I heard the doors move before I walked in. That's because I was still facing the hallway, where a torn photocopied sign was telling participants where the Palomar Room would be for a meeting. I stepped in, sideways, and turned to the control panel.
"There's no 'DOWN' button," I said to myself.
"Right. There IS no 'DOWN' button," I heard from the speaker of the elevator.
"Well, how do you get down, then?" I asked.
"You have to know what floor you came from, first. Then push that button twice. It's a security feature."
"How does this work again?"
"What floor did you get in on?" he asked, impatiently.
"I don't know - fifteenth?"
"So, press the fifteen twice."
The elevator ascended.
"Looks like you didn't get in on the fifteeth floor. But it's going there now, and you can get off and try again."
I was annoyed. Also, the elevator smelled like old coffee.
The bell rang and the doors opened again.
I stepped out briefly, hit the call button again, and the doors reopened.
I stepped in once more and confidently tapped the fifteen button twice.
The doors closed and the elevator descended a few floors.
It stopped, and two people got on, both talking in cell phones, in a strange disconnected dialogue.
My phone rang.
It was the elevator observer.
"Hi, it's me .. don't let those kids get off the elevator."
"You mean these two women?"
"Yes. Don't let them off. You get off instead. And don't let them know I called."
"How am I going to do that?"
"Create a diversion."
"I know you'll think of something. Fifteen is where Creative has its offices."
I shut off the phone. The elevator was slowing. I threw the phone suddenly as the left woman's feet, causing a loud clang.
The door opened and I stepped out. The doors closed. The floor indicator lights over the door now showed the elevator ascending
rapidly. But from the air being sucked into the door gap, I knew that the elevator was in fact descending to the sub-sub basement.
Cautiously, I called for the elevator. It didn't respond.
Walking over to a phone booth, I dialed my phone's number. It was busy. I dialed the phone's answering machine.
There was one new message, from the elevator operator. He promised I could get a new phone soon.
As I was deleting it, another message had come in. The was from one of the women.
"I don't know who you are, but they are taking us out the Mall exit. Gotta go."
I passed through the metal detector and out into the lobby. I pushed aside the glass doors and walked over to the side of the building, about 50 feet.
A white van was parked by a gray door, idling. The two women walked out, strolling and calm. They were unaccompanied.
One of them opened the van's passenger door. The other crossed in back of the van to the driver's side.
The gray door opened again, and the two women strolled out again. This time more rapidly. Again, they split up and went to opposite doors of the van.
Yet again, the grey door opened and the same two women got out. The one on the left was holding my phone. I ran toward her and managed to grab it back.
As I did, I felt an electric tingle in my fingers. They stopped walking, but didn't look at me. Then they continued to the van.
The phone had a text message posted on it:
GO THOUGH THE DOOR.
The gray door was slightly ajar and I could just get my fingers in near the latch and I pulled the door open. I cold, faintly rubbery smelling breeze passed me.
The rear of the door had a sign:
"WARNING. THIS DOOR IS ALARMED!"
Yet I could hear no alarm. Maybe I wasn't supposed to hear the alarm.
The phone had a new message:
"NO, I MEANT THE VAN DOOR!"
I pressed on the gray door's openng bar. Instantly a loud whooping noise sounded. I jumped. I ran out of the door toward the idling van. As I did, I had the funniest feeling of déjà vu. I felt my hand on the door bar again, but this time there was no alarm.
I ran toward the van again and jumped in on the passenger side.
Somehow, I found myself back in the hall. The copied paper was still on the wall, with the same tear in it.
Although it was hard to believe, I rang for the elevator again, this time noting that I was not on the fifteenth floor, but on 12A.
In the elevator, I pushed 12A twice, and exited the building without incident.