Like stepping on the brake of a speeding car, the elevator stops in between the sixth and seventh floor. The woman and man, standing in opposite corners, hold onto the metallic walls for support. They exchange stunned looks. Her gaze settles on his hands. He holds a guitar case. An unusual sight among the briefcases and laptop bags ruling London’s business district.
The elevator’s electronic panel flashes red, filling the tight cubicle.
She looks at her watch. 8.48. Sighs. The weekly staff meeting is about to start. She reaches for the side pocket of her leatherette bag, gets her smartphone, and taps its screen. No service. She rubs her temples.
The red flashlight pulsates in a harmonic rhythm.
She exhales, “I can’t believe this.”
“Yeah. Mondays. What can you do?”
“Well, right now I can’t do anything, but I should do a lot.” She taps her foot.
“Where are you from?”
She lowers her head. Even though she is trying hard to fit in, her accent always makes her feel like an outsider. An intruder, on a bad day. “Hungary.”
8.58. Shakes her head. “Why does this take so long? Are there no mechanics in this building?” She blinks. The flashing red light pierces her eyes.
“How long have you been working here?” he asks.
“I’ve started only a month ago.”
“So you’re a newbie. Do you like it?”
“Sure. It’s nice to have a job. The commute takes a bit long and the season ticket is quite expensive, but you know, I’m lucky to work here. This is a famous tower.”
“Famous tower?” He scoffs. “Everybody is so all over the place about this tower. But remember, it’s just a giant cucumber full of nerds. And I hate cucumber.” He pronounces the word cucumber with a British accent.
She half smiles.
“I’m from Chicago,” he continues, “ever been there?”
“No, I haven’t. One big city at a time.”
“Big? Hah! You should see Chicago. Man, I miss the beach of Lake Michigan. The architecture. The wide streets. Living in a big apartment. Don’t you miss… your home country?”
“Hungary? My friends and family, yes. And my former job. Other than that, no, not really.” She studies her shoes.
“Your former job? Why did you leave?”
She glances at the electronic panel. Ruthless red flashing. “You know, when the government is elbow-deep in your private life and wants you to get in line, you leave while you can.” She clears her throat. “Why did you leave?”
“My dad just wanted me to get a normal job. His friend has a company here. Finance and tech,” he sticks his tongue out, “bloah. Boring.”
“That’s why you bring your guitar to work?”
He raises the case, “this? No. I do play, though, I would love to just play all day, but this is just a disguise. I’ve been working here for two years, you know. Leaving home, obeying dad’s commands.” The flashing red light is getting more intense, illuminating his eyes. “And now, after two years, those dickheads fired me.”
“Don’t be. I wasted two years here. And I have a little farewell gift for them in here,” he takes the guitar case in two hands, “since they fired me, I’m gonna fire them up,” he grins.
She steps back to the metallic wall. “What do you mean?”
“This little buddy here is filled with explosives.”
“What?” She glues herself onto the wall.
“Don’t freak out. This is enough only to turn on a few fire alarms and flood their stupid Macs.”
She stays silent.
“Come on. It’s just a little prank.”
They both wince as a sudden metal screech echoes in the elevator car. He puts the case down and covers his ears in a haste. She fixes her gaze on the case. Hesitates. Takes a careful step towards it, panting. Metallic pounding shakes the place. She moves closer. A straight line of light threads its way through the gap between the doors and cuts the space in half, revealing her trembling body. He catches her eyes. He reaches for the case, but she is quicker to grip its handle. He drills his elbow in her stomach. She groans. As the door opens, the artificial light of the building slaps them in the face. With a newly discovered force, she throws the case in the light’s direction.
He hits her. She goes down, vision blurry, nose bleeding.
“Help! This woman is crazy!”
She hears baffled sounds as he steps out of their temporary detention. Steps approaching and a pair of black shoes arrive next to her. “Are you alright, madam?”
She needs to get the words right. “A bomb,” she whispers, “there’s a bomb in his guitar case.”
She flinches at the shouting.
“Stop that man!”
If you would like to read some more, you can check out my short story, Paperman, here. Or you can also head over to my other writings. Plus, don’t forget to subscribe and find me on social media below.