Thought Catalog

This Ghost Hunter Was Desperate To Find Out The Truth About The Elevator Game…And He Did

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Martin Fisch

Author’s Note

The following short story is based on an urban legend entitled The Elevator Game.  This story is not intended to encourage or discourage your explorations into the metaphysical, but merely to vocalise the journey of a young man (who wishes to remain anonymous) and share it with others who are perhaps interested in partaking in the same ritual he did. I have included a copy of the rules for reference or for instruction: the exact use is up to the reader. I cannot endorse nor oppose the actions taken within the following text. Reaction to this account is entirely at the reader’s discretion. I can only advise you this: the paranormal is part of reality, and there are many things outside the realm of understanding and existence that are placed there for a reason. Whether you choose to disturb these forces is entirely up to you, but regardless, I urge you to be cautious and aware of the severity of the actions you take. They may be your undoing.

***

Rules

Only one person can play at a time. You can only perform this ritual in a building at least 10 stories high with at least one elevator in it. You cannot proceed otherwise.

Instructions:

Traveling:

  1. Enter the elevator from the first floor by yourself. If anyone else gets on, then understand that you cannot continue from the first floor and wait until the elevator can be taken alone.
  2. Press the button for the fourth floor.
  3. Do not get out when the elevator reaches the fourth floor. Stay in the elevator and press the button for the second floor.
  4. Do not get out when you reach the second floor. Stay on the elevator and then press the button for the sixth floor.
  5. Do not get out when you reach the sixth floor, remain in the elevator and press the button for the second floor.
  6. Do not get out when you reach the second floor. Stay on the elevator and press the button for the tenth floor. Some have reported hearing a voice calling to them on the second floor during this middle section of the ritual. Do not reply. Do not answer in any way.
  7. Do not get out once you have reached the tenth floor. Stay on and press the button for the fifth floor.
  8. It has been reported by some that a woman may enter the elevator on floor five. She may appear as a stranger who wishes to engage with you. More importantly, she may appear as someone you know. It is important that you do not acknowledge her in word or glance. If the elevator you are in is reflective then stare at the floor or the buttons only.
  9. Now press the button to head to the first floor. If instead of going towards the first floor you instead begin to ascend to the tenth floor, then you have performed the ritual correctly. However, and this is very important, if you instead do descend to the first floor then you have done something wrong. Get off on the first floor immediately. If the woman is on the elevator, then remember not to acknowledge her.
  10. If you reach the tenth floor, you can either stay on the elevator or exit the elevator. Some have reported that upon attempting to leave the elevator, the woman will try one last time to engage with you. She may raise her voice and ask where you are going or “what’s wrong”. She may shriek as you cross the door’s threshold. Keep your wits about you and do not engage or look at her even out of fear.
  11. There is only one way to know whether you have traveled to the Other world for sure. You will know because you will be the only person there.

Traveling Back to Your Home World:

Alternatively, if you do not exit on the 10th floor:

  1. Press the button for the first floor and keep pressing it until the elevator begins to move.
  2. Once you have reached the first floor, exit immediately. Do not exit on any other floors but the first. Do not acknowledge the woman if she is on the elevator. If anyone else gets on, then do not speak to them either. Remain silent.

If you do exit the elevator at the tenth floor:

  1. The elevator you used to get there is the only one you can use to return. Remember it.
  2. When you get back on the elevator, press the buttons in the same order you did in steps 2 through 8 which you used to travel. This should take you to the fifth floor.
  3. Once you have reached the fifth floor, press the button for the first floor. Do not be surprised when you instead begin to ascend again to the tenth floor. Do not panic. You can press the button of any floor lower than ten to stop ascending but you have to do it before you again reach the tenth floor. Some have described feeling called not to cancel the elevator’s ascension. You must.
  4. Once you have canceled the ascension and reached the first floor make sure that everything seems normal to you. If anything seems remotely strange. If you hear anything you should not be hearing. If you smell something you don’t recognize then do not exit the elevator. You have to repeat step two until everything on the first floor seems normal. This is very important.
  5. Once you are satisfied that everything on the first floor is as it should be in your world then you can exit the elevator.

