“You scare so easy,” a roar of laughter escaped my mouth. A small stream of tears rolled down my cheek.
“Get away from me.” Tina shrugged my hand from her shoulder and pushed me away. ”I hate you!”
“OK! chill,” I said wiping drying my tears. “I won’t show you such pictures again. Happy?”
Tina made a face and smiled.
Tina and I had decided to go out for a movie. We were waiting for the lift on the 10th floor of my residential apartment.
While we were waiting, I scrolled through my phone and found a perfect picture to share with my friend.
“Tina, look.” I moved the screen towards her.
“What…..?” Tina took one look at my phone and all the blood drained from her face. She let out a shrill shriek and threw my phone in horror.
The photo was neither grotesque nor horrifying but the person in it was no beauty either. It was a photo of an old lady in tattered clothes with unruly grey hair. Her nails were very long, dirty, and chipped at the ends. The old lady’s blood-red eyes were staring at us through the screen. She could easily pass for one of the witches of Macbeth.
I broke out in laughter. Tina’s eyes were wide with horror. Her hands were shaking.
“You are so mean. How could you?” Tina punched me after regaining her composure.
I laughed. Tina punched me again.
The number on the screen read 14. The lift was four floors above us.
“The lift is about to come. Remember to cross the lift with your right leg first or else you will be dragged to the pits of hell,” I whispered in her ears.
Tina turned to me. Her face was contorted with disgust and anger.
“I’m taking the stairs,” She finally declared.
“Ok. Just don’t get stuck in the unlimited flight of stairs,” I said curtailing my laughter.
Tina came back, furious.
“What is wrong with you?”
“You scare so easy.”
Another person, a tall man in a brown suit, probably in his early forties walked towards the lift. I couldn’t recognize him as a resident of this building.
“Probably a visitor,” I thought.
Soon the lift arrived.
We got in and pressed the ground floor button. The stranger was also going to the ground floor.
The lift stopped at seven. The door opened and no one was waiting outside.
“Why do people do that?” I pressed the close button angrily. “I hate this.”
“They must have got tired of waiting and decided to take the steps instead.”
“This has happened to me before,” the man said suddenly while we waited for the lift door to close. “I was going up and the lift stopped on the fourth floor and no one got up. The lift went down further and stopped at the third floor. Again no one there as well. I kept going up and down in the lift three-four times but didn’t reach the floor I wanted to. Finally, I called the security guard to check why it had happened.”
“Did they catch anyone,” Tina asked.
“No,” the man shook his head.
Suddenly the lift stopped again.
“What were the chances?” said the man.
“It can’t be.” Tina flinched.
The lift was on the fourth floor. The lift door opened and stared at a cold, dark, and deserted floor.
“Was there any such floor in this building? “Tina questioned.
The man pressed the closed button. The ground floor button was not lit anymore. “Must be some mistake,” he murmured to himself and pressed the ground floor button.
“Why isn’t the lift closing?” I looked at the buttons.
The empty floor was staring back at us. The light from the light sliced through the darkness like a saber. And like a black hole, the floor tried to engulf the light coming from the lift. The floor was invaded by a thick layer of dust. The air was stagnant. It smelled musty as if it was denied light and fresh air for a very long time.
“It is so creepy.” Tina inched closer to me.
The light in the lift flickered. I pressed the close button. I punched it a bit harder than necessary. The lift did not budge.
“Press it again,” Tina sounded alarmed.
“I did. It is not working.” I punched the button even harder.
“This is odd.”
“It sure is,” the man said. His brows had formed a deep valley on his forehead.
“I’m taking the stairs.” The man took out this phone and switched on the torch. “I’m in a hurry.”
“Ok.” We looked at him unassured and moved aside.
“Should we take the stairs as well? We are on the fourth floor. The lift is not functioning prop…,” the lift yanked all of a sudden and creaked before Tina could finish her sentence. We were taken aback by the sudden movement. Tina and I looked at each other. But the surprise was far from over. The lift door closed on its own and the lift car jerked violently once more.
“Are we even moving ?” Tina grabbed my arm.
“I’m not sure…” I looked at the display bar. The little red arrow was pointing downwards and then the number changed. “Yes, we are.” I pointed towards the display.
“That was quite a scare,” I sighed.
After a while, the lift came to a halt again.
“Thank god,” I smiled and took a step towards the lift door when Tina pulled me back by my arm.
“What happened?” I asked. But Tina was looking worriedly at the number display bar.
“Look at that.”
I looked up. A gasp left my mouth. We were still on the fourth floor.
“How is this possible? There must be something wrong with the display bar.” The lift door opened slowly and noiselessly.
The lift was staring at the yawning floor once again. The darkness that loomed before us was more menacing than before.
“What’s going on here? We were going down, right?” I turned towards Tina for affirmation. She was staring in the void. Her face was devoid of any emotions.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m taking the stairs. I had enough.”
“Are you crazy? It’s so dark out there. I didn’t even know this floor existed?”
“It’s only four floors. The stair is over there. The lift is malfunctioning. Do you want to wait here forever?”
“No,” I replied meekly.
“But how can we be sure that this is the fourth floor?”
Tina shrugged and then stepped out of the lift.
“Come,” Tina stretched her hand for me.
Before I could react, there came a loud noise as if something fell on the roof of the lift car. I turned my gaze towards the ceiling but the lift jerked violently for the third time. The light flickered due to the impact. I lost my balance due to the disturbance, fell, and let out a scream.
