I press the red button with a bell in it, but nothing happens. Strange.

The elevator has stopped. The lights are on, but the alarm doesn't work.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, the white letters say, PRESS THIS BUTTON. Then there's a black button.

The letters are white on red, just like the alarm button, behind a tiny metallic door that is just below the buttons you press to go to this floor or that.

I didn't open the tiny door. I punched the panel in anger and it opened on its own, slowly, inviting.

There are more letters below the button. WAIT FIVE SECONDS FOR MANUAL RELEASE, the letters say.

This is another situation that becomes an out-of-body experience. Too much tension, so you just pretend it's not you standing there, waiting for some mechanism you can't see to do its magic. The tension comes purely from fear.

You press the button.

You count. One second. Two seconds.

What you are afraid of is not that the elevator will fall.

Three.

What you are afraid of is that it won't.

Four.

This is familiar territory. From years ago. Deja vu.

You never get to five because the hand release mechanism does what it's supposed to do and a slit of brightness appears in the metal. Your fingers go in and you pull. Reality takes me back in. They're my fingers now. I pull.

The doors open.

I am between floors, and the view from here is what rats or cockroaches see every day. The view from the trenches. I can see the dirt on which we walk up close, what we throw, what they eat. Some people say that rats will inherit the earth. I think that rats gave the earth to us. They used to run things, but then they decided that it was much better to let a bunch of egotistical primates do all their work for them, and they let us be in charge of creating food and shelter and such things.

One day, we'll take the rats to Mars, free of charge. And they will get there without having to worry about balancing the budget.

I have stop thinking about rats and space travel, and get out. This thing might start up again.

I pull myself out, crawling. My arms hurt. I stand up, look around. Sixth floor.

As soon as I'm out, the elevator starts to move until it reaches the floor. Ding, Dong, it says.

Figures.

Well, at least I got here.

There's no one in sight. The workers that were here in the morning are gone. And it's not five o'clock yet.

What I'm doing now is going floor by floor one last time, trying to find Eddie. I approach the doors. Carefully. I cover my hands with the sleeves of my shirt, and I push. The doors open.

I walk in. There's the smell of things that have just been built, paint, wood cut or drilled, solvent. There are pieces of carpet everywhere. What's left of sunlight cuts the floor in sharp shadows of chairs, lonely cubicle walls and tables. I'd never seen shadows in the office.

A sound, coming from the side.

I turn to it, and there's a sort of... what is that? Some sort of wall...

Eddie? I say.

Eddie's head shoots up behind the wall. What? he says, nervously.

I clear my throat, then say, Are you building a fort?

Protection, Eddie's head says. Protection.

Protection, I think, In a fort. Is there any sand here? And I left my pail at home.

Protection from what? I say.

You know, Eddie's head says, then it disappears. Eddie crawls out from it, from a side, then stands up.

What? he says. Whatdoyouwant?

I make an effort to stop looking at the hideous structure behind Eddie and I look at him. The meeting's soon, I say.

This is my excuse for looking for him, the result of minutes of preparation and hard work.

Oh, Eddie says.

Plus, you said you'd explain later, I say.

Ha! Eddie says, YoushouldtellJordanI know what'sgoingon.

Jordan?

I haven't seen Jordan in weeks, I say.

Really, he says.

Well, I'm nottelling you anything, he says, then starts to walk, and goes past me. I turn around and he's by the door. I walk after him.

I get to the door, open it, and he's already on the elevator, doors closing.

Wait! Where are you going? I say

The meeting, Eddie says. Then his face disappears, only shiny metal left.

The meeting. I look at my watch. It was a good excuse then.

The meeting is now.