Cynthia came out of her townhouse to find that her car was being towed up the street. A couple of phone calls, and she found that her ex hadn’t made the car payment in the last four months. She would have to take a cab into the city. How can a man do everything wrong? He hasn’t missed a beat.
She called the cab, which arrived almost 20 minutes later. No time to stop for coffee; she’d have to go straight to her meeting. She wanted her coffee this morning.
By the time Cynthia arrived in the city, she was in a cross mood. Frowning, she splashed through a large puddle that the rain had formed on the sidewalk. She had gotten out of the filthiest cab in New York, and now was about to see the dirtiest lawyer in the city.
The Tower was a nondescript glass high-rise, like all the others in the area. She paused for a moment, shaking the water from her umbrella, then walked up to the desk. Cynthia asked the clerk for directions to the elevator that would take her to Mr. Bennett’s office. She cursed under her breath when the clerk responded that his office was on the 63rd floor.
Cynthia hated elevators. She was sure she had suffered from claustrophobia since before her birth. Every inch of her wanted to turn to the door and leave. But the divorce papers had to be signed. Her marriage was long dead and the final nail in the coffin had to be driven home.
Mr. Bennett was acquired by her ex-husband. She had never met the man, and she already hated him. Oswald Bennett was such an aloof, arrogant man on the phone. Cynthia and her ex were at the top of the so-called middle class. Mr. Bennett had made it clear he was far above them in the class food chain.
Walking briskly, eager to get it over with, she headed down the long hall that led to the primary elevator system of the building. Cynthia dreaded the long elevator ride to his floor. She straightened the hem of her skirt and ran her fingers through her hair. Not much reason to care what I look like, but still, I don’t want this man treating me like a bag lady. She reached out and pressed the call button that would bring the elevator to the main floor.
Cynthia expected a bell tone when the elevator car landed on her floor. Instead, she heard a vocal message, “Welcome to The Tower. We are happy to receive you.”
This entire building must be an extension of Mr. Bennett’s aloof personality. She frowned as the doors of the elevator slid open. Cynthia had paid no attention to the surroundings within the building. She noticed the décor of the elevator. A deep red carpet covered the floor, and the walls were a carved dark wood. The dim, recessed lights did nothing to ease her nerves as she stepped inside.
Alone in the elevator, she felt her breath quickening and the palms of her hands began to sweat. This is so not where I want to be. She pressed the button numbered 63.
As the car rose up the elevator shaft, Cynthia felt agitation growing within her. This is a pretty modern building. Why is this elevator so slow? She looked at the panel above the doors that easily could have been the panel of an aircraft controller. It had so many lighted circles. Number 4 lit up and then it dimmed as number 5 lit. She was sure this was going to be a long ride. She leaned against the back wall of the elevator and closed her eyes, trying to get her breathing to smooth out.
When Cynthia opened her eyes, she saw the number 13 was lit. That’s odd. I thought high-rise buildings didn’t have 13th floors. She took a deep breath.
When the elevator stopped at the 22nd floor, the doors slid open. Two young men got into the elevator, showing no sign that they noticed her at all. They droned on about a client who was difficult to work with. It seemed to Cynthia that neither of them took a breath between words. She felt relief when they got off the elevator on the 28th floor.
The elevator car passed the 30th floor. Cynthia noticed a rattling sound and felt the slight shaking of the car. I’ve got 33 more floors to go. Will this thing make it?
The car continued to rattle and shake as it passed the 40th floor. Cynthia looked around the elevator, hoping to take her mind off the sound and the shaking. She looked again at the lighted panel above the doors, then at the numbered buttons on the wall. Above the buttons, there was a little door that had a small brass knob for a handle. She reached out and opened the door to find a courtesy phone within. In this age of cell phones, why did the elevator have this?
Pretty much everyone has a cell phone. Her fingers shook a little as she reached into her purse to retrieve her own phone. Cynthia blinked twice and focused on the dreaded message on her screen: No Signal.
Cynthia would have guessed it took an hour, but the elevator car finally reached the 63rd floor. As the doors slid open, she expected to see a hallway with many offices. Instead, she stepped out of the elevator into a large waiting room within a suite. Wow, is this guy’s office the entire floor?
Looking around the room, Cynthia saw a young woman sitting at a large desk made of some exotic wood. The young woman surely freelanced as a model; she was far too perfect of features. Cynthia disliked her on sight. She told the young woman who she was, and that she had an appointment with Mr. Bennett. She was told to sit and wait.
“Mr. Bennett will see you now.” The young woman announced. Though Cynthia had arrived 10 minutes early, she had waited for an hour. Even before meeting, this jerk wants to put me in my place. Cynthia frowned, getting up to walk toward the double doors the young lady had pointed to.
Cynthia pushed one of the doors open and stepped into Oswald Bennett’s office. It was a huge, opulent space, complete with floor to ceiling glass wall. Two tall statues of nude women stood on either side of his massive desk.
