What happens when you get stuck in a lift with a stranger? Do you silently panic, do you panic together, or strike up a conversation about every day things?
The assignment for round 3 was:
Scene: Two strangers are stuck in a lift for two hours
Write a story with a minimum of 50% dialogue
Just like there are many people afraid of public speaking, many people are afraid of being stuck in a lift. Claustrophobia is just that – a phobia. Being stuck alone might be horrible, but it might be equally upsetting being stuck with a stranger. Do you keep quiet? Do you talk? Can you show your panic? Do you stand? Do you sit down? What if you need to go to the bathroom real bad? Our writers had to come up with answers for these and other dilemmas while their characters were stuck in that lift.
Readers, what should you do now?
The writers are free to interpret the assignment in their own way.
Read all the entries, and vote for the stories you like the best. Try to keep the assignment in mind when you make your choices. You have to choose three entries, no less, no more.
The survey is at the bottom of the page after the last story. Don’t’ forget to click the ‘Finish Survey’ button when you’ve made your choices!
We would love if you can leave the writers some feedback in the comments section below.
- Writers are not allowed to tell anyone which entry they have written!
- You can only vote once. Votes will be monitored and double votes will be removed.
- The voting round closes on Tuesday 5 July 2022 at 23.45 GMT (see the countdown in the sidebar).
- Results of the voting round will be published on this site on 9 July 2022 and then the author of each story will be revealed.
The Entries: Stuck in a Lift Stories!
All stories have already been sent to the jury, and they will rate each with a point between 1-10. Below, you – the public – can read the stories, and vote on the three you like best. The points the writers accumulate in this public voting round will be ‘translated’ to a point between 1-10, and added to the jury point to get the final result of this round.
Below are 24 stories for round 3, about two strangers being stuck in a lift, and the dialogue that happened between them – read them and vote!
A few people will get knocked out this round, so your vote is very important.
1. Tell me a Story
“Well, it looks like we’re going to be a while,” the forty-something man said as he hung up the emergency phone in the elevator.
“What did they say?” The professional woman was anxious.
“They said the power won’t be on for another couple of hours, so we’ll have to wait it out.”
“Great. I had clients to see,” she moaned.
“Great, indeed. I had a very important project to work on. There’s no cell signal in here, either.”
She smiled dryly and looked at him for the first time. “Oh well. We’re stuck here together. We might as well get friendly.” She looked him up and down in his grey, tailored business suit. “Tell me a story. What do you do for work? What is this project you are working on?”
“The truth is that I’m a writer. I have an important story to write.”
“Ooh, a writer! I love writers. You don’t look like a writer, though. You look like a businessman.”
“Looks can be deceiving. Most writers don’t make a ton of money, so I have to do this stupid corporate gig to pay the bills.”
“Ah, I see. So, what is this story you need to work on? Maybe I can help you.” She smiled playfully.
Even in the dim emergency light he was suddenly aware of how attractive this woman was. Flirty, successful, powerful. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what this story is about.”
“Lay it on me, Mr. Business man.”
“The story is for a writing contest. In the irony of ironies, the story is to be about a conversation between two people stuck in an elevator together.”
She thought for a minute, looking him over again. “You are right. I don’t believe you!”
“It’s true. And I have been dragging my feet for two weeks but haven’t come up with any good ideas.”
“Wow. So, then, what do we talk about? We can make your story happen right here.”
“Hmmm. Well, you know all men have a fantasy about getting stuck in an elevator with a gorgeous woman.”
“Do they? I’ve heard the one about people always hoping to be seated next to a hottie on a plane.”
“It’s true. And here I am stuck in this elevator with you, and I’m at a loss.”
“Well,” she responded, “let me give you something good for your story.”
“I’ll take all the help I can get.”
“Okay, then. What if I told you that I was a professional, high-end escort? I come to this building every day and entertain the gentlemen on the 44th floor.”
“Well, you know what I mean. Sometimes I’m just eye-candy for meetings, other times they need more…attention.”
“Well, you are definitely eye-candy material.”
“Are you flirting with me, Mr. fancy business/writer man?”
“What if I am? You cannot get to your ‘clients’ upstairs, so you may as well flirt with me.”
“Oh, I’d like to do a lot more than flirt with you, but I know these security cameras are on emergency power.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Because I’ve spent some quality time with the facilities director.”
“Of course. Tell me something else I don’t know, Ms. Escort for the suits?”
“I’m not wearing any panties.”
“Ahem. You know I’m writing this as my story, right?”
“I hoped you would. Make sure you add that I made you bend me over and rail me from behind. That’ll make for a good story.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
2. I Spy
“No, no. We had mirror seven rounds ago. This one is new, keep trying.”
Keep trying? What on earth did he think I was doing? I was trying to keep control of my bladder but after two hours, seven minutes and… thirty-nine seconds… Anything else was a struggle.
“Look around us, I’ve picked apart our little tin can. There really aren’t anymore ‘M’s. Mirror, mouldy apple, marks on the wall, Macdonald’s wrapper. Just tell me, please,” I begged.
“OK then, I’ll tell you.” His grin lit up his face, “it’s Me.”
“But that’s not even… Urgh. This is pointless!”
“Alright, sorry. That was unfair. Let’s try another one.” He glanced down and then back up meeting my harsh gaze, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with P.”
“Do you know what rhymes with Me?” I spoke, not listening to him anymore.
“Are we playing the game?”
“Pee. That’s what rhymes with me.”
His focus searing my cheeks to a blush, “That’s right, pee.”
That caught my attention. “What? You can see pee?”
“I’m afraid so, your jeans…” I followed his eyeline, sure enough there was a small dark blue mark on my gusset. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to look but it caught my eye and… I thought you’d like to know”
Two hours, sixteen minutes, and seven seconds…
I’d been bursting when I stepped through the doors. The six-storey lift ride should have meant I’d relieve myself within five minutes. But no, the damned tin-can had ground to a halt, stranding me with just my bladder for company. Well, my bladder and some guy I’d never met before. “I moved in last week,” he’d shared, “I’d no idea these lifts were so unreliable. This is my third extended ride home. Terrific way to get to know my neighbours though, eh?” With that he winked “I’m Steve.”
The maintenance team soon arrived. The noises they created deafening in our little metal prison. Hammering at the doors, electric drill screeching. “Sorry guys, you’re stuck between floors, the control panel has burnt out. We can’t get in without a specialist electrician, he’s over an hour away.”
“There’s only one thing for it,” he’d smirked. “Let’s play a game of I spy.”
I’d looked around, noting a distinct lack of options. “That should keep us entertained for all of five minutes” I shot Steve a withering glare, thoughts already on the pressure building in my lower belly.
“How you distracted me for over two hours I’ll never know, but here we were, staring at my darkening crotch.”
“I can help with that.”
“Excuse me? We’re stuck in a lift. Unless you can magic up a toilet, I don’t see what you can do.”
“Close your eyes, let’s try some magic.” Shutting them I waited. “Ta-dah! Right, open them. Your throne awaits.”
There he was, lying on the lift floor, grinning mouth wide open. “Climb on.”
“Never in my life have I been offered this,” eyes wide, mesmerised, “but never in my life have I been so close to…”
Sliding my jeans down I squatted over him “Eeeek, sorry.” The first trickle splashed his chin before he clamped his lips over my urethra. “This isn’t your first time, is it?” I wasn’t sure how he was keeping up with the endless stream.
Mid flow there was a noise above, a face appeared at the widening crack.
“I couldn’t wait,” I flushed.
The face looked unsurprised. “You again Steve? Is this your doing? It’s one way to meet the neighbours, I guess?”
3. The Connoisseur
“Monsieur, l’ascenseur monte au dernier étage; vous serez peut-être plus rapide à prendre les escaliers.”
“Thank you, my dear. I am in no hurry; a minute to ride with you to the fifth and a minute to descend again makes no difference to me.”
“As you wish. But right now we seem to be going neither up nor down. You knew I was English? Are you sure you properly closed both gates?”
“Do not worry, these old Parisian elevators are… what is that word… idiosyncratic? It will move when it decides the time is right. No, your accent is very good; I could tell from the way you are dressed that you are not French.”
“Now I am intrigued. You’re an expert in the way women dress?”
“I would not say an ‘expert’; a connoisseur, perhaps.”
“Or, perhaps, a stereotype would be more accurate?”
“The 50-year-old Frenchman who flirts with a young English woman by mentally undressing her and dressing her again, like a doll, to his own satisfaction? Are you quite sure this thing is working?”
“You must forgive me; I am what am. If I were to undress you, mentally, I would be very happy to dress you again in that same dress, but I would take it in, just a little, at the bust, lower the waistline by two centimetres and raise the hemline by four centimetres.”
“OK, I admit that I’m impressed; I had similar thoughts when I bought it. You work in fashion, obviously.”
“In a way; I did, a long time ago.”
“I’m sorry, I think I’m going to have to give up on your idiosyncratic lift – I shall be late for my appointment. Can you open this damned thing?”
“Let me try. You have an appointment with Madam Cottard? No, it seems to be jammed; it happens.”
“There must be an alarm button.”
“It hasn’t worked since the war.”
“Oh, for goodness sake! Hello! Is there anyone there? We need help!”
“My dear, calm down. The concierge went off duty 15 minutes ago, Madam Cottard is the last remaining resident in this condemned building and she is very hard of hearing.”
“And you. You live on this floor; I saw you lock your door.”
“So you did. Madam Cottard doesn’t get many visitors these days.”
“I’m writing an article about her father, Paul Cottard, the photographer. I presume you know he lived, and died, in this building? Oh, I don’t believe this – no phone signal!”
“So I believe. The famous photographer of whom not a single photograph exists.”
“Not quite; Madam Cottard herself possesses one picture of her father. She will not allow it to be reproduced but she has promised to let me see it. If I don’t die in this blasted lift, that is.”
“You will not die.”
“I… Why are you staring at me that way?”
“Only because you are beautiful.”
“What’s happening here?”
“What would you like to happen here?”
“I… I’ve no idea why, but I’d really like you to kiss me…”
“Then I shall kiss you…”
“Where am I? Who are you?”
“Don’t be alarmed, Miss Clayton. I am Madam Cottard. It seems that the lift got stuck and you fainted. I’m not surprised; you must have been in there for two hours!”
“And the man who was with me… where is he?”
“There was no one with you, my dear.”
“The man who lives on the first floor.”
“No one lives on the first floor. I assure you, you were entirely alone.”
“Madam Cottard, may I see that picture of your father now, please.”
4. Love and Justice
The tv went dark, and the crowd slid from their benches, shuffled out of the room. No smiles peaked from pale faces, none spoke above a whisper.
One woman remained. She held her mouth tight, stains of crimson on her cheeks. Her gray eyes hinted at storms. Outside, thunder rumbled, echoing her mood. Anger and tears kept close, she stormed from the courtroom, barged into an elevator as the door closed.
Scents of whiskey and stale cigarettes filled the small space. A lone man turned his bleary gaze towards her.
His gravel voice and red-rimmed eyes told tales of a broken man.
“Ground floor, to the exit,” she said. The woman patted her tight gray curls, thoughts skittering back to the day’s macabre events.
Another rattle of thunder and the power surged. The elevator shuttered, sending its occupants stumbling. For a blink, darkness reigned before emergency lights flicked on.
“Are you okay?” He extended a clumsy hand.
