Content warning for the below chapter: human remains, not graphically described.
Next had turned out, after a discussion with One and Two (“Ugh, save Genealogy for last, or at least, do the basement all in one go”, and “If you go this way, you can avoid the Barbies. And Alice. Oh, and Gertrude.”), to actually be Supernatural and Occult.
“It’s, ah. It’s not as bad as it sounds?” Two had offered. She’d been pulling out scones and a small tin of clarified butter for Veronika at the time and gotten her hand slapped at the second scone. “Come on, she’s pretty okay. And wait ‘till I tell you what Mariyam did.”
One’s eyes had narrowed, and in the end, Veronika had been given three scones, the butter, and a knife — “it’s a reproduction, of course, but bring it back if you can.”
She’d also been given the strangest directions yet — and that might be saying something — to a department which was, in theory, just on the other side of the building on the same floor as Reprography.
With an assurance that she would indeed return the knife, she trundled her little cart out of Reprography and into the rows and rows of shelving and boxes.
Out of curiosity, she peeked in one. It held a very neatly-folded pile of linen and a corroded silverish knife with a handle that looked made of carved antler.
“Well, okay then,” she muttered to herself.
She was losing all sense of whether people were putting her on or not. She would’ve believed it of One absolutely — One didn’t really like her, if the thing with the scones was any indication — but Two had clarified One’s directions twice (Earning a glare from One each time), so they were either really good at this routine, something Veronika wouldn’t put past twins-or-whatever-they-were, or the directions were correct.
When she got there, she peeked out one of the big windows. She was more than a little relieved to see what ought to be in front of the Bellamy there – the round driveway, the two statues – she’d thought the one on the left had been pointing the other way, but that could be perspective and the fact that she was paying attention to completely different things when coming here – the topiaries and the very attractive plantings.
Veronika let out a breath. Something looked the way it ought to. She smiles at the window, wondering how silly that would sound to anyone who heard her. The front yard hadn’t moved.
She walked to the next window and looked again – the same view, albeit from a slightly different angle. If you looked carefully between the windows – which she did, although she couldn’t have told an onlooker why she was procrastinating, because clearly she was – you could see where an old wall had been removed. This space had probably been many different spaces, back when it was a manor.
It was hard to think of the place as ever having been a home. It was too – too archive, too strange. She could imagine waking up in between shelves here and thinking to oneself that one had woken up in an entirely different world…
…not that she wanted to sleep here, at least not right now. Certainly not on her first day of work!
The next window soothingly showed her the same view, but she had only one more window past that. Up here, the windows weren’t curtained at all, nor covered in blinds, and she wondered about the storage of the archives – sunlight damaged so many things. Hadn’t Miss Haas said something about that?
It seemed like a very long time ago, back when she’d been walking to the intake desk. Veronika rubbed her eyes, though she knew better, it never helped anything, and made herself move forward. The sun coming in the windows made her drowsy. It would be a nice place here, leaning against one of these shelves, maybe, to take a little nap. Just for a few minutes.
She pinched herself in the arm. She’d had plenty of caffeine before she came here this morning. She was not going to fall asleep on the job, not on her first day! That was ridiculous.
The sun seemed very warm, but somehow not too warm.
Veronika moved closer to the window. She could feel the sunlight streaming in, warming her face as if she were out on a meadow; she could almost smell the grass and the flowers. She tilted her head up a bit to let her face be fully in the sun. It was the most beautiful feeling in the world. She felt as if she should roll up her sleeves and perhaps unbutton her waistcoat just to get a little bit more light.
She kicked against something that clattered. She looked down at a pile of something white, sort of like sticks, but sticks weren’t ever that white and-
She screamed, loudly, as she jumped backwards, and then screamed again as something else clattered under her feet. She swallowed most of the third scream, wrapped her arms around herself, and checked the ground immediately under her feet.
Safe. Nothing there but hardwood and a little sun, which seemed very pleasant, almost as if-
She stepped back into the shadow as if the sun were lava. From that vantage, she examined the bones.
Two – no, three. Three sets of bones, three sets of human bones, skeletons. Bodies. The third one wasn’t all the way skeletonized; the foot pointing at her was still wearing a shoe, but the leg was dessicated and the knee was definitely bone. Above that, a skirt lightly covered the rest, hiding it from view. Veronika shuddered. How did it not smell in here? She sniffed, but she couldn’t get anything but the air of dust and sandalwood.
There were footsteps coming towards her – not one set but two, maybe three. Oh, by the catalogs, she’d screamed. She looked at the skeletons again. They had fallen fully in the sunlight. One was wearing scraps of clothing still, purple and pink, or maybe a very faded red – the purple was bright and vivid, probably some sort of synthetic.
Okay, if she looked at it like that, it was easier to handle. There were pieces of fabric dragged off a little ways. The second skeleton wasn’t wearing anything but a sort of hip-covering scrap of reddish pink with some sort of flower on it. One of the scraps was in that same color. They were small but adult, petite women, perhaps. She wasn’t going to move closer to look at their pelvic bones, since both would require being touched – or at least the fabric being touched.
And both were in the sunlight.
“Oh, oh shit.” Someone skidded up behind Veronika. “Shit, that’s you.”Want more?