Mop

This is Part 4 of the longer story “Core“. Here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath, and turned around. There were eight other people on the elevator with me. A black gentlemen in a light blue blazer, narrow brimmed had, and dark sunglasses stood relaxed nearby clutching a briefcase and umbrella. A plump woman in a black dress covered with tiny white flowers, a necklace of fat round pearls strung round her neck. A youngish west-coast professional looking man in chinos and a polo. An old Chinese lady with a huge canvas hand-bag. None of them looked out the window, or gave any indication of concern or really any inclination to do anything but stand and wait what might come. Most of them politely ignored the existence of everyone else.

Two teenaged Japanese girls glanced timidly around periodically, obviously texting each other while they stood shoulder to co-ordinated-to-complement-outfitted shoulder.

I had to get off. Why was everyone standing around so placidly while we zoomed down? Especially so far! We just fell below the surface!

I looked around frantically for the control console or, failing to find that, for the floor indicators. I gripped the core tightly and clutched it protectively to my chest. I stepped forward to approach the doors of the inner, micro, elevator for a closer look.

Suddenly they opened.

Or, rather, suddenly a cleaning person with a mop was the opening and the way by which the elevator opened. This rotund Mexican woman, both on and off the elevators, pivoted her mop back and forth like a windshield wiper while she wrung it out in the bucket. It was as if the squeezing and pouring of the water was some sort of means of transference. Pivot left, the door opened, pivot right, the door closed. And suddenly it was just a door again, the cleaning woman existing as some sort of sourceless reflection.

What?

As the doors opened and closed, the two Japanese girls stepped simultaneously onto —and out of— the micro-elevator. My brain vainly tried to comprehend what it was seeing. The doors closed and opened —Or else the señorita levered her mop stick back and forth — and as the girls stepped in, out they stepped again. It was like watching some crazy mirror trick.

I felt as if I was inside of nested Russian dolls which were collapsing in upon themselves. As if somehow I had been transported into the micro-elevator with them. I glanced to confirm that yes I was still standing in front of the window. I was.

What the heck?

The Japanese girls were now wearing the exact same clothing. Jean skirts, blue velvet jackets, black bow-ties, and matching button-up shirts the color of which was incomprehensible, somehow like looking into space with no stars but not black either, just colorless void.

I froze, mid-stride, mouth open. Like my brain was mis-firing over and over trying to trying to catch and sputter to life.

Everyone else simultaneously looked up in confusion. Suddenly they were all paying very close attention.

click click click Went their buttons as their thumbs furiously typed texts back and forth. “Bzzzz” “bzzzzzzz” their phones vibrated as messages came and went. It was the same girls, but… Somehow not now. The timid glances were gone. The glances were there, but they weren’t timid. They seemed… Older now. The glances were confident, and actually they seemed annoyed. Everyone was staring at them after all.

“Why’d you get back on?” Chinos finally broke the silence.

“How’d you change so quickly?” Pearls Demanded.

“What are you talking about?” “We just now got on for the first time” the girls responded in unison, obviously annoyed and uncomfortable at being the center of attention.

Raw fear blew through the room like a cold wind as the answer hit us. The elevator falling to complete silence and stillness, save for the continued soft whir of the motors. Even the texting had stopped as everyone stared at the girls who stared back at everyone.

“How do you know you’re in a time loop” “What do you do if you’re caught in a time loop” I found myself and sunglasses saying at the same time.

We all look around at each other. Chinos licks his lips nervously.

There was a buzzing sound and my vision went white. I was aware that everyone, including myself spoke, but it was as if the event was immediately edited out of my brain, awareness returning as our lips closed on our answer. A secret the universe forcibly refused to allow be revealed.

What??

The elevator stopped. We heard the outer doors open.

“Hold the door!” Called out Chinos. Like a panicked herd of sheep everyone rushed towards the stairs to get out, only to be met by a cheery crowd of nine people carrying luggage and shopping bags coming down the stairs. The doors silently slid closed behind them.

Suddenly there was a strange soundless snapping feeling. Somehow I knew I’d fallen below the surface.


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