Between Floors

by Jill Waters

Competition theme: 'Between'

Sasha started as the polished brogue stopped the doors closing. ‘Made it,’ said its owner, ‘Floor ten please.’

Biting back the urge to ask if she resembled a lift operator, Sasha pressed the button. She looked at the man with his back to her. Overweight, combover but expensively dressed. The perfect example of substance over style.

She distractedly chewed the edge of a fingernail. She wanted, no, needed this job. It represented a way forward after months of stagnation and despair. She was qualified, she knew she could do it - she just needed the chance to prove herself. Time for a career, an end to shelf-stacking and pint-pulling. She concentrated on her breathing to quell her nerves. 

‘Floor four, doors opening.’ Everyone got out, except Sasha and Brogue-man.

‘Doors closing,’ came the automated voice. The lift started to move, then juddered and stopped. Sasha and Brogue-man eyed each other and waited…but nothing happened.

‘Press the button, press the button,’ said the man, panic evident in his face.

‘Okay. I’m sure we’ll move in a bit,’ said Sasha, calmly. She pressed the buttons for the floors above to no effect.

‘No, no the alarm. Press the alarm. Call for help. Oh, I’ll do it.’ Brogue-man pushed Sasha aside and jammed his finger on the button presumably hoping the force he was deploying would make the alarm sound louder and more urgent.

‘Are you okay? You seem a bit agitated. I’m sure we’ll move soon.’ Then the lights went out. A strangled groan came from the man Sasha could no longer see. ‘Hold on,’ she said, searching for her phone, ‘Hey Siri, Lumos. There, that’s better. Isn’t it clever? How it knows the spell? You know, from Harry Potter. Lights up the torch.’

‘I can bloody see that. Right in my eyes.’

‘Sorry. No signal though. Typical.’ Sasha moved the torch towards the control panel. ‘Wait - there’s an intercom button. Hello? Can you hear me? We’re stuck in the lift between floors four and five.’

A distant voice answered. ‘Yes, we’ve called the engineers. It’s likely to be a while though. How many of you are there?’

‘Two of us. How long is a while do you think? I have a job interview at ten o’clock.’

‘Probably be an hour or so. Sorry.’ 

By the time Sasha had finished speaking, Brogue-man had sunk to the floor. She crouched beside him, increasingly concerned with his mental and physical state. She thought back to times when she’d had panic attacks and what had helped her. She needed to distract him.

‘I’m Sasha, by the way. What’s your name? Can’t call you ‘Brogue-man’ for the next hour,’ she laughed. 

‘Brogue-man?’ Sasha glanced at his feet. ‘Oh, my shoes. No, Ray. Ray Green.’

‘From Green Technologies?’ Sasha’s heart sank.

‘That’s me,’ he said, ‘Do you think we’ll be here long?’ He loosened his tie.

‘I’m sure they’ll get us out soon,’ she said, crossing her fingers. She turned off the torch and they sat in unseeing silence. 

‘I’m not feeling that great,’ Ray said, after a while.

‘Here have some of this water. It’s unopened - you won’t get foot and mouth. Or Covid.’ Sasha mentally face-palmed herself, cursing her incessant need to joke under duress. She shone her torch on the man who was supposed to be interviewing her as a Creative Lead Programmer. He did look very unwell.

‘God there’s a buzzing in my ears now.’

‘No it's okay, Ray, it’s the intercom. Hang on. Hello? Any news? I’m quite worried about Mr Green, my companion. He isn’t coping with this at all well.’

The disembodied voice expressed their sympathy but said there had been a delay in the arrival of the engineers, and to sit tight. 

‘Think they’ll be a bit longer, Ray. But we’ll be fine, won’t we? We’ll just be patient.’

‘You don’t understand. I’m claustrophobic. The only way I can get into a lift is to wait until the last minute, so I don’t have time to think about it. I used to use the stairs, but since my heart scare I haven’t been able to.’

‘Since your heart scare? But you’re okay now, aren’t you? No problems now.’ Sasha’s mouth was dry. This was not good. Not good at all.