“Yes, yes.” She knocked his hand away. “I don’t like this, though. Do you have a phone on you? I didn’t bring mine today, not the place for it, and it doesn’t grow out of my ear like these young people.”
The man drew a flask from his jacket. Took a quick draught of amber liquid.
“Care for a pull? Here, take it. I bet the storm knocked the power out. Big brakes on these things, nothing to worry about. I’ll call and let the building know we’re in here, number should be… There! Read it out to me while I dial, will you?”
The woman sipped from the bottle while he called, relishing the warmth.
Authorities alerted, he retrieved his drink.
“Name’s John. I see you needed that drink as much as me. Were you at the…”
His voice cracked and continued.
“Ah, operator says power is out all over town. Should be up in 2 hours max. Till then, we hold tight. Guess I better take it easy on this. No bathrooms, eh? But today was rough. Watching that man die, it… I thought, well, I just thought it would be different, you know.”
The woman breathed deep, an attempt at balance.
“Soon? What does that mean? I can’t stay here. Not today, not after… Rough? You don’t know rough. Those barbarians, they murdered my baby and now this?”
Her tone peaked, a teakettle at boil.
“Your baby?” John’s bloodshot eyes narrowed.
She carried on.
“He was such a good boy, but they don’t see that. The media don’t care. Do you know he used to free ants from traps? He couldn’t bear to see them die. It would break my heart. I can’t believe this is the nation we live in! Death penalty, pah! Kill my son on the word of that slut, just a drugged-up whore who baited him until she got what she deserved.”
John fished something from his pocket.
“What’s that you got there, not a cigar, I hope?” she said.
“Needle. I’m diabetic. The booze isn’t great for me.” He croaked.
“You sound rough. Are you crying? I’ll take that drink. Thank you!”
Eyes closed, head tilted to drink, pain erupted in the woman’s buttock. His voice rasped in her ear.
“That whore was my sister, and your son a monster. Don’t worry, you’ll meet your spawn soon enough. Insulin is pumping into your muscle, and no help can come. You see how it feels, what your baby did to her?”
John watched until her breath grew shallow. He dialed the phone.
“Damn old lady had a heart attack. I think it’s too late.”
5. One Elongated Ride Up
“First time riding?” Xii heard a woman’s voice ask from behind him.
Turning around, he was met with an inquisitive face as he replied, “Yeah, um, how’d you know?”
“Cause you’re still looking out the window.”
“Are you for real? You’re telling me people get used to seeing the planet shrink away under them?” Xii shook his head as he looked back at the horizon, where the curvature of the Earth was visible against the blackness of space.
“Something like that. You travel to space and back enough times, and everything becomes just a chain of waiting rooms. Doesn’t really matter what the backdrop is.”
“Do you work here on the space lift, then?” Without taking his gaze from the viewing port, Xii asked over his shoulder.
“Not quite. I work for the International Space Transportation Superstructure Administration, and my job has me hop between the planet and the moon a lot. So I consider this more like my weekly commute.”
“Sounds like a long commute.”
“At 290 kilometers per hour, it ain’t too bad.” The woman stepped beside Xii before pointing out the window. “Check it! We’re passing the International Space Station now.”
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day…”
The two stood in silence for a spell until the space station was considerably below them.
“I’m Matthue, by the way. Non-biblical spelling.” The talkative rider stuck out her fist towards Xii.
“Oh, I’m- you can just call me Xii. Like the Greek letter but with two i’s.” Fumbling for a moment, Xii accepted the friendly gesture.
“Okay, Xii with two eyes. Nice to meet ya,” Matthue winked as their fists bumped. “So what brings you to this side of the atmosphere? Work? Pleasure? Pleasure work?”
“Uh, actually, family matters. Off planet. Mars, uh, actually.”
“Oh? Hope everything is alright…” Matthue shifted from one foot to the other.
“Everything’s fine! I mean, dad’s dead, but-“
“Oh, my god! I’m so sorry! I-“
“No, no! Don’t be. My bio dad was a bastard.” Trying to lighten the mood, Xii smiled and waved his hand. “The funeral was over a year ago. It’s no big deal.”
“Still, that’s quite a trip you’re making out there. He leave you something good in the will or what?”
“So I’m sort of… going there to pay my last respects. On Earth, dad made my life hell. Even back then, he was a bit eccentric. Now I’ve heard he had himself legit buried in the Martian soil.”
“Thought you might trek out there and pour one out for him?”
“Um, something like that.” Xii winced a little and averted his eyes to his boots. “I guess you could call it my last dis-respects.”
“Oh, man! What? Are you gonna drop your space suit and take a dump on his grave?”
“Ah, ha, ha,” A sheepish laugh squinted Xii’s eyes as he looked back to meet Matthue’s curious face. “I did think about it. But the radiation alone is pretty harsh without protection, and the dust is super toxic…”
“Hot damn, I was mainly joking! Mostly. You’ve really thought about this, huh?”
“Well, yeah. When your dad gives you a captcha for a bullshit name, you have a lot of time to think about how you want to ‘thank’ him.”
“Must be one hell of a bullshit name. No one spells my name right the first time.”
“Oh, yeah. You couldn’t even spell mine out if I told you…”
6. Big Talker
“Are you afraid?” I asked, sinking to the floor in the corner of the stalled elevator.
The man opposite me didn’t move, his hands draped over his knees. Dark waves of hair fell over his eyes. He glanced up.
“That makes one of us. I hate small spaces. Got locked in a closet when I was a kid by my stupid brother. He forgot I was in there. Can you believe that? Not surprised he ended up fucking around with the Mob. Anyway, ever since then, I hate being in small places. The dark too. Isn’t it wild what we carry with us as adults? Some silly kid prank totally fucked me up for life.” I laughed. “Sorry. I ramble when I’m nervous.”
He tilted his head to indicate he’d heard me but said nothing. The emergency light cast strange shadows over our skin, bathing us in red.
“Do you think they’ll come for us soon?”
The man shrugged.
“You think it’s safe in here, right?” I shuddered. “You don’t think we could fall, do you? Seven floors…oh man, oh man.” I tapped my fingers against the cool stone floor. “We could probably survive that, right? We’d probably be okay with a few broken bones. We’d probably—”
“Man. You ever shut up?” The man stood up abruptly, crossed his arms, and looked up at the ceiling.
Anger pounded in my chest. “I’m just scared. I told you—”
“I know. You ramble when you’re nervous. You’ve said it a hundred times in the past hour and a half.”
“Jesus, you’re a real—”
Out of nowhere, the man leaped, his weight forcing me into the wall. My collarbone gave an almighty crack and I howled in pain.
“Get off!” I screamed. “Help!” I tried shouting towards the doors. “Help me!”
The man pressed a sweaty hand against my mouth, his eyes wide. “Shut the fuck up.” He straddled me, his hand on his hip, and produced a knife.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know I’m a talker, but you don’t need to do that. I’ll be quiet. Promise,” I mumbled into his hand. “Please!”
“You just don’t quit, do you?”
“I said I was sorry!”
He plunged the blade into my chest. A heavy pain erupted across my ribcage, followed by warmth. My hand reached for the wound, coming away red and sticky.
“You stupid asshole,” he said, pulling the knife back. A wave of nausea washed over me as my insides shifted around the bleeding gap. “You and the rest of your family gotta learn when to shut your goddamn mouths.”
I struggled for a deep breath in the iron-scented room. The man wiped the blade on his jacket before tucking it back in his pocket. “Maybe if you focused on anything besides your own voice, you’d have noticed me tailing you the past few weeks. Couldn’t get a chance to off you because you talk to anything that’ll listen,” he seethed. “And yes. I heard you talking to the garbage chute last Tuesday. If it’s even possible, your brother is a bigger fool than you. Telling you and the rest of your family about his involvement with the Gambinos was a big fucking mistake. We leave no stone unturned, no witnesses alive. And honestly?” He grinned, revealing a gap-toothed smile. “After listening to you the last three weeks, I really enjoyed this.”
As the edges of my world began to fade, I watched as the emergency door on the elevator ceiling creaked open. A hand extended, lifting my killer to safety.
7. Breaking the Ice
“I guess we should introduce ourselves since we are going to be here a while. I’m Nina.”
“Rick.” my voice cracked. Not only was my claustrophobia kicking in, but it was happening on the same elevator with my secret crush from copywriting.
“How long has it been?”
“Just two minutes, Rick.”
Her calmness was irksome. I could feel myself starting to sweat.
“Stuck in an elevator, is it your first time?”
I nodded. “I’m not good with closed spaces.”
Suddenly the elevator lurched, only to drop slightly, then stopped with a jolt. An alarm bell sounded.
“I’ve seen you at the office. You always take the time to say hi when you pass my cubicle.”
“You’re welcome.” My panic soared. Why did I say that? Of all the lame things to say, I chose, “You’re welcome?”
A warm chuckle caught him off guard. “You’re cute. But you definitely need to relax.”
“How can I relax when at any minute this deathtrap can plummet to our death. That is if we don’t die from oxygen depletion first. Who knows when they will get this thing…OHHHHH.”
Nina’s hands were small but strong as she reached up and began massaging my shoulder blades.
“That’s nice.” Another lame comment.
“I mean, thank you.”
“My pleasure, God, you are very tense. Are you ok?”
“It’s just that I am extremely claustrophobic and, a bit embarrassed that I am freaking out in front of my crush.” Oh fuck, did I just reveal to my crush that she IS MY CRUSH? I looked around the square lift for a place to hide in shame.
Nina’s hands slid down my back purposefully before wrapping around my waist. “I like you too!”
I felt her lips press into my back.
“What are you..?”
“I know something that will help us both get through this.”
Her hands moved lower.
“Good to see at least part of you isn’t afraid.”
“You must have magic fingers.”
“So, I’ve been told. Now, this poor thing must be extremely claustrophobic trapped in these tight slacks.”
She deftly unzipped my pants, sliding her hand inside.”
“MMM, see, isn’t that better?”
She wasted no time sliding her hand into the fly of my boxer briefs; freeing me from my trousers.
She slid her body in front of mine.
“Does that feel good?”
“You can touch me ….if you want.”
She guided my hand under her skirt.
“Wow, you are dripping.”
“Well, that’s probably because I was trapped in an elevator with my crush.”
The words inflamed my arousal. I slid a finger into her core
“MMM, I like the way THAT feels. Don’t stop.”
“What if they get the door open?”
“I’m sure we will have advanced…uh… notice before that mmmm happens.”
“You’re really good at that.”
“Put another one inside.”
She lifted her leg up on the rail and I added a second finger between her folds.
“That’s right, just like that.”
“Do you want me to rub your clit too?”
“Oh god yes, please.”
I pumped my fingers into her as she jerked me with equal fervor. It felt like a race.
“Oh god, I’m so close. Kiss me.”
“Oh, Oh OH!”
“Oh god, your hands are covered in my juices.”
“As are yours.”
“You taste sweet.”
We straightened our clothing and Nina reached into the purse she had set on the floor and removed her phone. She opened an app, typed in a few numbers and the elevator roared to life, surging upward toward our floor.
8. She Needed Closure
Karen’s blue eyes were red raw from crying. It had been a week since she found her sister dead. Karen pulled the cage lift door closed. Tonight she would get revenge for her sister.
The lift ground downwards, only stopping to pick up a businessman with greying hair. The lift started to feel claustrophobic as his aftershave filled her nose.
The lift made a sound like a banshee, and then the lights went out.
She put her hands out and connected with him.
“Do you like what you are feeling?”
