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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1743870-Ascent-to-Insanity
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Horror/Scary · #1743870
The elevator goes up or sometimes sideways, never down. Down is bad. Don't get down now.
         I walked through the wide, double glass doors on the ground floor lobby into a building that was there, beautiful, yet everyone on the street seemed to not notice.  A stark yet inviting pool of marble flowed before me, leading straight to the elevator as the far end of the broad expanse.  The only door in the place was the elevator – no floor listing, no downward facing arrow.  There was no front desk, no security guard, nothing, except for the wide doors, marble pool, and the stretch of dark, moulded wood that spanned each side.  Somehow there were no corners in the room, but no curve either.  It was as though the room stretched, shrank towards the elevator. 

         I plodded forward absently.  Some part of my mind wondered why a building so large and so well-maintained was absolutely devoid of life, but I let the thought slide by.  The elevator was inviting me, drawing me as my feet crossed the gold script that broke up the monotony of the marble, like ripples destroying and beautifying the calm surface of a summer pool.  My worn sneakers were almost soundless.  A different part of me, stronger than the one wondering about where all the others were, was a bit embarrassed walking along such a beautiful floor in such crummy shoes.  But the marble felt like it reached up and embraced my feet, and after a brief hesitation I continued my stride.

         The elevator's pull on me had no deep meaning - curiosity drove me forward regardless of the unsettling nature of the lobby.  I took long strides that were just a hair short of hurried.  At first the elevator didn't seem to be getting any closer, and then I was right on top of it.  The expanse between us had disappeared somewhere along the line.  I looked back for a quick moment, watching people walking by outside of the large glass doors, carrying on their lives without even taking a glance to notice the building was there.  Turning back, my hand raised and pressed the arrow pointing up.

         The elevator chimed right away and the doors slid smoothly open to reveal a dark wood interior, the moulding matching the lobby but in smaller proportions, climbing halfway up the walls until ending in a smooth mirror on all three sides.  I stepped inside the elevator, turned around, and froze.  There were no floor buttons.  I couldn't guess the height of the building, which was part of the curiosity that initially brought me through it's double doors.  Now the only way I could know how high it went was to go up.  The elevator's doors drew to a quiet close as I was staring at the lack of buttons, and I was startled out of my confusion by the gentle tug of gravity as I began to move upwards.

         Another light chime sounded as the elevator stopped.  It was like all chimes in elevators, but reminded me of an old alarm clock I used to own.  It was one of those that were supposed to gently lift you from sleep by a series of progressively louder chimes spaced closer and closer together.  The only problem was it didn't work for me – I always woke up on the first chime.  The sound of the thing itself was pleasant, but after a while I began to wonder if it was a waste of money.  The whole point of it was lost, thanks to my gentle sleep.

         The doors drew back into a long corridor that split rows upon rows of cubicles.  Just like every other beautiful building in the world I thought.  Get past the appealing surface and all you find is work, work, work, done in the most utilitarian style, with half walls and blaring fluorescent.  I wanted to stay in the elevator, make it go all the way to the top, but the doors refused to budge from their hidden spot in the wall no matter how long I stood there, and along with the lack of floors there was no door open/close button.  Sighing, I stepped out into the office.  The elevator doors remained open.  I stepped back into the elevator.  They still remained open.  Sighing again, deeper this time, I started to walk along the corridor.

         This office was as empty as the lobby.  On the surface it was the same old mediocre cubicle setup that you see in every TV show, movie, or office you are unlucky enough to step into for some ridiculous bureaucratic reason.  As I walked, however, I started to notice slight differences.  A stapler sat on the desk, inside out.  It was as though someone had opened it flat to release staples or put something on the wall, but then folded it back the wrong way.  One chair's seat was missing – the pole stuck up and was connected by thin bands of plastic to a silhouette of where the seat should be, but it looked like there had never been one there.  A comic strip hung loosely on a tack, upside down with the tack at the bottom.  A computer screen was turned backwards, the screen attached to the base.  All in separate cubicles, all small differences.  Curiosity spiced with unease began to sit in, and I started to inspect each cubicle to see if there was something off on all of them.  I realized that the minor differences were relatively few and far between, particularly considering the number of cubicles that spanned this massive room, a room that seemed to take up the entire breadth of the building – a room that actually had corners to match the square exterior.  Windows lined the room three-quarters of a way up from the floor, and I could still get muffled sounds of the outside world – cars honking, brakes squealing, people yelling at the newspaper vendor who tried to gyp them their change, a hot dog hawker bellowing his wares at the top of his lungs.  I tried to make it to one of the windows, but cubicles lined all the walls, and unease kept me from entering any of them.  I looked back at the elevator: still open.  Sucking in a deep breath, I gently took a step into the nearest cubicle (one that seemed to not have anything off about it), leaned forward, and pressed my hands against the wall to steady myself as I tried to peek at the world just a floor below.

