One of my first jobs as a trainee was a search op for a four-year-old kid that had gotten separated from his mom. This was one of those cases where we knew we were gonna find him because the dogs were on a strong scent trail, and we saw clear signs that he was in the area. We ended up finding him in a berry patch about half a mile from where he'd been last seen. Kid wasn't even aware that he'd wandered that far. One of the vets brought him back, which I was glad for because I'm really not good with kids, and I find it hard to talk to them and keep them company. As my trainer and I are headed back, she decides to take me on a detour to show me one of the hot spots where we tend to find missing people. It's a natural dip in the land near a popular trail, and people will usually move downhill because it's easier. We hike out there, it's a few miles away, and we get there in about an hour or so. As we're walking around the area and she's pointing out places she's found people in the past, I see something in the distance. Now, this area we're in is about eight miles from the main parking area, though there's back roads you can take to get closer if you don't want to hike that far. But we're on state-protected land, which means there can't be any kind of commercial or residential development out here. The most you'll ever see is a fire tower or makeshift shelter that homeless people think they can get away with building. But I can see from here that whatever this thing is has straight edges, and if there's one thing you learn quickly, it's that nature rarely makes straight lines. I point it out, but she doesn't say anything. She just hangs back and lets me wander over and check it out. I get within about twenty feet of it, and all the hair on the back of my neck stands up. It's a staircase. In the middle of the fucking woods. In the proper context, it would literally be the most benign thing ever. It's just a normal staircase, with beige carpet, and about ten steps tall. But instead of being in a house, where it obviously should be, it's out here in the middle of the woods. The sides aren't carpeted, obviously, and I can see the wood it's made of. It's almost like a video game glitch, where the house has failed to load completely and the stairs are the only thing visible. I stand there, and it's like my brain is working overtime to try and make sense of what I'm seeing. My trainer comes and stands next to me, and she just stands there casually, looking at it as if it's the least interesting thing in the world. I ask her what the fuck this thing is doing here, and she just chuckles. 'Get used to it, rookie. You're gonna see a lot of them.' I start to move closer, but she grabs my arm. Hard. 'I wouldn't do that.' She says. Her voice is casual, but her grip is tight, and I just stand there looking at her. 'You're gonna see them all the time, but don't go near them. Don't touch them, don't go up them. Just ignore them.' I start to ask her about it, but something in the way she's looking at me tells me that it's best if I don't. We end up moving on, and the subject doesn't come up again for the rest of my training. She was right, though. I'd say about every fifth call I go on, I end up running across a set of stairs. Sometimes they're relatively close to the path, maybe within two or three miles. Sometimes they're twenty, thirty miles out, literally in the middle of nowhere, and I only find them during the broadest searches or training weekends. They're usually in good condition, but sometimes it looks like they've been out there for miles. All different kinds, all different sizes. The biggest I ever saw looked like they came out of a turn-of-the-century mansion, and were at least ten feet wide, with steps leading up at least fifteen or twenty feet. I've tried talking about it with people, but they just give me the same response my trainer did. 'It's normal. Don't worry about it, they're not a big deal, but don't go close to them or up them.' When trainees ask me about it now, I give them the same response. I don't really know what else to tell them. I'm really hoping someday I get a better answer, but it hasn't happened yet.