The elevator stopped between the seventh
and eighth floors; Cindy and William locked eyes, affirming
what had just happened.
"I knew it," she barked.
"We're stuck. This is your fault. Why do you constantly
refuse to listen to me?" Her face turned a pale shade
of pink; her eyes bulged.
William held Lulu up to his face and
let her lick his cheek. The miniature dachshund tail wagging
furiously, her back feet balanced the long body in a steady,
familiar stance on William's protruding stomach, letting her
front legs hang stiffly through his supporting hands. Her
tongue was warm and her nose cold, giving William the same
thrilling sensation of squishing his bare feet into muddy
piles as a boy; he grinned accordingly.
"We're stuck, Lulu. We're stuck,"
he said, speaking in the voice of an excited child as Lulu
proceeded to lick his chin.
Cindy's face began to turn a deeper
pink, eliminating the telling wrinkles and complementing the
blonde curls that fell upon her narrow, bronzed shoulders.
"How do you always manage to screw
everything up, huh? You said it was okay to take the elevator
today. You said it was Sunday. Wrong! I told you to check
the calendar. You don't even know what day of the week it
Brushing over a Swiss Army knife, a
half-eaten bag of sunflower seeds and two dollars in coins,
William pulled a digital timepiece out of his pocket: 7:27
am, Sunday, March 5, 2023. Since congress had passed the Conservation
of Urban Energy Act, or CUE, the city shut off all access
to power deemed extraneous, dictated by an alternating monthly
schedule. Since staircases appeared in all buildings, originally
built to meet fire codes, elevators became opportunities to
Gently pushing his oversized hands
against the reflective metal panels, William searched for
a lever, a call buttonanything that might indicate a
means for outside communication. Nothing. Lulu waited patiently,
cradled inside the length of his arm, pressed tightly against
his body. He continued, certain there must be an emergency
Cindy crossed her arms, snapping, "What
the hell are you doing? We're stuck in an elevator and you're
rubbing your hand against the wall like a blind man on Braille.
What the hell is wrong with you? You said it was Sunday. Didn't
you? Didn't you say that today was Sunday? If today is Sunday,
why doesn't the elevator have power? Today is obviously a
CUE day; it must be Monday. I can't believe this. That dog
has a higher IQ than you. There has to be a phone in here."
"Well, if today isn't Sunday,
then how did we have power supply to the seventh floor?"
William asked simply. Confident, he continued with a natural
calmness, "March allows full energy privileges on Sundays.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are CUE days. Today is Sunday."
She pushed toward him, making her body
seem larger than its five-foot stature. Her eyes narrowed
and her chest widened, dwarfing the abnormally large princess-cut
diamond hanging from her neck.
"Oh, you always have to be right,
don't you? It's been ten minutes now, and you haven't done
a damn thing to get us out of here. You don't care. You never
care about anything but yourself, not even on our anniversary.
Since day one, it's been all about you. You never keep your
promises. You said that I'd always get what I wanted, that
you'd always give me what I wanted. When this stupid Conservation
energy-urban-whatever was passed, you stopped letting me do
everything. Now I have to take the stairs when my legs hurt
and buy my clothes from solar-only stores in the summer. How
stupid." She continued in a tone, mocking William's voice,
"You can't drive here, you can't drive there. It's illegal.
We can't do anything for fear of getting fined."
William stopped searching and sat on
the floor, his legs stretching the length of the tiny space.
His back ached and his head throbbed. He pulled the sunflower
seeds out of his pocket and began alternating helpings between
himself and Lulu.
"Salty and delicious, aren't they,
Lulu? You sure do love sunflower seeds. I do too, Lulu. I
do too," he said softly as he chewed a mouthful.
Married for twenty-one years, the couple's
appearance had evolved over time. The more weight William
gained, the thinner Cindy became. The more hair he lost, the
longer hers grew. The more his skin sagged, the more she had
surgically lifted. The more he accepted his age, her denial
swelled. Becoming unrecognizable from two decades ago, they
had never looked so starkly opposite as in that moment, forced
into close proximity. Upon meeting, their physiques seemed
so well-suited for one another, even with his six-foot build.
