by George Rosas
“Damn it! Again? This can’t be happening.”
The bright red light of the elevator floods the floor, it blinks on and
off, it informs all who glimpse it that its master is out of order.
“What a piece of junk. It breaks down every week I swear.”
For some reason it seems to only break down when I come home. And
always when I arrive home late at night. I move closer to the elevator
door and press its button repeatedly. My eyes wander to a poster by the
elevator button. A young woman, smiling gaily in the picture, looks
back at me. It reads:
HAS ANYONE SEEN ME? IF SOMEONE HAS ANY INFORMATION ON EMMA PLEASE CALL 702 325 8297
She’s beautiful. I wonder if she’s okay and where could she have gone?
A memory surges my brain of a time, not so long ago, when she rode the
elevator down to the lobby with me. I remember her young, and delicate.
She took one pretty finger and tucked a strand of lose hair behind her
ear. She turned towards me and caught me in the act of staring at her.
I looked down, embarrassed and guilty, and heard a giggle from her
I press the elevator button again. The call button that is of no use
tonight. Guess I’ll have to take the long stairs up to my apartment. I
walk to the right side of the hallway. I stop and look up towards the
end of the first set of stairs. For each floor, and there are sixteen
of them, three long stairways wind, like a clock, towards each
apartment floor. I sigh and brace myself for the torment ahead.
As I ascend the first set of winding stairs my phone vibrates through
my pocket. It complains and claims for my attention. I reach for it as
my left foot hits a tread of the stairs.
Did you get home safe? The text across the bright screen reads.
It’s Chris, my boyfriend. I had forgotten to reply to Chris once I
arrived due to the disappointment of seeing the stupid elevator out of
order. It had already been a rough night as Chris and I cannot seem to
stir out of the turbulence our relationship has hit. It’s been weeks
since we’ve enjoyed each other’s company without voicing a fight over
any petty reason our brains can unearth.
Yes babe. I’m fine, my fingers type.
I’m climbing the stairs. Again. My fingers automatically tap the correct keyboard touch keys as my eyes keep straight on the steps ahead of me.
I reach the second floor. I stop and text Chris.
I’m really sorry about tonight and that we’ve been going through this shit.
I sigh and grasp the heavy phone in my left hand. I feel it’s weight on
my hand. I cross the corridor and climb the second group of stairs. I
should have taken Chris’s offer to stay at his place tonight. I could
have tried to make things right with him. We could have talked things
through. Not to mention, it would have saved me the pain of climbing
this cursed edifice. I look up from the ground and see, in black cast
iron, the number three.
I’ve reached the third floor.
Again? When are they going to fix that damn elevator? I read.
The lights flicker on and off on the third floor. For a second, I look
up from my phone screen towards the lights on the ceiling. And it
I’m sorry too. We’ll get through this. I’m going to bed, I’m really tired. Talk to you tomorrow?
The lights flicker once more. This time they remain off longer than
before. Within the dark space of that moment, I hear… rain? Something
feels wrong. I put my phone in my back pocket and pick up my step up
I reach the fourth floor.
Goodnight, sleep tight.
I scroll through a list of never ending emojis, settling in one blowing
a kiss and, with my right thumb, press send. A loud noise echoes from,
what I calculate to be, the first floor. It sounds as if something has
toppled hard against the cold floor. Something heavy and wet. I take
some steps back and look at the flight of stairs I have just climbed.
I’m not sure what I expect to see but imagination has rooted me to the
cold ground. Tunnel vision sets in my view as I stare down into the
well-lit quarter space landing. I can hear my slow breaths in my head
as I wait for something to take shape in front of me. I shake my head
and shake the troubling feeling that is trying to nest between my
bones. I pass the fourth-floor apartments and climb the stairs.
I reach the fifth floor.
I hear the click and the spark of a light turn off in one of the lower
floors. My skin crawls as a discouraging chill settles in the air
around me. I stop moving, I try to catch a sound, but only notes of
silence ring. What the hell is going on down there? I hear another
light break off. The sound comes from a floor closer to mine. The
lights on the fifth floor start to flicker on and off, on and off.
