4th FL - Going Up? (episode 2147)
"Let's get going, gang!" Rick encouraged the suddenly stubborn Diane. "We don't want to be just standing around all day, now, do we? Come along..." He motions to her to follow, which she does after a shrug.
Harriet reaches the elevator first and presses the 'up' arrow, which dutifully lights up. Somewhere inside the wall, there is a clack and a hum of machinery. After a few seconds, the hum stops and the doors part in front of them. Inside, the elevator is paneled in ornate wood with polished brass accents. It looks out of place in this modern building, as if it had come from another more elegant time instead.
The four friends enter and find the compartment is small enough to fit only their number comfortably. "I wonder if OSHA knows about this," Diane grumbles.
Rebecca, closest to the control panel, has been looking at it closely. "Uh, Rick, I thought you said this place had only four floors."
"Yes, it does; plus a basement."
"Then what's this?" This was a blank button located above the one labeled '4'. There was a tiny keyhole next to it.
"Must be for maintenance, or something. Not part of the public space, I'm sure."
"Ooh, let's try it?" Harriet suggested with a sudden burst of enthusiasm. Something different seemed to appeal to her.
"No; I wanted to see what was in the Modern Wing first. We can play around later, OK?" Diane cajoled them. "Let's just get to four, pleease!"
"Yeah, but which four?" Rick asked. "Look carefully at how they're labeled." Sure enough, there was a 'G' instead of the 1st Floor button they'd expected, then one through four, plus the blank button. "This is a european setup, I think. If we want to get to four, then we should push the one marked three..."
"Wait a minute," Diane injects, "you mean there's another first floor, too?"
"No, the first floor is the second floor, and the second is the third..." Rick volunteers.
""You're confuuusing me!" Diane wails. "This place seems to be all mixed up. I just want to go somewhere."
"Push The Button, Max!" Harriet giggles at Rebecca, standing nearest the panel.
"Here goes...." Rebecca replies, pushing the "G" button and the "1" button with her index finger and thumb. There is a faint 'click' as both buttons light up and the doors close with a thump. Nothing happens. "Oops." She says with an impish grin.
An Unintended Journey (episode 2159)
"I don't think that was such a great idea," mutters Rick as the seconds drag on and the elevator remains inert. "Now we're stuck here!"
"Let's see what happens..." Harriet pushes the "B" button, which lights up also; immediately the "G" and "1" start flashing. "Hmmm. Verrry Innteresting."
"But, NOT funny." Rick completes the old line, suddenly feeling uneasy. There is something about being in the small compartment that feels wrong, somehow. Even though it is impossible, he feels the walls are starting to close in on him. He starts to edge towards the door, thinking about trying to pry the sections apart. He'd already noticed there was no alarm button or emergency phone; someone had torn out the latter, leaving a frayed wire dangling from the box where the handset normally would be.
"Oh, darn, now we're never going to go shopping." Diane grumbles, shifting her weight from one high-heeled foot to the other.
"You've started something Harriet," Rebecca piped up. "You shouldn't have done that."
"No way - YOU punched them first! Nyaahh."
"Here, maybe doing another one will help," Diane said, reaching in between her friends to press the unlabeled button at the top of the row with a gold-lacquered fingernail. This time, the button lit up red instead of the ivory color of the others. It did not flash, but *pulsed*, slowly and ominously.
"Uh-Oh. I guess it didn't...."
"Look!" Harriet pointed up, toward the floor indicator above the door where a red LED "X" was pulsing in time with the button.
Suddenly all four became aware of a slight, but growing, vibration in the walls and floor. There was a sound, too, a keening whisper that quickly grew into a rumbling roar. This was nothing like an elevator should operate like, Rick thought with alarm, It was more like a subway train in intensity. A very old, rickety, almost-falling-apart subway train. As the shaking increased, the metal panels on the walls creaked and buzzed in sympathetic harmony. The light above flickered as the shaking became even stronger and a strange broken-starter motor 'whirrr-whummmmp-whirrrr--whump' sound was heard that reminded him of the crappy special effects in an old British TV show. He realized with a jolt how eerily similar the elevator car's dimensions were to an ordinary Police Call Box of the 1960's. "I've got a really Bad Feeling about this..." Rick whined.
"It's counting down!" Harriet screeched. Everyone looked up; it was true. The "X" had given way to a "5" that slowly morphed into a "4", then a "3".
"But, we're not going anywhere?" Puzzled Diane. It was difficult to tell anything with all the shaking and 'whummmp'-ing going on. Maybe they were having an earthquake and no one knew it.
"3" blinked out and the digit "2" appeared, slowly, seeming to stay lit for longer than the previous number had. Rebecca glanced around for a second, but to her eyes every movement had become –hazy – somehow, as if the vibration was shaking her hard enough so her friends appeared as double, quadruple, some-tuple images of themselves all overlaid on each other.
