The Twentieth Floor by Helen Bang


The twentieth floor

By Helen Bang


ALISTAIR enters the elevator. The voice of the

ELEVATOR is feminine and soothingly seductive.

ELEVATOR: Welcome to Concept plc. Ideas are our business. Please state the floor you require.

ALISTAIR is about to speak when NICK rushes in.

Alistair greets him with a nod. Nick hesitates

momentarily when he sees his colleague but continues

into the elevator. They speak simultaneously.


NICK: {Twenty eight.


ELEVATOR: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Please state the floor you require.

They again speak simultaneously.


NICK: {Twenty eight.

ELEVATOR: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Please state the floor you require.

NICK: {Twenty...


ALISTAIR hits the Stop button.

ELEVATOR: Elevator suspended. Please press 'Resume' then state the floor you require.

NICK:What are you doing?

ALISTAIR:What am I doing? What are you doing? Where are you going?

NICK:To the twenty-eighth floor.


NICK:None of your business.

ALISTAIR:Really? You're going to the twenty-eighth floor and it's none of my business? Did they summon you?


NICK tries to reach the button, ALISTAIR blocks him.

ALISTAIR:Oh no you don't.

NICK::Come on. I need to get there.

ALISTAIR: Not until you tell me what's going on.

NICK:Look, Alistair, I've got an appointment in... Shit. Ten minutes.

ALISTAIR:You've got an appointment?

NICK: Yes.

ALISTAIR: An appointment? Not a summons? An appointment?

NICK:Yes, how many times...

ALISTAIR:So you've already put in the request?

NICK:Yes, look can we talk about this later, I really need to...

ALISTAIR:No. Now. We talk about it now. When did you put the request in? Hmm?

When did you ask for an appointment?

NICK:Alistair, that's not relevant...

ALISTAIR:Oh yes it is, Nick. When did you put the request in?

NICK:Last week.

ALISTAIR:Last week? And you didn't tell me?

NICK:I'm not discussing...

NICK ducks around ALISTAIR and hits the Resume button.

ELEVATOR:Elevator active. Please state the floor you require.



ALISTAIR hits the Stop button and blocks NICK.

ALISTAIR:We're a team. A team. We agreed, any request for an appointment would be done as a team.

NICK: This has nothing to do with you.

ALISTAIR: Nothing?

NICK: This idea, my idea, it has nothing to do with you.

ALISTAIR: It's not the project we've been working on?

NICK: No, so if you'd just get out of the...

ALISTAIR: So. You've been working on something else. On your own. On the sly.

NICK: Don't try to make it sound...

ALISTAIR: Sound like what? Betrayal?

NICK: It's hardly that.

ALISTAIR: What else would you call it then? Deception? Double-dealing? Treachery?

NICK: Don't be so melodramatic.

ALISTAIR:We had an understanding.

NICK:It's not legally-binding.

ALISTAIR:It was a verbal contract!

NICK:It'd never stand up in a court of law.

ALISTAIR:No, no, we agreed, any project generated on the 19th floor would be a joint project, equal ownership, equal rights.

NICK:Yadda yadda yadda. Go tell your Momma.

ALISTAIR:We shook hands!

NICK:Prove it.

ALISTAIR:You bastard. You really think you can do this don't you?

NICK:Do what?

ALISTAIR:Get to the twentieth floor without me.

NICK:The twentieth? Get to the twentieth? Oh Alistair, Alistair. You're so unimaginative. Don't you see, that's it, right there. Plodding Alistair, can only see one floor ahead at a time. Thinks there's a process to this. A path. That if you just follow the rules you'll make it.

ALISTAIR::You're aiming higher than the twentieth floor?

NICK:You're such a loser.

ALISTAIR::So, so... What, you think, you think you're so smart you can miss out the twentieth floor? You can what, jump over it like playing leapfrog?

