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Lockwood Towers

June 1st, 2013

"Please excuse me."


Welcome home.

The atmosphere of the lobby is dead still. The air embraces, its grip choking instead of the warm embrace of familiar territory.

The security guard at his post, Barry, has his head down on his desk.

Distant sounds down the first floor hallway are muffled by walls, private and contained.

Lockwood appears asleep, but it's watching.

The elevator sinks down slowly from the top floor before it lands, louder than all else, waiting patiently for its antique gate to be pried open.

The lobby door opens with a forceful pull and Lucy steps into the lobby with a bit of a sigh. She's wearing a nice outfit and is coming home much later than her norm. Everyone needs a night out, right? As she moves past Barry, she gives a nod, but then notices his head is down and he is not paying any attention to her. Moving past, she pushes the elevator button and waits for the ancient elevator to descend before sliding the gate open. She'd normally take the stairs up the four flights to her apartment, but she wore heels out and all she wants to do is fall on her couch and throw them across the room in relief.

As the elevator settles, and Lucy looks forward to getting home, someone else is looking forward to going out. She need not pull back the brassy lacework doors; they're clawed open from the inside, the occupant in a hurry.

A middle-aged man in a rumpled brown tweed suit-jacket with his head down rushes out at a brisk pace that interrupts the cloying solitude of the lobby. Seeming lost in his own thoughts, he nearly collides with Lucy; veering around the young woman at the last second, he lays a hand on her shoulder apologetically, fingertips briefly digging into the back of her shoulder. "Please excuse me." Through dark-framed glasses, he glances at her with a tiny shock of recognition: the baker. He's an occasional customer, one of many quiet Lockwood residents. He barely seems to dare looking at her for longer.

He hurries off. The elevator waits, gaping.

"Oof!" Lucy totters a bit in her heels - she's not used to wearing anything other than flats. The hand on her shoulder steadies her and she gives the man a searching look before recognizing him: Mock Turtle Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes and Red Queen Cranberry Muffins. While she doesn't know every customer, she does make a point to try and remember faces of the people who live in the building. "Sure, of course." She watches him for a moment before stepping into the elevator and scraping the gate closed. Resolutely, she pushes '4'. It's almost time to take off those shoes.

1.

It's hot inside, as though it's crammed full of people generating body heat, not simply Lucy, alone. The place on her shoulder where Mock Turtle Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes and Red Queen Cranberry Muffins touched her feels hotter still, a lingering, oppressive hand-print, particularly the four points where his fingers impressed at the top of her shoulderblade. It almost feels unpleasantly… wet.

It's been a long night and all Lucy wants to do is fall face first onto her couch. Pulling her loose hair up into a bun with one of her hands to keep it off her neck, she fans the other in front of her face - suddenly hot. The spot on her shoulder almost burns and she sighs and rubs a hand there, as if to massage away the unpleasant feeling.

Her hand runs into something slippery, faintly sticky, and warm and separate from herself.

It catches on her fingers, catches on her skin intrusively, painting it red.

Blood.

2.

An unsettled, keening mechanical groan stretches out beneath the normal rumbling of the elevator.

When Lucy feels the sticky warmth on her back, she curiously pulls her fingers back and studies them. What? For a moment, she wondered if she had somehow managed to spill food coloring on her shoulder. But, the consistency is wrong. After a few moments, however, she realizes what it actually is and puts her hand out as far away from her as possible. Her eyes widen in shock and she backs up until she hits the back of the elevator - possibly coating that in blood, as well. Why is there blood on her shoulder?!

Blood indeed sticks to the wall, leaving a wet imprint. Four finger-marks, just like on her shoulder, a smeared match. On her fingers, it's warmer still, boasting how fresh it is.

It could be her imagination, shocked by the sight of blood, that makes the walls feel so close; that elevates the grating noise of the box she stands in. It's old, after all, re-outfitted to work normally and meet the proper elevator standards, say so right on the plaque to her right, but old.

