The archivist retreats to her desk in the middle of the archival stacks. She sits, examines a folder, and then opens a box. A scream escapes. So the archivist tops the box with the lid once again, and seals the box with clear packing tape.
“No, you can’t do this to me! I’m not special enough and I don’t belong in a box.” You scream at the woman in sea green. She touches your arm; you fling it away. “Take me back,” you demand.
“It is too late, for you have been chosen.”
You banter, “Why? What is this?”
“You’re different. I want to preserve you. Preserve your memories.”
You study the box. It has your name on it. Pearl Watson. Your years have been set. 1984-2011. You read your label: PW1911—Pearl Watson 1984-2011. This is you.
The rest of your body slips over the sides into the box—not as painful now. The shadow of the lid chills you, covers you, and encloses you. That’s it. You are now an item in an archive. You be among memories but are they yours? Who are you? Your name and vital information are written on the outside of the box, not the inside. With willowy arms you hug a memory or two to your beatless chest. Hold on. Can’t forget. Hold.
Strange thumps and squeaks reminded me that I was alone in the archives. After glancing over my shoulder at the closed door, I focused again on the box of items.
“Ah, Edward’s collection,” a smooth voice came from behind me.
I turned, my voice trembled, “Who are you?”
“I am the archivist,” she said.
“No, you’re not. You’re not my boss and I’ve never seen you.”
“Yes, I am—the true archivist.” She held out her hand, “Come, let me show you my archives.”
I will look at her and look away from the box. She will not prevail! She will not suck me in there! I will turn away from her and will run. The run that will be slow and hindered, as in dreams. My fingers will tingle, then my hand and arm will disintegrate. Gone. Running with one arm will be hard. A toe, then more, will feel fuzzy, and will disappear. It will be nearly impossible to run with missing limbs. Your pace will slow. She will catch you.
A young woman walked along rows of bookshelves until she came upon the archives department. She knocked lightly on the door then opened it. A woman with grey hair greeted her, “Oh, come on in. Here, sit down. Do you want anything to drink?”
She declined, for she always felt awkward drinking hot liquids in public.
The woman sat across from her, “Let me tell you what project you’ll be working on.
Running among boxes, away from the archivist, she encounters a being. A ghost? The spectre of a man becomes visible.
“Who are you?” They ask simultaneously.
Her voice floats, “Oh, you must be the Brian before I came to the archives. The one who disappeared.”
“Yes, the one who disappeared.” He assents.
“Let’s escape,” she grabs his arm which swirls into mist at her touch.
“We can’t—ever.” His voice echoes: “You get used to it.”
We will run together through the stacks. We will grip boxes, pull boxes down, narrowly missing our heads and bodies—what is left of them. We will set free the others. We will crush the cell boxes and annihilate the shelving structures. We will run strong, growing in masses. Our bodies will warm the frozen air of this so special collection of the antiquated archivist. We will break down the door to the office and we will tumble the walls. We will be free!
We will shiver, huddled on the floor, back against steel shelves. We will miss our limbs—more will be sucked away, down the narrow passage, make the turn and slide into the box. We will struggle again, after a rest. Memories will drift out of our minds. Playing in our first piano recital. Getting lost in a book. Writing our first poem. Giving our first presentation. That will have been pretty. We will chant the alphabet backwards. ZYX sounds like it will have been fun. We will go. We will chant. We will.
Katherine Lashley is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Morgan State University. Her dissertation analyzes gender and disability in young adult dystopias. She teaches first year writing at Towson University. She has published two books: a memoir entitled My Younger Older Sister: Growing Up With An Autistic Older Sister, and a fantasy novella titled Lamia.