1800 feet above the Chicago lakefront, Matt gazed eastward over Lake Michigan and reflected that he was having the time of his life. He had just finished having an interview lunch with Kathy; a fresh college graduate applying for a secretarial job at his law firm, and realized Kathy was one of the most beautiful and charming persons he had ever met.
Matt was a recent graduate himself, having just gotten his law degree two months ago from Harvard. Matt had made quite a reputation for himself in Cambridge, as a prodigy genius in contract law, and as a selfish bore in romantic attachments. A watershed moment in his life had occurred a month before his graduation, when he was breaking up with Caroline. Caroline had screamed at him that he was worse than a dishonest broker who would “pump and dump” a stock, because Matt would “pump and dump” living, caring human beings. Matt did a lot of soul searching later that night, and realized what Caroline had said was absolutely true. Caroline was one in a long series of young women that Matt had lost interest in shortly after becoming sexually active with them. It was too late to repair the damage with Caroline, but Matt recognized the core indecency of his attitudes, and he vowed to himself that it would never happen again.
And now here he was, finishing lunch on the 150th floor of the Morningstar Capital Tower of Chicago, chatting with one of the loveliest woman he had ever met, captivated both by her appearance and her kind humor. He thought she looked gorgeous in her white dress with large blue and purple flowers, a perfect contrast to her soft brown hair. After he had told her she had the job, they had even gotten onto a first name basis with each other. The only sad note to the occasion was, since he was becoming her new boss, his new moral standards told him it would be inappropriate to pursue her…
“I still find it hard to believe you took me to lunch at the Top Of The Morning”, said Kathy. “The MCT itself has only been opened a few weeks. This must be costing your firm a fortune!”
“It is a magnificent building, I was here for the opening ceremonies, the celebration for the new tallest building in the world. Though I gather Hong Kong is scheduled to take back the title in two years… Regarding the cost, I’ll tell you a little secret. This reservation was made originally for the senior partners and the clients of our new Siemens account. The clients had to re-schedule their trip from Germany. Since I’ll be very involved with the new account, and it appeared on your resume that you spoke German fluently, I managed to convince the firm to reduce the reservation to two, rather than cancel it. I hoped you liked it. It must be very different from Mount Holyoke College…”
“Oh, yes. South Hadley, Massachusetts is a modest college town. Over the last four years, it’s been rare when I was in a building with more than a few floors in it… It’s breathtaking to be up here. I’m glad though, that your firm is only 30 floors up in, there, that building right there”, pointing almost straight down with her finger at the window. “Chicago looks like a toy city from here… Wouldn’t you be a little nervous, if you had to work this high all the time? Think of how long it would take you to evacuate the building, if you had to start from here…”
“Not as long as you might think. I found a pamphlet on the building’s opening night, describing an emergency set of high-speed escalators, with their own battery backups. They looked like they could evacuate the building very quickly.”
“Ha, ha”, laughed Kathy. “I used to love escalators as a child. Whenever I’d get lost from my parents in a department store, they would just come to the escalators to find me riding them. But Matt, you mean high-speed elevators, don’t you?”
“No, high speed escalators.”
“The moving stair kind?”
“Is there another kind?”
“Matt, you can’t be serious! Are you pulling my leg?”
A thought burst into Matt’s mind, one from his old personality. A desire to be pulling Kathy’s leg. A desire to be pulling both of them, in fact. Holding both her ankles and pulling Kathy’s legs apart while mounting her. Matt banished the thought from his mind. “Stop that!” he thought to himself. “Kathy is a gentle human soul, and her comment was totally innocent. What you’re thinking is grossly inappropriate.”
“No joking Kathy, the pamphlet described high speed escalators.”
“Matthew, look me in the eye one more time, and tell me you’re not joking.”
“Katherine, I’m not joking. High speed moving stairs.”
“Okay…. Sincere apologies for questioning you like this…. But, high speed escalators? My mind is balking at the concept!”
“Why? They can move people down quickly, and even if normal power and battery power fail, people could still use them as normal stairs. Doesn’t it seem like a reasonable idea?”
“No Matt, it doesn’t… I can’t say exactly why... It’s not a question my degree in English Lit was designed to answer. I just have a deep intuition that, if I were a civil engineer, I’d be laughing and rolling on the floor, and explaining to you the valid reason why the idea would never work. Have you ever heard of another super-building with them?”