As she stood over his large, seated body, Cindy now felt superior
in every way.
He closed his eyes and drifted off.
She did the same after a short time, curling into the opposite
corner of the elevator. Hours passed. Neither one of them
had realized how exhausted they were, even after their usual
triple-shot espresso drinks.
Cindy's eyes opened, showing exaggerated
"Wake up," she said loudly,
kicking him with a force that was just soft enough to be accidental.
"I'm hungry," she mumbled,
thinking maybe he would hear. She sat and stared at him, disgusted
by his heaving belly as the breath lurched in and out, disgusted
by his slumbering bliss.
"Wake up!" she yelled, this
time kicking with an energy that was most certainly abusive.
Moaning softly, William woke when Lulu
began growling at Cindy's display. His stomach churned hopefully;
he realized they hadn't eaten breakfast that morning, only
dinner the previous night. Cindy pulled a full bottle of water
out from her luggage-like purse. She drank and handed the
bottle to William. "Don't drink too much of it. My skin
has to be completely hydrated for my luncheon this Wednesday.
Sixty-four ounces a day diminishes my wrinkles. Plus, I'm
hungry. Where are those sunflower seeds?"
William looked at Lulu, who also hadn't
eaten anything substantial since evening-time yesterday, and
realized that she had gulped down the last small handful of
seeds. He glanced back at Cindy.
"Oh, that figures," she began.
"You love your ugly little dog more than meeven
my sister has noticed that you pay more attention to that
mutt than your own wife. And what the hell kind of name is
Lulu anyways? Lulu? Seriously? All my friends are positive
you're a homosexual just waiting to happen. I'm surprised
you don't just confess it right now. What else do you have
in your pockets? I know you carry chocolate bars everywhere
with you. Give me a piece."
William heard Lulu's stomach growl,
and she began spinning her body in quick circles, over and
over. She always did that when her bowl needed filling, when
mealtime arrived. Lulu was hungry.
"Poor girl," he started in
his child voice as he offered Lulu an empty hand. "You
want a treat, don't you? Don't you, pretty girl? I bet you
want fried eggs and bacon, huh? That's your favorite."
The elevator sat silent for hours again,
no one speaking a word.
* * *
William knew that no one would come
today; this building sat barren for weeks at a time. Only
contractors and demolition men came out at the beginning of
each month to survey. And if by some miracle a person did
arriveit would not be soon. The next three days were
CUE days: no power. Cindy knew it too. William did the math,
arriving at an estimation of over one hundred hours before
anyone could possibly turn on the power. His stomach growled
again. Lulu continued spinning in circles, licking her tiny,
leathery nose. William poured some water into his hand and
let Lulu drink, admiring her gentle manner.
"Oh my God," Cindy shrieked.
"How will we live? We have to eat Lulu," she determined,
certain in her conclusion. "It could easily be a month
before we're found. Nobody knows we're in here. This is your
fault; you read the calendar wrong. What else are we going
to do? You won't do anything to get us out of here, and we're
going to starve. Oh my God. You're going to have to kill Lulu."
William's eyes focused on something
far off, something not in the elevator. He began nodding his
Cindy sat silent, shimmering in expensive
make-up and jewels he had worked to earn. Her face looked
irritated; she took long blinks and deep breaths as she stared
at her reflection in the shiny paneling.
William patted Lulu's head and gave
her the command to sit. She obeyed, returning a loving glare
to her master. He pushed himself up, standing on his knees,
putting one in front of the other until Cindy was within arms'
reach. He stared at her as she turned toward him, squinting
her eyes in inquiry. Slowly, he lifted his arm and wrapped
his powerful hand around her neck, squeezing, squeezing.
With one small effort of his energy,
Cindy succumbed quickly, quietly. William looked at Lulu.
He removed the army knife from his pocket and rolled his dead
wife onto her stomach. Still balanced on both knees, he pulled
the small blade from its case.
"It'll be mealtime soon, Lulu.
She began spinning in circles again;
Lulu was hungry.