Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

~~~

We are odd animals, co-existing with one another out of mutual necessity to achieve selfish ends. I know, that’s a pretty shitty outlook. That doesn’t make it any less true. Grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls, freeways… you name it, we share it. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. And we don’t. We are emotional volcanoes, somewhere between deceptively dormant and one-button-pushed away from blowing up—spewing our long-suppressed monster sides all over our fellow neighbors at any given moment. No one is exempt, we all have that button, that thin line screaming, “This is my space. Stay the hell out.” And that is what we share in common. It’s all those colorful masks we show that differ; in every shape and size, from the self-righteous to the self-destructive, all hiding the simple fact that we are still just… animals.

I push the elevator button again. As expected, the illuminated OPEN DOOR button ignores me.

“Maybe you should try it again,” the fidgety man in the business suit suggests. He’s been wearing out my peripheral vision for the last two hours. That’s when this elevator stopped and became a cage.

“Feel free to give it a go.”

He eagerly steps beside me, far too close for comfort as I smell his nervous sweat, and begins to push all the buttons, as if only needing to find the right combination to cause the elevator to yield to his every command. I back away, grateful that he’s preoccupied.

I can still hear the Sister, whispering to God, her rosary beads clicking away in the amplified, enclosed silence of our new found prison. The numbing elevator music ceased when we got stuck, leaving us nothing to drown out our own heavy and anxious thoughts. I pray briefly with the nun. I pray for the music to come back on.

“With all due respect, Sister, but would you please stop praying. I think God’s got the message.” He’s a big man, with a big temper, his tense muscles bulging from beneath his gray coveralls. You can see it in his eyes. He looks like someone who was born pissed at the world, and rightfully so. I’m concerned that there won’t be enough room in this box to contain that temper for too long. He’s been trying to get the roof emergency hatch open with no success.

“Perhaps God’s stuck in another elevator,” the blind woman with the big mouth says with a smirk. She stands there, arms folded behind her back, prim and proper, looking like a mean, old school teacher waiting for a student to devour. She tries to be funny, but her contemptuous tone overshadows her dry humor. Out of all of us, she appears to be enjoying herself a little too much at our expense.

The pregnant teenage girl, dressed in goth-black, turns up the volume on her ipod, obviously not interested in what any of us have to say. She hasn’t said a word since the elevator stopped. She’s been coping in her own way, I suppose; lost in cyberspace, texting with the deadbeat boyfriend that’s knocked her up–that would be my guess. She’s as oblivious as the God-talker in the opposite corner.

It’s not getting out of the elevator that troubles me–no, the hospital staff has already informed us that they’re working to correct the issue–it’s having to wait in such a God-awful uncomfortable way, with all these strangers, that’s making it unbearable.

“This is bullshit!” Businessman has decided to nominate himself our resident complainer. He starts pacing (again). “I’m already late for my appointment. Who’s going to compensate me for my loss of time? Not the hospital, I can tell you that. They’re the biggest crooks around, next to the credit card companies.”

He appears to be addressing me. I shrug my shoulders.

“Relax, sweetie, they’re probably all bent out of shape wondering where Mr. I’m-So-Darn-Important is. Can’t even think about starting the meeting without you.” Blind woman is going to get us in trouble. A mute would’ve been more preferable.

“Oh, just put a lid on it, all right.” Businessman’s losing his cool. “Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can act all bitchy. People like you always act like the world owes you something- ”

“’People like me’! Watch it, buddy. You don’t know anything about me.”

And here it comes. Mount St. Fucking Helens.

“Well, it’s true. You stand there with that shit-eating grin, making fun of me because you’ve got nothing better to do–Don’t think that I’m going to tolerate it just because of your handicap-sticker attitude!”

“What did you just say to me? How dare you!”

The nun finally stops praying. The loud voices must be disrupting her God hotline.

Even the teen turns down her music, opting for the new source of entertainment. Maybe if she went into labor—she looks ready to pop any minute—everyone would have something new to do other than turn on each other.

The rules of acceptable social behavior no longer apply in here; appearances and deceptive speaking all fall away like a poor make-up job in the rain.

“Could we please just calm down.” I try to defuse the situation. “We’re all a little stressed out, but let’s try to stay civil, okay? We’ll be out of here shortly and then we can all go about our business.”