         The elevator doors shut with a soft snap.

         I whirled around, suddenly scared, and jumped out of the cubicle.  Trying to maintain my dignity in the middle of an empty office, I took quick short steps along the hall, barely keeping myself from jogging towards the now-closed elevator doors.  My curiosity about the building was still there – greater now – but I started to feel like I could live with being curious.  I wanted to get back out onto the street, into the sun.  Papers fluttered in the breeze my quick advance made.  Pencils standing up without the aid of a pencil holder caught my eye but didn't break my stride.  I reached the elevator door, almost breathless, and reached my hand forward.  It froze. 

         There was no way but up. 

         “This is bullshit,” I muttered, staring.  Why the hell would someone only put an up button on an elevator that was on the second floor?  Was it done to imply that some people needed to take the stairs?  If that was the case, wouldn't you only put a down arrow here and force people to walk up?  Muttering slightly to myself while shaking my head, I took a step back and then began to survey the room.  I hadn't seen a staircase sign  while I was wandering through the first time, but I'd been distracted by all the weird things I was noticing.  My scan revealed nothing, but the room was big.  I walked down one of the aisles and stared to pace the walls, searching for a doorway leading to stairs or at least a bathroom, which usually meant stairs were nearby. 

         I made a full circuit of the room, intentionally ignoring the interior of all the cubicles I passed, focusing only on the solidity of the wall and searching for the break in it.  It wasn't until I was right in front of the elevator again that I realized there was none.

         “Shit.”  I pressed the up button.

         The doors slid open right away, smooth and silent as ever, with the exception of the alarm-clock ding.  I stepped inside, not happy.

         I caught my scowl in the mirror and peered at my reflection.  It was a delicious scowl, I couldn't help thinking to myself and ruining it by laughing.  I tucked it into my pocket for future use, especially on the greasy guys that tried to seduce me in bars.  My face wasn't typically overly expressive, but this time I had been quite capable of pulling down my narrow lips while bunching up my poorly-groomed eyebrows.  Having the thin bangs of my long brown hair partially falling from my neat up-do seemed to add just enough sophistication to keep me from looking like a pouty teenager.  Wouldn't want that now – I'm already in my mid twenties.  Even though I do sometimes wear worn shoes.  I know enough of the world to know that bills need to get paid before new shoes get bought. 

         The elevator ride seemed longer, but that might have been due simply to my musings taking most of my attention and the surprise to realize I was still climbing once I was done giggling at my scowl.  It stopped soon after, less smoothly than the first time.  The doors opened.  I waited.  They stayed open.

         “Fine, have it your way,” I said, walking into the room and taking my first look at it.  There was an arcade on this floor, dead silent like the others, but lit with glee.  The colors blinked and chased each other around the room, and I was momentarily happy I didn't suffer from epilepsy.  The lack of sound was somehow even eerier than the upside-down comic strip.  I'd been in silent arcades before, but those ones were silent because all of the machines were turned off, the floor dark and dusty between them.  This place was bright, colorful, clean, and absolutely silent. 

         I picked a basketball out of one of the shoot hoops games, one that had escaped the bar that held all the rest in place.  I dribbled it twice on the floor and stopped, the sounds of it bouncing on the floor bouncing off the walls back at me.  I replaced it without trying to make it through the hoop.  I was never very good at those games.  The marquee twittered at me with lights, trying to get me to play.  I moved on.

