Sapp wiped sweat from his receding hairline and swore at the sign
taped to the elevator door, Elevator Temporally Closed Please Use Stairs.
A once-bright orange-now-filthy brown traffic cone lay in front of the door
looking exhausted from the stress of alerting people to danger. Morty stared at
the address on his phone again then at the building directory. Eighteenth
floor? You gotta be kidding! I’m getting too old for this. He adjusted the
messenger bag strap that dug into his shoulder. Temporally. Not even spelled
glanced at the door marked STAIRS and back to the elevator willing it
to work. His knees ached at the thought of eighteen floors up and eighteen
floors down. And six more parcels to deliver after that. Not good. Not good at
all. This could be the dreaded day that began on a bicycle and ended in an EMT
did the building not have a front desk? No delivery drop boxes? Insane!
Resigned to the inevitable, his feet turned sideways towards the shabby
side door while the rest of his body delayed, still confronting the gleaming
if in answer to his wish, the tape securing the top right corner of the
elevator sign let go and curled forward in slow motion. The left followed with
a whispered thhwwwick. The sign tipped forward like a roof jumper, tugging
the bottom free. Thhhwickk! Thhwickk! The paper floated to the floor
like a white flag of surrender landing at his feet—feet that had turned back
I could try pushing the button and see what happens…if
nothing happens, I take the stairs. But what if the door closes and won’t open
again? What if I get stuck? That can’t happen. If it does, I call for help. I
have a cell phone. His eyes shifted
from the shiny door to the shabby one.
punched the up arrow. We’ll just see what happens. Maybe the door
won’t even open. He shifted his weight and adjusted the backpack.
the door did open with a gentle schloop. Lights on. A pleasant ding!
glanced to the door for the stairs and back to the elevator. Maybe
they just forgot to remove the sign.
“Worth a shot,” he proclaimed
to no one as he stepped in cautiously. He took a deep breath and punched 18. The
door shut with a smooth schloop. Motor whirred. Accelerating. The
overhead lights flickered pastel colors.
Fancy, he thought, looking up to the bank of lights.
numbers on the panel counted upward. All seemed normal. Six. Seven.
Eight…Ten.. Eleven…“Thank God!” Morty said, exhaling. He’d been holding his
breath. Almost there. His shoulders relaxed a fraction under the
messenger bag’s weight. “One small blessing in this horrible day,” he said,
mentally adding week, actually.
had walked out on Sunday, leaving him hollow, but relieved. She was
right, of course, but why’d she have to nag him to death in that screechy voice
like a psychotic parrot? “Your life is going nowhere. We are going
nowhere. You never want to do anything! You come home wanting muscle ointment
massages and beer. When you aren’t snoring, you kick and groan and toss about. I
need sleep, Morty. I want a life. Travel. FUN. Remember FUN?” She had jiggled
her breasts at him. “I can’t do this anymore, Morty. I’m looking out for my
needs. Find another sympathetic beer server.”
slammed the door before he’d had the chance to mention the job
interview he’d lined up. He’d thought she’d be pleased with his choice. Desk
job. No more weather worries. Great benefits. Travel perks. Would he get stir
crazy stuck at a desk all day? Could he handle irate customers in his face?
There had to be happy travelers too, right? People with stories and dreams? How
hard could it be? Worth a try. One thing was sure: if he didn’t shift gears
quickly (wry humor), the painkillers wouldn’t keep the pain at bay; he’d need
was too beaten down to go after her.
through traffic, pushing himself to go faster, faster, used to be
a daily thrill. Five years straight he won the awards for best employee. Need
that package across town in an hour? Morty’s your man! Awful weather? Gridlock?
Doesn’t matter to Morty! He’s a superhero! That was before the stabbing pain in
his hip socket. Muscle cramps that took longer to work out. His body was
throwing in the towel.
lights blinked out, back on, alternating green, peach, pink, then steady
on pale blue. The elevator slowed to a feathered stop. Ping! Schloop. The
door slid open.
