By Ralph A. Lewin
I had only a dime in my hand. I guessed I wouldn't need anything else at all.
"Come on," said the elevator man. "You can't stay here forever."
"You're new, aren't you?" I asked.
He gave a hollow laugh. "No, sir, I've been here all along. Robert Charon, sir - call me Ro. Mind the doors!"
"Aren't we waiting for anyone else?"
"No, sir, you're the only one at the moment. Where to?"
"I don't know," I confessed.
"Well, you can't stop on the Ground Floor any more, that's for sure. Up or down?" He patted his dog patiently.
"There's only two up, like there's only two down. They give you a Special Pass?"
"No, nothing. I didn't get papers or anything. In fact, I didn't know I'd be coming at all. The car got all smashed up, you see. . ."
"Yes," he nodded with understanding. "There's a lot of them come like that. Get a Ticket?"
"No, no Ticket. You see, I wasn't to blame, really. . ."
He interrupted me with a pat on my shoulder. His hand felt cold. "Well, sir, it's like this. You can't get off at the Top Floor without a Special Pass - that's Boss's orders. And the Basement's just for people with Tickets. That leaves only the Mezzanine and the Sub-basement. You can't stay here any longer, that's a dead cert. So what's it to be?"
I still hesitated. "What's in the Sub-basement?"
"Just Rest Rooms and Dormitories, sir? Most people stop there, I reckon, in the end."
"An what's up on the Mezzanine?"
"Balconies, mostly, with views. You can see long ways from our Mezzanine, sir, real long ways, off into the future. Terrace of Consequences, they call it, where you can see exactly how the things you did will work out in the end."
"I see," I said. I remembered a lot of things that I'd done in my life, and I thought hard. I considered carefully, for a long time, while Ro waited patiently. He himself seemed to have nowhere in particular to go, and all the time in the world.
Finally I decided what would probably suit me best. "O.K." I nodded. "Sub-basement, then."
We went down. I gave him his tip; and he let me off in a dimly lit lobby.
"Sleep well!" he wished me. But he didn't add, the way they usually
do, "Be seeing you."