The rain reached its peak right after I left. It started as a slight drizzle during work, and gradually worsened along the way- the rain drops were practically hitting against the glass windows of the fried chicken joint I was working at. I remembered we had a particularly obese lady waddle into the joint, dripping all over the floor.
‘What the hell, huh, Scott? Any fatter and we’ll have to put her on a diet,’ my co-worker, McDoogle, had commented sarcastically. ‘If there’s anyone who needed to fatten up, it’ll be you, mate. You go any thinner and I’ll have to flash out my magnifier to find you.’
As the night went on, I had prayed for the rain to stop, but God clearly wasn’t listening, because by the time we had closed up, it had become a full-fledged storm out there, and the only thing I had for protection was a dusty black jacket that McDoogle had found in the lost-and-found box. I quickly zipped it on, and went on my way.
I managed to squeeze onto the last bus with the rest of the commuters, mostly well-dressed businessmen with proper coats and gloves, the lucky bastards. Some shot me confused looks as I plopped down onto a seat near the back, and I wouldn’t have blamed them- I stuck out like a sore thumb, a scraggly-haired teenager dressed in nothing but a black jacket and torn jeans, soaked from head to toe. They had probably thought I was a druggie or something, the way I was hunched over in my seat, shivering from the cold.
The crowd of gawking onlookers thankfully thinned as we went on our way, and by the time I had finally reached my stop, there were only three other passengers. I quickly got off, and sighed. I had hoped for the rain to stop, but no chance. If anything, the storm had worsened along the bus ride. Just my luck, I muttered darkly, beginning my long trek back to my dingy apartment. I lived in a small room on the 23rd floor, right at the top of an old, slightly dilapidated building. It wasn’t ideal, having to live about thirty minutes away from the nearest bus-stop, but my meagre salary prevented me from having anything better.
The lobby of the block eloquently reflected the pathetic state of the building- the paint weathered and peeling off in spots, cobwebs hanging off the corners, and the only source of light was a flickering light bulb dangling from a lone wire. I shuddered as I ducked into the lobby, and it wasn’t from the cold- the long, shifting shadows given off by the bulb had always given me the creeps. Luckily, there was an elevator already waiting in the lobby, and I gratefully hurried in and hit the number ‘23’ button, sighing in relief as the elevator vibrated to life and creaked upwards.
As I settled in for the minute long ride up, it suddenly shuddered to a halt and the doors groaned open. A guy, clad in a maroon hoodie, strode in, his wet sneakers and umbrella forming a large puddle where he stood. He pressed the number ‘17’, before turning to nod at me in greeting. I nodded back, and glanced up to the cracked screen in the elevator- a bright green ‘2’ shone out from it.
‘Crazy storm out there, ain’t it?’ He commented.
‘Sure is.’ I replied.
The journey up continued in silence, when the elevator stopped with a soft ‘ding’. I blinked in surprise at the noise- I’d never heard the elevator ‘ding’ before. The landlord must have finally gotten off his lazy, fat ass and fixed something. The doors creaked open, and the maroon guy left.
It took ages for the doors to finally close, and even longer for the elevator to start moving again. I leaned back onto the grimy wall and made a mental note to call the landlord about improving the elevator.
I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew I was half slumped over the rusty railing in the elevator, with drool dripping off the side of my mouth. I quickly straightened up and checked the screen- the number ‘17’ shone out from it, which couldn’t have been correct, because the guy got off at ‘17’ and I clearly remembered the elevator moving off before I’d dozed off. Speaking of dozing off, how long was I out? It couldn’t have been very long- the trip from ‘17’ to ‘23’ would have taken half a minute, at most. I peered out of the grimy windows of the elevator- there was nothing out there of interest, only the occasional metal railings flashing past the window.
I stepped back, and glanced up again. Still ’17’. I forced myself not to panic. There had to be a legitimate explanation for this. I found myself pacing around in the elevator to work off the panic.
I paced. I looked up to the screen. ‘17’.
I paced. I looked up to the screen. ‘17’.
I paced. I looked up to the screen. ‘17’.
With no watch and no phone to tell the time, all I had was the number of rounds I’d walked in the elevator.
Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four.
Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine.
I was losing it. I could feel the grimy, disgusting walls of the elevator close in, bit by bit, as I continued to pace.
I was finishing off my ninety-eighth round when the elevator shuddered to a stop. YES! I hurried over to the doors and stared out the windows.
No. There was nothing but black.
This isn’t my floor. This isn’t any floor.
I had enough.
‘FUC-‘ I began, when everything happened at once.
The elevator jerked roughly to its side, sending me sprawling onto the floor. The lights flickered twice, before going off with a loud buzz. I was thrown into darkness and before I could get up, the elevator jerked again. It was like the mechanical version of a seizure, only worse. I was flung in all directions across the floor, my body bumping against all four walls as I slid around, uncontrolled.
And then it all stopped.
The lights flickered on and I found myself lying in a heap in the left corner of the elevator, my head pressed up into the corner. Disorientated, I got to my feet. I couldn’t even figure out what I was feeling at the moment. Confusion? Fear? Panic? Pain?
