Rusty Lynn and Quentin Paquette

Rusty Lynn
Life at the Edges


D. Quentin Paquette
Inspiration piece

The lights flicker, and there’s a shudder and there’s movement again, you seem to weigh a bit more heavily on the floor. The orange LED’s above the door begin announcing a sequence of symbols you don’t recognize. Each subsequent one seems to slide onto the display from the right, sweeping the one before it off the left edge. You push yourself up with your elbow on the marble-patterned linoleum floor to better see the buttons. The touchscreen buttons are unmarked; on the right edge, about a third of the way up, one square button seems to have been pushed, lit orange.

The chime rings, and the doors slide apart from each other. In front of you is an undisturbed field of red poppies, growing around a shade tree at the edge of a thicket. A faint breeze stirs the petals and whispers in the leaves. The air is warm, and the shade seems cool and comfortable. It seems to be a much better place to sit than on the linoleum, and you reach up to the rail on the wall to pull yourself up. Before you reach your feet, the doors are closing, one more breath of breeze just shoulders in.

Disappointment. Then an experiment. You reach for the touchscreen. Before your print gets close enough, another orange button lights higher up, and the floor begins to lift you again. Your reach follows through and lands, but the screen does not respond to your touch. You try touching about where the first button was lit, also with no effect. The car stops again, and the doors slide apart again.

You look out across a field of tall grass. Across the field, there is a creek flowing, and beyond that the raised bed of a train track. The grass has been walked across to the door of the elevator. You try to remember which side of the crossing you had been on. The walked-on grass betrays nothing about whether the footprints lead to you or away. You decide to let this scene pass, and the doors slide shut again.

A yellow button lights itself, and the last orange character above the door gets pushed off by the beginning of a sequence of yellow ones. The floor shifts under your feet unexpectedly, and your inertia causes you to stumble to the back wall. The yellow characters are stylistically different from the orange ones, but still undecipherable. You lean back into the wall and wait. The car stops again, and you try to guess where you’ll find yourself as a double tone announces the stop.

This time, the doors open to an indoor scene, and your eyes need a moment to adjust. What comes into focus is the green felt of a pool table. A game has just finished, and there’s an empty glass on the rail. A cue is leaning up against the table, propped against the fitting at the side pocket. It’s not clear which, if either, of the players will be returning to the table. The 5 and 6 still sit on the felt. The waitress comes by to pick up the glass and the tip left under it. The doors start to close, and you wave your hand between them to get them to open again. If anything, your triggering the sensor only seems to close the doors faster, and you have to quick pull your hand back to keep in from getting caught.

Anxiety builds from the aggression of the doors, and at the lighting of the next unbidden yellow button. You decide to get off at the next stop, no matter what or where. When the doors open, there is only water and waves. A storm is being pushed out ahead of the high winds. A boat is getting tossed, turning into the wind, sails furled waiting for more manageable currents. As the clouds push back, a full moon is revealed. The moonlight sweeps in across the sea, finally reaching the boat. As the wheel gets lit, the pilot looks over at you. After a moment, he starts toward the rail, just as the doors close again.

A new button glows red, and new inscrutable characters move above the doors in red LEDs. After a brief ride, the doors open and you step out onto the beach. It is a gray day, and it is starting to drizzle. The sandcastle at your feet is at risk of being washed off. Your lean in to look closely at the walls below the red flag. Just noticeable on the highest tower are two imprints from where the figurines have been

removed recently. You reach into your pocket just to check. The rain starts to fall heavily, and you step back into the elevator.

It still waits as you watch out at the rain falling. You put your hand above the buttons, breathe in, breathe out, and put your finger down. The button beneath your finger lights red, and the doors close, and you feel yourself being lowered down. When the movement stops, you close your eyes, uncertain of what you may have called. You hear the doors open, and then the empty sound of anticipation, and then rapid footsteps chased by their echoes. You look to see a long steel hallway, and a figure staining to run down it, repeatedly lit by the overhead fluorescents, picking up speed, trying to get there before the doors close, swayed with each right stride by something hanging at that shoulder.

The doors start to close, he’s not going to make it, and you find you can’t move, other than the slight jump of panic with each step ringing out. Reaching up to his shoulder, he grabs the strap, and with the next step, throws himself to the floor to throw the bag forward. It lands short of the threshold, but slides forward to topple between the closing doors, spilling out pliers, a light switch, and some small insulated tacks. The doors try to close over the bag, spring slightly back, and repeatedly try to close again.


“Nice entrance. What is all this stuff?”

My electrical rig, I’ve been doing some stuff around the house, didn’t have time to clean it up. Having a little trouble with the elevator?

“That’d be one way to describe it. Hard to feel like there’s any control. And don’t give me any of that crap about control being an illusion, I don’t even get the illusion.”

That does sound like me, doesn’t it? Sheesh, I should knock that off. Mind if I take a look here?

“You’re pretty sure you won’t just make it worse?”

Do you have any idea what worse would be like?

“Didn’t you just say you should knock that off?”

Hand me the screwdriver with all the different bits, let me see if I’ve got the right star thingy to get the access panel off. This one might work.

“Doesn’t the OSHA poster say, ‘Always use the correct tool for the job’?”

Yes, the same poster that says, ‘Do not engage in horseplay’, so I think it might not apply here. Let’s see what we have here,… hmmm,… okay…

“What is it?”

Well, it looks like there are two different sets of connections, with at least one other set of wires that has been superimposed on them. I wouldn’t know where to start here. I mean, we could go one connection at a time, keeping track of how that change changes the ones on that same level, eventually it should be possible to at least get everything lined up.

“Kind of like a big Rubik’s cube.”

Yeah, but with a lot more sides.

“I thought you were one of those people who was good at those.”

Well, I am, but not in the usual way. What I do is I turn the mechanism so that all the pieces come apart and then put it back together in order. Even that would take a long time. How often do you have this dream anyway?

“Tell you what, why don’t you step back out at the next stop.”

This is odd here. What’s happened to this?

“To what?”

These wires have been cut already.

“Um, yeah, I think I did that. I’m pretty sure I did that.”

Here’s something I can definitely do. Grab me a few pieces of wire out of the bag,… now hand me the stripper, needlenose,… a couple of those twist on connectors,… ouch, dammit.

“Aren’t you supposed to be wearing gloves”

Just a little pinprick, but yes, and there you are.

“You fixed the controls?”

The controls? No.

But the ‘Call Button’ works again.

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