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The Warden

by Lyssa Maher-Felton 11 months ago in Short Story
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A Night at the Museum

The Warden
Photo by Nerene Grobler on Unsplash

Mina walked slowly with deliberate steps, careful not to leave her charge behind. Deliberately separating her hands, she used one to gesture to an archway to the right. “This wing consists mostly of artifacts from The World That Was.” She watched carefully as the young girl’s bright green eyes widened and her skin fell just a shade paler behind her freckles. Girl, Mina thought to herself, just because she is in her twenties and you are well past them.

The older woman allowed herself a small smile. “I give you my solemn word that nothing is contaminated.” After she saw Violet let out a small sigh of relief she continued. “Unlike in the time of The World that Was we understand that while we want to preserve the artifacts some precautions must be taken so all new items are quarantined for thirty days under ultraviolet lights and then sanitized daily to ensure no virus is growing on the item.”

Violet nodded and looked much more relaxed at the news of these precautions. Mina remembered how frightened she had been when she was assigned to work with artifacts of The World That Was. She had been certain she was going to die from exposure to one of the viruses that had caused The World That Was to fall.

“What kind of items are in there?” Violet asked. She peeked around her guide to the room beyond like a child waiting to get a glimpse of some fabled character.

What was it we used to call the man who brought toys? He wore red and had a beard. Stan Clauson? Stanwick Claussen? That was so long ago I don’t remember any more.

“All kinds of things. Some are very mundane like cellular phones, motor vehicle keys, computer keyboards. There are also some home things like tea cups, clothing, and even some children toys. There are even one or two books.” Mina almost allowed herself to smile when she saw her charge’s eyes light up. “As you know, towards the end of The World That Was, most citizens relied heavily on technology, one of the biggest downfalls, so printed books were exceedingly rare.” Mina’s hands fell a little lower to her waist, but still clasped appropriately as she looked down the hall towards the wing. Her whole body gave a wistful sigh. “It is too bad citizens did not realize the importance of the written word until it was too late. So much knowledge lost.” Mina made a small tsk sound with her tongue and shook herself a mentally, reminding herself she had a job to do. She won’t train herself.

They continued into the next wing of the museum. Mina stopped, allowing her long green skirts to swish around her ankles. She gestured to the paintings on the walls and the numerous glass cases in the room around them. “These artifacts were items that were all owned by the museum before the fall of the World That Was so they are deemed safer than the others from nearer to the time of The Fall of the World that Was.”

Violet slowly spun around, drinking in all of the wonders around her in their pristine, gleaming glass cases. Some items were nestled on small pillows of dark blue velvet making them look even more magical. She walked through the room taking in everything she could almost to the point of giddiness. There was a small part of her that wanted to cry at the sight of so many wondrous things. Mina did smile this time, there was no harm as her companion would not see. She remembered first coming to this room and feeling the same way. Slowly Mina took out the silver pocket watch from her vest pocket and checked their time. Slightly ahead of schedule. That was good, that gave Mina time to give her a proper warning on the last area.

The older woman cleared her throat ever so slightly, signaling to the younger woman that it was time to move on. Violet fell back into her position just a few steps behind Mina. As they entered the last wing Mina noticed the girl taking one last look at the room they had just left. The lights in the next room were dimmed as usual. Mina began her speech as their high heeled boots clicked across the stone floors. “This room holds our jewelry acquisitions from all eras. When guests of the museum ask you are to reply promptly that the lights are dimmed in this room so the lights on the display can better accent the items on display. After all, in a room full of jewelry the accent lights made a much better show of shiny metal and glittering stones than numerous overhead fluorescent lights.”

Violet nodded silently as she took inventory of this room as she had the last.

“However,” Mina continued “The real reason is the staff hopes that if we keep the lights dimmed more people will pass by this wing believing it to be under renovation or cleaning perhaps.”

The younger woman turned, her face exhibiting all of the marks of confusion Mina had expected to see. “Why would we want guests to pass this exhibit, ma’am?”

“To keep them safe,” Mina replied calmly.

“Oh my, are the items...catching?”

Mina shook her head to put the girl’s fears to rest. She could see Violet fighting with every muscle her urge to recoil from these items that just a moment ago she found so entrancing. “No, these items are quite safe from viruses. No, no, these are items that have less to do with historical relevance and more to do with the greater good. All of the items in this room are bringers of death in some way.”

“I don’t think I follow your meaning.”