Additional Information on Traveling:

  • The Otherworld has been described by travelers as dark but otherwise exactly like your ‘home’ world. Again, you will know that it is not your world because no one else will be there. You may see a distant red cross through a window. This may be a cross or it may be something else.
  • Electronics often do not work but some have posted videos claimed to have been taken while traveling to the Otherworld
  • You may become disoriented if you exit on the tenth floor. You may feel dizzy. Be vigilant, pay attention to how you are feeling, and keep your wits about you.
  • If you pass out you may wake up at home but, understand, it may not be your “home” world. It also may not be the Otherworld you intended to travel to by invoking this ritual. Examine everything around you to make sure it’s as it should be.
  • If you get on the wrong elevator on your return trip, then do not enter the return sequence. It will not work.

Regarding the woman:

Do not speak to her.

Do not look at her.

Do not check to see if she is still there.

She is.

***

Part One: Ascent

The building had been renovated only two years earlier. In a futile attempt to divorce itself from its unfortunate history, the owners of the hotel had decided to rebrand: to turn fear into luxury and shift its clientele from those looking for a supernatural scare to those in the market for a decadent and comfortable lodging during their stay in the renowned city. Nevertheless, the changes were made in vain; its unshakable reputation still attracting the disturbed and repelling the conscious and wealthy customer. The owners had found themselves having to take it in their stride and accept what their property had been and would always be known for, a fact they begrudgingly began to understand as it became more and more clear that no amount of new wallpaper or high thread-count sheets could ever dislodge the reputation of the feared hotel. 

Before dusk, a young man, not indifferent to the usual amateur ghost-hunter, found himself standing by the front of the revolving door, his hands shaking and his pulse an auditory haze against the sounds of the outside world. He hadn’t wanted to be here, the situations he put himself in were never particularly pleasant, but his need for answers and thirst for excitement never failed to overpower his discomfort. He wasn’t much to look at, or talk to for that matter (he found it rather unfair to be impaired both socially and physically), which had rendered him alone in a city that had once promised friendships and lovers beyond compare. Another fact which had been begrudgingly accepted, as he learned to take his pleasure and birth excitement from other activities, such as the present exploration into his fascination for the occult. He drew the folded paper from his pocket and waited until the rhythmic turning of the door bade him welcome to the object of his obsession for the past few weeks.

The Elevator Game, the blogger had dubbed it: a loose translation from modern Korean folklore, a concept deemed to be chilling and unattractive to most but had made his heartbeat quicken as he put one foot in front of the other in the ornately decorated lobby. The security had been surprisingly lax and he faced little opposition from the seemingly under-aged receptionist who only passed him a speculative glare before returning to the blue glow of his computer screen. The night had become early morning, sometime around three o’clock, he deduced after glancing at his watch. The usually rowdy downtown streets had relaxed and aside from a passer-by every so often he saw no sign of life behind the glass door which he had entered through. The lobby had adopted an element of grandeur and had looked far more appealing than the pictures he had seen online, a fact which had undoubtedly been lost on or ignored by the majority of the hotel’s thrill-seeking guests. He hoped he would be saved from the unpleasant experience of encountering one during his visit. After a short while spent admiring the scenery: the archaic golden cherubim flying from the ceilings, in vast contrast with the surrounding modern art, he made his way toward (what his perspective had currently designated to be) the pièce de résistance. Rest assured, the smudge-stained and scratched metal doors would never have been assigned such a title had the distributor been interested in anything else apart from this one specific purpose. However, to him, the doors bestowed a sense of adventure mingled with hints of pure and satisfying terror, a combination he had been accustomed to take unmitigated pleasure in.

He called the elevator down to his level and felt the minuscule tug of a smile play at his lips. The quiver on his jawline was visually perceptible and he used it as the anchor of his focus in the mirror-like doors as he waited for them to open. Finally, he heard the anticipated ring announcing its arrival and the sheaths of metal parted to unveil a fairly lacklustre and quite frankly dull-looking elevator. However, its appearance did little to discourage him. The exhilaration still flurried inside him, sparks impatiently waiting to be fanned into flames. He stepped within the partly wooden, partly metallic confines of the elevator and unfolded the paper he had briskly prepared prior to his departure from his home. The rules of the ritual had been stained upon it, each complicated and precise step of the procedure accurately described in the hopes that the participant may be exempt from making an unimaginably costly mistake. He analysed each step with his signature precision and before he pressed the button to close the doors, he had comprehended and memorised each individual step; his readiness used as an assurance that he wouldn’t find himself in an unprecedented situation. Calmly, and cautiously, he took a deep breath in, slowed his breathing and pressed the button for the fourth floor.

