Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Elevator Game


Well, with Halloween coming up, I thought I would go for a slightly more suspenseful story, in true Halloween spirit. This story was partly inspired by a YouTube video about the "Top 10 Scary Games You Should Never Play". I had just watched the video the day before my short story group came up with the prompt: "Dying to Live", so I saw a chance to use my inspiration to create a story.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the story and look forward to any feedback!

Have a Happy Halloween!


"The Elevator Game"
by James J Meadows III

Some of you are, no doubt, going to tell me, with unwavering conviction, that if you were in my position, you would never have done something so stupid and childish. Of course, you also, I’m sure, will tell me you never stood in front of a mirror chanting “Blood Mary” or played Three Kings at your friend’s house.

To all of you, I have these words, “A coward dies a thousand deaths!” Having quoted Shakespeare, I will now go to a rather less eloquent, though no less profound, quote by Jimmy Buffet, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Both these statements summarize my own personal view on life, a view shared by my good friend Stephen. This philosophy, and this philosophy alone, brought he and I to opposite sides of a hallway at midnight one lonely Friday in October.

“I bet my elevator gets here before yours does,” Stephen teased, glancing over his shoulder at me.

“No way,” I snapped back. “No elevator wants you or that crummy old jacket inside it.”

“Don’t be a hater.” He teased, displaying the old burnt-orange jacket, with its numerous tears, rips and stains, toward me as if it were made from white mink. “Just because you lack fashion sense, doesn’t mean I can’t look good in these regal robes.”

I stuck my finger in my mouth and made a gagging sound, as though I was about to vomit. He just laughed and turned back toward the elevator. I faced mine, with an equally determined grin, which served to mask my growing anxiety.

Although we were standing near the lobby of one of Houston’s premiere hotels, thanks to the lateness of the hour, we were the only people there. This was the way we planned it. We didn’t want anyone else getting on the elevators with us. Each of us had to be alone. If someone got on with one of us, that player had to quit. Those were the rules of the Elevator Game.

The Elevator game, which originated in Korea, was supposed to be one of the scariest and most unnerving games in existence, promising to take the player to a frightening alternate dimension from which they might never return. Like the other creepy games Stephen and I had played over the years, we didn’t really expect anything to happen. After all, nothing happened when we played with the Ouija board; nothing happened when we played three kings; no mysterious man caught us when we played the midnight game.

Altogether, we had no reason to believe this one was any different. Yet, the adrenaline rush pulled us onward. The sensation of tingles, chills, and goosebumps, spreading across our arms as we performed each new scary ritual, awaiting the results with frightened anticipation, called us to try the new game.


The sound of an elevator arriving caught my attention. I glanced instinctively upward at the lights above me. It wasn’t my elevator. It was Stephen’s. The up-light on the elevator in front of him had illuminated, signaling its arrival.

“Told you mine would get here first,” Stephen said, giving me a teasing smile over his shoulder.

I watched as the elevator doors slid open to reveal an empty interior.

“I’d love to stay and chat, but my chariot awaits me,” he declared in a mocking tone, giving a rather comedic bow, as he advanced backward into the elevator.

The elevator doors started to close as he stepped inside but his hand shot out quickly to stop them.

“Don’t forget,” he added, in his best impression of a spooky voice, made all the more humorous by his exaggerated expressions and forced attempts to keep a straight face. “Before you get off the elevator, check every single detail to make sure you come back to the correct dimension. If even one thing is out of place or incorrect, don’t get off, or you may become trapped in the otherworld forever! Dun, Dun, Dun!”

Then, still wearing his usual grin and his comic smile, he let the doors close. Yet, as he faded from view, I could tell from his body language that he was nervous. The eyes gazing at me as the doors slid closed revealed a mix of mingled excitement with nervous agitation. The same agitation gripped me. Up until this point, we had always performed our various stunts together.

Even when we played Three Kings, though we each sat alone in the room, one of us was assigned to check upon the other after an hour passed. This time, however, we were on our own. Somehow, this made everything just slightly more frightening.

I pushed the up button again to call the next elevator and waited. The lobby around me, with its empty chairs and unmanned desk - the clerk had walked into the back just a short time prior to Stephen’s elevator arriving - were dull and lifeless, kind of like the whole last week, which Stephen and I spent studying for our mid-terms. It was this monotony of studying, working, and walking to-and-from classes, which motivated Stephen and me to seek this break, this adrenaline rush, this small chance to escape our ordinary daily lives.


