July 15, 2010

A Quiet Day

First published on Open Salon. A work of fiction.

The morning did not go well. The baby spit up all over her new silk blouse, and there was no coffee. Rob was supposed to go to the store and get her favorite organic beans. But he forgot, and her morning without coffee was grim, despite the bright blue sky outside.

She was running about thirty minutes late, knowing that her desk phone would be ringing and client requests would be stacked up. Despite the demands of her office, she doubled-back to get some coffee.

Dunkin' Doughnuts or Starbucks today, she wondered?

"Starbucks," she thought. "I'm too tempted by all the goodies at Dunkin Doughnuts, and I still have all this baby weight to lose."

Without warning the elevator jumped and stopped. She heard a noise reverberating in the building as the elevator came to rest on the lower level floor. The lights flickered and then went out, and the door jammed.

"Damn it," she thought, aware of how behind she was and how this delay would make her day longer at the other end.

She picked up the elevator phone to call, using her flip phone to light the darkness. The elevator phone was dead. Funny, she noticed that her flip phone had no signal.

"Weird," she thought. Wonder what's going on?

After ten minutes alone in the elevator, she noticed the heat. It was getting hotter, and the darkness was making her nervous. She sat down on the floor, considering her options.

Is something going on? In high school, she read all apocalyptic books, The Late Great Planet Earth and all the religious genre. She loved all the old movies about nuclear oblivion, Fail Safe and On the Beach. There was a paperback she read about families in central Florida struggling to survive.

Some type of disaster caused the electrical grid to go down, and this town rebuilt by the wits and wisdom of the various characters in the novel.

She remembered a few takeaways: salt was important in preserving food. And the public library became the most important place in the community. The book was written before the personal computer, so the typewriters in the community played an important role, and personal letters through the US Postal Service came back into fashion.

But that was so "last century." Duck and cover didn't mean much anymore, though the thought of a nuclear attack. She had to figure out what to do now.

The elevator was getting hotter. She still heard nothing. The quiet was as oppressive as the heat. Suddenly the building rocked back and forth and the sides of the elevator caved in. She was horrified and curled up in a little ball in the corner of the elevator, unharmed. Through the now-cracked ceiling of the elevator wafted huge pieces of dust and paper that she could not identify.

"Volcanic ash?" No, there was no volcano within hundreds of miles, and that was just her teenage imagination remembering the scary stories of Pliny the Younger about Vesuvius she read in history.

If it was a nuclear blast, she thought, wouldn't she be vaporized by now? and wouldn't she have heard something?

According to her Movado silver watch, she had been inside the elevator for more than two hours. She was having difficulty breathing with all the dust floating around, and the increasing heat.

She was tired, but she started screaming and pounding on the walls. Nothing. Occasionally she would hear noises, but they were far off, up and away.

She wished she had appreciated the beautiful blue sky of the morning before she got on the train. Why did she get so upset about Rob not bringing home the coffee beans? And the baby. Babies spit up.

Like Scarlett O'Hara, she put all of her end-of-the-world thoughts out of her mind, and focused on the fact that she knew rescue was coming soon. People get trapped in elevators all the time. She would be out before the end of the day, she was sure of it.

Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, September 12th, was the baby's first birthday, and she and Rob were hosting a family party. This quiet day would soon pass.