OK, y'all, I'm trying something a little different. Thought I might post a few of my short stories on here, in installments. This way I get to feel all published and stuff, even though it's just on my own damn blog, but also I can get some critical feedback from y'all--and hopefully, entertain you a bit as well.
THIS CAR DOWN
When the elevator started shaking wildly, my first thought was that divine retribution was happening very, very quickly. The elevator doors had been open, on the 18th floor, when I ran into it and pushed the “L” button over and over. I have noticed that everyone seems to believe in the power of the elevator button: the more times you push it, the more frantically you push it, the sooner the elevator will do your bidding. It doesn't, though. It never does. I was the only person on it—after all, it was a Saturday, and there are never many people inside an office tower on Saturday. Even so, I was running a cold sweat as the sterile, corporate-looking thing made an insipid bing for each floor it passed. I was staring at the indicator above, so I knew that I was somewhere around the lobby's mezzanine when the shaking started.
The elevator made horrible shrieking noises. Somewhere over my head, there was ominous crashing. The elevator came to a stop in its tracks—on its cables—whatever it is that elevators have, so suddenly that my gut felt as though it were still traveling to catch up with the rest of me. The lights blinked a few times and went out. Thankfully, the cheerful and barely-audible music went out with them. I have never understood why building management companies feel the necessity for music in elevators. It's always something awful anyway. Maybe they figure that if it's music that nobody likes, there's no risk of annoying any one person more than anyone else, because everyone will hate it. Then why have it at all? I know that music is supposed to keep you calm, but is anyone ever really that upset in an elevator? Or, at least, is anyone normally that upset in an elevator? This time, I was, but the music certainly hadn't been calming to me in the least. It was a particularly awful version of “Brandy,” which hadn't been a great song anyway and was rendered that much more awful by some crappy string orchestra. The emergency light came on, its dim bluish light producing a light that reminded me of way too many horror-movie scenes.
The shaking kept up for a few more seconds. I had figured out that this probably wasn't God's way of getting me, figured that it must be an earthquake. But that's stupid, I thought, we don't have earthquakes in Virginia. Once the shaking stopped I took a couple of deep breaths and tried to stay calm enough to figure my options. (“Brandy” was no longer around to help maintain calm.) It didn't take long; you don't have a lot of options when you're stuck inside an elevator. I could sit there and wait, or I could try my cell phone, or I could push the “emergency” button. No matter which I picked, I was good and screwed.
Better to get it all over with, though. I rang the emergency buzzer. I heard a bell sound somewhere below. There was an intercom, but when I pushed its button too, I got no response. I tried the cell phone, but 9-1-1 just gave me a busy signal. Maybe this really was an earthquake. If it was there probably wasn't much chance anyone would get here anytime soon. I sat on the floor. Most of the big downtown office buildings have glitzy marble tile floors in their elevators, but this one was a relic of the 70s and had grey carpet. A bit more comfortable to sit on, anyway. Except—damnit! Something bit me in the ass. A staple. I contemplated the person who must've dropped the staple. Yesterday, when she was taking reports to a different office. Or home to work on. And she's probably sitting at home out in the West End somewhere right now, maybe working on the reports and pissed off that they came unstapled. And wondering what the hell that was, that just happened. And I'm stuck in this elevator, waiting for them to come and get me—and I do mean come and get me—getting my ass poked by the staple she dropped.
It was then that I started wondering what was going on outside the building. I could just make out the sounds of sirens. The elevator must be pretty near the lobby, then; if I could hear them. Terrorists crossed my mind, too. After 9/11, every time somebody farts, you think about terrorists, but that couldn't be—even if terrorists had bothered to find Richmond and attack it, they surely wouldn't pick a Saturday, when there wouldn't be many people in the financial and government districts.
I probably sat there, sweating and trying to avoid staples, for another fifteen minutes or so. I tried 9-1-1 again with no luck. Maybe I should just call around, I thought; someone will be able to tell me what's going on. I tried a few numbers in my phone, but every try gave me either a busy signal or that damn boop-boop-BOOP sound and “We're sorry, but...”
I gave up on the cell phone. If only I had something to read. This was getting boring, even given my state of mind. Few things are more annoying than being in a situation where you're waiting for something inevitable and you have nothing to take your mind off of it. I'd already read the little placard that informed me the elevator had been inspected by C. Howell of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was perversely pleased to note that, for a fairly high-rent office building, the certificate had expired a couple of months earlier. I wondered if the inspection included checking to see if the thing would be safe in an earthquake. I supposed not; since (as I'd already said to myself repeatedly), Virginia just doesn't have earthquakes. I wondered what they do with elevators in California. Probably nothing extra; there's probably not much you can do to an elevator that makes it any more earthquake-proof than its building. Besides, aren't you supposed to use the stairs in an emergency? Well, I hadn't known this emergency was coming, or I would have used the stairs. If I had I'd be home by now. And still waiting for someone to come and get me.