My elevator had arrived. I took a step back in case people needed to get off. No one did. The elevator, like Stephen’s elevator, was completely empty. I took a step inside then hesitated. Without Stephen here, I felt my courage wane slightly.

“It’s just a game,” I said aloud to myself, willing myself to get on. “It isn’t real.”

I knew it was a game. I knew it was stupid. I knew I couldn’t turn back anyway; because Stephen was already on his elevator. What would he say if, after all of our talk and teasing, I chickened out now?

Mentally forcing myself onward, as though my brain were some telepathic device dragging my frozen feet across the threshold, I advanced into the lift.

“Well, here I am,” I said. “There is nothing else for it. Let’s go.”

I reached out my hand and pushed the button for the fourth floor. The elevator rose.

“You can do this,” I muttered to myself. “There is nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a silly game, like all the others.”

The elevator doors opened onto the fourth floor. Determined not to give myself further opportunity for doubt, I immediately slammed the button for the second floor. After a moment, the doors closed and we were on our way down.

“Please don’t be anyone there,” I said to myself, trying to sound convincing in my own ears; ignoring the silent voice in my head secretly wishing for someone to get on so I could abort this stupid game.

No one did. The elevator doors opened and shut. To the sixth floor –  nobody. Back to the second floor – still nobody. Now up to the tenth floor – no one there.

The doors shut again. I stared at the back of them, my heart racing so fast I could hardly breathe. This was the moment of truth. Fighting the urge to abandon the game – the urge to cheat and head straight back down, the urge to chicken out and claim I had done it even if I really hadn’t – I extended my finger toward the number five.

“It’s just a game,” I repeated aloud, “a really stupid game. There won’t be anything there.”

I gave a small laugh, which sounded hollow even to me.

“Just one more floor and I’ll be back with Stephen, laughing this whole thing off as the nonsense it is,” I said again, trying to reassure myself.

Closing my eyes, as though unable to watch myself do it, I leaned forward, feeling the five button compress at my reluctant touch. The elevator lurched downward.

This floor would reveal everything. The game claimed that a mysterious creature would appear on this floor, in the guise of a woman - a woman who you must not talk to or even look at. Otherwise, she might decide to keep you for her own. None of the stories explained what happened to such victims. Supposedly, none returned to tell.

“It’s nonsense,” I repeated to myself. “It’s just made up rubbish.”

The elevator lights flashed nine, then on to eight.

“There is no mystery woman going appear and get on the elevator,” I reminded myself.

Next to seven, then to six.

“It’s just a dumb gag!”

The elevator alighted onto the fifth floor. With a “bing” the doors slid open.

My breath caught in my throat, my body almost trembling with nerves. If the woman, who I kept reminding myself didn’t exist, did appear and get on, I was certainly not going to look at her. Fixing my eyes on the buttons, I waited.

The doors just sat there, open and expectant. They remained open for no more than their ordinary time of five seconds. Still it felt like five minutes. Several times I was convinced they had somehow broken. Yet, even as panic started to set in and beads of sweat appeared upon my face, the doors began to slide shut again.

A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I watch them drift toward each other, their reflective silvery interiors gradually masking the outside world from my sight. I moved forward to hit the “1” button, thankful the game was over.

“Hold the doors!”


A female voice sounded from the hallway, followed by the clanking sound of metal and gears, as the doors reopened with a “ding”. Someone outside had pressed the button for the elevator. Before my stunned eyes, I saw a woman enter to join me.

A feeling of indescribably horror gripped me. I tried to dismiss it. This wasn’t a monster, I told myself. It was just pure coincidence. There were lots of women staying in the hotel. This just happened to be one of them, getting on the elevator at the wrong time. That was all.

I could feel my lungs contracting as my heart rose into my throat. Staring ahead, trying not to look at the woman, I found myself unable to resist studying her from the corners of my eyes. She appeared to be about my age, with long, beautiful black hair, a soft winning smile, and a slender-shapely body, well-outlined by the one-piece swim suit she wore, her figuresque physique only slightly concealed by the towels gripped in her hands. She looked like she was on her way down to the pool.

