Elevator
Becky Reed
Break
I pace through the lobby of the town center building and tremble as I watch what seems like hundreds of people mill around me. Working, working, working, they all have important lives to lead.
I don't want to be anywhere near this building. I hate tall buildings. My shrink insisted that I face my fears head-on.
"Doris, please. Go to the building and relax. Look around a bit, and do take the elevator. You'll see that this anxiety you're feeling will dissipate once you face the fear directly. A young, strong-willed woman like you will have no problem conquering this." He seemed so confident that he could cure me, unravel my twisted-up psyche.
Reluctantly, I walked to the building after my appointment. It is the tallest business building in my city, and also the busiest. Watching all the people makes me dizzy and I want to run straight out of the building.
I spend an hour pacing around the lobby, chewing down my fingernails. I step closer to the elevators. People walk in and out, ignoring me. I don't exist. I am just a frumpy-looking nobody in cheap espadrilles, jeans, and a sweat-stained shirt.
I make my way onto the express elevator after I see that the ebb and flow of people wanes a bit. A few other people board the coffin-like box-on-a-string at the same time I enter. Inside it is stuffy and the light is dim and flickers a bit.
People stand within close proximity to me, too close. I can smell the cologne of the man who stands behind me, and the hairspray of the woman in front of me. The heat of their bodies fills the small space. They each seem preoccupied with their cell phones and devices, yet I wonder if they are all looking at me.
The door slides shut, and the muscles in my abdomen tense. I won't allow myself to breathe properly. Panic sets in as the elevator starts its journey to the fiftieth floor.
Third floor, fourth floor, fifth floor. As I watch the numbers climb, the hairs on the back of my neck stand and a chill runs through my body. I look at my feet and can barely stand still. My body shifts a bit. There is a thick clod of bile pushing its way up my throat. I swallow it back and wipe away the sweat that drips from my forehead.
I thought I felt the man behind me bump into me a bit. Is he looking at me? I look up and he is typing something into his cell phone with his thick thumb. Eighth floor, ninth floor, tenth floor. I look over at the other women in the elevator. I thought they were all glaring at me. I look down quickly and wipe the sweat from my face, this time out of my eyes. I look back over and no one has even noticed me.
Fifteenth floor, sixteenth floor. I look down at my cheap shoes. I wish I had dressed better so that I blended in with all these mucky-mucks and stuffed shirts. Twentieth floor, twenty-one. I look up and suddenly, everyone is standing around me in a circle. They are all glaring at me, their eyes look wild. I stop breathing and choke a bit as I struggle to stay calm. More sweat drips into my eyes, and as I wipe it away, the image of the people standing round me goes away as well.
My pulse is pounding in my throat. I am dizzy and I reach out to hold on to the railing. The man behind me grabs my arm and I scream. I struggle to free myself from his grasp but he will not release me. The women stand around me, closer, so close. One pets my hair. The other breathes into my face and smiles a wild toothy grin.
I claw at the people, and try to escape as I push them away from me. I must reach the control pad, hit buttons... any buttons. I need to get out of here. The air is so thick I cannot breathe. The odors of these people stifle me, and the lights seem to darken.
The bile is in my throat again, and this time it escapes from my mouth. The people are still trying to hold on to me as I bite and tear at them. The elevator feels as if it's racing faster and faster to the top of the building... maybe it won't stop at the top.
I grab the hair of one woman and claw at the man's face. I push and scratch and punch. Fortieth floor, forty-one. They all jump back up after I push them down. Relentlessly, they all come at me, and then try to hit me with anything they can grab. The man's briefcase is thrown at my head; a woman's handbag hits me in the arm. They are hurting me. I must escape this. I cannot breathe. I cannot see.
On the top floor of the town center building, people dressed in power suits and fancy shoes labor over their business deals and paperwork. The door of the express elevator slides open, allowing people waiting to board, business as usual. People step forward to enter the elevator and are stunned by the sight of me sitting on the floor towards the back, alone. My face is scratched and bloody, clothing torn, small clumps of my blonde hair litter the floor. My blood and vomit streak the glass of the mirrored walls. I cannot move to escape. The door shuts and the elevator makes its journey back down to the lobby.
Becky Reed is a freelance writer and graphic artist. She lives in New England with her two children.  Unraveled