“You know I can change into anything if it will relax you.”
“Whatever you want. I can become your deepest fantasy and if your hand goes any further I will break it.”
”Sorry. What did you say?”
“I said I can become anything for you, but please, make your mind up. It’s not as though we don’t have any time to spare.”
“Okay, let me think.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“Don’t you already have all the answers?”
Karen started to pace and make the space between them a lot smaller. “I do, but if we are going to be stuck here for hours, at least talk about something. God, can I smoke?”
“No, you can’t. I fire people if they smoke in front of me.”
“Talk about something, most clients can not normally shut up, and tonight I get a mute. Talk, or my boot is going into your balls!”
“Calm down. Would you like some water?”
“I’m not taking anything from you. It will be spiked with Rohypnol.”
“It’s just water, so what do you do?”
“I reckon a high-end shape-shifting escort.”
Karen laughed, and tried not to punch him.
“Got it in one. Are you important?”
“Me? I run the whole building.”
“So Mister Big Balls, then.”
Micheal laughed back at her. “Trust me. They are very big balls.”
“Let me find out then, and bite them off”
Micheal started to panic. “I don’t want that!”
“What do you want?”
“A cock would be great, or a young school girl.”
“I already have the cock and I am not fulfilling your young girl fantasies.”
“Is anyone coming to fix this lift?”
“Nobody is coming to fix the lift.”
“Let me go.”
Karen had pinned him up against the mirror of the lift, she resisted from smashing his face into it, that would be too quick. Instead, she started to pull his tie hard.
“Stop it, that really hurts.”
“You like it rough.”
“No, not like this.”
Karen started to ripple in front of him and change into different, naked men.
“What’s not to enjoy? This or like this? Don’t you like my cock?”
“Yes, it’s great, but…”
“Get over here and suck it, slut!”
Karen lit her cigarette, and forced it into his mouth.
“You’re suffocating me.”
“I don’t care.“
“Is that what my sister screamed when you raped her?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You don’t have young pretty women working in your office?”
“Yes, but we have lots of young interns.”
“This was not just one of your fucking interns.” She spat these words at him. “She was my sister, a young innocent woman who you raped multiple times, till her body bled all over this lift floor. Time your blood joined it.”
“That’s not what happened.”
“I watched the film you made. I knew what I had to do for her. It’s time for you to pay, Mr. Big Balls.”
“Please, put the knife down.”
9. Lessons Learned Between Floors
“Fuck!” Ashlan filled the elevator with her frustration. “The thing stopped on me three times.”
The hard stop of the elevator made both women notice each other.
“I’ve lived here for 10 years, and this is the first time it’s stopped on me,” Lindon responded. “How did you get so lucky?”
“Stupid fucking luck. I have it all the time.”
Lindon looked over to meet Ashlan’s gaze and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“It’s going to be ok.” Lindon paused and grinned from ear to ear. “Probably.”
Both women laughed at the joke way harder than it deserved.
“My name’s Ashlan. I wish I could live in a better building, but here we are.”
“I’m Lindon. I’ve been in this building for 10 years now. Someday I’ll finish college.” Lindon’s wink hit with the last words spoken, and Ashlan couldn’t avoid a loud laugh at Lindon’s expense.
“Thank you, I needed that.”
“You’re welcome.” A slightly dramatic pause as Lindon observed Ashlan a little nervous about the elevator. “Why don’t you tell me how you arrived in Austin? You don’t sound like you grew up here.”
“It all started with a girl I was dating in high school, and my mother not approving of our relationship…”
For the next hour, Lindon listened, and learned about the move from Canada, Ashlan’s disappointed parents, how she came to find out that she loved women.
“And then,” Ashlan fought back a tear. “The woman I thought I loved and would spend my life with felt that I was too clingy and left in the middle of the night, leaving me here in Austin alone.”
As Lindon reached over to touch Ashlan’s arm, the younger girl immediately hugged her and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Lindon returned the hug and squeezed her tight.
“Ashlan, it’s going to be ok,” Lindon said in a soft tone. “We all go through this. When I moved here 10 years ago to be with the woman I loved, I had a similar story. After 7 years together, she just left. I still love her and want all the best for her, but I hate her for leaving me here by myself.”
“How do you get by?”
“Make new friends. Find new things to do. Keep searching for love.”
“Do you think you will?”
“I know I will,” Lindon said with confidence. “I probably shouldn’t do this…” Her voice faded off into nothingness.
Ashlan pushed herself back to look into Lindon’s eyes. She pondered what Lindon could be thinking.
“What shouldn’t you do?”
The elevator shook as it started moving again.
“Well, isn’t that good timing?” Lindon asked. The pair stopped hugging right as the doors opened. “This is my stop, if you ever need to talk, a hug, or want anything else stop by apartment 723.”
Ashlan looked back into the elevator. She stared at the button for the 8th floor and exited to follow Lindon.
“After the last two hours, apartment 723 sounds like a nice place.”
10. Destination Tenth Floor
Mike was a sex offender. He had been out of prison for ten years, and had done really well at keeping his life squeaky clean despite his occasional urges.
He considered himself cured, but he still avoided being in a place with just one woman; partly superstition, partly to avoid any hint of temptation, partly because despite ten years of impeccable behaviour, he was on the sex offenders’ register for life, and he just knew that any tiny misunderstanding would be prejudged against him.
Today he made an exception. He had been waiting ages. The lifts seemed to be running really slowly, and he was late for his job interview. He stepped in alongside the lady who was waiting too.
“Yes, me too. Thanks”.
“Goodness! This lift is jerky. It’s making a funny noise”.
“Don’t worry. It’s stopping. I think we’re there”.
“Are you sure? The door hasn’t opened”.
“Give it a minute. I’m sure it will be fine”.
“There’s something wrong. It’s making that noise again”.
“Goodness! You’re right. I’ll try the alarm button. Bloody Hell! That isn’t working either. Do you have a mobile signal?”.
“Not in this metal box. You?”.
“Oh well, I suppose we shall just have to wait. Someone will realise that the lift is stuck soon”.
“Hey, don’t worry. They’ll rescue us before the end of the afternoon, and, looking on the bright side, it’s not every day you get stuck in the lift with such an attractive stranger”.
“Errr… That comment really unnerves me. Can we change the subject?”.
“Hey! Chill! I’m not a sexual predator or anything. Well, OK, I do have form, but I wouldn’t take advantage of being in a lift, unless you want it, that is”.
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not going to eat you. Hey, perhaps you do want it? No Problem. You said you’re frightened. A comforting hug, perhaps?”.
“PLEASE DON’T TOUCH ME! I’d like you to move away”
“Ha! There’s not much room to move away in a small lift. Opposite corners? You need to chill. It’s fine. I hate it with you in the corner facing the wall and not talking to me. What is the matter with you? In the movies, attractive strangers in stuck lifts always end up having sex. They can never resist each other”.
“TAKE YOUR HAND AWAY! We are not in the movies!”.
“There’s that noise again. Hey, the lift is moving. Saved by a mended lift. Never mind, I’ll get you on the way down, perhaps? Tenth floor, Door’s open. See you soon, Gorgeous”.
Face jammed in to the corner of the lift compartment, a forlorn, terrified figure just managed to turn around and exit before the door closed, then staggered to the tenth floor reception desk, and spoke with a weak, stammering voice:
“Mike Wilkinson. I’m very late for my interview, but please tell Miss Barton that I no longer want the job. Please can you direct me to the nearest staircase?”
11. PTSD? Maybe
Billy pushed the button for the fifth floor and waited for the doors to slide closed. That’s when he heard the male voice coming toward him. “Hold the elevator, please.”
He held the button until the man entered. “Which floor?” Billy asked.
“Fifth, please. Oh, looks like we’re going the same way.”
“Yeah, I guess we are.”
As the ride began everything was fine but when the jerking, noisy clatter started, and the elevator came to a sudden, squealing stop Billy began to visibly shake. His eyes darted around the inside of the tiny space.
After a long while Billy asked, “What the hell?”
“I don’t know.”
The man reached across Billy—the smell of stale body odor wafting in the air— grabbed the phone for emergencies to call the lobby desk.
“This is Dr Bradley. Myself and another gentleman were heading to the fifth floor in Elevator 3 and it jumped and squealed then froze in place.” He listened intently to whoever was on the other end. “OK as long as you have people on it, we’ve been stuck here quite a while now. Thank you…. if we need anything I will call again.”
He hung up the phone, looked at Billy, and said, “Angie just told me that this is just a fluke. Maintenance should have us moving again shortly.”
“I hope so Doc, because this visit to my shrink is going to be my first and possibly my last—depending how this one goes.”
“Oh,” not seeming surprised, he continued, “you’re going to see a shrink? Do you know which doctor you are meeting with?”
“No, I don’t. I’m only going to appease my mother. She set up the appointment.”
“Do you mind if I ask why she wanted you to see a psychiatrist?”
“She thinks I’m different since I got back from Afghanistan. She says my nightmares, my attitude, and behavior indicate—to her—something is wrong in my head. But she won’t tell me what she thinks is wrong. She said if my PCP couldn’t help me, maybe a shrink can. I guess she is scared for me.”
The doctor stood motionless and silent for a while, before he said anything more. “Mind if I ask your name?”
“I’m William Bryant, you can call me Billy.”
A smile crossed the doctor’s face as he said, “Do you think a psychiatrist can help you, Billy?”
“Let me assure you neither one of us is going to be late to our appointment. I’m Doctor Bradley and you are my next patient of the day. I think I can help you, if you give me a chance.”
Billy frowned as he looked at the man. His body slid down the wall to sit on the floor. The hint of a smile crossed his face before he said, “You need a new couch, this one is very uncomfortable.”
Dr Bradley laughed with the sound coming deep from his belly. “If I find you a different couch, will you come back another time?”
Billy chucked a little and said, “Jeez Doc, I haven’t left yet.”
“No, you haven’t. I have a hunch though, as long as we’ve been in here, you’re going to want to leave quickly once we get moving again. I’m hoping to see you again, under better circumstances.”
“Same time tomorrow?”
Dr Bradley handed Billy his card as the elevator shuddered and lifted again. “Same time Billy, different place though, ok?”
“Yeah, I’m taking the stairs tomorrow.”
“You can call me.” pausing briefly, “Anytime.”
The elevator doors opened. They spoke in unison. “See you tomorrow.”
12. P’s not for Parking
A hand darts into the elevator. A last-minute karate chop shatters my dreams of an express ride home.
I’ve had to pee for twenty minutes.
“Thanks.” The stranger enters and presses five.
“Shit, sorry.” He presses four.
Are you fucking kidding me?
We lurch upwards. My bladder screams. Without thinking, I jump up and down like a toddler.
“I have to pee so bad!”
My uninvited guest chuckles, then gasps as we jerk to a sudden stop.
“What the fuck?” he hisses.
“Fuck me,” I whisper.
“You broke it!”
It was all I could do to not break my urethral sphincter’s seal.
“Sorry.” I press the alarm buzzer. He shoves his index fingers into his ears.
“It’s so loud!” he shrieks.
“Ricky, what’s up?” Gabe the doorman crackles through the intercom. “You okay?”
‘“Fuck, let me see what I can do.”
“Your ears alright?”
“I’m hyper-sensitive to loud noises.” He pulls earplugs out of his pocket.
“I’ll try not to make anymore. Or jumps.”
“Ha ha.” Not a laugh.
