Chapter 1: In Which You Have a Great First Day of Work
When the elevator starts shaking, your first thought is that it must be an earthquake.
What is it that you’re supposed to do in an earthquake again? Stand in a doorway? That sounds right, but before you can pry the elevator doors apart and position yourself safely in the opening, you’re stopped by the sound of a frayed elevator cable snapping. Then the elevator is falling. Reacting instinctively, you grab onto the closest thing available: The arm of the man standing next to you.
You’d always thought that in moments like this, your life was supposed to flash before your eyes. But as the elevator plummets down the shaft, mostly you’re thinking about how you never got to see the movie Speed. Why didn’t you make time to see Speed? Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock spent months of their lives making Speed, and you couldn’t spare two hours to sit down and watch it? What kind of friend are you?
The emergency brakes kick in with a loud, mechanical screech, and the elevator lurches to a stop with so much force that the gravity buckles your knees. Then everything is still. Tentatively, you turn your head and look up at the man next to you.
He’s staring at you, with eyes as pale and blue as the glaciers that cover 95% of Canada. You are startled by how handsome he is—how did you not notice this when you got onto the elevator? Usually the first thing you do when you board an elevator is scope out the men. You manage to pull your eyes away from his face, and that’s when you realize you’re still holding onto his arm.
“Sorry,” you mutter, releasing him and taking a quick step back toward your corner of the elevator. You face feels hot, and you fingers are tingling with the memory of how muscular his arm felt underneath his wool suit jacket. Or possibly they’re tingling due to a vitamin deficiency.
“No worries,” he says, sounding a little dazed. He gives his head a quick shake, tousling his wavy brown hair. “Are you OK?”
“I think so,” you say. “Except I might have a vitamin deficiency.”
“Oh.” He looks puzzled. Maybe he doesn’t know about vitamins.
You fix your eyes on the elevator’s shiny, metal doors, which are sealed shut. The elevator remains motionless. It feels very cramped in here all of a sudden.
“How much oxygen do you think we have left?” you ask, trying to take extra-deep breaths without being conspicuous.
“Er…I really don’t think we need to worry about that,” he says. “Elevators aren’t airtight. See the gaps in the ceiling tiles?” He points at the ceiling.
“I bet those ceiling tiles are removable. Boost me up and I’ll see if I can climb out,” you say, proposing a great idea.
“Um, no. I’m not going to do that.”
“Because it’s a terrible idea.”
“No, trust me. I saw it in Speed,” you bluff.
He snorts dismissively.
“Are you implying that Speed isn’t a reliable source of information on the subject of elevator safety?” you demand.
“Well, do you have a better idea? I can’t spend all day in here. Tonight is hot dog night.”
You’re about to start explaining about hot dog night, but he interrupts you. “Why don’t we press the call button,” he says, pressing his finger against the button a few times in quick succession. It’s almost like he’s suddenly in a hurry to get out of here for some reason.
“Good thinking,” you mutter after nothing happens. Then you say it again with air quotes around the word “good,” and then again around the word “thinking,” in case he didn’t get that you were being sarcastic.
“I’m sure the maintenance crew knows we’re in here,” he grumbles. Now he definitely sounds annoyed. And you’re starting to feel annoyed, too. Why are you the only one coming up with great elevator-escape plans?
You steal a glance at him. He is still very handsome, even when he looks kind of pissed off. And who knows how long you’re going to be stuck in here together before you can convince him to help you climb through the ceiling? Maybe you should to try to start over.
“Sooooo,” you say, dragging out the word while you try to think of a way to break the ice. “Is this your first day of work, too?”
He shoots you another puzzled look and doesn’t say anything. For a second, you think he’s not going to answer you.
“No,” he says finally, sounding a little uncertain. But why would be uncertain? Maybe he’s not sure if it’s his first day of work or not. Like that time you showed up for your first day at NASA only to be told you didn’t work there. “What is it exactly that you do?” he adds.
“I’m a member of Canadian Parliament,” you say proudly. You can’t help that it sounds really impressive. Way more impressive than your last job, hero astronaut.
“You’re an MP?” he asks, sounding a little incredulous.
“I guess. Is that short for ‘member of Parliament’?”
He stares at you without responding. You assume this is because he is admiring you with quiet awe.
“Which riding are you from?” he asks, even though the words make no sense in that order.
“I rode here on a train.”
“No…I mean which electoral district do you represent?”
“Oh, you probably haven’t heard of it. I think it hasn’t been around for very long. It’s called Nunavut.”
“Nunavut?” he repeats, pronouncing it New-na-voot, which is not at all how you pronounced it.