Ghostly Dianes simultaneously pointed at the glowing numbers with one hand, while gasping in fright, while holding on for dear life to Rick with both hands. Harriet was crying and giggling at the same time, while two (or more?) Ricks fended off Diane, kissed her passionately, and kept trying to pull the door apart with their bare hands. "Hey, cool!" a voice said in her left ear; Rebecca glanced over to see that she was beside herself for an instant before the doppleganger vanished back into her body. She had been thinking about saying that very thing, but had thought better of it, or so she had thought.
The "2" faded slowly and remained dark for what seemed a long time. The light was flickering very badly by now; dimming and brightening in a leisurely cycle but never really going totally out. The vibrations seemed to becoming muffled somehow, or slowed down too to a steady thumping that Rebecca felt in her stomach as much as heard. A "1" appeared on the display above the elevator door.
By now everyone was quiet, or mute, all looking at those enigmatic digits that were winding down to — what?" Even the air around them seemed heavy and dense, yet grainy in a way. Between blinks, it seemed like there were little bits of light and dark all swimming around them as if they had all been somehow transported into a microscope slide filled with teeming aquatic life. It gave Diana a creepy feeling, unclean, yet the air was all around her and she seemed unable to move away. The thumping vibrations continued to reduce in frequency until they had become a measured series of thuds that then faded into nothingness.
The indicator, after remaining dark for quite a while, appeared and then formed a steady "0" one segment at a time, then remained constant, unchanging.
Rebecca knew she had been watching the light for a long time, yet it seemed like just an instant to her, or was it? Out of the corner of her eye she could see Harriet watching the indicator just as calmly as she was. Rick had paused his banging on the door for a moment and was resting his hands there instead.
Ping... A chime sounded; Diane recognized it as a B-flat at the same instant realized the thumping had stopped and the elevator was quiet; or almost so. With the slight jar, the doors suddenly opened, almost pitching Rick out onto the floor outside. Diana shook her head to clear it; she had been having the strangest daydream.
"Holy shit – pardon my French – what a ride!" Harriet bubbled. "Let's get going, guys. This time I vote for taking the stairs next time."
"Doesn't anything seem, ah, strange, to you?" Rebecca mused.
"It's kind of quiet..." Diane ventured, "Good thing, too. I was really starting to hate that elevator music."
"Too quiet." Rick added. "And there's something wrong with the lights here as well." He was right; about half the lights in the entry hall were out, half lit, just like during their odd elevator ride.
"That's not all." Rebecca called. She was standing over by the big directory at the entrance, yet no one had heard her footsteps. "Take a look at her!" she said, pointing at a sophisticated-looking woman who was studying the words intently. Very intently, because she did not move a muscle or blink an eye as the four friends watched her. Rebecca waved her hand in front of the woman's blank stare without any effect, then snapped her fingers with an oddly muffled 'click' sound. No reaction. Normal in all other ways, the lady simply was frozen in place.
"Maybe the Museum is playing a trick on the visitors, putting a mannequin there to fool us?" Diane walked over to join her friend, her heels making nary a sound on the hard tile floor of the gallery. It was as if she were wearing felt-padded shoes instead. Her words did not echo but simply faded into the thick dead air. Up close, she could see the figure of the woman was too detailed to be a mannequin; perfect down to the slight streaks of grey in her fancy hairdo and the tiny crow's feet around the lady's slightly bloodshot eyes. Diane could see the almost-invisible shell of contact lenses on her unblinking hazel eyes and recognized the scent of alcohol - gin perhaps - mixed with the woman's expensive perfume.
"Here's another one," came the muffled voice of Rick from a different spot closer to the door. This frozen figure was a man; pipe in hand, posed walking toward the directory and the woman. A tiny wisp of smoke was painted in the air, as solid and delicate as a porcelain leaf. The entry door stood half open behind him, a shaft of sunlight streaming in from outside. The closer mechanism seemed to have failed, because the door remained open and immovable. A statue of a uniformed guard stood stoically by the entrance.
Both Diane and Rebecca moved to join Rick when they heard the astonished voice of Harriet from where she was at the opening.
"Guys — you are NOT going to believe this!" The others turned to gaze at what she had seen.
The entire bustling city street had become a still life.
Nothing moved, from the pedestrians filling the sidewalks to the cars and trucks in the street, to the birds pinned to the azure sky above. Everything was as still as a painting. People posed in impossible positions; mid-step, half running, in mid-leap over a puddle. Flags were starched in place; papers glued to the pavement in bizarre windblown origami or held up in impossibly contorted folds in the strangely hazy still air. Everywhere they looked, things were stuck at the same frozen standstill, as if a single moment had been stretched into forever.
"This is not a good thing," Rick conjectured, shaking his head.
"Let's go back — now!" Rebecca implored from where she now stood beside him. "We've got to ride that elevator again..."
