Elevator Music

Elevator Music

A Story by Jacob Clifford
"

Trapped in an elevator! Based on a true story.

"

Elevator Music

The elevator dinged. The doors slid open, revealing the young woman inside.  She stood in the center of the elevator, hands clasped in front of her. Calvin glanced at her as he entered. The girl caught his eye and smiled, and he found himself smiling in return.

       The doors shut behind him. Calvin turned toward the buttons, his back facing the girl and face slightly red. 70s Music played softly.

       “Oh,” he said. “We’re going to the same floor.” He backed into the far corner and leaned against the wall, hands behind his back.

       The girl tucked a strand of her caramel-colored hair behind her ear. “Great! I’ll meet you there.”

       The elevator lurched into motion. Calvin started and put his hand against the wall. He took a slow breath through his nose.

       “Not a fan of elevators?” the girl asked pleasantly.

       “Nope,” he said humorously. “But I hurt my ankle the other day. I can’t do stairs for a while.”

       “Oh really? I’m sorry to hear that.”

       Calvin shrugged. “So now I’m stuck with these things.” He tapped his finger against the wall. “The disco music doesn’t really help matters.”

       The girl swiveled slightly. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe." She whistled for a second. "And it's not disco. It's funk.”

       Calvin laughed once. "I wouldn't know."

The elevator abruptly stopped, along with the music. The side of Calvin's face smacked against the wall. The girl lost her footing and stumbled forward a few steps. She looked up at him, her eyebrows raised.

       “What. Was. That?” Calvin asked.

       She opened her mouth and moved her hand as if to articulate something. “I-I, uh...” She looked at the doors. The 3 above them was lit up. The girl parted her lips and clenched her teeth. She hesitated before speaking. “I think we might be stuck,” she said almost apologetically.

       Calvin sighed. “That’s . . . just lovely.”

       “Isn’t it?”

       “Well--now what?” Calvin started rapidly tapping his hand against his thigh.

       She smiled unsurely at him. “Um, this happens all the time. It’s fine. I’m sure it’ll get going soon . . .” She stepped forward and pressed the open button. She waited for a second and pressed it again. “Huh.” She twirled her hair around her index finger. She turned back to Calvin, opened her mouth, then shrugged. A vein in his neck started throbbing. He took a few shallow breaths.

       “Oh, wait, hold on,” the girl said. “I think elevators always have a call button . . .” She held her finger up in the air and ran it across each row of buttons. She pressed one. When nothing happened, she pressed it a few more times. She made a tsk noise. “That’s very unfortunate.” She turned around to look at Calvin. “You’re stuck with me now,” she said matter-of-factly.

       “Do you have your phone with you?” Calvin asked. “We could call someone.”

       The girl tilted her head. “Oh, that’s nice. No, I get it; you don’t want to be stuck in an elevator with me.” When Calvin didn’t respond, she smiled shyly. “Just kidding, sorry. Yeah, I have . . .” she patted her left thigh. She looked down at her legs. She tilted her head. “I am wearing a skirt," she said quietly to herself. "I do not have pockets.” She opened her mouth, then closed it. "You'd think I would remember something like that. That’s an adventure for later . . ." She turned back to Calvin. "I don’t have my phone. Do you have yours?”

       Calvin pinched his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “Oh my god,” he said plainly. He took two steps forward. He touched his forehead to the wall. “Oh my god,” he repeated, his voice starting to shake.

       “I'll take that as a ‘no’,” the girl said. “Well, that’s okay. We can just play charades until some very nice librarians notice we’re missing and call--”

       Calvin spun around and lunged at the doors. He pushed against them, tried to pry them apart, and mashed his hands on the rows of buttons. He brought his hand back and pounded his fist against the doors. He hit them over and over, each time harder than the last.

       “I don’t really think that’s going to help,” she said. Calvin hit them again. “But, uh, you know, whatever makes you feel better.” Calvin kicked the door, then sword loudly and fell into a sitting position. “Oh, was that your bad leg?” she asked. “That was your bad leg, wasn’t it?”

       Calvin turned and pressed his back against the wall. He held his hands against either side of his head. He stared ahead wide-eyed, muttering under his breath.

       “Oh, no no no,” the girl said. She dropped down right next to Calvin and put her hand on his shoulder. “Hey, hey, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

       He didn’t respond to her. His eyes went unfocused. He frantically blinked away tears. His mutterings became louder. “Oh my god oh my god gonna die gonna die gonna die--”

       “No! No, you’re not gonna die.” The girl shook him slightly. “Hey. Hey hey hey. Look at me. Look at me!” She sat down right in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders. She gently shook him. “Look at me.”

