Chapter Two

I woke up oddly...refreshed. I had been right: sleep had not come to me until a little after midnight. But I had slept, and there comes a certain stability with determination, with having a plan and a decision. Rising from bed with languor, my body moved easily about my bedroom, picking out comfortable clothes for the day. Wearing an easy pair of Khaki pants, a green button-up, and a black blazer, I brewed coffee and toasted some bread. I didn't usually have time to savor the morning, but I had woken up about a half hour earlier than necessary, than usual. I knew I would be running low on sleep, but that was part of what the coffee was for.

Traffic was easier somehow, although really, it was the same as it always was. So long I had felt the pressure of work and appearances that this new goal lessened that burden, no matter how small the new goal was. I didn't notice the guy in a camaro that cut me off or stupid billboards that depicted scantily-clad women.

Pulling into a ramp and locking my car, I walked the rest of the way to up to the work building (my shoes were flats) as if there were some cool rock song playing in my head- dramatic, steady, with a nice bass and drum rhythm. The alyssum caught in my hair, rocked loose by a nice breeze, and I just shook it out of my honey-brown locks.

"Good morning, Wyatt," I said to the lobby man, handing him my card to swipe.

"Good morning to you, too, sweetheart," he replied with a grin.

Then the plan took its next step. Walking jauntily and swallowing deeply, breathing slowly, I made my way toward the lift. I stepped in, turned around, saw tat no one else was checking in to work or moving towards me, and pushed the button for the thirteenth story. Expectation bubbled up inside me, seeming to stem from what now felt like an empty stomach.

Then, I felt the lift stop, the doors open... And I faced...the thirteenth story. Not a greenhouse, not a multitude of botanicals- just the two ferns that guarded the lift in stony-white suits of armor.

I sighed, somehow disappointed with my brow furrowed. This only confused me more.

The doors slid shut from inactivity and I pressed the button to take me to the floor below.

Why had the elevator taken me to some outlandish conservatory when I was trying only to get to my own floor the other day? I had thought last night that if I tried using the elevator to and from the thirteenth ...

But no. I arrived safely on my work story, the twelfth, not many seconds after glimpsing the thirteenth.

Forget it, I told my self. Just admit that you probably dozed off in the elevator without pushing any buttons, and you thought you saw something you didn't. Just do your job.

So I did. Bidding a good morning to Sravya, I made my way to my desk.

"The PR 2 meeting is today at one, only today it is on the thirteenth," she called out to me, stopping me in my tracks.

"Why?" I asked cautiously.

"Mr. Rahl wants to b e part of it, along with some of the other upper level workers. Michael offered to hold it up there in respect."

"I see."

Turning on my computer with a scan and a vocalization, I opened my briefcase, pulling out a list of contacts needed for the commercial. Sensation Photography and Filming, Saravaggio Records, Pixelar Digital Arts, and Magnus Guild, an auditioning agency, were all on the list. We would probably change some of them, for monetary or function based reasons.

"No coffee today?" Akbar asked me, sneaking up as he usually did.

"Well, I had some this morning," I answered. "I'll probably need some at lunch, though."

"All right," he said, suspicious.

Really, however, I began to feel the lack of sleep in addition to the crash of a caffeine rush before lunch.

"Mrs. Rihana Landers from Radiohut wants to meet with you tomorrow at nine. Is that okay?" Sravya asked me on my way out to lunch.

"No," I said clearly. "Ask her about Friday morning."

"Sure thing, Elizabeth," the secretary acknowledged.

Sighing, I drove downtown, stopped at a café that made really good sandwiches. Southern Espresso, the sign read, and I was greeted by the aroma of coffee beans when I walked in.

"Hiya there- what can I do you for?" t he employee at the register asked me. I recognized her, as I had been in here often. Her name plate said Allison.

"A chicken Caesar sandwich and a tall mocha latte, Aztec style."

She winked at me. "Gotcha." Allison brought the price up on the register, I paid, and then sat down at a table nearby, reading a business magazine.

Investments were beginning to soar in some African nations, where big businesses had reached to back in about 2012. It was a good market place, where everyone had an opportunity to make it. Once trade began to take root, the weeds of civil strife had begun to die out. They weren't a perfect and tensions were far from gone, but people now had a reason to get along: prosperity. It was real to them now, accessible, if they only worked together for it.

In other news, the Hydracat, a vehicle fueled by water, had been announced to hit car lots in the United States within the year. It was no surprise that it had been the Japanese to make it. The only thing that was so surprising was how long it had taken to release. Apparently, governments had a problem with a fuel that they couldn't tax or mass produce and capitalize upon. It is water – a vital resource and to turn it into a capitalized product would only impoverish more people, therefore damaging the economy.

What can I say? I majored in business.

"Your coffee, ma'am," Allison said, returning a few minutes later to present my sandwich. I ate quickly, realizing the time. The meeting was at one o'clock and my phone read twelve forty-five. Wiping my mouth free of the Italian dressing, I sipped the rest of my drink down and left the shop, hopping into the Lily to drive away.