         That dusty, abandoned arcade I once passed through was creepy enough, but this brightly lit silence was worse.  The elevator doors still stood open.  “Well, this worked last time,” I said to no one but myself as I crossed the room in even quicker strides than before.  There were fewer windows in this room – only one, in fact, along the far wall.  I made a path towards it as straight as I could manage, my jeans occasionally brushing against stools and driving seats as I hurried in its direction.  I knocked a shoot-em-up game with my hip as I passed, the scrape and almost immediate clunk of a pistol stopped by its cord as it banged against the machine causing me to jump and take a quick, panicked look back.  I scanned the room before moving again, knowing full well that it was me that had knocked it off its holder but wanting to make sure that I was actually alone.  I reached the window and glanced out as I planted my hands on the sill. 

         The silence of the room was closed by the elevator door sliding shut behind me, but I stayed at the window, looking out in confusion.  I could see the street below me, the same street I'd gotten this stupid curiosity itch to get off of, but it was completely different.  The cars were stopped at the lights that were green, and sped forward through the ones that were red.  People didn't walk as much as they humped along, each person looking and moving like one of their legs was several inches shorter than the other.  The hot dog guy held an actual wiener dog in a bun, and while he appeared to be bellowing as usual no sound reached me.  I watched, sickened, as someone approached the vendor, handed over blue money, and waited patiently as the guy pulled out a bun, a wiggling dachshund, pressed it in between the split in the bread, and then garnished it with ketchup and mustard.  I turned away as the customer prepared to take bite and ran to the elevator.

         “Oh god, oh god, please get me out of this,” I whimpered as I booked it to the elevator.  “Yes!”  There were two buttons now.  “Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesye-”

         I stopped suddenly, the traction on my worn sneakers apparently still quite good as my upper half almost tipped over instead of my lower half skidding beneath me.  One button was still marked with an arrow pointed up.  The other pointed sideways.

         “What the hell is this!?”  I shouted, the arcade throwing the same question back at me with all of its glittering visual noise.  “What is this?”

         As my echo quieted down I lowered the fists I had been holding over my head and stared at the buttons.  Up, or sideways.  My choice.  Not down.  Of fucking course.  Never down.  Don't want to get down, now, do I?  No one wants to get down.  People always tell you “Don't let it get you down” or “Don't get down on yourself.”  Down is bad, unless you are up on a ledge somewhere risking your life.  Then people beg you to get down.  “Don't let it get you down” turns into “Calm down!”  “Please get down, please!”.

         I broke my train of thought and looked around at the flashing silence surrounding me.  “This isn't so bad,”  I said aloud.  “Maybe if I wait here, someone will come around – checking equipment, or making sure the building is empty when it closes.  I can just sit tight and wait for someone to come help me.”

         No one's going to come and you know that, a voice in my head said.  No one is here to help you.  You're all alone. 

         I looked back at the window.  “That couldn't have been real.  I must have imagined it, or its some twisted projection meant to entertain people in the arcade.  I bet its not even a real window.”  I started to head back to it, deciding that I'll do another round to see if there are stairs on this floor after I reassure my nerves.  I kept talking to myself, even if it was just a way to fill in the gaping silence.  “If its the same, then I'll know its a projection or a fake.  Hell, if I watch it long enough I bet it'll repeat itself, and I'll know it was some sick set-up.  I can't believe someone would put something like that in an arcade, and without a warning sign or anything.  I mean, kids come here!”  I continued my ranting as I marched up to the window, having fully convinced myself that it wasn't real and being appalled that someone would put it there in the first place.  Because of the kids.  If the damn elevator had a down button or there were people playing in this arcade, or even if there was a warning sign for adults only, I probably would have kinda enjoyed it, the same way people kind of enjoy slasher movies or Alfred Hitchcock.  The fact that they put it there with no “Warning – Mature Content” sign was deplorable (because I really couldn't see how watching someone take a bite out of a wiggling dachshund would be anything other than mature content).  That guy should be fired.

         I stepped up the window and looked out, the march having fully prepared me and my indignation for whatever I might see.  I reeled and almost lost my grip on the sill.