“Sorry about that,” she said, as she moved inside to stand next to me. “My friends are down at the pool and I’m running a little late to join them.”

I said nothing. Although going swimming at midnight might seem a little odd, the pool was open and it was a Friday. At the same time, this was the fifth floor. Was this girl really what she seemed?

I wanted to kick myself for my own stupidity. Of course, she was just what she seemed. There were no alternate dimensions or mysterious monsters that trapped people as their own. At the same time, the whole thing seemed a bit too coincidental, and my already strained nerves were not prepared for this turn of events.

 “Where are you going?” she asked, gesturing at the unlit buttons before us.

As I had not yet selected my floor, the question seemed innocent enough. In my current state of mind, however, they were the most sinister words I could possibly hear.

“Where are you going?” were the words the mysterious monster on the fifth floor was supposed to say to the elevator rider when she boarded.

It’s just a game, I tried to repeat inwardly. This is just a normal woman, trying to figure out what button to press, that’s all.

I made an effort to say, “First floor” but the words caught in my throat. What if it wasn’t just a game? What if it was real? What if I spoke to her and was lost forever?

As I stood frozen, the elevator doors closed. I realized I better act fast or else I’d look like an even bigger moron. Taking a step forward, I pressed the “1” button, my sweaty hand trembling so badly I could hardly contain myself.

Pressing the button for the first floor was the next step in the game, anyway, and the logical step outside the game. If she was a real woman, we would just coast down to the first floor and it would all be over.

“Are you okay?” the lady asked, as I retreated back into the corner of the elevator, my eyes still locked on the ground.

I didn’t speak. I knew I must look like a complete idiot. At the same time, I’d rather be a living idiot than a dead fool. So, I pressed myself into the corner as hard as I could, my eyes still fixed on the buttons.

 “Oookay,” she said in a confused voice, turning to face the closed elevator doors. At the same moment, I felt the elevator lurch. But to my horror, we weren’t going down. We were going up.

My eyes shot toward the numbers above the button panel: Five to Six, Six to Seven, Seven to Eight. No, No, No, NO, NO!! This couldn’t be happening. The elevator was going to the tenth floor. It was taking me to the alternate dimension! The game was coming true!

“That is odd,” I heard the woman muse. “I guess we didn’t press the button in time. It must be going to pick someone up.”

My eyes locked onto the ground! Don’t speak to her! I thought. Whatever you do, for God’s sake, don’t speak to her!

The elevator went from eight to nine and from nine to ten. Then, slowly, inexplicably, the doors began to open.

I didn’t want to see what was out there! I rushed forward, slamming the first floor button over and over with all my might. According to the game, when the doors opened, I would see a hallway identical to the actual tenth floor, yet pitch black, with no lighting of any kind, save for a blood red cross, the only thing visible through the distant windows.

I wasn’t going to look at it. I wasn’t going to see it. There was no way I was getting out of this elevator!

“Close, close!” I all but screamed, hammering over and over again on the button, as I watched the doors slide apart, unable to take my gaze off the image I knew they were about to reveal. With a sudden buckling sensation, my knees gave way beneath me. I found myself kneeling on the floor, still pressing the button for all I was worth.

A man stepped into the elevator from the well-lit hallway beyond, speaking on a cell phone and holding a pair of car keys in his hand.

“No, you don’t need to be driving here if you’re like that,” he was saying. “I’ll come pick you up! You said you’re at the West End Bar?”

The man froze as he entered, staring at my pale face, sweaty skin, and frantic manner.

“Are you okay?” he asked, lowering the phone to address me.

I didn’t answer. Unable to think anymore, I collapsed backward into the corner, burying my face between my knees and curling my arms above my head. I don’t know what the girl and man must have thought. I didn’t hear any words that they said. If I did, my agitated mind was too weak to hold them. Instead, I remained in a state of complete paralysis all the way down to the first floor.

The moment the elevator opened, I erupted from the shaft, without even a glance at my surroundings, my body a frenzied tornado of flailing arms and racing feet. I was so desperate to get out of there I almost plowed straight into Stephen, who caught me with an expression of shock.

“Dude? What’s wrong?” He asked, concern evident in his voice. “What happened?”