‘Oh, they’re still doing tests. Shouldn’t be back at work yet, to be honest. Suppose this is the Universe telling me “I told you so.”’ He closed his eyes and sighed, ‘Always listen to the docs, Sasha. Always listen to the docs.’

They sat… Waited…

‘Do you want to hear something funny?’


‘You’re supposed to be interviewing me at this very moment. For my dream job. Sorry, but I think I’m going to be late.’

‘I’m sure this counts as an extenuating circumstance. Why’s it your dream job?’

‘Well, I started training to be an Occupational Therapist but dropped out when my sister was ill. Mum needed me home. When Anna died I couldn’t bring myself to go back to uni. Then during lockdown, I studied programming, online, and loved it. I’ve had fill-in jobs, but saw your advert and researched what you do. Using technology to help people with disabilities live more independently. I think it's brilliant.’

‘What happened with your sister?’

‘She had Retts Syndrome. A genetic condition. She’d always been disabled but got suddenly worse when she was about sixteen. That’s why I left uni. To give Mum more support. She was eighteen when she died. I always wondered what she could have done if technology had been more advanced. I’m sure she would have communicated with us. That’s why I’m so interested in your company. Giving people a voice, that kind of thing.’

‘It’s good that you’re trying to build something positive out of something so tragic. Is it getting hotter? I feel like it’s getting hotter.’ Sasha noticed Ray was sweating.

‘Not noticeably. Here, have another sip of water.’ Brogue-man, for to Sasha that is who he would always be, took a sip and promptly threw up over her shiny new interview suit. 

‘God, sorry. Sorry.’ And with that, Ray Green fell sideways, clutching his left arm.

‘No, no, no. Brogue-man!’ Sasha knelt over him, her torch lighting up his face. His lips were turning blue. She pressed the intercom button, ‘Brogue-man’s having a heart attack. I don’t think he’s breathing. Help. Help.’ There was no answer. She rolled him onto his back and tried to remember the song she had to sing. Stayin’ Alive. That was it. She pumped on Ray Green’s chest in time to the annoying seventies earworm for all she was worth. She was so focused that she barely noticed the lift moving or the doors opening. Light flooded in, temporarily blinding her. She felt herself being moved aside as people in green uniforms surrounded Brogue-man. She heard the sound of clothes tearing and shouts of ‘clear’. She saw his body convulse and then… the reassuring beep of a portable monitor. 

‘He’s back,’ said one of the paramedics, ‘Let’s get him to St John’s.’ 

Sasha found herself following them into the lobby. ‘Is he going to be alright?’

‘You gave him the best chance, love. It’s down to the doctors now.’

‘Always listen to the docs, right?’ Sasha said as the ambulance doors closed. For the second time that day, she crossed her fingers.

‘How’d it go?’ her mum called as Sasha opened the front door.

‘You don’t want to know,’ she said, heading for the bathroom, ‘I need a shower.’ Sasha stripped, throwing her suit straight into a bin liner, and allowed the power of scalding water wash the day away, fearing the worst for Brogue-man. As she wrapped herself in a towel, there was a tap on the door.

‘Sasha? Phone call for you. Someone from Green Technologies.’ 

Opening the door a crack, she took her phone. ‘Hello, it’s Sasha Wright. Is this about Brogue-man?’

‘Sorry who? My name is Sarah Rutherford, Mr Green’s Personal Assistant.’

‘Yes, yes, Mr Green, is he okay?’

‘Thankfully yes. Down to you, I understand.’

‘Oh, I just happened to be there. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve been so worried about him.’

‘Well, he will be fine. I’ve just left the hospital. He’s currently undergoing a triple heart bypass, which should fix his problems.’

‘Oh, I’m so happy. Thank you.’

‘The last thing he said before they took him to theatre was “That girl - Sasha - get her number. Offer her the job.”’

‘Really? He thought of me? Before his op? That’s amazing. Thank you so much. God, I keep saying thank you, sorry. But thank you.’ Sasha knew she was rambling, but couldn’t seem to stop.

‘I think he got a bit delirious with the pre-med after that because he also said “Tell her Brogue-man owes her a new suit”. Like I say, delirious. Anyway, see you Monday morning, for your induction. Welcome to the company.’

Sasha ended the call and burst into tears.