The Horizon Class Elevator. Two-point-seven square metres from wall to wall. The passenger casing was seamless and consisted of thirteen layers of Habitation-grade Simplex. Each layer was coated with two-way Mirroflect and laced with reactive ash. It created the illuminated effect of an infinite field of floating mist in every direction. Unless, of course, the power went down.

Darkness clicked in. Shannon was a newly designated Call-girl. Class 3. Oriental. Elegant. She went straight for her phone and lit up the console with a torch app. Her response was hardwired. Solutions first. Consequences second. She pressed at the buttons with intent but there was no response. Maric watched on quietly, also non-responsive. He exhaled an intentional sigh to reassure her that there was nothing to fear. Anything he said or did could, and probably would, be construed as a threat, because he was a man, and therefore guilty by gender. That’s just the way it was in this corrupted dimension.

Shannon studied the console and pressed the emergency button. “Hello…” a voice responded from the console speaker. Shannon exclaimed, “I’m stuck in the lift with a man!” But the voice continued speaking, “You have called the Automated Emergency Response Terminal from Unit ..3…2..A…3. Maintenance has been activated and a Designated Systems Mechanic has been despatched.” The message terminated.

Shannon flashed her torch at Maric who was fiddling with his phone. She raised her chin and asserted forcefully, “They are on their way!” But as she spoke, the rose-tinted hue of Auxiliary Lighting Scheme One flickered on. And she found herself standing just a little too close to the face of a stranger, in an all too small and escapeless space. Maric remained poker-faced. The sparkling green firelight of her eyes and the cheeky, sweet purse of her lips had already been burnt into his memory. He kept his response to himself. In the forefront of his mind she was still just like everybody else. A predestined passenger from birth, in a predetermined state of being. Socially manipulated to avoid all undesignated interaction — especially with the opposite sex — and made to look like it was her choice, every step of the way.

Shannon shouldered the wall alongside the console, pushing as far away as she could possibly be from it, or he, as he preferred to be known, and lowered her focus to the false security of her phone, even though the phones had stopped transmitting years ago. They only received messages now. But the apps were still a good way to shut people out. Silence settled in as though silence settles all. Silence in Habitation-grade Simplex.

Happiness 0. Depopulation 1.

 

Maric turned his back to Shannon and stood motionless with his eyes fixed in a downward gaze. His shoulders suddenly plunged as he inserted his fingers into a slot in the casing and began pulling at it. Shannon’s eyes widened. The seal between her lips broke as her bottom lip fell. Maric pressed his left hand against the wall and jolted back with his right.

It came free without a sound and swung down flat. A beautiful, chalky white leather sofa bench with six or so inches of generous cushioning. A soft glow lit upon Shannon’s face, unaware that her right brow had risen. Seating for three. Maric turned to Shannon, motioning his left hand to the wall behind her. He threw his palm open as though sprinkling seeds and with a sweet Irish brogue said, “Thars another one thar fer you, if ya want it?” Before she could respond he stepped over to her wall and wrenched the other seat down into place. “If ya want it?” he said, and stepped back to his side of the lift where he sat and drifted off into an unfocused gaze. Shannon took a slow and cautious side-step to the right, and placed herself upon the seat. But she was looking at him now — she was suddenly able to.

“Thank you for doing… this?” Shannon spoke, as she slowly and elegantly gestured her hand across the top of the leather bench. Her hand paused as her arm became fully extended, held in the hope of prompting a response. Maric was cautious not to reply too soon. He paused before leading with a smile, but genuine warmth overcame him when his eyes met hers and all preformed attitudes simply fell away.

“That’s ok,” he replied.

“They really are quite nice,” she continued, “I would never have known that they were hidden away in there.”

“Thar designed to be hidden,” he replied before adding, “thar just fer emergencies y’know. …an extended delay.”

“And there has been a delay,” she said light-heartedly, “but what’s taking them so long? They said ‘MAINTENANCE HAS BEEN’.” Her imitation caused Maric to become lost between a laugh and a smile. Shannon was a little surprised that she could have that effect on him, and although she tried, she could not conceal her smile. He really liked her now. And he was sure she could like him too. But would she? Would she if…

He was snapped out of his silent ramblings when she suddenly asked, “So…how did you know they were there anyway? The seats I mean?” Maric’s smile slowly melted away as he inhaled and said, “Yeah…about that!” Shannon continued on, “The mechanic’s working on it right? That’s what they…” Maric interrupted her, “Well…he’s gonna be a while.” Shannon’s gaze became fixed. Even her confused face was pretty. Her eyes engaged his and he could not, and wished not, to escape them as she asked, “How would you know that?”

 

Maric paused, then braced, before saying, “Because — I’m the Mechanic.”

Telling her who he was was one thing. Telling her why he had stopped the lift, would be another. But tell her he did. And by the time the lift had powered up, wherever they were going, they were going there together.

Happiness 1. Depopulation 0.

 

by Myles Hema