Mr. Bennett sat behind his desk. He didn’t look up as she approached his desk. He didn’t stand and didn’t offer her a seat. Making a show of looking at his watch, he pointed to a small stack of papers on his desk. The papers were at the far front edge of the desk, as far away from him as possible. There was a pen sitting atop the papers. The first page on top had a little red plastic tag on the lower third of the page.
Without looking up, Mr. Bennett said, “Sign on the line labeled second party.” Cynthia looked at the page, spotted the line he had referred to, and frowned. “You want me to sign this divorce agreement unseen?”
“Ms. Carver, as of today, thank you.”
“Whatever.” He looked up, showing his disdain for her. “Ms. Carver, it is a cut and dry 50/50 division of assets. There is no need to waste my time reading through something so rudimentary.”
“I provided eighty percent of the income in our marriage. Why should it be a 50/50 division?” Cynthia gritted her teeth. I’ve about had enough of this pompous ass.
“The servants in my manor earn more than your combined income. This matter is really not worth my time. And I do charge by the hour, Ms. Carver. Just sign the document and leave.”
Oh, I have had enough of this shit! Cynthia shoved the papers across the desk toward Mr. Bennett. “You can go to hell! And tell my bastard ex I will see him in court!”
Cynthia turned and stormed out of the office. She gave the smug young lady at the desk a scornful stare, then continued on to the elevator.
Standing in front of the elevator, she saw a door not far away that had the label “Stairs.” She was angry, but she hesitated, looking back at the elevator. I’m on the 63rd floor. That crappy box could send me plummeting to my death. She looked at the door labeled “Stairs” again.
Could this day get any worse? She knew she couldn’t walk down sixty-three floors in heels. Thinking of buying a gun for the next time she saw her ex, she pushed the down button on the panel next to the elevator.
When the elevator doors slid open, Cynthia stepped inside. The car seemed smaller than it had on the way up. She turned and pressed the button for the lobby and the doors slid shut.
The elevator descended, rattling and shaking considerably. Why is this elevator so crappy? She tried to calm her breathing. She was feeling her claustrophobia, her palms already sweaty. Cynthia realized her heartbeat had accelerated quite a bit. I hope no one gets on. I want to get to the lobby and get out of here.
As the elevator passed the 20th floor, Cynthia took a deep breath and released it slowly. Two-thirds of the way down. Thank God this ordeal will soon be over. She took her cell phone from her purse. She hoped to distract herself with some mindless social media. No Service. She had forgotten that the phone couldn’t receive a signal from the elevator.
She heard a loud screech. What the hell is that? It was like the sound of scratching a chalkboard, but metallic and much louder. Leaning back against the back wall of the car, she looked up at the ceiling. Black tile and the recessed lights were all to be seen. Neither did anything to ease her nerves.
The elevator shook hard as the loud screech came again. The lights flickered. Cynthia panted. Oh damn, is this thing breaking? Is it going to fall? Her eyes widened as she looked around the car. The lights, flickering, seemed like a strobe light. Her white-knuckled hands gripped the handrail.
When the lights went out completely, Cynthia screamed. She heard her scream echo throughout the elevator shaft. Now engulfed in fear, she tried to regain control of her breathing as her heart pounded in her chest.
She looked up at the lighted panel above the doors. The elevator had stopped at the 13th floor, but the doors hadn’t opened. The small round number indicator on the panel was too dim to light the elevator. It was completely dark in the car.
Cynthia froze, terrified. Sweat ran from her temples. There was a drip of blood on her bottom lip where she had bitten it. Her heart was beating at what had to be full speed. She stared into the darkness. She had no idea what to do.
A scream welled from her throat, “Help Me!”
The following scream, not her own, was louder than hers. It seemed to come from far away, but filled the elevator car. Cynthia’s breath caught in her throat. Her mind tried to contemplate what she heard. But it was distracted by the feeling of fingertips at her lower back. Cynthia screamed and jumped away from the wall. She turned to see nothing behind her. She put her back to a side wall of the car.
The fingers crawled up her back. Cynthia jerked and screamed. Moving to the other side of the car, she yelled, “What the hell is going on? Is someone in here with me?”
She felt a breath over her left shoulder, landing on her neck below her ear. A whisper came with the breath. “Yes.”
Cynthia flailed her arms and turned around, trying to shake off the feeling of being touched. When the fingertips reached past her shoulder to her neck, she screamed all the air from her lungs. She fell to the floor. Sitting with her arms around her knees, she pressed her back to the wall.
As the fingers of an unseen hand caressed her neck, Cynthia felt fingertips on each of her ankles. She jumped to her feet, remembering the courtesy phone. Gasping, she rubbed her hands along the wall, hoping to find the small brass knob on the door that covered the phone. Her mind jumped in sporadic directions, not able to focus clearly on a thought. She wasn’t aware that she was pulling strands of hair from her head.
