They had suddenly caught up to the end of the end of the hallway, as if the building itself was cutting off their conversation. The stairs were right in front of them, dark and imposing for poor Alex.

“You should try it,” Josie said encouragingly, but something in their voice wavered.

“Wait, why are you acting scared? You go up and down these stairs all the time.”

“Oh… I don’t know.” They frowned. “It’s just… Stairs, you know? I get it.”

“Uh-huh. You get it.” Alex may have been opening up about his crazy thoughts, but he was not going to start talking to them about the force-field that had propelled him away from interacting with any transitory space for years of his life.

“Please just try it, doctor,” they said quietly.

“Fine! I’ll try my best to go back into the world,” he announced to the two of them, and then dramatically stuck his foot out to the first step… where it immediately curled in on itself, as his body met with the same invisible wall that previously was stationed immediately outside of his office door.

Josie was watching with a mix of keen interest and horror, but said nothing.

“What’s the big deal?” he humphed. “So I’ve got some sort of… problem.”

“I haven’t been able to go to Floor Seven in years,” they whispered, as if afraid that someone would overhear them. “I thought I was the only one.”

Josie had fetched him another bag of snacks and some fresh water, as he had nearly passed out at the end of the hall, and they were taking another break to collect themselves.

“Why didn’t you say anything when I was stuck in my office?” Alex finally asked.

“It’s personal, you know? What am I supposed to say? ‘Hey, doctor, there are invisible walls blocking the stairs.’ You said you don’t do psychiatry.”

Alex laughed, although he wasn’t sure if it was meant to be funny, and he immediately regretted it. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine, really. I just didn’t want to bother you. I thought your problem was more… real.”

“Why didn’t you contact any of the Floor Eight staff?” He winced again when he remembered. “Right…”

“They disappeared around the same time.”

He hadn’t actually thought about that. “Shit, you’re right. I was trying to contact them back then too…”

“It’s been a long time for both of us to be on our own,” Josie observed quietly.