He looks up and nods. “Krys, with a K and a Y,” like he thinks he’s being quoted in next month’s Elevator Drama.
“What brings you over?” I’m hoping chit-chat will take my mind off my impending urinary disaster.
“Y’know Mrs. Carver?”
“Yeah, Alma. Lovely. Makes the best cakes.”
“I’m gonna look after her corgis.”
“Nah, just dog walking.”
“Honestly, I like animals more than people.”
“Noted. They tend not to jump and break elevators when nature calls.”
Gabe screeches back through the intercom, “Hey, I can’t fix it. We’ve called the fire department. They should be here in about schtzslzxl minutes.”
“Yeah, not long. You need anything?”
“A pizza, two Xanax, and a Port-A-Potty.”
Krys pulls out his cell phone. Sweat’s beading up on his forehead. His breath’s accelerating.
“Never service in here. But you can try.”
“Fuuuuuuck, I cannot stay in this box,” he says.
His face is losing color. He wipes his brow and pushes into the wall. It leaves the blurry handprint you see in a horror movie—the final girl’s souvenir.
“You look kinda sketchy. You alright?”
“I … don’t like closed spaces. I always need open windows, even in winter.”
No noise nor closed windows. In Manhattan. Poor guy
“I’m feeling faint.”
“Okay,” I reach over and ask if I can help him sit. He nods yes.
I join him on the floor.
“Krys, you’re doing great. You ever practice yoga or meditation?”
“Nah, that’s all bullshit.”
“Okaaaay. What do you do outdoors?”
“Walk dogs. Run when I can.”
“Amazing. Tell me where you run.”
He closes his eyes. Inhales.
“I love the Greenway, Upper West Side.”
“Beautiful. Can you feel the wind on your face?”
“I’m not falling for this.” He jumps up and starts pounding the door. “Help us!”
“Krys! It’s okay. We’re safe. There’s nothing we can do.”
He wants to simultaneously fight me and collapse. If only I had some ketamine. A little bump, he’d be golden.
“What do you see on your runs?”
“The river. We forget how close it is. Other runners, cyclists, some with dogs. The grass … trees … no sidewalks. It smells so much cleaner than in the city. Noise is muffled. Especially the traffic.”
A horrific metallic squeal tears into our echo chamber.
“Fuck!” Krys screams, covering his ears.
A draft of new, albeit not fresh, air wafts into our cell.
A hand darts into the elevator. A long-awaited karate chop shatters the chains of our confinement.
13. Faith, Trope, and Clarity
He introduced himself after the lift got stuck and it became clear we’d be waiting for a while. He’s Rod Keenly, and I would so let him live up to that name. He’s my fantasy: shaved head, broad shoulders, tribal tattoos on massive biceps, and pecs bigger than my boobs filling out his tight t-shirt.
He’s an odd one, though: I gave him my pen name, not my real name, and he didn’t even smirk. Who doesn’t react when someone says she’s called Faith L’Estarte?
We settled into bored silence while we waited for an engineer to rescue us. I’ve been trying to play Candy Crush, but my eyes have a mind of their own and they keep darting to the bulge in his jeans. He is huge.
I have to talk to him. “This situation is like something from one of my stories.”
“Yes. I write erotic fiction.”
“Set in a lift? I’ve rescued grateful women from all sorts of contrived scenarios — bondage gone wrong, usually — but never a stuck lift.”
“You’re a firefighter?”
“Sometimes, yeah. A lift wouldn’t be good for angles, though. It would be too tight with a cameraman inside as well. Sorry, I should have said: I’m an actor. In, um, adult entertainment.”
“Yeah. It’s not high art, or even good sex, but it’s a living.”
“So, if this was a film set, you’d have been in my knickers by now?”
“You probably wouldn’t have any on, if I’m honest. The director would find some reason for you to be nearly naked in a lift.”
“Like, the fire alarm went while I was in the bath?”
“Yeah, that could work! Your towel falls off when I lift you out, I sling you over my shoulder so the camera gets a good ass shot, then we fuck in the stairwell because you’re so grateful and nothing makes you hornier than claustrophobia, apparently. It’s all bullshit, but it gets people off and it pays my rent.”
“It might make a good video, but it’s not a great story, Rod: it lacks erotic tension. I’d write more dialogue. You’d still be a firefighter, but off-duty. We’d get too hot trapped together in a little tin box together. You’d have to take your shirt off to cool down, then there’d be some flirty banter about me taking my top off too.”
“Of course! I’d have perfect breasts and I’d enjoy showing them off. I’d tell you where else I was hot, and you’d say, ‘Then take your panties off too.’”
“And when you did, maybe I could say, ‘You need to be hosed down. It’s lucky I’m a firefighter.”
“Nice! You’d show me your helmet, then pick me up and slide me down your pole. It would be great sex: I wouldn’t feel awkward, my cervix wouldn’t be battered by your foot-long cock, and neither of us would get a cramp. Eventually, after I’d had multiple orgasms, you’d set me down, and seconds before we were rescued, you’d finish in my mouth. I wouldn’t swallow, so I could feel deliciously wicked when I smiled at the engineer with my mouth full.”
He grins. “I like your version better.”
“Thanks, but mine’s bullshit too, and most months it doesn’t even pay the rent.”
* * *
That’s when the lift started moving.
As the doors opened to release us, I patted one rock-hard bicep and told him, “Thanks for the entertaining conversation, Rod. I really am very grateful.”
But that’s a whole other story.
14. Miracle Between Floors
Very pregnant Sara, riding the lumbering elevator to the 28th floor to her Midwife’s office, had started contractions that morning and was both scared and excited. She glanced at the creeping numbers as she felt another stab of pain, wishing the elevator wasn’t so slow.
“Damn!”she groused when the car ground to a halt at fifteen.
An angry-looking man stepped in wearing black leather chaps, vest, motorcycle boots, and a red bandana tied around his head cursing to himself. Her heart lurched.
When he jabbed the down button, she said, “This is going up to the 28th floor first. You should have taken another elevator.”
He glared at her and his blurted “Fuck!” was accompanied by a fist slamming against the door. He began pushing buttons.
“What are you doing?” Sara asked. “You can’t just push a bunch of buttons. That will only delay us longer?”
“Shut the fuck up, lady, I’ve gotta get off’a here. I ain’t goin’ for no joy ride to dump you off.”
“What has you so pissy?” she asked, not really caring, but wanting to divert his attention on something other than destroying the control panel.
“My God-damned attorney fucked me over when he said he was gonna help me get my fine reduced, but didn’t. The son-of-a-bitch. And I paid him good money.”
He began beating on the panel again.
“Stop!” Sara yelled at him, “You’ll jam the system, and then we’ll be stuck.”
“I don’t give a shit!” he yelled back. “I want off’a this thing!”
“Okay, calm down and let’s figure out how we can make it stop,” Sara told him quietly as if speaking to an angry child. Since she had two other children at home, she was used to temper tantrums.
“This is how it’s done,” he told her and gave the panel a swift kick. The elevator lurched and stopped. “See?”
“Oh, dear God,” Sara whooshed out, leaning back on the wall. She held her huge belly. “This can’t be happening.”
The biker whirled around and said, “What can’t be happening? I stopped the elevator, didn’t I? All I need to do is get the fucking door open and we can both get off.”
“But we’re stuck between floors. Look at the numbers!” she yelled.
The shrill ring of the emergency alarm sounded just as Sara felt another big contraction. She cried out, “No! No! Not now!”
“What not now, and what is that noise? It’s driving me crazy.”
“It’s the alarm that is announcing the fact that you broke the elevator with your tantrums, and I’m about to have a baby while we’re stuck here, that’s ‘what’s now!’”
“You can’t be havin’ no baby here, lady. No way,” he ranted.
“Well, I am, and you better be ready to help,” she panted and slid to the floor.
She began screaming as her body prepared her for the delivery with unbearable pain.
“Help me,” she whimpered, “Please.”
In a panic, he said, “What do I gotta do?”
“Be ready to pull the baby out when you see its head.”
“Good God, no! I ain’t doing that!”
“You are and you will,” she sneered. “You made this happen, so, buck it up and get down here, it’s starting to move out.”
It’d been two hours when the elevator moved, and the doors finally opened. A workman exclaimed, “Well I’ll be damned!” at seeing a woman lying on the wet floor, and a baby wrapped in a red bandana in the arms of a biker.
“See what I did?” the biker proudly preened.
15. Excuse Me Ma’am
Julia, running late as always, rushed through the subway station and down the busy street. Hurry, hurry, she mumbled, keeping a swift pace until she finally entered the office building on Main.
“Excuse me ma’am,” a young man offered as he pushed past her to the elevator.
“Oh, sorry” she stammered before carrying on to the elevator herself.
“Are you okay ma’am? You’re pale as a ghost.”
“I’m fine. Just not a fan of elevators.” She smoothed the front of her skirt trying to compose herself.
“Don’t worry ma’am, these things are safe as can be.”
“Can you please stop calling me ma’am? I’m not my mother.”
“Sure thing darling.”
“Julia will be fine, thank you.”
“Sure thing there, Julia. I’m Gavin. What brings you into the city today?” The words were barely out of his mouth when the elevator ground to a stop. Julia was soon on the verge of tears, and even paler if that was possible.
“No. Oh no, this can’t be happening. I have to get out of here.”
“Don’t worry, they’ll get us moving again in no time.”
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry? Didn’t you just tell me not to worry, that these were ‘safe as can be’? I certainly don’t feel safe right now and I am worried, okay.”
“Okay, fair point. I’m sorry. Let me call and see if I can find out what’s happening.”
“Hello? Hello?” The emergency phone wasn’t working and his cell had no service. “Old elevators,” he lamented. “You can hardly get any signal. Do you have a cell we could try? Maybe yours will work.”
Julia rummaged through her bag, growing more anxious by the second. “I can’t find it! I know it’s in here somewhere. It has to be.”
“Here let me help.” Gavin reached out his hand and Julie gave him her bag before sinking to the floor. He could see how distressed she was as tears welled up again, so he sat down beside her. “I know it’s hard not to worry. It’s okay to be worried or scared, just don’t let those feelings take over and send you spiraling.” He put his hand on hers, comforting her.
“I was on my way to a job interview. No chance I get it now. They’ll think I was a no show.”
“What is the job?”
“ABA Therapist at the ASD Children’s Center.” She saw the quizzical look on his face and continued. “The ASD Children’s Center is one of the top facilities in the country working with children with ASD, autistic spectrum disorder. They do amazing work.”
“Sounds like a very important gig.”
“It is. Imagine how difficult it would be if nobody understood you. How you’d feel if they thought you were stupid simply because your brain chemistry was different, because you expressed yourself differently or were triggered by seemingly inconsequential things. I help children learn how to navigate those triggers and express themselves.”
They continued talking for hours before the elevator lurched back to life and they were transported back to reality. When the doors opened on the 6th floor Julia walked off, determined to reschedule her interview.
“Good luck Julia. I hope they realize how special you are. I certainly do.”
“Thank you Gavin, and thank you for keeping me calm in there. I wouldn’t have come out unscathed without you.” The door closed and he was gone.
Months later Julia was on the train heading to the city again. She was lost in thought, staring out the window, when she heard a familiar voice, “Excuse me ma’am, is this seat taken?”
16. Charming People
The other man hung up the phone. “Well,” he said, “they’re on their way, but I guess it might be a while.”
Stephen sighed and pulled out his own phone to check the time. The two of them had only been stuck in this elevator for a few minutes, but it felt longer.