         The world outside was normal.  Completely normal.  Red meant stop and green meant go.  People had two legs of the same length.  The vendor held hot dogs – dark tan tubes of mysterious meat that are only edible with a generous dose of condiments and stuffed between a soft bun three times its size.  Customers avoided the hot dog vendor, because eating street hot dogs is synonymous with gambling the health of your afternoon.  The window was the same, down to the oily streak my nose had left when I unwittingly pressed it against the glass in my first round of shock and horror.  No projection.  No video.  Just a window.

         I shuddered.  “I can't stay here.”  I turned abruptly on my heel and double-timed it back to the elevator.  By the time I made it there I was running, a hope blossoming that if the window could change, maybe the elevator buttons could change too.  I stopped a little less suddenly this time, but with no less chagrin.  One arrow pointing up.  One pointing sideways. 

         “Damn you!” I screamed, then started to take deep breaths as I tried to calm my pulse along with my panic.  Okay.  You don't want to stay here, but you can't go down.  This floor is worse than the last one, so the next floor up must be worse than this one.  Sideways will either give you this or something else, but it shouldn't be too bad – most likely, similar. 

         “Sideways,” I said aloud but still had to exert a surprising amount of willpower to actually make my finger connect with the button.  The elevator slid open as soon as I made contact, the ding happening a touch faster and sounding slightly louder.  I stepped in with false confidence, which was immediately destroyed by the slight, involuntary chill that made me rub my arms.  My expression was scared, my face beginning to look haggard.

         The elevator doors slid open, and the only thing I could think was noise.  This room was dark, pitch-dark, but filled with almost all the normal sounds of an arcade turned up full blast.  I clamped my hands over my ears, squeezing my eyes shut to see if that would help.  Bells clanged, music thumped, balls bounced, the pre-recorded sound of “You're a winner!” jumbled together to make Hell's chorus.  There was no buzz of people, no laughter, no slaps on the back as someone made a high score.  The room was black and filled with nothing but unnatural sounds created for man's entertainment.  I opened my eyes, seeing nothing, and bumped a shoulder forward.  The elevator doors stood stubbornly open.

         I ran through forced blindness for the other wall, crashing sightlessly into everything in my path.  I stumbled over stools, nearly falling, yet continued to plunge forward with my hands pressed over my ears.  It wasn't until I smacked into a bar jutting out from what I assumed to be another basketball game that I finally removed one hand from my ear, first rubbing my forehead where I had hit it and then using the same hand to grope forward at a slightly slower pace, attempting to press my ear to my shoulder.  I slapped the wall and tried to stumble back the way I came.  I felt the cool metal of the elevator and passed my hand over the crack separating the doors, feeling for the buttons.  Frustrated, I started to slap at the wall, and upon hearing a chime that seemed out of place I tumbled inside, the lights clicking on as the door closed and I could feel the elevator move up. 

         I lay on the floor for a moment, panting, my ears still ringing with the wretched cacophony of sound that inhabited wherever I had just come from.  I sighed, my head slumping forward onto my chest.  “Curiosity killed the cat,” I muttered humorlessly.  “And satisfaction brought it back.  But I don't think I'm going to get any satisfaction, or luck, or help, or anything.”  I sighed again and let myself collapse entirely onto the floor, facing the bright yet subdued lights on the ceiling.    “What am I going to do?”

         I wasn't entirely finished resting on the floor when the elevator reached its next destination, and I wasn't entirely ready to jump into the fire again so I just remained staring at the ceiling as the elevator chimed annoyingly and the doors slid open.  All of the other floors had been deserted, so I wasn't overly concerned with someone coming in and finding me – hell, I'm be ecstatic if they did.  A few minutes later I slowly pulled myself up, my body fine – with the exception of my bruised shins and forehead – but my mind aching.  I looked out of the elevator.

         The floor beyond me was lit, quiet, and calm.  Not too quiet – the gentle light uniformly lit the features of the people wandering through the room in soft shoes, not talking but the scuffle of their feet chasing away the eerie silence of the first arcade below.  They moved slowly, almost serenely, in no particular direction, no two people going the same way at the same time. 

         “Thank god!”  I exclaimed and rushed out of the elevator to the nearest person.  “Excuse me, sir, I'm sorry to bother you, but I can't seem to find the exit.  Can you help me?”

         The man walked on without a murmur or even a flash of recognition.  “Sir?”  I called, suddenly hesitant, my creepy-meter on full juice thanks to the experiences below.  I turned in a slow circle.  “Help?”  I asked, my voice almost as soft as their slippered feet.