“Well, no… If I remember right, the pamphlet showed them in the core of the building, behind the elevator banks. It’s time we started heading out anyway. Want to see if we can find them?”
“Oh, absolutely! Thanks, Matt, I’d like that very much!”
Matt paid for the $200 lunch, grateful that it wasn’t his money. After searching the corridors around the elevators without success, Kathy started to suggest they give up when Matt spied a dim corridor adjacent to a janitor closet. He started down the long corridor, with a slightly worried Kathy trailing behind him.
“Matt, this can’t possibly be right. This corridor is so narrow and dim, and it’s totally unlabeled as an exit route. I can barely see where we’re going. It probably accesses the elevator hardware.”
“No, wait,” said Matt, using his cell phone as a flashlight. “There’s a door here at the end, and a sign saying BOTTOM FLOOR EXIT ONLY.” Matt pushed the metal bar on the steel door was surprised to see a small, brightly lit access pad leading to a downward moving escalator. Compared to the stuffy humid corridor, the air inside the door seemed fresh, dry, and cool, with a soft breeze blowing from vents.
Kathy joined Matt on the access pad and was astonished by what she saw. “This is so amazing, Matt! Look how fast and smoothly it moves. And its curve! I’ve never seen anything like it. Apologies again for doubting you. This is absolutely the most beautiful escalator I’ve ever seen!”
“I’m amazed by it too, Kathy. Every other escalator I’ve ever seen has a flat incline except for the top and bottom. This one is in a continuous S curve, look how steep it gets in the middle of the curve! It looks like the maximum drop angle, at the center of the S curve, is well over 60 degrees. Let me time the steps, see how long the trip takes…” Matt glanced back and forth between his watch and the descending stairs for several moments… “Ten seconds exactly, as close as I can measure. The speed doesn’t really look that fast, the pace of a moderate walk, which I’ll grant is quite a bit faster than a regular escalator. It does have moving handrails, just like a regular escalator. Very narrow though, the two handrails must be less than four feet apart. I guess the drop would be safe, just hang onto both rails in the middle! And there’s a nice short horizontal runout before the ride ends, and then you have the landing-pad to catch your balance. At the bottom landing-pad, you can just see the switchback for the next leg down… These landing-pads are a lot smaller then I would have guessed, only about nine feet square…”
Matt turned to Kathy and was struck by the look of childlike delight she had as she stared at the descending stairs. Not wanting to lose the beauty of her delight, he said on impulse “Kathy, would you like to ride them down?”
“Oh, could we!? Actually, maybe not… There supposed to be for emergency use only, right?”
“Well, there’s no sign saying not to use them. Let’s see, it’s just after 1 o’clock now, I’m free until a 3 pm conference call. 150 floors times 10 seconds, plus a few seconds to walk the landing-pad to the next switchback…. Heck, it’ll only take a few minutes more than a half hour… And then another 15 minutes to walk from the Morningstar lobby to my office. We have plenty of time. And, I’ll admit, I find them very tempting myself…”
“Thank you, Matt! Thanks very much!” Kathy said with a bright smile. “Would you like to take the point?”
“Sure!” Matt took a brisk two steps and walked onto the short horizontal zone of the escalator top. The motion quickly turned vertical, his stomach noticing the drop just a bit at the most vertical part of the S curve, and then a longer horizontal runout in which he regained his timing and went from a brisk walking pace to a dead stop at the bottom landing-pad. “Wow!” he called up the Kathy, “What a fun ride! Safe, though, I think. Just hold both rails and pay attention as you exit. It is a bit fast…”
Kathy gave a warm laugh, let go of the door she had been holding open, and followed Matt down the escalator in delight. The door clicked shut as she was half way down.
Matt had one of the most joyous and tender times in his life riding the escalators down with Kathy. At first they laughed and smiled about how much fun they were to ride. They were both deeply struck by their totally silent operation. There was a soft breezy sound present, but it was from the air vents. Kathy commented that she had never heard of such heavy machinery not rumbling at least some… As they continued their descent, the conversation turned serious, but very sweet. Kathy and Matt started revealing to each other their hopes and dreams for their futures. Kathy decided to trust Matt completely, and revealed her soul to him. She told him that her dear parents were killed when she was 14, that her uncle had abused her in her high school years, and described how she had retreated into her studies at her women’s college. As she approached graduation, she had taken a hard look at herself, and decided she wanted to be much more open and gregarious with the world. She still felt a bit shy about having no experience in dating at the age of 22, but was determined to get past her shyness and live a complete adult life, one that included romantic attachments.