Lunchtime traffic nearly made me late, and I met up with Daniel in the elevator as it stopped on the twelfth floor. I had all my stuff with me, so we both rode in silence up to the story above. Well, relative silence…

"What did you want to speak with me about yesterday?" my colleague asked, dressed in a handsome pinstripe suit. I smacked my palm to my forehead as I realized I had forgotten.

"I wanted you and Rumsey to give me your thoughts on …" then the doors slid open. "Oh…well, I suppose it doesn't really matter. Just, any ideas you had on what the background music should be."

"He and I talked about that actually," he surprised me, brushing beside me to keep along my side as we left the lift. The smell of coffee, spice, and soap faintly reached my nose. I was quite sure it was his cologne. "…And so we thought that using a lesser known tune, but still pleasant and catchy tune, would be wiser."

"Sounds good," I said. "What should it sound like?"

"Timeless…and yet, modern, new, maybe even with a hint of the future. Like I said, it should represent exactly what Infinity is, and what we stand for," Daniel replied. "Classical with nice percussion and-"

"Bass?" I finished, turning a corner in the hallway.

"Yes, and treble. We should probably hire someone who knows music in. I've got a friend, actually, from Belmont University that might be able to help." We spoke about the issue and his musically inclined but older friend from Tennessee as we entered the meeting area, partitioned off the way it had been in our floor, only with different colored trim.

"Good morning," I said to the others, and they replied in kind. This time, most of the people were already in the room, including Michael. He was early, for once.

Daniel sat beside me, still taller than me, even though we were sitting down. We waited in relative silence, for the remaining members of the committee to straggle in, and then started the meeting.

"Welcome, everyone," Michael began, "to this Public Relations Committee Two meeting. As you'll find on the briefing sheet, the last meeting consisted of ideas for the script of the commercial. We should supplement that today. Does anyone have any news?" It was like a session of congress. People raised their hands and waited to be called on. I was quite sure they were only acting this way because a few of the men from the up per level were participating. They followed the procedure of waiting to voice their opinions or questions, mainly listening in. The thirteenth floor dealt with contracts and relations with other companies on a more authoritative level. They were the domini, we the servi, because they pushed the official papers, while we acted as lackeys, minions, doing their bidding.

I sipped some of my cold water, listening to a woman named Tanisha bear bad news.

"Pixelar won't do digital for us," she was saying, nearly gravely, and rightly so. Pixelar was the best in the business, and their range was virtually endless. "Unless we bump up the contract by fifteen percent, they won't do it."

"Why don't we go local?" Daniel spoke up beside me. It took us all by surprise. I personally didn't know what he meant.

"Exactly what do you mean by...local?" I voiced, biting the tip of my pen, even though I knew there were likely germs all over it.

"Well, I may be just the newest, greenest lad here, but I think there are some good digital and film workers here in Atlanta, and if not, Savannah College of Art and Design is and has been the best art school in the nation for decades."

"Daniel is right," I said to the others, catching on. "We could treat it as a promotional type of event, giving a nearby college or business the opportunity to make a nice statement while getting some funding."

Rumsey's face lit up. "Or better yet, scratch our ideas and offer the commercial design as a contest, that way we can select business or schools that specialize in this."

"Pit them against one another and pay the one we think is best what we originally were going to pay Pixelar," Michael said.

"Or, maybe a bit less, since it is not Pixelar," Mr. Rahl interjected. "But still a worthy sum of money to fill their coffers."

We all nodded our heads. "So then," Michael said. "We have a limited amount of time, since if we all agree on this it will mean taking the time to redo not only the monetary plans but also scrapping the majority of the script, music, and other plans, since we have to leave room for these people's creativity, and then we'll have to rework contacts- decide whether it will be strictly businesses or colleges, and which ones we will offer the opportunity to. Yes, Kyra?" he turned to her, as she had raised her hand (actually, this was nothing new- she had usually raised her hand at all other meetings, as well).

"I think we should offer it to both colleges and businesses," she stated. "It would give an extra edge of competitiveness bringing the sectors together, therefore upping the quality of the finished project."

"Very good," the boss affirmed, then turned to the others. "What does everyone else think." There were murmurs of agreement.

"I think that that is the way to go," I added. "And really, we're doing about the same things as before. Instead of hiring people to audition actors for the commercial or certain film companies, we are going to choose people to judge, the criteria with which they do such, and then award the best one."

Then what is our new deadline for this commercial?" Steven asked, no longer positioned at the end of the table. Good, I thought. He hasn't claimed this as his territory. Some intelligence for once.

Michael looked at the upper levels. "We'll decide that before the next meeting, which we can schedule for ...next week, Tuesday . But everyone, this is vital. Do not waste time and do not make mistakes." He paused for effect, then. " Next week, this room at nine o'clock, we will compile a list of people who are solid on this. Now, let's decide who will look into what and then head out."

It only took another ten minutes to be done with that. I was, thankfully, assigned to collaborate with Kyra and Steven on colleges and businesses which would be good bets to make the offer to- an easy enough task. Daniel was probably going to help with that, on top of writing out the invitation letters. Michael was going to collaborate with me and an upper level plus some of the other committee members on creating regulations and criteria for the contest.

