Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The People Of The Stairwell

It was early 1940's when the bomb was dropped on the bustling city of Nackitaw, Wisconsin. This came as quite a surprise to many people. It came as a surprise to the US government that didn't know Easter Island had been working on a bomb. It came as a surprise to the people of Nackitaw who were being hailed as the 'New New York.' It also came as a big surprise to the rest of the world that had never even heard of an atomic bomb. However, there were two people, who were not so surprised, and as it seems, not even greatly effected.

Mathew Evens always took his lunch breaks in the stairwell that ran down the middle of the sky scraper where he worked. The building was a monument to human accomplishment. Soaring at 39 stories and boasting the newest conveniences that modern life could afford. Mathew loved working in such a place. It made him feel proud to be an American. He was originally born in Germany, but ya know, what with the tensions, why bring it up? He was American now at any rate.

He had a nice office that he worked out of as executive manager in charge of running things. In fact no one actually knew what he did, including himself, but he could sure fire anyone that got in the way of him getting it done. Even his secretary Sally Adams had the power to fire people. It was a different time back then. A time when people got fired a lot.

Every day, Monday through Friday, 365 days a year --minus the weekends of course-- when the clock hit 12, Mathew would take his lunch and walk to the stairwell. He always stole a quick glance at his secretary Sally when he walked by. She was a lovely gal, and in those days, the only reason for having a secretary was so that she could file your paperwork and type your memos.

Mathew knew it was love. He constantly dreamed of burying his face in her lovely blonde hair and kissing her like a half crazed lover from one of those foreign films. But it could never be. A romance between an executive and a secretary? Ha! What foolish thoughts.

So he would look asconce at her as he walked by, always with the same conversation.

"Going to lunch, Sally."

"Alright, Mr. Evans."

"Evens, Sally."

"Sorry, sir. Have a good lunch."

It was no different that fateful afternoon. He got through the formalities and escaped to the only place where his feelings wouldn't be judged by suspicious eyes. Mathew propped the door open a crack so as not to get locked in. This had actually happened once before about a year and a half ago. He ended up spending an entire weekend waiting for someone to let him out. It was as Mathew could see, the only design flaw in the building.

Mathew's mother and father both lived with him, and they took turns preparing his lunches. On the even days he would get wonderful meals of bratwurst and kraut with a schnitzel kicker. But on the odd days, when his father prepared the meal, he would always find something unpalatable. One day he opened his bag and discovered that his father had lovingly packed a single egg, uncooked, with a nail. Another time car keys and an unopened can of an unknown product. But Mathew loved his father and saw it as an opportunity to keep trim.

That day as he opened his lunch he found a single tomato and a thermos of dirt. Mathew smiled and put the items back in the bag. Instead of eating he leaned back against the wall and thought about Sally. He thought long and hard about her. Thought with his eyes closed. The sound of the door closing woke him up. He jumped to his feet and ran to the door and tried to pull it back open through sheer force of will. but the door wouldn't have any of that. He was trapped again.

Sally was in love with her boss. It was a hard reality to be faced with, and the end result was she usually had to fire a couple people each day just to feel better. Oh, how she wished he wouldn't just walk by every afternoon, 365 days a year --minus the weekends. How she longed to have him invite her to eat with him and to bury his face in her lovely blonde hair and have him kiss her like a crazed lover from one of those foreign films.

She sighed heavily, took out her lunch, and fired two people. But that afternoon, even that didn't help her mood. She put her lunch back in it's bag and stood up. Maybe she would lose her job, but she could take it no longer. She would go to Mathew and tell him how she felt about him.

As Mathew raced crazily up and down the stairwell looking for any open door, Sally was walking through the door that had closed on him earlier, unawares as it were about the automatic closing feature. Mathew was 8 floors down, but he heard that click as the door closed and called out to see who would be joining him.

"Hullo?" he called.

"Mr. Evans?" Sally responded.

"Evens, Sally. My name is Evens."

"Sorry, sir!"

"Not at all. I'm sorry for you, Sally. Cause you let the door close and now we're stuck."

He walked up the steps to where Sally stood trying to open the door through sheer force of will.

"It's no good. The door is reinforced steel. The whole stairwell is in fact built to withstand a fire, should people need to evacuate," Mathew stated.

"So what do we do?" Sally asked.

"Not much we can do. It's practically soundproofed. The last time I was stuck in here, it was for three days. It's why I fired my last secretary. She didn't find it odd that I should be missing."

"Three days! What did you do for water?"

Mathew smiled at her and pointed up.

"Sprinklers. I lit my pants on fire and the smoke set it off."

"Brilliant," she said, and fell in love with him again.

The two of them sat and talked. They decided to hold onto Sally's lunch for rationing just in case. Despite being hungry and thirsty, the two of them were as happy as could be. And as the night fell over the stairwell on that friday, they each declared their love for each other.

Saturday found the two of them chatting away like love birds, and sharing the apple from Sally's lunch; the only nourishment they would have for the day. He told her about being an only child growing up in Germany and America, and about his father and mother, and the lunches they packed. She told him about her catholic parents and her twenty-four siblings.

Come Sunday they were both dangerously dehydrated. However, not wanting to embarrass the young lady, Mathew burned one of his shoes instead. They enjoyed it as fresh rain and ran around in circles like children.

Then came Monday. The upper levels of the stairwell had windows of sorts. Enough to let the light in, but not enough to see anything. Mathew and Sally were completely cut off from the rest of the world. So neither one of them had any idea that the city had been evacuated.

