As the morning dragged on Rachel became more surly and uncommunicative. Her fatigue was making her head pound and she was on the verge of biting the head off the next person who asked for a record search. Obviously this could be done by any visitor at one of the conventional computer terminals scattered liberally around the lobby area, but Rachel was supposed to assist and generally be sweet and welcoming. Not ready to kill someone. Angie had done a great job of intercepting most of these, and she could see that Rachel was becoming frayed.
“Why not take a little break?” she helpfully suggested, “it’s almost lunchtime, why not go to the café and get a snack? You look like you need some energy.”
Rachel was about to snap at Angie but she caught herself in time. “Do you mind?” Angie shook her head with a smile, “Thanks, Angie, I think I will.”
Rachel remembered to grab her jacket and slip it on. Her phone and banking card were in the pocket in case needed them. She stared at the floor oblivious of all that was going on around her and walked straight to the elevator. The lobby was a big airy space with high ceilings but she paid no attention today. Normally she loved to look around her and soak up the atmosphere. Book cases towered up all around the perimeter of the area and around a column in the center of the space, there were railed balconies at two levels above accessible by elegant wrought iron spiral staircases. The floor was terrazzo with a deep lustrous red sheen which reflected the light from recessed sconces in a pleasing way. It wasn’t too bright, but it wasn’t dim either, and it had a faint reddish glow as opposed to the blue or yellowish tint of most artificial light. The hard floor and high ceilings made it echo slightly, giving it the deep sense of reverence that you would expect in a cathedral. It helped the library visitors to keep their voices hushed in a very effective way.
She arrived at the elevator and without a second thought hit the call button with her thumb and experienced a mild panic the moment she did it. The elevator. Oh dear.
The elevator arrived suspiciously, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator, but since Rachel had encountered this elevator before, last night, she wasn’t surprised at all. Indeed, it confirmed her worst fears that the elevator knew her identity because it had just cross referenced her thumb print against its database. The elevator arrived and the doors opened slowly, somehow managing to convey the impression of a detective stroking his beard.
“Hi,” said the elevator with a hint of smugness, “I’m your elevator. What floor do you want?”
Rachel didn’t speak right away but warily entered the elevator, her mind racing for ideas about how to handle the situation. She needed to stall somehow, she knew that. Some way to keep the elevator occupied long enough for her to see if she could find out what, if anything, the elevator was going to do with the information that Rachel had been in the building after hours last night.
A thought struck her, “Oh,” she replied casually, “take me on a tour.”
“What?” the elevator was either caught off guard or was able to duplicate the impression of being caught off guard. At this point Rachel wasn’t really sure.
“Show me all the floors,” Rachel said confidently. “I haven’t really had time to explore the building yet. Take me on a tour.”
“Okay,” the elevator became enthusiastic, “Let’s start at the top and work our way down!”
There was an uncomfortable silence as the elevator car rode to the top floor. It arrived, the doors opened.
“Here,” began the elevator, “is the top floor. The archives. But then, you know that on account of having been here before.”
“Oh,” Rachel attempted to be coy, “whatever makes you say that?”
“Don’t play games with me, Rachel Robbins,” the was a hard edge to the elevator’s voice now. “I know that you were here last night dressed as a cleaning worker.”
“So what? So what were you doing here?”
“None of your business.”
The elevator doors closed and the elevator descended one level to one of the three floors of main stacks. The doors opened. Nothing was said as Rachel peered out at the rows of tightly packed bookshelves. The doors closed and the elevator began descending again.
“Well then, I wonder if the head of security would be interested in this information?”
“You haven’t reported it yet?”
“I didn’t know that there was anything to report until now. Here you are with a completely different appearance acting like you’ve never been here before.”
“So,” Rachel had the glimmerings of an idea, “Are you going to report it because you are a mindless machine and that’s what you are programmed to do? or can you think for yourself and make decisions?”
The elevator car stopped and the doors opened. The scene was quite different to the one above, there were rows and rows of bookshelves but they were empty. Some of them had not been put together yet. It was eerie because it was deserted and most of the lights were out.
“I,” came a haughty reply, “can think for myself thank you very much.”
“Okay, so maybe you don’t need to report anything.”
The elevator doors remained open, the elevator was obviously thinking. Something that shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.
“Why shouldn’t I?” it eventually responded, wryly.
“I don’t know,” Rachel thought furiously, she was getting desperate and didn’t really have a clue what to say, “maybe there’s something I could do for you?” It was really reaching, she knew, but she had nothing else and she was exhausted.
The elevator doors remained open. The darkness of the stacks had an eeriness about it was was unwelcoming.
“Interesting.” Said the elevator. “Are you bribing me?”
Oh God, thought Rachel, this was the last thing she needed. She had an horrible vision of being on trial in front of a judge and jury with this snarky elevator testifying against her.
“No,” she sighed, “I’m just offering, you know, a favor,” even as she said it she knew that she was out of luck. With a sinking feeling she knew that there was no possible favor could she do for an elevator.
“Well,” began the elevator wistfully, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator, “there is one thing you could do for me.”