I tap my foot awkwardly, shifting my eyes around the dimly lit elevator, and try to ignore the painful silence that lingers between me and the other passenger. Just two more floors til floor five. She’s getting off there too, but most likely heading in a different direction. Just a few more seconds to go, and then this cringeworthy silence will end, and you can get in your car and leave the parking garage and go home.
There is no idiotic elevator music. I can’t tell if that’s good or bad. The space is cramped, lined with a musty blueish fabric of indeterminate origin. The elevator buttons glow weakly and have dirt crusted around the edges. Just a few more—
The dim light overhead flickers out. The buttons lose their glow, and the elevator stops completely. There is one second of dead silence, then the woman next to me screams.
She cuts her scream short, as if a sudden thought has overtaken her. “What’s our exit strategy?”
“Oh my God, we’re all going to die.”
I fumble my phone out of my back pocket and turn on the flashlight. “Do you know what’s happening?” I keep the light shone on the floor, just enough that I can see her face.
She shakes her head, her face taut with fear.
I think of something. “Are you scared that you’re in this broken elevator, or that you’re in it with me, alone?”
“Both,” she answers quietly.
I don’t know quite what to say. “Well, you have no reason to believe me, but for what it’s worth, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Thanks,” she says in a small voice. She points to the button that supposedly calls the fire department. “You should push that.”
I do. Nothing happens.
“We can call someone, then,” I suggest. “911? Or our moms?”
She laughs, a little. “911, probably. We’ll both call.” She pulls her phone out of her backpack and dials.
I do the same, only to be met with a harsh beep. I frown at my phone and dial again.
“Any luck?” I ask my companion grimly.
She shakes her head, staring in disbelief at the screen. “This is so weird. What the hell is happening?”
“I don’t know. We could be here for... hours, I guess. Forever. Who knows.”
She sighs. “Might as well make ourselves comfortable, then.” She sinks to the floor and leans against the wall. “I’m Kara.”
“Nice to meet you, Kara. I’m Tanner.” I sit down as well.
Kara sighs again and leans her head back. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Me neither.” I look at my phone, the flashlight still on. The battery is on 73%. “How much battery does your phone have left?”
“Only 15. I should probably conserve it, in case we try calling 911 again.”
“Yeah. I’ve got quite a bit, though, so I’ll leave this flashlight on until we get things sorted out. We should probably get situated, and, I don’t know, take inventory or something.” Kara nods and slips off her backpack.
I empty my pockets. I have my phone, wallet, and keys, several quarters, a balled-up yet somehow suspiciously clean paper towel, a rubber band, a York peppermint patty, and a ticket stub from a movie I’ve never heard of. No food. No water.
Kara is laying all her possessions neatly on the ground. She has a laptop, two composition notebooks, a lot of different writing materials, a Jane Austen book, one and a half granola bars, a water bottle, four hair ties, some buttons, a tube of chapstick, a tangled mess of earbud wires, several brown napkins, and a single knitting needle.
“Well, I guess we know who’s the more valuable one in this situation,” I remark dryly.
Kara laughs and slips a hair tie off her wrist. “Would you rather sit in awkward silence, or read some classic literature, or, I don’t know, talk?” She smooths her straight black hair back into a ponytail.
I grimace. “I’m not particularly fond of awkward silences, but novels aren’t really my thing, either,” I admit. “Maybe we talk? Although I have no idea what about.”
Kara finishes combing her hair back and shrugs. “Our lives. Or things we can teach the other. Or, I don’t know, politics or something.” She shoots me a glance. “Democrat or Republican?”
I sigh. “I don’t know. It’s complicated. Both. Actually, is neither an option?”
Kata crosses her legs. “Hey, you stole my answer.”
I roll my eyes at her. “Fine, why don’t you teach me something then?”
“The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.”
I groan and slam my head into the wall. “Not that. Anything but that. Let’s talk about our lives instead. What, say, is the one thing that’s happening right now that you wish would stop? Other than this whole elevator crap, that is.”
She bites her lip. “Honestly?”
“I mean, yeah.”
I stare at her. She stares back. And finally, I laugh, “Kara, you are a very, very strange person.”
And so our relationship begins
A few minutes into our elevator fiasco, I screenshot my phone’s screen. The time is 2:28 in the afternoon. Who knows how long we’ll be in here.
We start by talking. I tell her about my life, and she tells me about hers. I tell her how I feel I have no one in life who actually cares about me, and how my girlfriend of almost two years had just broken up with me a month ago. She tells me things about herself that she doesn’t know why they’re true, but she hates them and sees no way to change.
Kara tells me that she hates getting 100 on a test. Anything over or under that is fine, but if she gets a 100 she will regret every decision that led up to that score.
She tells me that she feels disappointed in herself when she doesn’t cheat on an exam.
She tells me that 35 miles per hour is the slowest speed she’s ever driven—even slower than standing still.