As soon as there was a loud noise, there was a stunned silence. Tina was ducked on the floor as well.
“Alicia…..”Tina called my name again.
But something was distracting me, another sound or a movement that I caught from the corner of my eye. I looked around. Nothing. On the ceiling then? I slowly glanced towards the ceiling and then I saw it.
It was bulking.
My pupils had dilated from fear. My breath was rapid. Air was rushing in and out of my lungs.
“Tina, look,” I screamed and pointed my shaking hand towards the ceiling.
But my scream was overshadowed by a screeching sound that the blackness slowly swallowed. And soon silence covered us like a shroud. I looked around the lift. I was sure, this sound was made by the lift. But my concentration was severed when something heavy fell on my back.
“Ah!” I screamed and curled into a ball. Something slid from my shoulder and hit the floor and shattered into a million tiny pieces. The noise sliced the silence, hit something in the dark, and echoed. I screamed again. I don’t know for how long I was in that position and for how long I had been screaming. My throat was sore and dry and started coughing when I noticed that Tina had been calling my name all this time.
“Are you okay?” I looked at Tina. A calm face with an outstretched hand was staring back at me. I tried to move my right hand. As soon as I did that, a sharp pinch tore through my senses.
“Ah!” I flinched in pain and brought my hand close to my chest. It was covered in blood. Perplexed I looked around. The mirror on the back of the lift had come loose. A part of the mirror had fallen on my shoulder and grazed me here and there. But I couldn’t pay much attention to my bleeding hand. The lift was moaning again. I looked up. This time the sides of the lift had also begun to slowly bulk. My eyes followed the distortions as they travelled down and on the other walls of the lift as well. But the rest of my body failed to corporate. I was frozen on the floor.
I was too terrified to move. Fear had overtaken my body. My mind was a blank slate. Tina’s voice came from a distance. But it was slowly bringing me to reality. I collected all my courage and turned my head in her direction. She was still ducked on the floor, her hands outstretched towards me.
“It’s alright. Come here.” She said softly.
It took every ounce of courage and strength to move my muscles. My body had suddenly become very exhausted. All my joints were as heavy as lead. I slowly stretched my hand towards her. Tina came closer to grab my hand when the lift jerked again, very violently this time. I was tossed around to the back of the lift. My hands, thighs, and many other parts of my body slid through the broken pieces of the glass. The minute pieces sank into my skin. Small round droplets of blood oozed out from the contact and left their marks on the floor. I tried to collect myself. But then the lift fell. It dropped. And all I could do was scream.
“Hey! you okay?”
I slowly opened my eyes and saw many pairs of eyes peering inside the lift, at me.
Someone was shaking me. I looked around. It was from Tina. She was sitting next to me.
“You okay? What happened?” The security guard loomed over me.
My head was still trying to read the surrounding. Where am I ? Am I okay? Am I alive? What had happened? Was that real?
“I am here. We are on the ground floor.” Tina said as if she could read my mind. She was caressing my head with one hand and rubbing something from my face with another.”
“How did the mirror break?” The security guard raised his eyebrows.
I could hear his question but my mind was too wrapped and contorted to form a proper reply. Again Tina took charge. She told them what had happened. How the lift had stopped suddenly and jerked many times, how the mirror broke, and how dangerously the lift came down.
The security guard was sceptical.
“Didn’t a tall man in a brown suit tell you that this lift was malfunctioning?”
The security guard seemed to remember.
“Okay, Okay,” he waved his hand at us, gesturing to get up and leave. He was pissed. Probably because he will have to take care of this mess and report this to his supervisors.
Tina helped me get up and put her hand around my shoulder. My body had given up. It had become impossibly numb. I had become excruciatingly heavy. Slowly and steadily, grasping the cold metal wall of the lift, I got up. A groan escaped my quivering lips. The pain of my wounds was resurfacing, intensifying with each dragging step. My mind was trying to pinpoint the locations of these bitter and jarring pinches. With each step the pain amplified, the bloody muscle quivered.
“What’s the matter? Is this lift not working?” came a voice from outside the lift as we came out. The security guard looked around.
“No. This lift is under servicing. Use the other one.” then he turned towards us and said, “Take her to some doctor.”
“She is bleeding. There is blood on her face,” muttered another security personnel when we came and gave Tina the directions to the nearest hospital.
After about half an hour, we were waiting for the doctor in the nearest hospital in the emergency ward. Tina had taken care of everything. She was sitting next to me holding my hand. The nurse had given me first aid, cleaned my wounds, and put some ointment on the cuts. The bleeding had stopped. But some shards of the mirror were still embedded in my skin that needed to be tended. My senses had woken up completely. I could feel all the places, the glass had cut me. The palms of my hands were tingling. But as soon as my senses came to, I felt my body slack. My whole body was aching and my eyelids were becoming heavy. But I couldn’t fall asleep yet. Many things did not make sense. What had happened? Was all that real? Why was the lift bulking? What was out there? And the empty floor?
“Why didn’t you tell them about the empty floor?”
“They wouldn’t have believed us.” Tina shrugged.
She was so calm. It was so unlike her.
“What had happened there?”
She turned towards me and stared me in the eyes. Her dark black pupils stared at me like the darkness of those empty hallways of the fourth floor. I felt was a bit uneasy inside.
“I scared you this time like you always scare me.”