Lost in his thoughts and
eager to complete this delivery, Morty was in
motion before his mind fully registered that the glowing number on the panel
was sixteen. Body on autopilot, anticipating a hallway, he stepped out of the
elevator. His feet met not carpet or tile but churned soil. Cold air assailed
him as did battlefield clamor. Acrid smoke. Sound of bagpipes. Two hundred feet
away, exhausted, emaciated men loading a trebuchet. Flocks of arrows shot through
the air in opposing directions.
Schloop. The elevator door
the—?” Morty blinked. Instinctively recoiling, he stepped
back to where the elevator car had just been but was no more. No solid floor.
No panel of buttons. No protection. He whirled around. A bloody body lay
sprawled where seconds before had been shiny back wall. Shheeoowoop! Shhheeoowoop!
Arrows dangerously close to his head.
mouth fell open in a terrified howl as package and phone
slid from his hands. The mind-shattering carnage before him paralyzed his body
and crippled his brain for a brief moment.
eyes fell on the dead man’s bloody shield. He dove for it,
fumbled, got his arm through the leather straps at the back just in time to
raise it up to protect his face. The force of an arrow striking the shield
shoved it into his cheek, pushing him backwards. He yelled in terror as he
realized how close he’d been to an arrow in the face. He felt warm blood on his
cheek. His panicky breath came in jagged rasps. The dead guy was the only bit
of cover. He scrabbled closer for any hint of protection while his eyes panned
wildly for better cover. There. A stone wall about fifty yards away.
Got to get to cover. Get. To.
knees and hips warned him they would not respond quickly as he
stumbled to his feet, ducking, shield arm up to protect his head.
pumped his legs with a twisted memory of high school football—a
day when he’d run a touchdown to wild cheers. He jumped over a man soaked in
blood and moaning in agony.
yards. Come on, got to get there.
horrifying whooshing sound passed overhead. His mind recalled
the trebuchet. Something had been catapulted.
view was blocked by galloping horsemen. Pounding hooves all
around. His face was peppered with dirt clots. What? Where? He spun around. No,
no, no, his mind screamed, I’m not your enemy! He locked eyes with a
stocky, helmeted man on a midnight black horse. “No, please! You don’t
understand!” he yelled. A flash of teeth in the helmet. The man’s face was
breaking into a satisfied, wicked grin.
don’t even know where I am!” Morty screamed.
then a force like a monster seemed to pick Morty up from the
back of his head. His body lifted up as his vision blurred and went black. He
died almost instantly compliments of a second helmeted warrior who had roared
up behind him on horseback and clobbered him with a spiked mace. The two men
grinned at each other as Morty’s body fell to the ground. The warrior twisted
his wrist to yank and unstick the mace from Morty’s skull. They might have
thought they were playing a diabolical game of polo using heads rather than
11:05 a.m. on the following Tuesday, the uniformed brunette
called “Mr. Sapp?” for the second time. She struck a line through the name on
her list and called on the next applicant. “Mr. Lee?” Mr. Lee stood up and
greeted the attractive airline employee.
intended recipients of the remaining packages filed complaints
with the messenger company. Harold, Morty’s boss, bristled about the complaints
knowing these high-profile clients would generate negative reviews. So unlike
Morty to be a slacker. He was disappointed that Morty had disappeared without a
word, but the new hire, Franco, was quite promising. If he kept it up, he’d be
star employee in no time.
had her nails done in Sizzling Summer Pink. She eased her
breakup regrets with retail therapy involving several pairs of shoes and a
slinky dancing dress. For a few days, she was miffed that Morty hadn’t called. She’d
expected him to grovel. Oh well. How delicious the freedom to barhop with
friends, stay out late, kick up her new heels. Paul, the investment consultant
was not only hunky, but a terrific dancer who liked skiing. She could learn to
Morty the award-winning, dependable messenger was
never seen again.
Elliott is an artist and author living in North Central Florida. She is working
on the fourth book in a funny, cozy mystery series set in Florida; her main
character is a Buddhist with a midlife crisis who opens a meditation retreat.
This doesn’t make finding inner peace any easier. She also loves classic ghost
stories and has written three collections of spooky offerings. She’s currently
finishing up Jiko Bukken, a ghost story novel set in Kyoto, Japan in the
winter of ’92-’93. Episodes are posting on Kindle Vella.