I looked back at the elevator. The man and woman stood staring at me in astonishment. They didn’t say anything, though. They merely exited the elevator and went their separate ways – the girl toward the swimming pool and the man toward the parking garage – each watching me out of the corners of their eyes until out of sight.  

“They were real,” I gasped. “They weren’t monsters. They were real!”

“Oh my god!” Stephen exclaimed, realization dawning on his face, along with an obvious urge to laugh. “Those people got on at the fifth floor and you thought they were the mystery woman didn’t you!”

He started to laugh.

“Well, at least I got that far,” I replied angrily over his laughter. “What did you do?”

“I had a janitor get on at the sixth floor so I had to abandon. Want to come back and try again tomorrow?”

“Definitely not!” I shouted, a response which only served to illicit more laughter from my friend.

“Come on, then. Let’s get you home,” he said, pulling the car keys from the pocket of his maroon and white jacket before guiding me toward the distant parking lot.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Last College Tradition


This short story was written in response to a short story prompt called "Indian Curry" and is loosely based upon actual people and events in my life, although I changed the names and some of the details both to avoid giving away too much information about my past. Anyway, let me know what you think! As always I appreciate any feedback!



"The Last College Tradition"
by James J Meadows III

                The refreshing aroma of various spices tickled my nose as I passed through the dirty double-glass doors of the old restaurant. Somehow, even after all these years, the familiar aroma still filled me with a rush of excitement and anticipation, sending my mouth watering and tongue tingling. The smells blended nicely with the equally pleasant sense of comfort and peace I felt, as I looked around at the familiar decorations and tapestries, almost completely unchanged since the first time my friends and I had placed foot inside this restaurant so many years ago.

                “Mister Baker,” called the warm, cheerful voice of a middle aged Indian man, emerging from a nearby doorway. “My goodness, is it that time already? How the months have flown!”

                “Good afternoon, Mr. Sachdeva,” I replied. “I agree. The months certainly have gone by! How are you doing?”

                “Doing well, thank you,” he said. “Your usually seats and table, I presume?”

                “Yes, please,” I replied, as he collected four dinner menus and signaled for me to follow. “I am sorry to hear about your father, by the way. He was a wonderful man.”

                “Thank you,” Mr. Sachdeva replied.

                He seemed uncertain what else to say and I, sharing his sense of awkwardness, didn’t press the conversation. Mr. Sachdeva’s father was the original owner of the restaurant, and had owned it at the time my friends and I first started coming here. Back then, Mr. Sachdeva worked as the greeter. He had taken over the family business after his father’s death a few months ago.

                “Here you go, sir,” he said, gesturing me toward a chair at the small table for four in the back of the restaurant.

                It was the chair I always sat in, at the table my friends and I always sat at. Mr. Sachdeva placed the menus around the table at their various spots, while I took my seat.

                “I’ll be right back with the drinks,” he said. “You would like Riesling, of course. Mrs. Daniels wants a Chardonnay; Mr. Jones would like a water; and Mr. Bellard will take a Pinot Gris. I will place the food orders with the cook.”

                “You know us too well,” I said, giving a small laugh.

                He shared in the chuckle, yet the smile did not extend to his eyes. There was a look of sorrow in them and, I daresay, perhaps even pity. I tried not to think about the look as he walked away.

                Glancing at my watch, I checked the time. There were still five minutes until six o’clock, the hour my friends and had I agreed to meet here – I was usually early. The gathering was a tradition for us. This was our favorite restaurant when we were in college together and, when we graduated, this is where we ate our final meal together. On that day, we made an agreement to make sure our friendship never died. We would meet here every six months, on June 1st and December 1st, at 6pm, and we would eat the same exact meal we had on that last day, with the same drinks and everything. Today, was June 1st.

                We knew the tradition was silly. At the same time, it was something unique, fun and ultimately meaningful to us. Now, sixteen years later, it was a tradition we still maintained. Sadly, though, it had changed somewhat.

                  I glanced at the chair to my left. This chair once seated, Shannon Daniels. She and I had met in junior high school and hit it off quite well. We formed a study group with some of the other kids and even dated for a short period, before ultimately concluding we were much better off as friends. We remained so throughout our college years.