         Everyone was dressed in different clothing, but had the same soft shoes on.  They shuffled from one part of the room to another, never looking at each other, not even when they bumped into one another.  Their only acknowledgment of anything was the slight tilt of their shoulders brought on by a bump.  Their faces were blank, expressionless, a room full of eyes staring at nothing.  I took a closer look at their shoes.  They were less shoes than socks with a slightly hardened bottom, a way to keep your feet warm but absolutely useless outside of this carpeted room.  Everyone shuffled – not a single person picked up their feet as they moved – they simply slid gently from place to place with slow, languorous movements.  The room was populated by all types of people – men in business suits, women in what were once fashionable dresses, people of both sexes in running gear, hobos, old men sporting hats, people wearing the uniforms of various restaurants and entertainment venues, even a few children.  People of all walks of life, all ages, but with the same slow gait and distant, glazed look. 

         I didn't bother suppressing the full shudder that went through my body this time.  My eyes waved around me, unsure of what to do.  In a distant corner, I saw a sign.  A green sign.  An exit sign.

         I gasped and moved through the group of people as quickly as I could, my sneakers making slightly more noise than their gentle slippers as I padded along the carpet.  I had to dodge and sometimes stop short to avoid crashing into people – somehow most of them managed to navigate a path that didn't put them in more than brushing contact with the others, but my advance seemed to cross almost everyone's way and they shuffled forward ceaselessly, their feet never stopping.  I grew painfully closer to the sign, enough to make it out.  It announced a staircase below it.  The man and the staircase on the sign were upside down, but I didn't notice in my excitement.  I simply plunged forward, taking the stairs heading down, breathless with anticipation of leaving this crazy place.  I rounded three flights and erupted out, looking eagerly through the doorway.  The doorway right back into where the people shuffled.

         “Wha-” I started to croak out, then put my hands over my eyes and felt like crying.  I forced the desire to pass, and then dropped my hands as I lifted my head.  I noticed a shelf covered in shoes – the shoes of the people in the room.  On the top shelf was a row of the soft slippers, and hanging above that was a sign.

Complementary Slippers – Stop Here, Stay Calm


         “No,”  I said, barely audible.  “No.  No no no no no no NO!”  I shook my head and buried it in my hands again.  “What's going on?”  I cried into my hands.  “Why can't I get out of here?  Is this what happened to these people – they found comfort and never left?”  I felt tears starting to wet my checks and composed myself.  “Fuck you and your slippers,”  I spat at the sign, “I'm going to find a way out.”

         I marched back into the room, insensitive to whoever I may bump into on the way, and headed straight to the elevator.  Only an up button this time.  “What's wrong?”  I asked it sarcastically before pressing it.  “Since these people seem unreal, does sideways take me back to where the people are real?”  I stared at the side of the elevator for a moment, half expecting a sideways button to materialize.  When I was convinced it wouldn't, I let out a muffled snort and pressed up. 

         The damn thing chimed again, even louder, before the doors opened.

         I stepped in, seething.  This place was a joke, a sick joke.  I didn't know why I had even stepped in here.  All I was doing was walking along the street, my mind wandering in no particular direction, when I saw the building and got curious.  Stupid curiosity.  Stupid, stupid curiosity.  It'll kill me one day.

         I looked at myself in the mirror lining the elevator.  The face that peered back at me seemed older, faded.  My eyes were bunched down in an angry V, my lips twisted in disgust at both this place and myself.  The elevator continued to make its upward journey, moving so smoothly I couldn't tell if I was going exceptionally slow or ridiculously fast.  My bunched eyebrows started to ache, pulsating along with the bruise that was forming smack dab in the middle of my forehead.  I didn't know how I would explain that one to my friends, much less my boss.  I unhappily forced myself to relax my tight brow as the elevator strained up and up.  After what felt like days, my face having finally reached an expression of resigned passivity, the aggravating chime sounded and the doors slid open. 

         Chaos.  Absolute chaos.

