Stairway to Anywhere

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 7, 2015

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSteps lead us in, get us out or become a maze of confusion. To a writer, a stairway can feature as the main stage for action, foreshadowing or remain part of the background. Mysterious, elevating, moving–the stairway can lead anywhere the writer wants it to.

This week, writers stepped readers into the known and unknown. The following stories are based on the December 31, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about steps, stairs or a staircase.

Milo Makes His Case…by Pete

Biting his lip, Milo measured again. After placing second in last year’s stairing contest, he’d been careful not to make the same mistakes.

He followed the standards: 7” riser height, 23” stair width. Fast Eddie made his case in fewer steps, and Fancy Francis spiraled her way up. But Milo did things by the book, and his case reflected that.

One last nail. Milo paused, savoring this final step. He’d stuck to his craft, practicality over flash—even as fads came and went. He hit the nail head square and sure. Tomorrow it would take him to the top.


Spiral Staircase by Sarah Unsicker

Bella descended the creaky spiral staircase, her manicured ivory hand sliding confidently along the rail, securing her position in space. Her rose-colored satin gown swished as she moved. She could almost hear the music of the ball.

Halfway down, she hesitated when she heard a gunshot in the distance.

She recognized that gunshot and knew what it meant. Gus had shot at something. She hoped he had fallen a large buck to feed them over the winter. In this godforsaken wilderness where a grown woman played dress-up for entertainment, at least she could look forward to a good meal.


Rusty by Roger Shipp

Rusty, come back here!” exasperation hitting as Samuel and I struggled against the thick brambles. Rusty, our cantankerous beagle, was off rabbit-ing. And we were late in getting home.

With multi-thorned beasts impeding our progress, we finally stumbled into an unexplored clearing. Rusty was belligerently bellowing at an opening in the side of a knoll.

“Thank God, he’s just mouthing off,” laughed Samuel. ”Hate to have to crawl in drag him back home.”

“Why didn’t he go in after it?” I stammered as I pushed my way past Rusty to look down the hole.

“Samuel, there are steps here?”


Small Steps by Geoff Le Pard

Mary watched the policeman step carefully around the rocks. Peter the spaniel scratched the glass, wanting to join the digging.

‘Mrs North? Can we continue?’

Mary ground out the cigarette and sat at the table.

The policewoman said, ‘You have a twin?’

‘I think so. We’ve never met.’ She squeezed her nose.

‘We don’t know if the bones are human yet.’

Mary nodded. They would be.

‘How long did your parents live here?’

‘My paternal grandfather built the house in 1929.’ The door opened; another policeman waved the questioner outside. Mary heard, ‘There’s another one’ before the door closed.


First Step by Pat Cummings

She swam carefully up onto the beach. Sitting waist-deep in the waves, she twisted her hair to remove brine, delaying the moment she must stand.

That step onto dry sand would be a turning point for her; she could never return to her former world. Sighing deeply, she turned her back on the ocean and rose.

Each painful step took her further. At last she reached the rocks lining the shore, and sank into a huddle on the sun-warmed surface.

Turning, she triggered the bloom of light, watching as her starship vaporized, and left her stranded on Earth forever.


Stairway by Irene Waters

Dismayed, they looked up. They’d need both hands to climb. Carefully he put the box in his pocket. He’d need that later. She removed her shoes. She’d need what toehold she could get. Almost on their stomachs they crawled upward, their white clothing blackening as the vestiges of time adhered to them. At the top they saw the next flight; Twenty four steeper vertical steps. The number of love and Karmic rewards. They climbed, belly against step. Total subjugation. Puffed, blackened and humbled they arrived at the top of the temple. The music started. “Dearly beloved” began the priest.


Life, a Staircase by Ruchira Khanna

Tina stumbled over a step, but she was quick to put her palms on the ground thus avoiding to fall flat.

“Darn it!” she mumbled while cursing her legs that could descent with ease but when it came to ascending, they would take one step at a time.

She grabbed the pole gingerly and pulled up her torso while her legs hauled her to a standing position.

“I wish you would not follow the pattern of life, by making your ascent out of hard work and descent out of laziness or voluntary action,” she talked to her hind legs.


