You can never leave the place you die in, Harriet says, and Fay nods like a hand puppet.
Harriet’s hellbent on staying, see. She says this is home now. As if a charred hotel lift can ever be home! Ladies and gents, please step inside our opulent triangular vessel, blessed with imitation stucco and lipstick stains, destined to transport you seamlessly from floor to floor until ping, horror strikes on New Year’s Eve 1999 and you are broiled and you are scorched.
I tell them if we never leave this lift, Pythagoras’s theorem will play on loop and Fat Boy Slim will be the only thing we dance to. There’s a world outside this metal, I say, fresh air to be sucked, new people; not just maintenance workers or mourners or sick aficionados of gore. We can move horizontally out there, and Harriet, in her disco skirt, turns and slots herself behind a panel and mumbles, We don’t have lungs, you useless tart.
Fay fence-sits, she umms and she aahs, switches from leg to right angle. When I tell Fay I want to leave, she says the problem with triangles, darl, is that if one side leaves, the other two collapse.
Fay won’t abandon Harriet, like ever. She gets stupid-scared when she’s not by Harriet’s side, it’s like someone’s ripped off a limb. If Fay comes out of the school toilet, for instance, she’ll have her Where’s Harriet? face on, or behind the Esso garage when Harriet’s going down on a boy, Fay will be roaming.
Tut-tut, there’s me speaking in the past tense; we live in the lift now. Thing is, we’ve been here so long things get fuzzy.
For the zillionth time, Fay’ll say isn’t it creepy-weird for a teacher to organise a party in a hotel and invite his pupils? and Harriet’ll say totally. Harriet’s intention yoyos between having come here to get trollied and steal his wallet, and an orgy with all the mod cons. Fay’s intention was to do whatever Harriet did – that story stays the same.
As for me, I’ll say I had no intention of sleeping with Mr Mason, and even if they’ll be like Yeah right, we’ve seen how you hyperventilate in History, I’ll never tell them how Mr Mason unzipped me after French Revolution class and how voltaic it felt, that quite probably it is I who am responsible for all this dying.
Some days we puzzle over Mr Mason’s fate – is he deceased now too? This makes Fay blubber because she hates talking about Time and picturing her mother entombed or her brother with kids who climb oaks, brandishing their futures. Her face goes blotchy which looks grotesque with the burns.
So we hold hands and say the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the area of the squares on the two other sides, and any I’s go up in flames.
Fay and Harriet have this dance routine to Fatboy Slim where they do the running man then the cabbage patch, and their joints crack at the axes, and my arms can’t help but jut out towards them, making a corker of an isosceles.
Kik Lodge writes short fiction in France where she lives with a menagerie of kids, cats and rats. Her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Milk Candy Review, Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro. Erratic tweets @KikLodge.