The elevator chimed and the doors slid smoothly open, things Missy barely registered. If it wasn’t contained within the bright glowing world of her phone (blue light filters, Missy believed, were for the weak) it had to be put on the backburner. The act of physically leaving work didn’t mean she was actually leaving work behind, and she had found she could take care of a few things as she walked out. Emails. Corporate blog posts. Conference calls with the head office. You know. Basics. After nearly a year of practice, she had gotten very good at putting the actual act of going to her car on autopilot. Muscle memory found the right elevator button. She knew how long the elevator trip took. The clicking of her heels would echo off the cars as she walked down her row, and while she had never actually counted she knew somewhere deep in her brain the exact amount of clicks it took to get to her car. Without looking up from her phone she could press the unlock button on the key fob in her other hand and reach out to open the door and-
The door did not move with the handle, rudely pulling back. The shock of unexpected resistance made Missy look up from her phone for the first time. She pressed the unlock button a couple more times. Most of her mind was still on her email. She couldn’t understand why the car wasn’t making its happy little beep to tell her it was unlocked. Missy pulled on the door handle at least four more times before the words of the email finally fell from her mind and she was able to see.
This wasn’t her car.
“Guess I’m not as good at this as I thought,” Missy said to herself, shaking her head. She didn’t know much about cars, just which ones she liked, but she knew enough to know no one made cars like this anymore, let alone drove them. It was a black sedan in that kind of late eighties, early nineties shape, all corners and hostility. Looked new, though. Maybe it hardly ever came out of a garage. Someone’s good car must have broken down and they had to take this thing out of storage in desperation. It was such an oddity Missy began to step back to take a picture of it, looking for her car to put her purse on.
It wasn’t there.
They all had assigned spots. She parked in the same place every day. She had assumed if she had gone to the wrong car hers must be close. But it wasn’t the next one. Or the one after that. Or in the other direction. It should have been easy to find her car, no one else drove a little red Miata, it stood out against-
Her stomach turned over. Every car she could see down the row was a black, boxy sedan.
Missy laughed. It was supposed to help her. Be an ‘oops, silly me’ laugh. Release her growing tension. It came out as cutting as razor wire.
“I’m on the wrong floor,” she announced to no one. Truly. No one. It was quitting time. She never left the garage without seeing others do the same. No one seemed to be coming for these cars.
Well, of course. She must have hit the wrong button and gone down too far a floor or two. It was bound to happen. Of course it was. These must be company cars. Yes. Company cars, of course. It made sense, if you didn’t think about it. Of course. She just had to turn around and go back to the elevator.
Missy spun in place quickly and over-the-top relief filled her from the bottom up. The elevator was there, right where she had left it. Why had she become so convinced it wouldn’t be? That was a ridiculous thought. She started for those wonderful silver doors, not aware how quickly her heels were clicking. Missy only had to walk by five or six black, boxy sedans, and only had three or four left to go, when she saw there was a sign. Taped over the button. Hand written in dark red ink.
Out of Order.
Missy didn’t stop, or even slow down. It made no sense. She’d been on it not five minutes ago. It had delivered her to the wrong floor. So maybe it wasn’t working quite right, but it wasn’t fully broken. It could still get her up a few floors. With self-righteous justification, Missy ripped the sign off the wall and pressed the button.
The button did not light up.
She pressed it again. And again. And again, this time holding it with as much pressure as she could.
But she could hear the elevator moving! Yes, it was definitely coming down. The light was broken, just the light, that was all. She stared at the Out of Order sign still at her feet in triumph. Overkill for just a broken button light.
Missy could hear people on the elevator. Laughing. They’d get a laugh out of this, too. The elevator would come to her and the doors would open and they’d see her standing there on this strange floor with all these strange sedans behind her and she say something clever if she could think of something clever, and then she’d get on the elevator and be lifted back to where she was supposed to be, and-
The elevator stopped. Above her. She could hear the bell chime from down here, and the voices got off. Yes. Yes, she was stupid, that was how elevators worked. Now that they were off, it would come down and-
It was going back up.