After the invitations for the contest went out, we were pretty much just waiting for the entries to roll in.

Even so, with the time that I had, I felt ...interminably rushed. I left the room with nearly a headache, which definitely did not abate when Daniel came up beside me.

"Will you want my input on the college list?" he asked humbly. I think he just knew that I would probably ask and so he was saving me the chore. He was an interesting specimen, to be sure, but at that moment I wasn't noticing; I was just thinking about how much I wanted to go home, drink coffee, and take a load off- read a book or something.

"Yeah, sure," I said noncommittally. But of course, I couldn't take a load off- not until my work was done. So my head was buzzing with how to budget my time that evening. Would I stay up at work later than normal- again- and get a head start? "Crap," I said, pushing the down button on the elevator. I had forgotten about the meeting I offered for tomorrow at nine...with some woman from Radiohut.

" What?" Daniel asked, confused yet again by my workaholic antics.

Sighing, I stepped aside for one old woman with glasses who stepped out of the elevator. "Nothing," I replied, walking in and pushing the button for my work level. So, I would step out at the twelfth floor and ask Sravya whether that meeting went through or not, then... I sighed. I would stay late that night, working hard, and for home for chamomile tea and sleep.

Or rather... I would have...

"Did you push the twelve?" Daniel asked beside me.

Annoyed that he had interrupted my wishful thinking, I sighed with exasperation. "Yes, I did, and if not..." I pushed the button again. It felt like we were moving, although another minute of impatience didn't seem to take us one floor below. "Ugh... The lift did this to me the other day..." I admitted, though I kept out the part that I had been taken instead to a greenhouse I didn't think Infinity Inc. had. Or, I had dreamed I had...or ...something.

SO, just like the other day, I pushed the thirteenth button. This should do it...

"What are you...?" Daniel began, but stopped when the lift halted motion.

"We're just going to have to take the stairs," I told him, brushing down my comfy slacks. I heard the doors open and looked up.

"Umm...I don't think so," Daniel said, eyes wide. Mine were too. How could this happen again?

It truly felt like the floor had fallen out from beneath me.

Here I was. Again. Only...not.

It was not a conservatory. I didn't even know what to call it.

There was a paved walkway of warm, earthen colors leading away from the lift. On either side were low walls draped with creeping ivy and flowering roses. About one hundred feet in front of us, still on the pavement, was a large-looking fountain. I could hear the water moving from where I stood, mingling with the sound of contented birds and a light breeze over the grass.

Daniel didn't even speak. In fact, he looked more like he was about to choke- eyes wide, face pale, and beautiful jaw and body as tense as a stone brick.

Last time wasn't so bad. It was entirely possibly, no matter how unlikely, that Infinity Inc. had a greenhouse or rooftop conservatory or something. This however... I could not make myself believe that an open, wall-less estate could fit anywhere in the building, let alone in the city. In fact, I was almost positive that this thing was a city. As I looked past the fountain, I could see the tops of finely shaped buildings much farther away. Either a very large, civilized estate or a city.

A battle raged inside me. Half of me wanted to step out, curious, and finally see the place that this elevator had taken me to . The other half nagged that something bad could happen- the lift could disappear, the surroundings might be fake, I might not find a way back. My foot was moving before the battle was done, stepping toe to the line of the threshold.

"What are you doing," Daniel hissed, grabbing onto the sleeve of my blazer. My gray eyes matched his brown ones.

"I'm going to see exactly what the hell is going on," I said, then muttered to myself: "Again..."

Yanking my arm free, the battle over in my head, my flat shoe reached over the threshold tentatively, touching down on...pavement. Solid but comforting stone cushioned my feet as they crossed one another, taking me from the lift. The sun was where it had been- in the west. My phone read...three thirty-five. Most of the ...courtyard, I would call it, was still lit by the sun. There was more pavement branching out like a cross from the fountain, and a sidewalk forming a ring about the landmark. Quick footsteps behind me startled me, until I saw that it was Daniel, shuffling close beside me.

"You were just going to leave me there?" he snapped.

"If you were just going to stay there," I stated, rolling my eyes. Men can be such babies sometimes. Especially this one.

He tried to ignore my comment as I slowly walked onward. "Did you say again? Are you saying you've been here before?"

"No," I answered, voice dripping in exasperation. "The elevator did this to me before." As if on cue, Daniel looked back at the lift, probably making sure it was still there. It was, and when I looked as well, I saw that it was the exit from a tall brick wall, connected to... Wow. It was an estate- a huge mansion that went on for thousands of feet. There were places every hundred or so feet of glass or open air, presumably so that sunlight could reach the back of the grounds instead of being in constant shade. The building (or buildings, since they were sometimes only connected by raised walkways) did not look very old- in fact, the design was something from the first double digit years of the century. Modern.

In reveling at the buildings, I didn't hear Daniel's comment at first. Then he repeated it, yet again grabbing hold of my jacket. "Elizabeth, where did it take you last time? How is it doing this?"

"I don't know! I don't know, okay! Last time it looked like the elevator had taken me to...a greenhouse. I dismissed it after I tried and failed to get there a second time as possible...or that I had just thought I had seen it." I looked him over, especially the strong hand gripping my sleeve. "Apparently, though, since I'm not dreaming now, I was not dreaming that time."

