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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Lift
by Adrian Kane

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Carl Walsh nervously pulled at the knot in the tie round his neck, his shirt already starting to become stained with perspiration. He jabbed repeatedly at the silver button on the wall with his free hand.

"Come on." He hissed, still struggling to ease the stranglehold of the tie.

A week ago, promotion had been more than welcomed by Carl but the move to the 23rd floor had been the kick in the crotch. Claustrophobia made the lift ride unbearable but the alternative of twenty-three flights of stairs made it his uncomfortable only option.

He stopped wrestling with his tie and leant against the cool metal doors, peering through the small gap to watch for the small shafts of light escaping from the approaching lift. He spotted them, he guessed about three floors down. He let his head loll from side to side, soothing his flushed cheeks on the cold metal.

Christ! Why did it have to be so hot?

Carl jumped back from the door as he heard the motor whirr into life. He tried in vain to calm his breathing in readiness for the doors to slide open and to appear normal to anyone inside. An electronic beep let Carl know it was that time of day again. Wiping away the copious amount of sweat with both hands from his face, he opened his eyes in time to see the doors uneasily slide open. A young lady's face, quite pretty, gave him a half-hearted smile.

Carl politely nodded an acknowledgement and stepped in to the metal box. Just the distinctive smell inside set his heart pounding faster.

"Going down?" The woman asked meekly, seemingly sensing his nervousness.

"Please," he croaked, his throat dry.

The woman reached forward and stabbed her finger selectively at the row of buttons. As the doors closed, he pressed himself against the wall of the compartment, his hands shakily seeking some reassurance from the wooden handrail. The lift jumped into action and started its descent.

Carl kept his eyes on the grotesquely patterned carpet, his hands roughly massaging the wooden rail. He was aware of the woman fidgeting nervously, moving further away from him.

The lift jolted to a stop once more. Carl broke his gaze off the floor and looked up at the digital display above the door.


Jesus! Not even half way.

Carl heard the clunk of the doors opening. He squinted through the widening gap for an early warning of the number of people boarding. He counted them all in, every one notching up his panic and anger. Each one taking up more of his space, sucking in his precious air.



Carl stared hatefully at each newcomer in turn, two corpulent men in suits taking most of the venom. His eyes returned to the floor as the lift shuddered back on its journey. The voices around him mingled into one cacophony soon drowned out by the deafening roar of the blood in his ears.

Another jolt and the lift stopped again.

Oh God, not more!

He looked up at the display again. It took some time to sink in that something was different about it. Then he clicked. The level number was continually flickering between fourteen and fifteen. They were trapped between floors.

Do something!

His eyes flashing from person to person.

For Christ's sake. Do something!

The space started to shrink as everyone started to jostle for position near the control panel. One of the large men in suits won. He pressed the red alarm button and leant down to speak into the mesh grill, waving his hand at the rest of the passengers to keep quiet.


Silence. He tried again.

"Hello?" his voice exaggeratedly raised. "Is anyone there?"

Silence once more. He let his hands flop to his side in defeat.

"Hello," a voice crackled over the loudspeaker. "Can I help you?"

An audible show of relief came from the compartment. The large man resumed his previous position at the console.

"Yes," he said in a lighter tone. "The lift has stopped between levels."

"OK. Try not to worry," the monotone voice struggled to sound calming, "we'll have you out as soon as possible."

"Did you hear that?" Carl's hoarse voice could barely be heard about the murmurings of relief.

"Yea," the second obese man spoke, "we'll be out in a minute."

"No. Not that," Carl shook his head and tried to swallow. "He was laughing at us."

The lift went silent as everyone turned in unison, all eyes on Carl.

"What?" sniggered a voice from the back of the compartment.

Carl's eyes blazed with fury as he searched for the origin of the voice.

"Are you laughing at me too?" Carl hissed.

He felt large hands on his shoulders, forcing him back against the wall.

"Calm down mate," said a low voice. "No-one's laughing at you, or any of us for that matter.

Carl conceded that resistance against the man was useless and slumped to the floor. His brain throbbed violently against the inside of his skull. Pounding, making it hard to think clearly. His lungs burned as they made futile attempts to suck in what air was left. Blackness came and went. In a more coherent moment, Carl decided what he had to do.

His legs were jelly beneath him but they managed to push his body upright against the wall. They were all now talking amongst themselves, selfishly taking in huge lungfuls of air with every word. Something had to be done to stop it.

Carl reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. He glanced down at his reflection in the polished seven-inch blade. With one swift movement, he plunged it deep into the lower back of the large man directly in front. The man's body went rigid. Carl started to slice, with ease, horizontally through fat and muscle. The only struggle came as steel grated against the vertebral bone. Forcing a hand through the gaping gash like a macabre hand puppet, Carl clasped his fingers round the troublesome spine for leverage. The knife eventually cut through. The hefty frame fell to the floor with a wet thud, intestines tumbling through the yawning wound into the expanding crimson pool at Carl's feet.

Everyone turned in unison to face the horrific scene. Time froze, restarted only when a young man made a lunge for the knife. Carl avoided it and brought the knife sharply upwards separating the right side of his face from his skull. The man fell to his knees trying in vain to replace his grotesque mask.

Carl's eyes seemed to have a glimmer of excitement as the latest attempt to stop him got underway. Three of them this time. The knife slashed once more halting the oncoming three in their tracks. A dark red beaded necklace appeared on all three. Almost simultaneously, they clasped their hands to their throats but not in time to keep their heads from wilting backwards. Three sticky, crimson fountains sprayed into the air, clinging to the fluorescent light, giving off a sickly red glow with a burnt coppery smell.

Carl could feel his laboured breathing ease slightly.

Five down, four to go!

Carl made a dash at the remaining huddle, wielding the blood stained blade wildly around. Ribbons of flesh and blood showered the compartment, clinging to the walls as he carved a ferocious path through the screaming faces. He continued his rampage until nothing else moved.

He stood upright, ankle deep in congealing blood, and backed towards the control panel. Calmly pressing the button for the ground floor, The lift groaned and started to move. He took a deep breath of fetid air and surveyed his work.

The electronic beep made Carl spin round. He looked at the display.

Ground floor.

The metallic doors gently slid open and Carl was greeted by the security guard. The guard smiled and nodded politely at him.

Carl felt someone give a light shove in his back as nine people exited the lift from behind him.

"See you tomorrow, sir," the guard said.

"Yes," Carl said quietly. "Do it all again tomorrow."

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