         The  chaos manifested itself in many ways.  There was a mix of the arcade there, with its blaring sounds and bright lights.  But there was more chaos.  Things, colorful things that weren't birds or balls or anything recognizable flew through the air from corner to corner of the room, if the room had any corners or sides.  This room was perfectly oval, which added to the chaotic disconcernment of it – windows lined the walls, much like the cubicle floor, but I could tell even from the relative safety of the elevator that there was no large outcropping of stone to supplement the perfectly box-like shape of the building from the outside.  Some windows showed night, some showed day, some sun, some rain.  I edged out of the elevator to the nearest window.  The street was the same as the one I'd left, but now smaller, further away, and lit by streetlights.  I saw an old lady walking a dog along that street, passing the hot dog vendor and nearing the newspaper stand.  I moved to the next window.  It was bright as noon, but the lady was still there walking her dog, rapidly closing the distance to the stand.  In the next window she was fanning herself as she passed the stand and came closer to the edge of my view, and my quick dash to the other window showed only the tip of an umbrella receding.  A flying object lobbed itself into my head. 

         “Ouch!”  I cried and turned around.  It had reversed direction and was speeding away too quickly for me to figure out what, exactly, it was.  I was right next to another basketball game, but in this one all of the balls were bouncing themselves behind the bar that guarded them.  As I walked past a bell sounded and the bar dropped, spilling balls out onto the floor which then proceeded to bounce away. 

         People were on this floor as well, but they only added to the confusion.  A boy laughed so shrilly behind me I thought he was screaming until I saw his wide smile as he began to chase the escaping balls.  A tall man in an Armani suit yelled with delight as he shot his video-arcade rifle at a young woman in stockings, who wasn't watching him but fell down as though dead.  She lay motionless for a moment and I ran to her to check her breathing.  She wasn't, and I felt my heart leap into my throat.  Then she shuddered, pulled herself up, and ran screaming with glee towards the foosball table, where a game was already in progress. 

         My attention to the girl had left me in the middle of all the chaos, and all I could do was turn in a slow circle and stare, occasionally dodging the things (I now realized they were toys) that dive-bombed my head or crashed into my feet.  Parts of the room were brightly lit and colorful.  Others were pitch black, seemingly immune to the idea that light travels.  Other parts of the room couldn't decide, and lights flicked on and off at random intervals, first being flooded with bright and then starved with dark.  All through this people ran, laughing, screaming, crying, falling hard, pulling themselves up without a care to their injuries, and running off again.  No one seemed to spend more than a few seconds of attention on a particular activity – they flitted from one to another like hummingbirds in the White House rose garden. 

         It took my head a minute to finally reach itself around this place, and I let it do so without interruption, outside of the occasional dodge or skip from the land and air-based missiles.  Once my brain had adjusted to the mass amount of sensory input, I started to feel a smile creep onto my face.

         “This is, at least, the funnest floor I've been on,” I said softly to myself, taking a new moment to scan my surroundings.  “I could stay here a while.”  I moved to the wretched basketball game, the same one that first tried to take me out in the pitch-black arcade and then attacked me here.  I grabbed one of the balls that hadn't wandered too far away and shot it.

         “Nothin' but net!” I cried as it sailed through.  I grabbed another basketball.  This one bounced off the rim and finally settled into the hoop.  “This is fun!” I cried as I ran down another ball.  I took it and tried to make a three-point shot, but it flew far from the hoop and bounced away from me. 

         I pouted momentarily.  “This isn't fun anymore,”  I said, looking around.  “Ooh!  Skee ball!”  I ran to the game, which welcomed me with a loud click and clatter as the balls rolled towards my waiting hand.  I snatched one up and tried to roll it into the center hole, missing it by a good two inches.  As I grabbed another ball, the lights in my area decided to flick off.

         “Yeah!”  I cried, holding the ball above my head in pitch-darkness.  I tried to roll it but completely missed the skid, the ball bouncing back and landing on my toes.  The flash of pain the ball induced shocked me, and I shook my head as I gathered my senses around me again. 

         This isn't good.  This is just like the floor below.  You're going to get lost.

         But I'm having so much fun.  I might be in this building for a long time, why don't I stay where its fun?

         It's not real fun.

         It is to me.

         Well why don't you just stay here then?

         Wasn't that what I was saying I wanted to do?

