For anyone else, the stairs would have creaked with every step, but for me, all I could hear was the pounding of my heart as I challenged every last riser to do its worst. Nary a squeak or a groan.
I could hear voices above me, but no sound of movement, and I hadn't expected any. I continued climbing, my very un-special self in very un-special shoes, silently but casually.
This was a test, but not unlike every other test I put myself through, every day of the invisible life that I lived. I was a man that blended into the backdrop, and had been through trials and watched other go through trials that made me ever the more grateful for my innate ability to make people forget that I was there.
This set of stairs, however, was very different. This set of stairs was designed to announce every visitor, except those that knew the sweet spots to step. I did not know them, but climbed them anyway. I didn't touch the handrail, which would have been too obvious of a trick: it was clearly not fastened well and probably would fall if I put any weight at all on it. Neither did I touch the banister. Instead, with one hand in my pocket holding my keys still and the other stroking the wall very gently, if for no other reason than reassurance, I climbed up the stairwell and into the landing at the top.
I kept a straight face, and didn't even let myself cheer inside that I had done it. At the top of the stairs, I stopped, leaned lightly against the wall, and watched the meeting pass in the room before me. No-one noticed me.
The heaviest portion of my presence was my gaze, and eventually, someone looked up and saw me. Their double-take was all the compliment I needed, and all the invitation. I took a step forward and the rest of the room caught my movement in the corner of their eyes, turned, and followed my movement toward their meeting table with only their eyes, should their necks or chairs creak with any movement.
The gentleman who had spotted me gestured to an empty chair at the end of the table, but I politely and wordlessly declined. Instead, I pulled up a piece of floor and lowered myself down carefully.
He nodded, pleased with my choice, and the meeting resumed before me.