For all of us who, unlike our faithful adventurer, are unfamiliar with the rules of The Elevator Game, they go as follows. One must enter an elevator of a building at least ten stories in height alone, and visit a sequence of floors, beginning with the fourth. Throughout your journey, various conundrums may ensue, most of which our traveller is aware of and perceives himself to be ready for. The object of the game is to reach the end, whereby you press the button for the first floor but the elevator rises in defiance to the tenth, where one will find one’s self in what is said to be an alternate dimension: one parallel to our own, but where the only person present is the player. Should they choose to venture forth into the foreign dimension, they will be required to return in precisely the same elevator to which they arrived, and make their way to the first floor. Failure to comply with these rules could end in currently unknown but unquestionably dire consequences.

He set about playing the game. He had first heard about it online, on a website he frequently visited when he was in need of a scary story or two. He smiled brightly and his heart danced when he pressed the button for the fourth floor: the first step in the game. The elevator rose and the doors opened to nothing. He ignored it (the rules had said paranormal occurrences wouldn’t happen this early on), and instead chose to focus on the excitement that would come once he arrived at the fifth floor or the tenth in the end.

The floors followed in suit to one another: forth, second, sixth. Each brought more and more fascination to him, each enticing him piece by piece, readying him for the reportedly paranormal experience he might endure. The feelings were complex, fear mixed with pleasure, curiosity, and dread, many he was unable to assign names to. All he knew for certain is that with each passing step, they intensified further and further until he felt them visually tangible. His head ached and he felt his thoughts cloud over as he pressed the fourth button: a return to the previously visited second floor. As the elevator slowed to a halt and the doors opened he felt a sense of uncomfortable euphoria as he heard faint whispers of his own name echo throughout the empty corridor.

He was dazed. Lost within himself, and unable to comprehend his surroundings. Or at least those were the conclusions his mind had drawn upon first listening to the soft pronunciation of his name. It was a woman’s voice, a longing and suggestive sound and he found himself drawn to it, compelled to ignore the rules he had spent so long revising and memorising, aching to find the source of the sound. He quickly forced himself out of the trance. Initial feelings of excitement had begun to cloud themselves over with fear, like a child hiding underneath a blanket. He looked at the paper once more to be certain of his next move and quickly pressed the button for the tenth floor. He heard the arousing sound once more before the elevator doors closed and he was once again in silence.

He fell backward, almost as if his weight were being carried by the presently non-existent vocals of the woman. Quickly gripping back onto the handrails and pulling himself up, he drew his hand across his forehead to wipe a glistening layer of sweat that had formed from the anxiety of understanding exactly what he had gotten himself into. The realisation of the reality of the game had dawned upon him, and although his belief had been strong before, elements of doubt had always been present too. Now, with them cast aside and having to face the unwavering truth of the matter, he felt a significant portion of himself begging to be back home, safely kept in familiar surroundings. But this was only for a moment, before reminders of the thrills the game promised once one got further into gameplay embedded themselves into his mind and brought shadows of a smile to his lips.

The elevator climbed the eight stories chillingly quickly. He brought himself up again, in order to fully inspect the tenth floor, so that he could identify the changes brought upon by an alternate reality. Once the doors opened, he was shocked to find the corridor dark. Unlike the others, lit by fire-safety lights, this level of the hotel was pitch-black, leaving him only able to see the closest room near him with the light coming from the elevator. He felt a similar pull as he did on the second floor, that beckoned him to explore further, but keeping true to the rules he had read, he resisted it and allowed the elevator doors to close, returning the floor into darkness.

The game’s aura had completely changed. Now it was shrouded in a macabre dreadfulness which he both desired to escape and felt an odd sense of satisfaction and gratification within. However, that didn’t prevent the sudden feeling of his heart falling as he regarded the rules once more and realised the next floor was the infamous fifth. Only some accounts had mentioned the unruly happenings on the fifth floor in his research. He hadn’t known whether or not he wanted to experience those events or how he would react should they unfold right in front of him. His sense of fear had heightened and peaked as the elevator stopped on the fifth floor.

He looked at the doors intently, then looked away. He looked once more and then forced himself to lower his gaze so that should events occur as he both dreaded and wished for, his safety would remain intact. His heartbeat was audible now and not just to himself. He felt his hands begin to shake and looked at the parting in the metal with a remembrance of the unnatural events that had already taken place earlier. The likelihood of a paranormal experience here was high, and he was unsure whether he was ready for it. He felt a low thud in his chest as the doors cracked open. And there, to his horror and surprise, he saw a pair of black heels waiting outside the door.