Mina carefully took a few steps in the direction of one of the gleaming cases that held an egg sized diamond. It was somewhat flat, disc shaped with a beautifully rich and warm red color that stood out well against the blue velvet cushion it rested on. However, the stone was not flawless. If you looked at it from different angles you could see numerous scratches, gashes, and even one chip.

“This is one of the numerous jewels that the Romanov duchesses sewed into the dresses and other garments they wore the night the entire family was murdered.”

Violet let out a small squeak and moved closer to the case. Mina could not help but think of an insect being drawn into a light in the night but that was only because she knew. She kept her eyes on Violet’s feet and when she was two stones’ width away from the case Mina let out a short whisper, “Stop!”

To her credit Violet froze in her tracks. “Why?”

“While these items cannot spread any viruses they have their own dangers. All of the pieces in this wing are cursed.”

Violet let out a strangled giggle before composing herself. “I apologize, ma’am but how can these items be cursed?”

Mina turned her attention back to the diamond she had been talking about. “This diamond, with it’s very important significance, will turn on anyone who owns it. There is a detailed list in the archive of those that have owned it since the night the Romanov family was murdered. All of them met their end through betrayal.”

Violet’s eyes widened. “If that is true, are we in danger by caring for these artifacts?”

This time the smile that spread across Mina’s lips was more tender. She saw in this young girl an understanding and acceptance already for the power these items carried. That’s good, she will be able to understand the danger of these items. Maybe she will last. “As long as you always follow the instructions listed for you in the manual you will be fine. Just remember that these rules have been set in place for your protection and that of the world. These artifacts are like wild animals, they are hungry and starving to latch on to a new owner to continue their work. Most are easily contained by these cases. If you do not touch them they cannot harm you. This one,” she motioned to the diamond “is still relatively new compared to others in this wing so it is stronger but the longer it goes without a host the weaker it will become.”

Violet looked down at her feet, two stones length away from the case. She took a tentative step back. Mina nodded her approval. “You will learn about each of these items as you study the manual and you will not be allowed to care for them alone at any time. Much like our ancient ancestors used to believe in demon possession, these items can manipulate and seduce you into trusting them only for them to destroy you.”

A wry smile pulled at the corner of Violet’s mouth. “It reminds me of the one ring from Tolkien’s work.”

Mina returned the young girl’s smile. She leaned in and whispered “We actually have the ring that inspired that.”

Before Violet could help it she let out a small gasp.There was a small twinkle in Mina’s blue eyes that set the girl at ease again.

“I do need to let you know about one of our most dangerous pieces before we go back.” Mina led Violet over to a case mounted on the back wall. Mina’s fingers firmly grasped Violet’s arm four stones from the case. Violet was startled by the fact that the older woman had touched her at all but especially without asking but her mind reminded her where they were. “I apologize but you must never get any closer than this.”

Violet nodded her understanding. Mina nodded in the direction of the case in question. Inside this case was a larger square blue velvet cushion fastened to the wall. On the cushion was an exquisite gold locket. The chain holding the locket was unusually long and the locket itself was in the shape of a heart, skillfully engraved with vines and a Tudor rose.There was no picture in the locket, it’s original contents believed to be lost long ago as the front plate of the locket was tragically broken in half.

“That locket belonged to Queen Elizabeth I of England in The World That Was. The tale is that it had belonged to her mother Queen Anne Boleyn and it was worn at her execution which is where it was broken. How it was smuggled back to Queen Elizabeth I we do not know but she kept it even as she reigned as queen. It is said this locket curses the love that surrounds a person. Some have wondered if this locket caused so much of the tension between the Tudor family, especially Queen Elizabeth I and her sister Mary. It is also the reason Queen Elizabeth I would never take a husband. She had learned quickly that love would be a death sentence. That is why she never married her love, Robert Dudley, to save him. It was passed from royal family to family and if tracked you can see a line of bloodshed and conspiracy.”

Violet’s eyes were fixed on the locket. “Why not destroy it?” she all but whispered.

“Like all of these artifacts, if the vessel were destroyed the evil would just find a different home and start a new campaign of death. Kept here, as long as we take precautions, they are harmless. Confined to their individual prisons, not able to feed on humanity.”

There was silence for a long time between the two women. Finally Violet broke the emptiness with her small voice. “That is why the position was listed as warden.”

Short Story

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Lyssa Maher-Felton

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