It’s been a busy time in my life these past couple months. I’ve been working on a couple of big personal projects, and unlike some other projects, I would rather not blog about these until they’re finished. I’ve actually been writing some fiction though, and in the absence of other interesting things to share right now, I thought I would share a short story I’ve been working on recently. It appears to start off as just a simple, whimsical science fiction story (and parts of the beginning are based on a piece I wrote when I was in 4th grade!) but later on, the piece becomes more topical and related to world events from the past year. The story is a little over 5000 words so I am posting it in two parts, chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-11; come back for part 2 tomorrow! It is called “Stairs Only, Please”.
Stairs Only, Please
Once there was a man. He was a bachelor, unwilling to marry, although his mother said he had to. They lived in America, so he ran away to the outskirts of Canada and hoped the mother wouldn’t find him. After she died, he felt it safe to leave upon his own account, so he decided to move into a house in Vermont just below the Canadian border. He had just enough money to buy it. So, he moved in and found that it was just like the house in his dreams. It was a one-floor and just suitable for him to live in. It had a small chimney in the corner, and it had a bedroom, a bathroom, and an Everything-Else-Room. And you must understand that this man loved living in cramped quarters (it was no more than 600 square feet in total). For he was a DaBuveMcOir, which means “person who strongly enjoys living in tight quarters” when translated from French originality into English. We will call him “Bauve”. He was a solitary man, as I told you previously, never wishing for company. And he never got any. For the house was windowless.
He only left the house to go to the grocery store once every two weeks. His job could be done entirely from home, as he worked for a government website and never had to see or communicate with another person except via e-mail. His job was to write meaningless documents and save them into meaningless files in meaningless folders and submit them to the meaningless void, where his boss would read them, approve them, and pass them on to his boss’s boss, who would pass them on to his boss’s boss’ boss, who would pass them on ad nauseam until, 2 months later, his boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, Mitch, would take action on them.
But despite the pointlessness of his job and meaninglessness of his life, he was happy. Happy to stay comfortable in his tiny space, happy to work his way slowly through the 1000 greatest movies of all time on Netflix after work, happy to eat his crockpot meals and munch upon his snack of Triscuit crackers and sharp Brie cheese.
One day, as usual, our Bauve had to go to the grocery store. It was a warm May day, and Bauve decided to walk to the store, as his doctor had told him he was lacking in vitamin D. About 20 minutes into his walk though, Bauve crossed the street a little too fast and heard a voice call him “Hey! Hey! Slow down!” Startled, Bauve tried to shrink his face inside his hoodie, but was unsuccessful.
“Hey friend, how are you doing?” Suddenly, the male voice changed tone sharply and was much gentler.
Bauve decided to be brave. “I’m doing well on this nice day. You?” His voice was almost a whisper.
“I’m great! It’s good to see you out here. My name is Bilo, it’s nice to meet you. I live across the street from you. What brings you outside today?”
“I’m going to get myself groceries”.
“Well, that’s certainly a good occasion to go out. Tell you what, what kind of foods do you like? Would you like it if I dropped off a meal at your house sometime?”
Bauve would love that, he told Bilo, and from there they had a quite relaxing conversation. Abruptly, in that distinct way that socially anxious people know all too well, Bauve had had enough and decided he needed to wrap things up.
“Well, it was great to see you today. I hope to see you around soon!”
“It was great to see you too. If you give me your number, I’ll try and bring that ham and Brie cheese by next week!”
They shook hands and departed, and Bauve left feeling, for only the second time in his life, like he had a friend. When he was 10, he met a boy on the playground, Pace. Pace was the only boy he met who was just a little quieter than the rest, and he seemed to always have time for Bauve. Pace had suddenly moved away to North Dakota without warning when Bauve was 13. Since then, Bauve focused all his efforts on succeeding at school and watching movies. Bauve had watched over 5000 movies in his life, and had had great relationships with many of the main characters.
But today, somehow, felt different. Bauve was a little uncomfortable about it, but happy all the same. He skipped along to the store to buy the same things he did every two weeks.
Everyone has a time in their lives where they are content for some short period of time and then something goes wrong. Bauve walked home from the store ready to retreat into his house and enjoy the quiet again but feeling a strange, tingling sense of optimism he had never felt before. He was in a hurry because he had been gone 30 minutes longer than usual, and, because of that, he might be forced to watch one less movie today on his day off. But other than that, he was fine.
