To be fair, ‘the powers that be’, whatever their origin, recognised that the message would be of universal importance and thus it was issued on all social media platforms ensuring the widest possible exposure. The announcement was brief but to the point, “We apologise for any inconvenience but we have grown bored with our experiment. The planet you are living on will become uninhabitable in approximately three hours: no packing for the afterlife is necessary”. Existence, despite the best efforts of a number of largely ignored soothsayers, prophets and visionaries is never fair or just and, time zones being what they are, some people would vanish into the void without the chance to pack their reputation while others would be more fortunate, if you see awareness as something to celebrate.
Whatever else was happening, for two people in a lift when the power supply went off, the news was less than welcome. One was buying a present for his sister’s birthday, and the other one was a floor manager at the store in which the lift was located. He was on the way to give some underling the roasting of a lifetime, one of his favourite duties, and had worked up a portfolio of cutting and diminishing phrases sometime before the interview. Now he was to be robbed of this enjoyment: it was irritating.
His ill humour was compounded by the fact that the only other occupant in the lift seemed to be an unhinged and shrieking hysteric on the edge of tearing his own shirt. “Is there any chance you could lower your voice a little. You are in danger of giving me a headache,” he warned his companion.
“A headache!! Don’t you understand what is happening. We’re going to die, DIE, you cold-hearted robot”. The sight of the sun being turned off and setting for the last time would reveal the most beautiful skyscape you could imagine: a sight anyone might treasure for the rest of their lives, which was going to be in about two hours and twenty minutes. Sadly for our ‘Titans of the lift,’ no windows had been provided to allow them to enjoy this last transcending moment. Instead a small advertisement opposite the door offered the best in new central heating with payments spread over three years; a bargain in any eventuality, although possibly not this one.
It appears that raising his eyebrows at the Hysteric was a gesture too far. The man lunged forward in a manner likely to damage the manager’s appearance: given that he was known for his crisply ironed shirts and neat attire, this would not do. That he was a brown belt in judo became apparent to his reluctant companion, when he found himself pinned to the floor: he responded with a range of whimpering and gurgling largely unfamiliar to the author. “A little quiet would be appreciated jerk” said Mr Manager.
All of a sudden the emergency lighting was replaced by the normal glare: mobiles pinged and a strange non-regional voice came from the speakers. “Earthlings,” it said, “We have enjoyed your display of callow shallowness, cowardice and hysteria to such an extent that we have decided to rescind our decision. Life will continue as normal, but with added catastrophe. After a short period, because we are enjoying ourselves, you will all experience partial amnesia and forget this event happened. Keep crying. Thank you for entertaining us.” Somewhere at the back of the transmission a slightly less cultured voice could be heard exclaiming “They’re really very silly aren’t they” and then being told to shut up.
The Liftonians rose to their feet and resumed normal standards of etiquette: that is standing as far apart as possible and admiring the walls. The hysterics eyebrows rose for a moment; suddenly that nifty central heating offer seemed worth investigating.