The Stairway by Phil Guida

The note simply said take the second door on the left and follow the stairway. To where the stairway was leading was of minimal concern as I was lost among the growing revere of aging with some angst settling in. I decided to take the chance and followed directions up the winding staircase with nothing more than needing some excitement in an otherwise boring day. I had been thinking of doing this for the past two months but was always finding something else to be trapped by. Much to my curiosity the stairway has led me to the Ranch.


The Ascent by Charli Mills

Nothing was going right. The driveshaft that fell off Elvin’s 1991 Ford spiked the grill of the Prius behind him. He let his insurance lapse the week before because he got laid off from the mill. His girlfriend left for Seattle and the coyotes ate his cat. Elvin sucked air and examined the smooth quartzite wall before him. He began to see steps, some no bigger than toe-holds. In his mind he mapped the perfect ascent and in no time he reached to summit that overlooked Lake Pend Oreille. Now if only he could find the steps in life.


Goodnight by Roger Shipp

“Good-night!” and the door slammed. Reverberations echoed all the way down the stairs into my study.

Life as usual, now that Alice has passed. She had understood the girl. She had a way with her.

Me, … not so much.

I knew that this kind of behavior could not go on without repercussions, but I also know a man has to pick his fights.

“No Fight Tonight,” I thought. “She’s not really in a listening mood anyway.”

After finishing the briefs, I quietly go upstairs. I pass her room. The door is ajar?

“Maybe tonight,” I think. I knock.


The Stairway by Anne Goodwin

Cradling the box of provisions, I descend concrete staircase. Nudging the banister with my elbow for balance, I duck to avoid the underbelly of the stairs above. Reaching the bottom, I count the steps to the panelled door.

Placing the box on the floor, I put my eye to the peephole and flick the switch on the wall. The light beams on the mattress where you lie, immobile, camouflaged by the duvet, apart from one foot peeping seductively out the bottom.

The bolts squeal as I drag them into their casings. Shouldering the box, I shove through the door.


Terror on the Stairs by Susan Zutautas

Gasping for air I climbed another set of stairs, desperately trying to get to my front door. Just as I thought I was close the staircase would lead in another direction. I could hear the man that was chasing me and he was getting closer and closer. I picked up the pace as much as I possibly could but feared he was about to catch up with me.

The stairs were now leading down into the dark alley, a place that I didn’t want to be. He was so close I could smell the pungent odor coming off him.


Quick Descent by Sarah Brentyn

She was late for her presentation.


The elevator was slow. She tapped her foot, shifted her weight, glanced at her watch.

Forget it.

She bolted for the stairs. Taking them two at a time was impossible in her pencil skirt and high heels so she raced up with tiny, clicking steps.

I’ll make it. Click-click-click. I’ll make it.

Her ankle twisted, pitching her body back.

Her colleagues raced toward her, faces pale.

“I’m okay,” she cringed, stockings ripped, blood leaking from somewhere.

One of them pointed down the hall with a shaky hand, “No. The elevator…” Sirens wailed.


Steps for Success by Larry LaForge

The business consultant was very smooth and polished. The acronyms rolled off his tongue like melted butter. Four steps for this; twelve steps for that. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. My head was spinning.

The seminar participants ate it up. They mobbed the speaker at every break, asking for more detail about this step or that step in the latest management craze.

By mid afternoon, I couldn’t take it. I think he was on the eighth step for quality improvement when I bailed.

I pulled the hotel valet parking ticket from my pocket:

“Four steps for picking up your car.”

The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.


If Only by Norah Colvin

She collapsed, exhausted. Stairs led up and stairs led down; some steep, some wide, some narrow, most dark. Her head spun and vision blurred. Which way now? Which way had she come? Had she been going up and down these stairs forever? Going around in circles? They all now looked the same. She didn’t even know if she’d been in this place before.

“I’m trapped,” she thought. “Stuck here forever.”

She closed her eyes, surrendering to despair.

Outside birds heralded the rising sun. She was lost, oblivious of its promise.

If only she had recognised the door.


New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome.

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  1. Norah

    A great compilation again Charli. Thanks for the effort it takes to compile them. I think this time I had already read each one! But they make a good read altogether.
    As an aside, when I click the Share this Twitter button the tweet that is created says via @Wordpress. I always change it to your handle. Other blogs mostly have the blogger’s, rather than WordPress handle. I wonder if it’s a setting that can be changed or do you wish to have it that way? I’m not sure what happens on my blog as I don’t share it that way. I would be interested to know though if you ever happen to notice. 🙂

    • Annecdotist

      Good point, Norah, Yours does come up with your twitter handle but I know mine doesn’t either, which can be a bit of a bind.

