© John Grover, Artwork by Linnea Sinclair
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(Click Here For Printable Version) (May contains strong language and situations)
She checked herself in the mirror one last time; Mandy loved the way she looked in her red miniskirt and her new perm. She studied her teeth carefully for lipstick smears and then sprayed a little bit more perfume about her before leaving the bathroom.
Around her two-bedroom, meticulously clean apartment she searched for her purse. It was Saturday night and she couldn’t wait to hit the clubs, perhaps tonight was the night. Maybe she would finally meet Mister Right out there and be out of this 23rd floor apartment. Skipping up twenty-three flights of stairs was not her idea of a fun time. The elevator had broken down again last week and it took the repairmen four days to fix the damn thing. Tonight it was finally back in working order and just in time too. Mandy didn’t relish trying to get down the stairs in a miniskirt and heels.
That wasn’t the only thing that hung in the back of her mind about this building. Back in the seventies, as some of the older tenants had told her, there had been a string of murders here. Very brutal murders, some of the bodies were skinned or eviscerated; some had every drop of blood removed, while others were dismembered. The murders were never solved. Not one piece of evidence was ever found.
The very thought of it, although giving her the creeps, kind of excited her, the story gave the building some character and whenever she told friends about it they seemed totally intrigued with the place and with her, as if she was totally cool for living in a building with a sordid past. So it made her feel special.
The place had been refurnished and given a face-lift several times since then, but for all the hard work it really made no difference. A certain atmosphere hung here, the walls held secrets, the halls felt claustrophobic, and the windows were eyes to a twisted soul. You just couldn’t hide the fact that awful things happened here before.
And that damn elevator, like the diseased heart of this place, always clanked and creaked as it rolled up and down the floors endlessly. She could hear it sometimes in the middle of the night squeaking to her floor, pausing and seeming to wait there for an odd amount of time. How old was the goddamn thing any way? You’d think that with all the renovations they did here they’d get the thing in tiptop shape.
The cell phone blared through the room, Mandy’s eyes lit up with discovery as her purse was found nestled between the cushions of her loveseat. "How did it get there?" she snatched it up and pulled out the cell. She looked at the caller id, BARB it flashed. "Shit, I’m late," she said, answering it.
"Hi there," she chirped. "Yes, I’m on my way. I swear right now, right out the door. Ok, see ya." she rolled her eyes before stuffing the phone back into her purse and headed for the door.
Her two friends Barb and Chloe were anxiously awaiting Mandy; it was her turn to do the driving. She walked half way down the hall and reached the elevator on her left. Pushing the button, she listened to the door clank open with a metallic bellow. The hall was unusually empty, not a sound echoed as if every one was hiding away behind locked doors, afraid to come out.
Stepping in, she pushed the button for the parking garage and watched as the doors slid closed, a chill coming over her.
There was no one else in the elevator with her, what luck, no stops.
The air in the elevator felt thick.
The elevator began to slowly move down, the sensation made her feel woozy. It always did. Actually all elevators gave her that feeling, she didn’t care much for them. Somehow she just didn’t trust them; they just seemed to have a mind of their own. But tonight it was better than taking the stairs.
The light above her flickered, her eyes swept up to stare at the florescent bulbs hidden behind frosted slats.
Floor twenty...floor nineteen...floor eighteen...
The air grew heavier; the walls around her seemed to get tighter. Her head began to swim as dizziness set in. The flickering lights above weren’t helping matters any.
Floor fourteen...floor thirteen...floor twelve...
She felt the light perspiration in the palms of her hands. "Goddamn elevators." she complained.
When the elevator reached the tenth floor, her cell phone screeched out again, causing her to jump. She almost laughed at herself as she reached into her purse. "That Barb, I already told her that I’m on my way."
The rings filled the elevator with its loud, desperate call. There was a sense of urgency in it. She looked down at the caller id. OUT OF AREA flashed back at her.
"Hello?" she answered.
At first just the sound of wind blowing, sighing breezes laced with moans...then a bit of crackly static before...."You should have seen the looks in their eyes--"
The voice was genderless, cold, a smoothness to it that was immediately unsettling.
"What?" she asked. "Who is this?"
"While their insides were being ripped out and the life slipped from their bodies."
"Freak!" she shut the phone off as the elevator came to a screeching halt.
With sudden force it slammed to a stop, rocking Mandy from her feet and onto her backside, her phone slid out of her hand and across the floor.
It rang again.
Mandy sat frozen, staring at the phone. Looking about, she noticed that the elevator had stopped on floor seven. Lucky number seven, she thought to herself. She eased herself up and pushed the door open button, but nothing happened. The phone called behind her.
"Of course," she grumbled, hitting the door open button again and again. "You’ve got to be shitting me. This is just great." the lights above flickered again as she turned to find her phone.