       Calvin stopped talking. He slowly met her gaze. Her eyes were a very light brown, almost gray.

       “Yes,” she said slowly. “There you go. You’re okay.” She paused for a moment to examine him. “Yeah, it’s okay, you’re fine.”

       Calvin’s chest heaved. His breathing was raspy and shallow. He dropped his head and stared at the floor between his feet. He swallowed, then gasped like he couldn’t breathe. He started breathing rapidly.

       The girl tapped her hands on his shoulders. “Hey hey, look at me. Look at me again.”

       He swallowed again and looked up. The girl was leaning forward, her face only a few inches from him. Her shoulder-length hair hung loosely around her face. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “What’s your name?” she asked.

       Calvin didn’t respond; his mouth moved soundlessly. He inhaled sharply and gasped a few times.

       “What’s your name?” she repeated. She held his gaze patiently.

       “I-I--” He wheezed. “Calvin,” he said airily.

       “Calvin?” He nodded slightly. “What’s your last name?” She waited for him to respond. “What’s your full name?”

       “Calvin Manera.”

       “Calvin Manera--okay.” She took her left hand off his shoulder and touched it to her chest. “I’m Laura.” She hesitated, then continued in a calm, soothing voice. “Why are you here, in the library? Are you looking for a certain book?”

       Calvin moved his lips but no sound came out. He coughed once. “C-c-c-class,” he stuttered.

       “Class? Are you..." She tilted her head and studied Calvin's face."... in college?”

       Calvin nodded.

       “Yes?”

       He bobbed his head. “Yeah.”

       “Where? In town, here? The university?”

       He nodded. “Yes.”

       “I went there last year. Well, the last four years, but I graduated last year. I have an apartment in town, now." The left side of her mouth turned up in a smile. "It’s a great university. The people are really friendly, and the atmosphere is...” She trailed off. Calvin watched her closely. She bit her lips and looked at her shoes. “What are you majoring in?” she asked.

       Calvin moved his lips inarticulately. “Ahm, I . . . Finance.”

       “Okay. How many years have you been there? At the university?”

       “Second year.”

       “You're a sophomore? What class did you come here for?”

       “Religion.”

       She raised her eyebrows. “Oh. I, uh, I never took that. How is it?”

       Calvin shrugged. “Okay... Professor’s a total . . .” He trailed off.

       Laura smiled. She took her hand off Calvin’s shoulder and sat next to him against the wall. “Do you like it?”

       He exhaled. “Uh--guess. Have to... write a paper--on” Calvin took a breath and tugged at his collar. He looked over his shoulder at the doors.

       “It’s okay,” Laura said. “Take your time.” She looked at the wall opposite them. A couple seconds passed with Calvin making no move to continue.

“I had a great time in college," she said. "It was really scary at first--going to a new place, having to know where to go all the time, taking care of myself, having someone I didn’t know for a roommate. But it got better. It’s actually kind of fun, once you get used to it. Liberating." She spoke in a reminiscent way, in slow and content tones.

       “I’m the first person in my family to go to college. Actually, I’m the first person in my family to graduate high school; my parents came over from England; my older sister dropped out her junior year and left with her boyfriend. We didn’t hear from her for almost a year, and the first time she made any kind of contact with us, she said she was pregnant and needed money. That was . . .” She shook her head. “She didn’t keep the baby. I wished she did, but it wasn’t up to me. I would have loved to be an aunt. But things don’t always work out.” Laura glanced over at Calvin. He was watching her intently, his eyes locked on hers. She smiled, and he smiled in return.

       She went on, looking back at the wall. “It’s kind of pressuring, being the first in my family. I feel like I’m supposed to do good things, and be smart, and not screw things up. I was so worried about disappointed my parents, I never asked them for any help with money in college. I never told them when anything went wrong. I just worked through my all problems alone. I guess it made me stronger, or something, but it would have been nice to know I had my family to support me.” She sighed. “They would have, I know. I was just--I really wanted to impress them. They had to work so hard to raise to two of us; I didn’t want to disappoint them." Laura stopped. She glanced back at Calvin. “Are you okay?” she asked.

       Calvin opened his mouth, then closed it. He nodded. “Yeah.” He looked at the floor, his face warm. “I’m okay.” A silence settled in between them. Calvin cleared his throat. “Did y-you--uh, what did you major in?”

       She half smiled. “Music education. I got my teaching degree. Bachelor’s, for now. I love kids, and I’ve always liked the idea of teaching.”

       “Oh wow. That’s . . . respectable. Did you have any luck getting a job in teaching?”

       “Oh god no. Not yet. I’m working in a café right now. But I’m looking.”