“I’m gonna have to let Noor know that I’ll be late today,” the other man said, typing. “She’s a friend from my work. Well, I mean… We’re definitely just friends, but maybe, I don’t know, I guess I would like it if we were more than that. But that’s not… I’m not really looking to date right now, necessarily.”
Stephen went through the emails on his phone, desperately hoping he could get on with his day soon.
“For one thing,” the man continued, “practically I just don’t know if it makes sense. I’m pretty busy, and my living situation isn’t what I’d like it to be at the moment. Had to move in with a friend temporarily. Of course, that was a while ago, so I guess it’s maybe less temporary than I initially planned, but that’s part of the issue.”
“… Uh huh.” Stephen put away his phone.
“And In terms of, you know, if I’m ready for another relationship, I don’t really know. I recently got – Well, I guess not that recently at this point – I got out of a pretty serious relationship. Highschool sweethearts, dated all through college. We lived together, we were talking about marriage and kids. I thought I was set. And then…” He gestured expansively with his hands. “And with it went everything I thought I was doing with my life.”
“Oh. That’s, uh, that’s rough.”
“Yeah, well, it is what it is, I suppose. Anyway, I’m on the road to getting past it, though I’m still not certain I’m ready to date again. Tell you what, though, if anyone could convince me, it’s Noor. Against all my better judgment, I’ve fallen for her hard. She’s just… Well, for one thing, and appearance is not necessarily the be all end all for me, but she is absolutely stunning.”
“Sure,” Stephen nodded.
“But the main thing is that she’s so… I think the best word for it is charming. She’s charming. And she thinks she’s very socially awkward, which is funny because everyone absolutely loves her and she’s so wonderful and just.” He sighed and shook his head. “But, like I said, probably not the time for me to start dating again, so I’m not planning on pursuing anything or anything like that.”
Stephen turned to face the other man directly. “Look… What’s your name?”
“Charles.” He held out a hand.
Stephen took hold of Charles’ hand and shook it. “Look, Charles, there will always be excuses. There will always be reasons why it’s not practical or not sensible. But unless you want to go your whole life like that, at some point you’ll just have to go for it regardless. You might as well start now.”
“… And so, if you think about it, I guess it’s my fault you all had to be here this weekend. Sincerest apologies.” A murmur of polite laughter rose from the crowd. “But unlike Charles, I actually know when to stop talking, so I won’t prattle on any longer.” The crowd laughed again, a little more sincerely, as Stephen raised his champagne flute. “Instead, I’ll just toast two of the most charming people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. To the bride and groom!”
17. Long Time Coming
TW – MENTION OF CHILD DEATH, AND SUICIDE
John leaned his head against the lift wall and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as he concentrated on slowing his heart rate and relaxed on the lift’s cool tiled floor. He wasn’t worried about being stuck, it wasn’t ideal and not calculated into his plans for the day, but he could adapt. The man he shared the lift with, on the other hand, paced back and forth, his frantic footsteps beating in time with John’s heart, clearly distressed at being trapped together for the next two hours.
“You’re going to wear a hole in the floor.” John offered in a calm tone.
“If you keep going back and forth like that. You’ll put a hole in the floor.” John reiterated, looking up at his lift-mate with a smile.
The man stopped and laughed slightly. “Fair point. Sorry.”
“I take it you’re not too keen on being trapped in a lift?”
“And you are?”
“It’s not what I had planned for my day, but I’ve been in worse places.” John shrugged.
“Great. Well. Good for you, mate. I don’t want to be trapped in this metal death trap any longer than I have to. I’ve got an office to get to and things to be doing. No way I’m making my meeting now.” The man snapped.
John snorted, his shoulders shaking as he smiled wryly.
“The fuck is so funny?” The man snarled.
“Just that this is what rattles you. In all the scenarios in my head over the years, I never imagined you afraid of anything. Yet here you are, close to being a jibbering wreck because you’re stuck in a lift for a couple of hours. I mean, three years ago, I would have been the one pacing back and forth or whimpering in a corner because I was afraid of being trapped. I was afraid of everything; I didn’t know how to live. But you changed that, and you changed my outlook on life.”
The man stared at John incredulously and stepped back into the far corner of the lift, his back against the wall, eyes wide in fear and confusion. “What are you talking about?”
John looked up at the man and smiled, the maniacal expression on his face reflected at him in the mirror-like surface of the lift walls. “Three years. I’ve spent three years and all my life savings to find you, Adam.”
“How the fuck do you know my name?” Adam choked, pressed against the wall as far as he could go while John merely stared at him, his eyes emotionless, his smile full of menace.
“You thought no one saw you. That the camera hadn’t caught your licence plate, it didn’t, not all of it anyway, but there was enough for me to start looking for you. It’s taken three years to piece the information together, to confirm you were in that car. You, Adam Westword, hit my five-year-old daughter with your vehicle and left her to die. Like she was nothing. You didn’t even slow down. You ran her over, and you took my life away, so now I’m going to take yours.”
Adam gulped, a look of despair on his face that only made John angrier. He had no right to be upset, not now.
“So am I,” John whispered as he raised the gun and pulled the trigger.
Adam’s body dropped to the floor. Blood splattered across the walls. John smiled and turned the gun against his temple with a contented sigh.
18. Elevator Cute Meet
It was not fit for anyone out and about. Thunder continuously rolling, rain coming in sheets. Unknown neighbors trying to get home, scramble for the lobby.
“Wow, that’s some downpour!” She exclaimed.
“No kidding! I feel like a drowned rat. Can’t wait for a hot shower.” He replied.
“I’m looking forward to a hot bath and a glass of wine.”
“You have a tub? I only have a nice big shower.” He bemoaned.
Ding! The elevator chimed. Pulling the accordion brass gate open he ushered her in with a bow.
“Naw. I hold the door for everyone, but it’s more fun for a pretty young lady.”
“Guilty. At my age there’s no harm in flirting. Older women appreciate the attention. Younger women see a safe old man. Oh, and since we’re neighbors, I’m James, 5A.”
“Which floor?” He asks finger hovering over the buttons.
“Now I know why you have a tub, you’re the owner.”
“That’s me! Kate O’Brien. Thought this building a good investment, but lately it’s a money pit. Good thing Daddy wasn’t afraid to teach his little girl how to wire a circuit, or replace a toilet.”
“Your Dad sounds like he succeeded where I failed. My girls barely know to call the plumber. And by the way thank you, the recent remodels are great!”
“You’re welcome, trying to bring her into the 21st century maintaining the 19th century charm.”
“You succeeded. I know I’m not the only tenant who appreciates the effort even with a rent increase.”
“Damn, sounds like the transformer!” She cried as the lights went out. The elevator screeching to a stop.
“I hate this building a little right now.” Her cell light dispeling the dark. “Figures, back-up generator gets installed next week. My cell has no bars, how about you?”
“None, in a metal cage, inside an old building, well shielded, as expected.”
“I don’t do well in dark spaces.” Her strong voice turning into a scared girl.
“Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck, my cell battery is dying! How’s yours?”
“Damn! This is triggering some bad PTSD. Trapped in a well overnight when I was 12. Playing hide and seek. Hid too well. Took till morning for them to find me. Haven’t liked the dark ever since.”
“Might sound trite but, breathe deep, close your eyes and dream of sunlit fields, or the sun filtering through colors of autumn trees.”
“Helps a little, could you hold me and keep talking?”
“Sure, you’re not afraid of a lecherous old man?”
“Aren’t you safe? And you’re not old! What are you 45?”
“Try 65. I just refuse to grow up.”
“Promise not to take advantage of a 35-year-old girl?” She says snuggling in, holding his arms tight. Thunder cracks, her nails dig in. “That’s close. Hope this is fixed soon.”
“It’s only been an hour. Old grid, it will take time. You can do one of two things. Let fear control you, or you control fear. Remember, no courage without fear. Teddy Roosevelt said that.”
“You sound like my Pop-Pop. He would quote that. He quoted the wisest things.”
“So warm.” She purred. She smelled like fresh mowed grass and sunshine. She slept, until the lights returned.
“It’s been two hours. Care for dinner? I have two steaks.”
“Bring them up to my place, we can grill, then have a soak. It’s big enough for two.”
As he left the elevator she kissed him quickly, “thanks, see you soon?”
“Absolutely, but I think I will be taking the stairs.”
19. Hold On
“Hold the door!”
Sarah complied, and a dark-haired man about her age, mid-twenties, darted inside the lift.
“Aw!” he said. “Eighth floor. You’re going up?”
His handsome face was tight, and he seemed to be fighting back tears.
“I’ll just ride,” he said.
The lift surged upward for a couple of floors. Then it made a grinding sound and shuddered to a stop.
“What’s happening?” he cried, and began jamming buttons.
The lift didn’t budge.
Sweat beaded his forehead.
“Hey!” Sarah said. “Are you okay?”
“Can’t breathe,” he gasped. “I think … panic attack.”
“Let’s sit,” she said. “That’s it. I’m just going to slide down here right beside you. Can I hold your hand? Help will be here soon, and we’re gonna be okay. Breathe with me. Deep breaths.”
After a few minutes, he seemed calmer, so she said, “Let’s talk about something else. Do you have a bucket list? I was thinking about mine today. I’d like to see the northern lights. I’d also like to see a concert at Red Rocks, in Colorado.”
“Who … “ he panted. “Who would you … go see?”
She smiled. “I don’t even care.”
“Keep … keep talking. Please.”
“My name’s Sarah.”
She prattled on. “I never learned to dance. I’d like to. And I want to get married in Vegas by Elvis.”
He wheezed out a laugh.
She smiled. “What about you?”
“I want … my dad to be okay. I want … to take him fishing. I want him to … forgive me.”
He gulped another breath and continued, “I had a car accident. Couple years ago. Got addicted to pain pills. My brothers … Dad had a stroke today. They wouldn’t … let me see him. Told me to leave. Right before I got on the lift. I’ve been clean six months, but it’s not good enough.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you here?” He looked at the map on the lift wall. “8th floor is oncology. Are you okay?”
His question caught Sarah off-guard. Surprising herself, she blurted, “I had leukemia when I was seventeen and I think it’s back. I’m here to get bloodwork.”
Bill frowned. “Where’s your family?”
“I don’t want to tell them until I’m sure. I’m scared, Bill.”
He put his arm around her and it didn’t feel awkward. He didn’t feel like a stranger.
Maintenance buzzed over the intercom, telling them to be patient, that it might take awhile.
“I sure hope so,” Bill said with a smile.
They talked for over an hour, then Bill opened a music app on his phone. He stood and reached for her hand.
“C’mon, before they interrupt us. I’m gonna teach you to slow dance.”
By the time maintenance got the doors open, they were three songs in, laughing and clinging to each other. The two hours they’d spent in the lift weren’t nearly enough. Sarah didn’t want to let him go.
“Can I call you?” Bill asked.
Ten months later, they danced in the stands at Red Rocks beneath a gorgeous Colorado sunset.
Sarah kissed Bill’s sunburned nose. He, his father and brothers had fished Bear Creek all day.
When the concert was over, Bill gave her a piggyback ride across the parking lot.
“You know,” he said. “I was thinking about that bucket list. I figure, now that you’re in remission, you’ll be strong enough to do the northern lights next year. But we can fly to Vegas in a couple of hours. What do you say? Still wanna get married by Elvis?”
She grinned. “I sure do.”
