It’s interesting (to me at least!) to remember where inspiration for a story came from – sometimes it’s quite a small thing… like getting into a lift and wondering as it sets off with a shudder whether it might break down and you might be trapped. This thought occasionally occurred when I was working on an upper floor of a tall building, and there was always the next thought – well at least I wouldn’t have to go back to work!
I imagined being in a lift, maybe with a stranger, in the building late at night and it getting stuck, and the maintenance staff not responding to the emergency bell…
She stepped into the lift and it was empty apart from a large fat man standing by the control panel. They smiled politely at each other and, noticing that he’d already pressed for the ground floor Beulah said nothing but leaned against the opposite wall and looked at the floor. She was tired; it had taken longer than usual to clear and tidy her room, put away papers and books, lock cupboards and switch off computers. Her students had completed a piece of work which she’d quickly marked before leaving.
The floor was empty as she left the department. The college was silent, deserted and she thought about going home to the empty house as she waited for the lift. Neil was away with the boys on a rugby tour. She wondered whether to drop in on some friends or go for a glass of wine somewhere, but probably she’d go straight home.
The lift had come at last, humming its way down the shaft, the only sound in the empty building. She got in and stood opposite the dark-haired man standing with his case. The doors hissed shut and the lift began to descend and then there was a lurch, a shudder, a peculiar whining noise and it stopped.
Beulah and the man remained silent, both staring at the floor indicator, illuminated in red then the number 4 winked and went off. The lift trembled and seemed to sigh.
“Is it stuck?” Beulah asked.
“I hope not,” the man gazed hopefully at the blank floor display then pressed the button for the ground floor but the lights on the control panel had died. “Oh, gee, I think it is,” and he pressed the door open button, nothing happened. “Yup, I think it’s stopped.”
Beulah said nothing, stood wondering what to do. He pressed the emergency button but there was no sound of a distant alarm or bell, in fact, there was no sound of anything.
“Are you going to scream?” he asked.
“No, do you think I should?” she replied and he smiled as if she’d said something amusing.
“This is bloody ridiculous,” he said. “I know I’m laughing but this is bloody ridiculous.”
There was no signal on their phones. He tried to prise the doors open but they remained stubbornly shut; he banged on the door again and again, then bellowed so the noise rang off the metal walls.
“Perhaps you should shout louder,” Beulah joked, her hands over her ears.
“This really is fucking stupid, excuse my language,” he pressed the buttons at random but the control panel was dead.
“Listen,” said Beulah and they stood without moving. “Nothing, absolutely nothing. I think everyone’s gone home.”
“Blood and hell fire, that can’t be true! What the hell are we going to do?” he banged the doors and shouted again.
Beulah found a screwdriver in her case but they still couldn’t prise the doors apart.
“This is mad,” he said. Was he getting angry? It was difficult to tell. Neil got angry and went white, the rims of his eyes reddening as if he was going to cry.
Beulah’s mind seemed to have gone blank she was passive and uninspired, she could think of nothing to do or say.
“You seem very calm,” the man said.
“Well, so do you, actually,” she replied, thinking of Neil. He’d have been cursing and yelling by now.
“And people say I’m temperamental… Volatile, someone called me,” he was staring at the floor indicator again as if willing it to display and thumped the control panel violently. “Oh, fucking hell!”
There was silence and it dawned on Beulah that they could be trapped like this until the morning.
“Oh, shit,” she said, her composure cracking. “We’re going to be stuck here all night aren’t we?”
He smiled, trying to reassure her. “Are you going to scream yet?”
She smiled back and shook her head; with a sigh she sank to her heels and squatted, against the wall.
He took his phone out again and looked at it then lowered his bulk to sit opposite her.
“My name’s Rafi,” he said.
“Hi, Rafi, I’m Beulah.”
© Lois Elsden 2017
This is an extract from my novel ‘Night Vision‘… in case you think that Beulah and Rafi have an affair, well, they don’t!
If you want to find out what does happen to them, here’s a link to Night Vision: