Fiction: Three People, One Elevator

By Joseph Evergreen

At approximately 2:13 PM on a stormy Thursday afternoon, three people entered an elevator inside the hotel on the corner of 58th and Broadway. Reports say that at 2:14 PM on that same stormy Thursday afternoon, a bolt of lightning knocked out the power on the majority of 58th Avenue. The block had no electricity for eighteen minutes. During that time, three people were stuck in an elevator, all trying to reach the 16th floor.
“So how long do you think it will take for the power to come back on?” one man asked another.
“Not sure,” the other man responded. His face was barely lit by the dim emergency lighting. “It’s raining hard out there. It could be awhile.”
“Well I’ve come all the way from Boston,” the first man said. “I’m totally exhausted, and all I wanted to do was lie down on a bed and sleep. But now this happens.”
“Oh, this isn’t so bad. It might only be ten minutes,” the second man said. “Arthur, by the way,” he said, reaching out a hand.
“Tony,” the first man said, shaking his hand. The two both glanced at the third man in the corner, who had remained silent.
“And who are you?” Arthur asked.
The third man was pressing his head against his raised knees. He looked up at them, squinting in the darkness. His face was rough and tired. “My name’s Paul,” he said slowly. “Sorry, I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“I see,” Tony said. “Where are you from?”
Paul paused for a moment. “Around town. I stay in hotels, because I like to move around a lot.”
Tony frowned. “Alright. So what’s on your mind?”
Paul paused for more than a moment. Finally he said, “I’ve been followed by the police for some time now. You see, I’m actually a serial killer. I just get this urge to breakpeople whenever I can. And this seems as good of an opportunity as any. I could kill one of you and hide the body atop the elevator through the emergency door above us. But… there are two of you.”
Tony and Arthur backed up against the wall of the suddenly claustrophobic elevator. “Well, yeah, there’s two of us,” Tony said, stumbling over his words. “You shouldn’t even try. You’re outnumbered, and you look like you’re unarmed.”
“Yes,” said Paul. “But I’ve had a lot of experience. There’s always a chance that I could kill you both…” He seemed to roll the idea around in his mind.
Arthur raised his hand. “I’d be fine with letting you kill Tony here, as long as you don’t kill me…”
Tony tried to back away even more, but he was already firmly pressed against the wall.
Paul said, “I’m a fair man. If you, Arthur, help me kill Tony, I’ll let you go free. But I know your face, and I’ll hunt you down if you rat me out.”Arthur sighed with relief. “Oh, good,” he muttered, his eyes wide.
Tony pressed harder against the cold elevator wall. Paul’s gaze turned to him.
“To repeat myself, I’m a fair man,” Paul said. “Tony, I will present you with three options. First, you could simply let Arthur and I try to kill you, and hope that the power turns on before we succeed. Second, you could join me,and I will betray Arthur. Third, and most obvious, you and Arthur could try to kill me instead, but that might not work out so well for either of you. Of course, we don’t know for sure that anyone will die. So will you kill, or be killed?”
Tony didn’t know what to say. “Well, give me a moment to think.”
Paul said sharply, “I’ll give you three minutes. I don’t want to risk the power coming back on before our business is done.”
Tony slouched, his mind racing. “You both agree that neither of you will rat me out for killing the other?”
After hesitating, both Paul and Arthur nodded.
Tony sighed. “I would rather not die in an elevator.But if I try to kill either of you, I could be killed in the process.” He turned to Arthur. “You were so quick to join him, which means you’re weak and unreliable. Also, you would be easier to kill, because you’re not a killer yourself. But as far as I know, you don’t deserve it.”
Paul looked at his watch, squinting to read the time. “You’ve got two minutes left. Decide, or Arthur and I will snap you in half.”
Tony looked at Paul. “You do deserve to die, assuming you’ve killed as many people as you make it sound. Although at the same time, taking you down could be a challenge, despite the fact that you’d be outnumbered.”
“One minute left,” Paul said.
Tony looked at the floor. “I suppose dying couldn’t be all that bad. I don’t have many friends, or much of an exciting life. Nothing is really important to me, and I wouldn’t be greatly missed. There’s always the chance that the power will come back on before I’m dead. And murdering a person isn’t something I’d want on my mind.”
“Decide, decide,” Paul said impatiently, tapping his watch.
“You’d… You’d better hurry,” Arthur said.
Tony took a deep breath. “Alright. I’ve decided, but I’m not going to like it.”
At approximately 2:32 PM in the hotel on the corner of 58th and Broadway, two people walked out of the elevator as it arrived on the 16th floor.

Joseph Evergreen is a novelist primarily writing science fiction and speculative fiction for both children and adults. His stories have appeared in HamLit, Piker Press, and Underside Stories. When not writing, he enjoys rock climbing, board games, and going up staircases on all fours.