His pulse quickened as he backed towards the corner of the elevator, keeping sure that his line of vision was low, unable to see the face of the woman, even if he wanted to – and he had wanted to.

“Didn’t you hear me calling you earlier? You know it’s rude to keep a woman waiting.” Her voice was condescending and playful with a sinister undertone to it. She walked into the elevator and he couldn’t help but notice her scantily clad figure. She was wearing a black lace bodice which left little to the imagination. Her abdomen was clearly visible to him and his eyes travelled upwards of their own volition. He forced his head down, but not before he had caught a glimpse of her clearly displayed breasts, evidently exposed in the hopes that it would anchor his sight.

He forced himself into the back of the elevator, his head held down and he quickly pressed the button to the first floor. The final obstacle. He waited with bated breath to see whether or not he had performed the ritual correctly, whether he would find himself somewhere extraordinary or back in the lobby that seemed so far away at this point. He was unequivocally aware of the presence of the woman – said to be inhuman, a temptress from a realm beyond the physical. Revolting and sexually appealing in equal parts. He had only to evade her offers in order to finish the game. He didn’t know if he was relieved or frightened once the elevator began to ascend to the tenth floor: the alternate dimension.

“Now, why won’t you talk to me?” She inquired, her pale hand reaching out to touch his cheek. He could feel the light scratch of her long black fingernails against his skin. She edged closer toward him, levelling her face out to his. She regarded the elevator buttons. “You don’t want to go there, sweetie, trust me. Wouldn’t it be better to stay with me? Just me and you, together, doing whatever you’d like. Just look at me, see I’m being sincere.” Her grip on his face tightened and he felt a force against him willing him to look in her direction. He pushed against it, repeating the rules in his head: do not acknowledge her in word or glance. “Don’t be scared my love,” She moved her mouth close to his ear so he could feel the movement of her lips against his skin, “I don’t bite.” He felt her kiss his ear softly, slowly, and she carefully drew back.

“Why won’t you look at me?” Her voice shifted from longing and pleasurable to accusatory with hints of anger. “Talk to me! Do something!” With each word, her ferocity grew stronger, he swore he could almost feel the ground of the elevator shake. “You fucking coward. You never deserved me.” He felt her hand on the back of his neck. Her breath smelled of rotting meat as she spoke. “I was just someone to screw, wasn’t I? Just a bitch who you wanted to sleep with. A whore to fuck before you got back to your miserable life.” She pressed harder against his neck and he felt unable to breathe. He wanted to turn to her, to tell her to stop, but the words couldn’t come, and the fear kept him paralysed. She finally let him go and fell to the other end of the elevator. She screamed, shrilly and loudly, and he felt tears in his eyes from the sound. He felt a warmth against his ear and when he touched it, his fingers came back stained red. She was quiet for a second before she began making sensual noises. She screamed in ecstasy to no one. Gasping and moaning she looked toward him as she rocked back and forth. He kept his head down, his heartrate exceeding anything it had ever handled before. “You just wanted to fuck me. Fuck me and be gone. Leave me there, aching and moaning and wet.” She spat the last word. “You won’t get away with it, you won’t-” She suddenly stopped as she went into more spasms and the eerie and disconcerting moans began again. She writhed on the floor, her shaking resembling a convulsing snake. Her screams began to make the walls of the elevator shake and he felt tears begin to burn in his eyes. The doors opened to the tenth floor.

“Don’t you dare, don’t you leave me here, not like this.” He heard the sounds of her crying. She crawled over to him and dug her nails into his leg. “You’re not going there. Not out there. Nowhere without me.” He tried to move his foot but her nails were deeply embedded into his skin. Only shock and pure adrenaline kept him from screaming out. He pictured his blood pouring out onto her jet-black nails, cascading like a waterfall onto the elevator floor. “Come back. We can go back. Back there. Back home. To five. We can go back. You and me. No one else. I’m yours.” The flurry of words came out of her mouth quickly, desperately. She was a depraved psychotic, and he knew she wouldn’t let him go easily. He bit his lip to stop him from saying something and forced his eyes to the doors, now wide open, to avoid her glare. Finally, she stopped. And laughed. It was cruel and insidious. Filled with terror and pain. Enough to make the strongest soldier succumb to cowardice. “You’re going to die out there. You’re going to wish you were with me, wish you stayed with me.” She grabbed him by the neck and pulled him to face her. He quickly shut his eyes as he felt cold lips against his own. He tasted what could only be described as death and felt himself begin to give way, to faint within this new realm. He pushed against her quickly and fell onto the tenth floor. He caught a glimpse of her back as the elevator doors closed behind her and he found himself where he had previously thought impossible. He thought he had won the game, but he was gravely mistaken. The game had barely begun.