NICK:You're still in the school playground Alistair. Grow up. The company don't want plodders. They want Edisons. They want creative people, ideas people, lightbulb people,. That's what they pay for. They don't want time servers. Why do you think there's no one here over thirty five? Because they're all burned out. The Company's run on Darwinian principles. It's survival of the fittest here. And you, you're a dinosaur.

ALISTAIR:But the project, the process we've been working on, it was my idea!

NICK: Your idea.

ALISTAIR:Yes, yes. Originally, when we were kicking ideas around, you know, running it up the flagpole and seeing...

NICK:There you go again. Clichd, hackneyed, derivative bollocks. No one says 'run it up the flagpole' any more. Run it up the flagpole? That went out with Nokia and Motorola. You'll be touting 'blue sky thinking' next. Jesus. Resume!

ELEVATOR: Elevator active. Please state the floor you require.

NICK: {Twenty...


ALISTAIR hits the stop button again.

ELEVATOR: Elevator suspended. Please say 'Resume' and the floor you require.

ALISTAIR: I want to know what idea you're presenting.

NICK: I don't have to tell you. I told you, it's my idea.

ALISTAIR: So you keep saying. Tell me what it is.

NICK: You wouldn't understand.


NICK: Yes.

ALISTAIR: I wouldn't understand it.


ALISTAIR: I'm too dumb to understand your brilliant idea.

NICK: Yes.

ALISTAIR: You arrogant bastard.

NICK: Can we talk about this later - I need to get to..

ALISTAIR: No! We talk about it right now or you're not going anywhere.

NICK: The appointment....

ALISTAIR: Is time sensitive. I know. Rules for presenting an idea to the Board.

ALISTAIR recites The Rules.

ALISTAIR:Rule one: Latecomers will not be admitted. Rule two: Latecomers are named and shamed on the Company website. Rule three: Latecomers have to wear the dune cap of humiliation for one week. Rule four: Latecomers forfeit their salary for the month. Rule five: Latecomers cannot apply for another slot for a calendar year.

Tell me what your idea is.

NICK:Alistair, please I have to get there - look, we'll talk about this later, I promise.

ALISTAIR:Later? Later? You know how it works, Nick. If they like your pitch you don't come back to floor nineteen. If they like your pitch that's the last I'll see of you. Tell me your idea.

NICK:You won't understand.

ALISTAIR:Try me. Try me or you aren't going anywhere. Hmm?

NICK:I've told you, you won't understand it.

ALISTAIR:Oh right, I won't understand it. But the Board, the Board up there on floor twenty eight - they'll understand it?

NICK:They'll understand my pitch. They'll understand the value. They'll understand the benefit to the Company.

ALISTAIR: So sell me. Pitch me.

NICK: Alistair, I need to get to...

ALISTAIR:Not until you tell me your bloody fabulous gold-plated fucking diamond of an idea.

NICK again tries to get to the elevator button. This time ALISTAIR grabs him.

NICK: Let go of me...

ALISTAIR: Tell me your idea you little prick.

NICK grapples with ALISTAIR and then nuts him

hard; their skulls crash together. ALISTAIR staggers

back then punches NICK. They exchange a few more

blows. ALISTAIR knocks NICK to his knees, NICK

tries again to reach the elevator button but ALISTAIR

slaps his hand aside and kicks him hard in the

stomach. NICK crawls away from him. ALISTAIR,

breathing heavily, sits down next to him. NICK's nose

is bleeding. ALISTAIR hands him a handkerchief.

NICK's watch beeps.

NICK:Bastard. You hear that? I'm too late to go now. Bastard.

ALISTAIR:We're a team. We had a deal. There's no 'I' in TEAM.

NICK:Don't give me that management textbook motivational crap. And I'm not wearing that fucking hat.

ALISTAIR laughs.

ALISTAIR:You need a loan?


ALISTAIRYou know, your salary.

NICK:Salary, right, fuck. No, I don't need a loan. Not from you.

ALISTAIR:So tell me your big idea.

NICK:You're relentless, aren't you?

ALISTAIR:Alistair the Terminator. I just keep coming. You'll never get rid of me.

