Author: Aubrey Williams

Every Tuesday and Thursday I have business in the Kirk Tower, and take the lift to the 21st floor. I’ve done this for the past three months, and every time I take it, regardless of which floor I start from, there’s always the same man in there. He’s clean-cut, a bit like Clint Eastwood, dark sunglasses, grey flannel suit, and an attaché case. He always asks me “which floor?”, and I’ve started responding “the usual”. He sometimes tells me to “knock ‘em dead!” or “don’t slip on the floor, they just waxed it”.

Now, I’m not someone who’s completely obsessive, but this started to bug me. One Wednesday, I decided to go into the Kirk Tower, but on my way a tour bus splashed me badly, and I had to retreat. The following Friday, I walked up to the doors, but there was a power outage and the building was closed. I decided to let it drop for a while, though the following Tuesday I saw the lift rider smirk at me, knowingly.

Today was a little different, though. It was a quiet Thursday, and we were the only ones in the lift.

“Going up to old 21 again, buddy?” he asked.

I was about to nod, but I changed my mind.

“Actually, I’ll try 22.”

“Any reason? I don’t think the company switched floors.”

“I fancy a change.”

“Well ok, then,” he said with a smile, “I’m a big fan of changes.”

We went on our way up, but at floor 18 a former colleague of mine got on, greeting me, and asked if I was also going up to 21. He was smiling, telling me about the new coffee machine the boss had installed, and wanted to know if I fancied a new project. I almost forgot about the lift rider, but I saw him watching me, and fought against temptation. I explained another client wanted to talk, and that was that. He got off at 21, and it felt like a very long time before the doors closed, the lift rider staring ahead throughout. The lift shuddered ever-so-slightly past 21, but got to 22. The doors groaned, but they eventually gave way after the lift rider tapped them with his free hand a few times, and revealed to me a slightly nicer office complex than the one I was used to.

He smiled as I turned to him.

“Well, be seeing you, 21. Guess I might need to start calling you 22 now.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I smiled and left.

That day was the best day of my life for six years. It turned out they were looking for a consultancy firm like mine to work on something. The people were great, and we went out for burgers afterwards. The secretary gave me her number, and someone mentioned their weekly tabletop session had room for one more.

The next Tuesday I got into the lift, crammed in like a sardine, heading to the 22nd floor. He was difficult to see, but the lift rider was there, though his suit was black and double-breasted. When everyone else had emptied out, I asked him:

“Who are you? What happens if I go to the top floor? Is that where you go?”

He chuckled, and adjusted his sunglasses. His eyes were swirling galaxies.

“I wouldn’t disrupt things too much, Mr. 22. A little change at the right time is good. Too much, and you end up down in the basement.”

He grimaced.

“You don’t want that.”

Next quarter, I plan on trying the 23rd floor.