26 March 2005

The Elevator

I am stuck for a post, so in good and traditional blogger style am falling back on egotisitical self-promotion. Below is a short story I wrote. I can't say its good, but it would be fair to say it was well received, at least on Fanstory it got very good reviews from my peers.
I dont mind if you disagree, at all.

The Elevator
A cautionary tale

The Reverend Willard Hogarth Johnson woke gently from his reverie to find that he was standing in a luxury elevator. As his mind absorbed and accepted first impressions of the space, he noticed with a sense of reassurance that, from somewhere, strains of lift music were quietly taking the edge off the void.

The Girl From Ipanema, that was it. He felt more grounded now. Clasping his hands together, he took a deep breath to lengthen his spine and looked gently downward toward the plush, carpeted floor. This was his favourite 'benign and thoughtful' pose, giving him privacy to think whilst creating the right impression of pious sincerity, should anyone happen to be looking. It always helped to remember who you were in a public space.

After a little too long in this stance, he realised that the lift did not appear to be moving. If it was actually going anywhere then there was no sensation of it, no way to judge speed, direction, or impending destination. This information did not sit comfortably with Willard at all as he couldn't actually recall whether the journey was beginning or ending, more importantly, whether he was supposed to be aware of anyone, or free to relax again for a moment longer.

He stared intently at the carpet before deciding that his eyes must be strained, because the colour, whether it was cream or gold or possibly white, was hard to make out. He blinked hard before deciding that either he was incredibly tired, or the fluorescent light was probably on its last legs.

Rev Johnson hated that; not just the way that colours and shapes distorted under a failing light tube, but the way that so many seemingly grand hotels, with all the trimmings and elegant design, never appeared to be run by someone who cared enough to keep the electrics up to standard. There would probably be scuffs on the skirting board somewhere, if he looked hard enough, but with the light flickering, he did not relish the idea of looking up at what might be aluminium walls, or anything reflective.

He hated to be cynical about tarnished grandeur but he had seen it too often; life was never 'just so' and the hidden society, the underclass of cleaners and cooks, waitresses and hall staff could never just leave their issues behind and concentrate on their jobs, on making a little haven for those, like himself, that had shelled out more than an employee earned in a month, for heaven's sake, for a little bit of pampering.

It angered him that the majority of people had no respect, for themselves or their work, and so many of his sermons had become heavily dosed with messages of loving one's neighbour, putting oneself last, trusting God to provide and just shutting up with the whining. It was water off a duck's back in some cases, people were all 'me, me, me' these days, particularly if they felt hard done by, but heck, he tried. If they couldn't change their attitudes, God Almighty sure as hell wasn't going to change their luck and he had learned to cast a glassy eye across such people where he could; avoid engaging them at all, and concentrate on dishing out his wisdom to those more ready to hear it.

'Pearls before swine' he thought to himself. The day had gone on too long, and he was tired, all preached out and looking forward to some rest. The meal this evening had better be a good one, they'd better have got the right port in the room and had the table laid according to the instructions his secretary always forwarded; the right spring water at the right temperature, no Spanish wine at all, particularly if decanted so he couldn't tell. The damn stuff gave him such a headache in the mornings and he'd been forced to cut some otherwise pleasant hotels out of his tour stops because of that in the past. It was hard enough living a public life, working for God all day, without the pressures of taking brief respite and rest only to find the bed improperly turned, or the salmon overdone.

A sound, he wasn't sure quite what, perhaps a breath, alerted Willard to another presence in the lift. Oh no, he would have to acknowledge them. The tiniest scowl crossed his brow before he drew another deep breath and purposefully set his warm VIP demeanour in place, ready to look up and give the benefit of his presence to this other. Still, not long to suffer, he was sure. A brief ride and then he would be, where?

For the life of him he couldn't remember what he was supposed to do next, but was certain that, as many times in the past, his entourage or at least a group of smiling event organisers would be there to usher him through.

