The Elevator

A little short story set in a dystopian universe I dreamed up. If it seems confusing, it's probably because it is. The scene is supposed to be middling end, I think.

Leave a comment with suggestions and/or feedback and enjoy!

Chapter 1

The Elevator

Silence fills the elevator, pregnant with things as of yet unsaid. Calum stands on one side, and I on the other, each of us as far away as we can be from the other person. He’s still angry with me, even after sleeping on it and not seeing me this morning. Probably because he found out from someone else. I keep feeling his eyes on me every once in a while, glancing from straight ahead to me to straight ahead to me. Finally, I can’t stand it anymore.

I whip around and my hand flies out to smash against the hold button. The elevator shudders to a stop and the lights flicker and die. My vision falters as I begin to adjust to the near-darkness but I can make out his form—a torso, legs, even a nose. “If you have something to say to me, you need to say it. Now.”

He crosses his arms. “I can’t let you do this,” he says, not quite angry yet. More bitter and hopeless. “I think it’s stupid and idiotic and, frankly, a lost cause. We don’t even know if this mod exists.”

Well. He certainly wasn’t wasting any time.

“You’re wrong,” I say quietly. “You’re wrong.”

Calum lets his arms fall. “No. You know what? I’m not. I’m right. I’m very right. You just don’t want to admit it.”

I rake my fingers through my hair violently. “It exists and you know it does. You know. It’s in your head and mine and in two hundred others’. This isn’t a lost cause. They’re killing people, Calum. They are and they have been. Your own father is murdering people and you call it a lost cause?” My voice is getting louder and louder. “Calum. Open your eyes. This has to be stopped.” He looks away, as if he can’t stand to see me and the truth I’m telling him. “Calum,” I say. “Calum, look at me.” He doesn’t. “You have to let me go. I’ll be okay.”

He shakes his head, sharply, once. “There—there has to be another way, Kate. There has to be another way.”

I blink, slowly, slowly. “Somebody has to do it. Wren can’t, Quinn won’t, and you...” I pause. “And you shouldn’t.”

“Why not?” Calum asks. “Why not me?” He steps closer, shortening the already meager distance between us. I can’t think, I can’t answer the question, not with him standing there. Why not him? He’s the perfect choice. He’s strong. We’re sure he’s got the mod. They can just cut him open, take a peek, and sew him shut. Simple. He’d feel nothing, whereas I would and things would not end well.

“Because I don’t want you to.”

Closer.

“That’s not an answer.”

“I don’t know, then.” He’s so close. I back up until I feel the wall against me and he steps with me, closing in until his palms are pressed on the wall by my ears, his arms straight, almost like he’s boxing me in so I can’t escape; he’s trying to intimidate me, the dïck. The corner of Calum’s mouth turns up, like it always does when something amuses him. He reaches over and takes a strand of hair between his fingers, gently tucking it behind my ear.

My heart twists.

“I think you do know, and you just don’t want to tell me,” he whispers. “Tell me, Kate. I’m tired of secrets. Please.” And he suddenly looks old, hardened beyond his years. Old and sad and shattered.

I press my lips together. Do I even know why I’m insisting he stay and I go? I have no affiliation with Haywire; I don’t need them and they don’t really need me. There’s many more defective people out there, a couple hundred, at least. But there’s only one that escaped the initial recall, and only three altogether that made it out of GenuCorp alive.

“You want the truth, then?” I whisper. “All of it? Are you sure? Because the truth has a way of hurting worse than a lie ever could.”

Calum doesn’t skip a beat. He tells me yes, his face inches from mine.

“Who you are—you’re not worth the risk.” He pulls back a little in surprise. Not the answer he was expecting, I think. My lips part to continue but I mash them together. Done. I am done talking. Anything more and I'll say something stupid, something I don't mean.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

I inhale and the breath catches in my throat. The truth, Kate. He asked for the truth. “It means exactly what you think it means, Calum.”

He looks at me questioningly. “I don’t know what it means. That’s why I asked.”

My eyes narrow. “Don’t be a smartass. This is hard enough for the both of us without you reverting back to that.” A smile plays across his lips, fleeting and short-lived.

“Go on, Kate.” Truth.

“I…you’re a jerk, Calum. And you’re self-centered and too clever for your own good. You’re frustrating and occasionally irritating and exhausting to be around eighty percent of the time.” And he still hasn’t moved from his post. Calum opens his mouth to speak his own defense but I shush him. “I’m not done. You’re a Casanova and you think you’re just wonderful, God’s gift to the human race.”

