One Of Those Things – a High Moor Story
Update: If you want to listen to this story, you can access an audio version, narrated by yours truley by clicking the link: One of those things – Audio
A pudgy hand grabbed the elevator door just before it closed. The doors slid open, and a large woman with arms full of shopping and a small fat child in tow forced their way into the already crowded elevator. “Room for a small one?” she said to the other occupants. No one said anything, but a silent communal groan hung in the air as people shoved and jostled to let the woman in.
She turned to a middle aged man who was crushed against the controls with his wife and teenage son. “Can you press number six for me?”
The man turned, pushed the button and elbowed his wife in the process.
“Oh for goodness sake, George. Can you try to be a bit more careful?”
George winked at his teenage son. “I’m sorry, Caroline, but there’s not much space to move. Anyway, I’m sure it was John that elbowed you, not me.”
John reached across and punched his father on the shoulder. “Stop trying to get me in trouble, Dad. You know she’ll go on about it for ages.”
Caroline wriggled to face her son. “John Simpson, don’t you talk to me like that.”
John laughed. “Hey, it’s my birthday. You’re not allowed to give me grief. Remember?”
Caroline tried to suppress a smirk. “Doesn’t mean I can’t save it all up for tomorrow, smart arse.”
John had no response to this and turned his attention back to the magazine that he’d been reading.
The lift shuddered, then stopped. The doors remained closed.
A man in a suit at the rear of the crush massaged his temples. “Oh this is perfect. Like I’m not late enough already.” He rummaged in his pockets and tried in vain to extract a mobile telephone.
John looked at his father. “Dad? What’s going on?”
“I think the lift’s broken down. I wouldn’t worry though. This sort of thing probably happens all the time. They’ll have us out soon.”
“But Dad – the time?”
“It’s alright, John. It’s still early. We’ve got plenty of time.”
A short man wearing a tie dyed top and an unconvincing goatee beard groaned and grabbed the football shirt of the man next to him. “Oh man. I can’t be stuck in here. I gotta get out. I can’t breathe.”
The youth removed the intruding appendage and put his own hand on the short man’s shoulder. “Mate, my name’s Brian and I’d like you to calm the fuck down. You’re giving me a headache.”
The man looked up with frantic eyes. “I’m…I’m Frank. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t be in here. You don’t understand. I’ve got to get out.”
Brian nodded to the large woman. “Well, you can thank that fat bitch over there. Her and her lard arsed kid have overloaded the lift. It’s her fault we’re stuck here. Just pray she doesn’t fart or she’ll kill us all.”
The woman turned on him, eyes blazing. “Don’t you speak to me like that in front of my child, you little shit.”
“Or what? You going to eat me?”
The woman surged forward, hands twisted into talons. “I’ll fucking kill you, you little prick.”
Her child sniffled, then erupted into a torrent of tears and mucus. “Mammy, I don’t like it in here, and I need to go number two.”
The child’s mother turned around and hugged the small boy. “Oh Billy, don’t you worry about the nasty man. We’ll be out of here soon, and we’ll go and get some fish and chips.”
“But Mammy, I need to go now.”
If the woman noticed the horrified expressions on the other people’s faces she showed no sign. She bent over and swept the child into her arms. “Well, let’s try and take your mind off it. Let’s sing a song. Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…”
Billy burst into a flood of tears and snot. “I don’t WANT TO. I want to go poo.”
The man at the rear of the carriage grinned in triumph as he dragged the telephone from his pocket, despite the jangle of coins on the elevator floor. He punched in a number and held the handset to his ear. “Hi, yeah, it’s Simon. No, I’m going to be late. I’m stuck in a bloody elevator. I know…I know. Yeah, the unlimited minutes plan. Did you see Quentin last weekend? I know…with his underpants…I know.”
“Row, row, row your boat…”
February 6th 1993. Metro Centre Shopping Mall, 19.55hrs
“Gently down the stream. Merrily…”
Brian had been crouched with his hands over his ears for the last hour. He fought the rising tide of rage, just as his counsellor had told him. Deep breath. Count to ten. The loud one-sided conversation from Simon, the crying child, the sporadic panic attacks from Frank, and the god awful singing had been eating away at him, until the last shred of his patience evaporated. He balled his hands into fists and stood up. “Lady, if you don’t pack that shit in, I’m going to fucking hurt you. I swear to God.”
“I’m singing to my child, you insensitive little bastard.”
“What’s the point? He shat himself two fucking hours ago. Bad enough that we’ve had to breathe that and your BO, but then you won’t stop squawking on at him. So do us all a favour you inconsiderate bitch, and shut the fuck up.”
A murmur of approval rang out from the other passengers. The woman’s already flushed complexion turned a deep beetroot, but she said nothing else.
Simon’s phone rang again. Brian turned to him. “Mate, if you answer that phone then I’m going to shove it right up your arse. Hey, George. Try the button again.”
George shuffled around and pushed the alarm button. After a moment, a burst of static that could have been interpreted as a voice came from the single speaker. “Hello, and welcome to the Classic Elevator Company. You are speaking to Rajish. How may I help you?”