"What buttons do you want to push this time, smarty pants?" Harriet could be SO annoying at times, and this was one of them.
"Oh.... fooey! Do you have any better ideas?" She was at a loss but knew they couldn't stay here. How would they eat?
What her friend did next didn’t seem to make any sense at all, given the odd timeless surroundings. "No, that's not a better idea, Hattie...."
Acting on Impulse (episode 3065)
Harriet had wandered out into the street, between the rows of stationary vehicles, and was making faces at the immobilized drivers as she skipped along. It was strange how silently she moved when she wasn't making a fool out of herself by talking.
"Get out of there!" Rebecca ordered.
"Why? They can't do anything." Harriet was lifting her skirt up, flashing a burly truck driver who gazed impassively right through where she stood.
Rick chimed in, "Well for one thing, we don't know how long this suspended animation will last. Things could start moving at any time again, and you'd be squashed like a bug on that truck's windshield."
Rebecca had walked down to the intersection, weaving in and out of the busy yet immobilized people filling the sidewalk, and glanced down the main boulevard towards downtown. As far as she could see, the world was no longer moving. In the distance she could see an airplane hanging in the sky on approach to land. It wasn't going anywhere, either. The silence that had fallen over the normally raucous scene was unexpected and eerie.
"Hey, look over here!" Diane's faded voice sounded from thirty feet away. "Image who's also playing hooky today." She stood in the middle of a wave of frozen pedestrians next to a motionless girl about their own age, who wore a blue and gold letterman jacket over a tight Lycra top and jogging tights that hugged her spectacular figure. A pair of steel-framed, silvery sunglasses were nested in her teased bleach-blonde hair. She carried a leather purse slung over her right shoulder and held a decorated shopping bag from a popular department store in the other hand.
"Mandy Wilkerson, chief bimbo," Harriet pronounced, finally deciding that playing in traffic was not such a good idea. "Didn't she say she had an trig final to make up?" Bending down, she looked into the bag, and then plucked it out of Mandy's motionless hand, which remained cupped as if holding onto nothing. "Looks like she's paying more attention to her own curves!" Drawing out a slinky metallic dress, Harriet held it up to her own more modest figure. Rebecca came up to join her. Harriet said, "Here, Beck, this will bring out the sparkle in your hair." and handed the wispy garment to Rebecca. Even though she knew it was wrong, the redhead could not help draping the silky cool fabric over her shoulder and imagining going out to a dance club wearing only that and some matching metallic pantyhose. Reluctantly, she put the dress back into the bag, though she wanted to change into it right then and there. After all, who is going to stop me? she thought whimsically. I'll bet I can find some matching shoes, too!
"The bitch has been doing the math teacher anyway," Diane said cattily, "so she's got her B in the cans, to coin a phrase. I wonder if she'd put out more would she score an A?" Diane played around for a few seconds with the immobilized cheerleader, snapping her fingers in front of her blank eyes and mussing her hair. "Can you hear me, Jugs?" she taunted, calling Mandy by her nickname among the friends. "I wonder if you'd even miss these?" She pulled the sunglasses out of the motionless girl's hair and waved them in front of her eyes. Frozen, Mandy was not able to do anything in response. "Don't they look better on me, anyway?" Diane slipped the glasses on, looking in an instant like some starlet as she vogued a pose. Rick thought she appeared quite sexy in them. "Think I'll keep these," she pronounced, slipping the sunglasses into her own dark locks.
"She doesn't need to be showing off Troy's jacket either," Harriet added, slipping the too-large garment off Mandy's arms and putting it on. "But I think she should display a few more of her, ah, assets for her fans here. What do ya say?" Without waiting for an answer, Harriet pulled down the zipper on Mandy's top, exposing her full breasts to the onlookers. Vignetted by tan lines, her globular bosoms stuck out prominently without need or presence of a bra.
"I don't think that's such a good idea....? Hattie, stop, please...." Rebecca had always been the sensible one.
"Why should we?" Diane shot back, "Remember when she snitched our clothes that weekend at the lake? Payback time, bitch!" With that, Diane grabbed the waistband of Mandy’s pearlescent tights and yanked it downward, leaving the frozen girl naked from her midriff to her knees. It was very apparent that she had gotten her hair color from a bottle. "You're going to have quite a little surprise when you wake up, dearie!" Diane patted Mandy on her rigid cheek.
Then something caught her eye. "You all see what I see?" She started for the boutique before any of the others could object. The door was propped open, so she had no trouble stepping inside. With everyone frozen, it was difficult for her to tell the stylishly dressed salespeople from the mannequins. Nobody bothered her as she browsed quickly through the racks, selected a leather miniskirt, and walked out of the store. "Just put it on my tab." she told the statue at the cash register.
"That's stealing!" Rebecca chided her friend.