Calum finally steps back, obviously trying to hide hurt or confusion or both from his face.

“I can see you doing that. Putting it all away. I saw it a long time ago and I never understood why you do it. But now I do.” I rub my face, run my fingers through my hair. Resolve. I am strong. “You’re afraid, Calum. You’re afraid.”

His face is a clean, blank mask and I can see him struggling to maintain it. “I’m not,” he says quietly. “I’m not. I’m not.”

“I think you are.” Calum shuffles back a step, I think reflexively. “You’re afraid of feeling anything. You can’t stand to show anyone that you’re human, that you have opinions and emotions and thoughts. I haven’t quite decided why but I know it. I do.”

Calum blinks. Slowly, slowly, slowly, then meets my eyes. “I’m not afraid,” he repeats.

I meet his gaze. “Prove it,” I say.

He looks at me a moment and then something in his eyes change. An imperceptible shift. He’s not looking through me anymore—and I realize now that he was, only because he’s really looking now.

He closes the distance between us. Calum stands there a moment, not doing a thing and my heart going a mile a minute, my head screaming he’s too close. His lips part, just a little. Another subtle expression that I almost miss. Then suddenly he moves, his hands coming up to cup my face, tilting it up so that I can meet his eyes. The second we connect I know what he’s going to do.

“Calum, I don’t—”

And then I can’t speak anymore, partially because he’s closed his eyes and is kissing me and partially because I can’t think of anything more to say. A little surprised noise escapes my chest—I don’t know why; I completely saw this coming—and my hands come up to push him away, to get him off of me because this is the very last thing I need to have happen.

Calum takes one of his hands from my face and wraps his arm around me, pressing me against him, erasing any space remaining. The air is cold against my cheek and I feel strangely vulnerable without the steady presence of the wall against my back.

Then it hits me: Calum is steady.

And I am the one afraid now. My hands clench his shirtfront and I can hear and feel my pulse in my ears.

His eyes open and he breaks away, just barely, just enough to speak. “Kiss me back, Kate,” he whispers. “You asked for proof and here it is, so just kiss me back, dammit. Please, kiss me back. Please.”

No, you can’t, says my brain.

Run away! says my pulse.

You know what you want, says my heart.

It isn’t wise.

Run away!

To feel.

He’s trouble; he’ll only get you killed,

Run away!

Please.

My mouth opens and closes. I can see Calum giving up, the light dimming from his eyes. His hands on me slacken and I feel him pull away. He’s slipping, he’s going away, and all I can think of is who he was, who he is, and him on a rooftop all covered in blood, sun setting.

Just kiss me back.

Don’t think, Kate, just feel.

As he lets me go I pull him back, violently, like if I don’t I’ll die. Before either of us know what’s happening, I kiss him, my arms slung around his neck. I feel Calum tense up, feel the joy and relief in his lips. His hands grab me, lift me up, and I wrap my legs around his waist.

I’ve never kissed a boy before. It’s nothing at all like I’d dreamt it would be. It’s not all romance and abandon or heat and passion or soft and sweet, more like desperation and relief and don’t let go. My hands blindly explore his back, his arms, his chest—I’ve never touched a boy like this, either—and I feel gooseflesh rise where my fingers trace.

I don’t know who ends it but all I know is I can’t breathe. We pant rather ungracefully into each other’s faces for a moment, just looking. His eyes aren’t quite blue, I see. They’re more gray.

“Thank you,” Calum says. And he means it. I bite my lip to keep from grinning like an absolute fool. We’re quiet for another moment. “Kate?” he asks, tentatively, and a shiver bounces up and down my spine because I love the way his lips form my name. I’m learning all sorts of new things today. It’s very strange.

“Yes?”

That trademark smile opens up on his face, transforming him from someone to be afraid of into someone you’d like to know. He shifts my weight to one arm and brushes a strand of hair from my face. Calum readjusts me and then he speaks. “You know I’ll never let you go through with it now, right? You know that?”

“I know that.”

He relaxes and that quirk of a smile brightens into something I’ve never seen, a smile that turns him from someone you’d like to know into someone you’d like to kiss. So I do.

And in that moment, I have a revelation. I’ve known him for what seems like a long time but really isn’t. I never imagined him as anything other than an entitled geneticist’s brat until I met him. I never knew him as anyone other than the careless boy who’s dropped too many hearts until I saw him. I’ve finally seen Calum and he’s finally seen me.

Calum hits the hold button again as we break apart. The elevator shudders and the lights blink on. We’re moving again and he’s happy, so happy.

In that moment I realize I can’t let him die.

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