Blind woman and Businessman hold their tongues, neither wanting to appear childish, but ready to turn on me in an instant as they both stare at me like confused beasts, discovering reason for the first time.

The teenager laughs abruptly. It’s an uncomfortable, nervous laugh. She covers her mouth, embarrassed, but the damage is already done.

“Finally, the slut has something to add.” Where the hell did that come from? Out of nowhere, the big man, frustrated by the unyielding emergency hatch, is quick to target the girl.

“Hey, there’s no need for that.” My own anger rises up at the derogatory remark. “She’s just scared, is all.”

“Shut your pie-hole, whore. I know when someone’s laughing at me.”

Slut? Whore? I suppose the Sister runs our little brothel.

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The nun appears to be talking to someone on the roof as she holds out her hands in a pious manner. She looks like the statue of the Virgin Mary I saw over on Fifth Street. Her tongue is not helping matters.

“Oh, give me a break,” Blind woman snaps.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men- ”

“That’s enough of that crap. I asked you nicely to stop praying, didn’t I?” The big man doesn’t turn to look at the sister. His hands are like concrete fists. His face is as red as the Devil.

“Great, just great. Miss my appointment, now I’m forced to listen to this church babble. I just can’t win today.” Businessman’s on the move again. He tries to pry open the door with his fingers, looking like a man desperately trying to reach a “fix” on the other side. Cokehead, maybe. He’s definitely jonesing for something.

“…who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing- ”

“Somebody shut that bitch up!” The first intelligible words spew forth from the teen’s mouth.

“Now that’s a great idea,” Blind woman adds.

“My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a gravevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

What on earth is she going on about? Suddenly I’m hungry and thirsty. This is not helping.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from- ”

The sound of the slap is terrifying. I never knew a man so big could move that fast.

The sister holds her cheek in stunned silence.

“Keep going, and you can turn that other cheek my way, too. I’ve had enough of your slippery tongue. Think I don’t know who you’re talking about? You sound just like that cheating whore- ” Big man stops himself, aware that he’s crossed a line and revealed too much. He turns to greet our shocked stares. “I warned her. You all heard me. She just wouldn’t shut up.”

The teenager’s sobbing now.

Businessman, for once, is standing still.

Blind woman is… smirking?

I don’t know what’s happening here. I’m overwhelmed with emotions and it’s all just too fucking much. The frightened eyes of the nun send me over the edge. I approach the big man, make a pathetic fist and punch the stone of his left jaw. Hurts like hell—my hand, that is.

He simply stares at me, like a whipped dog, rubbing his face. I can tell by his eyes that he’s considering murdering me.

The words come out of my mouth like I’m possessed. “Listen, you big fucking prick! I don’t care about you, them, or about your personal issues at home. You don’t have any right taking that out on anyone here. Do you understand me?”

What I say next reminds me of why I’m in this elevator this morning, trying to reach the roof. I feel cold, a stranger within my own hollow shell. More so than usual. The words disturb me, not because of the threat implied, but because I really mean the words. “Touch anyone else in here, and I’ll fucking kill you. Got it!”

For a moment, I’m sure he’s going to snap my neck. Then he turns away, focusing once more on the emergency hatch.

Businessman sighs heavily to my left.

I want to vomit.

The blind devil is still smirking, enjoying every minute of this strange, bordering psychotic, drama. “What a truly interesting day.”

I want to rip her tongue out.

“How so?” I manage not to spit the words.

“Oh, just saying,” she teases. “I don’t get out much. It’s nice to be reminded why. You’re all nothing but a bunch of filthy animals,” Blind woman adds in a matter-of-fact tone.

I can hardly disagree.

“Speak for yourself, you evil bitch,” the teenager says through tears.

Blind woman feigns hurt. “Oh, my dear, did I offend you? Wouldn’t want to do that now. You are tomorrow’s future, after all. Why don’t you just plug back in to your little box and be a good, little mindless drone.”

“Leave her alone, witch. She’s just saying what we’re all thinking,” Businessman adds while playing with the elevator buttons again.

Blind woman laughs. “My, oh, my, suddenly everyone’s concerned about what little old me is saying? Well, I’d rather have you all pissed off than have to deal with your pity. Fuck all of you! It’s you who should be pitied. Don’t need to have eyes to see that.”

