An elevator tried to eat me last evening. Don’t believe me? My hands still shake at the mention of that mechanical beast, but I’ll try to weave the tale for you.
I arrived at work, clocked in, and as I was assigned to man a desk on the top floor and the stairs were halfway across this Noah’s Ark-sized building, I headed for the much closer elevator. Like normal, I entered the mobile cube, pressed the button for my destination, and watched the chrome doors distort my reflection as they closed. Like normal, the floor rose.
A buzz like that usually accompanied by the words, “This is a test of the American Broadcast System,” assaulted my ears, and the elevator stopped. Slowly, the ascent resumed. Then a metal POP rang out. The lights flickered off, and the whole box dropped.
As my feet left the tiles and weightlessness spun in my gut, my thoughts raced. Instinct said to brace myself, but I knew that wasn’t right. Should I try to grab the miniscule railing? Should I go limp?
The fall ended, and with no decision made, my knees bent to absorb the impact. New thoughts formed a shoving crowd. How far did I fall? Where am I?
The location indicator beside the door read B. Was I really in the basement? Or was I below that, in the pit where the elevator retreated when not in use? I pressed the buttons. Alarm. Door Open. All the floor numbers. Even Door Close. Nothing happened beyond feebly flickering lights.
Was I really below ground? Or was I dangling at some unspecified height? Was that B the elevator’s declaration of intent to drop me should I move wrong?
I pulled my phone from my sweater pocket. One signal bar. Please work.
I flipped through my contacts and selected the front desk.
As a little circle spun on the screen and I waited for that first ring to confirm connection, memories flooded in of when programmers had set up this elevator. With the doors open and their slim laptops in hand, they had instructed the box to stop just above or below a floor so they could inspect its underside and top. It had reminded me of zoo vets asking animals to perform certain “tricks” so they could be assessed.
That was not an analogy I needed. This was a wild beast we should not have kept in captivity to do our bidding. It had chosen me as its prey, and I had fallen into its trap. It would drag me down into its pit for slow digestion. My co-workers (especially the one waiting for me to relieve her so she could go home) would notice my absence, right? They would see my car in the parking lot and know I had to be somewhere around here.
Finally, the phone rang. Someone answered. She couldn’t understand me; the connection was too poor.
I held the phone directly in front of my mouth and spoke slowly, annunciating each word. “I’m. Trapped. In. The. Staff. Elevator.”
To hear her verify she understood was such a weight off my chest. Someone knew where I was. They would get me out, or if they couldn’t, they’d call someone who could. Even if they had to hack through a wall, the Fire Department would rescue me.
I still tried not to move for fear I hung halfway somewhere. The feeling was like while waiting at the top of one of those thrill rides where you know you’re going to drop but not when, except worse. I didn’t know if the floor would drop. I didn’t know how far it would drop. I was pretty sure that drop would not be safe.
Eventually, I heard a beep as the beast was called to the main level. Its gears churned with a sound like rushing water, but nothing moved. After a handful of heartbeats, the box jumped, and as my heart hammered faster, the elevator journeyed up the shaft with a series of hops.
It chimed to say it had reached a destination.
Please be a viable exit, I silently pled as the doors peeled back and revealed the workroom where I had clocked in only six minutes before.
Six minutes. Such a short timeframe, but it might as well be forever when you’re expecting any second to drop to your death. Maybe it would sound better as three hundred sixty seconds.