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Amy K. Marshall – Paternoster
Disaster – Loss of all fuel sources
Location – elevator
Helpful Item – Swiss army survival knife
Disability – sprained swollen ankle
Amy K Marshall
My name is Lily…
It’s been three days since the world went Dark. At least … I think it’s been three days. It’s been two days since I last heard a human voice. At least…I think it’s been two days. The last voice I heard was Perttu’s voice. He called to me from the 4th floor landing. He never liked elevators and he hated this Paternoster with an irrational vengeance. Yeah. Irrational. Not from where I’m sitting now. Nothing irrational about that now…
It’s Dark. It’s mostly silent. There were people in the elevator’s other cars. I remember people hopping on and off. I remember my car shifting and swaying…. Don’t know what a Paternoster is?
It’s Europe’s Death Elevator.
It’s also the quickest way up to the 6th floor—that’s where Dr. Mikkel Akselson has his neuro-opthamology lab. But that’s a million miles away now…
You stand there … watching… the cars rise without stopping. There are two lights on the floor … they blink … red – red – red – GREEN – red – red – red – GREEN. You see, when it’s GREEN, that’s when it’s safe to hop into the car. It doesn’t wait for you, though. It just keeps moving. It’s like one of those rotating filing cabinets … only this one is for people .. for bodies … now, I’m sure it’s for the dead…
It was evening … and the lobby was crowded. People were happy, talking, laughing … it was nearly the week-end, and, well, I was looking forward to time away from Copenhagen with Mikkel. Just Mikkel and me.
I hate this elevator. I was too lazy to take the stairs.
Red – red – red – GREEN.
I hear unflattering things behind me in Danish. I know they’re unflattering because Mikkel and Perttu and I got drunk one evening and they decided I needed to learn how to swear in Danish.
Det passer sgu ikke! Means that’s not bloody true.
Jeg er ligeglad … that’s a good one because it means I don’t care.
Hold kaeft! That means shut up … I think. They laughed quite a bit over that one…
Det er sgu rigtigt! That means I’ll be damned
I’ll be damned. Sure as hell … I’ll be damned…
Red – red –red – Green!
A hand in my back shoved me forward.
I hope I said that correctly.
I hit the back of the car and turn – I see their smirks as the car moves upward.
There’s no top to the car. I see the chain mechanism.
The floors slide by. On the third floor, a red-haired young man starts to step in, but pulls back.
Getting on is one thing.
Getting off is another.
“This, you must see…” I hear Mikkel’s voice slide through my brain. I can feel his hand on my arm. He smiles, and I’m lost in his eyes. I’m such a sucker for eyes. “Up and over—“
His gaze holds mine as we clear the 6th floor.
What the hell –
I’ve forgotten to get off!
The car rocks up and over the top of the mechanism. A large flywheel slips and spins, cranking the car around.
Get off on 6, you idiot …
“I’ve saved the best for last.”
What the hell is going on? I can still hear him. I think.
I miss 6.
I slide to 5.
The young man on 3 is gone.
“Into the darkness…”
I hold my breath.
We slid beneath the ground floor. Red signs slide by…they’re in Danish.
Mikkel’s breath is warm against my cheek as he leans closer in the darkness. “Keep Standing.”
“Pardon?” I breathe, my knees weakening.
Did I mention that Dr. Akselson is something you wouldn’t think of pushing out of bed?
“It’s what the sign says,” he replies.
We pass across the bottom of the mechanism.
We rise into light.
“I enjoy the darkness,” he says, his accent thickening. “Peaceful…like the grave.”
“No, no … I’m not saying it right.” He smiles.”My English.”
My Danish sucks, so what can I say about his English?
I’m lost in thought.
The red-haired young man is back. He doesn’t move. He just…watches. I feel his eyes follow me up.
Remember to get off on 6.
What the –
What the hell was that?
In those first moments, I strained my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. They rang with the remembered grinding of the Paternoster. The reverberated the bang of its stopping.
I could hear others in other cars saying the same.
I changed tack.
I’m here! Are you there? Are you okay? What’s happened?
But … they’re all speaking Danish. No one answered me. Well, no one answered me so I could understand.
It won’t be long.
Long hours passed.
This is crap—waiting for a rescue.
I rummage through my bum bag (that’s a fanny pack for you Americans) and come up with
A Swiss Army Knife.
