Ioannes Oculus

The lift – a short story

A responsible, mature person should fulfil their daily chores, should have a decent job and not think too much about what others would say. The world is full of possibilities and anxiousness is not part of a normal life. This said, I can firmly say that people see me as mature and responsible. Or at least I could. I never let anybody down. I am (or was) a down to earth person who is always reliable and trustworthy. Not that the public me and what was really happening in my head were consistent, but until recently all my emotions were buried deep under the reason and I was trying to please others. I still don’t know if this story really happened or if it was just a phantom, a nightmare caused by overworking.

Recently I had to move to an old tenement and I considered this fact a very unfortunate situation. I had had to leave my previous flat and nothing else was available at that time. I prefer modern buildings as I feel there more comfortable and independent. The older ones seem to have a soul and it makes me feel uneasy.

To make things worse, in this pre-war construction there was something that made my flesh crawl. An old wooden coffin-like lift with a light inside so dim that you could hardly see the label stating the year when it was built – 1938. To make the interior more oppressive, the walls and the ceiling were panelled with wenge, a dark and exotic type of wood. The machine itself wasn’t operational for years but it has been recently repaired. Despite its overwhelming appearance, it was at least useful. Living on the fifth floor would make walking the stairs unbearable.

That fateful day I was going to work when the lift stuck on the 3rd floor. I called the emergency number and they asked me to wait for them to come. After some time, I texted my manager that I’d be late. The guy who should come to let me out of the trap I got into called me back after 20 minutes and said he was caught in huge traffic. He told me how to open the doors from inside.

‘What floor are you on?’ he enquired after the instructions.

‘Third’ I replied.

‘I’m sorry, you won’t make it. The doors are stuck there and won’t open’ and asked me to wait for him. I didn’t want that, I needed to get to work. I decided to give it a try and open the door. To my surprise, it opened easily. I crawled out of the lift and rushed.

I had my car repaired so I had no choice but to call Uber. When I reached for my phone, I found out that I had neither the Internet nor any mobile coverage.

With no Uber, no car I ran to a tram stop. I was already late. I sprinted as fast as I could. I saw my tram coming. I didn’t care if I knocked some people on my way. All I had in my mind were emails waiting for me, projects and important meetings. I was snowed under so many tasks that every minute was precious.

It wasn’t until I sat in the tram that I could catch my breath. I must have looked really awkward or funny as all the passengers were looking at me. Or better said staring. They gaped at me all the time and I became uneasy. ‘Have I done something wrong?’ I thought to myself. ‘Have I knocked an old lady or did anything else which is socially unacceptable?’ But nothing specific came to mind. At the next stop, more people came into the tram. ‘It must be something in how I look. They all stare at me, the newcomers too’. The new passengers didn’t take the free places, they gathered near my seat and stared, and gaped, and, what seems impossible, they didn’t blink. If only they had laughed, shouted or had been angry at me, but they all stood there in silence with their blinkless eyes and emotionless faces fixed at me.

At the next stop, even more people got in. ‘What the hell is wrong with those people?’ I thought. There was already a small crowd around me now. I decided to get out at the nearest stop. The situation was getting weird. But they didn’t let me out! I stood up and tried to make my way to the door. ‘Excuse me’, but no one moved. Their faces changed and a trace of distress or anger could be seen. It disappeared the moment the door closed and the vehicle moved forward. No word was uttered but the tension started growing. ‘How should I get out?’ The situation repeated at the next stop and I was really worried. ‘What is going on? How am I going to get out?’ I should get off at the next stop because it was the one nearest my office. I prepared to fight my way out and knock them off if necessary. But to my surprise, this time the only emotionless faces remained emotionless and let me out! What a surprise it was! I thought I was free but the crowd followed me. Once glance behind and I saw an empty tram leaving.

I walked in the direction of my office. People were surrounding me. When I walked faster to get ahead of them, they sped up too. Whenever I tried to get out, a murmur rose and their faces became uneasy. ‘Reach the office, block the door behind me, get rid of them’ were my only thoughts. I walked faster and faster, sprinted the last few meters. The murmur became louder. I didn’t look at the faces.

I pressed the handle. Nothing. The door wouldn’t open. No signs of anyone inside to help me get in. The crowd was trotting towards me. Their faces were angry. They were shouting! Fear and adrenalin bust made me run. They followed. Behind the office, I got into a small street. They were still after me. Home, I might be safe there. Faster. ‘What the fuck?!’ in my head. ‘What do they want?’ And run, run faster. The mob was after me. Just a few meters behind. Salty taste on my lips. I was sweating. Hardly catching my breath. Still running. The mass, ‘Do they want to hurt me? Kill me? ‘The moment this thought came to me I nearly stopped in astonishment. A huge mistake. They got nearer. Run! My legs sore. But I had to be faster. It started raining. Puddle, fall, up to my feet. It hurts. Go, run, faster. Angry noises behind me. Streets, buildings, trees, lamps, all became blurred. Home. Go home. A bloodthirsty mob behind me. I was slowing down. ‘No!’ I cried. Just one more block, just a few meters. The rabble breathing down my neck. Doors. Key! Where’s the key?! Got it. Slammed the door in someone’s face. A broken nose? I was panting. Through the glass door, I saw people like animals, like predators chasing their victim. The glass started to break, doors to crack. Stairs and climbing up. After the deadly race, each step was like a mountain. I couldn’t catch a breath. The second floor and I heard the glass cracking. They were after me. Where to hide? Third floor. The lift and open doors. I managed to crawl into it and close the doors from inside. A few seconds later I heard the noise of a stampeding herd. They ran by. I was safe. The next second I heard the text message coming. My boss, ‘Where are you?’. Next message. The lift specialist. ‘I’d be there in five minutes’. I was safe. I was back in my world.

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