The Pianist

Contributor: Rocky Teh

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By and large, most modern elevators are controlled by six or eight motor-driven ropes. This one, shoved into a building slapped together with the budget of a beggar’s takings at the turn of the nineties, had three. A bumbling imitation of the best, it stalled shockingly easily - with nifty fingers you needed little more than a screwdriver and a wrench.

The pianist clutched the bag as he waited for the elevator to complete its noisy ascent. He was a tall man and did not - could not, for that matter - let the bag drag on the floor. He shook his head at the state of the building, worlds - and a ten minute drive - from his own office.

Lucky I quit while I was ahead.

The elevator made no noise to signal its arrival on the eighth storey - only a meek blinking emanation of yellow. Its red doors parted slowly, and the pianist entered, still clutching her hand tightly. It was dark in the lift - only two of the four light fixtures blinked. With one hand he unwrapped the bag, with another he pressed for the first floor with considerable force, the button making a daunting depression into the panel. She rested against the back panel, giving an interesting maroon taint to two posters, one advertising work ethics, another advertising a second hand Hyundai.

Timing was crucial with this lift. With most newer models there was little chance that you could cheat the system. He idled for a few seconds, eyes in the vague direction of the door mechanisms like an actor waiting for cue, left foot arched back in anticipation of his sprint. The doors began closing with a solemn clunk. It was important that you got out before the doors proceeded more than a foot towards each other. Any more and the sensor - otherwise blind - would detect you. Do it more than two, three times and the doors would simply refuse to shut, or even worse, be jammed halfway.

He made it out and halted, turning around, his shoes making a dreadful screech in the empty corridor. The lift shut, vulgar red lips drew together. He did not need to wait for its hum of descent. Immediately, he made for the rooftop stairway barely twenty paces away. On top, the housing of machinery, a lone erection in a concrete plain, was marked out from the darkness by a single green blip on the far side. He reached into his pocket for the screwdriver and the wrench, but the night wind blew his grip away and the tools slipped, briefly striking his calf before landing on the floor with a clink much softer than he’d expected.

Quickly, the pianist wondered if anyone had seen him. But of course, no one was working. It was National Day. And the day after that? A public holiday. After that? The king’s birthday. After that? Well, this was coincidence, but, the weekend.

Five full days.

He unlocked the housing. With nifty fingers you needed little more than a screwdriver and a wrench. He was no mechanic and had only done this once, but it surprised him how easily it could be done. The crux was in the timing. Nonchalantly, the lift stopped halfway between the third and fourth storey, and the flickering green blip on the housing faded, replaced by an angry red. he smashed it.

Don’t you dare mock me, the pianist thought as he climbed down, every footstep a hollow echo in the stairway. Eleven years of your shit? More than enough.

The wind was still blowing hard as he hiked to his car, parked three streets down. In the absolute darkness, the quarter seemed discombobulating. He let the engine idle for a minute or so as he scanned the channels for a song he liked, until he found an Oasis classic. He took a minute to appreciate the metallic ping of his fingers on the dial. Given his money, he could have easily afforded the most life-like ones the business had.

But they left fingerprints. These metal prosthetics did not.


Countless times he had been teased for his punctuality, but as usual, Dean McKellan was early to the office. At the lobby he found the lift had stalled - for perhaps the twentieth time that year. Fishing for the guy’s phone number in his mental directory, he made for the stairs, his gut feeling the pound of every step. Even the Sunday football was doing nothing for his blossoming depot of fat. As he passed the fourth floor he thought he could smell the trash from the lobby. Great, On top of the fucked lift, the janitor had been lazing on the job. Dean was about to pull open the stairway door but to his surprise, he found himself advancing through the storeys.

The very least I can do as the Resources Director is to be a bit resourceful myself! he self-reproached. At least go check what’s wrong with the machinery!

He paused on the seventh floor to fetch a screwdriver from the maintenance cupboard. The smell seemed less prominent, but oddly, his nose brought him not to the bins but to the lift lobby. The elevator was surprisingly simple to fix; the jammed component could’ve been removed by even the most inept of hands. Dean peered into the shaft, surprised at how loud the humming of the machinery was from up here. It was coming up. Good. He would take the lift down.

He wondered, as the elevator climbed dreadfully slowly (6... 7..., the analog read, an interval of at least five seconds between each digit) whether he would be faced with the scene that greeted him two or three years ago. Some kids, presumably inebriated in the spirit of the long holiday, had broken into the premises and vomited copiously.

Whatever. He was a big boy and he was not afraid of vomit. The number 8 finally appeared on the analog.

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16, writes when inspired, sleeps when not.
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