Before I could decide, the doors slid open.
The guy, the same maroon guy, stepped in. Maroon hoodie, wet sneakers, dripping umbrella. The same maroon guy.
I looked up. A green ‘2’ glowed out brightly from the screen.
What the hell?
I looked back down, followed the motion of his finger as he pressed the number ‘17’ button.
‘Crazy storm out there, ain’t it?’
What the hell??
I looked up. The guy was staring at me.
‘What?’ I croaked.
‘Crazy storm. Almost blew my damn umbrella away.’ He chuckled, before squinting at me. ‘You okay?’
I finally found my voice. ‘You came in here just now.’ I replied, my gaze darting from his face, to his maroon hoodie, to his wet sneakers, to his dripping umbrella. This was no mistake. It’s the same exact guy.
I’m losing my mind.
‘What, here? I just got here, man.’ He smiled nervously and stepped back.
I could see him slowly tightening his grip on the handle of his umbrella.
I’m freaking him out.
The very thought made me want to laugh. Me? Freak him out? Hell, I was the one stuck in this goddamn elevator. I should be pissing my pants.
I stepped towards him, my gaze alternating between him and the glowing screen.
‘Woah. Dude. Don’t be weird.’ He wasn’t smiling anymore. He tightened his grip on his umbrella.
The elevator ‘dinged’ and the door behind me opened. I didn’t move. My eyes were fixed on him.
He edged around me. I could see sweat trickling down his face.
‘Don’t come back in here. Whatever you’re doing, you better stop. You better stop.’ I whispered, following behind him, step by step, until I reached the door.
I stayed rooted in the spot, even after the doors closed, my gaze piercing through the window on the door. I wanted to make sure that he left. And he did, scurrying backwards down the corridor.
That’s right. Don’t ever come back.
I glanced up to the screen as soon as the elevator started moving again.
I let out a huge sigh of relief.
I continued to stare at the screen, feeling less and less tense as the number continued up as normal.
’19.’ ’20.’ ’21.’ ’22.’
I wanted to cry, that’s how relieved I was.
I stepped out through the doors as soon as they opened.
The next thing I knew, I was flying backwards into the elevator, hitting my head, hard onto the wall.
‘Holy shit! Sorry dude, I didn’t see you there.’
That fucking voice.
I looked up slowly. From the dripping umbrella, to the wet sneakers, to the maroon hoodie, to the face, to the bright ‘2’ glowing from the screen above.
He did it again.
‘You okay?’ He asked, bending down.
I told you to stay away, you fucker.
‘Hey. You hit your head or something? Shit, I’m sorry.’ He continued.
I’ll make you sorry. You wanna mess with me? I’ll make you sorry.
‘Woah, dude. Quit staring man- don’t be weird.’
I remembered the next few seconds in flashes. I remember lunging at him, snarling and growling. I remember tackling him to the ground. I remember wrestling his umbrella away from him. I remember bringing the umbrella up high. I remember his face, staring up at me in fear and shock, as I brought down the sharp tip of his umbrella down onto his chest.
Once, twice. In, out.
His yelling, gradually reduced to a moan, and then a gurgle.
One, twice. In, out.
His thrashing and fighting, gradually reducing to weak grappling, before he fell limp.
Once, twice. In, out.
His eyes, at first wide open in terror, slowly closing, before it shut.
I continued stabbing long after he stopped breathing.
I had to make sure.
I had to make sure that he didn’t come back.
I won’t have him fucking around with me again.
I heard the doors open behind me. I didn’t know how long it was after I killed the maroon guy. With no watch and no phone, how could I have known?
There was movement behind me.
‘Shit.’ A voice rang out.
It didn’t sound like maroon guy. I smiled.
‘I found him, I found him. Fuck, it’s a mess in here. Level 17, hurry up!’
I removed my gaze from the bloody, misshapen mess infront of me and turned.
It was a policeman. He had his gun out and pointing right at me.
‘I said don’t move!’
Don’t worry. Nobody was going to mess with anyone. I took care of that. I smiled at him in reassurance.
More and more policemen appeared behind him. One of them prised away the bloody, broken umbrella away, one of them cuffed my hands, and three of them dragged me down the stairs. They didn’t have to be so rough, I wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
When we emerged out of the lobby, I realised it had stopped raining.
An old, balding man in a suit walked up to me, his hand clutching a phone.
‘This him, doc?’ A policemen asked in a gruff voice.
The old man nodded before speaking into the phone. ‘McDoogle here, we found him.’ He tucked the phone back into his pocket before turning back to me. ‘You really gave us quite a scare, Scott, running away like that during kitchen duty.’
McDoogle? Kitchen duty?
And then it all hit me.
The obese lunch lady complaining that I had to eat more, or she would have to ‘flash out her magnifier to find me.’
Stealing the black jacket from the front desk. Putting it on to hide the white uniform below.
The front door letting out a soft ‘ding’ as I slipped through.
Taking the bus back home.
My ward room number.
I blinked and turned to McDoogle, my doctor from the mental institute.