I’m staying in a hotel that is made up of two different buildings connected by a common area at the ground level. To get to your room, you need to take the right elevator to go up either the red tower or the black tower. So I get into the first elevator I see and press the button for the seventh floor. When the doors open, I take half a step out, then the elevator chimes.
“This is Red Seven,” a voice says matter-of-factly from the intercom. “Your key card is for a room on Black Seven.”
Oh. Well, my mistake. I get back into the elevator and head back for the ground floor.
After getting out of the elevator is when I noticed my error – some of the elevators have red doors, some have black doors. I rode one with a red door, so apparently I need to get into one with a black door instead this time. So I get into a black elevator, hit 7, the doors close, and… we’re going down.
-1, the display reads. That’s weird.
-2. Did I hit the wrong button?
-3, -4, -5, -6.
-7. Ding! The doors open. There’s a barrier blocking the way out, a glass door with a sign saying “employee access only” posted on it. Clearly I did something wrong.
Then a voice comes in over the intercom. “You need to come back upstairs now, please.”
“Well ok, but I’m not quite sure how I got down here,” I reply as I look for the button to take me back to the ground floor. I find one that looks promising and press it, still wondering how I’d managed to misoperate an elevator. The doors shut, and I feel the elevator jerk into motion.
The elevator keeps moving, but display still reads -7. I look around for clues, and I notice a window has opened up in the roof and on the sides of the elevator. I see the ceiling whizzing by when I look up, walls when I look to the sides, and nothing when I look forward in the direction I’m apparently heading.
No answer from the intercom.
Then the view changes. The ceiling becomes the sky, the walls become landscape. I’d apparently left a tunnel. But the sky looked strange. Like if you took a picture, loaded it in Photoshop, and inverted colors. Solid white clouds with burnt black edges, orange skies. The landscape looked less comforting – no vegetation, just dirt.
Having given up understanding what’s going on, I stay silent and watch the sky as the elevator keeps moving in the wrong direction.
After maybe a minute or two, it stops and the doors open. I step out and take in the surroundings – a construction site with the frame of a building erected, but not much else – and another building, this one completely finished, inside.
I cautiously start walking toward the finished building. It appeared to be three stories, and the area of the frame surrounding it suggested you could fit a dozen of them inside the construction site before you had to start stacking. I get one more look at the inverted sky and duck inside the inner building. It seems to be an apartment building, as there were a couple of doors and then a flight of stairs, then another couple of doors up the stairs, then another flight of stairs after that. As if by instinct, I walk up the first flight of stairs and face the door on the left. Without knocking, I open the door and creep in quietly. It’s decorated just like any apartment would be.
“Back a little early, aren’t you?” a familiar voice asks. I look in the direction the voice came from and see somebody I get the sense I should know but only vaguely recognize. “You’re supposed to be gone for a couple hours yet.”
I shrug and walk past the foyer, into the living room. A basket on a nearby table catches my attention – the candies inside the basket each have a little slip of paper attached to them. I pick one up to get a closer glance and it just appears to be a grocery store receipt. One attached to each of the dozen or so candies in the basket.
“What’s that? We’re not allowed to keep lists here, I better get rid of these.” The familiar person walks over and begins peeling the receipts off of each candy. Rather than ask what could be so sinister about a list, I surreptitiously slip the candy in my hand into my pocket, receipt still attached. Another look around the apartment doesn’t reveal much of anything of interest, so I make my way over to the couch and flop down.
“So… want to tell me why you’re here right now?” the person asks, her pitch raising a bit.
“Just bored, I guess,” I reply with a shrug. Sure. I just manipulated an elevator into going where it wasn’t supposed to go, the sky looks like an amateur took artistic license with it, and your apartment building is going to get swallowed by an even larger apartment building. Don’t mind me.
“Well, I’m going to go take a nap,” she says. “And you better not be here when I wake up.”
She disappears down a corridor.
Meanwhile, a TV on the far side of the room has caught my attention. A plain-looking person, apparently reporting the news, is droning on about something while staring directly into the camera.
“Citizens are reminded not to keep any written material around at any times. Please report suspicious activity to your watch group. Dinner tonight will be…”
The anchor continues on while I pull the receipt back out of my pocket and have another look. $2.98 for a stupid piece of candy – felony paper possession offense included for free.
I stand back up and head for the door, and the voice calls out from the rear just as I reach for the doorknob. “Back to work?”
“Yep, so much to do and so little time,” I call back. What did she mean by “work”? Who does she think I am, and what does she think I do?
I close the door behind me, trot down the flight of stairs, and step back outside. It’s about time to find a way out of here before the paper police catch me. Starting with that damn elevator with a mind of its own…
Halfway back to where the elevator dumped me off, I turn back around and look at the apartment. Someone’s walking this way. He’s wearing a duster and has a bit of a sour look on his face. I turn back toward the elevator and keep walking, half-suspecting that person was heading my way for a reason but half-hoping he wasn’t.
I stop at the elevator door and reach for the button to open the door, then stop just short. Where’s this thing taking me this time? Another weird place with construction sites that don’t make sense and TVs telling me what to do? The Stone Age?
I look up and notice the figure in the distance has picked up speed. He’ll be here any second now.
Will I even get on, or is this guy going to catch up and have a word with me?
Realizing the doors in front of me are still closed, I push the button I had been hovering a finger over.
The doors open right away. At least nobody else had tried to use this thing while I was breaking and entering into the apartment of somebody I apparently knew.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I set one foot inside the elevator, and have one last look towards my pursuant. He’s rushing toward me at an almost inhuman clip, his duster flapping in the wind behind him.
Oh shit, better get inside.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
I step inside the elevator and mash the button for the first floor. Mercifully, the doors begin sliding shut almost right away.
Before the doors slide shut, my pursuant slides to a halt in front of the elevator. We get a look at each other. The sour look on his face breaks, replaced with a look of surprise.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Wait, are you-” I begin to ask, but stop when the doors slide shut. The elevator begins to move. I steal one last glance at the inverted sky before looking back at him through the window. He was trying to mask his surprise, but it wasn’t helping. He saw me, I saw him – and in each other we saw mirror images of ourselves. We were the same person existing in two different places and in two different frames of mind at once, and one of us – namely, me – had crossed a plane not meant to be crossed.
My focus on the conundrum of meeting myself after taking the wrong turn on an elevator broke.
Oh, it’s the alarm.