Veronika made herself stop reading. She glanced apologetically at Two. “It’s, ah—“
“I’m getting paid,” Two shrugged cheerfully. “The problem is, you want to finish this test before you’re old and grey. Look, 1860, you can come back to it. Or you could take it out, too?”
Veronika wavered. “I could…” She had her own magnifier, of course. Not because she’d ever walked off with microfilm or microfiche…. just for reading very small things which weren’t reduced to 1% of their original size….
“I’d better not,” she concluded. “I should try to be here a week before I start signing things out.”
“Oh, no, go home every night, even if it’s just your apartment on site! Don’t ever try to stay here a solid week — even we don’t do that, and we’ve got multiples!”Continue reading →
Veronika could tell when the subject was being changed. She took it before she annoyed Two any further.
“Microfiche of an article on Hammondsport, it’s supposed to be from, let’s see, from The Bellamy Gazette, really? From 1879 – June 14th, the morning edition. Ah.” She cleared her throat. “Sorry. I’m Veronika Bellamy.” She offered her hand.
Two shook it firmly. “Hi, Veronika. I’m Two, of course. The Gazette microfiche are this way. They don’t do two editions a day anymore, just one a week and that’s mostly online, just about 300 copies to really dedicated subscribers, but back in the day, you could get a lot of interesting stuff from the Gazette. I love reading the really old articles when I’ve got some free time.”
Veronika found herself pressed against the wall in the Much Smaller Elevator, just enough room to press an antique button for the fourth floor. She pressed it and took the three minutes the elevator took to climb a single story – maybe she should’ve tried the stairs again – studying the Very Small Elevator.
The paneling was old and, in few places, dinged deeply, but the trim was still in good shape and the little bits of brasswork, including two brass sconces which made the space even smaller, was bright and beautiful. The floor looked like marble, and the ceiling, which was surprisingly high for the tiny size of the elevator, was arched and embossed in a pattern that looked like fleur-des-lis.
There were numbers one through ten and B, G, S, and U on the button pad, far more than the Bellamy appeared to have – although she thought perhaps S was sub-basement, that didn’t tell her what U was.
At least there was nothing, as far as she could tell, moving on its own (other than as, say, an elevator was supposed to) or otherwise particularly strange about the elevator, other than that the lifts in this place appeared to believe that there were more floors than the architecture believed in.
She pushed her cart out as soon as the door dinged anyway – a minute was too long in such a cramped space – and looked around. To the left, she was in what seemed to be a non-public area, stacked with boxes, each of them labelled with what she thought was a name, a number, and something that in theory would have been a date Continue reading →
Severn Herrley sent Veronika on her way with the corn husk doll carefully packed up, as if it were going to be shipped. She’d also sent her with a small tray of vegetables and hummus.
“Everyone seems to want to feed me,” she’d muttered, even though it had only been the two so far, not counting Sylvester, whose job it presumably was to want to feed her.
“It’s a good sign. It means we like you.” Severn had patted her on the back heavily enough to send her a few steps forward and had given her tips on her next destination.
Of course, as she trundled her little cart away from Ancient Acquisitions, Veronika was wondering what happened when an archivist didn’t like her.
She amused herself thinking of possibilities — from a very firm snubbing, to sending her in the wrong direction for the next department, to taking her things from her instead of giving her food, to making her part of a display.
Maybe, she mused darkly, that was what happened to those who didn’t make it through their first day; maybe there was a department somewhere with row upon row of “failed Bellamy archivists” behind glass, modeling wigs like Alice.Continue reading →
It is nothing but self-kindness to be kind to the new. Everything here was strange and Veronika wasn’t completely convinced that this wasn’t an elaborate prank. Still, she ought to be polite. She smiled back at the woman cautiously. “So I’m in the right place, then?”
“Well, if you’re looking for Ancient Acquisitions, then yes, you’re in the right place. I’m Severn Herrley, by the way. I can probably help you with anything you need in this department. And several other departments as well.” She winked, which Veronika felt was a little strange, but hers not to question why and all that. “So what do they have you looking for today?”
“It’s— Wait, not Alice?” Hadn’t Eleanor said don’t let Alice give you any trouble?