       "Is that like . . . instruments, or with singing... ?"

"Uh, it's going to be with younger kids--elementary-aged kids--so mostly singing. I'm not really qualified to teach people to play instruments. I played trumpet from fifth grade until I graduated college, but I don't know anything about other instruments." She scrunched up her eyebrows. "Well, I tried to learn trombone, for like a week, junior year, because a guy I liked played trombone." She smirked to herself. She laughed once and shook her head. "I don't think he liked girls."

A short silence fell between them. Laura sat stoically, looking down at the floor. Calvin looked straight ahead, occasionally glancing out of the corner of his eye at Laura, then quickly averting his gaze. After a while, Laura began absentmindedly drumming her fingers on her legs. She hummed softly.

       Eventually, Calvin broke the silence. "You don't sound English."

Laura looked at him quizzically. "Hmm?"

"You said--" Calvin swallowed. "Your parents came over from England. You don't have an accent."

"Well, I do have an accent. It's just the same one you have."

He laughed despite himself. "Right."

"But, uh, yeah. I don't know. I've thought about that before." Laura shrugged. "I think I just spent a lot of time with the babysitter when I was learning to talk." She looked at the floor, a small frown darkening her face. "My babysitter didn't have an accent. Plus, you know, I grew up here, not in England."

Another short silence followed. “How long you think we’re gonna be stuck here?” Calvin asked.

       Laura exhaled and stood. She walked in a circle around the perimeter of the elevator, hands behind her back. “Who knows? By now they’ve probably noticed that the elevator isn’t working.” She glanced at Calvin and tilted her head. “I don’t think it will be too much longer.”

       “How long has it been up ‘till right now?” Calvin asked.

       Laura shrugged. “It feels like it’s been around half an hour, but it might be less.” She winked. “If we had our phones, we could check the time.”

       Calvin pressed his head against the wall behind him. “Isn’t there always a hatch in the ceiling, or something?” He looked up.

       “Oh yeah,” Laura said, looking up. “There it is.” She extended her left arm above her head and made a fist. The panel was a few feet above her hand. She repeated the motion slowly, like a child grabbing at a balloon. “Yep,” she said. “I am not tall enough to reach that.” She let her arm drop down.

       Calvin rose and stood next to her. “I guess I might be able to reach it . . .” He glanced at the top of Laura’s head. “Maybe not. You’re not much shorter than I am.” Lips slightly parted, he stared at the hatch for close to ten seconds. “Why is that so high? What if people have to use it? Like right now.”

       Laura shrugged and resumed walking in circles. She whistled lightly. After one full eclipse, she stopped mid-stride. “Oh wait.” Calvin looked over. Laura stood motionless. Finally, she said, “I don’t think we could open it, anyway. The emergency hatches are required by law to be bolted shut. Or--I think. I read that somewhere.”

       “What? What’s the point of that?”

"I like reading." Calvin shot her a look, and she winked. "Yeah, I know; you meant the hatch." She clicked her tongue a couple times. "Um, they’re just locked from the outside. Maintenance workers can open them in emergencies."

       “I think this classifies."

       Laura clasped her hands to her heart. “Why, I’d never! I’m not that annoying to be around.”

       Calvin chuckled. “No, of course not.” He thought for a moment. “I dunno--we could still try to open the hatch. I could boost you up, and you could . . .” Calvin glanced at Laura’s skirt, then dropped his gaze slightly lower. His eyes lingered for a moment. He looked away, his face warm. “Or not.”

       As if she never heard Calvin, Laura walked over to the doors and pressed a few of the buttons. Then she took both her hands and pushed them against as many buttons as they could cover. She removed them after a moment. “Yeah, no. This isn’t doing anything.”

       She scratched the side of her head. She started slightly, then pulled a pencil out from behind her ear. "Forgot I had that..." She straightened suddenly. She looked down at Calvin. “Do you have any paper in your bag?” she asked excitedly.

       “Uh, yeah.”

       “Can I use some?”

       “Okay.” Calvin slid his backpack off his shoulder. He fished around in it and pulled out a notebook. He tore a piece of paper off and handed it to Laura. She drew two long, perfectly straight vertical lines, then intersected them with two horizontal lines, making a number sign.

       She looked up at Calvin. “Tic-tac-toe?” she asked eagerly.

       Calvin raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

       “Yeah. Why not? We don’t have anything else to do, do we?”

       “Uh, I can’t argue with that. Ha, okay then.”

       “X’s or O’s?” Laura asked.

       “Um... I don’t know; you pick.”

       “Rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets X’s?”

