Depending on how the story-writing goes, this might be my last share of my work in progress, 27. Too disjointed to be a serial, with wild stand-alone flashes, it's seemed appropriate to post excerpts for #Fridayflash. Thanks for reading. - CC
Previous installments (in order):
|Photo by Synde Korman
I punched the call button, and the slow growl of the lift whirred into motion. The door on my right opened first, but was well-lit, clean of blood stains, and trapped dead ghosts. Looping, Stein’d called it. Had to be the second cab. I reached around, felt for the keypad—cool, round—and sent the car to another floor. I punched the call button again. This time, I believed I could hear the difference between it and the other. Slower, creakier. As if it drew up a heavy burden from a dark well.
The doors split and I looked away almost immediately, but the sight was burned on the backs of my eyelids. A dead man, tracks of feces marking the floor. Fingernails torn and bloody. Sightless eyes turned towards heaven. The stench. I could smell the days of decomposition on him but that was ridiculous. He’d died before I’d even moved in.
The fluorescent lights buzzed in their ballasts like blow flies and a trickle of ants had found a marching line to the inside of his coat. I stepped into the cab and let the doors close me in with him.
Darkness fell upon the dead and the very dead as the cab descended to the ground floor. As expected, it stuck. The stories had said between third and fourth floors, but it was actually second and third. The lights came on and I blinked at a man in a business suit checking his watch with a mutter. He leaned forward and punched the G button again. And again.
“Do you think that hitting the button over and over will help much?” I smiled, despite the impending situation. I knew how the story ended now. He glanced over at me.
“Whatever, kid. I have a dinner party I’m supposed to be the guest of honor at and if this fucking piece of shit elevator doesn’t move…”
I sighed gently. “Think about what’s going on here.” Who died and gave me Stein’s position? It seemed right. I ran with it.
“Mind your own business, kid.”
“Have you tried the call box to see what’s going on with the elevator?”
The man opened the emergency call box and put the receiver to his ear. He frowned and toggled the hook a couple of times before giving up and letting the phone fall to the floor with a metallic clang. “Dead.”
He started punching other buttons and turned to look at me. “Aren’t you nervous, kid? You probably have some hot broad to bang or at least a band show somewhere. I’ve seen the girls that go in and out of places of people like you.”
“Moved out,” I said. I didn’t see any point of explaining my own demise when he was yet to understand his.
“So why are you here?” The man tugged at his collar and tie. “It gets hot in here quick.”
I nodded and sat down against the wall. The man glanced down at me. “What floor did you get on at?”
I smirked and shook my head. “I don’t know if I should tell you now or wait, Mr. Ashbury.”
His eyes bulged. “If this is some sort of sick joke…”
I shook my head. “No joke.” I eyed and nodded at his briefcase. “Nothing in there to survive with. Not even a small snack. No water. It’s a holiday. No one is around to hear your call.”
Ashbury banged on the metal doors. “Hey! We’re stuck in here!”
I let my head tip back and watched the flickering florescent light. It’d go out soon. The interior would get hotter and hotter and Ashbury here might have had a heavy dose of water before he left his apartment.
“Think they’ll miss you?” I tilted my head up at him. It was hard not to smile. I felt a little crack inside me give way.
“You little fucking punk. Of course they’ll come get us out. You can’t just let people die in an elevator.”
“But would they miss you?” I reached into my jacket pocket for the cigarettes Stein had given me. Words on the package swam before realigning themselves into Marlboro. Should have been Camels. Get it right. The swirls reconvened to reproduce the cover of a pack of Camels. My brand. I opened the box.
“You can’t smoke in here!” Ashbury set his briefcase down and swung at my cigarette dangling from my lips but I dodged him easily.
“Look,” I lit my cigarette and handed it to him. “You may as well. No one cares about you in here.”
Ashbury scowled at the smoldering cigarette in my hand, so I shrugged and smoked on it myself. “This isn’t real.”
“Of course it’s real!” His face was red; a vein pulsed on the right side of his forehead. He stank of sweat and fear. The briefcase fell on its side as Ashbury tugged his tie loose. “Of all the complete horseshit. This is a real silk tie. I’m going to ruin my whole suit if the air doesn’t come on.”
“It won’t.” As hot as he looked, I didn’t feel a thing. I wasn’t looping like him. “What’s in the briefcase, Mr. Ashbury?” I grinned. “You can tell me.”
“None of your fucking business!”
I nodded sagely and took a pull on my cigarette. Ashbury coughed and waved the plumes of smoke away. “You’re stinking up the whole damn cab.”
“It was open when they found you three days later.”
Ashbury blinked. “Found me?”
I snorted smoke. “You’re dead, Mr. Ashbury.”