Fiction writers: You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.
Non-fiction writers: You’re stuck in an elevator with a person from your past. Write this scene.
December 27, 2012
Today is the day.
I hobble across the quiet lobby. Although I look like I could use assistance badly—my foot being in cast—I can manage. I just need to be careful not to slip on the floor. I don’t want both feet in casts. Or any of my arms!
Slowly I enter the elevator. I would’ve used the stairs but I don’t know how friendly they’d be to me. I use the stairs at home because I’m familiar with them already.
As I press the buttons, I look at my cast. The doctor will take it off today. That’s why I’m here.
Just as the doors are about to close, a hand slips through and pushes them back. The hand is connected to an arm connected to a body that belongs to a man. Though I know he’s a stranger, I cannot shake off the impression that he looks familiar. But I’m not one to stare, especially at someone I don’t know.
We were already at the fourth floor when the lights flickered and went out, the AC died, and the elevator stopped. But the doors wouldn’t open. Great!
Emergency lights came on. So I looked around the poorly lit steel box. I see my companion’s reflection. I believe he’s a 40-something year old guy. He wears a T-shirt underneath the blazer, paired with jeans and sneakers. Blacks and grays, without a trace of white or any other color anywhere. Or a smile. But who’d be smiling in a situation like this?
He suddenly was.
Although it was just below a whisper, he said something like “Well played, mister. Well played indeed.” Despite only lasting for a fraction of a second, I swear that I saw his sclera become black and the only white in his body was his teeth.
“You’re not human, are you?” I asked.
“Oh, you caught that? Please don’t tell me you’re one of those kids.”
“I don’t have a third eye or some super power. The way I see you, you look human. But I know you’re not. I just caught you off-guard for a second. That’s all.”
“What are you?”
“Could you care about your appointments rather than me?”
“As much as I’d like to, I’m stuck here. And I cannot do anything about any of them while here.”
He stared into the mirror. Intently, he avoided my stare.
“If I guessed correctly who you are, would you acknowledge?”
“Why should I?”
“Because it’s better than being bored to death.”
“One of the most wrong expressions you humans have ever come up with. No one gets bored to death. Never has been. Never will.”
“Said the expert! You sound like—” My voice trailed when I realized what my next word would’ve been. I left it at the tip of my tongue. As it stayed there, my hands automatically looked for the walls. I needed to lean on to something. But my gaze never left him. He never moved. But his smile widened.
“Death,” I said.
“You say it like you’ve never said it before when I know you have. Many times over, in fact.”
I could only stare. I was absolutely dumbfounded.
“Don’t you humans have this rule about staring?”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re not how I pictured you to be.”
“You and many more. You’re not first and you won’t be the last. But you are one of the few who got it right at first guess. I’ll give you that. But before you get yourself spent, let me say this: I know you and your type. I have seen your work. Not something I haven’t seen before. So spare yourself your words. I will not stay your questions.”
“Even just one? I mean, not this one but—”
“Granted it piques me enough.”
With a deep breath and a brief pause second, I asked. “Could I be a psychopomp?”
It was his turn to be dumbfounded. His mouth was agape. His head tilted to the side. And for a while, his eyes mellowed. “Of all the things you could ask, it had to be this one. I have not heard this question in a long while. And I have been around for a long while now.” He straightened up. “Ponder on your question for a while, until your time comes. Maybe you’ll change your mind. Maybe you’ll not. I hope for neither. You’ll be given an answer then.”
And with that, the doors opened to the fourth floor. I stepped out. Only I stepped out.
One glance back to the elevator. It was lighted, cool, and its doors left open. It was empty.