The Elevator.

Justin Lo.



The inside of the elevator is made of brushed steel so that it has the simultaneous effect of post-modern pragmatism and traditional artistry.  The ground is rectangular, slightly wider than it is deep.  But you would reasonably claim it was square the first time you stepped inside.


It is not a remarkable elevator.  When it functions normally, it operates at three hundred feet per minute.  That’s a healthy five feet per second, nothing too nauseating but certainly better than most people on the stairs.  Unless you wanted a good workout, you’d probably choose the elevator.  It was designed with reliability in mind.


An elevator is something of an escape.  You give the first floor the slip, and then suddenly, he-lllo third floor!  I would liken the feeling to sneaking out of the house at night and arriving at a friend’s secret party.  Imagine living with only stairs for ten years, then experiencing an elevator, and you’ll understand what I mean.  It has the same sort of thrill, except it’s a daily routine for people like me.


You see, this particular elevator is located in a research building.  It takes you from one lab to another.  I personally use it out of necessity rather than recreation, although I have hypothesized that some poorly-motivated technicians may be proficient in the latter use (don’t quote me on that, though).  No matter; I only care that my cell cultures are transported faithfully from the incubator to the irradiator and back.


It is a daily routine, so I put little thought to the action.  In fact, I am probably the one responsible for the fact that the “seven” button in the elevator no longer lights up when depressed.  But no one has bothered to repair that.  I can’t recall the last time the elevator had been serviced.


You might, at this point, think that for such a mundane vehicle, I am devoting far too much time to describing it.  I think that you are partially right, but my current circumstances could hardly dictate much else.


It was this morning, first seven after dawn, same old routine, trying to beat other people to the machine, trying to get out early by coming in early.  I entered the elevator, same button, same box of cells, lab coat and gloves in hand, eyes straight ahead.  Still that faint odor of cigarette smoke from the shipping and construction workers.


Partly between the third and fourth floors – probably just below the halfway mark to my destination, the elevator suddenly stopped.  “What gives?” I muttered to myself, tapping the “seven” button a couple of times to no avail.


Refusing to give in to panic, I pressed that notorious red button with the helmet insignia engraved in white.  I paused, holding my breath, waiting for the reply.  Like a broken record, I repeated this cycle of pressing, waiting, pressing, waiting.


It became apparent around twelve noon that I was in fact quite stuck in the elevator, and I wearily sat down, placing my cells’ protective box on the ground beside me.  Being a scientist is – or ought to be – equivalent to possessing a level head.


Science is founded on randomness, and therefore, no two experiments ever proceed exactly alike.  The pursuit of complete replication is rather much like trying to surpass the speed of light.  You dream of it and wish for it, yet if you declare you have achieved it, people stone you for blasphemy.


With that completely rational mindset, I sat down – twelve noon – and began to wait.  I was nervous at first, but I slowly dropped my nerves.  Eventually – nay, already – someone must have discovered that the elevator had ceased to function and called the repairpersons.  The affair would come to an end and I would proceed as if nothing had happened.


At this point, I looked at my box containing my cells.  Certainly, being outside of the toasty incubator would start to affect the health of the cells.  But it was of little consequence; this cells remaining in the incubator would replenish these cells within a couple of hours.


It was noon at that point, as I’ve probably already stated several times.  Three uneventful hours passed by, bringing me to my present predicament.


“I wonder if anyone is going to come after all,” I say to myself, tapping my feet on the rubber-textured ground.


I feel my stomach growl, and I decide that this event has surpassed the “guess what happened” line and reached the ranks of tall tales.  The distinguishing factor is the same as the difference between a Nobel Laureate and a Saint.  It is all about that indescribable factor, that element of mysticism.


However, my enthusiastic expectation of one day sharing this tall tale with my labmates is soon overtaken by necessity, and I become acutely aware of my vital functions and my natural needs.  It is not long, then, before the corner of the elevator becomes my designated urinal.


Gagging a few times, my disgust leads me to attempt to escape.  Leaving the box of cells on the ground, I begin to examine the crevices above where the fluorescent light emanates, hoping to find some alternative way out of the elevator.  With increasing frantic fervor, groping around, jumping up and down, swiping, grabbing, twisting, I attack the walls that confine me.  I think nothing about the cells down below; I shed my clothes desperately, anything that would hamper my movement or get caught.  I climb up, up; I wriggle, try to undo screws with my fingernails; they catch, bend, splinter; my skin flushes deep red below the surface.


Violently, I pound on the steel walls, my knuckles shearing abrasively on their surfaces.  I am shouting at the top of my lungs, angry at this injustice.  “Why doesn’t anyone care?” I scream, but my voice loses by a landslide to the thick, insulating walls.  Stark naked, fingers blistered, and not one plate or screw moved, I collapse back down onto the ground.


As the voice of my labmates becomes more and more of a distant memory, I start to doubt