I'd gotten sick of the shuddering, the screeching and the scratching long ago, but I seemed to be unable to escape it. I'd born it, gritting my by now thoroughly yellow-brown teeth. Funny thing, riding an elevator. No such thing as elementary hygiene, but that mirrored back lets you enjoy your descent into hobo territory.
A soft clanking sound and a jarring stop announced my arrival and I stepped back slightly as the door slid open. A wood-panelled wall in front of me, dust collecting on the thin molding running at waist height from left to right. That damn metal M dangled forlornly from the wall's pitted and scarred surface. It was cold and I zipped up my leather jacket just a bit further before carefully sticking my head out the doors.
To the left were the remains of a very familiar hallway. It ended in a whole lot of nothing now, a jagged maw opening up into what looked like a Cold War version of hell. To the right was a dead end. I positioned the prosthetic leg I'd found three buttons down in between the doors to keep them open and took a few careful steps outside the elevator. Stepping over one of the M's companions in the middle of the floor, I made my way down the hall. The wind howled and an increasingly ominous creaking accompanied my footsteps the further I ventured from my starting point. After about three meters I gave up. No sense in all of this ending with me impersonating a puddle of goo down there. Not as long as I still had some hope of getting out of here.
The city seemed to have been utterly destroyed. Twisted steel girders were the silent reminders that this place had lived at some point. As far as I could see they were bent out from my position. There was no sound but the howling of the wind, no life out here beside mine. Or at least, that was how it seemed. Perhaps somewhere down there, something…was. Considering my experiences up until then, I didn't care to find out what, if anything, was out there.
I'd seen it before and I'd see it again; an emptiness taking infinite shapes. I stood there for a few more minutes, taking in the desolation and sorrow of the place. Then I hung my head and slowly made my way back to the open doors of the elevator. I plucked the leg back inside and watched as the doors closed in front of me.
Sixty-nine floors down, twenty-seven to go before I'd run out of buttons to press. Perhaps the next time the doors opened I'd find this Mr. Salford-Watkins. Glancing back over my shoulder I looked at what brought me here in the first place, sitting in the corner of this small cell. Utterly unremarkable in its brown wrapping paper. I didn't think I'd deliver this one in time.
"He's been in there how long?" the fresh-faced junior researcher asked in a puzzled tone.
Taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes, the man he was relieving replied.
"According to our data about eighteen years. That's not what he's experiencing though. He sure as hell hasn't aged that much."
"That's one way of putting it. Look, didn't you read the brief before you came here?"
"Yeah. Well, I skimmed it. What's he doing in there?"
"The official answer? Being stuck in a temporal and spatial anomaly since 1994; one that we can't extract him from. My opinion? Being stuck in hell."
"Yeah. Wow. I'm done here. You have yourself a great month, I'm going to see if I can sleep without seeing that poor bastard's face in my dreams."