20. Supplements for a Corpse
Dr. Jane Morangue was heading out for dinner when the elevator came to a screeching halt sixty stories above the main lobby of the Hotel California by the Sea. She cradled her tight, swollen belly as she anticipated a loud, violent death.
A strange young girl stood at her side, not an ounce of fat or muscle on her petite, prepubescent frame. Her cold, lifeless expression was unadulterated by the suspenseful situation.
She aimed a boney finger at Dr. Morangue’s pregnant stomach. “Are you ready for that thing to be out of you?”
“That’s one way to put it,” Dr. Morangue inspected the girl’s gaunt frame with her eyes. “Are you hungry? I have a protein bar that we can split.”
“Are you sure? There’s chunks of chocolate and peanut butter.”
“It’s hard to eat without a stomach.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m hollow inside. No stomach, no heart, no kidneys or liver, not so much as a drop of blood. I’m like a walking corpse, or a zombie if you prefer that word.”
Dr. Morangue raised an eyebrow. “Then explain how you’re able to have a conversation.”
“I took my foster dad’s lungs and my foster mother’s brain. They’ll give me the power to speak for a day or two.”
“You have a very strange sense of humor. Since we have time to kill,” Dr. Morangue winked, “let’s prove whether you’re dead or not.”
The girl looked intrigued.
Dr. Morangue placed two fingers on the girl’s upturned wrist and counted to ten. The color drained from her face. She felt the girl’s forehead. Ice cold. “We need to get you to a hospital immediately.”
“You’ll have to fix the elevator first.”
“I’m sure someone will remedy the situation it in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, hopefully one.”
Time dragged on for nearly two hours. The girl stared at Dr. Morangue for the entire duration with a contorted grimace etched across her contoured face.
“Humor me,” Dr. Morangue broke a long silence. “What happened to your organs?”
The girl maintained eye contact as she spoke. “I got really sick when I was young. My parents took me to a bunch of doctors who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. All my organs failed, but I didn’t die. My brain melted in my skull and came out of my nose, but still, I didn’t die. They wanted to experiment on me, so I ran away. I found out that if I eat human flesh, I’ll spare you that part of the story, the pieces become part of me, but not for long since I don’t have any blood. They always wither up and die eventually.”
“You have quite the imagination. Impressive for someone with a borrowed brain.”
The girl rubbed her belly. “I’d really like a new stomach. I miss food.”
She punctuated her sentence by retrieving a drop point knife from her pocket.
“Give me that before someone gets hurt!”
The overhead lights flickered. The elevator rumbled to life.
“I’m sorry,” the girl said, her expression devoid of remorse.
“Please, you don’t want to hurt me. Think about my baby.”
The girl chuckled.
“I’ll take that, too.”
The elevator opened to an empty lobby on the ground floor.
Dr. Morangue lay on the floor, her body sliced open like an autopsy specimen. The girl stepped off the elevator coated in scarlet.
She cradled her tight, swollen belly. . .
The new home of a baby girl.
21. Running Late
Standing in front of the elevator, she sighed. The day she had the huge presentation was, of course, the day that the bus skipped her stop and she had to wait for the next one. She still had 45 minutes until the meeting started and the elevator was opening in front of her—plenty of time to get her head in the game.
She waited for the people to exit and started through the doors when a man barreled into her to get into the car. “Excuse you,” she said.
He pushed her floor button and turned to face her. “I’m late for an interview.”
“You could have just asked me to hold the door,” she responded, rubbing her elbow. “Hopefully, you aren’t interviewing for a customer service position.”
“Ha, ha. What floor do you want, anyway?”
“Eleven, just like you.” She looked down at her phone before hearing a horrible squeal. “What did you do?”
The elevator came to a stop and the lights blinked. “I pushed the floor button. What do you think I did? This isn’t a movie where I try to get you alone. You are such a charming individual, but I’m not desperate.”
“Desperate? You should be so lucky.” She reached for the phone and waited for the operator to respond. “Hi. We are stuck in the elevator. Could you get us out, please? Mmm-hmm. Wait! How long until the fire department gets here? I have a presentation in less than an hour! Hello?”
She stared at the handset and placed it back on the cradle. Looking down, her cellphone had no signal. “Just great.”
“We are stuck in here? No! We cannot be stuck in an elevator.” He started to bang on the door, yelling.
“Calm the fuck down,” she yelled at him over his screaming. “They’ll get here when they get here. What is wrong with you, anyway? You are rude, pushy, and just a pain in the ass. I have a huge presentation for a client and you don’t see me losing it.” She kicked off her shoes to slide down the wall and sat.
“Me? What’s wrong with me? We are trapped in a death box with limited air and who knows what is wrong with it. I don’t fancy careening to my death with you, thank you very much.”
She couldn’t help it. She wanted to be sympathetic, but the giggles started instead. The more she tried to stop them, the more she laughed.
“And now you are fucking laughing at me,” he roared, glowering down at her.
“I’m sorry,” she hiccupped between gasps for air. “It just was the icing on top of the screwed-up morning. Let’s start again. Hi. I’m Lydia. It’s nice to meet you. What job are you interviewing for? I work in the marketing department.”
He glared at her for a minute and then sighed. “I’m sorry, too. I was late because my ride blew me off and I really need this job. My name is Robert and I’m interviewing for a position in your department. Great first impression, huh?” He covered his face.
She smiled. “I think these could be extenuating circumstances. Tell me about yourself.”
Over the next two hours, they got to know each other. When the doors opened and they finally got to the office, she introduced him to her boss. “Sammy, this is Robert. I think he might be a really good fit here.”
She waved over her shoulder as she entered the boardroom. “Sorry, I’m late. I’ll take the stairs next time,” she smiled at the group.
22. The Elevator Tale
“Only five floors in the apartment block and I’m the only rider,” rationalized Peter.
Just before the door closed, someone else rushed in.
“Oh God,” thought Peter.
HIs companion was older, with a bald pate and bushy eyebrows. The elevator moved slowly upwards. Halfway up, the elevator came to a screeching stop.
Peter let out a very audible “Oh God!”
The old man pressed the emergency red button and turned to Peter.
“You believe in God, son?”
With his mouth drying fast Peter stammered, “What … what did you say Sir?”
“I asked if you believe in God. I heard you call out to him.”
“That was just an exclamation of shock, but I do go to church and I do pray. In fact I feel a strong growing urge to pray right now.”
“Go ahead son, if that makes you feel better, go ahead. The alarm bell did ring. Let’s just hope someone will respond to it.”
“Forgive me. I suffer from claustrophobia … enclosed spaces and especially elevators terrify me. But now this, it’s just too much.”
“Ah, I see,” the old man responded with a glint in his eye, “let me assure you things will be fine. This has happened before. These old elevators have fraying and badly rusted cables and every once in a while they do jam.”
“Fraying and badly rusted cables?”
“Oh yes. You wouldn’t believe the poor maintenance on these old elevators. One of these days I won’t be surprised if those cables just flat out fail. That would be funny wouldn’t it, hurtling down to the bottom …”
“Oh no, please don’t joke. That’s not funny.”
The man chuckled devilishly, his bushy eyebrows and jowls dancing with glee. He was enjoying this.
“Down the shaft we’ll go until we hit the bottom with a huge and mighty splat!”
“Please,” pleaded Peter, “please stop!”
“I’m just giving you fair warning. You do know we all have to go someday and wouldn’t this be a fun way to go? In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cables break loose right now …”
As soon as he said those words, the elevator abruptly fell about three feet before jolting to a hard, sudden stop. Peter’s heart jumped to his throat. He looked at the old man. His eyes were wide open and he had an anguished, frightened look on his face as he clutched at his chest.
“Oh God, he’s having a heart attack!” Peter shouted in his brain. Peter was trained in first aid. He forgot his fears and rushed to help the old man who was now slumped forward on the elevator floor. He worked on the old man, getting him back to consciousness and consoling him as they waited for help.
“It’s OK Sir, take deep breaths and try to relax. Help will be here soon.”
When the elevator doors finally opened, a maintenance man stepped in to help carry the old man from the elevator.
Peter stumbled out into the fresh air. “Oh thank God,” he whispered, “thank God.”
23. Special Assignment
Miss! Please! Could you hold the doors?
All right, but you’ll barely fit.
Wow! That’s a lot of stuff. No service elevator?
They’ve got it packed to the gunnels with the housekeeping carts. That’s why I waited til after five, most people are out and gone for the weekend. Sorry to crowd you. 27th floor, would you mind?
Sure. 27th is the magazine floor, isn’t it? Are you a writer?
No, I’m a stylist/props person for the Art and Marketing Department. I’m just dropping this stuff off for a location shoot they have this weekend. My God, this elevator is crawling today! Is it moving?
I don’t know what you have in all the boxes, but maybe we’re over the weight limit?
Nah, it’s bulky but not heavy. Oh my God! What was that? That thump?
Way more than a thump. But I’m positive that we are not moving. Oh, shit! Another one. What are you doing?!
I’ve read that it’s good to jump up and down if you’re in a falling elevator. You’ve got a 50% chance of being in the air at impact.
We’re not falling… yet. All that bouncing isn’t helping the stability. I think we’ve tilted a bit. Would you please stop that? I’m pushing the alarm. Hello? HELLO! We’re stuck in the East Street side elevator going up. I don’t know what floor we’re on. The indicator didn’t seem to move after the 5th floor. Can you hear me? Say something!
Good luck with that. The security office closes at 5:00.
Isn’t this tied to some kind of emergency dispatch? The Fire Department? They can’t just assume nothing happens after 5 o’clock.
I’m not sure there is a they. I think this building is in receivership or something. I’ve heard my boss talk about it and he’s putting the rent in some escrow account the tenants set up to protest the lack of maintenance. This is definitely going into the dispute log book.
Comforting. Oh come on! I’m not getting any bars on my phone. Try yours.
Unfortunately, I dropped my phone in a storm drain this morning. Stupid me for thinking that was the worst this day had to offer.
Yes, it’s always darkest before . . . the light shuts off completely. Well, someone will miss us, right? Any plans for tonight?
Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese followed by a pint of pistachio gelato. It’s my binge day. No one knows I’m here except my boyfriend. I just slapped him with a restraining order, so it’s doubtful he’ll be contacting me, since it will revoke his parole. How about you? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before? Do you work in this building?
Umm, no. I had a special assignment in this building just for tonight. I didn’t tell anyone about it, so no one will think I’m here.
Special assignment? That sounds mysterious.
What time do you have?
7:15. No more pistachios and candy bars, sorry. But I’ve got real pineapples in one of these boxes, along with a plastic roast pig. Now if we only had a knife.
It turns out we’re in luck.
Wow! That is some knife. If I didn’t feel like I know you now, I might be creeped out. Yay! We’re moving again. No pineapple for us! All righty, here’s my floor. Can you push the “door open” button while I get this stuff out? …Okay, that’s it, have a great night! Hope your assignment goes well.
(Door closes. Man sighs, pushes button for Ground, mutters)
Never, ever get to know your assignment.
24. Help When Least Expected
“Seven please” Maria looked down at her belly, controlling the desire to put her hands on it and rub the flat, smooth skin. She barely noticed the elderly lady who boarded the elevator in front of her and pressed the buttons.
“Everything alright, dear?”
Maria kept her eyes on her stomach and answered as if in a daze.
“Fine-“ but as the word left her mouth, the whole elevator shook violently and then stopped.
