The Vault Part III; Popcorn Piece

Day Twenty-Two of Thirty Days of Writing

Photo Provided by Pexels

As we all stared up at the ceiling, which was one of those drop ceilings, you know, the ones with tiles of what might as well be cardboard? With the little holes in them? I think you get the picture. If you ever lived in a dorm, think of the ceiling you stared up at on all those nights you couldn’t sleep because the future seemed so overwhelming or you had the spins.

Anyway, it wasn’t a very big room, but it was big enough that it was going to take a while to check each panel for the answer. We were all looking up unbelievingly.

“How would your dad have put something in the ceiling in here?” I asked Kyle.

“Who knows. He was a resourceful man, in his own way.”

I was starting to feel a little buzz from whatever it was we had drank. “Well then, the only way out is up. You guys wanna help me move this table? I can get on top of the safety deposit boxes. It looks like there’s just enough space for me to crouch up there and move those panels. Once I’m up, you guys take the table and stand on it. You’re both taller than me so you should be able to reach the panels.”

“Oh great, just another opportunity for Kat to climb something when she’s drunk.” Kyle chuckled.

Nicole tilted her head. “Does she usually climb things when she’s drunk?”

“I climb things all the time.” I said sheepishly, tilting my head down. “But I will say, it’s more fun this way.”

We encircled the table and pushed it over to the row of boxes on the left side of the room. I climbed up and crouched on the top. It felt pretty sturdy. “Okay, I’m good. You guys take the table and lets poke these panels.”

As I reached up to loosen the first panel I was under, I wobbled a little. Man, maybe I really am about to be a little drunk.

I lifted the first panel from its resting place on the cheap metal runners. Nothing.

Kyle and Nicole were each standing on one end of the table, so as to balance their weight. I smiled. Kyle was just a little too short to reach the panels, so he was using the barrel of the gun as an extension of his hand. They each lifted their first panel. “Nothing!” Nicole called out. “Nada.” Kyle said.

We each began to poke up all the panels we could reach without moving from our positions. I scooted down the whole row of safety deposit boxes. Nothing.

Nicole and Kyle had made it through one row of panels each. Nothing.

I started leaning out, reaching for the next row. I had a sinking feeling that the answer was not in this ceiling. The room was twenty panels by ten panels. We had 200 panels to get through. We were working length wise, so we’d only gotten though about 80, not even half-way there. If we were going to do this, we had to be sure. We had to upturn each and every panel. I could tell Nicole and Kyle’s resolve was waning. Mine was too. I turned to face them as they continued to work.

I was definitely feeling the mystery booze. I had been meticulously replacing each panel, fitting them all back into their little grooves. It was draining. I made a fist. I scooted down a few panels, lifted my fist and punched through a panel with a fierce, “Waaahoo!”

Kyle and Nicole both jumped a little. My yawp was louder than I’d anticipated in the echo chamber of a room we were trapped in.

“Kat, what are you doing?” Kyle asked sternly.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but if we are seriously trapped in this room, for who knows how long, I don’t think anyone can blame us if we go a little stir crazy. Also, shouldn’t there be cameras in here?”

“There’s one in the corner,” Nicole replied evenly, but she was smiling again.

“Good,” I said, “Maybe if they see us destroying their ceiling, someone will bother to let us out.”

I reached up and punched another panel out. “Whhhaaahoooo!”

Kyle just stood on his end of the table shaking his head. Nicole’s grin said it all. She reached up and cried, “Whoo!” punching out her own panel. “I was losing track of which ones I’d checked anyway,” she laughed.

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.” Kyle punched out his first panel using the gun. “HA!”

In this way, we proceeded to demolish the ceiling, our staccato cries bouncing off the hard walls. By the end, we were all a little sweaty, and we’d found nothing.

“Maybe he meant the ceiling of the safety deposit box?” Nicole asked.

We all got back down to the floor. Kyle walked over to the box and took another look inside. “There’s nothing. There’s no secret latch or anything either. This is just like him. I bet there isn’t even an answer.” I slumped against the row of safety deposit boxes. Nicole moved a chair back to the table and sat down.

“I can’t believe we just destroyed the whole ceiling for nothing.” Kyle said, his head resting against the cool metal of all those little compartments stacked up like little apartments. I imagined tiny people who lived inside each one, like a jinni in a bottle…

“What does ceiling actually mean?” I mused aloud. “Where does the word come from?”

“The answer is my father wouldn’t have known the answer to that question.” Kyle said. He was pacing back and forth again, his eyes miles away.

“I have a pocket dictionary in my bag,” Nicole piped up. My eyes fell to her oversized bag laying on the ground by where she had slumped earlier.

Kyle looked at her. “What else have you got in there?”

I cut in, “Before we go through that, can we look up what ceiling means? Please? I threw the please at Kyle because I could tell he was getting annoyed with this line of questioning.

He shrugged at us. Nicole hurried over to her bag, and pulled out the pocket dictionary. She flipped to the appropriate entry and began to read aloud.

“The upper interior of a room or other similar compartment.” She paused as we all looked around at the broken panels laying on the floor.

“What else?” I asked.

“An upper limit, usually one set on prices, wages, or expenditure.”

“Well, we are inside a bank, that used to be a church…” I was thinking out loud again, terrible habit.

Kyle had folded his arms. “What else?”

“The maximum altitude that a particular aircraft can reach, the altitude of the base layer of a cloud, and the inside planking of a ship’s bottom and sides.”

Nicole leaned her nose into the tiny book. “It says it comes from Latin and French, the root means to conceal.

Nicole’s face was mirroring what I was sure was showing on mine. Utter confusion. “Does any of that seem like it could make sense?” She asked Kyle.

Kyle had stopped pacing and unfolded his arms. He looked briefly at the ceiling, briefly at a corner of the room, and then took a breath to speak as his gaze returned to Nicole and I.