I’ve always wanted to write a coming-of-age short story, but never found the right words to express them in. Perhaps this is because I prefer novel-length books, where the readers can watch the characters develop in their lateral stages of maturity without feeling the characterisation rushed; so that I can ensure I don’t worry about a word-limit.
However, today I decided to take on a challenge. This is my first ever coming of age short story which I wrote without looking back. Yes, there will be inconsistencies, mistakes, typos and possibly plot-holes, but… I felt it was a representation, a public post of my first ever coming of age short story. And also a science-fiction one, too!
And you get to experience it, failures and everything!
Typing rapidly on my iPod, slurping on the slushie in my other hand and glancing side-to-side, feigning a humongous smile in case my boss walks in. In this compressed little space, travelling up a million staircases and down beyond ground-level, the elevator is my guilty little secret –one of which my boss would never approve.
The first floor belongs to the apprentices and Mr Raymond wouldn’t be caught dead in an elevator –“Stop being such a baby and walk up the stairs like a man!”– and, naturally, I needed some sort of expression if he ever witnesses my easygoing commute from the first floor.
“Can you press that button?”
I frown at the cloaked man, mildly irritated as he seems nearer to the buttons than I, but stride over to press that button. In order to pay the stranger as little attention as possible, my eyes continue glued to the device.
Angelo McKulsky, my favourite singer, just favourited one of my tweets. I think my life has just been made.
“What would you do if you died this moment?”
Tearing away from the mini-screen, I snort at his question. “Huh. Probably just go with it, I suppose,” I joke along, but then my smile slowly fades as I notice his expression for the first time. No matter how lightly I treat the situation, his solemn expression seems to tug at the strings which control my nervous system.
This isn’t small-talk, I realise.
At the moment, everything changes. The electricity flickers. Lights belonging to different areas of the elevator, illuminating objects I once took for granted, have now dimmed to complete darkness. My heart thumps. Shaken, I find the confidence to stare up at the cloaked figure. A trembling finger raises to point at the now smirking figure.
“Me,” he repeats.
“Who… who are you?”
This seems to amuse him. “I’m not your enemy. But you are mine.”
My jaw drops. Head-spinning and the greatest amount of adrenaline running in my stomach, I shove my iPod in my pocket and slam on the elevator door. It refuses to budge. Here I am, standing in a darkened room, with only a tiniest bit of light streaming through from somewhere upstairs.
If only somebody could hear me…
It’s only then when I notice the emergency button beside the elevator. I snap my head to glance at my opponent. His mouth parts. Those dark blue eyes widen in shock. There is something he didn’t consider; the fact that modern elevators have emergency buttons to escape.
I slam the button.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to expect. Should I be more concerned about being stuck with a psychopath who potentially planned this whole entrapment? Or should the worry of dying here alone, never seeing daylight again, impact me more?
It’s only when the cloaked figure swipes out a gleaming dagger when my faint-self decides what influences me most: the fear of being murdered alone in this empty room frightens me most of all. The knife stares. It grins maliciously.
“Please. N-no! Please!” I splutter, digging back as far as possible in the walls behind me.
“I didn’t want to use this.” He runs his finger on the blade of the knife, the sunlight just highlighting the thin stream of blood escaping his index finger. “But it seems I have no other choice. Unless…”
“Unless? Unless what?”
“Unless you promise me something.”
“Yes, I will.” I nod like a maniac, my eyes still wide and my head spinning. “Anything. I promise anything.”
He leans in. The whispering voice tickles my ear. A soft, hushing sound before he disappears amongst the darkness. I can no longer see his face, but his presence is there. I doubt it will ever disappear, even when I’m three states away from this place.
At the same time, the doors splay open. I shield my eyes from the sudden brightness, a large grin on my face. I am saved.
“Capture him!” I yell, my eyes flashing excitedly, pointing at the now fully lit corner. It takes full control not to leap. “He tried to kill me!”
The firefighter glance at where I’m pointing. Then they look at me, pity in their eyes. “Now, son, are you sure you don’t want some rest? Here, let me take you to the police station…”
Just before the bearded officer took me away, I peered over my shoulder to see what they saw:
While I debate this psychologically twisted turn of events, my stomach clenching, I stop when I see a familiar face. This is the exact moment my boss decides to enter the scene, his puffy eyes scanning the crowd. When his stare locks onto me, he all but runs.
“Chad! Where on Earth have you been?” His short, stumpy legs gurgle towards me, shocking me with their muscles once he reaches within five metres.
“I was stuck in the elevator, sir.” I decide not to add the event of a psychopath in my presence; I fear this may not run well for my employer. “Sorry.”
He sighs. Then his eyes light up. “I called you over for a reason, Chad. You got it. You got the apprenticeship over at Maxim. It was such an odds in your favour, because over three-thousand experienced workers signed up and only ten got in.” And yet, with such joyful news, his eyes ignite with sorrow. “It’s been a pleasure working with you, Chad. You have been one of my brightest students and–”
“I’m afraid I’ll be turning it down,” I say, almost not quite believing my words. Nobody refuses a chance at Maxim. Absolutely no-one. But a certain man in a cloak, a man who threatened to end my life otherwise, didn’t give me a choice. “So don’t say goodbye just yet; you’ll be stuck with me for a long time.”
Though he tries to mask his surprise and fails, the emotion which overrides the shock is the one of utter happiness. Of a widowed, childless man who still has familiarity in his life. One who believes sport is important, believes in health concerns and lectures me on a daily basis about protein-boosting meals, because he has nothing else left.
A month later, Mr Raymond dies.
Ironically, he was walking down the stairs in order to stay healthy –or a larger goal of “keeping alive”– when he faced a heart attack which ended his life. After he died, funeral plans were taken, but it seemed as if I and a couple of colleagues presented ourselves at his graveyard.
Upon inspecting the crowd, I can confidently say I was the closest person to the scolding, bossy and sometimes downright man. Yet, he was nothing short of good. His tormenting life made him difficult to stand in times, all his constant whining and lectures. But to me, he’s always going to be my first boss-borderline-friend.
It’s at this funeral, where the carols are sung by women in white clothing, and the grass is truly greener on our side, where I remember a fragment from the past. A very specific one. That man in the elevator, the potential murderer, wasn’t just wearing any cloak. It was a branded one. A very specific one, because of the scarlet “M” on his sleeve.
“M” for Maxim.
A sudden jolt startles my heart.
I was his enemy, as the past version of himself. But he is my friend, the promising future and everything sought through breathing. And together, we create the perfect harmonious outlook of making no mistakes.
It can’t be true. Can it?