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Erica stood in the elevator, hunched over, hands gripping the shining bar. Her eyes were shut, desperately holding the tears that threatened to pour over. Knuckles white, she took in deep, shuddering breaths.
She glanced up in the mirror and saw her red, blotchy face and quickly lowered her eyes again to the thin, brown carpet. Scrabbling in her pockets, Erica found a crumpled tissue and pressed it to her eyes. Any moment, the elevator would stop and she would be forced to walk out and face them. She knew what they would say, what they would do to her, because she had said it and done it to others, never thinking it would happen to her.
Erica remembered the head-spinning music that seemed to flow in her blood, until her entire mind was overwhelmed by the events and she could only act, pushing, screaming in laughter, shouting insults in a slurred voice. The girl - who had it been? - stumbled around the room, tears streaming down her face, struggling not to lose it, but they had wanted her to lose it, wanted her go crazy. And then finally she had, screeching in what had been the most hilarious way, fear overflowing in her glazed eyes.
It had been funny at the time. Didn't the girl deserve it? Of course she did. There was no question about it, and besides, that's what happens. The girl shouldn't have been so stupid.
But now it wasn't funny. Because this time, it was Erica who was the pig going to the slaughterhouse. She forced herself to breathe slowly. Don't panic. Panic will make it worse. The very least she could do was hold herself with dignity.
She turned to the elevator and squinted at the glass. Still another fifteen seconds before she arrived. The elevators had gotten much slower with age, but since the World Revolution of 2012, and the resulting diseases and smaller wars, no one remember how they worked. No one remember how anything worked. Eventually, she had heard, the elevators and all other technology would stop working.
But that was the last thing she had to worry about now.
10 more seconds.
Erica suddenly crumpled to the floor, her legs so weak and rubbery. She tried to stand up but couldn't, and suddenly everyone was laughing and screeching, shouting at her. But how could they? She was in the elevator, she hadn't arrived yet! She shook her head, and suddenly retched at the sudden movement, but the voices were gone.
Slowly crawling away from the pool of vomit, she managed to stand up, clutching the bar. 7 seconds.
Was there a way to get out? Eyes wild, she looked around but the elevator was impenetrable. The pre-revolutionaries were good at what they did. Erica clawed at the walls but they wouldn't yield. Sobbing, she pounded on them, kicked them, and screamed as loud as she could but nothing happened. 4 seconds.
What would they do to her? Would it hurt? Would she feel pain as she lay there, or just fear? The voices crowded her head again and she gripped it with both hands. "Go away, go away, go away!" she yelled. "Stop it!" 2 seconds.
It was time. But the doors wouldn't open. The glass display was stuck on 1. Her heart fluttered and she smashed her throbbing fist against the wall. Erica rubbed her smarting eyes, trying to get rid of all the tears but they wouldn't go away. And then suddenly she couldn't see anything. She was blind, the world was dark, the voices were screaming, and yes, there was pain, pain that started deep inside her and reached out to her fingertips, burning flames licking at her flesh. Frantically, she tried to wipe them off, but they wouldn't go, and the pain, the scorching heat, it was all too much and she dissolved into nothing, screaming and wildly wondering how this could be happening to her, and when this would be over, if it would ever be over, if she could always be like this and it would never ever go away.
The elevator dinged. She blinked and looked at the glass display. 1 second. There was still 1 second. Why wouldn't it go away, why was the ding still lasting, how long would this second go?
1 second. That's all it took to die, to kill, to make, to destroy. Erica hoped she would die at that very moment, just fall over and never wake up again, but she continued to breathe, her heart continued to beat. What had happened to that girl? Did they kill her? Or just destroy her? Where was she now, where did those people go?
Where would Erica go?
She looked up. 1 second.
Pain rippled through her again, and she gasped, sweat trickling down her pasty skin. She slumped on the floor, body twitching, whimpering.
One second, the voices whispered. One second one second one second one second one second one second.
One second. One second. One second. One second.
"No!" she screamed, her voice escalating into the highest notes a human voice had ever reached, and then higher still, until suddenly her eyes rolled and she lurched forward, choking.
Her hands slammed against the glass display. It cracked with a bang. Grunting, blood dribbling out of the corner of her mouth, she slid back down to the floor.