George attempted to crouch down so that he was closer to the speaker. “Er, hello, Rajish. We’ve been stuck in an elevator in the Metro Centre in Newcastle for the past four hours. We were wondering how much longer it would be before the engineer arrived?”
“I’m sure that it will be very soon, Sir. Can I help you with anything else?”
“Can you just check, please? It’s very crowded and things are starting to get unpleasant.”
“One moment, Sir. Please hold.”
The speaker crackled, then made a strangled attempt at playing music that seemed to be something by Phil Collins. Played on pan pipes.
Minutes flowed like days. The music came to an end and after a moment’s silence, started playing the same track again. After the song had repeated a further four times, the music stopped and Rajish came back on the line. “I’m sorry, Sir, but it seems that…” The line broke up into a squall of static. The group turned as one to look at Simon.
“What? I’m not even allowed to text now?”
George wiped a sheen of sweat from his brow. “I’m sorry, Rajish, but we didn’t catch that. Can you say again?”
“What I said was that there seems to have been a misunderstanding. I can’t find any record of your previous call on the computer system. I shall have to log a new call.”
“No record? For fuck’s…OK, Rajish, this is very important. How long is it going to take for the engineer to get to us?”
“He’ll be there very soon, Sir. Can I help you with anything else?”
“Yes, you can tell me exactly how long it will take for him to get to us. Can you do that, Rajish?”
There was silence from the speaker.
“He’ll be there within the next two hours. Thank you for your call.”
Silence descended on the elevator. After a moment, the music started again. George, Caroline and John exchanged nervous glances. Billy sniffled and hugged his mother’s leg. Brian leaned back against the wall of the elevator, took a deep breath and exhaled. Simon looked at his telephone.
Frank fell to his knees. “Oh God, I can’t take it. I need to get out of here.” He bent over and a stream of acrid yellow vomit splashed from his lips onto the metal floor. The sour odor mingled with the other scents in the small metal box. Several people gagged and covered their mouths with their hands.
Brian stood up and snatched the phone from Simon’s hand. “Bollocks to this. I’m phoning the fire department.”
Simon looked at the younger man. “You can’t. The battery’s dead.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake. This is just taking the piss”. He dropped the telephone onto the floor and put his head in his hands. Simon picked it up from the pool of vomit with a look of disgust on his face, shook it a few times, then put it back in his pocket.
John took his Father’s hand. “Dad? Two hours? That’s too long.”
George looked at his son and put his arm around his wife. “I know, John. I know.”
An edge of panic crept into the boy’s voice. “But I can feel it coming.”
Caroline looked up at her son, through tear filled eyes. “Then you’re going to have to try really hard to stop it.”
“I can’t. I’ve never been able to stop it. Oh Mam. I’m so sorry.”
Caroline held her son close, feeling him shake in time to his wracking sobs. “It’s not your fault, John. You can’t blame yourself.”
John pushed his mother away. “It is my fault. All of it. If I hadn’t wanted to go out. If I hadn’t wanted to see that movie, then we wouldn’t be stuck in this lift with all of these poor people.”
George hugged them both tight. “We wanted you to have a nice day on your birthday. It’s just one of those things, John. It can’t be helped. Just one of those things.”
John reached into his jacket and removed a silver knife. He held it out to his father. “You’ve got to do it, Dad. If you don’t I’ll kill you and Mam and everyone else in here.”
The elevator was filled with uneasy murmurs. Brian puffed up his chest and tried to force his way through, “What did he just say? Oi, I’m talking to you.”
George ignored the other occupants and took the blade from him. Then he put the weapon into his pocket. “I can’t. Your mother and I knew this day might come. We accepted it a long time ago.”
He turned to Caroline, tears streaming down his face. “Mam? Tell him to do it. You have to.”
She shook her head. “John, you mean more to us than anything. More than our own lives, or the lives of these people. I know it’s hard to understand now, but you will one day. You’ll have to take care of yourself from now on, and you’ll need to be strong.”
John hugged his mother tight. Too tight. Caroline struggled against her son’s hold.
George grabbed his son’s shoulders and pulled him away from Caroline.
John’s face was slick with sweat. “Oh God. It’s…it’s starting. It’s starting now.”
“Fight it, son. You have to fight it,”
John dropped to the floor and screamed. The other occupants of the lift backed away as far as the confined space would allow.
John’s hair flowed like a tide of serpents, turning coarse and thick. The bones in his hands snapped and elongated. Talons burst from the tips of his fingers. Bone daggers split the boy’s gums in a spray of foam and blood. John looked up at his father with feral yellow eyes and struggled to speak, but the only sound he could make was a guttural growl.
George held his wife close, and ignored the screams from the other passengers as the werewolf got to its feet. He looked up into the blazing eyes of his son. For a moment, he thought he saw a flicker of recognition, but it was a momentary thing, replaced in an instant with a look of hunger and fury. The monster peeled back its lips to reveal blood flecked fangs. George felt it’s hot fetid breath on his face. He held Caroline tight and closed his eyes.
“I love you, John.”