What Would Macgyver do?
Better yet, what would Macgyver’s writers do?
Two blades … a corkscrew…and me without a bottle of wine … that saw that really isn’t a saw. Two screwdrivers, a way to pry open a beer, tweezers, and a toothpick.
I slumped to the floor, flipping the blade open and closed. Open and closed. Open and closed.
Red – red- red- GREEN
But…there’s no light.
Open and closed. Open and closed open and –
That’s when I heard Perttu.
Hey, Lily! You okay?
I press my back against the back of the car and get to my feet.
How the hell does he know I’m here?
Stay put, Lil! I’ll get you out!
I hear him stagger away.
I mean … I listen to him …. Stagger…
What the hell is going on?
Then … there’s nothing.
It doesn’t occur to me that there’s nothing.
Open and closed open and closed open and –
What the hell was that?
The elevator starting up?
Closed and open –
Yeah … the elevator. It’s resetting or something…
What the –
Uff! Ow! Som’bitch!
(sobs) My ankle.
Som’BITCH! My ANKLE!
There was something there! In the dark! On 3!
It was … him… I swear … that guy … that red-haired guy was on 3!
Can you hear me? Can you hear –
(heavy breathing) What the –
Shhhh…… shhh…. (heavy breathing)
There’s something out there –
Where is it?
I scrabble against the floor.
It’s only a Swiss Army Knife, but – what the HELL is that SOUND??
Those are … footsteps…
Oh … my God ..
Mikkel … Perttu … what the hell is this?
I’ve gotta get out of here.
But my ankle … Shit …
Ow … maybe if I –
Oh … my God …
It’s dark. I press back against the side of the car. It’s dark. I can’t see it and it can’t see me…right? Right??
Right … right … shhhh…..
Maybe if I just –
Get off! Get off! Help! Help!
(heavy breathing) … no way …
Ew… is it? I mean … it’s not dead. I don’t think it’s dead…
Oh … my God … is it dead?
What is it?
Oh my God, it’s NOT dead!
It will be now –
I don’t know what it is… it’s not…human. It doesn’t look human at all. But, I’ll bet there are more of them.
I know what to do
It’s what I did.
The only thing I could think of to do.
“What did you do?”
“What did you do?”
I cut the skin off it. Carefully of course. It skinned like a rabbit. Like a little coat. One incision around the neck, and then I unzipped it. The guts made the floor slippery, but that was okay. Make it smell like a kill. Maybe that would keep them away. Or attract them.
Have you ever tried to skin something big with a Swiss Army Knife?
Sucks. Let me tell you.
Thank God I had a decent edge on that blade.
“What did you do?”
I ate part of it. I mean, three days is a long time, and it didn’t taste particularly rancid. I mean. I was still fresh.
And then, I wore its skin.
You see… that was the trick to getting out.
There were more of them. I tucked its skin around me. I cut away its face and wore it like a mask.
The Paternoster has no top.
Three days I waited … and then the thing got a little wormy, but my ankle felt like it could support some weight … so I tucked the skin around me and climbed out. It took a little balance on top of the car, but I’d cut away its claws and used them like pitons – you know, like mountain climbers use.
I climbed until I got to the ground floor.
There were bodies everywhere … but there were no creatures. Just…bodies. I saw the remains of the two guys who pushed me onto the Paternoster. I felt bad, ‘cause they’d saved my life.
It was night. A stinking night. And I walked out into it and –
I noticed how the skin looked different.
“In the moonlight?”
“I don’t think moonlight had anything to do with it.”
“What do you think?”
“The air was clearer.”
“Can I see Mikkel now? I want to see him now.”
“You’ve seen him for days.”
It was later that I found Mikkel’s notes … his research had taken the darkest of turns before it became Night. Neuro-opthamology includes the study of reactive chemicals that can fool the brain into believing in hallucinations. He found the perfect dose.
“I got the idea from a book on Lily’s shelf,” he had written. “It was all about things underground and the dark … and monsters … and the monstrous dark. Perttu doesn’t believe such a random test is a good idea, but the chemical is only slightly reactive in the quantities I proposed. A slight hallucination for test subjects in the Paternoster. They are in a contained space. We can keep them in the cars for up to an hour. We can play at an elevator malfunction.”
What could possibly go wrong…?
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