"How can you be so nonchalant about all this?" he pestered, tugging the cloth around my arm.

"How can you honestly think that I am!" I snapped, jerking my arm free from his fingers. "I don't know where I am, I don 't know why I'm here, and I certainly do not nor ever did want to be here! So if you think that I am nonchalant or in any way, shape, or form relaxed about being in this place, then you are, by far, a much more ignorant person than I thought you were!"

For an explosion of stress and annoyance, it was still a relatively polite one. Like a clean bomb- one that doesn't leave a mess. I could have said a lot worse. I could have used profanity. Thankfully, the strangeness of the thirteenth story hadn't pushed me that far yet.

We were standing in front of the fountain, the intersection of the pavement. Daniel was seething, and if he hadn't been so tense, I dare say he would have folded his arms to better sulk. "Well, why are we here instead of trying to get back?" he asked in a low voice.

"Because," I began in a calmer tone, "this is an impossible thing happening to very real people, Daniel, and I need to understand it. This is the second time it has happened, and if it's happened twice, there's not much stopping it interrupting our lives again and again." In other words, I'm a control freak, over achiever, and a workaholic- what do you expect?

We stood in silence for a time, looking at the water splashing up from the fountain. It was made of what looked like stainless steel and was simple in its geometric design. "And how exactly do you propose stopping this...phenomenon from happening again?" Daniel said, intruding lightly on the peace.

"By exploring," I answered, and left the fountain for one of the paved walks leading towards the mansion. Again, he was slow to comply, but soon enough I heard his footsteps mesh with mine. Daniel's shadow was longer than mine, falling out before our shoes.

The scent of roses ushered us closer to the main building – a long walk from the fountain and a longer walk from the elevator. A lack of southern plantation-style columns at the entrance convinced me that the estate was definitely modern. Instead, thick glass acted as a wall, see-through doors slid open to let in any breeze and blinds contracted to flood the foyer with light.

"It's beautiful," Daniel said softly. The comment surprised me- partly because he had said it, and partly because I would have a second later. Somehow, I had the feeling that no one was in the house. Whether that was true or not...well... I wasn't afraid to find out.

"Come on," I urged, walking up the aced and landscaped entrance to the open doors of the modern mansion. As we came closer, I could see the markings of a living room behind the glass. Leather and microfiber chairs and couches were organized around a large, wooden coffee table of oriental design. "Hello?" I said, rapping loudly on the glass pane. The only answer was my inquisitive, polite voice echoing off the brick walls. "Well?" I said to Daniel, look at him with one deep breath.

We walked into the house.

I'm not sure I have ever been in anything like it. The building was at once very ambitious and yet...very homely, cozy, and comfortable. It was as if whoever lived here was content, yet still excited about life, constantly seeking new endeavors. I expected some uniformed servant to pop up sometime, a butler or a maid, but in the many minutes we spent in the foyer-living room, no one showed up.

There were prints and paintings on the wall that Daniel goggled at. Women in gauze material and men wrapped in sheets or stiff in suits. I could see an air of passion, drive, and yet...compassion within the artwork.

"It's beautiful," Daniel repeated, and I believe that he truly, deeply meant it. His dark brown eyes were alight with wonder, like amber syrup by the fire, as if he wanted to just settle into this foreign place, who knew how far from 'home.' I think that I felt nearly the same way.

"Let's walk around some more," I said, touching my colleague's shoulder, which was quite a few inches above mine, especially without my high heels on.

There was a hall that curved to the southeast and southwest, so I walked to the western one (in the direction of the elevator- I didn't want to get too far from it). Wall lamps not yet lit (and not yet needed, either) were spaced along the bricks, simple but gorgeous devices. I pictured them reflected in their own golden glow from the stony tiles at our feet.

Daniel turned to me as we walked, eyes still shining with amazement. "I could live here," he uttered in a hushed voice. I smiled, remembering how only a bout ten minutes ago he had not even wanted to step out of the elevator, let alone wander into this mansion.

"I know," I voiced aloud, spotting another framed print of wonderful detail, but not yet spying any clues as to where we were, exactly (or even vaguely, for that instance). The temperature was warm, so we could still be in Georgia. Or, it could be another southern state, California, or even...in another country. I was acutely aware of this shiver-inducing possibility simply because the whole situation was truly impossible: an elevator in Infinity Inc. had taken me and one other person to some place other than another floor of the building. Much different from another floor in the building it left a gazillion links and options, like a weird dream one can't control, Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in the land of Oz.

"Where are we?" Daniel echoed my thoughts as we reached an intersection of halls. We hadn't seen any doors until then, where one was on my right. I opened it, cautiously, revealing what looked like a library or study. The whole front of it was open to the foyer, and I was shocked that I had not noticed it before, in the entrance of the building.

"What are you doing?" I exclaimed as Daniel moved past me, into the room. He stepped through, hesitating with a gleam in his eye.

"I... I wanted to see what the books were," he answered, then looked back at me, coughing with a straight back. "Maybe they could lend a hint at where we are, or at least who lives here."

