And without further ado the Winner is…
1st Place: Christopher Smith – Going Down
2nd Place: Phil Town – Danger
3rd Place: Andy Lake – The Way of the Gerbil
4th Place: Kenneth Cartisano – Filed Under Gerbil Knowledge.
5th Place: Maud Harris – Kylie and Carl
6th Place: Ilana Leeds – Stuck @ the 49th Basement level
7th Place: Randall Lemon – Little Things May Mean a Lot
8th Place: Myrtle Brooks – A Dish Served Cold
Story with the Favorite Character: Going Down / Narrator
Story with the Best Pacing: Christopher Smith
Story with the Best Use of Dialogue: Andy Lake
Anyone who would like to get their vote totals may send an email to liflashfiction(at)gmail(dot)com to request details.
To read all of the stories entered and find out how you can participate in our weekly/bi-weekly/monthly short story contests please go to: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/october-12-october-25-2017-flash-fiction-contest-stuck-in-an-elevator/#comment-3454
Per the new process, Kenneth Cartisano will choose the Nov 9 prompt/theme. Visit http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/why-and-how-to-participate/writing-prompt-roster/ to view the Writing Prompt Roster.
Going Down by Christopher Smith
(1,254 words) © 2017
She was waiting for him on the elevator. He hadn’t been expecting her but was pleased that she was there, tall and slim and beautiful, but somehow dull and sullen…except for her eyes, which were wide and wet and wondering, pleading. Her gaze then turned to her bare feet, and he had only a moment to wonder where her shoes had gone when the doors began to close. Startled, he stuck out a foot and stopped them from closing completely; although there was a moment when he thought they would do just that, shut despite the work of his size-eleven Adidas. The doors sprung back, allowing him another chance, and this time he took it.
In one hand he held his phone. He had been checking something but couldn’t remember what; it felt distant and unimportant now, and he slipped the phone into his back pocket.
In his other hand was a carrying case—more of a cage—and in it was Sam, his gerbil. He had left the apartment quickly and hadn’t been thinking clearly. He supposed that a suitcase filled with clothes and a few other essentials would have been a more logical choice but he had been under a large amount of pressure and that little voice inside had been telling him to leave, to get the fuck out of there and worry about his stuff later. He could stop somewhere and pick up a few things if needed. But Sam had called to him (not literally; he wasn’t that crazy), and so after washing his hands he had scooped Sam’s handled cage off of the low bookcase by the fireplace and bolted for the door, for the elevator.
And now here she was, there but somehow not there, and he felt as though he had better get to talking, better explain his side of things before this thing really went south.
He tried to speak and when nothing came out he rubbed his temples with one hand, wiped his eyes, pinched his nose, and regrouped. He set Sam down on the elevator’s floor and, in realizing he hadn’t selected a floor, that the elevator doors had slid closed and was only sitting there, reached past her and pushed the button marked *L. The elevator began its decent, and it felt good to be moving; it was a good way to get their conversation started, he felt, and so he tried, and once again failed.
At his failure she glanced up, her eyes now seeming to float in water, and he expected the tears to spill down her cheeks but they didn’t, and he was at a loss. She stared at him, struggling for a way to start herself, and in seeing her struggle his mouth was jump-started.
“I’m sorry.” It was a good place to begin, a noble way, but in the enclosed space (that was feeling tighter and tighter the lower they travelled) it sounded dead and weak and meaningless.
It shouldn’t be this difficult, he thought, and in his frustration he once again reached past her, this time pulling the knobbed emergency stop button. They jolted to a halt. He reached out at hand as if to support her but thought better of it and retracted his hand. She may not want to be touched, he guessed. Instead, he knelt and placed a hand gently on Sam’s cage and checked on him. The rodent was fine.
He stood, glad that he now had the time to express himself properly, happy that he could take a minute to compose himself and make it all right. Of course his intentions were good, and having it play out like that would be harder than hoping they would. But he would try; it was the least he could do.
“There was another girl—”
Her eyes locked on his, blazing yet cold. In them he saw a sad mixture of pain and anger, and he swallowed and started again.
“Okay—other girls—and it wasn’t right how I treated you.” But I was angry, he had meant to say, but stopped himself because that would only make things worse. “There is no excuse for it. It was wrong and I will never be able to take it back and all I wish is that you could forgive me, that we could forget anything bad that happened and things could go back to how they were not long ago.” He was rolling now, a near blubber, but he didn’t mind because he was talking, and he hoped that she wouldn’t mind because somewhere deep down she would see that he was trying and if trying meant that he could perhaps get her back then he would put all of everything he had into it.
“When the anger comes,” he continued, “it is a pressure that you can’t imagine. It is because I love you that I get that way, you must understand that.” She didn’t understand—not even close; he could tell be the way those eyes, now filled with not anger but pain and confusion, were gazing at him, questioning.
As a last-ditch effort he pleaded, near whined: “You’re my girlfriend, for Christ’s sake!” His words echoed in the small space, and at them she shrunk away, and he knew he had lost her for good.
Not my girlfriend, he amended, but my ex-girlfriend. She is your ex-girlfriend now, friend. It was a realization with such weight that he turned away from her for fear that she would see him crying.
He knew that she had so many questions—too many—and also knew that even if they stayed here the entire evening trying to answer them he would only come up short and she would be further disappointed and it would get them nowhere.
And this is when he thought that her seeing him cry may work. If she could see how sensitive and vulnerable he really was, how much she meant to him, then this may work out in his favour after all. When he turned back toward her she was gone. He was alone, save for Sam, and somewhere deep inside, he knew this would happen, if only because he had lived it before.
He walked to her side of the elevator and touched the sleek wall, as if doing this would bring her back. After a moment he disengaged the emergency stop button and, just as suddenly as they had stopped, he began to descend. He bent to pick up Sam’s cage, and cradled it in his arms, close to his chest.
When the elevator stopped and the doors slid open he was fine again, all better. There would be someone else eventually, and when he met her he would make sure to treat her properly.
The police showed up not long after he had buckled the cage into the passenger-side seat and began his journey to somewhere new. They pulled him over only two hours after he had hit the highway, heading south for Miami.
When they searched the apartment they found her dressed and dead on the kitchen floor, her tongue missing. In searching the apartment more thoroughly, a young officer by the name of Stanton noticed a darkened version of it in the frying pan mixed in with the noodles and butter and pesto, exactly like the other three girls. Stanton thought, however, that this one looked glazed, and guessed that the killer had probably cared for her if only slightly more than the others.