With an open palm Missy slapped the elevator door a few times, only managing to make her hand sting. She pressed the button a couple more times and put her ear to the doors, listening. It stopped somewhere high up, so high she could just barely hear the chime echoing down the shaft. People got on. It began descending again. Stopped. More people got on. Descending. Stopped. People. It was so close she could hear them now. Talking. Laughing. She could almost make out their conversation. If she could hear them…
“Hey! Hey, down here! The button isn’t working and the elevator won’t come down here! Somebody hit the button for…somebody hit all the buttons! Can anyone hear me? Hey!”
She put her ear back to the door just in time to hear it stop above. The people got off, still laughing. No indication they had heard her. And if the laughter didn’t sound so pleasant this time? If it sounded mean? If it made her spine feel cold? Then that was just the way it was being echoed and warped.
The elevator went back up.
Missy looked down again at the Out of Order sign. It was mocking her now. Gloating. Not just the light on the button. The whole button.
Told you So.
With a gasp Missy took a step back.
Out of Order.
She was getting angry at herself now. One little thing goes wrong in her day and she starts banging on elevator doors and seeing things. Was she really that fragile? She’d brokered deals between billion dollar companies. Met a few world leaders. She had been featured in Forbes for Christ’s sake. One wrong floor and one broken elevator button were not going to turn her into a fainting little girl. Missy picked up the sign, written in the thick, dark red ink, and stuck it back over the button.
There should have been a staircase to her left, she was sure of it. There wasn’t. There was a blank, grimy wall. She took a step away from the elevator and ran her eyes around the walls. The garage was huge, probably the entire city block, but even from this distance she’d be able to see a door. A complete circuit without even the comforting green glow of an EXIT sign. The only hope she had was the break in the wall at the far left corner. The ramp to the next floor. It would be a slog, especially in heels, but she could do it. All Missy had to do was walk across the garage. The garage filled with identical cars. Had the lights become a little dimmer? Were there shadows now? Yes, shadows along the edges, the gray of the walls almost turning black in spots, and-
“Get a grip,” Missy told herself. She clutched her purse, took a deep breath, ignored that stupid voice at the back of her head telling her to stay at the elevator, and began her walk, only sparing a single glance for the elevator behind her.
Good fucking Luck.
“Nope,” she said to herself, and kept walking.
She kept her eyes in front of her, glued to the ramp. It wasn’t like there was much else to look at. Just the same car, over and over. Each like they had come fresh off the lot. No personal touches, no briefcases, no car seats, no stickers on the back windshield with stick figures or pop culture references or-
Missy slowed to a stop at one of the cars, still clutching her purse.
No license plate. No registration sticker. No shiny brand logo on the trunk, nothing to tell her the make or model. Not on this one. Not on any of them, for as far as she could see. She didn’t like this. This was starting to feel like a crime, somehow. Something she wished she hadn’t found.
A sound came from across the garage.
There’s something down here with me.
She waited for the sense of silliness and relief that was supposed to come after such thoughts. Something, she had thought. Not someone. Something. Surely that was worth a chuckle.
Her throat clicked as she swallowed. It hadn’t sounded like someone. It hadn’t been footsteps or keys jingling or a cough. It had been…had been…
Missy began walking again, faster. Only because my feet hurt, but even that part of her brain was starting to go quiet. It sounded weak. It sounded like an excuse. Her feet didn’t even hurt.
Another sound from behind her. Claw on metal.
Missy swallowed a yelp and kept walking. She was trying to keep her eyes on the opening to the ramp. She didn’t want to look behind her. Or even to the side, where her eyes kept wanting to go. Because the cars were changing. Yes, changing. They were bigger now. Their corners sharper. Windows tinted so dark she couldn’t see in them anymore. The wheels weren’t round. They were barely wheels. They had claws.
While she couldn’t stop herself from looking at the cars she was passing, she refused to let herself look behind her. Why bother, when she knew all of the cars behind her were changing, too.
The click of her heels below her told her she was nearly running before she realized it. The cars – could you call them that anymore? – on either side of her were moving. Rocking back and forth. Waking. The sounds behind her were continuous now, screeching and crashing and crunching metal. The opening to the ramp was yards away. Just around the corner. She’d see the next floor. She’d be safe.
Something behind her roared.
It echoed off the walls.
Missy broke into a sprint.
She reached the opening and swung around to go up the ramp.
Her face hit something hard. Missy was on the ground before she was aware again. She was holding her head. Groaning. When she was able to see again, the groan turned to a scream.
There was no ramp. Only another wall.
The lights went out and the roars came for her.