Fiction Fantastic 2023 Winning Story: “The Elevator” by Leo Kuhl

The story below is a winner from our Fiction Fantastic Young Writers Contest, open to all youth in Lane County. For more information on this contest, including how to enter, visit here. Support this program with a donation.

You can purchase this story in the 2023 Winners Anthology, Enter the Imaginarium here.

“The Elevator” by Leo Kuhl, Charlemagne at Fox Hollow Elementary School

Second Place, Elementary Level, 2023

The Elevator

Leo Kuhl

Charlemagne at Fox Hollow Elementary School

It’s gone, it’s gone. Those words kept going through my mind over and over, but my brain was struggling to make sense of them. Someone stole it.

“Hey, you OK?” Roland asked me. “You look like you’re gonna be sick.”

Of course I wasn’t OK! And I was feeling the same way that I’d been feeling for the past five hours.

Five hours ago was when my day took a turn for the worse. Five hours ago, Roland and I were leaving the art museum, which just so happened to be on the twentieth floor of one of the many skyscrapers in New York. We’d been there because Roland really liked art and, since he’s my best friend, I came along.

Unfortunately, my older brother Jim had to come along, too, to provide some supervision. Art isn’t my favorite, but it’s a thousand times better than Jim.

Anyway, that’s the way things were. I tried not to complain about being so high up, but Roland knows that I’m super afraid of heights, so we avoided the outdoor section on the large balcony. He didn’t really mind because there was this intimidating, big picture of the guy who runs Sci-tech, the richest company in the state and the fourth richest in the country, right there on the side of one of the many Sci-tech buildings, looking at the balcony.

Jim had left to use the bathroom; he’d said to wait for us downstairs. I was glad we were finally going to go back to ground level and blend in with the crowd of people below. We entered the elevator and chatted about how we thought Sci-tech would soon be the richest company in the world.

Then halfway down, the elevator stopped and a voice came on some loud speaker. The voice said,“Attention everyone. An extremely valuable item has been stolen; anybody who has been seen near it will not exit until a proper inspection has been made. If you have seen someone within six feet of this item, please report it to the front desk. The title of the stolen item is simply what it looks like: ‘Cube in Sphere.’ Thank you, now please enjoy your day.”

Enjoy my day, hah, even five hours later from then I wouldn’t be enjoying my day.

That item that was mentioned—the Cube in Sphere—I remembered it. I remembered seeing this sphere with a cube inside. And inside the cube, there was another cube, and inside that cube was the same thing. It went on like that for quite a while until eventually, in one of the really tiny cubes, there was another sphere, and that pattern went on forever until your eyes crossed.

Roland and I stood there in stunned silence and disbelief, staring at the speaker the voice had come from. We were stuck in an elevator. One minute passed, then five minutes, ten minutes, an hour. Finally, after what felt like a million years, Roland banged his fists on the wall as if he was trying to escape and, just like that, the elevator  started to move.

The next part I don’t really remember. It was all a blur. We had been scanned, then taken through some security thing, and then they had us wait in some waiting room for a few hours until finally they let us go. The whole thing was pretty stupid, and they never even found out who stole the item. We were some of the last people to be let out, so I got to think. A lot. But during that time, it was the same words that kept going through my mind. It’s gone, it’s gone. Someone stole it.

When Roland and I finally got out of the building, we hailed a taxi because we didn’t know how to drive or where Jim had parked the car.

“Lankas, really, are you OK?” Roland asked. We were in the cab riding to my house and I was so lost in my thoughts I had forgotten he was there.

“How could I be OK? I was stuck in an elevator for three hours!”

The cab driver turned around intrigued by what I had just said.

“I was, too,” Roland said softly.

And suddenly I felt really bad for Roland. I felt bad that I’d forgotten that he had suffered too. And then I did something that I would have never expected myself to do.

“Stop the cab,” I said.

“What!?” Both the taxi driver and Roland said at the same time.

“This is not your destination, sir,” the taxi driver said to me as if I didn’t know. “It’s not even close.”

“It is now,” I said, annoyed that the driver wouldn’t pull over. “Look, I’ll pay you extra if you let me get out here.”

“And what about him?” the driver asked, gesturing to Roland.

