Incident in an Elevator
(A Bryce Going Story)
By Jeff Baker
My hand still smarted under the bandage; at least I only needed stitches and hadn’t cut off anything on the slicer I was using in the back kitchen I was working at. Also, the emergency room doctor didn’t ask too many questions; he believed me when I said I was nineteen and that my name was Bryce Going and I was travelling around the country. Only the last part was true.
When he told me to get upstairs to get a couple of shots, I went. I was just glad nobody asked for my address.
The hospital was being expanded and construction was everywhere, which was probably the reason I needed to get my shots upstairs. Luckily I found my way to the elevator. I’d never liked elevators and I liked this one even less; it was in the original part of the building and had probably been designed by Ben Franklin or something. When I was little I’d liked to run my finger over the rounded button in an old elevator shaped like a globe with ridges but I still didn’t like being in them. And I liked this one even less when it shuddered to a halt and the emergency light went on when the other lights flickered out. I pressed the call button when I heard a noise up above and I looked up to see a panel pulled open and a man in some sort of uniform, complete with a rifle strapped to his back looked down at me.
“Here, take my hand,” he said, reaching down to grab me. I reached out with my unbandaged hand, I thought to fend him off but he was strong enough to pull me up to the top of the elevator. In the dim light of the shaft I noticed a carved stone doorway to one side, not the side the doors opened on.
“We’ve got to go,” the man said. “This way.”
He pulled me through the doorway and we had to crouch down, as it wasn’t very big. The man quickly explained that this was an emergency tunnel that they were closing before the construction exposed their “operation.” I was ready to make a crack about a hospital being a good place for an operation, but I kept my mouth shut. He closed a door behind us and pulled out a flashlight that looked like it had been carved out of wood, but with a lightbulb as we proceeded through the tunnel. After a bit, we could stand up and I realized we were heading downward. We made a few turns and came to another door. We stepped in and I felt a rush of air in the near darkness. We walked on towards a dim light that grew brighter. I could see and feel some carvings on the wall beside me. Just as I was able to make out shadows on a smooth stone wall a distance away, a burly figure stepped into the flashlight beam and held up a hand. His other hand had a mean-looking rifle in it. (To me, all rifles looked mean when they were pointed my way, even by a guy with a broad chest and deep, blue eyes.)
“Who enters the Sanctity of the Cavern?” the figure demanded.
“I, Davhos,” my companion said. “I have brought back our straggler, see?”
Davhos indicated me and I was given the once-over by the big man.
“This is not Imohk!” the man said. “You have brought a stranger here!”
There was a moment of silence. I had the feeling that I was in another world.
“It cannot be helped,” the large man said. “Come.”
We were led further along and I saw a small area with domed, stone buildings and a few people milling about. Davhos began to explain that they were all the descendants of workers on the various buildings and even the subways who had come upon this underground city and had been charged with keeping it alive.
I stared at the people. There clothes seemed to be a jumble of styles, maybe grabbed from clotheslines on forays to the upper world. I realized what I was wearing probably fit in which is why I had been mistaken for their straggler.
“What now?” Davhos asked. “Do we keep him here?”
I wondered for a second: I had been on my own for quite a while and I was getting a little tired of running from place to place. This could be a good home. But I didn’t like that word “keep.”
“We cannot have him here, he must leave!” This came from an old man who had (I was somehow not surprised) a long white beard. “Davhos, you are responsible for this error. Return this one to the surface and find our straggler!”
Davhos bowed and escorted me through a row of domed buildings to a dark side of the vast cavern. There was a long flight of stone steps leading up the cavern wall. Davhos indicated I should go upwards. I looked up and took a deep breath. It was a long way. I started climbing, glancing back once. Davhos was smiling.
“You remind me of my son,” he said. Maybe that was why he watched very carefully to make sure I did leave. The door at the top of the cavern led to a dimly-lit corridor which slanted upward, then to a series of doors which led to a basement room that felt normal. I saw costumes hanging from racks and posters on the wall: a theater.
I closed the door behind me and found my way out of the basement, to the area under the stage. Feeling like the Phantom of the Opera, I crawled up through a trapdoor and headed for an exit.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Cait Gordon’s card draws for the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge for November were an urban fantasy, involving a gun, set in a hospital elevator. I’ve written about the wandering Bryce Going (not his real name) before: Out on his own after his parents bail and looking older than sixteen, he realizes that the mid-1970s are no time or place to be even discreetly gay in a youth center, so he runs across the country, stumbling across the weird and unusual. This is his latest adventure.—jsb