the table.

"Sit down!" his father bellowed once more.

"For chrissakes, keep your voice down, Dad. Mom's sleeping."

"Alright, alright. So it's like some kind of Apocalyptic nonsense, go on, I'm listening" his father said, trying to keep his voice down.

"Yeah, and then that gate… and it's open, and there's this set of stone steps up to who knows where… and this brilliant white light shining at what looks to be the top of the steps."

"What do you think is at the top of the steps?" his father asked.

Eric thought for a moment, and then very quietly, almost in a whisper said "Sarah".

"Eric, your sister's dead. She's been dead for two years, and it's not your fault. Let it go."

"No! Dammit, don't you ever listen to me!"

"Calm down Eric, maybe if you took your damn pills you wouldn't have these crazy dreams with fire and brimstone shooting from the depths of hell and your little sister caught in the middle of it."

"Does it piss you off that I haven't taken the lithium for a week?"

"WHAT!?"

"That's what I was going to tell you. I haven't taken my anti-depressants for a week now, right when those dreams started."

"Well no wonder, you've been up yelling and screaming every night, I should've known. You're going to see the doctor tomorrow, young man." Eric's father said sternly.

"No, that's not the point. You got me on these damned pills two weeks after she died. No wonder I've never let it go, I've been on cloud nine for nearly 2 years, I haven't had any time to cope with it. And I've got a feeling that slowly but surely it's going to help me to come off this damned drug and get a grip on my life."

"Well, when did you last take it?"

"Last Friday, but I just took two before coming down here. And I don't plan on taking anymore. I ran out."

"Well, we can always go to the doctor to get more…?" his father said, unsure of what Eric's response would be.

"No, we can't, that's the point. I need to deal with this, not be doped up thinking everything's gonna be alright, cause the truth is, it was a damned shame that she had to die, and it was my fault, I was supposed to be watching her swim, instead of getting in that fight with Rick Carlsburg. But I'd rather live my whole life knowing that then live my whole life thinking that nothing happened to my little sister and that everything's just fine."

Eric stood over the table, breathing heavily. His father had his head in his hands at the table and was speechless. Outside, thunder rang in the black night sky and bucket loads of rain started to fall upon the house.