Whispery sounds run up and down the walls, scratches like a dozen scampering mice with their tiny claws and quick feet, a thousand soft sounds that almost become a steady murmur. A moment later, an average rumble of the elevator approaching the third floor drowns it out, begging the question of whether it was ever anything else at all.

Lucy's eyes dart about her: her arm held out as far from her as possible. The whispering noises start and at first, she mistakes them for the grinding of the ancient elevator. Soon, however, the scratching and padding of multiple soft feet mix into the ambient noises and her eyes widen. Unsure of what to do - trapped - the woman flings herself to the emergency call button. Without even thinking about how insane her explanation would be, she smashes the alarm, blood smearing on it in a red panic. The loud metallic ring echoes for a moment, then is engulfed in the noise of the third floor.

Though she no longer rings the bell, she wants out of this elevator right now. Much like a bird, her gaze flies about, unable to focus on any one single thing.

3.

The emergency ringing starts up again on its own, seeming only to get louder as the elevator rises but, indeed, although it should be deafening, the other noise in the elevator vies for Lucy's attention, leaving no doubt, as if there was any. Rustles and steps and whispers coalesce into bangs on the walls, dull and sharp, dull and sharp, like someone's trying to punch and kick their way in.

Maybe help is on the way.

Nothing happens except the steady rise of the elevator and the noise.

4.

The blood on the emergency call button begins to drip, trickling off in two narrow lines although it began as no more than a smear. The partial hand-print on the wall begins to lose its distinct four-finger shape, oozing down and looking more like desperate claw-marks as it drips slowly downward.

The scent of copper fills the small space, which has become humid and choking. It feels, to Lucy's lungs and her own bloodstream, that adrenaline hovers in the very air itself and that she's forced to breathe it in.

The elevator clangs its way upward, trapping Lucy in its metal cage. As the noises get louder she can't hope for a rescue. The walls are dangerous and she avoids them accordingly. Sinking to the floor, there's a feeble, "H-help…p-please…" that escapes her chattering teeth, but it would be a miracle if anyone heard it through the noise.

It's happening again. The same panicked and horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach rises up like it did in the parking garage. All she can taste is copper. All she can see is the blood oozing down the wall. Tears start to fall freely down her face and she curls up on the floor. "Just stop…please…"

5.

The alarm stops it shrill cry, as it should have some floors ago.

The noises all around Lucy, in fact, subside, except for the natural crank and hum of the elevator working.

Ask and ye shall receive?

Only a whisper taints the relative silence, feathery beside her ear, so close it might as well be in her own head.

"… insiiiide… "

The elevator is going higher than Lucy pushed the button. She is oblivious, however. Curled up on the floor, the tears fall freely. She presses her hands against her eyes and she doesn't pull them away when the noises die down. There's a whimper when she hears the whispering in her head, but she does not move from her fetal position.

"… innnsssss— "

6.

The dim lights crackle off.

The elevator slows to a halt.

The air around Lucy seems alive, silently buzzing with energy that tickles her skin, raises her hairs, and invades her curled protection.

Noise outside the elevator tries to remind her that there is a world outside of this trap. Someone on the sixth floor is shouting, somewhere down the hall. Their agitation starts to fade away as they get farther away.

No; Lucy is becoming farther away. The elevator starts to plummet slowly back down. No voices. No ominous energy. Just a dark elevator, descending.

6. It's just a good as place as any to be stuck. Lucy has all but resigned to her fate. The crackling energy raises goosebumps on her skin. The hairs on the back of her neck tickle. The noise is enough to raise her head just slightly. There is someone out there. They are shouting. Perhaps this is something she should avoid, but the reminder of other humans is a welcome one. Tumbling forward, she starts to attack the metal door in front of her. She shouts, her voice hoarse from crying. "HELP PLEASE!!!" Her palms smack futilely against the metal.

She can hear the voices fading as she sinks back downward. The energy from the atmosphere may have gone, but it has done its damage against Lucy. Her hands shake and she remains a puddle of tangled limbs and rumpled clothes on the floor of the elevator.

Down down down down down stop

The door opens where it began.

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