The Girl in the Silver Box

The Girl in the Silver Box

It's always the elevators.

For the past fifteen years, your life had little to do with elevators. Oh, they were always there, of course: you walked past two on your way out the door and rode one up on your way up to work, yet rarely did you linger in those metal spaces and rarer still, did you spare them a second look. It was a welcome break during rush hour, of course, yet your day was seldom about the pauses between actions, much less your chosen method of transport. In fact, if you were asked about how the last fifteen years of your life had been, you would've brought up your empty home or joyless work, your endless schedule, and little more. You seldom dreamed those days; your head aching in the night and toiling in the morning. There was vexation, there was resentment, there was an ever-present pain that refused to be put into physical words. Medicine could not cure it, and the nine-to-five schedule certainly couldn’t. So in all ways but mental, it worked. And in all ways but physical, you hurt.

If anyone had asked you about your life in the last god-knows-how-many hours, it would be all about elevators. You woke up rasping against silver doors and soulless, corporate walls, and you went to sleep strained against them as well, and it goes that you’ve since lost track of how many times you’ve dreamed and woken since it’s all starting to blur. You've wondered if anyone at work missed you or even wondered where you'd gone. But the sad and well-reasoned side of you didn’t find it very likely.

And it was so that the dying home was finally empty, and the joyless post had become devoid of anything or anyone at all. And it was all so very poetic and cute, but you barely had time to appreciate the irony. For the elevator door had opened again, and you had to shift your half-numb shoulder off the plates to not get caught in the aperture, and warily turn your tingling neck to face the foreign environment beyond the confines of your cramped, rectangular prison.

This time, it was a faded, narrow hallway coated in crusty, yellow wallpaper. Sunlight was streaming through a row of windows at the end of the hall, stretching around the corner. The carpet coated in the sunlight above looked warm. You got up.

The place seemed dingy, and the walls had little texture. It was as if the darker yellow chevrons were painted on like a matte coat instead of being one with the rest of the wallpaper. You tiptoed your way down the hall, breaking into a light jog. The brightness provided by the occasional windows lined against the outer walls gave the place some much-needed spirit, and a glance up at the ceiling didn't give away any artificial sources.

(It was only later that it occurred to you that the light that fell on the ground was devoid of shadows, that the areas down the hall further from the windows were no darker than the ones closer to them, and that all of the “outer” walls faced in completely different directions.)

But for the moment, you allowed yourself to drink in the peculiar landscape and clung to all the little details in the sparse but cozy environment. Despite the lack of apparent light fixtures, the hall did have a number of steam radiators, all fixed against the walls. While walking along the row of windows, you also spotted one singular segment of a curtain rod, from which a sad, moth-eaten excuse of a rag hung still there. As you passed, you pulled it out along with you all the way and heard the mechanics move with a satisfying glide.

The twisting went on endlessly, each one followed by another segment of hallway before leading to another turn. You weren’t walking aimlessly, mind you, for you could hear some sort of commotion just up ahead, behind an unknown amount of corners. As you got closer, you thought you could discern some sort of ballroom music, played through a scratchy, old-time recorder. There was also some kind of laugh track, interspersed haphazardly throughout the recording. Curious, you ventured deeper into the maze and found yourself in a much smaller new hallway, this time littered with doors on both sides. The music sounded closer than ever. You could swear it was just up ahead.

Delicately, you inched closer to one of the doors and pressed your hands against the wood. The knob gave easily without turning, as if the latch had rusted away a long time ago, cracking open without resistance. Pulling back, you leaned to the left and peeked around the opening, looking into a sight that resembled something out of an old movie. There sat an open reading room with one large armchair, placed by a table near a vase, and a bright bay window overlooking a blinding white expense. White voidlight flooded into the scene, casting a rectangular shade onto the carpet, on which a still body lay. You could not see the person's face, though you could note the stump where their leg ended, trailing behind a puddle of red to where a group of crooked, leathery figures crowded near the opposite end of the room. Alerted by the sound of the door's hinges, three pairs of distorted eyes met yours, and you suddenly had the sinking realization that the laughter might not have been a part of the gramophone track at all.

Trapped with no other viable avenue of action, you scrapped all plans of exploration, and fled.

rating: +11+x
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