The Elevator

May 4, 2010
By , Howards Grove, WI
She wasn’t going to panic, not here not now; at least that’s what Amanda Drake tried to tell herself. It wasn’t that bad really and if she let herself panic, she’d be in trouble, big trouble. She clenched her fists and tried to stop her body from shaking.

“I’m not going to panic,” She said to herself slowly, taking in deep breaths with each word. But no matter how many times she tried to tell herself that, she didn’t fool herself. She was afraid, the horrid memories she’d pushed out of her mind were once again resurfacing, and stopping the panic and fear that swept over her was like stopping an ocean with a broomstick.

“No.” She said as she felt her throat close and air became harder and harder to get. Why did days like this come? She should be fine. All she had been doing was picking up some papers from her aunt’s office. She’d been fine a few hours ago when she was talking to her mom on the phone. Her mind flitted back to that moment.

“It’s so cool here. Everything’s so big and there are so many people,” she had said. “I love walking in Central Park. I could stay there for hours with my pen and paper, and Aunt Amanda is taking me to a play on Broadway tomorrow!” Amanda said. She could hear the smile in her mother’s response. When Amanda hung up, she helped her aunt clean up dinner.

“How’s your mom?” Her aunt asked.

“Good. She say’s hi,” Amanda said, handing a dish to her aunt. Her aunt was so like her twin, Amanda’s mother. The two sisters were very close, which was why Amanda had been named after her aunt.

“You know, I don’t think I could be any happier if I were in heaven,” Amanda commented as they put the last dish away. Her aunt smiled.

“Well, I’m glad your aunt isn’t boring you,” She said before answering the phone. “This is going to take awhile. Shoot! I needed the file from my office for tomorrow. Mandy, do you think you could get it for me? Carol is still there and she can get it for you.” Amanda nodded. She put her sandals on and waved goodbye.

Amanda was jolted from the memory as the panic set over her and she began gasping. When she was afraid like this, she felt as though someone was smothering her. Her chest hurt and was tight as she tried to breath normally, her fear making the task impossible.

“Hey.” Amanda jumped and might have screamed had she had enough air in her lungs. “It’s okay,” the man’s voice said. Amanda wondered why he’d say that. He didn’t even know her; he couldn’t see her and things were far from okay. In fact, they were horrible. “It’s okay; breath,” He said again. He took her hand mostly because touch was the only way to establish his presence. He put his other hand on her back. The girl was shaking uncontrollably, and her breathing came in gasps and spasms far too quickly. He tried to help her calm down, or at least steady her breathing. A thought occurred to him. “Do you have an inhaler?” He asked.

“At – home.” The girl said. He winced. It was plain she needed air, but the fact that she needed an inhaler made things a bit worse. Her chest was tight and it hurt; he got her to tell him that much. She needed to calm down and steady her breathing.

“We won’t be stuck in here much longer, and then we’ll get you that inhaler,” he said, thinking she was excited and stressed because she needed her inhaler and didn’t have it. Being trapped in a dark elevator was definitely not a pleasant thing, but he didn’t think it was that frightening but as he sat next to her, his back against the wall he realized she was very afraid. He couldn’t see her in the darkness but it was very obvious she was frightened. “You okay?” Paul asked. Amanda turned her head towards the voice. She was not okay. She was stuck in an elevator and it was dark, there was no light. How could she explain to this stranger that, no she was not all right? She was terrified and barely able to breath.

“I’m afraid.” She managed to say, drawing out the words decisively. Paul put his arm around her shoulder. He knew what it was like to be afraid, but he didn’t think he’d ever been this afraid. He could see his presence, the feel of his hand helped if only because the girl knew she wasn’t alone.

“I’m Paul. Slow your breathing down. What’s your name?” Paul asked. He’d told her as often as he could to slow her breathing down, it would help but she didn’t seem able to do it.

“I like to be called Mandy.” She said shakily. Paul nodded, he liked it. He wondered what it was Mandy was afraid of, being trapped in the elevator? Was she claustrophobic? Or was it the dark? He thought about it. If she were really claustrophobic, she would have taken the stairs.

“You afraid of the dark Mandy?” He asked. Mandy nodded, remembered he couldn’t see her do so and voiced her fear. Paul squeezed her shoulder. “That’s okay.” He said. He kept up a constant stream of conversation, one sided as it was till he felt Mandy relax. Her breathing became steadier. As Mandy relaxed she felt foolish. She was seventeen for goodness sake. Nobody that old should be so terrified of the dark, and they shouldn’t need the reassuring arm of a stranger around them in a dark elevator. Despite how foolish she felt she was not about to move away from the presence of Paul and the only comfort she had right then. “What makes you afraid of the dark?” Paul asked. He tried to picture what the girl looked like when she walked in the elevator. He remembered her hair had looked like honey, but nothing else.

“I don’t know. I’ve been afraid of the dark as long as I can remember,” Mandy said. She wasn’t about to tell this stranger she still slept with a lamp on in her room. Her words made Paul wonder. He could easily imagine a child being afraid of the dark, but someone as old as Mandy to be terrified for no reason? That did not make sense to him. She had a reason and wasn’t saying. As Mandy talked, Paul got the feeling she hadn’t told anyone why.

“What happened in the dark Mandy?” He asked. Mandy shivered with a wave of fear. She felt like he knew and she didn’t think she’d survive if she had to tell him. It was irrational she knew and the tears that spilled down her cheeks were irrational to. “Did you ever tell anybody Mandy?” Paul asked. Mandy shook her head no. A teardrop spilled on Paul’s hand. How could the dark make her so afraid? What had happened in the dark to terrify her of it? To terrify her of even telling someone? “Mandy what happened? Why are you afraid?” Paul asked quietly, kindly. He didn’t know why but he felt rage at whomever or whatever caused this girl to be so afraid. Mandy seemed about to say something. The lights turned on and the elevator started to move. The moment was lost. They were about to get off the elevator and resume their lives. Mandy would never tell him, or anyone else why. Why she was terrified of the dark and Paul, would never know.

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