September 1, 2010
The 26th floor of the Venetian Hotel was mostly silent. It was interrupted only by the muted pops and cracks of fireworks which leaked through the thick walls. The live pirate show across the street at Treasure Island was to blame. Adrastos Halkias looked out of the hallway window at the spectacle. Bikini clad female pirates lustfully danced on a mechanized boat, lip-synching along with some awfully composed attempt at American pop music. It was barely interesting enough to watch, but the gyrating hips of the women punctuated by a few pyrotechnics somehow kept his attention.
The show ended with a grand finale. Sparks and explosions shot high into the air. Adrastos wondered how the Las Vegas fire marshals could allow such things to happen. If a hotel in his hometown of Patras came to him and asked for permission to launch rockets like that into the night sky every hour on the hour, he would laugh first then fill out their rejection paperwork. The last remaining flashes of purple and yellow faded into the already bright Vegas landscape.
With the show over, Adrastos peeled himself away from the window and headed toward the elevator. It was 6:55 and he was supposed to meet his family in the lobby at 7:00. His sister’s wedding rehearsal was over and they would be going out to eat. Hopefully he could do some gambling, maybe see the peep show at the Luxor later on too. Adrastos padded along the long, dimly lit hallway, stopping to press the down button at the elevator bay.
With a pleasant electronic voice to announce its arrival “26th Floor”, the elevator doors opened. Inside was a fair-skinned man on a cell phone, chatting in a language that Adrastos wasn’t familiar with. It sounded Arab, but there were Nordic tones in it as well. The walls of the elevator were mirrored, reflecting the dull light from a miniature chandelier which dangled above him.
Adrastos hit the button with the “L” and the star. As most do, he didn’t engage the strange man in conversation, opting instead to take his BlackBerry out of his sport coat pocket and check his e-mail. He thumbed his way through random webpages, not really caring what he read on the tiny screen. The point of this was to distract him from human interaction; he wanted to look busy.
The elevator stopped on the 5th floor and the fair skinned man walked out. “5th Floor,” the electronic voice called out. The man looked back at Adrastos and held the door for him, motioning him to get out.
“No. No. I’m going to the Lobby,” he explained. The man looked confused. “Lobby,” Adrastos slowly enunciated. The man looked confused and compassionate. Adrastos took a step forward and shooed the man’s hands off of the elevator door. “Lobby.” The man tried to say something as the doors closed, but he couldn’t hear it. He was already back to his BlackBerry, just in case someone else hopped on the elevator.
The elevator resumed its descent. Adrastos looked up at the digital numbers and watched them fall. 4, 3, 2, L. But the elevator still descended.
“What the hell?” Adrastos muttered out loud. He clicked the Lobby button a few more times to make sure it registered but he could feel the elevator speeding downward. The pace quickened and quickened to the point that he felt someone may have cut the cables, but surely he would have hit the ground by now. Several minutes passed. Adratos tried in vain to call someone on his phone. “No Service” read his BlackBerry. The dim chandelier brightened a bit and the elevator slowly and gently came to a complete stop.
The doors opened and the electronic voice spoke out, “Limbo.”
“Limbo?” Adrastos repeated to himself.
A voice called from nowhere in particular, “That’s right. Limbo.”
“Εννοείς κόλαση?” Adrastos asked as he exited the elevator. It has been said that under times of great stress one tends to revert to one’s native tongue. He found it easier to express disbelief in Greek.
“Yes. Well, sort of like Hell. Not exactly. The Upper Crust, really.”
He stepped into a sort of nothingness. It wasn’t an absent of light or and absence of darkness. It was just a whole lot of nothing. He squinted. “But…but how did…? Why? What happened to me?” the Mediterranean man asked. The voice seemed as though it had heard those exact questions in that exact order a countless number of times. It answered with an apathetic tone.
“The Elevators from the Venetian in Las Vegas all open portals to Hell. Pretty simple,” the voice sighed. “Actually Hell has agreements with all the hotels on the Las Vegas strip. For every 60000 people that ride the elevator at the Venetian, one person goes to Hell. We have different ratio for the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay, but 60000:1 is pretty standard.”
“Yes,” Adrastos interrupted. “But why?”
“It’s the least Las Vegas can do! What with all the abject sinning that takes place there. Think of it as a DUI checkpoint. We stop you in an elevator and send you to Hell to be judged. Depending on your level of sin, you can get sentenced to deeper and deeper levels Hell,” the voice explained tonelessly. “Lucky for you, you’re just your run-of-the-mill Virtuous Pagan. You don’t have to go any deeper.”
“What? Virtuous Pagan?”
“Yes. You’re pretty much an OK guy. But you go with the flow of evil. That’s why you were in Las Vegas to begin with.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“I don’t make the rules my man,” the voice said. If it had shoulders it probably would have shrugged them. “It is what it is.”
“So what now?” Adrastos asked.
The voice paused briefly. “Yep.”
Adrastos flipped out his BlackBerry. “No Service.” He put his hands in his pockets.