Finding the knob, she opened the door and retrieved the phone. She put the receiver to her ear, hearing a dial tone for a moment, then a click. The voice that came over the phone was deep, low, much like a growl. “Welcome to the Tower. We regret to inform you that there is no help for you. No rescue. You must accept your fate.”
“What? Who is this? I’m stuck in the elevator on the 13th floor. Send someone! Get me out of here now!”
The only response she got back was a long, gasping laughter.
She dropped the phone receiver.
The fingers stopped, as if the hands they belonged to just disappeared. Cynthia sighed, God, get me out of this elevator.
The elevator car dropped. Cynthia felt the floor fall away from her feet. She screamed in terror. The elevator had fallen only a few feet, but Cynthia landed with such force that she fell to her hands and knees. She rolled onto her back, unaware of the handfuls of hair in each of her sweaty palms.
She felt the fingertips again. They moved down her forearms to her wrists. She felt them wrap around her wrist; she felt the palms, realizing they were hands. The hands slammed her wrists to the floor. The force was such that her arms ached in pain. Cynthia writhed her body, kicked her legs, but her arms were held firmly to the floor. She felt hands grasp her ankles. The heels of her feet slammed against the floor. Screaming, she turned her head from side to side.
“Let me go! Who are you? What are you?” She screamed, feeling the raw pain in her throat, her vocal cords strained to their full tolerance. Soon, she would be too hoarse to scream.
Cynthia’s eyes flooded with tears as two hands held her face still. Am I feeling this or imagining it? Have I gone crazy? She could no longer move her head.
Her heart pounding in her chest, tears pouring from her eyes, Cynthia felt hot breath on her face. She struggled against the hands that held her but couldn’t break free. She felt lips press against hers. The lips of the unseen face were hot, burning the flesh of her lips. She screamed in pain. It was the last effort of her voice. Hoarse croaking sounds were all she could make now.
Hands on her hips, stomach, and chest joined those on her wrists and ankles, restraining her. She could no longer scream, she couldn’t move, as the burning lips moved from her mouth to her neck. The hands holding her face turned her head and lifted her chin as the skin of her neck burned.
Cynthia felt completely defeated, trapped. She allowed her mind to take her away from the cruel dark of the elevator. Squeezing her eyes shut, she visualized the ocean, a beach, a cool breeze. Her body was now out of her control, but her mind could take her away. The hands were all over her body, each one squeezing, pinching, or scratching her. She didn’t feel any of it; she felt the breeze and the warmth of the sun.
All the hands at once squeezed her. The pressure on her chest was immense. She could only take quick, shallow breaths. The mind’s effort at self-preservation that had taken her to the beach, brought her back to the elevator car. She must breathe.
Cynthia opened her eyes, seeing only darkness. Her neck and chest had many burns from the lips that kissed her while her mind was on the beach. So many hands. They were on every part of her, holding, squeezing, and pinching her.
For no reason that Cynthia could understand, all the hands at once stopped. They held her for a moment more, and then they were gone.
Cynthia felt the floor fall away from her feet again. This time more than a few feet. She wanted to scream; she tried to scream. Her vocal cords, now useless, whimpered a croaking sound.
Her body hung in the air, seemingly floating as the elevator car plummeted downward. It raced past floor after floor, then past the lobby, the basement, the sub-basement. A horrid crash, then Cynthia’s floating ride came to its end.
Sitting on the floor, her back to the rear wall of the car, Cynthia gaped into the darkness. All she could see was a silhouette form on the floor in front of her. It was barely discernible from the darkness.
Her breathing was smooth now. No more tears came to her eyes. She sat there with her arms folded on her knees. Was the form laying in front of her real or a figment of her imagination? It was so dark in the car that she couldn’t be sure.
She leaned forward, placing her hands on the floor. Cynthia felt the warm sticky liquid that was soaking the carpet, her mind unable to guess what it was. She rubbed her hands on her skirt and legs, trying to clean the liquid off. The liquid, smeared on her legs, felt as unnerving as the hands had felt a brief time ago. She rubbed her arm across her forehead, wiping at the sweat that wasn’t there.
Cynthia leaned forward again, reaching out to the form on the floor. Her hand rubbed against skin, the smooth skin of a recently shaved leg. Uneven lumps and in spots, sharp hard protrusions rose from the skin. As her hand moved up the leg, her fingertips came to what must have been the hem of a skirt. The elevator doors slowly opened.
A pale gray light flooded the elevator. Cynthia looked down to see that her hand did rest on the hem of a skirt, her skirt worn by her body.
What she was thinking at this moment, she, or no one else, would ever know. Cynthia heard the deep, low voice, which sounded much like a growl, “Welcome to the Tower. We’ve been awaiting your arrival.” The welcome was followed by a long gasping laughter.