by Angela Kempe
Melinda got out of her beige sedan and pressed the remote button, sending a sharp high-pitched beep echoing through the half empty garage. Then, she turned to her friend Debbie.
“After we go to Macy’s, wanna go to Coldstone?”
“Sure,” Debbie replied, fixing her purse strap over her shoulder. “Remember where we parked.”
The underground parking lot had an empty yellow glow to it. Cement pillars formed rows along the cool structure and white lines were painted to signify each spot. A few cars were scattered throughout the garage and that was that. Not a person stirred other than Melinda and Debbie and not a sound rattled other than their own footsteps.
They walked to the elevator and Melinda took a mental note of the blue painted sign that read, LEVEL 2G. Several hours later with parking validation in hand and a stomach full of Mint Chocolate Chip, Melinda and Debbie made their way back down to their car.
When the elevator reached the floor, it gave off a light ping and the doors opened, but to Melinda, something seemed different.
“Did you notice a fence before?” she asked.
“Are we on the right level?”
They both looked around confused. There were a great many more cars and some were caged off within another locked fence.
“I don’t think this is our level.”
“I remember, 2G.”
Debbie walked back towards the elevator and called it down again. For a moment her heart panicked as she waited, wondering if it would come, but then the door opened and Debbie felt relieved.
“Where are you going?” asked Melinda.
“This isn’t our level,” Debbie replied, getting into the elevator.
Melinda followed her friend and Debbie pressed the button for 2G, but the elevator only closed and opened its doors in place. So, Debbie pressed the button to go back up to Level 1. The doors closed.
They stood their for a few moments waiting.
Melinda looked at Debbie. They read the fear in each others eyes.
“Did you press the button?”
“You saw me press the button!”
She began pressing all the buttons frantically, trying to keep her heart steady, when the elevator began to move.
“What did you press?”
“I don’t know. All of them. I just want out of here!”
The elevator opened and Debbie jumped out.
“At least it’s some place different,” she said, whisking her long brown hair away from her eyes.
Debbie didn’t pay any attention to her friend. Just kept walking, looking for their car.
She turned around.
Painted in blue was written plainly, Level 2G.
Melinda let out a worried moan.
“Help us!” she yelled and started jogging through the aisles of cars.
“There’s no one around.”
They both searched up and down the aisles frantically, the yellow glow of the garage lights fading and blurring. Cars sparkling with that dreamy quality of night.
Melinda could feel tears welling up in her eyes as she turned back to her friend.
“Try the stairs,” she said.
She couldn’t tell if it was her panic or if it was really happening, but it seemed like the parking lot had become a maze, and she wasn’t sure anymore if it was slanting up or down or staying level. Or if they were still on 2G or if they were making any progress walking towards the far end of the parking garage. And the eery silence made her even more uneasy. And the cold that oozed from the cement made her feel a chill that tickled her arms and raised the little hairs on the top of her head.
Suddenly, there was the sound of footsteps walking.
They stopped happily, both with the same idea as they turned around.
“Finally someone to ask for help!” Debbie exclaimed.
But Melinda had not spoken. Instead she stood eyes wide, jaw dropped. Debbie stared at her friend’s pale face in horror. She knew by her expression that it was something horrible. She almost didn’t look, but the curious urge took over her almost instinctively, and before she knew it she had turned as well.
Debbie and Melinda stared at their spitting image and the copies stared back at them with the same terror in their own eyes.
Melinda tried to muster up words, but at first try the breath only came out and she forgot to speak. She calmed herself and forced herself to ask, “Where are you from?”
The second Melinda and Debbie walked slowly towards them. The second Melinda came up close to the first, almost so that they touched, although neither of them dared.
“2G,” the copy said, quietly.
And then they all knew. And the pit of their stomachs got that hard knot of knowing. And their heads panged with that piercing pain of knowing. All at the same time they knew. And the elevator chimed.