The Elevator

The two men stare at each other.

“So, what now?” John sighs.

“They must have procedures for this sort of situation.” Richard pokes at the yellow button. A short, shrill sound. Static.

“Hm. Odd.”

John lowers himself to the metal floor. “I guess we’ll be here a while, mate.”

Richard presses the button with increasing urgency. Still no answer.

He is starting to feel the warmth rising in his cheeks and sweat forming in his armpits. The heavy fabric of his uniform is scratchy on his skin.

“What’s the matter with you? Not going to pass out, are we?”

“I’m fine.”, Richard manages to answer, suppressing the urge to gasp for air.

“We might as well have a chat while we’re in here, to pass the time.”, suggests John. “I’ll start. When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of the dark. I could only sleep with the door ajar and the corridor light on. I would wrap myself in my blanket, like in a cocoon, because I was scared a hand would creep up from under my bed and grab me. I would also have daily nightmares about the basement in my house. Nobody ever went down there. It was a dark, freezing hole where strange shadows lurked in unfamiliar corners. It felt like I would be swallowed whole if I ever dared to venture there.”

“When I turned ten, my father took me aside and said: “Johnny, you are a man now. You cannot be afraid of the dark anymore. You have to be brave.” So that night, he put a mattress in the basement and locked me inside. I screamed, begged for mercy and clawed at the wooden door hour after excruciating hour. My fingers turned bloody, my fingernails tore and my heart was pounding so hard I hoped the neighbours would hear it and come and save me. After a while, I became so exhausted, I curled up as close to the door as possible, keeping an eye pressed against the sliver of light coming through by the cold, hard floor. At each scuttle, whisper and flutter, I would feel my heart skip and my skin crawl with fear. I can only imagine how haunted I must have looked when, after what seemed like an eternity in darkness, my dad opened the door. He squeezed my shoulder and said he was proud of me, that I was truly a man now. And from that day, I vowed never to be afraid again.”

Just as John utters those last words, the elevator starts moving. Richard is still feeling slightly nauseous, his face blotchy and gleaming with sweat. He pulls John back up to his feet.

As the doors open, both men step into the bright, sterile light.

“Alright inmate, break time is over.”

Richard turns to John. “So what happened to your dad?”

John flashes a smile as he is lead away by another police officer.

As Richard turns and back into the elevator, he hears John calling out:

“Why do you think I’m in prison, mate!”

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