He knew as soon as he came up the street that something was different, but he didn’t know what. He entered his house same as he always did, brought his groceries in the same way he always did, put them away in the same places he always did, and lay down on the couch to watch a movie and snack on his crackers and Brie cheese. It was not until when he went to take the trash out that night, six hours and three movies later, that he noticed something was terribly amiss.
The elevator waited patiently for 17 days for Bauve to leave his house. It was about to give up when suddenly a glorious sunny day came, and the elevator knew that Bauve’s weakness for Brie cheese would get the best of him. Then, the elevator took matters into its own hands and made Bauve’s house its own.
The elevator, much like Bauve, was in hiding itself. It was in a hurry to get away from the terrible Rowlfelier, Bauve’s next door neighbor, and knew that Rowlfelier wanted nothing more to do than get rid of it. So, while Bauve was gone and couldn’t notice, the elevator made the move.
The elevator had in fact been in hiding its entire life. You might be wondering what a giant elevator would be doing in Vermont. The simple answer is that it felt unwanted and attacked in Manhattan after people became less desirous of tall buildings, so it went on the run until it reached an abandoned house that it thought was safe. But when Rowlfelier moved in, it knew it was in trouble. Rowlfelier even came back from a Vermont hunting trip once with his friends and attempted to shoot, unsuccessfully at it. All the elevator wanted was a house it could hide in, and since he knew Bauve almost never left his dwelling, it would interfere least with Bauve’s life if he spent time in his house.
This wasn’t the worst of it, however. To ensure it would never be found, the elevator had to stretch itself out and make Bauve extremely uncomfortable. The bewitched elevator took Bauve’s tiny 600 square foot apartment and stretched it so that it was seven hundred thirty floors long! It hoped that by stretching it could escape Rowlfelier, even for a few days, because Rowlfelier would never know to come looking for the elevator in that state. It also knew that it couldn’t operate correctly if there were no floors to go up or down to. So, 730 floors it was.
The elevator, amazingly, also did something worse than stretching the house to seven hundred thirty floors. He made Bauve’s “cramped quarters” floor number 456, so that when Bauve came in the house, he would see strange sights. Poor Bauve would have to go through an awful maze to get to his familiar “cramped quarters” floor. Only it wouldn’t be “cramped quarters” anymore.
Let me give you a quick tour of the new house. The first floor was the subfloor. The second floor was the floor. The third floor was the lower basement. The fourth floor was the middle basement. The fifth floor was the higher basement. The sixth floor was the story. Not our kind of story, mind you, not this one, but the story being the layer of elevation just below the understory.
These were all strange, peculiar floors with peculiar gadgets, and they were all musty, musty, musty. The elevator used an optical illusion, so that the seventh-through-two-hundred-seventy-seventh floors all looked the same, but something quite different happened every time you stepped into each of them. This made it easier for the elevator to hide on any of these floors, and run its Secret Dangerous Experiments. The two-hundred-seventy-eighth through three-hundred-fifty-eighth floors were all exceptionally large, and they all held the required rooms for palaces (15 bedrooms, 6 chambers, 15 business rooms, 4 dungeons, 1 kitchen (an excessively big kitchen), 35 rooms holding servants, and 5 rooms holding valuables. These were even better for hiding, in a different way. The three-hundred-fifty ninth-through-four-hundred-fifty-fifth floors held many, many, many things to eat and then the four-hundred-fifty-sixth floor was Bauve’s. As far as floors 457 through 730 were concerned, half of them were wardrobes with endless closets to get lost in and the other half were endless landfill mazes where the elevator spilled its garbage out.
Speaking of garbage, you may recall that Bauve was taking his garbage out when he noticed that something was very wrong. He tried to leave the house but could not find the door, which was odd to him because it was a small house. Bauve tried and tried but he couldn’t find the door, even as he went in a circle around his whole apartment. And then finally, Bauve did not find the door, but he did find the entrance to the elevator.
Bauve woke up sore but pleased. For a man who liked cramped quarters after all, sleeping in a tiny elevator was not that unappealing. He had managed to find the button that closed the door because it was in the usual spot, and now he was ready to go exploring and finally get rid of his trash. But first, he needed to find something to eat.
After hitting six buttons, he finally found one of the floors that was full of food. He gorged himself on fresh ham, Brie cheese, and even a piece of coconut pie that appeared to be cooked fresh from the bakery. He looked around to see if he could find anyone that had possibly cooked the food, but found no one. Ordinarily, Bauve was not a Risk Taker and would not eat food that had come out of nowhere like this, but since he couldn’t even leave his house anymore, he figured he had nothing to lose.