Maria reached over and pressed the button to open the doors, but nothing happened. She pressed it a few more times and when it was obvious they were stuck, she hit the emergency call button.
“Hello?” Nobody answered.
“It’ll probably take a few minutes for them to get to us.” The old lady kneeled, then flopped back to sit against the wall.
Maria held out a hand to help her, but it was too late.
“Have a seat. We can chitchat while we wait. Take our minds off the predicament we find ourselves in.” She patted the spot next to her. “I’m Joan.”
“Maria.” She slid down the wall staying close to the buttons.
“So, who put that bun in your oven and why isn’t he here with you now? “Joan smiled and laced her fingers in her lap.
Maria coughed to cover her embarrassment. “I’m sorry?”
“Oh, come now. It’s not that hard to figure out. Only two businesses on the seventh floor and I don’t think you’re joining the hair club for men.”
Maria wanted to laugh but choked on tears instead.
“It’s just us in here.” Joan held out a tissue. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk about these things with a stranger?”
“It’s not what you think.” Maria blew her nose, collecting herself. “I’m married. We wanted this baby.”
“Does he know?”
Maria looked away and shook her head.
“I caught Billy cheating. When I confronted him, he beat me.” She lifted her shirt to show her abdomen, still pink and purple. “Took a pregnancy test the next day and it was positive.”
Joan pursed her lips. “Did you go to the police?”
Maria laughed, tears streaming again. “His dad is the chief. And he hates me. Thinks I’m holding back his precious son. He’d laugh in my face if he knew. I’m sure he’d say I deserved it.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Joan nodded.
“I want to leave him, but I don’t know if he’ll let me. But there’s no way I can do either with a baby.”
“This is a pretty small town. Did you use your real name in the clinic?”
Maria shook her head. “I used my great grandmother’s name.”
“I wanted a baby so bad.” She broke down.
Joan scooched over, putting her arm around the young woman.
“I’m so sorry you’re going through this. But I think I can help.”
Joan pulled a card out of her purse and handed it to Maria, who read it aloud.
“Fairy Godmother Services, incorporated. Helping young girls out of tough situations for twenty-five years.” She flipped it over and gasped. “Joan… Bouchard? But you’re…”
“Grandma Joan to you.”
“You’re Billy’s grandma?”
“Biologically, but his father disowned me long before Billy was born. When I started this company, actually, after helping his first wife escape.”
“And… you’re gonna help me, too?”
“You bet I am.”
They discussed the details, and when the elevator jolted back to life after being stuck for two hours, they both yelped with shock.
“I guess I’d forgotten where we were!”
“Thank you so much, Joan.”
“Call me grandma.”
8 thoughts on “Fiction Marathon 2022: Third Voting Round”
A challenging round. Most stories either succumbed to the enviable tedium of the scenario or resorted to extreme violence or smut to alleviate it. But I found 13, 16 and 19 pleasing so those got my votes. Sorry I can’t give feedback this round. But, to be honest, all stories were much of a muchness; competent but uninspiring, my own included.
I’m sure we’ll all be on fire again in Round 4!
If there’s one piece of advice I can give for competition writers, it is this. Stand out. There are several ways to do this, a few of which some authors used this go round. Scare readers, make them cry, make them laugh, or shock them. Depending on the reader, doing these things will either win you a place in their memory or turn them off completely. So, of course, it’s always a gamble, right? But surely, you must avoid being cliche. If it’s expected, it’s forgetable. And sadly, several of the stories in this round went down the exact path I’d expect them to, given the prompt. Cliche is death for writers. That being said, here are my notes for this round. I didn’t use any fancy rubric or scoring system…I just went with my gut on these. Remember, writers, criticism is only that. Just because I didn’t like a story, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. And it doesn’t mean I won’t like your next one. I like inriguing characters with unexpected quirks. I don’t mind being hit in the face with alarming content. I smile when writers get witty, crafty, and playful, making me say to myself, “I see what you did there…” Great job this round, writers. The prompt really pushed you to think outside of the box, and some of you really took the bait.
Round 3 notes:
1 – There’s nothing here for me to grab ahold of, and so I’m left not caring about any of it. Even the descriptions of the characters are “beige.” Ironically, I think that was done on purpose, but whatever this author was attempting to make this story stand out, it fell flat for me. Dare I say, this one was just too pedestrian for me.
2 – This one was a near opposite from #1 for me. It started out with some possibility, decent dialogue, a bit of intrigue with the game, but it went south fast and I left with a (yes, I’m going there) bad taste in my mouth. I realize this is a fetish for some, but for me…just no.
3 – This one has potential. Good on the dialogue, and the possibility of a ghostly encounter is interesting.
4 – Intriguing twist. Felt a bit rushed and, I’m not sure how to explain this…but the rhythm seemed clipped. Too many sentences of similar length? I was drawn in, though, A solid piece.
5 – Maybe I just don’t get it, but… The concept was interesting, though. This author found a new way to deal with the traditional “stuck in an elevator” trope.
6 – Another that felt a bit rushed…a lot going on here. However, the characters and central conflict were unique.
7 – When a girl knows what she wants… yeah, there’s an app for that. While this is pretty cliche in every other way, I did like that final touch.
8 – Okay, shapeshifting is different.
(Seems like it is mostly sex or murder in the elevator…will any of these stories try something different and knock it out of the park?)
9 – Aww, that’s sweet. Not very memorable, but sweet. And I like the last line.
10 – I like the turn-around here…the fact that the sex offender is the one who feels like prey here.
11 – How serendipitous. Interesting situation.
12 – I like the bookend of the “karate chop.”
(I will never again get in an elevator when I have to pee. I will pee before I enter…these stories have taught me a lesson today.)
13 – I love how this one (very skillfully) pokes fun at the cliche that could have been. Nice strategy. My favorite so far! Well-written, dialogue feels naturally conversational.
14 – Having a baby on a stuck elevator, while not cliche, seems about right and sort of expected. I like that juxtaposition of character types, though. And while the action was pretty much left out (word count limits, I’m sure), I smiled at the biker’s pride.
15 – It’s okay. Nice that Gavin helped…and showed up later. But what about her job? We got lots of details about that, but no clear outcome. Seems if it was that important to take up so many words, the author would have gone somewhere further with it. I like the title tie-in.
16 – Wow…a whole lifetime happened in that dash. I’m surprised Stephen wasn’t annoyed by Charles’s non-stop prattling. I didn’t find him all that charming. Insecure? A chronic over-sharer? Yes.
17 – Oh, my. Compared to the other two revenge/murder stories in this line-up, this one is done with the most skill. Left me a bit queasy, actually. Which, if we’re talking about the quality of writing, is a good thing. Another favorite, even if the end did feel a bit rushed.
18 – While I like the character dynamics here (the age gap is a nice touch), I am left with little to remember. Nothing really stands out for me here.
(Seems claustrophobia is also a common trope for the classic “elevator story.” Which means, apparently, to avoid being cliche, one would have to steer clear of claustrophobia, sex, and revenge/murder.)
19 – Even though it was quick, it gave me the feels. It was like a drive-by, chick-lit novel. A whole lot of conflict setting the stage for a whole lot of possibility. I’d like to see this one turned into the longer story it deserves to be.
20 – Hotel California was an early clue that this one would be a bit “weird.” I’ll give it extra points for being the most “unexpected” story so far…and the only one to avoid the pitfalls of cliche.
21 – It was okay.
22 – At first, I though this author was going for a heaven/hell sort of thing…like maybe the old man would turn out to be God or the devil. And maybe he was? But there wasn’t enough here at the end for me to connect the dots. Maybe I read too much into it…
23 – I like the dialogue strategy here. And the last line is great…however, I had to go back and skim to see if I’d missed something. I get that he was her “assignment.” And maybe…with the knife…an assassination? But, I’m not completely clear on it.
24 – This one has potentia. I like the conflict and the fairytale angle. I wish there was more to this, though.
Well done everyone on Round #3! Here are a few comments on my favorite stories and a few pieces of feedback, too. I hope all of it is well-received…
#1 – Tell Me a Story: This story had a good start, but it seemed like it stopped too abruptly. Perhaps some of the dialog could have been made clearer which could have led to a better end, as I was left feeling a little confused and disappointed.
#4 – Love and Justice: This had a nice twist. Didn’t see it coming. Good job!
#5 – One Elongated Ride up: An interesting SciFi sketch that captured my interest until the end. I thought it could have used more of a twist or more exciting resolution.
#10 Destination Tenth Floor: I thought this had potential, but it seemed a bit too erratic, therefore, confusing, even at the end.
#13 – Truth, Trope and Clarity: I like the touch of erotica without it being cliched.
Good luck to everyone. I’m enjoying reading and writing with all of you!
An exhausting round to judge, because the competitors all submitted great stories! Well done all. There were three main themes of ‘happenings’ between two characters stuck in a lift – friendship/flirtation, bodily harm, and supernatural meetings.
The greater wordcount allowed writers to tell more story. Get too ambitious and the writers risked:
rushing the plot,
unrealistically sudden reveals / human connections
an unsatisfactory ending
(worst of all) confusing the reader.
50% dialogue may seem a lot if you’re nervous about it (I used to be). If well done, speech really moves a story along. A pitfall: leaving the reader confused as to who said what. A nifty trick here is to give 1 of the speakers a ‘tag’ or ‘style’ to their talking so we know when the words are theirs, even without the he/she said.
I thought the dialogue was particularly engaging, snappy, relatable for : 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. Initially I was confused by who was talking in 10, then realised this was a deliberate plot vehicle. 14 the biker’s dialogue not as believable as Sarah’s. 16 the rambling dialogue for Charles was deliberate and authentic. 17 ‘uneven’ dialogue very characteristic between someone who has spent years planning and their ambushed target.
Foreshadowing – as used by 3, 6, 10, 24, can be a great tool to assist with pacing a reader’s comprehension of the plot,. Titles are a way of foreshadowing too – giving the reader a clue what they are about to absorb. 4, 8, 11, 18, 20, 23 used their titles well.
I particularly admired the pacing in 3, 6, 13, 19, 20, 23.
I loved the brave, original plot ideas in 8, 11, 20, 24, 5, – fresh thinking always makes a piece stand out.
12 used a ‘karate chop’ line as a refrain, which I liked, although its use at the end made less sense than at the start.
8 had a great introduction, plot was maybe ambitious for the wordcount. Lost me in one of your sentences – beware the double negative!
9 seems you might’ve edited out an important word or two – I noted “will what?” I liked your message : support and hope.
Great interpretation of the assignment, please keep doing what you’re doing 1, 11, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24. Kudos to 3, who had French dialogue too (show off!)
I was looking to recognise those talking, even when that wasn’t stated. You can achieve this by having a slight accent or with a catchphrase – or perhaps the person repeats a word a lot – such as “like” for example.
I also hoped for scenes that were not a cliché.
Claustrophobia was used by the writers a lot. We had a few pregnancies. Some toilet needs and fiction imitating life.
And complete stories are hard to do in such a small word-count, so if you managed it, well done.
I wrote a – stuck in a lift story – for the smut marathon in 2018 and had to ponder all the things you guys did. So I understand it is not as easy a story plot as it first sounds. Trying to create believable characters and a strong, original plot…
Here are a few thoughts on each story, with my favourite six receiving a star next to the title,
Ah, art reflecting life. It always makes me smile, though. I liked that you just kept this at suggestive. It felt more real to me. However, I did finish the tale feeling there was something missing.
