Back on March 4, 2014, The writer’s Digest had this prompt:
The department store elevator shuts down on the way to the fourth floor, with you and ten other people in it. You remain calm, but other people begin to panic. Write this scene and the dialogue between characters.
I have since revised the original story I wrote for 500 words. Sadly, I never got a chance to post it online until now. So, if you like the prompt, write your own short. Enjoy!
The hallway had been remodeled. When I say remodeled, I mean it went from the hateful orange-peach to a gray-white hospital wing color. Someone must have forgotten to call in a designer because you don’t get customers at a department store by making their experience dreadful on the eyes.
My reflection on the elevator doors made me look like an antiquated milk carton ad. Pushing the elevator button, two men flanked behind me. With my eyes to the floor, I could see one man’s shoes- black, smooth and stylish. I estimated a $170 overprice. The other guy had tennis shoes with high class symbols on its anterior, but worn on the sides. Probably why he’s here. To buy shoes on the seventh floor.
Letting out an exasperated breath in time for the doors to open, we stepped onto the car. Before the doors closed, a young woman with a bag bigger than her torso, jammed her foot on the door and rushed inside. Catching her breath, she placed her hand over her chest. Her cheeks were rosy from the running. Her boyfriend joined up on the next floor. I know because they kissed hello.
By the third floor, we were ten passengers and heading to different departments in the store. I wanted to get to the eighth floor where they sold pet supplies. My job was to compare the prices with the competition. This place always lost to the others.
One tall, slender woman with gym clothes was probably heading to the gym. Why they put the gym on the tenth floor was beyond me. Sure you needed exercise and climbing stairs would have added to the day’s goal, but really? Ten floors, folks. What if the ceiling cracked and the pool’s water leaked on the merchandise from the ninth floor?
“Did someone forget to press the button?” A surly bald man in the corner asked.
“The lights are on for the fourth, seventh, eighth, and tenth floor,” the tall woman said.
“Then, why aren’t the doors opening?”
I looked up at the numbers. We had stopped on the fourth floor, but the doors remained shut.
The man in a gray suit pushed the door button repeatedly.
The young couple in the back took hold of their hands.
The elderly woman with corkscrew glasses (can’t believe they still make those) and strange flower on her hair said, “Here I am God.”
The teenage boy next to her replied, “The doors are probably jammed.” He turned to the tall woman. “Press the emergency button.”
The tall woman nodded and pressed.
The elevator doors made a sound like cats scratching on a bed post, which didn’t help the screeching shrills of the two girls when the car jumbled to the side… slightly.
“Hey! You’re going to make us deaf.” A heavy set man with stocky arms glared at the girls.
“Maybe we can force the doors open,” the bald man suggested.
“What about making an opening above us?” the heavy set man added.
The girls and the couple whispered to each other, “We’re gonna die.”
“What if this is part of a terrorist’s sick joke?” the teenage boy warned.
That got everyone riled up and the suggestions were a little overrated. This is just another technological mishap, which happens when we rely on it for everything.
Then, I felt the tall woman’s elbow and the elderly woman’s knee. My cheek hit the elevator doors like a pancake on its pan. With cheek pulsing, and shoulder squashed against the doors, I finally realized they had gone hysterical. Clawing, beating, and grazing each other.
Getting pulverized wasn’t sitting well with me and I managed to crouch low. The second I did, the doors opened and a fireman flashed a light at us. His astonished face fell on all of us. That is, until they stopped on mine.
I bit my fingers and stood.
Two orderlies came forward and took an arm each. “Say goodbye to your friends.”
The muddled crowd fell back against the elevator walls, hair tussled, clothes in disarray, and hearts beating like jackrabbits. They watched the orderlies pull me out.
“But they’re the ones insane. They’re the ones who make everything wrong with the world. Not me. Not me. I’m just going to get pet supplies.”