NICK:What? What did you say a moment ago?

ALISTAIR:When? Oh, you do need a loan?

NICK:No, before, you said if they liked my pitch we wouldn't see each other again.

ALISTAIR:Yes, and?

NICK:If someone's idea is accepted no one sees them again.

ALISTAIR:Of course we don't, they move up to another floor.

NICK:Do they?

ALISTAIR:Well yes, that's how it...

NICK:How do you know? Have you seen them somewhere? The people whose ideas got accepted?

ALISTAIR: But they're on another floor.

NICK: But have you seen them anywhere? Think about this. We started on the ground floor, right?

ALISTAIR: Everyone starts on the ground floor.

NICK: And every time we got promoted we moved up a floor.

ALISTAIR:Yes, every few months we've moved up. One floor at a time. Nobody skips floors.

NICK:Yes, yes, but we still see the people who are still on the floors below us, don't we? We bump into people we worked with on seven and eight and fifteen... People who haven't moved up yet.

ALISTAIR:What are you getting at?

NICK:When have you ever met someone who moved up to twenty? After they moved there?

ALISTAIR: I don't know, I...

NICK:I can't remember meeting anyone who's moved up. Not in the foyer. Not in the canteen.

ALISTAIR:Perhaps they have a different canteen.

NICK:Perhaps they have a different elevator.

ALISTAIR:There's only one elevator.

NICK:We've only ever used one elevator; doesn't mean there is only one.

ALISTAIR:This elevator goes to all floors.

NICK:Does it? How do you know that?

ALISTAIR:It goes to floor twenty eight. If you get an appointment you take the elevator to floor twenty eight. So it must go to all the floors in between.

NICK:Says who? We know it goes to all floors up to nineteen. We've been in it. But how do you know there are any floors in-between?


NICK:How do you know there are any floors in-between? When have you met anyone who worked on a floor higher than nineteen?


NICK:I've never met anyone. Anyone who worked above nineteen.

ALISTAIR:But the Board is on floor twenty eight. So there must be eight floors before than. Floors twenty through twenty seven.

NICK:I've never met anyone who worked above nineteen. And we've been here...


NICK:Eight years.

ALISTAIR:Eight? Really?

NICK:How did we get from the ground floor to the first floor?

ALISTAIR: We pitched great ideas. As a team.

NICK:Yeah, we pitched ideas to the manager on the next floor. Not to the Board.

ALISTAIR: You only get to pitch to the Board when you get to floor nineteen.

NICK:And then what? That's what's bothering me. What happens after you pitch to the Board?

ALISTAIR:They either accept your idea or they turn it down.

NICK:Who do you know who got turned down?

ALISTAIR:Loads of people. Mike. Angela. Luke. Toby.

NICK:And they're still on nineteen.


NICK:We see them every day.


NICK: Who do we know who got promoted?

ALISTAIR: Cameron.

NICK: Prat. Who else?


NICK: Asshole. Who else?

ALISTAIR: Philippa.

NICK: Fuck, yes, Philippa. And when did you last see any of them?

ALISTAIR: I... It was...

NICK: It was before they went up to twenty-eight to pitch their idea. I haven't seen them since. Have you?


NICK: So where are they?

ALISTAIR: On the twentieth floor. Or higher.

NICK: You think?

ALISTAIR: Where else?

NICK: I don't think there is a twentieth floor.

ALISTAIR: There has to be.

NICK: I don't think there is.

ALISTAIR pushes 'Resume'.

ELEVATOR:Elevator active. Please state the floor you require.

ALISTAIR:Twenty. Twenty.

ELEVATOR:I'm sorry, I did not recognise that number. Please state the floor you require.

NICK:Twenty. Twenty.

ELEVATOR:I'm sorry, I did not recognise that number. Please state the floor you require.

A pause. NICK and ALISTAIR look at each other. They

stand up and speak together:

NICK: {Twenty eight.

ALISTAIR: {Twenty eight.