Stuck in the Elevator with … ! (Daily Prompt)

Daily Prompt: Elevator

by michelle w. on May 24, 2013

Fiction writers: You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.

Non-fiction writers: You’re stuck in an elevator with a person from your past. Write this scene.

As a travel writer/ pastor/ photographer/ Biker/ Hiker/ Cyclist I am more in the non-fiction genre… well, mostly… ok, sometimes…


I had the pleasure of doing a 6 year course at university, becoming a pastor in my church. And in our country university fees are really expensive. Also, as future pastors we did not expect to get paid nearly the same salaries as our friends doing sissy stuff like lawyers or doctors at university.  We live in faith, and the faith we test the most, are that of the bank manager when we apply for student loans.  Their faith often were found wanting. So- we had to work to pay our student fees. I had this lovely student job at South Africa’s steel giant- Iscor. Every year, when my rich friends went off to a 2 month seaside holiday at Jeffreys Bay or other wonderful surfing heavens, beautiful beaches, miles and miles of bikinis, I went to… The Plant…

While I did have to work, I chose to do the best I could do. All the students knew- the Blast Furnace was the place to be. It was dangerous, and extremely hot work there. It was also easy to get on the 12 hour shifts. 8 Hours normal time, 4 hours overtime- 1 1/2 times the pay…

The thing with the Blast Furnace was: it never shut down like the rest of the factory down the production line. For a blast furnace to shut down and start back up again- well- it takes 3 months…  So over every Christmas holiday (the long summer vacation in the Southern Hemisphere, remember) I went to the golden beaches of the Blast Furnace- and it’s slick dams…

As students working part time there, it would just be safe to assume we were the fresh meat. The FNG’s. The glamorous college boys going back to university and all the clever girls and beer parties and all kinds of mayhem. So while we are here- let the students do all the dirty work.

The Blast Furnace is a scary place at night. It is where the raw iron ore get mixed with coal, and it gets thrown into this huge furnace- 20 stories high. There the iron gets melted out of the ore, and the liquid iron at 1400 degrees Celcius get poared into torpedo train trucks. This is taken to the Basic Oxygen Furnace, to be burned at even higher temperature to get all impurity out. They then pour the liquid iron into billets that can go to the different mills to be milled into wire, sheet metal, iron bars or whatever.

The Blast Furnace is extremely hot, and extremely dirty with all the coal dust flying about. While the iron gets melted, there is this one little problem in production- it produces Blast Furnace Gas. It has no smell, and is invisible. But it is deadly to humans in a very short time if it escapes from the furnace.

Therefore, there are very strict safety procedures to be followed, measuring the possible BFG levels at the top of the furnace. Guess who gets to do that? There is this old elevator going up to the top. But we students were afraid, we were very afraid to use that elevator. It got stuck halfway at the most improbable times.  And if there was any BFG escaping, and the wind turns- that elevator becomes your personal death chamber.

It was one evening just before Christmas. It was the rainy season, and that evening there was a huge thunderstorm all around The Plant. As the highest point, the Blast Furnace rocked every now and again with the direct hit of lightning. This is the type of night that sailors should be on dry land, in their wife’s arms in bed. And theology students preferably laying in a comfy bed, reading the Institution of Calvin, Volumes 1 through 4, rather than to  be cold, soaking wet and miserable on top of a dirty Blast Furnace…

That night, it was my turn again. I had to go up with the gasmeter. As I stepped out of the elevator at the top, the rain struck with a blinding force. I wished I could just turn around and go back to the nice hot control room. But there was certain points that I just had to measure- everybody’s safety was relying on accurate readings.  And there was a problem- somewhere a valve was leaking Blast Furnace Gas. I ran to the  telephone, but it was struck by lightning, as dead as my Greek report in the first semester.  These were the days before cellphones. The radio they gave me as a backup was also dead- like my Hebrew report…  The batteries needed to be replaced a long time ago, but some foreman’s fishing bait boat probably ran on the new batteries. This was dangerous stuff… I needed to get out of there, and fast.

I ran back to the elevator, and repeatedly punched the ground level button (there is only 3 stops  on this elevator anyway…) Slowly, oh so slowly, like that interval between the stripes of a headmaster’s caning at school days, the door moved shut. And slowly started to descend. But it just dropped about 7 meters, when it stopped with a bang. And then the lights flickered, and went out…

It was really terrifying. I was standing, and later sitting on the bottom of a stuck elevator, in darkness that felt like the inside of a grave. This while the Blast Furnace Gas was leaking, and the thunder and  lightning was hitting like the falling of artillery shells all around me…

And no one remembered I was gone… they just kept on sitting and telling stories of bar fights, and victories over the available girls in those bars, telling dirty jokes, or plainly nodding off to sleep, hoping that all the dials in the control room would remain in normal positions till the morning shift arrives.

I do not know how long I was sitting in that elevator. But suddenly a red light came on inside it. And when I looked around me, to see if there is any possible means of communication, or a chance to escape, my heart nearly jumped out of my body. There was someone sitting next to me.  He looked exactly like me. But I do not have a twin brother, or any brother that I am aware of.

He just shook his head slowly, and asked: “Rider, what the hell are you doing?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, and as this must be a nightmare, I did not answer.  I do not think I was able to speak…

“Rider, you keep on f***ing up my life.”   (so this could not possibly be a talk with myself- I am a theology student and we don’t talk like that, do we?)

I gathered up the last bit of nerve that I had left, and asked what he meant.

“Rider, you keep going on with your victim mentality.  You are the king of excuses. There is always some reason that you believe you are a failure… You, my friend, are our worst enemy. You don’t need anybody else to kick your ass- you just do it yourself before anybody else can get a chance…  You always think that everything you do, need to be perfect. You are so afraid of being a failure, that you do not even try to fly on eagle’s wings… “

Somewhere I heard that quite in the past few weeks- it was in the Hebrew translation of Isaiah 40:31.  I thought I had that one covered, being in the angel factory and all…

“Rider- you get to survive tonight. But life is precious, don’t waste it. Please, for both our sakes, get your head out of your *ss and start living your potential…”  And then the red light faded, and I was alone and quiet in that death trap for a long, long time…

It felt like a month later that my eyes were suddenly opened, and a torch was shining uncomfortably into it.  A rescue team dressed in oxygen masks and safety clothing was standing around me, the elevator has been brought down to ground level, the doors forced open. Over their shoulders I could see a bright new day, blue skies, the sun shining down, a perfect day for the beach…

“So sorry- we only remembered you went up to the top when the new shift arrived, and your replacement asked why your motorbike was still standing there…Just remain calm while we take you to the sick bay- there was a lot of Blast Furnace Gas floating around last night, you know? If the wind had not turned again… “

Why do I always need to learn the big lessons in life the hard way?

9 thoughts on “Stuck in the Elevator with … ! (Daily Prompt)

  1. Pingback: The Thirteenth Floor (short fiction) | The Jittery Goat

  2. Pingback: Delivering Shadows – Daily Prompt | Edward Hotspur

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