Chapter Eight: Office Supplies

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The rest of my shift was spent finishing my uneventful task of filing while a grandfather clock teased at my exit time all the way from the hall. Mister Schreiber started checking his watch after about an hour and afterwards began whistling random jazzy tunes. If he kept his promise to bring his jazz along I would end up feeling like working at an antique store, and it wasn’t as if the room would not hold the image together.

We finished a quarter before the end of my shift and we ended it by double-checking that no file was left behind. When the clock ran eight, Mister Schreiber abandoned the task and collected his things.

“Well, Miss Abby, this has been a delightful introduction. Tomorrow you should have your equipment all ready and until I am able to bring more boxes we shall be communicating via the electronic mail, understood?”

“Understood. So what will I do tomorrow?”

“Probably setup office and whatever secretary tasks are required of you by Miss Durant.”

With that he picked up his briefcase and held the door.

“After you, Miss Abby.”

I picked up my bag and sweater and stepped into the hall. Mister Schreiber stepped out, I then locked the door and we both went out. The air felt thicker than it did a when we were in the garden and the sky was overcrowded by clouds. Mister Schreiber looked up and noticed it, too.

Mein gott… Miss Abby, for tomorrow I would recommend you bring an umbrella. With that I bid you auf weidersein!

Tonight the streets seemed unusually full, in the traffic sort of sense, and it took me an hour longer than usual to reach my apartment building. I checked my email and found Cat’s answer to my dream:

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After a reheated dinner, a couple of episodes of the murder-mystery show I was watching and answering Cat’s email I fell asleep on the sofa. Leaving everything half-finished I dived deep into my dreams, again I was running through the hall after a brown-haired girl, and this time when we reached the door I stepped into a garden. From there we ran through bushes and trees and we eventually reached a fountain. The fountain was elegant and old, with angels decorating the bottom and flowers decorating the top. The brown-haired girl stopped and sat by the fountain, dipping her feet into the water. I began to walk towards her and as I reached her she dove headfirst into the fountain, splashing water all over me, and then I woke up.

Today the alarm woke me up instead of the warmth of the sun. I sat up and ran into the room to turn off the alarm. Next to my alarm the answering machine was blinking a bright red number one at me, and I instinctively pressed the ‘play’ button. Miss Durant’s mellow voice echoed in my room:

“Good evening, Abby, this is Adele Durant calling. I do apologize if I am interrupting your sleep, hopefully you’ll dream on and wake to find this message. If possible, I would like you to bring your digital camera with you tomorrow. There is some evidence that we need to capture. Sweet dreams. Bonne nuit.”

The machine beeped and confirmed me that no one else had left a message. I tried to remember if I ever told Miss Durant that I owned a camera, but the memory didn’t pop up. I went ahead with my morning ritual and struggled with my dressing up again. Halfway through brushing my teeth I remembered that my dream had continued from where it usually ended. I opened my computer and was about to email Cat when I noticed I had barely finished my answer last night.

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I finished answering and added the rest of the dream that I had last night. After sending it I scourged my room for my camera and after almost fifteen minutes I found it buried in my closet. The last time I had used the camera was for our graduation and a small trip we took to the neighboring country afterwards. After that I had forgotten my camera’s existence and instead pursued my other hobbies. Come to think of it I don’t remember having ever edited the photos. I took out the SIM card and replaced it with one I knew was empty, packed the camera, then headed out the door. The day was just as cloudy as yesterday, but it was just the way I liked it: chilly and windy. But I couldn’t help but feel that this meant the situation the Durants went to check last night had not been solved, and for a moment I mourned the sun.

I arrived five minutes early and took the opportunity to pause and pull out the camera to take a picture of the house. It took me a little longer than usual to focus and adjust, so I snapped a couple of pictures just in case. As I put the camera down I felt a slight familiarity with the house, even though I had only seen it thrice. I was slowly realizing that I’d be seeing this facade everyday for a long time and I might not be seeing it the same way every day. Taking a picture was the first step of attachment. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t even edited the pictures from our graduation, I was afraid that with each passing day I would see them differently and one day loose that attachment. Maybe one day the event will seem like something I dreamed rather than lived, a shadow of myself I don’t recognize anymore. I don’t like growing up, or growing familiar with things, but hopefully this house will always stay the same, no matter how many times I see it. Hopefully.

I tried not to think about it, so I knocked at the door. Edith let me in, and I opened the door to my office. When I swung the door open I was greeted by four monstrous sized boxes labeled ‘office supplies’. I felt invaded, even a little conquered by the room.  But I was suddenly overcome with a sense of productivity that only new supplies can give, so I put my things down and began to open boxes.

The first big box I opened contained what I assumed was a lifetime supply of stationary: envelopes, paper, pens, ink, pencils, letter openers, calendars, folders and stamps, all with the Alliance’s eerie seal on it. The second big box had folded boxes inside, a clock and some portraits. The third box was slightly smaller and when I opened it I was relieved to find a computer screen with all it’s cables and gadgets. The fourth big box had smaller boxes inside, each belonging to a printer, a scanner, a phone and a modem. I was excited to start setting everything up, but as I looked back to my desk I felt that the space available wasn’t enough to hold everything.

I scanned for the tables I moved yesterday, even though they looked slightly more decorative I moved them to accompany my desk and serve the useful purpose of holding the printer and scanner. The phone and computer I placed on the desk, struggling to find the power and phone line sockets in the process, but grateful that someone thought of sending an extension cord. Once everything was plugged in I turned all devices on to test and the office was filled with the buzzing of technology. I leaned back in my chair awaiting the chimes of starup.

Bonjour, Miss Abby! Did you find everything you needed amongst the supplies we requested for you?”

I sat up straight, surprised at not having heard a single footstep before she was at the door.

“Good morning, Miss Durant. Yes, thank you, I think I have all I need so far until I have more elaborate things to do.”

Magnifique!”

“Was everything fine last night?”

Oui, it was mostly detective work done last night, not much excitement. But I will be needing your assistance today. Did you bring your camera?”

“Yes, it’s right here.”

I walked over to my backpack and pulled out my camera.

Merveilleux. If you don’t mind waiting for me a moment, I need to have something to eat before we leave. Would you like anything?”

“No thank you, I had a big breakfast, I’ll wait. I still have to make sure everything works together.”

“Very well, I shan’t be long.”

She left making as much noise as she did when she appeared at my door, and I wondered how long it would take me to get used to it enough to detect when she would appear. I sent through setting up everything and I test scanned a receipt I had in my backpack. As the image appeared on my screen Miss Durant appeared on my door again.

“Ready, Miss Abby?”

“Y-yes, let me just…”

I put the computer in sleep, turned off everything else, and picked up my backpack.

“…all right, ready.”


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