I’m starting to believe we’re never getting out of here. Perhaps this is hell.

The big man’s ignoring us. That’s a good thing.

The teen starts sobbing again.

The nun comes out of her corner, giving as wide a berth as possible to the big man, and kneels down beside the teen. She does her best to console her.

“Oh, and here comes Mother Teresa to save the little girl from the mean old witch. Well, you don’t have me fooled, Sister. You’re as much an animal as the rest, and hiding behind your precious Bible verses doesn’t change a fucking thing.”

“Just calm down, please.” I don’t know why I bother.

Sister starts praying again, much more quietly this time.

Blind woman continues spewing her venomous words. “That’s right, you just keep on praying to your God, do whatever you need to do to keep fooling yourself, but I know you. People like you have been looking down their self-righteous noses at me my whole life. Truth is, your “God” never did a thing for you, me, or anyone else. Shit, he can’t even get us out of this damn elevator, Sister.”

The teenager moves away, obvious made uncomfortable by the unwanted concern of the nun.

Sister keeps on praying.

“If I had to make a guess, Sister, I’d say you were molested by your daddy when you were young, probably screwed your head up right good, probably haven’t thought about a real man since.”

“Is that really necessary, witch? Why don’t you just shut the hell up!” Businessman is getting more and more agitated. He probably needs that fix right about now. I’m hoping he’s in a sharing mood.

“No, wait, I’m on to something. Sister, is that it? Were you molested as a child? Did Daddy’s love cross the line and have you seeking out a new daddy instead? Does God love you in ways Daddy never could? Pathetic!”

Sister is no longer praying.

“That’s it, isn’t it? I may be blind but I can still sense things you shit bags can’t. What’s the matter, sweetie, did Daddy take your precious cherry on the altar-”

There’s no time for any of us to object. The nun is up on her feet, a vicious sound (growl?) escapes her throat, as she attacks the blind woman.

We’re all paralyzed by the initial shock of it.

The nun has the blind woman on the ground. She takes out her rosary, wraps it around her neck, and begins choking her with it.

“Do it, fucking witch deserves it!” Businessman shouts.

“Fucking wrath of God, bitch!” the teenager adds, then begins to laugh uncontrollably at the wit and audacity of her own comment.

I’m frozen in place, like an unwilling witness trapped in a fucked-up nightmare circus. Nothing I hear or see seems real. It can’t be.

“Fucking help me!” the big man screams at me. Ironically, it’s the angry one who’s trying to pry the nun off the blind woman.

I can finally move. Together we manage to remove the savage sister. Big man’s holding her down on the opposite side of the elevator with far more effort than should be required. She’s scratching and cursing the big man. I think he’s in shock.

Blind woman’s coughing (and still smirking!), but she seems all right. There’s a dark bruise around her neck. “There’s your fucking Saint! See! See what she did to me?”

I move away from her, move as far away from her evil tongue as possible. Part of me wants to finish the job.

I truly terrify myself.

Just when it seems like all hell’s about to break loose, a calming voice, much like the voice of God, announces over the elevator call box:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. Please step away from the door. We’re ready to get you all out of there now.”

As one, we all rise to our feet, collect our bruised and battered selves as best we can, fix our hair, straighten our clothing—reinstall our masks.

The elevator door opens. The rush of fresh air that enters is overwhelming.

A man enters, dressed like a technician, and takes us all in with a concerned look. “Is… Is everything all right in here?”

No one says a word as we rush out of the elevator, leaving six animals behind and rejoining our individual places in this farce called the human race. No one dares a last glance back. No one wants to look into the mirror of each other’s eyes and see their own animal reflected back at them.

Perhaps the elevator incident was a final chance to ponder my earlier decision. Maybe seeing my own monster emerge within that cage will allow me to face it and change. Or maybe it just confirms what I’ve known all along. That we’re nothing but hopeless savages.

I decide to head home and take a shower. Jumping off the hospital roof just doesn’t seem as important at the moment. There’s always tomorrow. Tonight, I just want the illusion of feeling clean.

~~~

“Animals” Copyright © 2012 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

~~~

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