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Unlike most of their kind, the six, mirrored elevators in this skyscraper didn’t drop the internet connection once he was locked inside. It was one of the perks of his new job, though other people didn’t seem to care; a blessing through which he could seamlessly continue his online wanderings all the way to his desk on the 28th floor.

That day, a lazy Monday morning, he stepped into the elevator all by himself, busy accepting a few friendship requests he’d inevitably received in the wake of last night’s party. He could squeeze a vague recollection of all the faces, except of a girl with spiky hair and playful wink. He had been pretty drunk at the party and it was also a common knowledge that girls are good at changing their appearances. So, looking for clues, he began studying her profile; before long, he sensed that he should have arrived at his floor.

He raised his head. The elevator’s LED display showed the number 34. He’d forgotten to press the floor button, not unprecedented for him. Someone from a higher floor must have summoned the elevator and now there wasn’t anything to do but wait. So, he continued his scrutiny of the girl’s profile. She was into music, climbing, traveling, politics—quite versatile. Hadn’t he had a political conversation with a guest last night? But before his thoughts could wander further, he found himself distracted by the LED display. Forty-seven. He had no idea that the building was that tall. It occurred to him, right then, that he’d never glanced at the edifice, the entirety of it, from outside. No wonder. His head was always in his phone, raised only occasionally to avoid puddles or cars.

On the panel there were only 50 floors, but the display kept moving, 67 changing to 68 to 69. Had the elevator just slung out of the roof with the panel dutifully reporting on it, phantom floor by phantom floor? A horrific thought at first, but he calmed himself by attributing this to a technical glitch. Still, the inconsistency of the current floor number and the panel of buttons was worthy of a picture. He framed it in a way that array of buttons and the LED display appeared in the same shot, to properly show the flaw. When he passed 100, he took a selfie. It seemed the numbers were changing faster now, like a rocket being launched. By the time he turned and posed for the selfie, his head was next to the number 127. And the exciting part was, the internet still worked. After posting the pictures online, he realized they didn’t do justice to what he was experiencing. He needed the sense of movement and urgency. So he went live by recording himself next to the buttons along with the ever-increasing display. He reported where he was and what was happening. His voice was animated, his hand shaky. When he moved his phone to take an insert shot of the display, he yelled, in genuine excitement, into the speaker, “Oh my god! 300! I’m on the 310th floor and am still connected!”

By the time he passed the 600 mark, his video had received over ten thousand views. It was shared faster than the display numbers changed. He was immersed reading the comments under his video—all from strangers, the sign of celebrity status—and every time he looked up the number had increased by dozens. As he studied the reactions to his video, he began missing a breath. Then he missed two. He gasped, moved to the other end of the elevator as if that corner stored more oxygen. He wheezed to his phone that he must have crossed the stratosphere. He sat down but felt like lying down. He filmed himself and then angled the phone up towards the changing four digits and it was that state of ethereal lucidity in which he remembered the spiky-haired girl—though she’d curled her locks for the party—and he also remembered he’d liked her, the way hearts sink upon seeing a pretty girl, and then the girl had to answer a call and he’d busied himself with his own phone and then he didn’t remember anything, and he was still ascending and his views skyrocketing and his lungs burning.

First appeared in Wigleaf, November 2018.
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