It read OUT OF AREA again.
"It was so exquisite." the voice said directly. "There was an art to them. The way they struggled. The way the blood seeped. Removing the organs and skin was nothing short of genius. I think that this time your bones will fetch quite a thrill. Never done bones before. Should be interesting hearing them crack, tasting the marrow."
"Fuck you!" she screamed, shutting the phone off this time and shoving it back into her purse.
A pounding came to the elevator, she heard it scale across the doors, then to the walls until reverberating on the roof.
"Someone there?" she called. "Help me, I’m trapped in the elevator!"
Only the pounding came in response. It scoured over the entire elevator, on the roof, then to the walls, then on the floor. The light stopped flickering but felt hot, so hot on her face. The sweat dampened her brow.
"God damn this thing," she began kicking the doors. "They just fixed you!" the anger was overtaking her usual level-headedness.
The pounding now shifted from the floor again, traveling up the side of the elevator and settling on the roof. It sounded more like crawling this time, as if something was crawling on the roof of the elevator, back and forth, back and forth.
Mandy stared up at the roof, noticing the hatch in the ceiling, laid conveniently between the frosted lights. It quivered slightly.
"Need to get out of here..." she mumbled, her eyes locked onto the hatch, unable to take them off of it. She backed herself to the doors again and began hitting them. "Let me the hell out of here! Someone help me!"
The hatch quivered even more.
The elevator rocked suddenly, she could feel it, side-to-side, slowly rocking. How could this be? My God, She thought. It’s gonna let go, it’s going to plummet seven floors and I’m going to die.
Rock, rock, it shuffled again and again. She dropped to her knees, bracing in the corner of the elevator, her hands pressed against the cold metal walls. She stared at the glowing number seven on the panel above the doors. "Please someone help me." she called once more, tears moistening her eyes. "Is anyone out there?" Don’t fall, please don’t fall.
The hatch trembled. "Is someone there?" Maybe someone’s coming through to rescue me. Yes, that’s it, they know I’m stuck here and they’re getting me out.
She stood up and lifted her hand out of sheer instinct, a smile drew on her face as hope of freedom surged through her.
That smile was quickly killed, devoured, as the hatch slowly opened and the stench filled the small, confining prison. It was the stench of death.
As the disgust filled her, the lights in the elevator went out, flooding it with inky darkness. She attempted to step away, recoil from the open hatch but it was too late. Something cloaked in darkness, camouflaged by the absence of light, reached through and grabbed hold of her arm.
A wail escaped Mandy as she felt something wet and cold clamp down on her like a vice.
With one great tug it pulled her up off the floor, her screams came swift and loud as she felt the pain wrack and numb her arm, warm blood soaking it. "G-g-gg-gOD!! Oh God-G-G-OD!"
Her feet dangled in mid air as her entire body flailed and squirmed to get free, she could see nothing above her, nothing but the darkness and blackness that aided her attacker. On the other hand she could feel the pain with no problem, it was exquisite as what felt like daggers sank into her flesh.
She could hear the gnawing sounds, the heavy breathing, a sighing breeze coming from the elevator shaft.
With all the strength she could muster, Mandy kicked and struggled, swinging her body back and forth until finally she felt the dagger things loosen and the grip slip away. With one last swing, she hurled herself into the wall and landed on the floor face first. A salty taste filled her mouth from the blood that was seeping from her nose.
The lights popped back on.
Crawling on all fours, she shimmied into the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. Her right arm was drenched in scarlet, some skin dangling from the wounds. To her horror she noticed her fifth finger was missing.
Her cries came even harder now, more hysterical, she was gasping for air, as if the wind had been knocked out of her. She looked up at the still open hatch, expecting whatever was up there to come barreling down and finish the job. The terror seized her, she sat rooted to her spot, reciting prayers in her head. Her stomach turned, the pain surged her entire body and the taste of bile hung in her mouth.
Her eyes, glazed with the look of insanity, glared at the four tiny walls that surrounded her, there was no way out and something waited above to destroy her. She then saw her purse lying over by the elevator doors.
She remembered her cell phone.
"Barb, barb can come and get me...NO, the police, yes the police will get me out." She scrambled over to the purse and emptied the contents on the floor until the cell fell out.
Grabbing the phone with both hands, she pushed the power button, watching the green tinted light illuminate the screen and numbers. She felt a half smile come to her face. The police would get her out.
A massive crash shook the elevator, a thunderous bellow echoed in the shaft and the elevator dropped to the next floor in shattering quake¾
The doors sprung open.
In the ruckus Mandy lost her balance and the phone slipped from her hands and fell just outside the doors before getting the chance to dial. She stared at it absently, the phone lying in the hall of the sixth floor, her blood smearing it.
