Sunday, 8 April 2012

Way Down In The Hole

(Tom Waits - Way Down In The Hole)

The two men were both stood on the thirteenth floor waiting for the lift, and when the doors slid open they did the after you, no after you, dance. The younger one ended up going in first, and stood with his finger hovering over the control panel.

"Which floor?"

"Ground, please."

"Same as me," the younger one said, and then he felt a little stupid, because it had been a pointless thing to say. He didn't recognise the older man, but because he was quite junior he assumed that anyone in the building who was older than him, and who wore a suit that looked more expensive than his, was senior to him. Which was most people.

The lift doors stayed open for a moment, as if inviting them to change their mind. The older man frowned and looked at his watch, so the younger one stabbed at the button again, as if that would make a difference. The lift doors sighed shut, there was a slight jerk, and they started to descend.

There was an uncomfortable silence, and the younger man hated uncomfortable silences, so he said "I wonder if its still raining out."

The older man made a noise in his throat that said I heard you, I don't know, now please be quiet as I indeed more senior, much more senior than you, and I do not want to talk about the weather. The younger man blushed and shut up and watch the lights count down from five to four to three to two to one to Ground.

The lift kept going down. The younger man could feel it hum and vibrate, could feel the slight weightlessness in his stomach.

"We must be there," the older man said, almost accusingly, as if the younger man was somehow at fault, had pressed the buttons wrong, but although the light said Ground, and there were no floors below it, the lift kept going down.

"Some kind of fault," the older man said, but he sounded more like he was asking a question than giving an explanation. The younger man pressed the button marked G again, and then again. They stood in silence, and the lift hummed, and they kept going down.

"Press the damn help button," the older man said, and the younger man looked stupidly at the control panel. "Press the bloody thing, speak to the control centre, tell them something stupid's going on, I don't know, just press the damn thing."

So the younger man pressed the bright red button, and there was a moment of static, and then a terrible crying, a screaming wail like a mother who had just lost her child. The younger man jerked his finger back from the button, and the noise stopped.  The older man opened his mouth, as if to say something, but then he closed it again.

The lift kept going down, and the air kept getting hotter, and they both stood, staring ahead at the doors, not saying anything.

Then the lift stopped.

Then the doors opened.

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