      • Norah

        I thought yours did, Anne. I’ll have to notice next time. Thanks for letting me know about mine. Learning all the time! It’s good! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I was also thinking it’s so beneficial to have a teacher on board to help us with the learning! 🙂

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli. I love being on board – to do the learning. If I can help with some too, then that’s a bonus. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Well, bonus points for you this week! I also made my Excel weekly schedule JPG by following your video instructions!

      • Norah

        Great! We’re spreading the learning joy around!

      • Charli Mills

        Life-long learners!

      • Charli Mills

        Look under Settings/Sharing and there’s a box to which you can add your handle. I would not have thought to look if Norah hadn’t mentioned it. Found the likes button too!

    • Charli Mills

      Aha! Thank you, Norah! I found the change setting for sharing on Twitter under Settings/Sharing and I also found the place to turn on comment likes. That has baffled me for a long time and there it was under “sharing.” So yes, it is a setting and only requires the addition of a handle. You’ll have to let me know if it worked! Thanks! 🙂

      • Norah

        Works perfectly now Charli! Well done! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Yay! Thanks, Teacher! 😀

    • Sarah Brentyn

      I always change the “wordpress” to Charli’s Twitter handle, too. I always wondered if you chose to do it that way. (Should have asked–sorry.) Also, it does work, now. The Twitter share has your name. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Sarah! Hopefully you won’t have to if I made the right change. And look…likes!

  2. Annecdotist

    Echoing Norah’s thanks for the effort you put in here. Sarah’s flash especially reminds me I’ve just finished reading another novel where the main character dies by falling downstairs.
    So, Rough Writers, do take care – we don’t want to lose any of you!

    • Charli Mills

      Careful on stairs! None of us wants to end up in fiction. 😀 And it’s really a delight to compile each week.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Gah! I was trying to be good this week and not have anyone die! I have to catch that review, though. Yes, let us be careful. Glad Norah was okay after her tumble down the stairs. (Not recently! Just something in my comments–don’t want to freak anyone out.)

      Thanks, again, Charli. 🙂 Love these compilations every week. I used to read them all but now I’m seeing some for the first time in your Wed. post so I appreciate it.

  3. TanGental

    Yup I’m with (and behind, as ever) the two formidable rancheros above in my thanks and admiration for the effort you put in. This week’s is a great compilation. It would be fun, at some anniversary to look at what we wrote back in the day and how if at all we have as a group improved. Or get us to vote on a favourite ( can’t vote for self note) created by one of the others. Sorry dreaming off on one again…

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Geoff! It’s getting time to look at such things and we’ll get cranking on those ideas in the next week or so. Hopefully I’ll have a surprise next Wednesday if all goes smoothly…I’m all for the dreaming and making a collaborative effort!

      • TanGental

        ooooh! Goody, I lurve surprises…

    • Sarah Brentyn

      I would love to see that. Though I cringe to think of some I wrote early on…

      • TanGental

        Nah, they’re all dead weird and creepy.

  4. Sherri

    Really enjoyed reading this compilation Charli, makes me chomp at the bit to get writing some flash again…been too long. Really wonderful stories here, all of them.

    • Charli Mills

      When you’re saddled and ready to ride, come on by! The compilations are always my favorite part of the process.

      • Sherri

        Will do…missed this week but aim to be riding high for next week 🙂

  5. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Yes, I’m echoing those above. Great job with the compilation Charli and a great read everyone. Dream on Geoff. Anything is possible in the magic of Carrot Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      The compilation is the best part for me! And yes, we have magic coming soon and then decisions to make as a group!

  6. lucciagray

    Wonderful shorts! A delight to read. Hope to take part myself soon 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      We’d love to rope you into writing with us, Luccia!

  7. Norah

    I think I proved the like button works. I like it!!! A lot!!!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, Ha! I’m going to have to remember it’s there now. 🙂 Thanks for test driving it!

      • Norah

        I had fun! 🙂

      • Charli Mills



  1. Raw Literature: Underneath « Carrot Ranch Communications - […] about my staircases? Well, I’m not alone in my fascination with stairs: some will remember that Stairway to Anywhere…

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