“Is that how you say it? Sorry. I’m American,” you add, because everyone loves Americans.
“It’s a long story. I don’t want to take up a bunch of your time.”
He gives you an exasperated look and gestures around the elevator cab as if to say, “We are stuck in an elevator.”
You shrug as if to say, “Shrug!”
He continues to stare at you expectantly, so you heave a sigh and begin your story.
“It all started last year when I decided to move to Canada, because America—ugh, don’t get me started on America.”
You glance at him to see if he wants to get you started on America. You sense that he does not.
“But first I needed to find a job here,” you explain. “I figured my best option was to run for Parliament. Though to be fair, I didn’t do a lot of research into what other options were available.
“And that’s pretty much it,” you say, after thinking it over to make sure you didn’t forget anything. “Wow, I guess that wasn’t such a long story after all!”
“So you’re not a Canadian citizen?” he asks.
“No, but the people of Nunavut don’t care. They are cool,” you say, looking pointedly at him to make it clear that he is not cool.
“But you have to be a Canadian citizen to be an MP,” he says slowly. “It’s the law.”
“Really?” You pretend to sound interested, but really you’re picturing yourself wearing a series of fancy hats.
“Yes. You can’t just show up here and—”
His boring speech is cut off by a loud, metallic screech. You scream and latch onto his arm again, certain that the elevator is about start hurtling toward the ground. He must have had the same thought, because he pulls you to his chest and holds you there tightly. You squeeze your eyes shut and try to brace yourself.
“Hellooooooo? Anyone in there, eh?” says a low, raspy voice. Your eyes open, and there’s a old man with wispy hair peering down at you through a gap in the elevator doors.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he says jovially as he pries the doors apart with a crowbar. The elevator is lodged in between two floors, and he’s crouched down on the floor above you. He extends an arm to help you climb up through the gap.
“The name’s Kiefer Sutherland,” he says when he’s pulled you out. He offers his hand to handsome-elevator-man, who waves him off, and proceeds to hoist himself out of the elevator with his stupid muscular arms. You would really prefer not to resume your conversation with him, if you can avoid it. So you thank Kiefer Sutherland hastily and escape down the hallway before you have to endure a lecture about Canadian election law.
When you reach the House of Commons chamber, you collapse into a chair next to your friend, Mabel.
It’s a relief to see a friendly face. Mabel represents the Northwest Territories and her office is next to yours, so she’s sort of taken you under her wing. All of the other members of Parliament seem to know each other, and the cavernous room is noisy with hundreds of people greeting each other after a long recess.
“How has your day been so far?” Mabel asks cheerily.
“I almost died in an elevator.”
“That’s terrible! We lose so many MPs in elevator accidents.”
“Then I was trapped in there all morning with this big stupid handsome jerk.”
Mabel makes a sympathetic tsk! sound. You’re about to start telling her the whole story, when you let out a gasp. There he is—the guy from the elevator—just a few yards away from you. Or meters, actually. Wait, is it meters or metres?
“Oh no, that’s him!” you whisper, deliberately leaving out any reference to the exact distance. “That’s the guy from the elevator!”
“Which one?” Mabel cranes her neck.
“The tall one walking down the center aisle,” you say, slumping down in your seat. What is he doing here? Is he an usher? Does Parliament even have ushers? And if not, then how does anyone find their seat???
She gives you a funny look. “That’s Justin Trudeau,” she says. “You know, the prime minister?”
Your stomach sinks. It feels like you’re in that falling elevator all over again.
“That’s Justin Trudeau?” you say in a weak voice. You’d heard he was handsome, but you’d pictured him being older. And maybe wearing a hat, like the Pope.
“I can’t believe you didn’t recognize Justin Trudeau!” Mabel laughs. “He’s only the most famous bachelor in Canada.”
“Bachelor?” Your face feels hot again. “I thought he had a wife and a bunch kids.”
“No,” said Mabel. “You must be confusing this with an alternate universe where Justin Trudeau is married and has a bunch of kids.”
“I guess so,” you mutter. You still have that sinking feeling in your stomach.
“I wonder,” she muses, stroking her chin, “if the people living in that universe realize that they are trapped in the darkest timeline.”
You ignore her as you try to collect yourself. Justin Trudeau is a very busy man who probably gets stuck in elevators all the time. He can’t possibly remember every American he meets who has conned his or her way into a job in the Canadian government, right? Chances are he’s forgotten all about you, and you’re getting worked up over nothing. Feeling somewhat reassured, you sit up in your chair and steal another peek at him.
This time, he is staring back at you.