Part Two: Otherworld

Tendrils of smoke arose around him like a sea monster grappling at the surface of the ocean. With the elevator doors shut, he pushed himself to stand up and look at his surroundings. He was surprised to see the area where the woman had dug her nails into him had stopped bleeding as he turned away from the elevator to fully take in the Otherworld.

Dull thumps emanated from his chest as he saw the corridor he was in. The aforementioned smoke provided eerie illumination to his surroundings, glowing in a sickly colour. To his left and right, he saw identical corridors, both going as far as the eye could see. He adjusted his stance and faced the one on his right. Doors plastered either side had rusty-looking handles and dust floated in the air, its movement shaky and sudden, unlike the swift dances he was used to. The darkness seemed to attract him, a magnetic force pulling from his chest as he looked at the end of the corridor. The doors had numbers on them, he noticed. The closest he could make out were Seventy-Two on the right and Sixty-Six on the left, the brass letters looked pained and old, hung on by cracked nails onto the chipped black paint of the door. He had been about to step foot into the corridor when he thought he heard a movement from the corridor in the middle.

The idea had been ludicrous, of course. The entire purpose of the Otherworld rested on the concept that one was alone. An entire dimension with only one living entity. Yet as he turned to the middle corridor he noticed a difference between it and the other two. This one had an end. A glass pane window, scratched and cracked, signaled the end of the corridor. As he drew closer to it, finally taking a step into one of the hallways, he noticed a faint red light in the windowpane. He stopped momentarily, finding himself forgetting the instructions he had so carefully taken the time to memorize. He pondered for a moment about the relevancy of a red light, what it meant. Was it a sign of danger? Or was it a warm invitation? He paused. By whom? If it were an invitation who would be his host? He was alone in this realm, at least that was what the rules said. Or did they?

With every inhalation of the illuminating smoke, he felt more and more dazed, certainty slowly eradicating and nonchalance taking its place. An attitude which might prove to be fatal considering his unstable and unpredictable surroundings. He felt a sickly feeling in the pit of his stomach which was quickly erased by another deep breath. It was fine he had assured himself, step forward. His mind docile and malleable, left to the forces of whatever was within the air he breathed, he walked towards the windowpane, the red light pulsing as he got there. Upon shortening the distance between himself and the glass, he was finally able to make out the shape of the light and saw it to be a cross. Taking comfort in the familiar religious symbol his family had so revered, he began to walk closer, but as he did, the sinking feeling in his stomach amplified, so much so that he felt his stride falter and had to brace himself against one of the doors.

The cross hadn’t been ordinary. It hadn’t been reminiscent of Sunday mornings spent filled with praise or glory, nor had it had any form of purity or hope assigned to it. Instead, it reeked of debt and betrayal. He felt the negative energy in his throat as he watched the light pulse, slowly and carefully. It was revolting, and no matter how much he wanted to escape the emotions it conjured within him, the dark pull felt much too powerful to evade, particularly when his mind and consciousness had been drugged. The cross was distorted and fake. An antonym of what it had stood for before. For this cross, the red light pulsing in the corner of his eye, refusing to be ignored, was upside down. Negating all meanings of faith and God and promoting a far more sinister intent.

He took a deep breath before attempting to pull himself away from the sight. His head ached and his muscles felt weak, aching to give in to the demonic symbol. It was only through the destruction of the silence that he was able to look away.

His heart fell as he heard a faint squeak and noticed, with nothing but dread and terror, the handle to the door he had leaned on begin to turn. The door jolted forward as whatever was on the other side pushed against it with all its might before he heard a deep bellow of a man’s scream.

It was unlike what he had heard from the woman. The sound shook him to his core, vibrating his bones and filling him with sorrow and pain. He anchored his hands in his hair and felt himself pulling. The screams were unbearable, unbreakable and once one had begun, it echoed a chorus of pain-filled sounds from behind each door in the corridor. He heard the unity of the screams, pain amplified by more pain and saw each door around him shake as if someone were throwing themselves onto the wooden frame repeatedly and without mercy or concern. The vile sounds reverberated within him, as he felt their low pitches in his blood. It was at that precise moment that their familiarity registered within him.