         So quit wasting your time talking to me.  Stay here.  Enjoy yourself.  Don't listen to your better judgment.          

         “Okay, I won't!”  I cried out loud, triumphant.  “Stupid voice doesn't know what its talking about, anyway.  Here is fun, and here's where I'll stay.  Look!  Craps!” 

         I ran across the room, grabbing the complimentary chips and throwing them on the table.  The dice rolled out of no one's hand. 

         “Yes!”  I cried, and scooped up the chips in front of me, more than before.  “I won, I won!  Did you see it?”  I looked to my right.  “You saw it, didn't you?  I won!  Let's play again.”  I started to grab a pile of chips and throw some onto the table, but my arm froze mid-swing.  I looked again to my right.  There was no one there.  Absolutely no one.  There wasn't anyone there, and there hadn't been when I was talking.

         I let the chips fall out of my limp fingers.  “What am I doing here?”  I asked myself slowly.  I looked around.  Everyone was still having their own crazy, chaotic fun, vaguely aware at best of the people around them.  I knew I could stay here for a while and have a good time, a childishly good time, where all I do is play all day and not worry about anything.  Where I could shoot someone with a video game gun and then would fall down dead, but then get back up and scamper along as soon as my attention was diverted, and they wouldn't even realize why or that they had even been dead for a moment.  I could look out onto any day I wanted to, and I wouldn't have worry about whether it actually was rainy or sunny or day or night.  I was free.  As free as I could be in this building that had  up, sideways, but no down.  Never ever down.  Down is bad.  “Don't get down on yourself,”  people always say.  “Don't get down.”

         I giggled.  “I almost forgot about the elevator, can you believe that?”  I asked nobody.  “Stupid machine.  It never takes me anywhere fun.  Well, it didn't, until I got here.  What a minute!”  I cried as a thought hit me.  “If the elevator brought me here by going up and up, where will it take me next?  Oh, I have to find out!  I bet it will be so much fun!”  I ran for the elevator with an excited, eager gait, like someone who has realized that there's a hundred dollar bill tree just twenty yards away.  When I reached the elevator I eagerly jammed at the up button.  There was another button below it, but I didn't care where it went.  I wanted to go up.  Up was fun.  More up would be better.

         The chime dinged so loudly it drowned out the rest of the noise for a brief instant, then the doors slid open.  I jumped inside and danced from foot to foot as the doors seemed to take forever to close.  As they finally slid themselves shut, I was barely able to suppress my squeal of excitement, then decided to let it out anyway.  What was next?  What was up?

         The ride was long and boring, but my excitement didn't fade.  My expression in the mirror was one of pure glee, my face shimmering dully but my outright grin distracting from how waxy my skin had become.  My head raced as I tried to figure out what would be on the next floor.  The doors opened to a dim room that seemed full of fog.  I stepped out and my foot slid slightly.  I looked down and lifted my shoe, seeing it stained in red. 

         “Oooo,”  I let out with a low breath.  “Cool.”

         I hunched down and followed the trail of blood, using my fingers as a guide.  My hands became red and soaked with it, and something about the feeling of its thick warmth on my fingers felt good.  I followed the trail straight up to a woman lying motionless in a puddle of it.  She didn't seem to have any marks on her front, but her body jutted up at a strange angle in the middle.  I rolled her over, her arms making a sucking sound as they pulled away from the puddle. 

         “That's a good idea, why didn't I think of that?”  I asked aloud in a soft voice as I regarded the tire rim that stuck three-quarters of the way out of her back.  “It would take quite a swing, but I might be able to do it.”  I tried to pull the tire rim out, but it wouldn't budge.  I huffed in annoyance.  “I guess I'll need to think of something on my own,”  I said, straightening up and looking around.  A scream pierced the relative silence of the room, a room that seemed to stretch on into eternity.  I hunted around.  Objects were scattered along the ground – upended chairs, amputated car parts, knives, guns, razors, swords, all looking dangerous yet deliciously fun if they were in my hands.  I swept past most of the items, looking for something in particular, something that would be me.  I passed bodies as I went.  Some hosted efficient gunshot wounds, and some had obviously been taken time with.  I mostly gave them cursory glances, only stopping by ones that really piqued my interest.  A man was laid out flat on his face in a lake of blood.  I started to walk by him, but out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw him shift his hand.  I stopped and backtracked, crouching down in the blood next to his motionless head.