“Alice? Oh, Alice. That’s, ah, what we call the wig stands, or at least the really creepy ones. No, Severn. And you were looking for…?”Continue reading →
When Veronkia emerged on two floors up, the elevator said it was between the fourth and fifth floors. She patted her hair back into shape and looked around her.
To the right, she could see a railing where the second floor opened up into the large cathedral-ceiling area around the front desk. To the left, there was row after row of glass cases, each one labelled with tidy handwritten cards. Forward were rows of bookshelves. She was pretty sure Ancient Acquisitions ought to be to the left, although she had no map of this area.
If she didn’t leave this place in frustration after a day, she was going to map it all out, every inch of it, if she had to do it on lunch breaks for the rest of the year.
She turned her cart to the left, checked her hair again, and headed into the rows of glass cases. To the left, she was looking at displays of ancient garbage – pot shards, broken tools, a cracked tablet – where some wit had slipped in a couple modern pieces of similar junk with the exact same style of placards. To the right, a complete section of a frieze gave way after several meters to a section of hieroglyphs. Continue reading →
This Chapter goes BEFORE Chapter 5.
After y’all have read this, I’ll move it to the right spot in date sequence.
Veronika’s first stop was Local History, where she was looking for a book published by a nearby church twenty-five years ago. According to her floor plans, they ought to be behind the main entryway and off to the left, just past the display of maps and paintings of the area.
Finding the maps of the area meant going through a series of stacks which seemed to stretch upwards and outwards in an optical illusion until, like being lost in the middle of a cornfield, it seemed as if she would never get out of the stacks.
Eventually, growing frustrated with going forward for far too long, Veronika took a left turn that had not been in her plan. She turned right again and found herself staring at a map of the Bellamy and surrounding area. Continue reading →
She was standing outside the Local History department, considering Eleanor’s directions.
Left did not look like the right direction; she could see the sign for the elevators to the right, but she decided on a whim to trust Eleanor rather than the signs and headed left through an area which looked more like a back room than part of the public collection – there were stacks of books to one side, cataloging cards and notes on the other side, and a little collection of things like cellophane sleeves for books and the labels for the spines.
Veronika peered at the notations on a couple of labels – that was definitely neither Dewey Decimal nor Library of Congress, but aside from that, she couldn’t tell anything about it. The letters were at least letters and then numbers numbers, but since everyone she’d met so far had spoken English, that seemed like a rather low bar.
The shortcut did, indeed, lead to a bank of three elevators, looking as old as everything else here in the Bellamy (including possibly the skeletons). Continue reading →
Veronika was, perhaps, fishing. “Everyone deserves a break once in a while. I know such things can really make a difference in morale”.
No, no, there was no perhaps about it. She was, without doubt.
The thing was, she didn’t think that even if Miss Haas noticed the fishing, she would be all that offended by it. Not with her weird hint-hint expression and waggle eyebrows and so on.
“Morale is very important here,” Miss Haas assured her. “We do everything that we can to make certain Bellamy is as happy as possible. It is very important to us that our team at members feel fulfilled in their positions.”Continue reading →
The café was presided over by a hawk-faced woman with magenta hair coiled in a bun atop her head. Under her pristine white apron she was wearing a lime green and sunshine orange tartan vest. She was also wearing what was not a scowl but could in no way be considered a smile, and the wrinkles on her face seemed to suggest it was the expression she wore habitually.
“You only get food like this two times.” She held up a platter of delectable-smelling warm food. “Your first day and your last day. The rest of the time, you eat what everybody else eats.”
“What does… what does everybody else eat?” Veronika could only picture the buckets of kibble she’d seen in the holding area below the front desk, especially the one labelled humanoid.
“Food.” The woman rolled her eyes at Veronika. “Everyone else eats food. It’s just that on your first and last day, we make it a little special. It’s a perk of the Bellamy. The sort of thing we do to make our employees — no we don’t call them employees do we — to make our team members feel welcome.”
“It sounds,” Veronika offered carefully, “as if somebody read a book on morale building, and understood…” She hesitated over how to say this, but thought that it might possibly help her connection with the angry-looking woman. “… Understood the words.
“But not the concepts.” The woman nodded and held out the hand that wasn’t offering the platter. “I’m Sylvester.”Continue reading →