Excerpt from The Xanthic Xena...
Tuesday, November 27, 2105 Hours
Jacob Gold grumbled as he switched on the garage light. He didn’t like coming out here, certainly at this hour of the night. The garage was dusty, cluttered with tools, car parts, and grease. In addition, the boxes he had to look for had been here forever and were covered with layer upon layer of dust and grime. He’d have to take a shower after he found the files. This project was getting out of hand. He had a flashlight, since the main light in the garage was intended to illuminate only the central area of the garage, not the side of the garage. The students who worked on restoring the old car parked on one side of the garage had spot lamps that they used to focus light wherever they were working. Perhaps he should use one of those lamps to reveal the box labels.
No, the flashlight would work well enough. He started to scan the labels, looking for item contents and dates. Then he saw the box he was looking for. It was on the top shelf. Of course. Where else would the damn box be? He was just glad it was in the front row of the boxes. It could have been the third row back and on the bottom.
He put the flashlight down on the floor, then looked around for something to stand on so he could reach the box. He found a small stepladder near the back of the garage. He opened it up and climbed up the first couple of steps. He could barely reach the box, which he pulled off of the shelf. He accidentally tilted the box, spilling clouds of dust into his face. He coughed, closing his eyes, as he struggled to pull the box down. He set the box on the garage floor, then tried to shake the dust off his face and out of his eyes. He sneezed, nearly knocking himself off the ladder. He stepped down, then put the ladder back against the back wall of the garage.
He squatted down to examine the contents of the banker’s box. He threw the lid onto the floor and started rifling through the manila folders and papers stored in the box. Although the contents were arranged in date order, there were a variety of different items contained in Professor Zovskii’s old files. Jacob had once opined that most of the items were probably on the internet. Zovskii insisted that was not true. “You won’t find true knowledge on the internet, Mr. Gold,” Zovskii had barked derisively that day in class. “True knowledge is found in the dusty archives of the world’s libraries.”
Or in the dusty boxes sorted in the garage of Zovskii’s enormous Victorian house.
Jacob heard a noise behind him, a shuffle of a shoe on the concrete floor, the flutter of clothing. He didn’t turn around, but kept searching through the papers. “Did you come out to help me?” he asked, a feeling of relief that he wouldn’t have to do this boring task alone. At least he would have someone to talk to. “Can you believe how many boxes of garbage old Zovskii has accumulated? It looks like he’s been hoarding newspaper clippings and letters for half a century.” He waited for a response, but when only silence greeted him, he laughed. “Of course it’s been half a century. Isn’t Zovskii in his seventies?”
The other student — probably Devi Kaur or Daniel Anders, since they were working on the project with him — didn’t say a word, but stepped closer. “Grab that box off the shelf,” said Jacob, pointing up to the top shelf. “Be careful of the dust. We should have been given air filters for this work. And you’ll need to get the ladder. I should have kept it out.”
The other person didn’t say anything, but Jacob could sense the person standing right behind him. He was about to turn around when he felt a heavy object smash into the side of his head. His head exploded with pain, and for the briefest moment, he saw strobes of colored lightning in front of him. Then, as he started to slump to the floor, his world went dark.
He had a couple of flashes of lucidity, very brief, almost surreal. He felt himself being dragged, pulled, and pushed. He was aware for a faction of a moment that he was in the car stored in the garage, an old 1966 Pontiac GTO that one of the students was restoring. The world went black again, then he was aware of the engine of the Pontiac rumbling to life. He wondered where they were going, then blacked out again.
When he next had a flash of awareness, it was that he had a pounding headache, and it was becoming more difficult for him to breathe.
And shortly after that, his vision dimmed and he ceased being aware of anything at all.