The other person in the lift turned out to be a bellboy, or no, good grief what an error of judgement, perhaps the concierge. He was so tired. It was more normally someone with a bit of clout, in recognition of the Reverend's name and status, but Willard found it incredibly hard to focus and be sure. Something really would have to be said about this blasted lighting, perhaps he would ring the reception for maintenance once he got to his room; give the front desk one or two kindly, scripture-laden pointers on maintaining image and reputation.

Everything just looked too bright, he decided, his companion included, but the outfit or uniform that for one brief moment had seemed to be based on a glittering box jacket appeared now to incorporate a silky, shimmering cream tail coat. In fact, as the person it enclosed turned to look in his direction, even the face seemed to swim between types; age, race, length. Only the eyes were constant and they were.............terrifying and elating, at once. The penny dropped.

Counting to five, then putting on his best bluffer's smile, feeling suddenly very excited and animated, Rev Johnson tried to give his companion a conspiratorial wink.

"It's all coming back now! You had me going for a minute or so there, but yes, yes I'm back with the plot now. Jolly good, yes." The companion may have blinked in acknowledgement but, even as his features ebbed and flowed, there was no discernible movement, no returned smile or polite chuckle, and the Rev WHJ found this to be rather unnerving.

"Willard, you must call me Willard." Nothing, no response. Okay this was going to be difficult, perhaps a test of some sort, or no, perhaps this personage was merely an assistant, a courier, not supposed to give the game away or make first introductions.

'No matter Willard my boy,' he thought to himself. 'Best foot forward.'

"I'm looking forward to meeting the Big Guy. He knows I'm arriving I take it? Yes, yes of course He would, He knows everything eh? Eh?"

"Well this is exciting and no mistake! Indeed. The jolly old race is run, what? And this, this opulent carriage, this is I take it, a taste of things to come?" Bingo, he had hit the mark, he knew, as the companion had acknowledged that last remark with a tiny, almost imperceptible nod.

Willard was chuckling to himself now. Oh, he could hardly wait to meet the Man Himself, shake Him by the hand and let Him in on one or two home truths about the state of the planet. Perhaps he, Willard Hogarth Johnson, would be invited to sit with the apostles and whoever else, to discuss what was to come next, when and if to schedule Armageddon. Once he'd freshened up of course, had a bit to eat; gosh but he was hungry. One thing was certain, he was going to settle in very well indeed.

Yes, the apocalypse; it was sad but overdue, he mused; might as well blow everything up and start fresh really, call in the souls like himself that had some understanding and begin the rapture or start again, as necessary. Yes definitely. People were so, so damned self involved as it was. Too much woe, too many demands for attention, a God damned queue of ugly time-wasting souls, too busy looking for a free ride to help themselves or each other. Small fry. He'd have a word, and common sense would prevail, he was sure.

The lighting was still exceptionally tiring, but as the strains of lift music entered his consciousness once more and he found himself beginning to hum along, the Reverend felt very, very smug; satisfied with his achievements. All done in the name of God, of course, albeit with one or two perks and executive decisions thrown in, but that's what his God given brains were for, weren't they? Haha.

Funny, it felt as though they had been here for quite some time now, maybe twenty minutes, and yet 'The Girl From Ipanema' was still cheerfully strumming its way from the hidden speakers. It seemed to be stuck in a loop, or perhaps he'd not been listening when the track had changed last time.

"Gosh this is quite a long trip, isn't it?" he said to the courier, with as much joviality as he could muster. It was hard to definitely make out, but there seemed to be a tinge of sadness in his silent companion's eyes.

"Couldn't, ahem, couldn't tell me when we're going to stop, could you?"


Anonymous said...

Hi There

This aint the first short story I've read by Cheyl. Her stories are always gripping and well written - they make your brain work unlike some of the mindless muck out there.

I read maybe two or three books a week and I know a good writer when I see one.

Just one thing confuses me... why ain't Cheryl an author? It's certainly not through a lack of talent.


Badaunt said...

Why am I reading this on your blog and not in a "Best of British Short Stories 2005" type book?

Cheryl said...

Thank you both.
I only started writing four or five months ago and anyhow I wouldnt even know what to do with a publisher or agent if one landed in my lap.
Just having fun (even though I wouldnt at all mind making money at it), but thanks!