Authors Note: Hello and welcome to another Short Story Monday! Today is my first day of a new internship I’ve been offered and I am very, very nervous. Using video-chatting as a means of completing work tasks fills me with a lot of anxiety. I will let you know in my next post on Friday, how my first week was. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this new story. See you on Friday!
11 Min Read
As if I were the star of a cheesy movie, I shove my briefcase between the closing doors of the lift. Standing sheepishly in the left corner, is him. He barely meets my eyes as the doors slowly open, allowing me access. I flash him a brilliant smile and feel his masculinity shrivel up like a wilted plant as I take my place beside him. I’m at least two foot taller than him and for a moment, I almost feel sorry for the sad sap.
“Good evening” I say to him while reaching for the buttons “Oh top floor, you must be visiting Mr. Maguire?”
“That’s correct” He says without making eye contact. The entire lift is mirrored, so although I’m not looking at him, he knows I can see him. There’s no escape in here.
“Well good luck with that. I hear he can be a right dick when he’s ready”
“Thanks for the word of warning. You going down?” He says with a little bit of heart this time. He still can’t look at me but I feel him stealing an occasional glimpse. It’s quite amusing actually.
“Yeah, bloody lifts are always buggered. The other lift is out of order and I thought, I might as well catch a ride with someone. You never know who you could run into in a lift” I laugh and relish as the sound bounces off the walls around us. This makes him retreat further into the corner. Naturally, I get a bit closer to his new position within the cramped lift. He wilts further, boosting my ego and my adrenaline. Any second now.
“I’m Henry King by the way” I say, offering him my hand. Finally, our eyes meet and I see they’re full of fear, in fact they’re absolutely brimming with it. I’ll soon get a taste of it. Before he gets a chance to reply, the lift grinds to a halt. `I watch him as panic sets in. He’s furiously pressing the alarm button, desperate for a voice to assure hm everything’s going to be fine. I consider telling him there’s no use. There’s nobody there. But quickly realise, it’ll be much more fun to fuck with him. He doesn’t recognise me the poor bastard. I conceal my smile beneath my hands, recalling all those improv classes his wife made me go to. I thank her silently; she gave me the tools to really have some fun today. God rest her soul.
“It’s not working, the alarm isn’t going off, nobodies replying what do we do?” The frantic prick says. I was half expecting him to grab me like a hysterical woman, but instead he slumps to the floor and begins breathing like a seal; heavy and laboured. It’s so hard not to laugh, he looks so pathetic down there, rocking back and forth like some kind of weirdo.
“What’s your name buddy? Don’t worry I’m sure someone will be back soon. It’s gotta come up on some database somewhere, right?”
“I’m Keith” is all he manages to say.
“Alright Keith, don’t panic. We’ll just hang out here until someone lets us out”
“You don’t understand, I hate lifts and small spaces! The only reason I got in this thing is cos I needed to go to the top floor, that’s 80 floors up; I’d have died by the time I reached it!” He’s shouting now, loud wheezes escape is quivering lips and I’m sure I see fat tears in his eyes. I knew he was afraid of lifts but I didn’t think he would fall apart so quickly. I’m almost ashamed of sharing the same gender as this mess of a man in front of me.
“How about we just talk, take our minds off this and distract each other. You’re not alone in here” I offer my most genuine smile and a brotherly tap on the shoulder. His sharp bones almost slice right through me. This man needs some serious protein.
“Look Keith” what a stupid name, “I’ll start. I’m Henry, I’ve had six wives and I am the head of my own company” I say, testing the waters. He looks up at me, eyes narrowed and questioning. I wonder if he’ll go for the bait.
“Henry King? Do you think I’m an idiot?” Keith scoffs, averting his gaze and finding a small raised piece of linoleum to focus on.
“It’s a long running joke, my friends and family always laugh when I say it. Just wanted to lighten the mood, make you feel better” I say as I turn away and bow my head. That’s what people do when they’re hurt. It works like a charm.
“I’m sorry mate, I’m just freaking out. This is just what I needed. I only came here to get my wife’s’ ring valued. I’ve lost her, my business and now I’m going to die in a fucking lift!”
I almost turn around way too fast with just a tad too much enthusiasm.
“Oh really, that sounds rough. Really fucking rough. I kind of know how you feel, I’ve actually lost someone recently too” I pause and study his expression. A brightness that wasn’t there before peaks through the tears. It’s calling me. Telling me to stifle it; to snuff it like a candle that’s burned for too long.
“It wasn’t anything like losing a wife, but she was…she was something” I add, my head still bowed towards the frightening yellow flooring with the garish green pattern. I’m not sure how long to keep the hurt puppy act up for, but then he says her name.
“Tasmin. That’s my wife. Was my wife? I don’t know what to call her anymore”
“That’s a bit strange. My girlfriend, her name was Tasmin too. Small world isn’t it?”
Suddenly, the atmosphere shifts and the silence highlights a sort of intensity that gives me strength. I breathe it in. Has he finally caught on?
“Yeah that is strange actually, it’s not a very common name” he replies, staring at me. I can see his reflection in the mirror, but I refuse to meet his gaze. Not yet anyway. I might give it away too soon.
“My Tasmin was murdered. I only found out when I saw the news one morning. I hadn’t heard from her in a few days which wasn’t like her. Even when her husband was around” Keith is no longer staring at me. He’s searching his memory, like when you’ve lost your keys and you’re late for work. He’s rummaging through all the shitty moments of his life. Searching for a clue. Searching for any trace of me.
“My wife, she was murdered too… How…How did your Tasmin, how did she, how…”
“Someone took her and beat her. Apparently, they found her tied up in a hotel, like it was bondage gone wrong or something” I say as I finally turn towards him. Our height difference has never been so obvious. Keith is shaking now, I can finally taste the fear, the hatred and the rage. Come on mate, you can do it. Does he need me to spell it out for him?
“You were…No this can’t be right; this just isn’t possible. You…” And finally, the penny fucking drops.
“Oh my God, you are the worst! How long did that take you? Don’t you recognise me?” I say with a full-bellied laugh while walking slowly around his trembling little body. I could snap him in half if I wanted to, or blow him away with one puff.
“But they said you had an alibi and that you weren’t even in the city when she was killed? How is…How is that even possible?” The wobble in his voice almost sends me over the edge and once I start laughing it’s hard to stop.
“It’s a little thing called, intelligence. It’s a little thing called, planning, preparation and being good at what you do. Not that you’d know what that’s like, you couldn’t even protect your wife”
I pause to breathe in his terror. It’s a close second to the smell of their fear when they realise their life is about to end. I position myself next to his face, the tears have since erupted and glisten in the lift’s yellow light.
“Don’t worry mate, you’re not my type” I move closer still, “I just thought you should know what really happened to you wife.”
Right on cue, the lift powers on and we are once again on the move. Silence dominates the space, until the doors finally open and I walk out without looking back. He’s stays motionless within the lift, blissfully unaware that it might as well be his casket. The idiot didn’t even see the sign that says the building has been cleared for demolition. Maybe I should have mention it a minute ago? Oh well.
If you liked this story, or have any feedback, please let me know in the comments! Also, check out my previous flash fiction piece here. The Pillow follows a distraught man who fears his family no longer needs him.