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Thirteen Hours

Anna’s hair fell over her face in in cold, wet strands, as she stepped from the street into the grandiose lobby. The soft lighting gave a lustre to the marble floors and gilded walls, one that was warmly at odds with the cold, wet, and windy street outside. She had planned to set off for the interview at Martin, Edwards, and Hutchinson – the oldest and most prestigious law firm in the city – in plenty of time, but when her Uber failed to arrive, she realised she’d have to take the bus,and then walk the rest of the way. It was during the walk that the heavens opened. Now, she felt like a drowned rat; probably looked like one too, she thought to herself.

Walking over to the concierge – an elderly man with a kind smile, who reminded her a little of her late grandfather – she asked if he knew where she needed to be for the lawyer interviews.

“Oh, that’s way up on the seventh floor, Miss.” he said “You’d better take the stairs. It’ll be a bit of a hike, but if you take your time…”

“…don’t you have an elevator?” Anna interrupted him. After the nightmare journey getting there, the last thing she wanted to do was walk up seven flights of stairs.

“We do,” he replied, hesitantly, “but I don’t think you should take it. Much safer with the stairs.”

“Safer? What do you mean? Surely if they’re faulty, they’d be out of use, wouldn’t they?”

“I never said they were faulty, Miss,” said the old man, looking increasingly concerned, “I said they weren’t safe.”

“That doesn’t make sense!” said Anna, looking around. Behind her, she saw what looked like three vintage, and rather grand looking, elevators. “I take it those are the elevators there?” she queried.

“Yes, indeed, Miss, but I really do think…”

Anna didn’t wait to hear the rest of what he had to say.

“Thanks for your help.” Anna replied, hurrying over to the middle elevator , just as the door began to open. As she stepped inside, she pressed the button for the seventh floor and looked across the lobby at the concierge. His kindly smile was gone, replaced by a look of concerned anguish. As the elevator door began to close, she saw him mouth “Good luck.”

The vintage elevator slowly began to rise, the timeworn cogs creating a gentle hum that was strangely soothing. Above her, green numbers in an illuminated display counted the ascending floor numbers.

Two. Three. Four.

Anna was just beginning to allow herself to fantasize what it would be like to come to work here every day when the gentle hum became the screech of metal, and the elevator ground to a shuddering halt.

“No, no, no! Not today, please!” said Anna, out loud and to herself. With increasing desperation she repeatedly jabbed at the button for the seventh floor, hoping against hope that the vintage machinery might suddenly, miraculously, stir back to life.

Alas. No such luck.

Dejectedly, she pressed the “Emergency Call” button. She heard two rings, and then static.

“Hello?” she said, rather more nervous than she had intended. “Can I get a little help in here, please? The elevator seems to be stuck.”

There was no reply. Only the sound of static filtering through the grille of the intercom.

Anna tried again.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

Still the only answer was the soft hiss of static.

“Hello! Someone please! Answer me!” Anna’s voice had risen to a crescendo of panic. She was just about to press the button again, when the hiss of static was interrupted by a voice. It was a voice like nothing she had ever heard before. A deep, croaky voice, but with a certain resonance. It sounded old, but not like an old man or woman.

“Oh, Anna. You do sound frightened.”

Instinctively, Anna took a step back.

“W-what?” she stammered. “Who are you? How do you know…?”

“…your name? How do I know your name? Is that what you were going to ask? Oh Anna. I know everything. I know everything about everyone who has ever lived. I know when you were born, where you live, where you grew up. I even know when you will die.”

“What? What is this? Who is this?” Anna was trying to be brave, but the tremor in her voice betrayed her fear.

“I am that which is older than time. I am the destroyer of worlds, the consumer of souls. I am everything and nothing, all that ever was, and all that ever will be.”

In the pit of Anna’s stomach, something registered. The way the voice sounded old, but not like an old man or woman; because this wasn’t an old man or woman; this was something that had always been here. It said it itself. I am that which is older than time. Whoever…whatever this was…it was old…impossibly old.

“Don’t you want to know, Anna?” the voice spoke again.

“Don’t I want to know what?” replied Anna, tremulously.

“When you are going to die.”

“No!” Anna practically shouted. “No I don’t!”

“You disappoint me. I thought you had more curiosity.”

“Fuck curiosity! And fuck you!” Anna had retreated to the far corner of the elevator. Sobbing uncontrollably, she slid down the wall and onto the floor.

“Indulge me.” said the voice, unmoved by her tears. “Indulge me. Ask me.”

“Ask you what?” Anna’s voice was barely a whisper.

“When you’re going to die!” Thus far, the voice had been steady and even, practically monotone. In fact, were it not for the sinister content, it could almost be comforting. Now though, the voice was like one born in the fiery pits of hell, with furious anger woven in every syllable.

Anna was sobbing so much, she could barely get the words out. Somehow, she managed to stammer “W-when am I g-going t-to die?”

“Today.”

Suddenly, the elevator sprang back into life. It began slowly at first, but then gathering speed, it raced up through the floors.

Twenty. Thirty. Forty.

As it reached the fiftieth floor, the elevator came to a sudden and shuddering halt. Anna, her senses reeling, felt dizzy as her ears popped, so swift had been the ascent. She was just gathering herself together, when the voice spoke again.

“This is it, Anna. Goodbye.”

“What? What do you mea…”

Her words stuck in her throat as the elevator began to freefall. The walls rattled uncontrollably as it plummeted back to earth. Anna looked up at the illuminated display.

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven.

Gripping hold of the brass handrail, Anna gritted her teeth, closed her eyes tight, and tried to brace herself for the inevitable.

When Anna woke up in hospital, she couldn’t understand how she didn’t have any injuries.

“Don’t you remember?” asked the kindly nurse, “You had a panic attack while you were waiting for the firefighters to get you out. Mind you, you were in there for thirteen hours, so I think I would have been panicking too.”

“I was panicking because the thing was in freefall,” said Anna, “and it was minutes, not hours.”

“Freefall?” said the nurse, “I don’t think so. You didn’t move from between the fourth and fifth floors the entire time.”

“But…what about the voice…on the intercom?”

“From what I heard, there was no intercom. Well, there was, but it hadn’t worked since the twenties. They said that’s why you were panicking, because they couldn’t speak to you.”

Anna rubbed her eyes. This didn’t make sense. Suddenly, she looked up.

“The concierge. He tried to warn me. He told me the elevators weren’t safe.”

“I don’t think that building has a concierge,” said the nurse, “They used to. I saw him myself. A nice old guy with a kind smile…”

“That’s him!” exclaimed Anna.

The nurse laid a gentle hand on Anna’s shoulder.

“But he hasn’t worked there for years and years. He was committed to an asylum way back. Poor guy. He kept rambling on about something being evil, about how he had to save people from that which is older than time, whatever that meant. He died some years ago. A blessing really. At least he doesn’t have to worry about evil any more.”

I wouldn’t be so sure about that, thought Anna.

Next Story: Help Them

Copyright © 2019 Whispers Amongst The Corn

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