Matt felt overcome with tenderness that Kathy would be so open with him, and returned the trust. He told her of his long list of girlfriends, and astonished himself by mentioning the true reason of why there were so many. He finished by describing how determined he was to pick a new direction for his character. Kathy paused on a landing for a moment, put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a quick nod with teary eyes before starting down the next leg. Following her, Matt realized that Kathy, for a brief moment, had totally stepped outside her role as his future secretary, in order to affirm him, one human being to another.
Their conversation ended as they both thought they were just about at ground level. After riding a number of minutes more in silence, Kathy asked, “Any guesses, Matt, of how many more flights to go?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I would guess less than ten. How about you, Kathy?”
“Oh, don’t ask me! My guess would have had us in the lobby several flights ago.”
Matt looked at his watch. It was approaching 2 o’clock. “Odd”, he thought, thinking of his original estimate. “We did spend a bit more time talking while we walked the landings, but Kathy’s right, my guess would have been finishing this ride a few minutes ago too….”
After about another three minutes of traveling, Kathy turned to Matt and said, “Well, that was another ten flights, and still no end in sight. It’s a pity there’s no central well in this core, so we could look down and see the bottom, see how far we’ve left to go. But doesn’t it seem odd, that we’re not there yet?”
“Well, the two switchbacks do abut each other. There no direct way to look down more than one landing-pad at a time. We must be very close. Tell you what, let’s just go as fast as we can, and I guarantee we’ll be out within 10 minutes.”
Kathy and Matt spent the next ten minutes riding down as fast as they could. Kathy then turned to him with a worried look on her face and said, “Let’s stop at this landing for a moment and talk. I started counting when we finished our last conversation. We’ve come down another 41 flights. I don’t understand this. We really should be in the lobby now. No, let me be more precise. We should have been in the lobby 40 to 50 flights ago.”
“Well, we’re obviously not there yet. We must have been moving more slowly than we realized, earlier when we first started, while we were talking…”
“I don’t think so.”
“But what other possible explanation could there be?”
“None, I admit. I still don’t like it. I don’t understand my environment. Can we exit, just to see what floor we’re on?”
“Sure, there’s a door at every landing.” Matt walked over to the door, but found the knob would not turn. “Locked! Oh, look. There’s a small notice here, saying BOTTOM FLOOR EXIT ONLY. That’s right, it said the same thing on the top floor. There’s a lot of security in this building. I know that a whole bunch of floors are off limits to the general public...”
“Something’s still not right. I’ve just realized that there’s no floor information on the landing-pads. Nothing to tell you where you are. Doesn’t that strike you as wrong?”
“Well, maybe it’s a security issue…”
Oh, Matt! Safety issues should overcome any security concerns. What if you were a fireman in this escalator well? It would be vital to know where you were…”
“Wow… That’s a very good point. Maybe we should mention it to building management on our way out. For now, though, we’ll have to just keep going down. I’m sure it’ll be just a few more flights… And we can try each door on the way down…”
“No, wait, Matt! Please. Don’t go down anymore yet. Let me think…”
“We really should keep going down. I need to be back at the office soon, my call is at 3 pm”
“Call? Yes! Is your cell phone working?” Kathy asked, as she reached into her shoulder bag for her cell phone.
Matt pulled out his cell and pushed a few buttons. “No, but I’m not surprised. All these walls look like metal. This escalator shaft is extremely well built.”
“Matt, when was the last time you charged your cell?”
“Just before we left for lunch.”
“Excellent! I’m fully charged too. And like you, I have no cell signal either. Matt, I’m turning off my cell. Please turn off your cell too.”
“What in the world for?”
“I’m very worried. I don’t understand my environment, and I want to drop into survivor mode. The battery power in our cells is a resource. I don’t want to waste it. The cells can be used as small flashlights, they have calculators… I don’t know. It’s a resource. I just don’t understand my environment…. Please, Matt?”