He found himself breathless when the realisation dawned on him. The voices, their pitch and tone, their screams, they mirrored his own. He held his breath, his head heavy in light of the new information and teeming with questions. The brief disconnect from the drugged air source had rendered him with a moment of clarity.

He stopped and closed his eyes. He had to remember the rules if he was going to get back. He pushed with all his might to subside the haze brought on by the smoke and remember what he had learned.

The woman might be there, he recalled, but anything was better than the current torment he was experiencing. He had done it. He had gone through to the Otherworld, found things to be disturbed, callous and repelling. Now all he wanted was to go home, back to the quiet hills in the suburbs and escape the noise and terror of the Otherworld.

A faint feeling overcame him as he struggled to hold his breath. He couldn’t breathe, lest he wanted to risk being trapped here forever, amongst the tortured souls that mimicked him: his voice, his pain. He blacked out for a moment before finally taking a breath. And despite the reintroduction to the drugged smoke, he realised that he remembered the rules: remembered how to leave, to escape and finally go home. He had had enough adventure for tonight, maybe enough for years to come. All he wanted was to go back, back to reality, where there was more than himself and his wails.

The elevator you used to get there is the only one you can use to return. He stumbled as he made his way back, away from the window and its sinister pulsing cross, away from the parodic screams emanating from behind the decaying doors. Back to the vantage point where he had full vision of the corridors.

The screams were unfaltering as he caught sight of the metal doors. He moved to go closer and felt the smoke become thick and viscous, finding himself needing to expel energy to cross over toward the elevator. He pushed forward and for a moment thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. For what had once been a solitary elevator had now duplicated, with two identical ones standing side by side. He shook his head and looked again, but there they were, plain as day. Two elevators. No longer one, no longer a certainty. But a choice. His breathing rate increased drastically. He couldn’t get on the wrong one. The rules dictated that the only one which would work would be the one he had embarked on at the beginning of this dreadful journey.

He felt a scream building in his throat as he dealt with the smoke’s hindrance and the impossible choice between two identical options. He kept trying to go forwards, in the hopes that once he could see them, with less distance distorting his view, he would be able to deduce which one was correct, but after a few steps, he noticed that they were getting further and further away.

His head ached and was heavy, his mind felt as if an anvil had violently embedded itself within his skull. It was the smoke. It had to be. Previously inducing a calming and relaxing effect and now fabricating a stressed and worried one. Decisions were near impossible to make underneath the circumstances: the auditory chaos and the mental exhaustion. Yet he persisted. He continued to walk through the thick smoke, felt his muscles groan with every step he took. He continued towards the elevators, convincing himself the distance illusion was nothing but that: an illusion. Created by whatever tricksters had placed the smoke, whatever divine beings (as he was coming to believe from the twisted religious symbolism) had wanted to inflict pain and torture to those who dared to pass beyond the physical and step outside of reality.

Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, the illusion wore off. The corridor had ended and he was staring at the two doorways. The screams continued on behind him, only coming from the middle corridor, the other two remained silent. Upon closer inspection, he felt worse about his chances. The doors were alike in every way: from the shade of their metallic coating to their size and shape. It came down to a fifty-fifty chance. He could only call one of the elevators and, depending on whether luck was for or against him, he would either be able to take his leave or be stuck with a fate he couldn’t imagine as anything but horrifying.

The wails seemed to become louder, or perhaps that was just his mind amplifying them. He was conscious of the mind games the Otherworld was playing on him, conscious of the fact that nothing was as it seemed in this demented dimension. It was odd, he thought, how the feeling had changed. How the initial pull had become repulsion, how the objective of the smoke, as it seemed to him to be, went from calming him to terrifying him. He hadn’t wanted to see what it planned on doing next. It seemed to stand in line with the woman he encountered on his journey up: psychotic and ever-changing. He pondered the links that tied her together with this world, how she became connected with the game.

The choice was pure luck. Randomness with absolutely no degree of logic or reasoning. Whether he would go home or face a fate he perceived worse than death was down to pure chance. He had never been a gambling man, had preferred to keep the money he earned to himself unless he could spend it on something he truly desired. He had shown disdain towards those who threw their money around, without any care or sense, treating it like it they were entitled to their riches and living life with a nonchalant attitude. Now, here he was, gambling with his future, with his life. He felt his hand shaking as he reached toward the elevator the furthest to his right and pressed the call button.

