His finger sat frozen, poised exactly ½ inch away from the elevator button that would take him to the fourth floor. He simply couldn’t push it.

The finger began to tremble. 

He was paralyzed. 


He couldn’t do it. Hit the button. Have the elevator take him up. Up to the fourth floor.


His unpleasant reverie was abruptly ended as a hand playfully flicked his aside, and with a short, smart movement, another finger briskly punched the button. He stared at the finger that had replaced his in front of the fourth floor elevator button. . It’s well= manicured, dark red fingernail occupying the place a moment before where his own finger had been. 

“See, that wasn’t hard” she said with mild amusement, cocking her head to the side. He looked at her blankly, having been so preoccupied in thought that he didn’t see the woman slide into the elevator just as the doors closed. 

Suddenly he felt very Self-conscious; he abruptly withdrew his hand from the button, placing it in his other one to hide his trembling. He stole a brief look at her. A thin smile crossed his nervous lips. He felt beads of sweat erupt on his forehead and he wondered if it was visible to her. He hoped not. 

She was all business. Short, cropped black hair, a stylish black two piece executive suit. White blouse. An elegant pearl necklace.  Leather briefcase. Dressed to the nines for a power meeting. And exactly what might that meeting be about? , he mused. He knew what his was about, and again the paralyzing dread returned….

The elevator started, and once again he smelled the familiar mixture of machine oil and occupant perfume that is so common in all elevators. The soft, reassuring hum of the engine and cables told him that they were moving. He smiled ruefully to himself as he thought of the elevator—it was the ultimate equalizer—taking everyone—regardless of race, creed, religious orientation, or social status—to exactly the same destination at exactly the same time, with the simple push of a button. 

 He felt the familiar queasiness hit his stomach like it usually did when an elevator came to life and began its lift. But this time it was worse. Much worse. His stomach had already been upset before entering the elevator, and the slight sensation of movement made it immeasureably worse. For a moment he was terrified he would vomit. How would he explain that to the woman, he thought?  He swallowed hard, fighting back the nausea. He realized he was an emotional wreck, and this did little for his confidence.    

The woman smiled at him, but  he sensed condescending pleasure accompanied it. After all, his baggy jeans, frayed t shirt, and worn sandals hardly exuded am aura of wealth and success.  Why wouldn’t she feel and superior?  She was obviously a successful executive, and he was…..

 He looked down at the floor, feeling ashamed of his appearance, and what had become of him. 

And then it happened.

 In a heartbeat. 

The elevator suddenly stopped. 

They both found themselves standing in complete darkness and silence.

“Oh my God!” Sje exclaimed. “This can’t be happening.”

“My God!, My God!” She repeated. “We’re trapped!

“Be calm” he replied. He surprised himself f at the measured, even tone of his response

“Someone will notice the malfunction and we’ll be rescued soon”. 

“We’re in a tomb!” she replied fervently. “It’s like being buried alive. We’ll never get out!\

It isn’t a tomb, he thought to himself.

It is a fortress. 

Slowly his trembling stopped. The darkness hid his insecurity; it hid the sweat on his lip, his trembling hands. The darkness hid his clothes. 

Suddenly, he could be—he was—her equal. 

Instead of terror, o panic, he felt calm

Maybe the elevator malfunction would never be found and fixed. .

Maybe, just maybe, they would never reach the fourth floor.

Maybe they would be stuck here forever. Could he even hope for that? 

Yes, this was a fortress. His fortress. And he was its master. In here, he couldn’t be hurt. He was protected from harm. No one could shout at him, demand things from him, or attack him. The elevator saw to that. 

She screamed. 

He reached out and held her. 

Strong, confident, for the first time he could ever  remember. 

It felt good. So very good.

He stroked her hair as her tears fell wet on his frayed sweatshirt. 

“It will be ok”, he said, over and over as he gently rocked her,. “It will be ok”. 

But would it really be ok? He thought. Oh, if this could just last forever?

The darkness—a silent balm that covered his torn soul. The frozen elevator doors—a bastion against all the horrors and disappointments the outside world held. 

Then they both heard it. The urgent shouts

“Are you ok?” “We’re coming” “Hang on!” 

He shivered.,

Yes, they were coming. To his fortress.  

The woman he had held in his arms suddenly pushed him away and

Stood up in the darkness. 

“Yes, we’re here!” she shouted.” Please hurry! “We’re trapped!”

But they weren’t trapped, he thought.

 We’re secure. We’re protected. 

He said nothing. 

But the hammering and scraping began, abruptly interrupting the blessed silence he had

Experienced  just a few minutes ago. 

Suddenly,  lights began to flicker on and off, lending a strobe-like effect to the elevator’s interior. He could make out the woman, tears streaming down her once confident face, her eyes wide with terror.   He tightly shut his eyes, wishing the darkness and silence would continue. 

“How can you stand this?’ she exclaimed. ““How can you stand being trapped?” 

He said nothing,

No. she wouldn’t understand. She would never understand. The feelings of protection, of peace. The renewal of confidence and self worth blossoming lwithin these four walls. 

He moved towards her, to hold her again, but as he moved the lights came fully on and the

Elevator began to move.

She brusquely shoved him away, and shouted for joy. “We’re moving!” she shouted. “We’re saved!”.

He looked straight ahead. 

The woman no longer needed him. 

They were moving. The elevator was bringing them to the fourth floor. 

The elevator—his fortress-- had failed him.  

He knew it would. 

The trembling began again. The sweat on his brow returned.

He nervously jumped at the abrupt beep that emanated from the elevator, indicating they had reached their level. The woman laughed at his nervous jump. And he knew. Her composure, and confidence had now returned.  As the doors parted, she left first with a self-assured stride. Stride, and a brief node to him.  There was no thank you. 

The man hesitated, swallowed hard, and stood in the elevator doorway. Just one step, and he would be out. The elevator would be gone, and he would enter the fourth floor., 

He thought about what he had just experienced. Slowly, the elevator lights began to flicker again. He watched the elevator doors close on him, like the embrace of two warm, compassionate arms.   And the fourth floor was gone. And he was back.

Not to the elevator.

But to his fortress.

September 08, 2020 18:53

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Ariadne .
21:00 Sep 13, 2020

I want to point out a few typing errors I feel may be beneficial for you in the future. 1. "Incapacitated.. He couldn’t do it. Hit the button. Have the elevator take him up. Up to the fourth floor. To….it." It is common to use 3 dots to express a trail of thought. It should be "Incapacitated..." and "To...it." 2. "Suddenly he felt very Self-conscious;" It should be "self-conscious." It should not be capitalized. 3. "He felt beads of sweat erupt on his forehead and he wondered if it was visible to her." The beads of sweat are plural. The...


George Kroker
15:08 Sep 14, 2020

Adrienne, Thank you so very much for taking the time and making the effort to comment on my story. Your suggestions are very valuable to a newbie writer like myself. I am enormously grateful. I would love to read your submission and I think I can find it by clicking on your name above. Best regards, George Tanks again George


Ariadne .
18:11 Sep 14, 2020

Of course, anytime! I'm new to Reedsy myself and enjoy other people's suggestions on my writing as well. I believe if I enjoy something myself, why not help others as well?


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.