I’m doing the Friday Five Challenge from Long and Short Reviews. I decided to continue my story from last week. This week’s words are favorite, costume, stumble, confuse, articulate
“We’re ready to start, okay?” Eliza was staring at her. Dr. Brenner suddenly felt like a fool clutching the old green book like a toddler’s teddy bear.
“Are you cold?” the assistant asked.
“You’re shaking,” the young woman pointed out. She grabbed one of the professor’s scarfs that was laying across a chair. “This looks warm.”
“That will do,” Dr. Brenner replied. It wasn’t her favorite. It was an unpleasant riot of colors that her sister, Jessica, hand knitted. That was Jessie for you. Always knitting sweaters for new mothers, the homeless, spinster older sisters. Jessie used to be an aspiring costume designer before she’d found religion. When she’d first started the Coverton book her sister had shook her head and loudly declared she didn’t want to hear a word about witchcraft.
Jen, it’s not about witchcraft. It’s about discrimination and social mores.
No, it’s about witchcraft.
She’d thought Jessie a fool then, but not anymore.
She was being a fool, Dr. Brenner thought. It’s just a book. She put it down beside her on the desk. I’s spine was cracked, its pages yellowed at the edges. A stain marred the ugly green cover. There was nothing to fear from a book, she told herself but her heart knew that wasn’t true. She’d keep an eye on it. She wouldn’t let it out of her sight.
She sat down in her desk chair with the notebook computer open.
“Focus on the front. All of your slides will drop down and you can read off of them. When the red light is on you’re recording,” Eliza said, as she leaned close enough for the professor to smell the cloying patchouli scent from her hair and clothes. The assistant dressed like she just woke up; in ragged jeans, a plaid shirt, and clunky shoes. At least she had a mask on. It even matched the shirt.
“I don’t want to show my face.”
“Fine,” the young woman’s fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes. Dr Brenner sat back awkwardly, clutching the book as the young woman leaned across her. Her fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes.
“There. It will just show the screen,” Eliza gave her a slight grin and spoke in the gentle, enunciated voice you used for toddlers and the elderly you thought were not all there. Dr. Brenner was nearing retirement but hardly elderly and certainly in control of her faculties. She pushed closer to her desk not- so- gently shoving the young woman away.
“I’ll get started.”
“If it’s too confusing I can go over it again.”
“No thank you.” She didn’t bother too look up as she heard the woman’s heavy shoes stomp across the floor and out into the main room.
She worked through the slides, reading them in a slow, articulate voice. No longer than 15 minute chunks, Eliza had advised. The book was still beside her. She bumped her arm against it and a chill ran up her spine.
It’s just a book. A book.
The slides flicked past. She squinted as the words looked too small. The girl has shown her how to enlarge them. Had she forgotten? She didn’t want to call Eliza in and admit that she screwed it up again. She hunted and pecked at the keyboard, hoping she could manage on her own.
It settled back.
Good. It was time to go back to reading off the screen.
There is more about Coverton that I didn’t cover in my first volume.
What? She hadn’t planned any lectures on Coverton beyond what she’d done last week. It was her seminal work, students expected it, but she had a carefully planned limit on what she would discuss.
No these were the wrong slides.
There were conclusions that needed closer consideration, so as a result, I got in touch with Anna Darkhorse Levenwood. Anna is one of the direct descendants of one of the victims of the rioters. She’s moved back to the area in recent years after some time abroad exploring the remote areas of..
What? She knew these words, but they weren’t her notes. They seemed faintly familiar.
Then she knew.
The green book. Coverton Riots. Volume 2.
In a panic she flipped through the slides. There is was. Chapter by chapter. All of the green book digitally scanned. She hadn’t done it. It didn’t have a digital version. This was written before those days. There should be no copies.
She tried to erase it. She pulled it into the trash can thing at the bottom.
OPERATION CAN NOT BE COMPLETED.
Had Eliza done it? She had no reason to expect the girl, but maybe she had. Maybe the department head, Dr. Voight, had put her up to it. She’d never much liked Dr. Voight.
What did that even mean? She pounded on the keys as if that would make things better. The little phone icon began to ring too. The music icon opened up and started to play. Another green icon spun around with a little arrow and a small beeping sound.
The video icon popped open and she saw her face…old, wrinkled, eyes opened in fright.
Dr. Brenner stood up from her chair, knocking it to the floor. She grabbed the book and stumbled across the room anxious to get away. It was cold, so very cold. And suddenly dark. The only light was the unnerving digital glow of the screen. The book felt heavier and heavier with each step, the door further and further away. She called to Eliza, but her throat was dry and no words would come out.
copyright 2021 Echo Ishii