I'm walking down the corridor. The doors I pass are dark blue with discreet silver letters on them, the walls a faded off-white, the carpet grey. Neon light drifts from concealed tubes like fine ash. There's the dull hum that accompanies you everywhere in this city, the faint ringing in your ears that tells you you're inside, you're safe, you're part of the machine. When I get to the elevator someone's there already, waiting. A man, must be in his mid-20s (somehow I know that's much younger than me), shoulder length hair, jacket but no tie. I have the feeling that I've seen him before somewhere - here, perhaps, at this elevator - that I'd expected him to be here. While we wait for the elevator to arrive I take off my glasses, polish them with my tie (Yes, I'm wearing a tie. And a suit. I'm formally dressed, though I can't remember for what, just that it is something important).
The elevator arrives. The doors slide open and a square of bright light floods the worn carpet in front of us. He waits for me to get in, then follows. Instinctively, we stand as far away from each other as possible. He takes the front left corner, I occupy the back right. I watch as he presses the button for Parking. So he's a resident too, then. I look away, staring up at the display over the door, watching the light skip from number to number 34...33...32. The tinny sound of the Blue Danube floating down to us from invisible speakers.
A sudden movement from my companion makes me turn towards him again. He's pointing something at me. A gun. He fires and I feel the bullets hit me. There's no pain, no physical sensation at all. Just the realisation that I've been shot, that I'm dying - the surprise of it entering me, the panic spilling out like blood. I fall back against the elevator wall, feel myself starting to slide down. I want to reach out, hold onto something, but my arms don't move and I know that there's nothing to hold on to except the smooth glass walls. I collapse in a heap on the floor, my head falling back.
The killer is leaning over me now, his hand is at my throat though I can't feel it. He's making sure. He steps back, satisfied, puts his gun away. I'm dead. For a moment I wonder how it is I can still see, then I realise that my eyes are still open and the scene before me is reflected in my pupils. I see the light blink above the door, though I don't hear the familiar 'pling' of the elevator stopping. We're at Parking Level. The killer tenses, afraid there might be someone waiting to get in, but there's no one. He hurries away, out of sight. He doesn't even bother to take a last look at me. The elevator door slides shut.
I wonder what he did it for?
I lie there, staring at the yellow glow of the P on the console above the door. It's late at night, there won't be too many people coming and going. I wonder how long it'll be before they find me. I hope it isn't some children, or someone with a nervous disposition.
I'm still thinking this when the doors slide open again - someone is coming in. It's two men. They're wearing masks over their faces and there are guns in their hands. They start back at the sight of me - their guns pointing towards me like magnets seeking the North. One of them almost shoots me again. They're taken aback to see me. Agitated. They jam their backs against the doors and have an urgent discussion about my being here (at least I assume that's what it's about - I can't hear them, of course). A third man, similarly masked, appears in the doorway, peering in suspiciously. Then one of them shrugs. He continues to hold the door open while the two other men vanish from my sight for a moment, come back hauling something between them. It's a dead body! I watch them lean down to place it next to me, then stand back to stare down at us, their eyes moving from my face to the face of this other, this invisible stranger who's joining me in death. One of them says something and the other two laugh. Then they too disappear and the door slides shut again.
I lie there, staring up at the glowing P wondering how long it will be before someone calls for the elevator. I can feel myself growing stiff. I know it must be the rigor mortis but I imagine it's a response to this new dead person, this corpse lying next to me, this intruder into my space. I resent having to share my death with this person, resent that he will get to share my headlines, resent that people will think we were linked somehow, that the investigation into what will now be considered 'our' deaths will probably allow the real killer to get away scot free. What if this other dead guy's wounds are more gory than mine? What if he isn't even a he, but a woman? Then he / she will get the photographs in the paper and I'll end up as just a small footnote in the story. It isn't fair.
After a while it occurs to me that I can't hear the music anymore. Nor the distant hum of the machine. This is silence - the real thing.
I never did care for that Johann Strauss anyway.
Categories: Fiction, Whimsy