Similar but with more darkness, evil, and people looking to escape. Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Tower of the Damned

A (mostly) tall academic tale.

Once upon a time, there was an intrepid advisor named Mo who worked at the Imperial University. Actually, all the universities she had ever worked at were imperial universities in one way or another. Nonetheless, at this particular Imperial University, her office was in a tall, tall tower so tall that some days she could look out of the window and see only clouds.

Mo’s boss — some called her the Wicked Witch while others called her Evil Stepmother — liked having her captives ahem, employees in the tower because it was easier to control them (or so she thought) because the tower only had two elevators and generally there was only one working at any given time. This meant the poor employees were seldom ever able to leave their floor. Additionally, most of the employees were scared to ride in the elevators because strange things tended to happen. So they often spent all day in their offices only using the elevators when they came to work and left.

One day early in the morning Mo got into the elevator. As usual, it was packed because there was only one elevator working. Additionally, many of the employees on the other floors would also arrive early because they had their own wicked witches or warlocks to report to.

As one of the last people on, Mo squeezed herself into the front corner by one of the control panels. She watched as the ancient doors slowly started to close, all the while making a strange buzzing sound. It took a full three minutes before the doors stopped, but they hadn’t closed 100%. There was still a sliver of an opening. The buzzing had stopped, but the elevator was not moving. For a few more minutes everyone waited, but nothing happened.

One gentleman pushed the Doors Closed button. Alas, nothing happened. The doors remained cracked. A couple of people laughed nervously with high pitched titters. In the back of the car, one person started praying quietly.

Mo started feeling a bit of anxiety creeping along the back of her neck and could already hear the panicked whispers of voices in her head. She pushed the Open Doors button on her control panel. Again, nothing happened. One of the people — a fellow advisor, of course — suggested calling for help on the elevator phone.

However, when they opened the compartment door they discovered there was no phone! Why would they build an elevator with a phone compartment and then not install a phone everyone wondered? To save money, one person suggested. After all the Imperial University was state-funded and everyone knows that the state likes to cut corners.

Mo’s heart rate increased. Uneasily she pushed the alarm button on the panel. Nothing happened. No alarm rang. No one was notified! Now everyone in the car began shifting restlessly, muttering. Because they were packed in as tightly as a university class about the characters in the Game of Thrones there wasn’t much room to move. Or even breathe. Almost simultaneously, everyone reached for their cell phones. Que the Twilight Zone music. No one could get a signal!

At this point, Mo’s anxiety was rising to dangerous levels. She had once had the unfortunate luck to get trapped in a coffin while playing a vampire for an elementary school Halloween Carnival, back in the days when they were still actually called Halloween Carnivals instead of Fall Festivals. She looked across the elevator at the other advisor and caught his eye.

“Mike, we are getting out here,” she nodded determinedly.

Mo and Mike gripped the edges of the door where the opening was. They heaved and tugged and pulled. The doors groaned in resistance. Mo’s muscles twitched, but the haunting memory of the pitch black coffin sent spikes of adrenaline to her arms and with Mike’s help, they finally pried the doors open.

Staff poured out like students escaping the Economics teacher on Ferris Bueller. They cheered Mo and Mike for releasing them from the elevator from hell.

Before everyone scurried to the stairs (or bathrooms) Mo shouted, “Hold the doors a second!”

A tall professor from the History Department stepped forward and took Mo’s place on the door while Mike continued to hold the other. Quickly Mo reached into her briefcase and snatched out a piece of paper, pen, and some tape. Scribbling hurriedly she then took the paper and taped it on the back wall where it could be easily seen when the doors opened.

Mo jumped out then Mike and the professor released the door, which slammed shut unlike its earlier refusal to close. The empty elevator shot upward now bearing a sign that said:

Elevator of the Damned
Ride at your own risk!