Chapter 4 The National Museum of Historical Antiquities
I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm. -Franklin D. Roosevelt
It was very early in the morning, but Nemo was awake. Jan Seirzant was sending him to the National Museum of Historical Antiquities on a special errand from the Prevost. Nemo had never been to that part of town before and he was excited to be going somewhere new.
“And you need to come straight back,” Jan Seirzant was saying, “Voting Day is tomorrow and we have many…” brush, brush, brush, “… deliveries to make.”
Nemo enjoyed riding the bike on the fine spring day. Bumping down the cobble stoned path that led to the center of the city where all the administrative type jobs were, he began to pedal more slowly and look at all the places. On top of a small hill was a large domed building; the National Astrolab Nemo guessed. The square, red-bricked Council Chamber had it’s very own guard out front. The people hustled and bustled their way down the streets in their brightly colored uniforms that told their profession to the trained eye. It reminded Nemo of an ant colony with all the ants returning to the hill. Nemo greedily stared at all the people, hoping a face or a voice maybe even a gesture would trigger his memory. But nobody reacted to him, and his stubborn memory didn’t recall any faces. Only the birds seemed to remember him from his many deliveries.
Finally almost at the very end of the square, Nemo found the building he was looking for. It had a massive flight of stone steps flanked on either side by two winged statues looking skyward, arms held back as if they were about to fly up and away. Engraved on the stonework over the top of the doors were the words complete with embellishing curlicues, “National Museum of Historical Antiquities.” “Well, here it is,” thought Nemo, “Now, how do I find the Director?” There would be no guard standing outside the museum, for it was open and free to all people. Medford was known as a repository of knowledge; many artifacts and ancient items of secret and mystery were kept in its museums, libraries and the university. All of the texts and scrolls however, were meant to be kept at the Cathedral for study and preservation.
Up he climbed and entered the dark wooden doors, which were open to the sweet smelling springtime air. As he walked inside it got a little cooler and a lot darker. The main chamber was hexagonal in shape, with six additional hexagonal rooms splitting off from each side. If one could have looked at it from above it would have looked like a piece of honeycomb. The six chambers each had their own sign in front, telling visitors in bright green glow letters what they would find inside. Many of the rooms had desks and chairs arranged in little stations or light wooden benches to be sat on when pondering the wonders of the room. Nemo walked slowly by all of them, reading the signs and peeking in. At the far back a bright light shone out like a beacon calling people toward it.
Nemo made his way there and walked inside. This room had four very large tapestries in it with velvet-covered ropes in front providing a barrier. Several people were bending over to get a good look at the tapestries. Some of them were making sketches or taking notes. One man in the corner had even set up an easel was painting a copy of the tapestry at the end. In each one of the six corners was an alcove with a statue on a pedestal being displayed. Light was pouring through skylights and spilling out into the main chamber. Somehow it seemed magical. Each alcove had its own set of red velvet curtains, which had been pulled back and secured with a fine, gold rope.
As Nemo watched a young girl was tying the last curtain back in an alcove that had a statue that looked like a pillar of fire. The slim girl had dark brown curly hair that hung from her scalp in thick ringlets. It was tied back in a cheerful, bright purple ribbon. She had on a matching purple tunic with lavender colored swirls all over it. Her small triangular face was tilted up as she tugged at the curtain trying to open it more fully. Suddenly the curtain gave a horrifying ripping sound and the whole thing toppled down with her wrapped up inside.
Instinctively, Nemo dropped his package and reached out to catch her only to find himself wound up in the velvet rope and stanchions. He barged into a man who was holding a heavy book. The book flew from his grasp in a graceful arc and landed on one of the light wooden benches. Tipping up suddenly at the unexpected weight, the bench flung a pile of parchment and pens into the air. Other patrons began ducking and weaving to avoid the explosion of parchment. One stout elderly man with thick glasses began to sneeze and backed right into the flame statue which teetered on its pedestal and finally fell right into the entangled arms of the slim girl who had started it all. An irate man stomped into the room wearing flamboyant robes and shouting, “What’s going on here?”
When the air was finally cleared of papers and patrons, Nemo saw that the man in the robes was holding the girl by the arm and demanding, “What did you do?”
“I-I-I,” stammered the girl.
“Wait, don’t move,” said the man as he carefully took the flame statue from the girl and placed it back on its pedestal. “Don’t take a step, not one muscle must you move. Now then, explain yourself! Come on now, tell me what happened. Exactly, what happened, mind you.”
“It was an accident,” began the girl.
“Yes, indeed, I should say. Quite unintended, this mess,” interrupted the man. “Everywhere you go, there’s an accident! Disaster, it follows you like a shadow.” The girl gave a weak smile. “Well, don’t just stand there, get this mess cleaned up! Yes, yes. Clean it must be and quickly, quickly. Can’t have a mess. Get to work!”
At first Nemo thought the man was extremely cross, he spoke so loudly, but despite his words, his features were arranged in a kindly way and he seemed more flustered than angry. Correctly judging him to be the Director by his robes, Nemo pushed himself forward, “Uh, excuse me,” he said.
“Yes! Yes! What is it? Speak up! Can’t hear you unless you vocalize. You have to say what you want, you know” the man said.
