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Rated: E · Short Story · Philosophy · #2092515
Tom's understanding of reality is challenged, and he has to make a decision.
The prompt: "It's just another day at the beach: Sun, waves, relaxation, the usual. Until from the ocean rises..."

Tom sat on the old, wooden park bench, as he often did on Saturday mornings. The sun had just cleared the eastern horizon, seeming to cling to the ocean longer than it was supposed to. He watched the distant wispy clouds as they changed colors with the rising sun, going from gray to pink, then to pumpkin, on to orange, then purple and finally back to gray. It was a wonderful thing to see, he thought, no matter how many times you see it.

As usual, Tom had the beach to himself. The sunbathers and families wouldn't be here for a few more hours, as they preferred the late morning, and the party crowd wouldn't be there until afternoon. He breathed in as deep as he could, smelling the ocean, the rotting vegetation of the marshland behind him, and the fresh breeze. He closed his eyes and tried to identify each sound he heard; the cries of the gulls, the rhythmic lapping of the waves, the inconsistent wind rattling the palm fronds of the tree above him. He settled into a meditation mind, opening his eyes just enough to see the ocean blur, and focused on his breathing.

An unexpected sound caused him to lose focus, a sound that didn't fit into this world. It sounded very distinctly like an elevator that has arrived at your floor, a soft but distinctive 'ding' that was never mistaken for any other sound. Frowning with determination, he kept his eyes closed and attempted to refocus on his breathing. I know that I breathe in, I know that I breathe out. I know that I breathe in, I know that I breathe out. The sound repeated itself, seemingly in front of him; close enough to be heard clearly, but far enough away to not cause him alarm with its proximity. He opened his eyes.

The sun was several degrees above the horizon at this point, and he was temporarily blinded by the glare. As his pupils constricted, his eyes confirmed what his ears had told him: there was an elevator in front of him. It looked like a very small building sticking up out of the waves, perhaps twenty feet out from the shore, with elevator doors standing open, facing him. He could see that the indicator arrow above the door was pointing down. The interior lights were on. The doors slid closed, then opened again with another soft 'ding' and a light swooshing sound that he hadn't noticed before.

Tom's first thought was that somehow this thing had washed up while he had his eyes closed, but he couldn't justify to himself how it was functioning, if that was the case. His second thought was that this was a secret military thing, an entrance to a missile silo or something, and he was not supposed to be seeing it. This thought caused him to hastily rise and spin around, looking for an approaching group of people, or armed soldiers. There was no one in sight. He looked back out towards the water.

The elevator sat there as before, inviting him in. He took a few hesitant steps closer to the edge of the water. The tide was turning, and the water was very calm, almost still. He could see the polished silver interior walls reflecting the water, the beach, and the sky. He squinted, almost able to see himself in the wavy image. The doors slid closed, and this time the whole structure slowly disappeared below the surface of the water. Tom stood awkwardly, trying to peer into the brown water, his mouth agape. He couldn't see anything. It was as if none of it had happened. Just as he decided to sit back down on the bench, it reappeared, sliding smoothly up out of the waves. Water poured briefly off the top of it, then the doors whooshed open with the now-familiar ding, and the down arrow above the door lit up.

Tom stepped gingerly into the water and moved closer to get a better look. As the tide was all the way in, he knew that the water couldn't be more than knee deep where the elevator was at. At low tide, there would be kids building sand castles on that spot. It was a very flat beach. He shuffled closer, the water now lapping over his ankles, the elevator only ten feet away, now five feet away. He stopped.

He tried to make a mental list of all the possibilities. It certainly didn't have a military look to it. It looked like it came out of a really nice hotel. He didn't discard the military idea altogether, but he put it at the bottom of the list. It just didn't feel industrial, or like it was part of something bad or destructive. Quite the opposite, it felt very much like a calm and soothing vibe was coming from it.

The soft lights of the interior gave the silver walls and gold trim a sort of luminescence, which he could now see was reflected in the mirrored ceiling. From his new vantage point, he could clearly see in the reflections that the car was empty. There were no posters on the walls, like you might find in a parking garage elevator. It was very elegant, clean and inviting. He considered that it might be a door to another dimension of reality, sort of a wormhole or a gate. His intuition told him this line of thinking was closer to the truth.

What if I get on it? He felt compelled to find out. I may not be able to come back. He thought about it. It felt right. He took a few more steps. Now he was right in front of the open, beckoning doorway. It still felt right. He felt no fear, no qualms, no reservations. He got in. The door closed.
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