Well written tale – I like the way you start in the middle and then give us some background. And this is a clever line -“I couldn’t wait,” I flushed – I suspect there will be other pee stories but perhaps not as graphic as this one 🙂
Number three *
I loved this, but it may have something to do with the fact that when I wrote for a similar spec in the predecessor competition, I had a ghost in the lift too. But also, I really enjoyed your dialogue.
Number four *
Some fab scene setting using a lot of the senses. And I didn’t see that coming. Great plot setting and an all round good complete story.
I do love it when we get some sci fi and this also read like a complete story. I liked the idea of the captcha for a name, and that idea it reminded me of the song Johnny Cash made famous, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Goodness, I was not expecting that. Ten out of ten for shock value and a good story line too.
Slightly clichéd sex in an elevator, but I liked the ending – it appears she was in total control of the situation.
I got a feeling of urgency when reading this, which worked well with the confined space of an elevator scene. On occasions, I found my self wondering who was speaking, but on the whole I think you did a good job.
Nice story. Nothing remarkable happened, but I really liked the ending.
I must say I had to read this twice, I didn’t quite get it the first time, on occasions I was confused as to who was talking or doing what. But I really like the twist at the end.
This was a feel food story and I liked how it ended with hope on the horizon.
Great start and end, but wanted more from the middle. Well written piece though.
Number thirteen *
Great job. Loved the sexy banter and the promise of more at the end. The story definitely entertained me,
Number fourteen *
Really like this story. You have created unique voices, which is always good in a dialogue laden story. And I loved how proud he was at the end.
Another good feel story and I really liked the use of “ma’am” in the dialogue. Good ending, but would have like to know if she got the job!
Stephen gave some good advice there, and it worked out for a great ending. I loved how annoying you made Charles. You wrote a complete story here – so well done.
Number seventeen *
Wow, you packed a lot in here, and it packed a punch too. You certainly kept my interest.
Another good feel story and this one flowed so well too. I like the age-gap dynamic as well.
Number nineteen *
You packed so much into this tale, but it didn’t feel like that as I was reading. You took me along on the ride, taught me about your characters, and I finished reading with a tear in my eye. Great story telling.
Wow. What a horror. I wasn’t sure who to believe as I read this story. I think you did a good job, and also I liked your title.
Really like how they made productive use of their time in the lift and the ended worked really well. Good job.
Fabulous descriptions in this, which is nice, as can be hard to do when you also need to focus on good dialogue. I would like to have seen this as a longer story.
Now, I wonder if this is true – “jump up and down if you’re in a falling elevator. You’ve got a 50% chance of being in the air at impact.” 🙂 I was right in my assumptions of what was going on, but great job on the ending.
Well, sometimes you get stuck in the lift with just the right person! I think this would work better as a longer piece.
Well done to all of you – particularly those who managed a complete story, recognisable character via their dialogue or wrote in a less common genre.
A lift? Oh, an elevator. What’s that? Trapped? How convenient for us to be alone on this elevator, together.
The first two rounds left me frustrated. In round one I had to convey fear in a very small amount of words. I think all the contestants managed it to one level or another but there wasn’t much room to distinguish themselves.
Round 2 was a dating profile. I felt the parameters were a bit vague and could have gone a million ways with it. This made it all the more frustrating as I wasn’t sure I picked the right way.
This round was different. I was a pinch hitter with bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. The pitcher threw a hanging curve. Now I just hope I got enough behind it to hit it out of the park.
This is not me bragging. I have no idea how my write will be received. I am only pointing out that the setup, trapped in a lift, 50% conversation, 600 or so words, lent itself very nicely to my skill set. For the first time in the competition, I did not have to spend an inordinate amount of time planning my write, it just flowed.
I was even able to throw in a little twist at the end as I tend to do in my stories.
Whether the voters liked it or not is up to them. For me, I feel like I did the contest justice, even after reading the other 23 fantastic entries.
The nature of the assignment – dialogue – can be a trap to some, but the writers did well.
In stories where you have to use so much dialogue, every word in the dialogue should be used to tell your story. To move it forward. Not a word should be wasted. Unfortunately, in some of the stories I missed the tension. When I look at the technical aspects of the dialogue, there were a couple of stories where the writers missed out on the proper punctuation, but overall it was good.
Thank you, writers, for another entertaining round 🙂
1. Tell me a Story
I like it when the assignment becomes the subject of the story itself, and you have done it very nicely here. The conversation flowed naturally and moved the story forward, and I like the hint of sexiness in the story.
2. I Spy
Oh gosh, now I haven’t seen this twist coming, and then a twist on the twist! Great story, great dialogue!
You missed out on punctuation here:
“… lack of options. “That should keep us entertained for all of five minutes_” I shot Steve a…”
3. The Connoisseur ***
I really like a story with a twist, and I like this twist. While reading the first part the way the two spoke to each other sometimes felt odd, but reading the second part and knowing who Miss Clayton talked to, makes the preceding dialogue fit perfectly. Great story, well done!
4. Love and Justice
What I like most about this story and would like to know about more, is the surrounding story, that which went on with the murder, the court case. Intriguing, and I like how you set the scene of being trapped in the lift within that ‘outer’ story. The dark part at the end of the story works well too!
5. One Elongated Ride Up
This is an original way for interpreting the assignment, but I didn’t feel like they were trapped, just taking a very long ride up. Also, the conversation is good, but it stopped too abruptly to my liking.
6. Big Talker
When I started to read this, I thought the story will be about claustrophobia and the panic because of that. Great twist to make it about murder, and a bold move to write it from the first person narrative.
7. Breaking the Ice
I like the implication at the end of your story that Nina had orchestrated Rick and her to be trapped in the lift. However, I would’ve wanted to read Rick’s reaction to that, because it feels unnatural for him to just accept that since he suffers from claustrophobia, even if she is his crush. That said, a nice way to break the ice.
8. She Needed Closure
I am really sorry, but I find this story confusing. I read it a couple of times, and although I understand she wants revenge for her sister because she things he had killed her, it seems some things have been left unsaid, which loses a lot of the plot, and leave me confused about too many things.
9. Lessons Learned Between Floors
I like the conversation between the two of them, but I have hoped to see more of the lessons they have learned. However, I like that something seems to be blooming between the two of them.
10. Destination Tenth Floor
When I started reading the dialogue, I wanted to know who was saying what, but as I read on, it became clearer. I felt real sympathy for Mike. Good story.
11. PTSD? Maybe
I like the bits of humor in this story, despite the serious subject you touch on.
12. P’s not for Parking ***
I love how at the end you brings the story back to the beginning, closing the circle and putting the conversation into a different light. The panic of Krys comes across well, and the soothing words of Ricky too. Nice writing!
13. Faith, Trope, and Clarity ***
I love this story! The porn star and the erotic writer, and ‘comparing notes’ – just brilliant. There’s not one word in this story that’s unnecessary and that, in my book, is an art! Well done!
14. Miracle Between Floors
I like the idea for this story, having a baby in the elevator, and the biker character came across really well. Good dialogue too in giving him his voice.
15. Excuse Me Ma’am
A sweet story, and I was glad she told him to stop calling her ma’am as it did irritate reading that every time. Great to work that into the story, and I also like the last line, how you bring the story full circle.
16. Charming People
Another sweet story, and I like how this was almost a monologue as Charles kept on talking. Good advice Stephen gave him. Many can take that to heart.
17. Long Time Coming
A nice build of the tension, and a sensitive subject to touch on. Revenge is one of the strongest motivators, and makes for a great writing subject. Good story, good dialogue.
18. Elevator Cute Meet
This indeed is a cute meet, and I like the age difference between them. Looks like something nice can come from being stuck in the elevator!
19. Hold On
Oh I really like this story. You have packed a bunch in here, and managed to bring across your characters and their lives perfectly in the limited words you had. Well done!
20. Supplements for a Corpse ***
Oh gosh, this is an intriguing story! What a character you have created with that girl!
21. Running Late
A nice story with good characters. I like how they just happened to be on their way to the same place, and she sort of interviewed him.
22. The Elevator Tale
Somehow while reading and the old man talking about the elevator falling, I wondered if he would be the devil. However, the end of the story was less exciting than that. The dialogue here worked fine.
23. Special Assignment
I like how almost all of this story is dialogue and the format you have chosen for it. Also, the dialogue moves the story along nicely, and that last line puts it in a totally different light. Well done.
24. Help When Least Expected
A nice story. I like how Maria was in the right place at the right time, and the dialogue works well here.
This was tough, but here are my thoughts as I read each one. A lot of great entries.
1.) Tell me a Story: Clever idea to use the contest as the story idea. I like how light and flirty the conversation, the tone and manner are clear from the word choices. In the beginning, maybe instead of saying the professional woman was anxious, perhaps show it.
The professional woman glanced at her watch and pursed her lips. “What did they say?”
2.) I Spy: Well, that escalated quickly, or.. Er, I guess, didn’t because broken elevator. The dialogue flows naturally, and every word serves a purpose.
3.) The Connoisseur: Oh, I like this one. Ghost stories are always a pleasure.
5.) One Elongated Ride Up: Unique idea for a space elevator. There is a lot of great character development with Xii. Despite the short space, I feel we are getting to know her. In the end, I felt like maybe I was missing a joke, or the story wasn’t quite finished.
6.) Big Talker: Still reading the rest, but this is earmarked for a favorite. Nicely done.
7.) Breaking the Ice: The ending is a brilliant touch.
8.) She Needed Closure: I think there is a great idea and I love the idea of a shape-shifting escort. I was a little confused about who was speaking in the first dialogue tag. It detracted from the gem of a story until I got placement situated again.
9.) Lessons learned Between Floors: Well done. Relatable and emotion packed in a neat package.
10.) Destination Tenth Floor: Nice Twist. The reversal of rules makes it interesting. I was a little confused by “Ido have form”. It may be a regional difference, but I’m not sure what that means.
11.) PTSD? Maybe: Well written and Billy seems a promising character. When the DR said they had been there a while, it didn’t feel more than a minute or two in story time. It seemed odd, inconsistent with pace.
12.) P’s not for Parking: Great personality clash
13.) Faith, Trope, and Clarity: Perfect blend of fantasy and reality. Well done.
14.) Miracle Between Floors: The pregnant lady trapped, birth imminent,is a classic, and a fear of all new mothers. I think you did it well, but the classics can make it hard to stand out even when well done.
15.) Excuse Me Ma’am: I like the irony of the therapist having to be calmed down.
16.) Charming People: Nicely done. A lot of short stories resemble prologues to me, l but this was a clever complete tale.
17.) Long Time Coming: Revenge tales are a big hit with me. I think the Zen attitude of John is a nice touch, the calm in the emptiness. The smile at the end is fitting and sad.
18.) Long Time Coming: The writing is good and the story well told, but I found it a little weird she would be reminded of her “pop-pop” before offering a joint bath. My ick- meter sounded. Completely subjective and perhaps fitting in some genres.
19.) Hold On: This made me smile.
20.) Supplements for a Corpse: Well done. Unique and dark.
21.) Running Late: I think it needs a little something to make it pop. It’s a good story, but no element grabs the reader and makes it memorable.
22.) The Elevator Tale: I enjoyed the old man character and his just desserts.
23.) Special Assignment: That took me a hot second, but a satisfying moment when it sunk it. Your formatting is really effective for this type of story.
24.) Help When Least Expected: An interesting setup, I just wish I knew more about what they decided to do.