I hated lifts, but Fred wouldn’t take the stairs. He was always annoying, but he’d have a complaint for every step he was forced to take. It would’ve been unbearable as we live on the top floor. So I waited for the lift.
The doors opened, and Mrs. Peacock stared back at me, weighed down by her shopping bags. I stepped inside, and pressed the button for the twenty-fourth floor; it clicked and glowed red. I nodded to Mrs. Peacock, and while I gave my silent greeting I heard more clicking. My shoulders dropped, and I didn’t have to look to know what Fred had done.
“Don’t press all the elevator buttons!”
“It’s a lift not an elevator,” said Fred, punctuating his statement by sticking out his tongue. He knew I’d started Americanising my words to try and fit in more since my parents moved us here. “Who are you trying to impress, you’re not American!”
Feeling in no mood for his teasing, I punched him in the arm and he stepped away, but the damage was done.
“I’m sorry about that Mrs. Peacock.”
She gave me a dirty look and said nothing in reply. I don’t know why everyone always blames me; Fred is only a year younger than me but it’s not my fault he’s never grown up! Maybe it’s because I always look guilty.
Thankfully Mrs. Peacock lived on the fourth floor, and got off on the next stop anyway. I don’t know why she was so grumpy about the buttons.
Now we were alone but I was ignoring Fred, any encouragement always made him ten times worse. I watched each of the numbered lights turn off, one by one. Six out of twenty-four down, eighteen to go. But we were only half-way there when suddenly all the lights went out and the lift stopped dead!
I was anxious in lifts at the best of times, and not being able to see my own hand in front of my face in eerie silence was pushing my limits. I knew Fred was scared too as even he didn’t break the silence.
Without the distraction of the names tagged on the wall, and disturbingly accurate drawings of genitalia, the smell of piss could no longer be ignored. I had no point of reference in the pitch black but could still feel the walls start closing in. It froze me to the spot. I hoped I was standing in the centre of the lift so I could last as long as possible before I was crushed like a bug.
“Use your phone Groaney Joaney!”
“I told you to never call me that!” The walls stopped in their tracks, surprised by my sudden anger.
“It has a light doesn’t it?” Then I heard Fred patting himself looking for something, “Never mind, I’ll use mine.”
Fred was always losing things, and even if he did find his phone the battery was probably dead anyway. So I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and the screen lit up the lift. I spun around like a lighthouse, illuminating the artwork on the walls, and confirming there were no monsters in the corners; just Fred. He was still patting himself like he was putting out a fire…he was such an idiot as he only had two pockets! He stopped and smiled at me. I refused to smile back and praise him, even if it was a good idea.
“We can call for help now.”
“There’s obviously no signal in the lift!” I snapped back. I stopped spinning and gave my screen a sideways glance to confirm. Unfortunately I was right – no bars! I sucked in a deep breath, and then turned my phone to make sure the walls weren’t moving. I felt dizzy, but the unique odour of the lift brought me back to my senses like smelling salts, reminding me that sitting on the floor was a bad idea.
“We shoulda stayed at Millie’s. Then you’d have a signal.”
Millie was the first friend I made when we moved to New York. The more time I spent with Millie the less Mum worried about me, which is handy as she lives in the same building as us. I only let Fred tag along sometimes when I went down to Millie’s flat to play, and he always wanted to stay longer, even though she ignored him more than I did.
“And if we had stayed there…we wouldn’t be stuck in this lift and wouldn’t NEED a signal!”
I quickly realised no signal to call, also meant no data. My phone was just a glorified torch, and an expensive one too! I didn’t know what to do with it; I couldn’t put it down on the sticky floor, but I couldn’t put it back in my pocket either, and I knew Fred wouldn’t hold it. There was no telling how long it would take for them to find us, and I’ll be reduced to a bored candle for the whole time.
“Let’s play a game,” said Fred, reading my mind. “How about eye-spy?”
“The usual then?”
“Sure…not like I have a lot of options.”
Twenty questions was Fred’s favourite game. When I had started seeing my therapist she suggested it for when I felt anxious, as it gave my thoughts something positive to focus on. Fred always got the answer in less questions than me – his record was five – and he always knew when I needed to play.
We were well into our fourth game when I heard a weird noise.
We both stood motionless, channelling our inner dog as we tilted our heads to hear better. Then I heard it again; it was a creaking scraping type of noise.
“I heard it that time,” said Fred.
The scraping stopped with a metallic clang, and then a distant voice echoed above our heads.
“Anybody down there?” The voice was deep, but was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard!
“Yes. YES! GET HELP!”
We were saved, and I would soon be out of this stinky prison cell.
“We are the help sweetheart. How many of you are down there?”
I looked to Fred, and he smiled back at me.
The fireman – I later found out his name was Barry – was quickly onto the top of the lift, and forced the emergency hatch open. Barry tried his best to calm me down; then he put me into a harness, and lifted me out to safety. Once through the emergency hatch I took one last look back into the lift, and Fred was looking up at me. He blinked three times in quick succession like he always did when I didn’t need him anymore, and then disappeared!