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SWC A18 - Define Berkeley: Prologue

Arisia'18 Student Writing Contest - Honorable Mention

Define Berkeley

By Brynn McQuaid

The opening of the door frightened a bunch of small, scuttling creatures away from their task of nibbling away at loose pages that had fallen to the floor. The paper mice, as they were called, scrambled in any direction they could, cloaked by the lengthy shadow of the figure in the doorway. The figure grunted unhappily, obviously perturbed by the appearance of the white vermin, and stamped at a few receding tails. They picked up the pages that had been victim to the assault and assessed the damage.

The edges of the papers were ragged, darkened, and damp with paper mice spit. Which in itself was not unlike regular ink. For the most part, they were all still legible, save for one page. The first one had been targeted in particular, getting the brunt of the mice's chewing wrath. The spit was so dark that none of the words on the page were visible, like it had been blacked out with fresh paint. The black substance dripped onto the floor, pooling where it fell.

The figure sighed heavily, and reached for a switch to add to the light pouring in from outside. The sudden glow of the overhead lights bathed the room in a warm shine, and revealed the shadowy figure and his surroundings in crisp, clear detail.

Bartholomew had come in through the door with the fear that he would see something much worse than what he had encountered. Not that a paper mice infestation was good, but it was definitely better than the bigger creatures that preyed on his charges. It was his job to protect what was written on those pages. He was a Narrator after all. He ran a hand through the front of his dark hair and sighed again. How could he protect what was written from larger predators if he couldn't even keep the mice away? He was worried about that question more than he wasn't.

Shedding his leather jacket and placing his keys back into his pocket, Bartholomew began examining the room. Appearing almost immaculately new, a large bookshelf lined the entire wall at the back of the room. It was dark sepia, contrasting the cream color of the other three walls. The shelves themselves were messy and jumbled, many of the booklets and folders and files near to falling out of their places.

Bartholomew was unsure of how to go about organizing them. He'd tried once before, and the remains of his color coordinating with sticky notes could still be seen, hidden among the pages. He pulled a note off of a page, a light peach one, and crumpled it ruefully. He was positive that if the shelves were to become organized, they would seem much more empty than occupied. He used that as an excuse to leave things as they were.

On the wall to his left, there was a large cork board. It was covered in more papers, pictures, sketches, notes, and to top it all off, the cliché red string and tacks linking them all together. A sneer etched it's way across Bartholomew's face at the comedy of it all.

As he went about tidying up more papers and placing them precariously back in their sections, Bartholomew noticed a small hole in the wall by the coat tree he had place his jacket on earlier. He wouldn't have noticed it had it not been for the poor paper mouse that was desperately trying to fit a crumpled paper through it. It must have snatched it away from it’s place on Bartholomew's desk.

Fortunately, Bartholomew saved the page and with a quick swipe of his hands he sent the mouse scurrying back into the hole. He'd have to patch that up later, dread bubbling in his stomach at the thought of yet another task for him to do. Weren't these walls supposed to be re-enforced anyhow?

He looked down at the paper for the first time, and his deep, honey filled eyes flashed with a gleam of excitement. The page was blank save for a small scribbling of notes and as Bartholomew watched, more and more words appeared. Some disappeared and then more words sprung up in the margins , in a hasty and almost desperate manner. The handwriting flew across the page, like it was a bird producing the chicken scratch and not a literate mind with bad script.

Moments like this were what Bartholomew lived for. Luckily for him, these moments were quite frequent, yet they never ceased to dazzle him into amazement. He'd grown to love the sprawling handwriting, preferring it to the printed texts that appeared in the room from time to time. He carefully went about uncrumpling the paper and then clutched it to him as he moved it back to his desk.

The desk was small and relatively neat, sparsely covered by little more than a few files and other pages. A stark contrast to the rest of the room. There was a small cylinder that was filled with writing utensils galore, and a small lamp sat on the opposite corner. Bartholomew quietly flicked it on and set the paper down gently.

He decided right then that he would take a break and watch the ideas and words take form on the paper. He knew he had work to do, and he knew that he should have started it right away. However, watching the letters show up was so mesmerising that it was rather hard for him to take his eyes away. Even if it was just to close the still-open door and flick off the overhead lights.

Shuffling back to his seat, he got comfy. Had any of his colleagues walked in, they would not have described his position as comfy. He was curled up in the desk's chair, right leg bent and his left one slung over his right foot, his torso pulled forward as he crossed his arms over themselves on the desk. He laid his chin down and then there was a genuine smile on his face, though it was more of just a hint of one. Had any of his colleagues walked in, they would have been appalled at the sight of Bartholomew smiling.

In the buttery light of the desk lamp, he sat and watched for hours. Fascination filled Bartholomew's head as he watched one word suddenly become highlighted, in a familiar sky blue color. It was a name, and an unusual one at that. In all his years of working, he had never come across it before.

The name written was "Berkeley".

To Be Continued....