At the time we graduated, she was engaged to a young man named Allen. She was the first of our group to get married and the first of our group to have children. Sadly, a heat stroke, while working in her garden one weekend, meant she was also the first of us to die. She was still in her twenties.

                “Here you go, sir,” Mr. Sachdeva interrupted my thoughts, placing down drinks around the table.

                “Thank you,” I answered, glancing at the glass of Chardonnay he placed at Shannon’s spot.

                After she passed away, my friends and I decided to keep her spot. Not only that, in keeping with tradition, we would still order her food and drinks, to serve as a reminder that she was still with us in spirit.

                “Should I start the food, sir, while you wait?” Mr. Sachdeva asked.

                “Yes, go ahead, please” I replied.

                He gave me another mournful look, which I tried to ignore, and headed for the kitchens.

                  I glanced down at the glass of water sitting across from me. This glass belonged to Michael, the only one of our company who didn’t drink. I met him at Sunday school, while I was still in high school. We became best friends almost instantly. For the remainder of our high school days, we were inseparable, together every evening, weekend, and any other time we could get away with it. We were the closest thing either of us ever had to brothers.

                 Unfortunately, like the Chardonnay, this glass would not get drunk. Michael and I went different directions in our careers and to different cities in our state after graduation. When we were thirty three, he suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of stress at work. The police and his family found his body at a hotel, where he had ended his own life. Distracted by work and life, I hadn’t spoken to him for three months prior to his death – a fact for which I doubt I will ever forgive myself.

                “Your food, sir,” Mr. Sachdeva’s voice broke in upon my reflections.

                “Thank you,” I replied, as he placed a full plate of freshly cooked curry in front of me. “It smells wonderful!”

                I pulled out my fork and started eating my dinner. As I took a bite, I watched Mr. Sachdeva place a plate of Beef Biryani in front of the spot where Shannon sat and a plate of Rajma and rice in front of the spot where Michael once sat. Finally, he put a large bowl of Jalebis in front of Robert's spot.

                Robert’s food would not get eaten either, though I couldn’t tell you why. I’m not sure I’ll ever know. Robert and I met while working at the same summer job after our freshman year. We bonded over a passion for computers, television shows, and video games. I never really knew his family, outside of a few girlfriends he dated, who sometimes came to our get-togethers.

                One day, when we were both 36, I called Robert and scheduled a time for us to get together in about two weeks to hang out, have dinner, and just visit. When the date came, he didn’t show up. I texted him but he didn’t respond. I tried calling him, no answer. Later that day, I went onto his Facebook page to send him a message – which was rare for me since I don’t use Facebook much.

                I saw from comments and pictures left by family on his site that he had died a little over a week-and-a-half before. His funeral was performed the previous day, the day before we were supposed to meet. I messaged his family, asking what happened. They never messaged back and I didn’t press the issue.

                Finishing my last bite of curry, I placed the fork down onto the table. I stared for a few seconds at the untouched dishes and drinks circling me. Just sixteen years ago, a group of college graduates sat at this table, celebrating our friendship and planning for the future. How could they all be gone in less than twenty-years, not one of them getting to see their forties? How much longer would I press on before joining them?

I leaned back in my chair, staring at the empty seats. For a moment, a brief moment, the seats weren’t empty anymore. I could see Michael’s pale skin, platinum hair and trademark smile as he sat upright and proper, watching me; I beheld Robert’s dark skin, dark hair, and scarred face as he reclined backward in his usual manner; I gazed in Shannon’s bright green eyes as they sparkled with her usual zest and enthusiasm.

Somehow, I knew they were all there with me, smiling at me, thinking of me and proud to know that I was thinking of them. Then, the images faded. I saw only Mr. Sachdeva standing across from me, watching me with his sad, yet understanding stare.

“How much do I owe you?” I asked, rising from the table and reaching for my wallet.

“Nothing,” he answered. “This one is on me.”

With a small smile, he picked up the plates and headed toward the back. I reached into my wallet, withdrawing all the cash I owned. It wasn’t much but it was something. I placed all of it onto the table then turned for the door.

 Passing through the glass doors, I gave one last nostalgic look behind me, staring at the table as long as possible until the tinted doors finally closed, hiding its view from me. Heading for my car, I climbed inside, buried my head in my hands and wept for the last time – until December.