"Nice cover-up," I murmured. He was just a bookworm and literature freak. I traipsed in after him, looking around at the nicely-bound to old and worn books on the shelves. Whoever owned them seemed to have read all or most of them at least once, others quite a few times more. There was a desk in the corner of the wall, and upon closer inspection, I could see that the bookcase that protected it could move on a rail in the floor. I pushed the button to make it do so, watching, impressed, as the wall shifted aside, opening the view to the foyer and beyond as a vista of inspiration to the work desk, which also pivoted on a rail of its own making to face the entrance.

Daniel and I just looked at each other. Perhaps this wouldn't turn out to be a bad experience. A few minutes of looking around the area did not give me any answers- most of the books were fictional or philosophical, ones found in good bookstores no matter where in the worlds you were.

"I think we're still in the south," Daniel said, his statement bringing me to whatever clue he had found. His fingertips were touching the top of the spine of an older book, with gold lettering against a simple black background. "Southern Horticulture," he read off. "The question now is where in the south are we?"

"Maybe a professor lives here," I suggested, running my fingers along the sides of the well-furnished shelves, making my way to the exit.

"No," he answered. "Even they don't make this much money. I'm thinking something closer to lawyer. If it's a professor, it would have to be a damn good one, who did plenty of personal research or ground-breaking achievements to live in this kind of a place."

"Family heritage?" I ventured.

"Too modern."

"Unless it's just an old family with lots of money, or a man whose parents were well-off and could send him somewhere where he could be well-off as well," I ended, meeting him at the door.

"Who said it's a he who lives here?"

At that, I shrugged. "There is just something masculine about the place. I'm pretty sure a man owns this place," then I laughed. "No matter how many women he probably brings in." I left the innovative office, taking a left to continue the trek west, closer to the elevator. "I wonder there the kitchens are..." I muttered aloud, licking my lips at the thought of food.

"They might be nearby," Daniel said lightly. "Food is always nice to have while working, and that study would seem to be the work area." I remembered the papers organized across the tabletop in the room and could easily picture a plate of skillfully prepared food and a glass of orange juice or something accompanying them.

We came to stairs and I immediately felt a little disappointed. Kitchens were heavy undertakings and as such nearly always were reserved for the ground floors. The food was probably in the opposite direction, but I was already here...so... We ascended the stairs.

It was an elegant, simple flight of stairs, curving widely in the light of the late sun. Daniel let me go first, acting as the chivalrous knight- The lady shouldest go first, else who will catch thine fall? Of course, I could hardly imagine Daniel ever saying that, and if I had poked fun at him in that moment he probably would have let me fall, were I to trip. I stayed steady, however, making it to the top and seeing personally how gorgeous this area of the building was, as we had seen from outside.

We had emerged at the doorway to those giant catwalks outside, which was actually just an extension of the hallway of this level. "Look," I said, pointing in the opposite direction to a large door. "Want to see what's in there?" I went on, and was met by a curious shrug. Yes, his eyes said. So I led the way.

Turning the smooth door handle, I slowly walked into...a bedroom. No, a bedchamber. The area was huge, with huge windows in the style of the rest of the house overlooking the courtyard. Slanted light was spilling across the tiled floor, dotted with a rug and the feet of some furniture. Merely geometric dressers and nightstands were colored in sleek, black colors, designed similar to the coffee table I had seen downstairs, in the foyer. A paper-lantern style desk lamp was atop one of the nightstands, and the other was accompanied by a floor lamp, unlit.

Then...there was the bed. It was huge- bigger than queen or king, for certain- it was an emperor's bed. The bedsheets looked similar to mine- simple, modern, with pure colors of gold, violet, and black instead, with an under layer of white. "Wow," I said this time. I was forced to recall dating a lawyer a year or so ago, and could not help thinking that maybe Daniel was right about the occupant of the house. The bed was perfectly made, so the man in charge, as I had thought earlier, probably hired some servants.

"Yeah," Daniel acknowledged, his voice hoarse. Then he coughed. "Let's... Let's look around some more." Outside of here, he meant, and I caught his drift, nearly smiling. It was awkward for him to be in another man's bedchamber, or perhaps he had some interesting memories of his own that came up at the sight.

We left the room, closing the door behind us, and headed back toward the double doors leading outside, onto the catwalk. I took a deep breath, knowing we were high up, and when I stepped out, my hair caught in a breeze, attesting to that fact. Not so high, I reasoned. Really, we were only on the second story, and there was actually an entire other walkway another story above us. I could see the beams that held it in place. It was like a bridge between the two buildings- a sturdy bridge of wood and stainless steel- again, an interesting choice, one that could weather the seasons and rain, and hopefully, I shuddered to think, not get struck by lightning.

Our footsteps sounded supported as we moved with light, little echoes on the wooden planks.

"What do you think is in this building?"I asked Daniel, gripping the handle of the glass door on the other side.

"No clue," he said honestly, helping me slide it open. The hall we stepped into, out of the breeze from the catwalk, was the spitting image of the one across the way- in the previous building. We approached the door near the stairs, opening it to reveal... another giant bedroom.

