The dimmed and discouraging lighting continued for, in my estimate, five stories-worth of flights of stairs. The stairwell became much plainer in those stretches, all bare concrete and minimal painted bars to mark the edges of the stairs themselves, and a dingy and tarnished metal handrail. There were doors heading off the stairwell at various brief landings, thick metal doors without the reinforced glass window at the top you’d expect if they were to anything commonly used, and each was locked. There were screwholes in the wall where plastic signs must have hung, or perhaps were slated to be hung, but the wall showed no signs of accreted grease and grime that would normally mark the outline of such things. I told myself they were likely utility rooms, full of wires and pipes, cramped, smelly, hot in summer and cold in winter and never comfortable, and kept moving. Not what I was looking for. Not why I was here.

As I rounded a bend on the concrete stairs, I began to see the antiseptic white light that I had come to associate with my employer and the brief field work me and my Stationmates had conducted bleed out from behind a rough concrete corner. More: I felt a thrum, felt, rising up through the concrete, through my legs, into my belly, my chest, my head. There was something pumping and grinding below me, something mechanical. I knew intuitively that I was on the right track.

The thrill I felt as I emerged into that bleeding white and felt in every growing cascades of physical discomfort the violent beating of the terrible machine below me was profound, like religious ecstasy; I felt, for a moment, the same way I felt in church as a young boy in rural Virginia, hearing about the trumpets of God and the descent of the angels and the great reaving of souls on judgment day. Those days seemed so distant now, if I tried to think of them in terms of time; somewhere far beyond the training, the plane ride, my father’s funeral, fuck, my entire failed post-collegiate career. It sat, swirling in my belly, this notion of expended time, of entire lives I’d lived, all ghosts swirling inside of me, twisting, revealing their faces in half-glimpses before disappearing into the murk of unrecalled memory again before returning unbidden. The concrete felt familiar, unchanging, timeless, placeless; I thought of the small, narrow shops I frequented on my initial arrival to Tokyo, the alleys of the suburbs barely wide enough for three people to walk abreast and the conjoined buildings each only maybe ten feet wide but an absolute suffocating suffusion of locations, each filled with people, objects, histories, identities, figures, equations, relations, nested corkscrews and knots of time-space and memory; I thought of the shopping malls of home (which, for now, briefly reconfigured itself to Virginia, though I had not lived there now in many years) and those of Shibuya, overlaid them, interlaced them, until they became one heaving, breathing behemoth of capital and socialization, a monster of teenage angst and millionaire manipulations and real estate development and modernist fountains; I thought of college dorms and office buildings, all nameless, faceless, decorated and made-individual but all in the same way, brought to unique identity all at once in their own kind of suffocating suffusion that left them immemorial, impossible to recall, sense-data-rich to the point of psychosis.

I thought of these things as my feet crept step by step into a gradually-whitening abyss, brighter and brighter, so bright I could barely see, fully receding into my memory, a memorial trance brought about by the heavy rhythmic pulse and clatter and clang of something fierce and metallic deep below me.

Could the pyramidhead have been here, too? No, I thought, impossible; we drove so far, and I saw the pyramid, gazed up at it with my eyes, in the rain. How would it rain in a building? How much space would you need, to create an ecosystem, to support clouds, rainfall? And a pyramid.

I shook myself. I couldn’t believe I was considering the notion that the location of the pyramid was beneath me, had been beneath me this whole time. There would be no way to hide an architectural project of that scale and scope.

There also would be no way to hide a pyramid of that size, and yet it showed up on no satellite or road maps of anything within the radius of Tokyo that we had searched.

I wondered, idly, if in my absence one of the other two of my Station had searched wider, perhaps found something further afield. There was a pyramid once, we had seen, buried in waves off of the coast of Japan, and though data seemed to show that it was a curiosity of erosion and tectonics, it still tantalized us, married itself well to the mounds and mountain altars.

The light of the stairs burned so bright in time it eventually became not unlike a darkness; because if darkness is lack-of-vision, if darkness is lack-of-detail, if darkness is suffocation in silence and emptiness, then I had emerged in darkness; for this light was empty, utterly devoid of being, of substance; for though I felt the stairs below and the rail in my hand and the wall on my side, these were only slight feelings, distant feelings, diminished feelings, fading away in the numbing throb of machine. I kept chewing the bite valve of my CamelBak, feeling the soft plastic on my lips and tongue and teeth, and that’s what kept me grounded and present. This was a test, I knew, some kind of threshing, winnowing, the removal of the spirit and the mind from the body. Because, I knew, materiality still held; what was descending the tower was my body, my flesh, my bones, my cells and atoms, and what was descending the spine, the chakra, was my spirit, which would soon escape through my scalp and dissipate in the air in that inverted way of the spirit where all risings are descensions and all falls are ascensions (the vehicle by which Satan rose to his throne of the Earth from his former home in Heaven, a door which was now permanently —

No. I must not succumb to these threshings.

But what lay beyond these horrible punishing sensations, beyond the bright lights which burned away the mind and drowned you in memory, beyond the endless procession of stairs? How deep did this tower go?


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