She tells me that she hates sleeping on mattresses or beds. She said she much prefers couches, futons, and floors. And even roofs. She’s slept on a roof.
She tells me that she hates sitting in chairs. She’d rather sit on a countertop or lie facedown on carpet.
She tells me that she despises wearing shoes. The feeling of fabric on her feet, she says, is unbearably restricting. She told me that she often goes into stores barefoot, and no one stops her.
She tells me that she’s been avoiding learning Spanish her whole life.
She tells me that she faced bullying in school every day as a child.
She tells me that she came from a broken home.
She tells me that she’s a frequent shoplifter.
She tells me that her favorite color is maroon.
She tells me that she’s strangely attracted specifically to people with Tourette’s Syndrome, and she has no idea why.
She tells me that she’s sworn at a painting.
She tells me that she knows her dad loves her older sister more than her.
She tells me that she doesn’t know who she is.
And lastly, Kara tells me that if the elevator crashes and kills her, she’d be okay with that.
I stare at her. She stares back. Finally I ask, “Have you ever, like, seen a therapist or anything?”
Kara snorts. “God no. I’m not going to kill myself. I just want to.”
I pick at my cuticles. “So… what’s your relationship with your family, then?”
“Needless to say, terrible,” Kara says. “My dad hates me. I’m a disappointment to my mom. My sister is better than me in every conceivable way and my brother is a jerk. They don’t, and haven’t, ever, known anything about me. They don’t even know that I have tattoos.”
“You do?” My interest is perked. “That’s cool. I’ve always wanted to get one, though I don’t know what, or where.”
“Me neither. I just got the most random things that came into my mind. Most of them are, like, quotes in typewriter font that make me want to stay alive just a little bit more.”
She thinks. “‘I’m the hero of this story. I don’t need to be saved.’ ‘But without the dark, we’d never see the stars.’ ‘Die with memories, not dreams.’ Stuff like that. The usual inspirational crap.”
“Those are all actually really cool.”
“Thanks.” She rolls a ring around her finger. “I’m supposed to be getting married soon.”
“Oh?” Nothing in our conversations is strange or off-topic anymore. “Are you?”
“No, I don’t love him. I do like the ring, though. I’m keeping it, if he’ll let me.”
“Probably not. It’s still pretty, though. Want to see?” She slips it off her finger and passes it over to me.
I turn it around on the pads of my fingers, squinting in the dim light to examine its detail. “It’s really beautiful.” On a random impulse, I add, “Like you.”
Kara reaches over and takes the ring back. “Thanks. You too. Not that you’re beautiful, but you seem like a… I don’t know, not a good person, exactly, but a… a cool guy. You have a good vibe. You know?”
I nod, slightly miffed that, while my compliment slipped out of its own volition, she took it so easily.
I’m realizing that I really, really love Kara’s imperfections.
I honestly think that’s what makes people beautiful. No one looks at a LEGO brick and says, “Wow, that’s so beautiful,” because there’s ten million of them. But everything about Kara--the good (she’s pretty), the bad (she shoplifts), and the ugly (she has a really unhealthy family)--it makes her, her. Which makes her perfect, in my eyes.
Dammit. This isn’t happening. She’s engaged.
Kara sighs and opens up her laptop. “Might as well work on my manuscript.” Her fingers make circles on the mousepad, then graduate to making clicks.
I try to shake my thoughts out of my head. “Manuscript?” What for?”
“I’m writing a book. It’s a dystopian future novel.”
“Sounds exciting. Read me an excerpt?”
She’s a really, really talented writer.
I tell her so.
“Thank you,” she replies. For the next half hour or so, she types, proofreading and editing. I do random stuff on my phone, still confused as to why I don’t have data, wifi, or service, and why, in the first place, we got stuck in this elevator.
I check the time. It’s 4:17. I have no idea we’ve been here this long.
Kara yawns and slowly closes her laptop. “I’m too high for this.”
I must look startled. Kara shoots me a glance. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’m not going to kill you, or throw up, or something. It just… helps me think. But not now, apparently.” She slides the laptop into her bag. “Sooo, did you have other things to do today, or…”
I think. “Not really. I was just going to, like, get Dairy Queen or something and then go back to my dorm and, I don’t know, study or something.”
Kara nods and yawns again. “What was your day like before you stepped into this elevator?”
“Just your average Sunday, I guess. For some odd reason, I went to church for the first time in a while, but left halfway through. I don’t know why I even went in the first place. I just didn’t really have much to do.” I pause. “What about you?”
Kara scratches a knuckle. “Went to a restaurant with friends, ordered off the kids’ menu. Walked to the pet store and pretended I was sane enough to buy a ferret. Stood at a crosswalk for forty minutes in the rain and watched the headlights of the cars as they whooshed by. Read the comics and was only very slightly amused. In essence, nothing.” She rifles through her possessions laid out on the ground. “Want a granola bar? You can have the unopened one.”
“Sure, thanks.” I lean forward and take it from her. “Forgive me for being blunt, but it sounds like you’re depressed.”