“He’s coming with me,” I said, mainly to Roland.

The driver pulled over so I gave him the extra ten bucks I promised.

“Well, come on,” I said to Roland. Roland hopped out of the cab, thanked the driver, and followed me with a puzzled look on his face.

“What are you doing?” Roland asked me as soon as the taxi driver was gone.

“I’m taking us to a spot where we can actually think,” I told him.

“Look Lankas, I know our day was pretty awful, but it’s 6:00 p.m. and you can think at home,” Roland said, stopping.

“Well, now we don’t have any way to get home so you might as well come with me while we wait for another cab,” I suggested.

Of course I wasn’t really going to get in a cab and go home. He sat down and I waited for him to say something, but he never did.

I took out my phone and looked at some website about Sci-tech, the company. Then I found something really crazy.

“Hey Roland, come look at this,” I said. Roland looked up from his phone.

“What is it?”

“Sci-tech now became the second richest company in the country as of today, at 1:13 p.m.,” I told him.

“No way! Where did you find that out?” he asked.

“On this website called Sci-tech News 101,” I told him. He searched it on his phone.

“That’s strange,” he said, frowning. “It says there’s only one viewer, and that must be you.”

He was so confused he didn’t even notice that a number of different taxis were passing by and we could have hailed one.

Suddenly he froze. “Read this,” he said shakily, giving me his phone.

And so I read, and I read again to make sure I didn’t misread it the first time. But I didn’t, there was no mistake, because the article clearly said in bold letters:

Breaking news! Sci-tech has sold a very precious item for $100,000,000! No one knows what was sold but whatever it was, it was sold at 1:13 p.m., making Sci-tech the second richest company in the country! This deal was made online, however, and we suspect that the item won’t actually be given away until 10:00 p.m. tonight. We are still waiting for more information so please let us know if you find out anything new. Make sure to check our website for more information!

And then there was a bunch about the website and other stuff.

We both just sat there for who knows how long until finally, I said, “Well, let’s get in a cab.”

“Are you crazy? We can’t just go home now!” Roland exclaimed.

“No, I mean go to the Sci-tech building, genius,” I said.

The cab driver had to let us out a couple blocks away because there were a bunch of police cars surrounding the building in which we’d spent most of our day. I wished I could have told them Sci-tech stole the item, but they never would have believed me. I knew it though, because all the little details fit in like the pieces of a puzzle. The building in which the artifact was stolen is right next to the Sci-tech building. Someone from Sci-tech most likely reported someone who they saw near the item to make themself seem innocent. It was 1:15 p.m. when Roland and I were stopped in the elevator; shortly after Sci-tech became the second richest company in the country. And the most obvious detail was that the item that Sci-tech sold online was $100,000,000, the same price that any extremely valuable item should be.

Roland and I walked towards the Sci-tech building and entered. That part was OK. We had to find out which floor the item was on, which wasn’t very hard because we were lucky and happened to find a map. The unlucky thing was that the storage room, where I decided the item must be, was on the fortieth floor of the building.

“Are you kidding me!” I sighed. I had to face my fears.

“Ahem,” someone cleared their throat behind me. Roland and I spun around.

“What on earth are you two kids doing?”

After we got kicked out of the front entrance, we went to the back. That time we had better luck. We hid behind a trash can as two workers exited the building, sighing as they hung up their employee coats. A sly grin came across my face as I worked out a plan in my mind.

The coats were big. Way too big. But fortunately Roland had two pairs of shades in his pants pocket, and when we put them on, we looked pretty cool. We practically ran to the stairs, and the guy at the front desk seemed very suspicious of us so we didn’t say a word.

I was not going to go on the elevator, not if I could help it. I’d had enough experience with elevators that day, so we took the stairs. It was on the twentieth floor that Roland decided we would wipe out before we got to the top so we ended up taking the elevator after all.

“Something about this building feels big. Too big,” Roland said, looking around the elevator as if he was expecting a voice to come on a speaker and for us to get stopped again.

“Pretty much every building in New York is big,” I said, not knowing what he meant. But before he could explain, I noticed that I never pressed the button on the elevator. We weren’t even moving. “Stupid me,” I said. “I forgot to press the button on the elevator.”

