“There was a time when things were different. Ya know?” a woman’s voice boomed through the lobby, followed by the sharp click of her heels. I turned, startled by her presence, and watched her exit to the street through the revolving door, evidently talking on her phone.

After I was alone again, I returned to my previous position, hovered over the elevator call buttons. I pressed the little circle lit with an “up” arrow, again. I knew it wasn’t going to make the elevator arrive any faster, but my black high heels were killing my feet and my purse felt like a anvil hanging off my shoulder. Finally, a ding echoed throughout the lobby, signifying the right elevator cab’s arrival. Despite being a new building, the elevators operated with the rickety movement and questionable reliability of much older elevators.

The doors separated like they were trying to build suspense. I immediately noticed a man standing in the left corner, so I took a step back, avoiding eye contact, because I was not in the mood for pleasantries, and waited for him to exit. He didn’t move, so I finally looked up at his face, anger and impatience radiating off of me. He looked back at me with an expression that mirrored mine and made an exaggerated sweeping motion with his left hand that indicated I should board the elevator. I tilted my head in confusion, my eyes suspicious, but slowly obliged. His obnoxious tie caught my eye as I passed; it had two large parrots in the middle, one a brilliant red and the other a bright blue.

I turned around, so I could face the doors in the awkward manner that people stand in elevators. As I watched the doors close, a feeling of dread came over me, but it was too late; even if I leapt at the call buttons and pressed the “Open Doors” button 100 frantic times, it wouldn’t make any difference. The car began its ascent and I shifted my feet uncomfortably. The light above me flickered and I jumped. Looking up, I silently begged it to not go out, but it didn’t cooperate. The entire car came to a rather violent halt, darkness surrounding me suddenly.

A strange sound of pure terror escaped my lips as worst case scenarios played out in my mind. I opened my eyes as wide as possible, as if it would help me see better in the absolute darkness. My body was frozen as my mind raced. The strange man to my right made an audible movement, reminding me he was still there. And, so, my terror grew.

After what seemed like an hour, but was little more than 30 seconds, a dim light came on above the call buttons. I immediately looked towards the man, fully expecting him to be standing inches from me, holding a kitchen knife above his head. Instead, he was looking back at me with the same fear in his eyes. The tension was so high that it took me a minute to find the ironic humor in the situation, but I eventually did and suddenly broke out laughing. I felt ridiculous, but relief flooded my body.

The man looked at me like I was crazy. “Why are you laughing?” he asked, harshly.

“I thought…” I started, but had to catch my breath. “I though you were going to murder me.” His expression changed in that moment, but not in the way I was expecting. The corners of his mouth turned up slowly, but his eyes narrowed, making him look sinister. My laughter stopped abruptly and I froze under that look.

“Oh, I am,” he said, simply.


Writing submission to The Speakeasy #147