Scary Stories Part I: Rise to the Challenge
It's Spooky Season, and you know what that means - Scary Stories! Join us this week for a new short story each day, as we prepare for Halloween to hit the office...
The lift is slowly grinding its way up. The three of us are now alone, but it is hard to tell which way we are moving. The horrible metallic screech of cables and old rusted metal gives even “Captain Talk-a-lot” a moment of pause. Even as we feel ourselves going up, it is as if my insides are falling, lurching downwards with each jolt of the locked steel box, inside which I now feel very trapped.
Only eight floors, we’re meant to ascend. Only eight floors to meet with the recruitment agency. Talk-a-Lot and Sneezy - as I had mentally termed them when we got in - were here to interview for the same position as me, it seemed. Eight floors of awkward companionship.
The clanking and crashing of the ancient elevator comes to an abrupt halt; I don’t know whether to feel relieved, or even more terrified. Within the enclosed space, the echoes of its journey resonate far longer than should be natural. Perhaps I am suffering from sudden-onset tinnitus - the reverberations seem to have settled somewhere in the back of my skull. The doors are closed.
“Floor f- f- flo- floor se-”, announces the lift with sudden ferocity, the automated voice stuttering and cutting in and out. “Two two two two- floor two- floor two hundred and seven- floooooooooor two”. A slight crackle of static and the voice goes out, quickly followed by the lights. I am suddenly very aware of the ever-so-slight swaying of the compartment, almost losing my balance in the darkness.
The once-chatty guy in the waistcoat doesn’t almost lose his balance.
He crashes into me.
“Bliddy typical”, comes a voice. “Shouldn’t there be emergency lighting or something?”
“Maybe it’s one of those old ones? There should at least be an emergency contact button.” I try to reassure my two companions, internally telling myself it will make me feel better about the predicament that I, too, am in.
After a few minutes of fumbling around in the dark, I determine that there is not an emergency contact button. No signal on my phone, nor on the phone of the sneezy-wheezy short guy in his ill-fitting suit, who informs me his name is Mike.
“Phone’s dead”, comes the final nail in our steel coffin, from Captain Talk-a-lot (or Adam, as he tells me his name is). “I have a portable charger, but it’s mad slow. We may have to wait a bit. Frick. I was already late. Meant to meet my guy twenty minutes ago.” He rummages around for a bit and clumsily sets up the device. A dull red blinking light begins to emanate from one corner of the lift. “Anybody got any food? Was in too much of a rush for brekkie.”
I reluctantly hand over my breakfast bar (which I had been quite looking forward to). I suppose if we’re in this for the long haul, I want to keep them friendly, right?
“So, you’re both here for the Project Management role, right?” Mike’s voice is shaky, and his sinuses are very clearly filled to the brim with mucous. He makes no effort to shield us from his repeated coughing fits. “It’s odd that they invited us all to interview at the same time, isn’t it?” Almost in answer, the lift gives a sudden lurch downwards, and we are all knocked into one another again. We were meant to be eight floors up, but we may as well be eighty below ground. The red light continues as our only light source, illuminating our faces at regular intervals. I spot the other two shivering like myself. It’s so cold - the mist beginning to form at our feet could well be a collection of our foggy breaths. Surely there must be some kind of access hatch?
There! “Press in case of lift stopping whilst containing three candidates applying for the same job”, on a large square button, presumably only coloured scarlet by the flashing light. I find myself compelled to push it in, and am answered with a clang as a panel on the side of the lift crashes open to reveal a fire axe. Wait – three fire axes? A very peculiar emergency protocol…
The lift’s voice rings out once again, crisp and clear this time: “Michael, Adam, and Eryn - for the role of Project Manager, in Surrey. Your fight begins now. May the best Candidate win.”
(Part II can be found here)