MTO Karen Pattee

Credit: Jason Dent

The steel elevator doors yawned open to reveal a dozen or so grim-faced people who dared me to wedge myself into the already-packed car. Don’t, said their glares. I’m not claustrophobic or anything, but I hesitated. The elevators in the Rosetta Center were notoriously slow. It would be a loooong wait for the next car. And who was to say that one wouldn’t also be full?

“Room for one more?” Before anyone could answer, I sidled in with forced cheer, nudging the occupants further back and closer together. We were packed so tightly I could not raise my hand to scratch an itch. And I felt bad for adding to the overall discomfort, but really, it was a few seconds of awkward closeness. Not like it was going to kill anyone.

I sucked in my breath and leaned back as the doors gave their familiar, complaining groan. To prevent my nose from being tweezed, I reared back, and someone’s breath dusted my neck. Ew. Too close. My shoulder was against somebody’s arm. I dared not move my feet, lest I stamp a foot. Someone in the back weezed like a dragon.

Everyone knows the polite thing to do when riding in an elevator with strangers is to watch the little light go from floor to floor. When the power flicked off without warning, the cage stopped and became black simultaneously. A bunch of sharp breaths and one scream erupted before the lights flickered, and the elevator lurched once more. Relieved smiles. Expletives. The screamer apologized.

Blackness again. The elevator stopped.

I held my breath. We all did. Surely there was a back-up battery? Where were the lights? Everyone who gets stuck in an elevator has lights. Why were there zero lights? Everyone started talking at once. “Open the doors,” and “Hit the emergency button,” and “Push all the buttons,” and “Help! SOMEBODY…HELP!” Then…”Shhhhh. Calm your pits, lady.”

Those of us at the front started pushing everything. I jammed my finger and pushed other fingers as often as I pushed what felt like buttons. Hard to know without any sight. I mean it. Had I been able to lift my hand to my face, which I couldn’t, it was too dark to see it. People in the back kept shouting directives.

“We’re pushing ALL the buttons,” an annoyed, verging on panicked male voice shouted.

Everyone tried to get their phones out, which meant an elbow in the gut for me and–by the sound of it–others. The car glowed with soft screen lights. Someone used the flashlight app to bathe us all in beautiful, beautiful light.

“Over here,” came a voice from close behind me. A female. Husky. “Shine a light by me. I feel…”

Nobody listened to her.

She started to whimper. “I feel something. Please, shine a light.”

Everyone was yelling and cursing, and I felt bad for her. People often lose their cool in stressful situations. Why not make her as comfortable as possible? As I swung my phone light toward her, my throat clenched. The phone slipped from my hand, but not before I saw: the person beside her, I couldn’t tell man or woman, the throat had been slit. Before the light fell to my feet, I saw blood pulsing from the slash at the neckline. But the head tilted back; the jaw dropped open. All I could see was neck. And blood. The person was held up but sagging as the life went out of the legs.

Then, screams. Phone lights strobing all over the car, warping every face. And the terrible sounds of fabric tearing, wet suckings, grunts, like when people get punched. The biting reek of iron. The car got quieter and quieter. I waited, inched myself closer to the door, played dead. As soon as I realized what was happening, I all but stopped breathing. The killer didn’t have a light. Just stabbed away. Most of the car was slumped on one another. There’d be a drowning cough or a choked cry and then a grunt. A man’s weight pressed against me. I let us both slide, did what my legs would do if they had no life in them. We were cheek to cheek, he and I, like we were dancing. A terrible, warm flow saturated my hair, ran down my neck as the sounds diminished. Then silence.


Silence for many minutes.

Silence for eternity.

The killer’s breath was heavy with exertion. He stopped moving. My heart rate spiked when I realized: he was listening. There were sounds of him groping about, probably looking for a phone to use as a light. He was unable to take a step: no way. Not without a fight. Everyone who had been upright was bowed, drooping, or hunched. As his breathing slowed, I was horrified to hear my own breath. Could he hear it? I tried to determine if he was honing in on me. Every moment that passed, I waited to feel my death come from in the darkness.

I waited. Waited.

“Hmph. I guess that’s all,” said a husky female voice. She stabbed herself many times, I’m not sure where. I wasn’t about to move to check. But after that the elevator was entirely silent and dark to the point where I thought perhaps I had died but didn’t realize it.

When the elevator doors opened, an opaque light fell on the dozen of us. I heard the sound of liquid splashing on tile. The fireman was choking and swearing and saying, “It’s too late. We’re too late.”

I didn’t even move when the first responders took the man off me. They, too, vomited. Somehow it felt dangerous, moving. Even when they wrapped me in a blanket and placed me on a stretcher.

True: Karen Pattee was stuck for 45 minutes in a packed elevator. Oh, I am curious as to how that actually looked!! I know she’s a survivor type. She’d keep her wits about her as I’ve described here. Hope Karen doesn’t mind that after writing several MTO Horrors for littler folks, I went full-slasher for hers. She asked for a happy ending, so I let her live haha. 😉

Want your own MTO Horror? I’m excited to say a few more victims stepped up to the plate! It only takes a minute. Go HERE if you dare.

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