The Archivist

It was night; chaos hung in the air. 

In the big room with no windows big boxes galloped up and down the rows of shelving,  a wooden wheelchair circled the room again and again. Hunched along the wall stacks of framed pictures watched and jeered. Huge envelopes lounged on the tables, stuffed with vibrating drawings and photos and maps. 

Now noise filled the room. 

Old pictures called out litanies of names, scrapbooks blurted out details about trips and events, sermons filled the air with a cacophony of moralisms and principles, letters confessed intimate details, board minutes droned on about buildings and faculty members and policies, yearbooks joked, documents concerning lawsuits presented defenses, lectures pontificated, financial records ciphered up sums.

By morning, from sheer exhaustion the room quieted, so that by the time she walked in, the space was calm. She wasn’t fooled.

Her commands were succinct and authoritative.

“Provenance!” she commanded one box, and it reshuffled.

“Original order!” she said to another and it was so.

“You are an aggregate,” she said, and boxes here and there flew open and gave up some of their contents to a pile on the table. 

“You are only significant because you a part of that,” she said to the wheelchair, and it rolled quietly to one corner. 

Now her commands came quickly and the room was alive again with movement. 


“Record group!”





On and on she went, ruthlessly making demands, requiring movement, commanding the room. At the end of the day she dusted off her hands, one against the other, stared at the stacks for a brief moment, walked out of the room and locked the door. 

Nothing moved that night. 

The next day a man came to the room, unlocked the door, walked in and strolled down an aisle, looking at the labels on the boxes. He paused in front of one, took it down and carried it to a table. He opened it up and sorting through several items stopped and pulled out an envelope.

“Here you are,” he said, “right where I thought you would be.” 


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