The Sixteenth Floor of Rhode’s Department Store

December 21, 2007
By Shannon Kelly, Lincoln, NE

I stared up at all the tall buildings. This was my first time to the city, and it really was as grand as they all said. I knew there were plenty of places I wanted to visit, but first I had an errand to run.

You see, I was out of hand soap, and if you’re going to the city, you’d best visit one of the big department stores. So I was intending to purchase my soap at the biggest and the best, Rhode’s Department Store.

Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed was the shining floors. I was enveloped in the vastness of it all and how many people were there. A young girl passed me. She had brown eyes and golden curly hair, which I thought was a bit much for a girl her age. She scoffed at me as she strode on by, but she couldn’t think too little of me. I may not know my way around a department store, but I was pretty. I had soft dark hair and green eyes that seemed to glow against my fair skin. No matter how big the city got, I would still be beautiful.

I decided not to let the girl just pass me by; I would make up a little story to amuse her and show her I was no fool.

“Excuse me, miss. I’m looking for a pair of gloves. It is my grandfather’s birthday and he is throwing a huge party for all the elite in the city.” I smiled at my little fib. The girl seemed not to find it amusing.

“I’m sending you to the sixteenth floor.”

“The sixteenth floor! But that’s so high up!”

“You have an important party to attend. You’ll need gloves.” The girl flipped her hair in triumph, but I had one more question to ask.

“At least could you show me to the elevator?” Just then, an elevator opened right before my eyes. Overcome with surprise, I stood there a minute. Then I waltzed right in. For some reason the elevator was already set to go to the sixteenth floor. “The city must really be high tech!” I thought. Then it started to go up.

In fact, it just kept going up. It went up and up until my knees went weak. “Click!” The doors opened, and I, indeed, was on the sixteenth floor.

The sixteenth floor was deserted. I looked around a bit, realizing that I had been misdirected. That horrid little girl had led me to the wrong place!

“How can I help you?” came a bright voice. I spun around to see an elderly woman standing at a counter. She was rather old, but her face had no wrinkles, and her silver hair was back in a stylish bun. She wore a bright red dress and red heels. And she just kept smiling. She smiled at me and went right on smiling right through the whole conversation.

“I’m just looking for some, um, hand soap.” She nodded.

“Lemon fresh or berry?” she said as she whisked two bottles out from… I don’t know where they came from. Overcome with surprise, I just stood there again with my mouth open. Then I came to my senses.

“Lemon fresh, thank you.”

“Always a pleasure! Please come back soon.” I walked back out to the elevator as quickly as I could. I would not be returning to the sixteenth floor. I stepped into the elevator, and that’s when I realized I really wouldn’t be coming back. There was no button to reach the sixteenth floor. Feeling woozy and lightheaded, I pushed the button for floor one and then took off. Just as I was about to leave, I heard a voice.

“You’ll be back.” It was the little girl.

I went to my hotel and set my new hand soap out. Feeling better after a short walk, I admired that hand soap. I had bought it in the city. I, Mayella, would be using city slicker hand soap! I really liked that soap. I washed my hands (I had just been shopping, who knew what might be on my hands) and then I washed them before and after dinner. I washed them before bed, and then I got up four times to wash them during the night. It was very strange. I hardly slept at all because I was thinking about the soap. I woke up, and to start my day right, I washed my hands. They were beginning to get red and dry, but I washed them and washed them again. Now I was scrubbing feverishly hard. More soap and more soap, scrubbing harder and harder, faster and faster, more soap and more soap… and then I flopped down on the couch, out of breath. I was out of hand soap.

I returned to Rhode’s that day and bought myself some lotion. When I walked in, the girl with the curly hair was standing there, almost waiting for me.

“I knew you’d be back.” She stared at my rough hands and laughed. The saleswoman with the red dress approached me, smiling.

“Please follow me for lotion.” I did as I was told, even though I didn’t want to go back to the sixteenth floor. But I wouldn’t have to; there wasn’t one.

We boarded the elevator, and I gazed in horror as she pushed the button to the sixteenth floor.

“But how? I… yesterday…I” I stuttered. She just continued to smile at me. Upstairs, she led me to a room full of mannequins.

“You know, Mayella, you really are a very beautiful girl.” said the saleswoman. How did she know my name?

“Thank you.” I nodded, but I felt nervous, not proud.

“We would like you to join our community.” What community? As far as I could see, there were just mannequins. “Hold still, Mayella. This won’t take long.” I really was afraid now and tried to run away, but I took a step and put one arm out reaching for the door. “Good bye, Mayella.” And then everything got very still.


A middle-aged woman wearing a hat adorned in roses walked through Rhode’s Department Store. She stopped to admire a lovely gown.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” A beautiful saleswoman in a red dress commented with a smile.

“Oh yes, it is. But I was noticing these wonderful mannequins. They are so life-like!”

“Mmhmm. Yes, and they’re not too easy to come by either. You’ve got to go find them if you really want the best.” She nodded admiring them herself.

A pale green gown was dressed upon a most beautiful mannequin. She had bright green eyes, soft brown hair, and fair skin. Next to her was a smaller mannequin wearing a little girl’s coat with a fur collar. She had brown eyes and golden curly hair, which seemed a bit too much for a girl that age. But, of course, they were only mannequins.

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