But ironically this is what Nemo couldn’t now do. He stood silently staring at the man’s bald head with curly bits of hair curving around his ears like fuzzy caterpillars. He had a sandy colored beard that grew off the end of his chin and every time he spoke it waggled at Nemo. Nemo was afraid if he said anything he would burst out laughing, so he silently held out the package that was addressed to the Director. “What is it? What is it?” he demanded as he read the label out loud in a whisper, his full red lips glistening a little from the spit generated from his speech. “From the Prevost. To the Director of the Museum. That would be me. I am the Director. Oh, right, well, er thank you and all that. Yes indeed much thanks.” And then after a moment he added, “You can go now, off you go, thank you. The exit, it’s behind you, you know.” he said waving his arms and pushing the air behind Nemo as if that would propel him to the door. When Nemo remained where he was the Director seemed to lose interest and following his own advice left, his protruding stomach leading the way.
Nemo lingered behind helping the girl to replace the stanchions and pick up all the papers. “Are you all right?” he asked the girl.
She nodded and flashed him a smile. Looking at her closely he noticed that she had a sharp pointed little nose and didn’t seem in the least bit upset by the recent upheaval. “Yes,” she said, “I’m fine.”
“It was lucky you were in the right place to catch that statue,” Nemo said.
“But unlucky that curtain tore and started the whole thing,” she laughed. She had five or six thin silver bracelets on her arm that tinkled and rang like tiny bells when she moved her arms.
“Are you going to get in trouble for that?” asked Nemo.
“No more trouble than usual,” she answered good-naturedly. “The Director talks tough, but he’s really a sweetie underneath.”
“Oh,” said Nemo, not sure what else he should say.
“Yeah, my timing’s not too good,” continued the girl, “I don’t ever seem to be in the right place at the right time,” she said cheerfully, “But here’s the good thing, somehow it always turn out all right. My name’s Serah, by the way, what’s yours?” She held out her hand to shake.
Nemo briefly shook her hand and said, “What are all these tapestries about? They must be important. It’s such a fancy room,” hoping to distract her from her question about his name.
“Oh, these are very important tapestries. They are some of the oldest artifacts in all Aydreon. But they don’t all come from Validian. There was one on each continent. We just brought them here to care for them. All of them except the one from Gliadax. The Queen has that one and she won’t let it go. No one’s seen that one in years.”
Nemo began to study each tapestry. They were beautiful with rich, vibrant colors and strong, striking images. Looking at the first one, however, Nemo was sad to notice that bits of them were missing here and there. “What happened to them?” he asked.
“Well, there are lots of theories, but no one really knows. Maybe a mutant moth had a healthy lunch on them!” giggled Serah. “But now that they are in the care of the Museum, they will be well cared for. Validian is known for its textiles, you know. Come on, look at this one, it’s my favorite,” she said leading him by the arm to a deep blue tapestry. “This one is from my homeland, Marcadia.” On it was a large verdant green hill in the background. Behind that a brilliant orange sun was setting. In the front a sparkling river danced and splashed. Nemo studied it intently hoping he might recognize the scene, but after a few moments he was doubtful that he had ever known where this was.
“Is this a real place?” he asked. He bent his head closer to the tapestry. The workmanship was of a very high quality. It was almost as if he could see fish swimming in the river water, their colorful scales glinting in the last rays of the setting sun. The water looked so real, so wet; he could almost smell the tang of a river breeze blowing on his cheeks and the chill of the air that comes at dusk. If he looked hard enough, he thought he could make out a wooden covered bridge in the distance. He reached a hand out to the tapestry, was the grass actually moving in the eventide breeze? Was that a grasshopper there hopping from blade to blade? He felt as if he was being pulled in, as if he could take a step and be inside the tapestry. He could even, just make out a cottage or small house. It was off to the side, like he was seeing something out of the corner of his eyes. Something that was there in real life, but just not in the tapestry.
“Whoa there!” he heard Serah say, “Don’t fall over!” He came to with a snap. He was indeed very close to falling over. He shook his head, what was that all about? “Yes, it’s a real place,” Serah was saying, “Its Mount Phaestus in Marcadia, see that hill? Here’s the cool thing, it’s really a volcano, but it doesn’t erupt anymore. And that’s the river Flumen. Want to know what’s special about that? It’s the biggest river on any continent. Its very famous. I’ve been to see them before. In fact, my village is along the river Flumen.”
Nemo still felt very strange. It wasn’t as if the scene was familiar, not like he had known it in his past. In fact, even though he couldn’t remember anything that happened before a few days ago, he knew for sure he had never been to the place in the tapestry. Yet, it seemed to be calling to him, as if it were very important somehow. And now that he looked at it again, there was definitely no cottage in it. How had he imagined that?
“You’ve never seen a…house… in the tapestry, have you?” he asked tentatively.
“A house? No, I’ve never seen a house. I guess there could be one, in one of those holes, but I’ve never heard about it.”
Nemo shook his head like someone waking up from a dream. He would have to talk it over with Jochim. Maybe there was something about this place that everyone knew but him. He sighed, sometimes he felt as if his life were as full of holes as these tapestries.
“I have to go,” replied Nemo suddenly becoming aware that his task was done and Jan Seirzant would be expecting him back soon.
“Oh?” asked Serah as she got in line beside him, her bracelets jingling as she walked and started moving toward the exit. “Well, I hope that I will see you again soon!”
Nemo nodded his head skeptically, it’s not like she could come visit him in the halfway house, but he did not want to appear rude.
“I usually run into the people I like again,” Serah said flashing him a brilliant smile.
Unable to stop himself, Nemo smiled back shyly and clattered across the museum floor to the exit.
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