         A sound rattled from him, like the wheeze of a dying engine.  His left hand came up to his shoulder and he lifted himself up slightly, raising his head to look at me.  His throat had been slashed, and as he lifted his head up it flopped unnaturally backward.  Strangely unnerved, I watched at his progress with a astounded curiosity.  Blood no longer ran from his neck, individual droplets that had been caught on the slightly ragged cut falling to join the rest of his blood already on the ground.  He spoke without drawing in breath.

         “Thank you,”  he gasped, his voice like wind flowing through a dead forest of dried branches. 

         He slumped back down, his sightless eyes facing to the right, and all movement ceased.  My grin renewed itself.  Whoever had done this to him had found their perfect object and used it to do this guy a favor.  I could do the same, as soon as I find mine.  I straightened up and began to wander again, passing more and more bodies, hearing their cries of gratitude escaping softly from their lips.

         My breath sucked in.

         There it was: perfection, just lying on the ground.  A hair ornament, large but classy, and boasting a long pin that thickened along its six inches but tapered to a dangerous point.  It thickened only in width, and the side could be sharpened if I so wanted.  But I didn't want it.  It would cut my hair if I did that.  I picked it up, holding it gently in my hands.  I could almost feel the warmth of the blood that would soon coat it.  I turned it over, then reached up and took my hair down, pulling and twisting it until finally securing it with the ornate clip.  It fit on my head like it was meant to be there.  I could already sense how wonderful the feeling of blood soaking into my hair would be.  I grinned, but my grin was different. 

         I looked around, sure of what I wanted but unsure of how to do it, where to find an opportunity to do it.  Shapes moved in the fog, but they were always imperceptible, the only sign that they had been there an unnatural swirling of the fog in a slightly human shape.  The only people I actually saw were the ones who had already had their favor done for them.  I couldn't help those people – I needed to find my own.  I began to wander again, with a different purpose this time. But I never saw anyone.  The only thing that told me people were up there were the bodies and the sounds of distant screams.

         In the distance I saw something metallic, glittering slightly.  “I almost forgot about you again,” I said softly, pleased with the idea that it presented.  I headed to the elevator.  There was only one button on it.


         I pressed the button, my hand almost jumping at the chance to do so.  The doors took their time, a loud, unnatural chime building itself up before exploding into the foggy darkness.  As they slid open I caught myself grinning back at me.  It was a mix of the scowl after the first floor and a smile – a chilling grin that screamed dark intent.  I stepped calmly into the elevator, turned, and faced the doors as I felt myself almost lifted off the floor by the smooth acceleration downward.  I didn't move for the long ride on the elevator, with the exception of my hand occasionally raising up and caressing my perfect thing, poised innocently in my hair.  I couldn't keep from touching it, stroking it.  It was beautiful, and once, when I turned my head slightly to admire it in the mirror, I thought I had never seen something that completed me so fully in my life.

           The elevator slowed its fall and came to a stop.  There was no chime as the doors opened to reveal the same marble lobby, the room now stretching in the other direction.  As I walked toward the large glass doors to the sunny outside, the marble pulled at me, begging me.  My steps were laborious, but I was able to make steady progress.  Finally, I pushed against the doors and they protested, butting against each other, but I finally forced them open, my eyes squinting as the bright sun assaulted them.  I paused and looked around.  There he was.  I walked towards the newspaper vendor, gestured randomly towards something, and handed over money.  It was more than the amount of the magazine he had given me, but he noticed my absent look and didn't offer change.  I didn't care.  Money didn't bring pleasure.  My perfect thing did.

         I walked to the corner with the magazine under my arm, then settled casually on a park bench, reaching up to caress my perfect thing before opening the magazine.  I sat there, not staring at the words but over them, at the hot dog vendor.  His shift would eventually be over.  He would pack up that cart of his and wheel it away.  He'd carry down the main road until shifting onto side streets with less traffic, less people to curse him and his large cart as he tried to push through.  There I would use my perfect thing and do him a favor, and he would thank me.

         I was patient.  I could wait.
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