Ekphrasis – 3

Carmen Maria Machado

The hallway is dark, save a glowing red exit sign in the distance. The light leaves a trail across the shiny floor, like the moon reflecting over the ocean. If you thought you were going to see something when you came out here, you are disappointed. Though it wouldn’t hurt to hunt down Gregory and mention to him that you heard something odd. Plus, you haven’t seen a human for hours—it’d be a nice break.


You take the stairs to the bottom floor. You think of the late-night movies you used to watch as a kid, heist movies that always show art museums crisscrossed with brilliant red lasers. You chuckle at the thought. Gregory is sitting at his desk, resting between walking rotations. He’s reading a copy of Ferreting Quarterly and cracking open pistachios. A tiny heap of hollow shells rests on the wooden surface.


“Hey, Gregory,” you say.


He jumps a little, disrupting the pile, and sending a nut soaring away from the desk and into the darkness. You hear it skittering on the marble floor.


“Jesus, you scared me,” he says. “What are you doing here so late? Phillip didn’t say anyone was here when I got on.”


“I’ve been holed up in my office. Work.”


Gregory glances at you over his wire-rimmed glasses, as if he suspects that there’s more to the late nights than a large workload. He continues to open the pistachios, and you are reminded by the motion of how, after the accident, you had imagined the rescue workers cracking open Ben’s ribcage and massaging his heart back to life, even though such a thing never happened. There is a delicate snap, and Gregory tosses another nut into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.


“You ought to have taken a longer break,” he says. “I was talking about this with Phillip. A month is not long enough. When he lost his Barbara, he took the better part of a year off.”


You fight back the urge to point out that there’s a large difference between the curator of a museum and a lowly restorer, and that you couldn’t have afforded to take off any more time without risking your job. “My work helps,” you say, and then fall silent.


He nods slowly, as if he understands what you mean. “Well,” he says, glancing at his watch, “It’s time for another rotation. I’m going to start in the south wing. Do you want to come with?”



If you agree to walk with Gregory on his rotation, turn to page 10.

If you decide to take a walk in another part of the museum, turn to page 8.

If you decide to return to your office, turn to page 5.