After five days, Mathew knew something was wrong. The door to the roof could be opened. The only door in the stairwell that could. There was no way to get down from a 39 story roof, nor would anyone hear you call, but at least you could look down. If you like looking down from a tall building that is. Mathew figured he had no choice. What he saw was unsettling. He didn't know what had happened, but he knew there were no people down there. Horror struck, he retreated back to the stairwell.

He told Sally what he had seen and she decided she didn't want to see it. Instead they began thinking about surviving. They decided to scavange the roof's toolshed in the vain hope of finding an axe that they could use to break down a door. Inside they found a rusted tin pot, three empty glass jars, seven snails, two muddy boots, and mercifully, an old cott with two dirty pillows.

While Sally set about cleaning the bed as best she could, Mathew busied himself making a garden. He had not eaten the tomato, nor had he drunk the thermos of dirt. He poured the dirt into the tin pot and planted the seeds from the tomato into the pot. he also planted the apple seeds, not really thinking of them as a food source, but as something to keep him busy.

With no idea how long it would take for tomatos to grow, the two of them waited, hoping that they would have them before they starved. God granted them a small mercy by helping them to grow fast. in three weeks they saw the first tomatos and a glimmer of hope sprung into them. But still it was not fast enough and the two of them became weak. Neither of them thought they could hold out much longer.

Thankfully, then came the rats. They were big, and wanted the tomatoes. Mathew used this to his advantage and made a sort of a trap from the shoelaces he took off the boots. After many a failed attempt, he succeeded in snaring a particularly fat fellow with long whiskers. They named him Jasper and found him delicious.

Little by little they survived. Small victories gave way to bigger ones. They found a blade of sorts on the roof and were able to fashion spears and other essentials. They found that the cot had a piece of flint under the mat. This gave them a source of fire, and just as Mathew's lighter was running out. The tomatoes grew big and beautiful and the jars offered a chance to preserve some through the winter. Though they had no intention of letting the original plants die so easily. They eventually made one floor of the stairwell a tomato garden. Another they prepared in the hope for an apple tree. Ever ambitious, and desperate to thrive, they walled that floor up and attempted a hydroponic apple garden.

And so passed a year. Many times they came close to death. But they survived. They tore down their clothes to bare essentials so they would last longer. And after a long hard year, they looked like they just might make it. The garden was ever renewed and the rats were dumb enough to keep coming. At last Mathew's mind was free to look elsewhere. By that point, Elsewhere was wearing only a bra and shorts.

The two of them talked about it one night, and decided that it would not be right to indulge, as it might mean a child. Neither one of them knew anything about delivering a baby. Nor did they think it would be right to bring one into such a world. With a firm determination, the two agreed to abstain.

That night Sally got pregnant.

Pregnancy was hard. The food just wasn't there. Mathew had a hard time fulfilling her cravings in the night for rat burgers with ketchup. But they made it through again. Mathew even began farming the rats, penning them up, rather than killing them instantly. In the end Sally gave birth to two glorious babies. One boy and one girl.

And so they continued. The one year turned into five years. The five years turned into ten. The stairwell became divided into sections. Living quarters, gardens --for with increased mouths came a need for more gardens- and of course, the apple tree. Against all expectation, the apple tree had grown to quite a healthy size. They dared not hope yet at apples, but should things continue, then in another ten years they might see fruit.

The children grew up used to their environment as children are want to do. They were lean but healthy and as happy as could be. Sally and Mathew soon left their fears behind and again found themselves pregnant.

After thirty years had passed since getting trapped, Mathew one evening sat up in bed.

"What is it, honey?" Sally asked.

"I just got the joke!" he answered.

"What joke?" she asked, propping herself up on her elbows and looking at her sweet but slightly nutty husband.

"Your last name is Adams and mine is Evens... Adam and Eve!"

"That's a little weak, dear. Besides, I thought your last name was Evans."

In 2003, roughly 60 years after getting stuck in the stairwell, the city of Nackitaw declared a holiday. When the bomb was dropped, it may have come as a big surprise to everyone involved, but it came as an even greater shock to Easter Island when it failed to detonate. The city was evacuated for half a year while they looked for the bomb and any other possible bombs. When people were finally allowed to return, the momentum behind the industry boom was gone. Many businesses had already found other outlets to work out of. Several had even gone out of business altogether.

The building that housed Sally and Mathew was left deserted. No one it seemed could even remember what the company did, so it was deemed unnecessary to continue work. It was this same building that some potential buyers were looking into, one fateful morning.

The buyers found the building to be quite nice. The floors all needed cleaning out, but it was in relatively good condition. But then someone suggested they look in the stairwell. At first no one believed what they saw. You just don't expect to see an apple tree in full bloom when you open a door on the 11th floor. Even more shocking, they found a tribe of 37 different natives, mostly naked, but speaking perfect English.

It was judged that most of the people could be rehabilitated. And the government took special interest in helping them. However, the male and female leaders, now well into their 80's, didn't want to leave. After some long court proceedings, it was judged that they had, at the very least, squatters rights. The building was turned over to them for as long as they both lived. This was not too much longer as it turned out.

Last year in April, Adams and Evens were found dead, under the apple tree, which had been given a fresh dirt base and grass for the roots to sink into. On each of their faces, a peculiar smile.

The building has since been declared a historical monument.

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