Descent Into Panic

Chapter 2

It was the scenario that Drew most dreaded. Bad enough to have the lift stall at all, but for it to happen with Mr. Quincey on board...

Drew knew he shouldn't have favorites, but he had a soft spot for Mr. Quincey. Most of the hotel guests treated Drew like he was beneath contempt – if they noticed his existence at all. An attendant in a lift was little more than a labor saving device to most of them. They were too full of their own importance to have to bother pressing a button for themselves. Heaven forbid one of the ladies should chip a nail!

Mr. Quincey was different. He spoke to Drew as if he were an equal, and actually seemed interested in what the young man had to say. Curious as to why someone of 'such obvious intelligence' as he put it, was doing such menial work, he'd listened sympathetically to Drew's tale of having to give up college and get a job to support his mother, disabled in the accident that killed his father six months earlier.

When he'd been asked to 'look after' one of the hotel's most valued guests who had a phobia he was trying to conquer, Drew had thought he would be in for days or even weeks of pandering to a spoiled rich man's whims. He'd been dreading it. As it turned out, these days he actually looked forward to the old man braving his lift, or 'elevator' as Mr. Quincey and the other Americans insisted on calling it. He enjoyed their chats as much as he appreciated the small 'tips' Mr. Quincey insisted on paying him for his 'time and trouble'. The old man had offered to 'cut a check' that would have eased their situation considerably, but neither Drew nor his mother would accept charity. This was Mr. Quincey's way of helping out while leaving them their pride, and Drew loved him for it. He'd have enjoyed their sessions even without the extra income though. Mr. Quincey was a real character, and full of interesting life stories.

He'd been making such good progress too. This was the first time Mr. Quincey had made it all the way to the top floor in one go.

Now this had to happen. It wasn't fair.

"Please stay calm, ladies and gentlemen, and try not to move around the car too much until the full lighting is restored," Drew began with practiced efficiency. He put a comforting hand on Mr. Quincey's elbow, and shot him a reassuring smile. "Is everyone all right?"

Once more, everyone started talking at once, most of them complaining at the outrage of having their vital activities interrupted. The major part of their hostility seemed to be directed at Drew Stoppard personally, as if he had deliberately inconvenienced them in this way.

"Whoa, Sam, I think you need to rein this lot in before they turn into a lynch mob!" Al suggested.

Sam turned to look at his friend, as if surprised to see him there, "A-Al?"

"Uh-oh," Al didn't like the glazed look in Sam's eyes. He'd seen this loss of control before, when the leapee's mind 'bled through,' and it usually spelled a whole heap of trouble with a side order of disaster. "Ziggy! What do I do?"

The hand link squealed.

"Yes, I think I'd worked out Sam's synergizing and so suffering from Quincey's claustrophobia, you stupid pile of gummy bears. Any idiot can see he's on the verge of a full blown panic attack. Now tell me how I snap him out of it."

"Take a deep breath, Mr. Quincey," Drew could see the signs too, and ignored the baying throng to help his friend, for so he thought of the old man. He turned to face Sam, and gently forced eye contact. "Can you hear me, sir?"

Sam was hyperventilating. He felt as if he were suffocating. He pulled at his stiffly starched shirt collar, loosening his tie and undoing the top button without even being aware he was doing so. He'd started perspiring and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. His stomach was tied in knots. He felt sick and dizzy. His nerves were ragged; he felt tingly all over. Every sound seemed amplified, yet indistinct. He was completely paralyzed with fear.

"I'm right here, Sam. Take it easy. Listen to me, Sam, concentrate on my voice," Al coaxed his friend gently. He could feel the sweat starting to form on his own brow, and brushed it away with an irritated swipe of the back of his hand. One of them needed to hold it together.

Sam was barely aware of what was going on around him, the voices he heard were like buzzing flies – all he could think of was that he had to get out, get away, escape. His eyes darted round, looking for the exit, but not focusing on it. His feet felt as if they were welded to the spot.

"Don't worry Mr. Quincey," Drew spoke the name softly and calmly, then turned to include the rest of the guests. "Everything is going to be fine. I'm sure that the power will be restored very soon and we will be able to continue to the foyer. There is no need to panic. Please remain calm and stay where you are."

Totally ignoring him, the others began pressing forward toward the door, jostling one another and still trying to out-shout each other with the importance of their personal agendas, mingled with a growing alarm.

"C'mon buddy," Al urged, "we need you here, c'mon back pal. You aren't Tobias Quincey, you're Dr. Sam Beckett. Now suck it up Sam and get these people organized."

Sam looked at his friend and frowned. His head hurt. Oh, God, did his head hurt! The noise behind him was intolerable and suddenly he could stand it no longer. He yelled at the top of his lungs, "Would you all please just SHUT UP!!!"

Totally stunned by the rudeness of their fellow passenger, aside from a couple of muttered "Well, really!" and "How dare he?" comments, they did just that.

"Thank you," Sam managed with a sigh. Then he swayed, looking for a moment as if he was about to pass out. Drew caught hold of him, and eased him into the corner of the elevator, so he could lean against the wall for support. Sam managed to give the young man a feeble half smile of gratitude.

"Attaboy, Sam." Al breathed a sigh of relief. Sam was still looking grey; confused; his breathing was ragged and there was a 'deer in the headlights' look in his eyes, but he was obviously trying with every ounce of self-control he possessed to get a grip on himself.

"He-help m-me, Al," he whispered desperately, clutching the handle of the cane as if it were a lifeline.

"I'm right here, buddy," Al reassured him. "Just take a couple of deep breaths. Its gonna be okay, Sam. We're gonna get through this together."

Al well knew the terrors of being trapped in a confined space. Vietnam had made him an expert. He could empathize with Quincey's panic, transferred now to Sam. His time-traveling friend couldn't afford to give in to the fear though. If he did, then history would repeat itself and they would all die.

Al was not about to let that happen. "Hang in there, kid. I'm gonna stay right here, I won't leave you. You can do this, Sam. We can do this."

Though still trembling, Sam gave him a nod and the other half of the grateful smile he'd conferred upon the attendant. Leaning the cane in the corner, he took the handkerchief from his top pocket, and wiped the perspiration from his face and neck. For a moment he buried his face in his hands, and forced a couple of slow breaths. Then, putting the handkerchief into his trouser pocket, he looked up at his fellow passengers.

"I apologize for my outburst," he began, putting up a hand to silence them when they began to complain again. Though he was regaining control gradually, Sam found he was still trembling and feeling weak. The attack itself had been a terrifying experience for him. He'd felt like he was going to die. He took another steadying breath.

"Mr. Quincey suffers from claustrophobia," Drew explained, defending the old man fiercely from the critical stares and mutters. "He has severe panic attacks, as you've just witnessed. Please be understanding."

The three men and two women were obviously still outraged by the whole situation, but they did not resume their collective tirade.

"We need to get out of here," Sam told Drew simply.

"I know how you're feeling, sir," Drew returned, "but please don't worry. I'm sure the power will be back any moment. We'll have you out of here soon."

"Not this time," Sam returned, but of course he couldn't explain how he knew, so he was going to have great difficulty in convincing any of them that it wasn't just the claustrophobia talking. When would he learn that there was no such thing as an easy leap?

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