Bauve’s next step was to try to find the door, or at least a place to get rid of his trash. Eventually, he settled on a floor that appeared to be completely empty and just have four empty rooms on it. He still hadn’t found the door, but it was better than nothing.
It was Sunday, and Bauve had to work the next day, but he found himself quite beginning to enjoy his day off, although he knew his boss Mitch would not be happy if he could not find his way to a computer before the beginning of the next day. He also began to really miss Bilo. He wondered if somehow this was all his fault. Bilo had been a rare moment of weakness for him. He talked to his new friend the way he had talked to no one else, and he really seemed to just want to be genuinely nice to him, which was unlike anyone Bauve had previously met in his life.
But because he had been gone so long, perhaps that is why his house had changed forever. He didn’t know, but he didn’t like it.
Eventually, he found a floor that was one of the palaces described above. After exploring the 20 richly furnished rooms on this floor, he found one with an antique rotary phone. He had Bilo’s number in his pocket still, and decided to try it on the rotary phone to see if it would work. However, when he started to slowly input numbers into the rotary phone, he got nothing but a nasty electric shock.
Daunted and a little sad, Bauve began to explore. Eventually, he would find his way out of this place. He would have to. About 2 in the afternoon, Bauve was finally greeted by a familiar sight…his old house! He finally found the floor where he originally lived. At least he could go to work, and Mitch would not be upset now. But he still could not leave. That being said, Bauve decided that safety was better than nothing, and if he went back on the elevator, he might not be able to find his way back. Exhausted, Bauve climbed into his bed, slept until morning, and logged on in time to complete very important government documents for his boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, Mitch.
The next few weeks passed without incident. Bauve is almost offensively boring to write about sometimes. But bear with me here. Bauve settled into a routine somewhat similar to his previous one, with the one big exception that he could not leave his house. He worked his meaningless government job Monday to Friday. Anytime he needed to dispose of his trash, he went on the elevator until he found the abandoned floor again. Occasionally, when he wanted an unusual snack, he would go on the elevator and explore the food floors. He would put sticky notes on the buttons of the elevator to denote which floor was which, and they seemed to work, as he always was able to find his way back to the floors he wanted to use. There still were several hundred buttons Bauve had yet to push, but given how terrified Bauve was of the whole endeavor, he decided maybe that was better anyway. Maybe, he was just meant to live like this.
But still, the outside world beckoned. For one, Bauve was running out of his normal food supply, although his house now seemed to have an endless supply of food anyway, so this wouldn’t be a problem. But a far more striking problem was Bilo. Bauve now couldn’t even leave his house to say hello. As far as having Bilo come over to drop food off at his house, Bauve was embarrassed about his situation. He wondered what a fine friend such as Bilo would say if he could come and find Bauve’s house in such disarray. So, Bauve did not call Bilo.
To be honest, Bauve began to wonder what his life would be like if he had never been able to get away from his mother and buy this house. What seemed like such an ideal situation had turned into such a nightmare. All Bauve ever wanted to enjoy was peace, solitude, Brie cheese, and Netflix’s 1000 greatest movies of all time. In particular, Bauve had tried to watch The Shining and Inception since everything had started to go haywire in his life, but couldn’t quite take the tension. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was more his speed, even though it was not on the 1000 greatest films list. He just was too angry and agitated all the time to take anything else, and he wondered if his brain would erode in this way over the course of several years. Maybe this is how the elevator planned to win victory over him. At first, Bauve thought he had won by managing to find a way to work around the prison the elevator had set for him. After all, as we all know, there is no need to see each other in person for work projects when Zoom meetings can do all the work for you. And yet at some point, even Bauve became sad, lonely, and paranoid, and had a difficult time dealing with the new 24/7 weirdness that his life had become.
And then one Friday night, he was suddenly fed up and his nerves got the better of him. While it had been an adjustment at first, it was nice to have this house with all this space and an endless supply of food. And yet, at his core, Bauve was lonely. While he had always wanted to spend his life alone, not even having the option of going outside was quite a different thought altogether. And so, one Friday night, he nervously dialed Bilo’s number on his cell phone.
Bauve waited and waited through 12 agonizing rings, and then he finally heard a voice mail message from a stern female voice:
“Bilo passed away on Monday, March 23, 2020 due to lingering symptoms from the Ibolwitzer virus. Donations in his honor may be made to Smithfield Funeral Home. Please everyone, stay inside your home as much as possible. This virus killed Bilo, and it could kill you next.”
Bauve’s first reaction was, oddly, to laugh, because he couldn’t go outside even if he wanted to, so it seemed like it would be easy enough to follow these instructions. But then, Bauve wept bitterly.