The Lights Are On

In the broken elevator. Tom pressed the alarm five minutes ago. The shock-second, when the elevator shuddered, is over. He did the automatic; pressed the alarm, talked through the metal holes. Help is on the way.

Another man who entered on the seventh floor is normal. He won’t talk, as he hasn’t been spoken to. He won’t cry, as nothing is wrong; help is on the way. Please stay calm. But he smiles. Since the elevator broke, he smiles.

He is not normal anymore.

“We’ll be here a while.”

“We will.” the seventh-floor man touches a wall.

“Got anyone you can call?”

“Not anymore.”

Tom calls his wife. Everyone’s home apart from him. They’re having dinner.

“I’m won’t be back anytime soon. I’m stuck in the elevator.”

“Oh, God.”

“I’ve gotten help.”

“I’d be climbing through the roof, Tom.”

“It’s too dangerous. Cables. Let the fire department come get me. Love you.”

He finishes the call and sends her a text. There’s a weirdo behind me feeling up the walls.

The seventh-floor man looks around and nods. Tom will be polite.

“So. What’s your name?”

“Jim. Bit bare in here. Minimalist.”

“It’s an elevator.”

“I don’t mind that. It’s like a room, isn’t it? Hanging in time and space…”

Without meaning. Tom talked through the holes.

“The hell’s taking you so long?”

“Let them take their time. They’ve got more important things to do.”

“We’re trapped.”

“You feel trapped. But I’m fine. I’m free.”

Tom’s wife hates small spaces. Was there an opposite?

“I like micro living. You reminded me when you were talking to yours just now, of my wife.
Wanted shit all over the walls and floor. She’d have it on the ceiling if she could.”

“You can only go so far. Like, a bed.”

Jim takes off his coat, sits and blankets himself. “Bed.”

“What about your wife?”

“Sod her. Thinking of divorce, anyway. Moving into a bachelor’s pad. And look what I’ve

“People use this lift every day. You can’t live here.”

“Got fired today. Could be a fresh start. Taking people up and down, pressing the buttons for them. You won’t believe how little those buttons get cleaned.”

Tom stays standing. Soon he will be free. His family won’t believe him when he tells them.

The man who treated an elevator like prime real estate.

Jim takes out his phone. “The callout to Saxon Building was a prank call. Hope you didn’t waste your time.”

“What the hell?”

Tom jumps him, reaches for the phone. Jim finds his and throws. A smash behind them. A smash in Tom’s face. Blood in his mouth and glass in his eyes. Screaming makes it worse.

“You’re right. They won’t let me live here.”

“I don’t want to live here!”

“If they let you out, they’ll want to let me out.”

There’s a panel in the ceiling. Tom gets up. Bloody, kaleidoscope-eyes on Jim. He pushes the panel up.

Jim leaps into him. They clang to the floor. Tom punches Jim aside and hauls his upper half out the elevator.

Jim grabs his legs. He’s pulling too hard. Tom tries a cable. It burns across his hands. Jim’s pulling too hard and Tom sinks back. He stretches for a cable with both arms.

Tom falls at a bad angle for his neck. Crack.

Ow. Nasty way to die. Jim needs to push him back out. No good having a dead body in your home. Smells. Unhygienic. What would the police say?

Nothing. They’d need a warrant. You can’t break into homes these days. A man’s castle. His castle. The lights are on and he is home.

The elevator shudders.

by Catrin Lawrence


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