Whoever, or whatever, is making the lights disappear seems to be edging
closer. Darkness creeps closer.
I run across the hallway. I jump two steps at a time up the fifth’s
floor stairway. My heart beats to the hurried, uneven cadence set by my
feet. My home seems so distant, forever away. I take my phone out of my
pocket and text Chris.
Are you up?
I hope for a swift response as I put it back into my left front pocket.
I reach the sixth floor.
Wet, rapid noises, resembling the sound of a fish being smacked against
a plastic chopping board, reverberate from below. With every step and
every breath, the dreaded steps pick up the pace. They chase me up this
tower. Its steps desire to outmatch my own.
I reach the seventh floor.
“Is anyone there!? Hello?! This isn’t funny!” I yell.
The desperation in my soul cracks the sounds emitted by my vocal
chords. My words are lost gasps of air. My cry, a feeblish attempt to
seek any help, any attention, any sign of humanity is met by a gurgled,
cry from the depths of the tower. A horrible, underwater-like cry, that
stifles all logic out of my being. I run. I run, faster. There is no
time to think what made that sound. I must get home. Safety, and reason
will be found inside of my apartment. Home will be my respite from this
nightmare. From the palpable insanity I’m in.
I reach the eight floor.
Another blood-curling cry comes from a floor below me. A floor too
close for comfort. I do not linger around in this floor. Time is
running out, for my escape, from whatever is here, locked in this mad
tower with me. Whatever thing my very essence fiercely rejects exists.
I reach the ninth floor.
I can feel pearls of water cling to my skin and clothes. The tiles are
sleek with the moisture that now seeps the air. My blue denim jeans are
heavier, they’re soaked with water and sweat. Each step taxes my body
more than the last.
I reach the tenth floor.
I run, I climb, I do not despair.
I reach the eleventh floor.
Almost there. I know I can make it; I can feel it. Rationality only a
couple floors above me. The lights flicker off on this floor before I
make it to the next set of stairs. I listen to high water cascade down
from the steps of the stairs I’ve just climbed. I hear tiny aqueducts
guide gushing water through the walls and down the ceiling. I can hear…
it. It’s close behind me. It’s huge. I can hear its inflated body
moving through the floor beneath mine, its limbs caress the wet walls
and splash the drowned steps. Doom encroaches. I am afraid.
I reach the twelfth floor.
There is no light on the twelfth floor. I run between the darkness. I
fumble up the steps in absolute blindness. Each step splashes water on
my shoes and on my edges of my jeans. I feel a million, tiny droplets
drag my body down. Water seems to fall from the sky. I hug the right
wall to not lose my balance or my sense of direction. My lungs struggle
for oxygen, I seem to breathe in precipitation instead of air. I turn
the last corner before the next floor. I miscalculate one of the steps
and slide to ruin. I slam the right side of my hip and of my head on
the steps. I see tiny, white stars bloom in the dark, stars born from
pain. The tiny stars light my way forward. A ring is heard in the dark.
It’s my phone. In a hurry, I take it out of my airtight pocket. Chris’s
name flashes across the now broken screen. I slide a wet finger across
the screen to answer the call. I bring the phone up to my left ear.
“Marco? What’s going on? Are you okay?” Chris says.
The last light in this dark tower fades away. The last drop of sand has
fallen. I cannot answer. The phone is dead. I feel how it slides from
my fingers and onto the floor. I listen to it smack against each step
down as the frigid rapids drag it away. I crawl upwards, off the last
step. Water keeps falling from above. From a ceiling, without an end. I
am left without time.
We reach the thirteenth floor.
© 2019 George Rosas
Bio: George Rosas is a short fiction writer, Business
Administration graduate, retired Marine, travel enthusiast and soccer
fanatic. He currently resides in Panama City, Panama.
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