“Ya think?” Kara takes a bite out of her granola bar and blinks. “This is the best thing that’s happened to me all day.”
I start to respond, but just then, the elevator comes back to life. The lights flicker on, and, after a creaky pause, it continues moving upwards.
Kara and I both shoot up just as the elevator reaches the third floor. The doors open to reveal the concrete level of a parking garage. We both stare in shock at the outside, then at each other. Finally, we laugh.
“Oh, thank God,” Kara mutters. She begins scooping her stuff off the floor and into her backpack. “This box was starting to smell bad.”
I grab the few things I have off the floor and shove them in my pockets. I stumble out of the elevator in a daze, and Kara follows.
“I barely remember where my car is.” She squints. “Wait, no, that’s a lie. It’s to the left, over that way.” She motions vaguely with her hand.
“Oh. I’m to the right.” I’m dizzy. Why am I dizzy? The elevator didn’t have good ventilation, I guess. No air circulation. I was, and am, finding it difficult to breathe.
“Goodbye, then,” Kara says, one of the first times I’ve heard her use a cheerful voice. I mumble a goodbye and stagger off in the direction of my parked car.
Once inside, I sit, for what feels like a long while. I’m forgetting something. My brain isn't functioning well. I’m running on little sleep and was just stuck in an elevator for hours--what am I forgetting?
I don’t have it.
I start the car frantically and swerve out of the parking space. I zoom down all the ramps, past the toll box things that aren’t manned on weekends, and into the street.
Direction. Which direction would she have gone?
For some reason, the streets are full of traffic. Car horns are honking--I can’t concentrate--where would Kara have gone--
I spot, far away, the back of someone’s head, a sleek black ponytail inside a forest-green colored car. I barrel into traffic and dangerously pass cars, trying to get closer and closer to her.
The car in front of me stops. We’re at an intersection, and the light is red. Vehicles surround me on all sides. I see, ahead, the car moving away, farther, father, until it’s only a speck in the distance.
I scream and curse and weep. I bang my head against the steering wheel and don’t care when it sounds the horn. I almost ram into the car in front of me in my anger. I scream.
The green car is gone.
And not once in my lifetime do I ever see Kara again.
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I really love this story, Inkstained. I love how much their relationship grew throughout the story and I was genuinely disappointed when Tanner lost Kara, but well done with that ending. I look forward to reading through more of your work, good job!! Ps. Can I call you Ink?
thank you!! and yeah, of course :)))
Great! Thank you so much for the follow, Ink! Are you writing a story for this week's prompt?
You mean the “meet in the middle” contest or the one before that? I haven’t submitted anything for this contest yet, but I’ve started one one the prompt about witnessing a murder. I was hoping to do one about the alien marketplace, since that fits perfectly with my story about Calliope, but alas, I never got around to it. Sometimes, like today, I find myself scrambling on Friday to have something to submit, but I always get around to it. And you’re welcome! :)))
Either, since the Meet in the Middle one is out now! Oh? The murder one sounds really cool! I started one on the alien marketplace, but alas I don't have time to finish it today. But I'm definitely doing the newest one, with the sunset/moon prompt. It fits perfectly into a story I'm writing with a couple of my newer OC's.
Hi! I'm not sure how to call you, so. I agree with Natasha, this story is good. Aw, I wish they would meet again. Hopefully you will do a sequel on this? It sounds super interesting and engaging. Keep up the good work!
Hey! You can call me Nevada or just plain Ink, which is what most people on the internet know me as. Thank you! :)))
Ooh, your name is somewhat similar to mine in pronunciation terms! I like "Ink", so I'll call you that from now on!
There was such a twist at the end! I wonder why your story isn't getting enough readers? This is the best story I've seen today!
Wow, tysm!! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. What’s actually surprised me is that the story I considered my best has the least likes (besides my newest one) out of all of them lol. And I’m really surprised that you say that, because this was imo pretty bad, but maybe you just haven’t read enough pieces today ;)) btw, I’ll go and check out your profile <333
I liked this story, it was well-written and the characters are made three-dimensional. What I don't like is there is too much telling. Especially the part when you write she tells again and again, maybe you thought it was looking good, but to be honest it wasn't. Also, I recommend you to work on not writing clichés. But I must appreciate how you made me see the characters and their feelings in such a short word-limit. P.s- would you mind checking out my stories?
Thank you, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Thanks for your feedback! (Honestly when you say you thought I thought it was looking good was a little pointed and aggressive but it's fine haha. If I'm being honest, the majority of works I write, I firmly believe are trash. I only have one short story on here that I actually believe is good out of five submissions. This website is just an outlet to encourage me to write so that maybe, with every bad piece I write, I can identify what's bad about it and try not to do the exact same th...
Haha yeah, I am sorry if it seemed aggressive, It always comes out the wrong way lmao. Anyways, the trash part and outlet part is the same for me too ;)