"Only if I get caught...." Diane looked around at the still figures populating the still city. "Come and get meeee."
"Uh, I’m starting to feel strange...." Harriet gasped, turning slowly around to face them. "Tired... heavy...." She seemed to be moving sluggishly.
Out of Time... (episode 3067)
"L..e..t.t..s.... g...e...t.... ... o....u......t...... ... ... o....f.... ..... ... ... h......e........e.........r..........e........" Harriet's soprano voice descended the scale like a winding down record player. Rebecca could see her friend's lips moving slower and slower all the time as she turned to face them. She seemed to be stiffening up, arms held still as she reached for Rebecca's hand. "I..... c............ a.................. n............ n.................. t..........." Then there was nothing as Harriet's last word froze on her lips. With a little shudder, every movement ceased, leaving her as statuesque and silent as the other still figures all around her. She, too, now stared off vacantly into the distance like a display dummy, one that continued to wear the purloined jacket.
"Quit kidding around, Hattie!" Diane said worriedly, "This isn't time to joke around like that..."
"I don't think she's playing, Di," Rick replied, looking over their frozen friend closely. "She's become immobilized, just like all the rest of them. But why?"
"Oh, damn," Rebecca cursed, "it's some kind of a time stop effect; like something out of a sci-fi movie. Whatever we did to the rest of the world with that elevator ride; we're not immune. Not for long, anyways. Now it's starting to catch up with us. With me, too..." She chuckled, sadly. "Anything that we touch out here 'drains' energy – movement, animation – from our bodies. I'm going to be next, all because of that... damned.... dress..........."
Rebecca started to feel very sluggish, as if she were trying to move and speak through thick molasses instead of hazy air. Every action took a conscious effort. She could feel her body slowing down, and knew she was going to become a motionless stiff figure just like Harriet; just like Mandy and the others. It was only a matter of seconds. An ironic image formed in her mind, inspired by Diane's trip to the boutique. "P...u......t...... m......e......e....... i....n..... a.... n.......i.........c.........e............. w........i...........n..............d..............." Rebecca only had a short time to pose herself like a mannequin before she also became one with the other statues in the frozen world. Her thoughts continued on, in a strange way; for a little while she could hear Diane's voice speeding up before it faded into an inaudible hiss. Then the sound and her existence faded away into limbo.
"Nooo; this is not happening!" Rick said, looking at the frozen figures of two of his friends. "We've got to get back to the museum and fix the elevator before the same thing happens to us." His mind was racing, thinking about all that he had touched during his time in the frozen world. Doorknobs, stair railings; a casual caress of Mandy's left nipple when the girls were not watching. Then with a gasp, he realized he had already gulped in lungfulls of frozen air the whole time they were walking around. "Come on, Di," he urged, turning to his remaining active friend, "We can make it back...." Then he saw that he was too late.
Diana stood rigidly next to him, arm raised as if to make a point, the sunglasses and skirt that had doomed her to an eternity of immobility still perched in her hair and draped over her arm.
Rick knew he was going to follow them into timestop, sooner or later, and yet a misplaced sense of duty led him to spend his last few animate minutes lifting his frozen friends up and out of the crowd until he felt the telltale weariness settle over him like a cloak. Turning the statues of Diane, Rebecca, and Harriet inward into a little circle, he left a place for himself to stand and then joined them. In a silent world, he could feel the stillness pass through him, into him, surrounding him. Any last words became impossible as he spent his last moments gazing at his friends and wondering if he really should have pushed them to see the art museum. Otherwise, this whole thing wouldn't have happened. But, then again, maybe something else would have. Spilt milk... he mused. His thoughts slowed in their passage; it was as if time had stopped.
Unphased Change (episode 3073)
After an eternity – or a moment – of timlessness had passed, Rick became aware again that he was standing on the sidewalk, gazing endlessly at an unchanging Rebecca. Then something changed. A shadow of a falling leaf crossed his vision, in slow motion, and then he saw that Diane had blinked too. Out of nowhere, a deep rumble rapidly spooled up into a buzz of traffic as before his eyes the world came alive again. Suddenly he and his friends were the only ones standing still as the frozen pedestrians sprang back into motion as if nothing had happened.
"move!" Harriet ended her cry; then she looked around. "Whoa!" was all she could say.
"dow..." finished Rebecca, when a piercing cry shattered the renewed sounds of the street. She glimpsed the half-naked Mandy stumbling over her own feet as the blonde reanimated and instantly tripped herself. With a screech, the ex-statue covered her private places with hands and bag and fled inside the nearest building.
"Served her right..." concluded Diane. "Now, where were we?"
"That was sure interesting!" Rebecca gasped, having just recovered as she remembered what had just happened wasn't a dream. Or was it?
"Hey, wanna do it again?" Harriet suggested with a giggle...
The End (of this thread)