This one was decorated more sparsely and uniform- a guest room, I guessed. I shrugged and went further down the hall, opening another door without hesitation. A bathroom. Or rather, following the other comparison, a bath chamber.

A large tub was in one corner of the tiled room, a large shower stall in another, and a linen rack and towel hamper in the remaining one. It seemed like every room deserved a little sunlight to the owner of this house, and this room was no exception. There were two panels of glass on the ceiling and one large window that was thick and slightly glazed or blurred on the wall. There were also two potted palms in the room, and a well-tended orchid on the counter top.

Then it hit me. We were wandering around this huge mansion and still hadn't found who lived here or where we were. As nice as it was, it was not going to help me prevent this accident from happening in the future. Although...a part of me didn't want to leave, didn't want the 'accidents' to go away.

"Come on," I urged, back-pedaling out of the room. Well, that's new, I thought as Daniel complied without chorus or question.

I walked down the spiral stairs, determined to walk back to the lift now that there wasn't much else to do. I would just have to take the stairs between the twelfth and thirteenth stories.

But it seems as if the universe always has other plans, always has something to test or change your will.

First came the test of will.

When I stepped off the last stair, I found myself in...what looked like a gym. Daniel stepped after me, dress shoes out of place on the hardwood floor. There were...two long strips of what looked like rubber flooring, raised one or two inches above the rest of the floor. An elliptical and stationary bike were left untouched nearby, and a section for weights as well- big ones, supporting me earlier theory that it was a man that lived here. There wasn't much artwork down there- just a few inspiring prints and posters of athletes, mainly running, doing yoga, or...fencing. This guy was definitely rich, and I guessed that was what the rubber strips on the floor were designed to be for.

"I really could live here." My voice was dry with disbelief.

"Let's try getting back to work first," Daniel suggested, voice almost quivering. We were both thinking the same thing. I want to come back here- but what if we can't?

"It doesn't do to dwell in dreams," I agreed, quoting some movie character from long ago. We slid open the door to go outside, moving onto the pavement, past the shrubs and floral arrangements in the soil. I walked with my head held higher that it felt like, and Daniel seemed stiff as well.

Next, came the change of will.

I was looking around, making my way back to the fountain and mentally catching all the beautiful details around me. Then, something caught my eye. It was a rare thing that it did, too, because my eye just caught on glass, abundant at this home. Glass panels, darkened by the shadow of the catwalk above it, bridging the gym and the next building over. Glass panels like those belonging to a greenhouse.

"Is that..." I stopped on the sidewalk toward the fountain, halfway there and nearly to the curved area that ringed around it. Daniel didn't expect the sudden stop, and bumped into me. Luckily, he caught himself enough not to knock me to the ground, but I could still feel the flat of his chest press roughly into my arm- smell the spicy, soapy scent on his suit. Shaking my head, I looked back to the dark panels of glass, arranged like a room next to the building.

"What?" Daniel asked, I think for the second time, but I hadn't really been paying attention. "Elizabeth, what is-"

"Look at that, next to the workout room we just came out of," I commanded, grabbing his shirt sleeve and pointing- his body was still unnervingly close to mine. "Doesn't that look like a greenhouse to you?" I asked.

His eyes narrowed, looking closely at something rather far away. "Yes," he confirmed at last. "Why?"

"Well didn't I tell you?" I said impatiently. "The first time the elevator did this to me, it took me to a conservatory- a greenhouse!"

"That doesn't necessarily mean it's the same one," Daniel said slowly. "The owner here is rich- if he has a workout room and a study with books on Southern horticulture, there is a good possibility that he would also have a greenhouse."

"So?"

"So, the greenhouse that you visited before could have been an entirely different one."

I exhaled my temper. "But the elevator!"

"What about it? You said the elevator took you to a conservatory, and look," he pointed to the lift. "The lift is right there- not in front of that," he pointed back to the greenhouse, "conservatory. Let's just-"

"I want to see it!" I said heatedly.

"No," Daniel answered, shaking his head. "You said it yourself- it doesn't do to dwell in dreams."

"This is not dwelling in the dream," I argued. "It's trying to find a way out of it! If I don't even look in there, to see for myself, then I'm wasting a chance for answers that I definitely haven't gotten so far. We looked in the house, know we are somewhere in the south, on a rich man's estate, near an established city, but that does not tell me anything about how we got here when we were just trying to get to the twelfth floor of Infinity Inc.!"

"What answers will you find there? Who is to say that that greenhouse doesn't look like every other greenhouse, including the one the elevator took you to?"

"I don't know, Daniel, but I am going to try, and if you have a problem with that you do not have to accompany me," I finished in a low voice. In fact, if you are going to be such a sourpuss now when you were all excited not so long ago then I would rather you not come along.

My feet were alone on the pavement at first, shuffling quickly as I walked on the dry grass back to the area near the gym. A minute or so went by, and then I heard him, huffing from a short sprint as he caught up to me. I'm not sure how I would have felt if I had gone it alone. Perhaps nervous, but I think I was too curious at the time about the greenhouse to have given much thought to it. Anyway, he had come, and stayed beside me as I reached the greenhouse, my flat shoes making more noise on the pavement than they had rustling through the short grass.

