© by Gary L Morton (1500 words)

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Sweet smoke stung Ravi’s eyes and the city lights cascaded like diamonds in his teardrops. He snatched the roach from his lips as its rough end popped. Sparks showered his face. Tripping over a low hedge, he landed on his back in spongy grass.

Warm air shook the cherry blossoms and glittering star points flashed in the rolling clouds above. With the starlight came the EEGs of a stranger and feelings that used words as vents. Something wonderful caused him to stand up and embrace the velvety darkness. Two moons vibrated and became one, and then a delicious odor of baked goods touched him.

He looked across the yard and the condominium complex looked back with a hungry jumble of bright alien eyes. His stomach growled, shaking angry juices. He decided to buy some munchies and go upstairs. Moving in the purple night toward a side door, he thought, “Why contemplate an overdose again? It could be worse, like I could be a maniac or something instead of just an unemployed loser.”

A porcine security guard with a lazy stare was slumped on the desk. Ravi strolled out of the concourse, passed the guard, and crossed the painfully bright lobby clutching a paper sack of munchies against his chest. A potato-chip autumn blew in his mind, drool and fangs were in his stomach, but like a wild beast, he needed privacy while devouring his meal.

A blond woman, her hips tilted sweetly, stood by the elevators. He slowed abruptly and his eyes shone like lanterns, taking in the creamy skin of her thighs and shoulders. Her little red summer dress set his brain smoldering, and he bit his lip as he pictured her naked beneath a tree fern. She glanced at him and he forced a smile over his grimace, looking like the stereotype of a weirdo as he came to a stumbling halt.

The word TART was written on her face in layers of thick make-up. “Hey guy,” she said with the forwardness of a hooker. “You been drinking poison or something?”

“I never drink anything cheap. It was just a flashback of my ex-wife's face.”

“Think you're cool stuff, huh?”

“I wish I thought that way.”

Her eyes were innocent blue, but they cut into his heart. He knew she could see he was a faker and nothing more. What would be left of his ego tomorrow? - the elevator rattled open - maybe just a pile of scraps on the elevator floor, and people would carefully step over him like always.

Her body language sucked him into the elevator, and she hit button fifteen. “I'm on thirteen,” he said, pressing button 13. “Only two floors from you. Quite a coincidence, eh?”

She looked at him icily, in the way women look at the dirtier half of the living dead, and she was about to say something when the elevator began to bounce up and down like a sardine can Zeus was shaking. It settled and the door banged open, revealing an earthen pit filled with boards and junk. A rat was about to board. She screamed and he spilled bags of popcorn and chips as he hit the close button.

“What in the hell! - we're at the bottom of the shaft,” he said, and then his mouth fell open as he watched her breasts swell with a deep breath. He hit the numbers again and the elevator began to bounce its way back up.

The elevator steadied and inched on up the shaft like a beetle. The lady had her arms crossed and she looked panicky. He wanted to say something reassuring, but his brain was meatloaf, then the lights blinked out. The car stopped on a dime and a hum dropped down the shaft. Total silence remained. Screaming took over. His groceries were knocked out of his hands, razor-sharp nails slashed at him and he fell against the side wall, sliding to the floor under the force of the assault. Mustering his strength, he tackled the woman and forced her down. He gripped her wrists. She squirmed for a moment, and then she began to weep.

“I'm terrified of elevators,” she choked.

“Don't be frightened. I won't hurt you. I've been smoking dope.”

“Get me off this bullshit elevator!”

“Hey, you all right in there!” yelled a man with a gravely voice.

“No, we're stuck!” she hollered back.

“Sorry, but I can't help you - it's a blackout. I gotta guard my store downstairs. I'll see if I can find someone to get you out.”

“Wait, you can't leave us here!” she sputtered. When there was no reply, she sighed out a shivering ghost and collapsed.

“Oh great,” Ravi muttered. “A blackout. It could last all night if not longer.” Deciding it wouldn't hurt to be comfortable he pulled her against him and let her head rest on his chest. He found a chocolate bar next to him and ripped away the wrapper with his teeth. He took a bite and as he chewed on the sticky caramel, fear grew in his mind. “Maybe it's more than a blackout; maybe it's nuclear war.” Demonic apparitions peppered him with howls as they whirled in the darkness. “The big one and nuclear winter,” he mumbled as the wicked apparitions mocked him and burst into hellish flames. Fire burned on ice and he could see vicious new species of rats, flies and roaches swarming through drifting poison gas and endless mounds of charred corpses. Wide-eyed, he took another bite of his chocolate bar. Suddenly the woman snorted loudly and stirred.

She snapped to an upright posture. “Oh-no!” she exclaimed.

“Oh-yes,” he said.

Somewhat adapted to dark confinement she moved back beside him. “So are we being rescued or what?”

“No word yet.”

“You're single aren't you?” she said softly, rubbing the inside of his leg.

“Sort of - the wife took off a year ago. What about you?”

“My husband's criminally insane; he'll never be released. A thing about body parts. He once brought me a--”

“It's terrible to be alone,” Ravi said, clenching his fists. “When women reject me I feel like - feel like --” He succumbed to her kisses.

Time slipped pleasantly by, then a man laughed - his voice was gravely. “Hey, what's goin’ on in there? I could use some of that.”

There was some hasty movement in the elevator. “Did you find help?” the woman asked in a hopeful tone.

“Yeah, I ran across some Joe helping people next door with his pry bar. He don't talk much, but I'm sure he can force the door. I gotta get back to my store. I'll leave the lantern and Joe can get to work.”

He was sorry about getting out; he let his mind fall in the darkness and his hand wander on her thigh. A loud hammering on the door made them both jump. “Joe,” he said. “You're supposed to force it open, not hammer it down.”

“I hope this guy knows what he's doing,” the woman said.

Loud creaking replaced the hammering and a crack of flickering light showed as the metal groaned and gave way. Joe had the strength of an ox, but he didn't know how to apply a lever. He put big gashes in the outer door; he was like a moron opening a can with a screwdriver.

Finally Joe got brighter, slipped his pry bar in the crack and forced the door halfway open. They ducked out quickly and turned to thank him. The woman gasped. In the lantern light, Joe looked like a creature from the bottom of a mineshaft. He was a squat, lumpy guy with swollen blue lips and a porous red-veined bump for a nose. Lifeless hair hung like cobwebs from a head checkered with bald patches. His eyes were like little black olives in pools of moldy margarine, and he grinned witlessly, showing crooked yellow teeth.

“Darling,” the woman said, almost choking. “How did you get out?”

“You mean that guy's your mad husband?”

Joe's grin widened. “The electric fence, the electric fence - no power,” he blubbered. “Look.” He set the pry bar down and reached for an enormous dent-covered toolbox. Loosening up some snaps, he lifted out something large and held it up in the lantern light. It was a heavy meat hook, a human foot hung from it - blood dripped to the carpet from the toe of a nylon stocking. “For you, for you,” he said feverishly.

They took steps back, turned and fled into the dark stairwell. They were down a few flights before they heard Joe's heavy boots ringing above. His crazed voice echoed, “Paint the town red, paint it black and blue!”

The woman threw the side door open and they raced off under the cherry blossoms. An apparition of a ghastly head swinging on a meat hook vanished in the moonlight as Joe appeared. He looked around, but they were gone, dashing into a lovers' darkness he would never find.

  ---The End ---


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