Rated: E · Short Story · Dark · #1990949
A dark tale that hopefully stirs and fires the reader's own imagination.
|No one knew when it had been installed or for what purpose. Only fading sketchy plans and some rough original drawings had been found, buried deep in the files of the isolated and long abandoned building in which it stood. The depth, although not accurately known, was thought to be in the region of some miles. Everything, in fact, about the elevator was a mystery, from who built it to how or why. All was interred in the past, long dead and forgotten together with the planners and builders, who alone held the secrets of its origin. |
The design and materials indicated pre Victorian, so it had existed there for at least a hundred years or more. The winding mechanism, although crude and clunky was in perfect working order, manufactured of that solidly dependable mechanical quality, sadly lost in today’s digital world of the modern industrial revolution. The building that housed the elevator was a long low crumbling structure, once a thriving factory in a thriving city, both now devoid of life and people and both now quietly sitting and rotting away, the decades of decay and neglect obliterating past glories with the efficiency and intensity of a corrosive acid.
It had taken Mike Dewar and his team many years to find the elevator and now at last they stood before it, unable to speak, each with his or her own thoughts. The elevator seemed to stare impassively back at them, its black iron latticed gate like the formidable portcullis of an impregnable fortress, challenging them to step inside.
Four years, thought Mike, but surely worth every minute. To stand face to face with the greatest puzzle of his life and one to which now perhaps the answer would be given. For the only certain thing about the elevator was that no one, past or present, had ever ridden in it before. No one knew where it went or how far it went down for the simple reason that no one had ever travelled in it.
The depth was estimated from old geological surveys, faded papers hidden amongst the original plans found by Mike and the team almost two years ago in a country thousands of miles from the spot where they now stood. It was that find that set them on the path to locating the elevator and had also established the possibility of realising their ultimate goal, to ride in it and discover where it went. Each knew that it would be a life changing journey, one from which, once the doors were closed and the button pressed, there would be no turning back. The elevator was singular in its construction in that there was no counterbalance; in fact there was none of the usual engineering instruments beloved of today’s construction industry. The mechanism above the cage was there to facilitate and control one purpose; descent. It could not be reversed to bring the elevator back up for a return journey, the epitome of a one-way trip.
One could be certain that nobody had been it in before and no one knew where it went because it was still there; waiting patiently across the decades, perhaps even centuries to fulfil its dark purpose. Waiting to realise the object of those ancient architects, waiting for the people who would be sufficiently dauntless, daring, adventurous or even stark staring crazy enough to become its first and only passengers. Now it seemed those people had arrived, all with a common goal and driven by an insatiable curiosity; why had it been built? Why was it so deep? What were the people who devised it hoping (expecting) to find at the bottom?
Four people, they had met and grown together over the years. Others had joined at various times but had gradually drifted away until now only they remained. Their quest had come to this final moment, their equipment was ready and they were on the brink of a journey into the unknown and in the certain knowledge that no one would help them and there was no possible way back.
Mike Dewar the originator and unspoken leader of the group. It was principally his energy and passion that had sustained them through the long search. It was his faith and belief in the ultimate goal that drove them on. Now in his late forties, with a personal (inherited) fortune with which to bank roll the endeavour, his only mission was to find out what lay beneath their feet. He had no thought of danger, only an unquenchable desire to learn the truth, to know and finally understand. He was no hero and had no time for doubters.
Kate Sanford, a geologist and idealist, the youngest of the team at 32, once alive and hopeful had witnessed the steady decline of society with growing sadness. Mike had offered a new and exciting challenge, a chance to discover the unknown and go beyond the mundane. Reality was now staring her in the face and her fear was growing exponentially.
Shane Gilchrist, 39, was a drifter, unable to settle into any job or career, but with a brilliant scientific mind. He had become the researcher and data analyst of the group. He had quickly latched onto Mike initially as a way to sponge off a rich man. Gradually, however he had become engrossed in the project, which had given him an object and purpose in life that he had not known before. Although he had his doubts and fears he knew that he would go through to the end, no matter the consequences.
Ben Wishaw was the old man of the group at 62 and chief amongst the doubters. He had a cynical and mistrusting way about him, forever griping and complaining. Although Mike was frustrated by his attitude, he knew that Ben’s role as a survival specialist was vital to the team. Ex Special Forces, Ben had seen and done some remarkable things in his life. His experience of survival techniques in hostile situations was something that Mike was taking as insurance, but paying heavily for the privilege.
It was Ben who now spoke as they all stared at the silent, brooding object before them.
“Has it ever occurred to any of you to wonder how the hell they completed the shaft at the bottom if no one has ever ridden in the elevator in order to get down there and actually do the work”
Shane looked concerned and rubbed his beard “Well yes I guess so but in a kinda vague way, it’s not something I like to dwell on particularly.”
Mike looked suddenly tired but determined still, he rubbed his eyes “All the plans and reports we’ve found point to a fully completed shaft, although we have no way of knowing how it’s one of the points of faith that we’ve held onto throughout the project. We can’t start raising this now, not when we’re about to get in the damn thing.” His voice was controlled but still had a slight pleading note hidden within.
Kate crouched down and started to draw abstract shapes in the dust on the floor.
“Rumour has it that this isn’t a shaft at all you know, it’s a tunnel built from one end by us and from the other end by who knows…” her voice trailed off and her words were lost in the vast expanses of the empty building.
“Yes we’ve all heard that story, but nothing is known here, it’s all rumour and supposition.” Mike leant forward and addressed the group directly looking into each of their eyes. “We’ll never know for sure until we get in and press the down button, that’s why we’ve been searching for the elevator, it’s now or never. Could any of you walk away now and not know….never know?”
Shane and Kate looked at each other. Kate searching his eyes for some reassurance, but he only stared back and shrugged his shoulders.
“I didn’t come all this way to back out now Mike,” he said, “I’m in”.
Mike turned to Kate who had walked slightly away from the group. “Kate, what about you?”
She did not turn and face him but said quietly, “Yes Mike, I’m going.”
“Right that leaves you Ben, remember if you stay up here there’s nothing you can do to help us and no chance up here on your own, so what’s it to be?”
“Well since you put it so nicely I guess I’ll come with you, gotta die some time.” said Ben with a vicious grin. Shane felt his stomach tighten. Mike ignoring Ben swung his pack onto his back.
“Right let’s go.”
With that they all grabbed their packs and followed him into the elevator. The interior was unexpectedly large but had a peculiar atmosphere and smell that made both Shane and Kate feel suddenly nauseous. Mike pulled the heavy iron outer gate shut and then sealed the inner door. They were instantly plunged into pitch darkness. Mike switched on his powerful torch and looking round at the faces of his companions tried a smile. Then he pressed the down button.
As the descent began one of the team had feelings very different to the others, feelings that they had successfully hidden for years; "At last", they thought, "I'm going home."
Outside in the abandoned factory the sun was setting as dusk began to fall. A chilling silence predominated except for the wind whistling through the broken windows and above the wind muffled but distinct, the gentle hum and whir of ancient machinery growing fainter as the dark night slowly enveloped the scene.