I took a deep breath, reaching for the door handle of the glass and screen door. Then I opened it, stepping inside.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I think I was hoping so much to be right that it shocked me when the place did not look familiar. There were similar plants. Tall trees that were palmate in nature, mostly, others that were bamboo, tall and slender, or spruce, similar to ones I had seen in the landscaping outside. Shrubs of differing styles covered the floor area- most were wide, some with berries, others with flowers, and yet more with nothing much more than thorns and leaves. The smell of the room was mossy, earthy, and very humid- almost to an uncomfortable degree. Ignoring the feeling that someone was breathing down my neck (aside from Daniel, because he wasn't as close as before, so whatever came from him was mostly cool), I ventured further, taking a right down the path between plants. A hanging basket that draped low from the rafters caught on my arm, shaking loose an exotic petal of fiery orange color.

"Well?" Daniel prompted. I looked around me.

"Nothing yet," I muttered, eyes keen. I had a mental photograph of the greenhouse I had seen, from the elevator. I turned the corner of the greenhouse room when it came, looking up the path and hoping, hoping still that it could tie together and give me answers.

Edging around yet another corner, actually the corner of a metal table for preparing plants on, I saw a door on the brick wall of the next building, the one bridged by this greenhouse to the gym. My heart leaped. I walked quickly to the door, thinking that maybe if I just turned around and faced the greenhouse from that door it might look like the other one had from the elevator.

Closing my eyes for a moment once I reached the clear, screened door, I pivoted, facing the greenhouse. Then I sighed, seeing only a bewildered Daniel and multitudes of plants not familiar in my mind's eye as the ones from the other day.

He seemed to notice, and shared a sympathetic look, no longer so angry. "Anything?" But he knew the answer.

"No," I said, sighing again. "Nothing." My eyes scanned the scene one more time, but there was still no luck, no magic working to my favor.

"Come on," Daniel said, motioning around the table, back towards the other door. "Let's go back to work." I followed him, trying hard not to hang my head. For some reason, there is comfort in not holding it so high in moments of disappointment. As we left, I tucked my honey brown hair back behind one ear, looking back at the greenhouse and feeling utterly lost.

Daniel led the way, and I just focused on following the sight of his tall shoulders, back across the grass and then onto solid pavement again. For some reason, he took the slightly longer way, stopping at the fountain and looking into it. "Do you want to make a wish?"

I just stared at him. "You mean do I wan to toss a penny into a rich man's personal fountain?"

He gave me a smile. "Is there any better place to do it?"

Somehow, I felt he was right. I dug in my purse, which had remained faithfully, if forgotten, on my shoulder throughout our journey in this place. The sun was lower than when we had gotten here, but as I flipped a penny up into the air, fiery light glinted off of it just as well. I wish to have answers.

Then I opened my eyes, not really expecting answers, but feeling a little bit more like the people across ages who just had to put their faith in something, or else feel the sorrow of what life really can be – death.

Of course, in my case, it was not nearly so simple or despairing. Sometimes people have to accept that answers won't come, and I think that in that moment, wishing for answers, just desiring them, somehow...helped me cope with the fact that I might not ever get them, or get the ones that I want.

We reached the elevator, and part of me was relieved to see it. The impossibility of all this had made me worry that the lift would have been gone. But no...no, it was there at the base of a brick building, not far down from the greenhouse, doors sliding open in welcome, thanks to the motion sensors, when we arrived.

Tugging at his tie, Daniel pushed the button for the twelfth floor. "No," I said. "it has to be the thirteenth." I had learned that much, even if my other answers hadn't come yet. He looked at me with one eyebrow raised, but the doors didn't even close, despite the button that he had pushed.

"All right." For some reason, his voice was still skeptical, even though...well, even though her had been with me throughout this. He pushed the thirteenth.

I got one last look at the fountain before the doors slid shut- up along the rose-guarded walkway, water sparkling in the late sun light- and fixed the image in my brain, just in case...I didn't see it again.

The sounds of the estate we had visited were shut out, and all I heard was the mechanical noise of an elevator complying to orders and the soft rustling or breathing of myself and Daniel, standing patiently.

It was odd, in light of all that had happened, that I was not nervous- not worried as I had been about the lift- about whether or not we would make it safely back to work. I should have been, logically, but at that point, I was just too tired for logic.

My feet were hurting, too.

"We have to tell someone."

Daniel's voice made me forget the pain in the soles of my feet- and not in the nice, soothing way. Instead, I felt a headache coming on.

"What?"

"We have to tell someone," he repeated, sensing my argument and visibly tensing in preparation for it. A quick learner, I noted.

"Who will we tell, and why? I mean, honestly, who would believe us?"

"Ugh...well...not tell them tell them...show them, maybe," he countered, none too gracefully. "And we have to because this isn't our company, and the people in charge deserve to know there is a problem with the lift."

Remember that light bulb metaphor mentioned earlier? It flicked on again. "Who says the people in charge don't already know ab out it?" I said slowly. "And who says it is a problem with the elevator?"

Again , nearly as always, he responded with a quizzical expression. Not as quick a learner as I thought. "What do you mean ?"