To his surprise, upon the illumination of the arrowed button, the screams ceased. The floor had once again descended into silence, as if everyone were awaiting to see whether or not he had chosen correctly or whether he would be subject to spending an eternity in this hellish place. He, himself, was excruciatingly nervous, filled with an anxiety that coursed through his veins, around his body and affecting every cell within it. Part of him wanted to run, to go down one of the corridors which ended in darkness. Perhaps the likelihood of survival would have increased there. But, as ever, fear kept him rooted in his place. His eyes were glued to the elevator doors (the bottom of them of course, in order to evade the woman’s gaze should she return), and no amount of sense or logic could move him from the position he was in now.

The silence echoed throughout the halls and was quickly broken by the ring of the elevator. The call button lost its light and he could hear it finally coming to a halt. His heart felt as though it would burst out his chest, splatter onto the floor and stain the cream carpet with his blood. The doors began to slowly creep open.

Under normal circumstances, he (or any rational person for that matter) should have been terrified by the scene he was met with. However, in that moment, with the events which had just transpired still fresh in his memory, he breathed a sigh of relief to see the seductress’s black heels solidly placed on the elevator floor.

Part Three: Descent

He stepped into the elevator silently, without a word, careful to heed the rules which he slowly remembered again as the effects of the smoke wore off. He walked towards the corner he had arrived in and sat, his head facing away from the woman. His breaths came quickly and violently, his heart struggling to continue to beat, left injured from the events which had just unfolded.

The woman, on the other hand, had seemed to have somewhat of a change of heart. Or more likely tactic. She stood quietly, and unbeknownst to him, watched him as he tried to return to his normal rate of breathing. She stood eerily silently, her head held high, her lips shut. And in many ways, the silence sparked his curiosity, perhaps more than the violent attempts at contact had.

Again he felt the magnetic pull, the one that had been instilled within most elements of his journey. He wanted to stare at her, to finally just see her face. If it matched what he had seen of her body- he shuddered at the idea of such beauty. Carefully calming himself, he set about his exit, the rules clear in his memory now that the smoke’s effects had fully worn off.

Press the buttons in the same order which you used to travel. He pressed the button for the fourth floor and breathed a deep sigh of relief as the elevator trundled down. The pale reflectiveness of the metal lining provided him with a mirror by which to regard himself. He looked into his own eyes, deeply and for a prolonged period of time. Within them he saw a reflection of terror and an overwhelming sense of knowledge, perhaps one not intended for human comprehension or experience. He rested his head on the cool metal and he felt tears stream down his face. He silently sobbed, feeling no hint of self-consciousness due to the woman’s presence, but rather an ethereal sense of gratitude to have survived, and a sense of regret to have even tried the wretched game.

Of course, he had learned much. Much about the dimension had added to his prior knowledge of paranormal occurrences, but it had come with a mental cost. His usual explorations resulted in a scare or two, or more often than not, a completely ordinary experience. It hadn’t faltered his belief in the spiritual, but to see it so plainly displayed, right in front of him, at its full intensity, was difficult to comprehend, even for a believer such as himself.

He began to draw longer, deeper and more audible breaths as he pressed the next button and the next, refusing to look at the elevator doors or the woman whose presence he felt behind him throughout. He just rested his head against the metal and closed his eyes, thankful for the silence. His mind was blank, numb, throbbing. He could feel himself attempting to rationalise the night’s events. However, the information felt too vast to contain within the human brain. He felt like screaming as his head continued to throb, haunted by the echoes of the screams from the corridor. 

He was painfully aware of the woman’s presence behind him. The attraction toward her hadn’t diminished, but in comparison to what he had just experienced, it felt like more of a hindrance than an actual source of danger. She was remaining silent, a stark contrast to the earlier wails and pleas for attention. Anytime he felt as if he had any sense of understanding about anything in the game, it was as though it sought to take it away. He felt his head spin as he realised the next floor would be the tenth.

He looked away from the buttons and took a deep breath. The horrors of the Otherworld still plastered in his mind, he felt a resilience from within himself, begging him not to press the button, not to return to that place of such sorrow, pain and carnage. But it had to be done. If he wanted to return home, to go back, he had to return to the Otherworld, even if it was for only less than a minute.

Nothing would make him leave the elevator, nothing could get to him if he was in there. He shuddered as the thought of hearing the screams again entered his mind. If, even for a moment, he need be subjected to that level of misery, he hadn’t been sure of his ability to withstand the pain or deal with the intensity again. He felt weak and desperate, and wished more than anything else that he would wake up and find himself back home, safely in his bedroom, laughing at the idea that it had all been a fabricated fantasy.