       Calvin stared, stupefied, at her. He shook his head. “Do X’s go first?”

       “Yep.”

       Calvin smiled and shook his head. “You’re never bored, are you?”

       “Not even once.” They took turns passing the pencil back and forth. A few minutes passed, during which the page became filled with tie games. Laura started to draw a new number symbol but paused. “Calvin."

       He looked up. “Yes?”

       She squinted. “Why don’t you have your phone?”

       “Oh,” Calvin said. “That.” He scratched the back of his head. “I broke it.”

       “How?”

       “I... I went to the zoo, and there was this really cool monkey that I wanted to take a picture of. I put my hand inside of the bars to get a good angle, and I dropped it and it broke.”

"Oh my god!" she said. "You dropped your hand?"

"Wha--no. My phone."

       “Oh. Well that’s your fault. You deserved it.”

       “Oh yeah?”

       “Yep. You shouldn't have been monkeying around."

       Calvin stared at her. “I can’t believe you.”

       “I know, I’m sorry. A lot of people don't like my jokes. They think they're all monkey business.”

       “Wow.”

       “I’m done now.” She clasped her hands in her lap and whistled inconspicuously.

       Calvin held her gaze for a few seconds. Then he laughed and looked away. He looked up after a moment. He opened his mouth. Before he could say anything, Laura held up her finger.

       “Listen,” she almost whispered.

       Calvin frowned at her. After a moment, he raised his eyebrows, and his jaw went slack. Playing so softly to be almost inaudible over their conversation was horrible 70's funk music. The two looked at each other.

       The elevator shook. Calvin braced himself against the wall, and Laura fell against him. Mechanical humming sounded all around them. Calvin shot to his feet. He looked at the number against the door. After a few seconds, it changed from a 3 to a 4, the top floor. Laura stood next to him. They waited, neither one breathing.

       Ding!

       The doors slid open.

       The two stared out the doorway, into the carpeted floor outside. Calvin exhaled. Laura looked at him and smiled. She took an exaggerated step, placing her foot outside the elevator. Her shoulders dropped, and she sighed. Calvin walked out and stood next to her. He laughed and clapped once.

       Laura put one hand on her hip. “Where’s our welcoming committee?” she asked. She walked back to the elevator and pressed the down button twice. She smiled to herself as the doors closed.

       Calvin went two steps further out and held his hand to his chest. “Oh, thank god.”

       “Ah, come on!” Laura said. “It’s wasn’t that bad, was it? You had me!”

       Calvin turned back to her. “Yeah . . .” He shook his head. “Oh my god . . . How long were we in there? It felt like forever!”

       “Didn’t it, though?” Laura titled back her head and let out a breath. “Alright, come here,” she said. “I need to hug you.”

       Before Calvin had a chance to say anything, Laura stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. A moment passed. “This is usually the part where you hug back."

       “Right. Sorry.” He brought his arms up and gingerly touched them to her back.

       Laura pulled back a few seconds later. She rubbed at her temples. “I don’t even know what to do now. Do we just carry on and act like nothing happened?” Calvin just shrugged in response. "You know, I'm not really in the mood to read anymore. I think I'm just gonna go back home." Mumbling under her breath, she added, "Kinda makes this whole thing a waste of time . . ." She glanced up at Calvin. "Well, maybe not." Laura smiled one last time. "See you around?” she asked.

       Calvin smiled in response. “You bet.”

       “I’m sure Professor Buttface will make you write more papers, right? I come here pretty often; I’m sure we’ll run into each other. But just in case. . .” She took a pen off of a nearby table. She grabbed Calvin’s hand and wrote a few digits on it. “In case you ever get a new phone,” she explained. She returned the pen to the table. She gave a small wave to Calvin before turning around. “I think I’ll take the stairs this time,” she said under her breath.

       Calvin watched as she walked away. He looked at his palm and smiled.

© 2017 Jacob Clifford


Author's Note

Jacob Clifford
I didn't originally plan on ever editing this piece, but I finally took some advice from the reviewers and made some modifications. This story is inspired by a real event and may not be everyone's cup of tea. Regardless, if you read it through to the end, I would love to hear what you have to say about it, characters in particular.

