Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres
(Editor’s Note: This story appeared in print in Interzone #211 and as audio at Starship Sofa. It is published here for the first time online.)
“What is the strongest material known to science?” the science teacher asked her fourth graders.
John raised his hand. “The stuff that is used to make the cables for the space elevator.”
“Correct. Can you tell me what it is called?”
“Okay, I will tell you this one time. The space elevator cables are made of carbon nanotubes.”
“My father says it is made of unicorn hairs,” Chris said.
“I don’t like the space elevator,” mumbled Asha.
“Well, you are always free to take the stairs,” the teacher said.
After class the teacher (her name was Daniella) went home to pack. She was leaving today on a vacation trip to the moon via the elevator. “Wish Jim and I had not separated,” she thought for the thousandth time of her ex-husband. “He would have enjoyed the trip.” She was remembering her first trip.
“What better place than the moon for a honeymoon?” Jim had said. At that time, the space elevator didn’t launch directly from earth as it did now. One had to take a shuttle to the space station and catch the elevator from there. It had been fun all the way.
The present trip was her attempt at … what? Catching elusive moments of happiness? Self-inflicted pain? Guilt trip? Exorcism? It was an impulsive decision and irrespective of her motivation, she was sticking by it.
She locked her apartment and stepped out of the building, her scanty luggage strapped to her back. It was a cold and windy day. She thrust her hands in the pockets of her coat, turned left on the street and made her way to the intersection. As she walked she had an uneasy feeling that she was being followed. She quickly turned her head and saw a man dressed in a long blue overcoat, face muffled in a scarf, duck behind a store entrance. Suddenly afraid, she walked faster, reached the intersection and hailed a cab.
“Elevator terminal,” she said as she quickly clambered into the cab. The driver nodded, started the meter and the cab started moving. She turned back to see the man in blue hail a cab too. Who was he and why was he following her? Should she call the police? But what’s the use? It would only delay her and may even make her miss her elevator. She would be at the terminal in a few minutes and after that would be out of this city, out of this world, for two weeks.
Soon, Daniella was in the space elevator waiting for it to start its long journey. She was strapped down in her bucket seat. Another bucket seat lay vacant beside her. She looked at her watch. The elevator should be leaving in about ten minutes. She felt an excitement building up within her – a sense of adventure she had not felt since she was eighteen, ten years ago.
For the moment she was alone in the elevator but she knew that one more passenger would be joining her soon. The elevator carried two and only two passengers on each of its trips.
“I hope I have an interesting companion,” she thought. Just then the door of the elevator slid open and her fellow traveler entered. It was the man in blue.
“You,” Daniella shrieked when she saw his face.
Jim smiled his characteristically impish smile as he strapped himself in the seat beside her. The elevator started with a jolt and the increasing acceleration pressed them into their seats.
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