"I mean that they probably know and probably have a reason for it happening." The lift stopped. "I don't think it's a glitch," I finished, gazing upon the thirteenth story as the doors slid open.

"But we have to!" he uttered, frantic as he looked around the called upper level.

I walked to the stairwell and he caught up with me. It had not occurred to me until then how much of a coward my colleague was. "No, we don't," I snapped, stopping one stair down. "You said it yourself- you could live there. Do you honestly think we'll figure out how this thing works if we tell someone else? Be ambitious for once, Daniel."

And I led the rest of the way down. I could nearly hear him mulling my words over- not quite insults- as we traveled.

"Let's just pack up for the day," I added. "And we will talk about this tomorrow."

He was just about fuming at being told what to do, by me, yet again, and so we separated onto the twelfth floor without a further word. Daniel probably packed up before I did, because as I b id, Sravya a good night and headed to the elevator, I saw no sign of him.

The usual smell of marigolds and lavender calmed my nerves, smelling also the evening begin and the usual moisture in the air of hybrid car exhaust.

The drive home was...quiet, slow, and uneventful. I didn't quite feel happy, but I wasn't really bothered either with the day's events. The other day, a kind of solace had come with having a plan. Now, I had a different sort of serenity- one that comes with familiarity. No, I was not yet used to the fact that the elevator of my work building had taken me somewhere very far from its shaft. But I was no longer a deer in the headlights, and that felt good enough.

When I had collected my mail and entered the flat I called my home, though, my mind began churning again. The reason I had been so unnerved was because...the message I had meant to go out to maintenance had instead reached my answering machine.

Today's adventures had definitely not answered that question.

And how exactly did it work anyway? I had done the exact same thing that morning as what had happened the day before, trying to get there to investigate the greenhouse.

Maybe... Maybe it was only because I had been trying to get there that it hadn't worked. But then, I had worked at Infinity Inc. for years, going up to the thirteenth floor occasionally, and had never been taken anywhere but the floors that I meant to go to. So was it... like something out of a Science Fiction book- where a phenomenon like a wormhole comes up randomly for a window of time, or even just remained?

I didn't know how I would be able to cope with my two extraordinary experiences in the elevator if it just...stopped happening- if I never got the answers I wanted.

The phone rand in the middle of my cleaning the dishes. I wasn't yet hungry enough to make food- not with my mind still buzzing. So I just...cleaned.

"Hello?" I said after instructing the Z-Axis to accept the call. I knew who it was.

"Elizabeth! How are you?" Valerie's voice came from the speakers attached to the wall.

I'm... good," I replied, rinsing one of the plates in my hand and placing it in the dishwasher. She could probably tell that I wasn't quite so 'good', but I wasn't going to give her the opportunity to scold me just yet. "I'm sorry I didn't call you back, Val."

"Oh, it's nothing," my best friend hushed. "So will you be able to pick me up from the airport on Tuesday?"

"I think so..." I racked my brain, unsure if I had anything special at work that day. "Ugh...hang on while I check." With the whole disturbing elevator-leaving-the-building situation, I really couldn't remember. So, I was checking my planner.

"Well...?" she prompted, knowing my timing.

"Crap," I said as I saw the entry. "I have an important PR 2 meeting that day. I can't miss it. What time does your flight come in?"

Noon, but those rides are always a bit late. Don't worry about it, Liz," she continued. "I'll pick up a cab no problem. Can I crash at your place? Tim is still on his trip and won't be home until Friday."

"You know you can Valerie," I said, rolling my eyes and resuming my chore at the sink. One would think after talking about humanly robots that one would have been put into the market that could properly do dishes. They tried. They also came up pretty short, with a lot of dishes broken. "How was Japan this time?"

"Oh, you know," she said, and I could picture her waving her hand through the air. "Crowded- tight as a mule's buttocks, as always. Noisy, strenuous, hard to navigate, despite how incredibly small it is, but overall, pretty fun. I went to one of those new wave concerts."

"The uber theatrical ones I've heard about?"

"That's the kind," she affirmed. "It was...interesting- like Broadway and musicals making a comeback in the form of more music than acting, with the characters played by lean little Asian kids in the newest fashions."

"You mean the ugliest."

"Don't pick on the fashion industry- you follow the trends, too."

"Only the ones that look good, and those tend to be the most old-fashioned," I argued. "Simple suit, simple dress, classic heels, and classy colors. None of that ridiculous fifties or reinvented 20's thing that was done turn of the century."

"When we were kids."

"Yeah," I said.

I thought about telling Valerie what had happened. I knew she would be suspicious, but considering she believed in that supernatural stuff a little more than I (which is hardly any), I figured she would believe me. But...something held me back... As if, if I told her...it would make all of the craziness of the thirteenth story ...real.

"Call me or leave a message when you leave Japan and when you get in and all that," I told her.

"I will," she agreed. "Be happy, Liz."

"Be safe, Val," I said, and we ended the conversation with good thoughts. I finished the dishes deftly, switching on the machine to wash them and wiping my hands dry on a kitchen towel.

Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow I go back to infinity, back to confusion.