But he knew, deep within himself, this was real. He closed his eyes, mustered all the strength he could find, and with a shaking finger, edged over to the keypad. He pressed the button for the tenth floor, and as soon as he did, he crawled back to the corner of the elevator.

The woman behind him made no audible reaction as he closed his eyes and sat in the corner, wishing for it all to be over.

The elevator began its ascent to the tenth floor, and before he had time to process the menagerie of emotions he felt burning inside him, the doors opened.

He didn’t dare open his eyes, didn’t dare move or give any indication of his vitality. He just sat, for what seems like an eternity, and waited for the doors to shut again. Eventually, they had, and he opened his eyes and looked back toward the keypad. 

He felt a strange sense of relief as he noticed he needed to press button for the penultimate floor. He pushed forward and pressed the button to return them to the fifth floor, back where it had all began, when the game had turned from a challenge to a terror-inducing nightmare.

As the elevator trundled its way back to the fifth floor, he took pride and sourced every ounce of contentment out of the fact that the game was nearly over, that in a few minutes, he would be out of this godforsaken elevator and back onto the city streets, where he would enjoy the sight of passers-by and pedestrians going about their morning routines.

The door to the fifth floor opened, and the woman finally broke her silence. “I suppose this is where I bid you farewell.” He didn’t move his head or respond in any way to the words. “I must warn you, however, the end is not so readily in sight. It’s still locked behind smoke and mirrors.

“It’s a shame you never got to set eyes upon me. You were resilient, I’ll give you that much. It would’ve been a pleasure to spend eternity with you. An absolute pleasure.” She sounded despondent but somehow still managed to spin a sexual edge onto the last word.

The sound of her soft voice saying “pleasure” had awoken an urge within him, but before he had time to act on it, the doors to the elevator closed.

He got up and enjoyed the fact that he could once again look around the small elevator without fear for his safety. He walked toward the keypad one last time and pressed the button for the first floor.

He breathed a sigh of relief which was quickly offset once he realised that yes, the elevator had been moving, but it was moving upwards instead of its predicted descent.

It moved with a ferocity he had previously not seen, and went up three floors before he had time to properly comprehend what was going on. He paced around the elevator, his knees feeling weak.

What was it? He thought. I remember, there was something. Something in the rules for when this happened. His mind felt blank and a sickening feeling boiled in his stomach. He needed to do something. The elevator had arrived at the ninth floor and showed no signs of slowing down its speed. It went further and further up, every second closing the distance between him and an inescapable life in the Otherworld.

He banged his head against the walls of the elevator, aching, begging for a sign or something to jolt his memory. Frustration overwhelmed him – he had been so close to the end, so close to home. He quickly rid himself of the feeling: it would be of no use in this situation. He needed to remember what to do, how to escape. He patted down his jacket in the hopes of finding the rules, but was unsurprised to find them missing: perhaps dropped in the Otherworld or taken by the temptress.

His breathing intensified and just as he felt the elevator stop at the tenth floor but mere moments before the doors would open and he would be forced to return to the Otherworld, he remembered. You can press the button of any floor lower than ten to stop ascending but you have to do it before you again reach the tenth floor. He quickly hit the keypad. In one move he had managed to light up several numbers, all less than ten, and the elevator abruptly came to a halt.

He momentarily thought he heard the screams which had now become synonymous with the Otherworld, but was unsure if it was just his mind playing tricks on him. The elevator then began to move and this time, as he realised with a deep breath of relief, it was going down.

He pressed the button for the first floor and fell back, the adrenaline seeping out of his body. He was safe. He had remembered the rules and this was the end. Truly.

The elevator went down, and with each floor it descended, he felt more and more relieved and more and more satisfied to have survived the ordeal. The elevator finally stopped at the first floor and the doors opened once more.

Without hesitation he jumped out, walking briskly into the lobby area, past the receptionist’s desk, not daring to take a second look back. For if he had, he would have noticed the absence of the younger receptionist.

He walked down, past the sofas and chairs which so ornately decorated the lobby and without giving them a second glare, he made his way toward the revolving door and noticed the sunlight shine outside. It must have been morning, which usually meant bustling crowds of businessmen and women running late toward their places of work. Especially in this side of town.

However, none of these thoughts occurred to him in the moment, and if they had he might have run straight back to the elevator he so desperately wanted to escape. Nevertheless, in his ignorant bliss, he pushed the revolving door, stepped out of the hotel and walked out into the empty street. TC mark

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