All Emma wanted was a relaxing bath after a long week, but her apartment elevator wanted to lead her down an impossible hallway.
The days and weeks had become a blur. The only reason I knew today was Saturday was because Becky posted a bubble bath selfie while holding a wine glass with the hashtag #SaturdayQuarantineQueen. I was going to copy my friend. As soon as I get inside my apartment, the bra is coming off, and then I’m going to toss my scrubs in the wash and soak in the tub until I’m a prune or catch myself falling asleep.
My apartment elevator was empty when I stepped inside. Good. I felt too gross to be around people. With all of the non-essential businesses closed, everyone was probably already inside. I pressed the button for my place on the 14th floor, which technically was the 13th floor, but thanks to superstition, my floor was labeled the 14th. Whenever one of my friends came, they would always make snarky jokes about being on an unlucky floor. Sure, the comments annoyed me, but I would welcome the remarks if that meant seeing my friends again.
“I would do anything to get life back to normal,” I muttered.
The elevator arrived. I heard a ding, and the elevator doors opened, but I stood directly facing the door, and they didn’t move. I pressed the door open button, but nothing happened.
A murky breeze tingled my back. The elevator was single-sided, but out of confusion, I turned around to find a dimly lit, curved hallway that was impossible to be there. This room didn’t fit the building’s design at all. The digital floor display read 13, which was impossible. I pushed the close door button.
I pushed again, and a voice whispered down the hall, “Emma.”
“Who’s there?” I yelled back.
“Emma,” the voice called to me, louder this time.
Something about the tone reminded me of my grandmother, but I wasn’t going to leave. Then the elevator dropped a foot like the brakes had lost their grip. Between two awful choices, I choose to hurl myself out. The doors slammed shut behind me faster than they usually would.
The faded red wallpaper of the hallway had seen better days, while the dome light fixtures along the walls seemed oddly modern to me. Not that I had any experience wandering down spooky hallways. The smell reminded me of the older parts of my college library I had explored for historical books.
I turned around to the elevator, only to find a wall.
“Guess I’m not going that way.”
I followed the curved hallway, looking for doors, but the hall kept spiraling downward. The voice calling my name got louder the further down I went. When I felt like I had traveled below the building, the voice stopped as I arrived in front of a stained glass window of the caduceus staff. I felt protected standing in the light of the two red snakes entwined around the golden-winged staff. Burning candles were placed around, like the Día de Muertos shrines I would set up with my family.
“Free me,” the voice begged.
“How?” I asked.
“Free me,” the voice repeated, weaker.
I sighed as I took off my shoe. Channeling my softball days, I threw the shoe at the window, shattering the glass.
The voice cried out in glee, “Yes.”
A ghostly woman with a sewage-like glow floated up and out from the window. The bandages wrapped around her were torn and tattered. Her face was brittle and mummified. She smiled, revealing no teeth.
The spirit charged at me, but a staff like the one depicted in the window struck her down.
“Not today, pestilence creature,” the old man wielding the staff ordered. He turned toward me and pointed at a door behind me that looked like my front door. “Go. Don’t give up the fight.”
The creature rose back up. “One of my sisters is already free. I can feel that you’re weak–it is delicious–and not many believe in you anymore.”
“Others will fight back, even if not in my name.”
The two fought as I ran for the door. I grabbed the handle and pushed the door open into my apartment. I slammed the door behind me, and, catching my breath, I collapsed against my barrier between whatever I experienced.
I was so ready for a bath.
This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “Saturday night after a long week, you’re riding the elevator up to your apartment, it stops on your floor, and the back opens.”
I went back and forth on the ending of this story. I thought about having the scene end with the trapped monster smiling, but I wanted to end on a somewhat hopeful note. I hope you enjoyed this story and wash your hands!