There was nothing wrong with the elevator. It was old, but a pair of men in overalls came every year to inspect it and sign a paper that was slipped into a plastic sleeve on the elevator wall. It knocked around when some idiot slammed their bodyweight into a wall to scare their friend, but there wasn’t an actual danger when more than one person rode.
The elevator was like it’s own little realm. Like an esophagus that ran through the middle of the building. A throat where you could catch a glimpse of the insides usually hidden away from the occupant’s eyes.
The custodians took care of the building. The floors were stainless, the walls remained clean as it freshly painted, the occasional roach traps were removed within a week or two. All in all, a nice place to live. But there was something about the elevator I couldn’t stand. As I said, it was another world. Dents in the doors. Scratches in the metal walls. It’s a lazy comparison, but an image of a tiny prison cell comes to mind. That or a coffin. Or my crypt.
I hated the elevator.
The metal and oil always smell strong to me. I was lucky I didn’t mind the stairs every day or I would have gone mad refusing to take the elevator.
But Lucy Terry didn’t have a choice. Lucy wasn’t the fittest of ladies but within a week of moving in, she was huffing her way up and down five flights every day. Maybe she was scared off by a spider or roach, or maybe she sensed something about that elevator. Maybe something happened in the elevator that I wasn’t told about.
There was a possibility she thought the elevator took a fancy to her and goodness knows you’re more likely to scare off a woman if you’re clingy off the bat. The garbage chute got lucky with me, now I can’t look at it without glaring at the thing.
Two weeks of climbing the steps and she finally broke her leg. She wasn’t paying attention and I suspect it was hard to see with sweat dripping in her eyes.
I hear she slipped. On what? I don’t know.
Then she had to take the elevator and I swear the thing couldn’t be more pleased. It creaked under her weight and rocked like a spastic child when she hobbled on.
So I waited.
Ultimately, there wasn’t much I could do.
When I say I didn’t like the elevator, that doesn’t mean I liked the rest of the building much either, I just had to keep a closer eye on the elevator or else the sneaky thing was going to catch me walking on like a fly that didn’t see the teeth of the venus flytrap before it was too late.
Technically, the elevator was still part of the building. So was the garbage chute. It was just more comfortable to be irritated with something I could avoid, rather than the entire structure that it was part of.
“You’re enjoying this too much,” I said, sitting in the hall outside the elevator.
I got no response and I didn’t look up from my book.
I was sitting on a convenient chair in the hallway. I say convenient because it wasn’t there until the moment I left my room down the adjacent hall.
I idly wiped the mayoannaise off my finger onto the paper wrapper of my half-eaten sandwich, careful not to damage my book.
“Want any?” I asked.
Still no response.
“Still sulking? She’s moving. It’s your own fault. I’ve told you before. You better let her leave. Lucy is a nice lady. She doesn’t deserve your amusement.”
After a few minutes, I got up. Because I wanted to, not because I felt guilty at all. The rest of the sandwich went down the garbage chute. I kept my hand out of the maw, tossing the package with a sharp movement and not letting the barest tip of my finger in range of the lid. The chute slammed shut, yanking my arm with it as I gripped the lid handle on instinct.
I didn’t have a moment to tell it off before that sound grated my sensitive ears. I cringed as the elevator whined and creaked up its shaft.
I held my breath, waiting.
Eventually, the contraption halted on my floor and I saw Lucy’s crutches through the grated gate before I saw Lucy herself..
What was left of her.
I took a moment to collect myself, taking a deep breath. The smell of blood mixed with the metal and oil.
My eyes snapped open and I snarled at the elevator. “Did you chew her?!”
The ceiling creaked a little.
“Well, I’m not cleaning that up,” I said. I noticed my voice didn’t hit the high pitch it did the first time the building figured out this trick. I was far too calm about this.
The elevator slowly began to descend, almost like a wounded animal or a scolded child, which it was both at this point. And it would keep descending. Past the ground floor. Past the basement. It would stop at the bottom for three days before coming back up, completely clean.
“Hungry is no excuse for murdering someone,” I said, clenching my fist. My words were slipping out like a growl. Or the creak of floorboards. Or the grating of bricks.
I was becoming desensitized to this childish behavior…
“I’m so disappointed in you.”
The faint creak was my answer, as if the walls were expanding with a breath.
It thought this was funny. It thought I would find amusement.
I froze. The word bouncing around my head like a steel ball bearing, leaving its bruise on my grey matter. There was some truth to the word. But I was very different now. I wasn’t the House anymore.
“You want to get a soul or not?” I said, hissing out the words. I might have sounded like an old radiator.
Maybe it didn’t want to be alive. Well, it was already down that path and there was no going back. The real question was whether it gained soul and a chance at redemption or were torn down by humans finally having enough of their murderous antics.
It wasn’t fair of me to say that…
I had only been working with this building for 15 years. The last one took fifty.
It took many years for me to get out of the mansion I was and it was catastrophic. I drove the last of my children to insanity. But even after killing my owners in my fall, I pieced my soul together enough and drag my new self out of the corpses years later. I had to be patient.
But that was hard in this century. Buildings came up and down so quickly.
Being human had its ups and downs, but I know a building had no chance at true happiness unless it gained a soul like myself. Would I go to heaven? Unlikely with my sins. But still, humanity was heaven for a heartless structure. And as human, I knew what pain was. I knew a house was supposed to protect, not destroy as I did in my soullessness. I regretted many things but stitching the skin and bones of my past residents from the Usher family cemetery I did not. I am grateful for them. I would not have a body otherwise. I am grateful for the body.
Still, some days I missed the warmth of my hearth in the coldest winters. I missed the creeping of vines as they pried apart my masonry. I missed the feeling of halls. Ah, those sweeping halls and crimson curtains.
“Nothing beats being actually alive…” I said, walking back to my room. “But I’m starting to think you’re a lost cause.”
I paused in the doorway and used the name I always used for these entities, at least until they chose their own.
“The next time you kill someone, Roderick. I’ll burn you down myself.”
Much of this story felt a bit too dark and not my style. Oh well. Maybe I'll rewrite it to be a funnier version or "prettier" version later.