Published in "Circus of Indie Artist Year End Short Story Blow Out"

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Featured Review

Awesome tale! Since the moment you say inspired by a real event a person gets excited right away ^^
I always hated elevators ahah

I really liked the dialogue. I hope to imporve my dialogues in my stories like yours.
Thank you for sharing this story


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I agree that reading "based on a true story" helps draw attention. I.. read more



Reviews

Awesome tale! Since the moment you say inspired by a real event a person gets excited right away ^^
I always hated elevators ahah

I really liked the dialogue. I hope to imporve my dialogues in my stories like yours.
Thank you for sharing this story


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I agree that reading "based on a true story" helps draw attention. I.. read more
awesome, very original!!!!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thanks, WON. I'm glad you enjoyed the reading.
DRAGO

6 Years Ago

you wanna read my book? look up dragon book
Nice work Clifford. The "inspired by a real event" gets one wondering...
Your characters are fun and engaging. His clulessness makes us feel a little clever for catching on that she likes him before he seems to.
I like the writing. It sounds like maybe you have recently shortened it, which was a good call, I think.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Shannon

6 Years Ago

Sort of sorry to her that, but Clifford, you are a writer! Anything can happen next!
Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

You don't need to be sorry; I'm not. Drifting apart was natural and bound to happen. Part of being a.. read more
Shannon

6 Years Ago

Sure, I hear you.
i loved this! very well written, it drew me in right away and the characters have a very interesting dynamic.
if you ever write more about them i'd very much enjoy reading it.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thank you very much, Gray. Long time no see! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Unfortunately, I don't .. read more
Fading-to-Gray

6 Years Ago

It has been a while! Life got busy so I had to take a bit of a break from here. Ahh well that's unde.. read more
*Rock music* *guitars blaring* *singing in my Elvis Presley tune* I've just fallen in love with a fictional angel *whoa*
Totally love Laura. She's charmingly gorgeous, funny and one of those girls. If you really did meet her Cliff....Lucky You ;)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Haha, I'm glad Laura had such an impact on you. She is based on a real person I met, but, of course,.. read more
Smiling much from this nicely told short story Cliff, and I'm glad that your still at it.
This is quite a scene you have shared, you could definitely add on to this. Very cool.
Thanks EG

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thanks, EG. I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of it.
I never thought I would read a story with a character like Laura who could be annoying though very helpful and fun in times of crisis. She's a lifesaver. She's got the humor, which really changed my perception towards her. Thumbs up for creating such an interesting character.

I like the story. Slice of life and with a touch of a bit of romance here. I like how the characters expressed themselves well. As I read throughout the story, I noted some lines that really caught my attention. Here they are:

Calvin kicked the door, then SWORE loudly and grabbed his knee.

I was so worried about DISAPPOINTING my parents, I never asked them for any help with money in college.

I just worked through ALL my problems alone.

“I know what that’s like. I used to have that problem. I learned how to write in shorthand DURING my freshman year. It saved me so MUCH stress.”

“Where’s OUR welcoming committee?” she asked.


Thanks a lot for sharing! :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thanks a lot for reading! Yes, Laura is. . . eccentric. She's quirky but very kind and humorous. I f.. read more
TheMalady

6 Years Ago

I read the description of this story and was surprised that this was inspired by an experience.
read more
I like the story :) I did find myself skimming through some parts. As other people have said, it could be shortened, but it doesn't necessarily need to be. I always love the realistic nature of your writings, and this one is no exception. It felt very real while also having that little spark of... magic? to it. Very cute and fun to read. I'm glad you're still writing.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thank you very much, Morgan. I realize that this story is far from my best work, but it's its own th.. read more
If a "real feel" was the moon,
and you were shooting for said moon,
then my friend - you have yourself a moon.
You've accomplished a creation, which is sad to leave because of its familiar feel.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

That's very flattering, but I'm afraid you're overestimating me. There's nothing special about me or.. read more
PhoenixDown

6 Years Ago

The top spot is reserved for many.
Do not undersell anything you produce.
PhoenixDown

6 Years Ago

Or yourself.
Clifford Hi. I enjoyed reading this, and could certainly picture the scenario. I agree, however, with many of the other comments that it's a bit slow and a bit pedestrian. It feels very verbatim and real, which is an interesting thing to note - maybe a story has to edit and accelerate, somehow, or bring other aspects to life. Maybe that's why I'm left feeling slightly OK'ish about it. In real life the two characters would have had lots of what-ifs and fears and emotions - you have some of this but it still feels largely 'transactional', i.e. mainly what they say and do.

One other thought is that the story ends with a pleasant but inconclusive parting. You're probably aware of stories and movies where such a chance meeting is just the start, with more climactic things to follow at some stage - I'm thinking 'Serendipity', for example.

Hope these thoughts help. Regards, Nigel.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jacob Clifford

6 Years Ago

Thank you very much, Nigel. Your points are all very relevant and would all be beneficial if I were .. read more

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Added on April 5, 2016
Last Updated on June 19, 2017
Tags: Elevators, Trapped, Slice of life, College

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Jacob Clifford
Jacob Clifford

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