Matt felt the tenderness in his heart towards Kathy pulling at him; pulling him to adopt a totally new perspective of what their situation was. “Okay” said Matt, turning off his cell. “Kathy, your worry is more important to me than making my 3 pm call. If you have a different idea than just continuing down, I’m open to your thoughts. But what other choice do we have?”
“I hate the thought of going down anymore… Is it at all possible to backtrack? I know it sounds crazy!”
“It sounds impossible! Look how fast the stairs are moving. Imagine trying to run against them, especially in the vertical drop of the S curve. One floor would be impossible, let alone 150. And we’re obviously just a few floors from the lobby!”
“I know, I know, Matt. It’s just that I dread going down anymore… Would you mind if I tried to go up, just to test what it’s like?”
“I’ll support anything you want to try. But it looks hopeless to me.”
Kathy began to run up the down escalator, making it only partially up the S slope before turning sharply and coming back down. “Dead hopeless in these dress shoes. I have a pair of sandals in a plastic bag in my handbag, but they won’t work either. My best chance will be to run in bare feet. I just have to take off my pantyhose…”
Matt tried to avert his eyes as Kathy turned her back to him and bunched up her dress around her hips and started to slide her pantyhose off her hips and legs. Matt caught just a glimpse of simple white panties under her hose before his new conscience begged him to turn around and give Kathy some privacy. Kathy turned back a few seconds later, pantyhose in hand… “Thank you, Matt. It was kind of you to turn. And now, let’s see what my body can do when I put the pedal to the metal!”
Kathy attacked the escalators with a flying leap, her bare pumping legs a blur. Matt was stunned to see how beautiful she looked, a whirlwind of activity and grace. Kathy ran up to the steep part of the S curve, and seemed to stall just near the most vertical part. After spending several moments there, slowly drifting up with very slight progress, she gave a shriek of pain, turned around, and came back down to Matt. She was gasping for breath, looking dizzy, and stepping carefully with her tender feet. She sat down and held her feet in the air. Matt could see her feet bottoms looked red and tender. He sat down by her legs and reached for her right foot…
“Kathy, may I massage this? It looks like your feet took a beating…”
Kathy nodded a quick yes through her gasps, as she gulped in air, trying to catch her breath. Matt began to massage her right foot, and then her left. Several minutes passed in silence. Kathy had her back leaning against the wall, her eyes closed, resting, and her feet resting in Matt’s lap as he sat by her. Matt felt torn by a great internal struggle, as he continued to massage and caress Kathy’s feet. One part of him felt filled with tender and loving feelings for her, somewhat sexual, but content with the intimacy of caressing her feet. Another part of him was filled with intense sexual desire, his penis throbbing in erection near Kathy’s feet, as he lustfully looked at her bare legs, her bunched-up dress exposing most of her thighs. Matt found to his great relief that his tenderness was the stronger desire, and he stopped the lustful urge to continue the foot caresses up the calves and thighs.
After a short while, Kathy opened her eyes and smiled. “Thanks, Matt. That really helped. These metal escalator grates are rough on bare feet. But my feet feel fine now. I guess going down is our only option. Do you have any other thoughts?” Kathy slipped on her sandals and packed her hose and dress shoes in the plastic bag in her handbag.
“Well, we absolutely must be about to hit the lobby. But, how about this? We’ll try the door on every floor, and even if it’s locked, we’ll bang on the door for a few moments, and see if we can attract someone’s attention.”
“Sounds good”, said Kathy, preparing to descend to the next level. “Oh, one more thing, Matt. Your petting my feet was so sweet and gentle. In the same situation, my uncle would have been all over my legs, and worse… I really wanted to give you my complete trust, and now I can. You’ve earned it!” Kathy gave Matt a quick kiss on his cheek and then jumped on the ride to the next level down.
Kathy and Matt continued their journey. For the first 10 or 15 flights, they would pound on the locked doors without effect. After that, they would just briefly test the knob before continuing onto the next level. They had been going on for over an additional half hour, the time approaching 3 o’clock, when Matt suddenly heard Kathy start screeching on the escalator ahead of him. He first thought that her foot might be caught in the escalator, fear gripping his heart, but Kathy managed to finish the ride and step off. She backed up to the landing-pad wall and turned, facing the escalator, still screeching in terror, her face totally drained of color. She looked hysterical, and as if she were about to faint.