The doors sat open, not a sound could be heard above or in the hall before her. Mandy sat on her knees staring at the phone, pondering her next move. Was it a trick? Freedom was inches away, she wanted to make a run for it, she wanted to reach for the phone, she wasn’t even sure she could get her body to comply with any of those desires.
The phone rang.
The tears streamed down her cheeks and she made a reach for the hall until the doors snapped shut.
"Let me out of here damn you!" she pounded the doors with her good hand. "You cowardly son of bitch!"
She heard clanking in the shaft, seeming distant. She stared at the hatch again. What she wouldn’t give to be able to get up there and close it.
Standing, she looked at her arm again, the blood still drooling from the wounds. She looked around the spilled contents of her purse for something to stop the bleeding. Nothing but tissues could be found and that simply would not suffice. She took hold of her blouse and tore at it, using her teeth and her strong hand to rip a piece from it. She tied it around her arm, that would have to do, for now.
Pacing around the floor, she listened but heard nothing, every now and then she would glance up at the hatch in the ceiling, catching the dark patch in her gaze then stare back down at the floor again. There has to be a way out, there has to be.
As soon as she thought it, the elevator clicked and began slowly descending the floors again. She watched the floors light up...five...four....
"Open, God damn you, open!" she felt the elevator come to a stop, her stomach doing flip flops, her head spinning, the pain throbbing in her arm, her nose aching.
A noise erupted in the shaft, she heard something scaling it, crawling down it. Louder and louder it grew, getting closer. It was finally coming again. It would come through the ceiling and take her.
"No!" she defied it, kicking and hitting the doors, slamming the buttons until finally, mercifully the doors slid open.
Mandy threw herself into the garage, her screams echoing within it. Removing her heels, she threw them to the ground so she could gather as much speed as possible. She could see her car in front of her and as she approached she remembered that her keys lay back in the elevator, along with the other contents of her purse that she had forgotten.
Standing before her locked car, she began to cry. Giving it one kick, she ran off again, not back to the dreaded elevator, but to the security gate. It was not far, she could make it. She did not hear anything following her. The security guard would get the police, Ned would protect her, he was a good man, said hello to her everyday, never missed a night of work.
The booth was within her sights now, she laughed as she drew closer, she saw the gate down to the outside world down, awaiting a car to approach. Wouldn’t it be a surprise when she stepped up instead of a car. Just the sight of her would scare the willies out old Ned.
Reaching the fiberglass door, she banged on it frantically until it eased open. "Oh Thank God Ned, Ned get the police."
The gray haired security officer stared at her with awe and smiled widely, saying nothing.
"Ned, please, I’ve been attacked-in the elevator-we need help now. Call the police Ned, call the police." No words came from him. "Ned, what’s wrong with you, please, it’s me Mandy." she looked Ned up and down and noticed that he was standing in a pool of blood.
Ned lifted his arm and grabbed hold of his face, ripping the skin from it. Behind it, was a face of onyx twisted and riddled with a patchwork of tissue and muscle. Yellow eyes glowed in the face, intense and deep sunk.
With a sudden jerk, it tore the rest of the clothes and skin from its body, stepping out of the shell that once was Ned. The rest of the body was much like the face, black, patch-worked and glistening with moisture. Some of its skin resembled scales. Its mouth that twisted into a perverse smile was filled with razor like yellow teeth and its hands had yellow knife like nails.
It shot out of the booth like a panther, Mandy’s screams rang out on cue as she tried valiantly to run but it was already on top of her.
"Controlling your primitive machine turned out to be quite tedious." it said to her, sitting on top of her chest as it licked her face with a black tongue. The tongue felt like sandpaper against her skin. "Once I learned its inner workings, what I could do with it was quite amazing." Its voice never rose in pitch, it was almost charismatic, and that was even the more terrifying to Mandy as she tried to struggle free but could not.
"After hibernating for thirty years one gets hungry, not to mention that the shedding process leaves me in need of quite a bit of skin, and my muscles, they get all stiff, I need to replace them as well. Ned was kind enough to lend me his. Your people’s bodies and technology are so ripe and easily adaptable. I‘m so glad you were born into this world. I’m just a borrower you see, I have nothing of my own." There was a part of it that appeared human, it was unclear how much was itself and what was actually human. "I should only need a couple more of you and then be all set for the next thirty years."
It cackled madly before biting into Mandy’s face and snuffing out her screams.
"Christ," the old repairman said to his partner as they walked over to
the elevator, its doors stuck open. "Did you hear what happened here the
"They haven’t caught who did it. Police don’t have a clue. Well the world’s a cesspool. So, let’s get to this bastard."
"Weren’t we just here? How many times we gonna have to fix this frigging thing."
"Beats the hell out of me, damn thing’s a mystery. It’s worked great for the last thirty years and now seems like every week something’s wrong. Well, I don’t give shit, keeps the paycheck coming in."[ end ]
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