“Good morning,” I smiled at the young woman as I stepped into the elevator. She nodded and gave a polite, but weak smile. I couldn’t blame her. Personally, I hated people trying to talk to me, but I needed to solve this mystery. I saw her nearly every day, and she always seemed to be dressed and prepared for work. However, after I gave her description to my boss he assured me she was not employed in the building. I reached to press the button my usual floor, 12, but hesitated. The button to her floor, 15, glowed with a soft white light. I stepped back without pressing any buttons.
“You have to press a button for it to work,” the woman said next to me. It was the first time she ever started a conversation with me in the past few months since I first saw her. Despite her smart-aleck response, her voice carried no humor. She sounded annoyed, but I recognized her morning grouchiness for what it was, I wasn’t a morning person either and did not take her annoyance personally.
“Uh, yeah. Meeting on 15 today. Guess we’re going to the same floor.” I shrugged and tried to give her a warm smile. I heard what sounded like a cross between a “tch” and a sigh escape her mouth, but before I could say anything she stepped forward and highlighted a different floor. 12.
“Wow, it’s funny how things work out. Thanks for reminding me, I forgot I had a meeting on 12 today.” I glanced at the counter and noticed we were coming up on the 10th floor. Thinking as fast as I could I jumped in place slightly, then pulled my phone out of my pocket with the screen angled away from her.
“Whoa,” I said startled. “Sorry, had it on vibrate.” I excused myself to her, then brought the phone up to my right ear, so that she could not see it wasn’t illuminated. “Yeah, I’m almost there. In the elevator. Yeah I’m already passing 11, I’ll be there in a second.” The elevator slowed to a stop and a ding signaled the 12th floor.
“Are you sure?” I asked my imaginary coworker as the woman stepped out of the elevator. “Alright, thanks,” I said then brought the phone down and followed her out of the elevator. She looked startled when she saw me stepping out of the elevator. I shrugged at her with a smile. “They canceled the meeting, can you believe it?” I heard the elevator doors close behind me, but she continued to stare at me with annoyance in her eyes.
“We’re not supposed to get off on the same floor you idiot!” she yelled. I heard snickers coming from the cubicles, but did not see who they belonged to. I looked around the office, but the layout was completely different than what I was used to. The curiosity bothered me more than her anger.
“Did they redecorate last night?” I asked her. She brought her hand up to massage the bridge of her nose and I immediately felt bad. I knew what it meant when I did that to someone, and I was ruining her life at the moment.
“What’s going on?” I asked. She dropped her hand, took in a deep breath, then met my eyes.
“C’mon, I’ll take you to HR and see if they can get you set up.” She reached out for my hand, but I stepped back.
“HR? I’ve worked here for 8 years, I think I’m pretty set up,” I said. She shook her head.
“You worked over there for eight years. But today you had the brilliant idea to step off the elevator, and now you work here. Come on, I still haven’t even started my day.” She grabbed me and pulled me through an unfamiliar maze of cubicles. None of the occupants looked like my coworkers, but I did notice someone enjoying a candy bar that I thought was no longer produced. I made a mental note to look for one for myself later.
We stopped in front of an office door and the woman knocked three times before stepping in. I followed her. An older woman with greying hair smiled at me from behind her desk.
“This idiot followed me.” The girl from the elevator held my hand up as if to indicate which idiot she was talking about.
“How exciting!” the woman behind the desk said. “Have a seat and we’ll get you squared away.” The young woman dropped my hand and walked out of the office. I sat down.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Ernie Cedillo,” I said. I heard her keyboard click several times while she stared at the screen. Then she nodded.
“Here you are, Ernest Cedillo. Head of logistics, is that you?” she asked. I nodded.
“Yeah, for eight years.” She smiled.
“You’re in luck, we need a Head of Logistics here too. This’ll be easy.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but what will be easy? What’s going on? I stepped off the elevator and now I have a stranger pissed off at me, but I’m getting a new job. But it’s still my same job?” I shook my head trying to process everything.
“I’m sorry, dear. Sometimes it’s the little things that slip through the cracks. Let me explain it to you, at least as I understand it.” She took a deep breath and scooted forward in my chair to listen intently.
“Now, I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I know. You’re from a parallel Earth. Our companies are built on the same spot on two different Earths.”
“So then, what? Is the elevator like a portal? Why don’t people cross over all the time?” I asked. The woman smiled and shook her head.
“That’s the funny part. It only happens when the same people in different universes are in the elevator at the same time,” she said. “But unfortunately once the balance is broken, there’s no way back. You’re stuck here, but at least you have a job.” she smiled. I stared at her while my mind caught up.
“The same people?….. That woman that brought me here..”
“She’s you from this universe, dear. It might explain why she thinks you’re an idiot,” she giggled.