“That’s very strange,” Roland said, frowning. “There isn’t any button for the fortieth floor, there’s one for the thirty-ninth floor and one for the forty-first.”

“Well, there may not be a button for the fortieth floor now, but you can tell that there used to be,” I said, pointing to a circle where the button used to be.

“And someone ripped it off so no one could find them,” Roland finished for me.

“Which floor should we go to?” Roland asked.

“Uh, thirty-ninth for sure,” I said pressing the button.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes.” I wasn’t going to go any higher than necessary.

When we got to the thirty-ninth floor, the elevator made a little “ding” and we got off. I was angry and shocked to find that there wasn’t any staircase leading up to the fortieth floor. We had come all this way for nothing.

I began to pace around in circles, and Roland joined after about five minutes. I kept pacing until my feet got sore.

Then I realized how stupid I was being. The person who ripped off the button probably only thought of doing it in one elevator so I told Roland to come as I walked into the second elevator. Roland immediately understood what I was doing, and ran in after me. I let out an angry laugh as I pressed the fortieth floor button in the second elevator.

When we got out this time it was much darker and more ominous. Then all of a sudden something flew at my head. I ducked, and turned around to find a dagger stuck to the wall inches away from my head.

“Who—” I began.

“Well, you’re here at last.” I turned around to find the head of Sci-tech standing right in front of me. “The name’s Mudlock.” Well, that sure sounded evil. As if reading my thoughts he said, “Most people call me John.”

Roland, where was Roland?

Mudlock threw another dagger, which I realized was fake, and he was just trying to scare me.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, grinning evilly. “I figured someone like you might find me.” I would have been honored by what he said if I wasn’t on the fortieth floor of a building talking to some creepy guy named Mudlock.

“So, Lankas,” he said.

“So . . . John,” I said, deciding I was not calling him Mudlock.

“What was it you planned on doing now?” he asked.

I didn’t answer. Instead, I rolled past him, trying to escape, but a new set of arms grabbed me so I had nowhere to go. The man shoved me onto the balcony and locked the door. He stayed behind to be able to unlock the door at John’s command. John had a flashlight so I grabbed it and shined it down on the people below. This got many people to look up.

“HELP,” I hollered as loud as I could.

John strolled over so I shined the light in his face, showing everyone who was evil. I swear some people stepped back in surprise.

“You nasty child,” John barked as he stomped on my foot making me drop the flashlight. Everyone below backed up as the flashlight hit the ground with a loud thud.

John’s smirk returned.

“Well, I must say farewell,” he said. “Oh, but first,”’ he said, as he pulled out two handcuffs. He cuffed both my hands to the balcony rail.

“What are you going to do to with me?” I asked, struggling to break free from the handcuffs.

“Oh, yes, I’ll leave you here until you rot,” he said kindly, as if he was doing me a favor. But instead of struggling against the handcuffs, I returned his smile.

“What’re you smiling at?” he asked. His smile faded once he saw how happy I looked.

“See for yourself,” I said. He turned around right as Roland bolted onto the balcony.

John’s expression was priceless when he saw that Roland was holding the Cube in Sphere rolled up in his hand. Roland freed me, we dashed inside, past John’s sidekick, who looked stunned, and locked the door before John could catch us. We raced to the elevator, and quickly pressed the button for the first floor.

When we got out of the building we were surrounded by police. “Oh, no,” I thought.

“May we have that?” one of the officers asked. Roland did as they said, and gave them the item.

“Well done,” another one said. I did a double take. “We saw what you did up there,” they explained.

And so, we became famous. Well, not really.

That night we slept at a hotel near the Sci-tech building because it was too late to go home.

“So how did you find it?” I asked Roland, wondering how he had found the item.

“It was on the forty-first floor,” he explained. “It wasn’t in the storage room to fool people.”

“Like me,” I said. “But how did you know” I asked.

He just smiled and I knew it, and I knew I would never forget it: Roland was the smartest kid I knew.

The next day, our parents picked us up at the hotel.

“Well, some adventure,” Roland said.

“Some adventure,” I said. “See you soon.” I waved goodbye.

He smiled, and I returned the smile all the way home.