She pressed her ear to the elevator floor, and there was the creak-strain of cables. It was alive, like the jump of a pulse on the neck or someone swallowing a good meal, or the purring of a happy cat. Small living sounds that made up the world in careful jigsaw pieces. The powercut meant she could touch and listen and smell everything.  

She could… stop. Being her. Just for a little while, she could float.

She curled up in the darkness, fingers brushing the carpet. Soft as sand and warmed by her body heat, as if someone else’s palm lay on the other side like a mirror, asking an unknowable question. What would she tell them if they were there? She opened her mouth, pondering, then decided to let the silence sit.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Shoe leather and cologne and some chemical. A cleaner. Scents she should know, and yet they’re foreign. Is she Here, or back in That place with no windows and only her pale, pale hands and those chains to break the gloom? The carpet says Here. There, had been concrete stone, colder than a dead heart. No violent hand reached for her and forced her up, to walk, to ‘dance to their tune’ as He might say. He thinks everything might be a game. It’s life’s design. Getting her free was the game He won, but He’s still happy with the prize… for now.

How much longer?

She clawed the carpet slowly, letting the ache in her fingertips draw her to the present. Thinking would do more harm. Better she not think at all, as They’d told her. The They without face, but a voice, voices, that blew storms and tore questions to tatters.

You’re a tool. You don’t think. Take orders and execute. Lay down. Serve me.

And there she is, huddled in the tempest. Wondering when it might gentle with her hands between her knees.

When can she speak?

When can she stop? Being?

When is she herself? When will she stop feeling muddy, confused, hopeless?

Are these bruises on her forearm, or is she making Them ‘evil’? Is she making movies in her head and projecting them outward? He says she might be. It’s up to her.

They were trying to make her better, so she could be valuable.

Surely… Surely They were helping her?

She’d closed her eyes, but then found herself walking.

It was dark in the elevator – but she wasn’t confined in a box anymore.

With every step came a bright ripple, as if a creature underfoot were guiding and paving her path. There was no splashing and she didn’t sink or crumble, because she knew she would go forward, and forward. He was there.

She had to find Him here, in this vast shadow.

It stretched on, but she could walk forever. He was there.

She held out her hands and felt along the wall, seeing only the ripples. There came the warmth creeping up her palms, a spring growth seeking sunlight. She smiled ever so faintly and bumped her forehead on the dead end. She reached out to guess its shape. Nowhere to go, and even if she crouched, no gaps left to give her a chance to even crawl. She was trapped.

The air was stale poison.

Couldn’t breathe.

She held out her arms, desperately, but didn’t fall into his. Not quite, because he couldn’t be looking for her if she couldn’t even help herself. She slid down the wall, and the warmth faded from her forehead and then her splayed palm. She’d lost him. She was lost, just like before. Had there ever been a change?

Were her eyes opened or closed right now?

Hungry… and thirsty. She sat up and put her back to the wall. The bathroom could wait, but how long could she? Alone. Alone again. The dark had gotten darker because she couldn’t find Him in the dream reality. What chance did she have here, now?

She could go back to Them. They needed to polish her to shining, she wasn’t ready. They’d told her, and she’d still gone to Him because He had given hope.

Follow me, but don’t expect me to change you, He’d said. That’s on you.

“Help me…” she said inside the box. But her voice was too soft, because being loud was ugly and no one wanted that no matter how useful she was. She tried to be louder, just once, but the words stuck in her throat because no one wants to hear you. She reached up and covered her mouth, hands shaking.

Did she deserve to ask? Was it in her place? Must she stay in a box, always? (But she must not think that way.) From one box to another, from a small one to a bigger one. (Stop it.) He had warned her that the box would never go away, that they were all in boxes and some were able to shape it, and make the frame bigger. Some could see through it more than others, like mesh and lantern paper. But hers had always been opaque, in every corner and seam.

Could she breathe inside this box? Had there ever been holes to breathe through?

They could poke holes for her, yes, if she opened her arms to Them they could. Give her a lightbulb that was just for her. Good girl, just like that. Such a good girl. Come here, little blanket warmer. Let’s teach you a few more tricks, then we can go to bed. She would be safe and They’d be… proud, happy to have her back. And He… would be disappointed. His investment had gone to waste.

He did it out of pity. He doesn’t feel for you. He wants to use you.

Don’t they all?


It wasn’t spilled light that filled her with the warm sun; it was His naming her, calling her home. She knelt to pick herself up - clumsy. Fix that – ignoring the pins and needles in her legs and pushed herself up and buckled and tried again.

“Kier,” she said, digging her fingernails into her palms.

There’s a clunk outside and a groan as the doors part just enough, spilling red. The backup lights are on in their apartment. It is much, much brighter than the blackness in her box.

He’s there, tall, hand held out. She can’t see his face clearly, but he must be smiling his mild smile of knowing the world and its games.

“Kier!” Loud girl. Don’t… care. She lurched to her feet and wrapped around his waist. He’d found her again. 

September 10, 2020 08:05

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Josh C
02:52 Sep 17, 2020

Hi Angela, welcome to reedsy! I got your story from the critique circle this week and had a read. I didn't quite understand what was going on, there seemed to be a lot of backstory that I couldn't quite get. Who was Kier, who was them, who was him. That all confused me. I also found the random capitlisations of Here, That, Him, He, etc to be quite confusing. I wondered if they were capitalized to indicate a specific place or just typos. Otherwise though, I really like the concept of being trapped in the elevator and being taken to a di...


Angela W
23:18 Sep 17, 2020

Hey JC, Thank you very much for your critique! I absolutely see how all the things you mentioned could be confusing, whoops. I'm still trying to work on my clarity (and I guess I thought it'd be poetic with the capitalisations...). Your review was actually very helpful, and I'll make sure to keep these points in mind for my next writing piece. Thank you again ^-^


Josh C
00:22 Sep 18, 2020

Glad it was helpful. The balance between clarity and mysterious is tricky to nail, but keep up the writing! If you get time I'd love any thoughts you have on my last story.


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