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He paused in his present moment and observed two. There was his, over here, right here. But there was another, another which he was separated from. Separated by five thick panes of glass and one hermetic seal the empty display box had the effect of pickling the soft brick wall behind. He had been feeling a rough cosmic sickness for the past few days, the solar storms were generally aggravating at this time of year. But all of that was quelled as he looked into the empty glass display box and a deep sense of longing worse than any cosmic sickness he had endured lodged itself at his naval.

Pushing past the troublesome thoughts he found his mind occupying an elevated plane of clarity through which he noted the importance of sealing the present moment inside a box. This box should be placed in the museum as an enigma of historical thought, he thought, it would be a very wise addition to [the musuem]. Carson pondered on the captured present moment a little longer and upon deciding that it had an authoritarian tone about it which he disliked and he would not pursue the notion further.

Returning to his generic mind he made a mental note to bring the install up with his superior. Then he made another mental note of all the places in which the install of the box would not be noticed - he already knew that the answer would be no. “You are an acquirer Carson. Not a curator.” They had always been very particular, straight backed and nose up about titles.

Until a few hours ago, that box had been the home of Carson’s favourite artefact. How strange it was, he thought to miss an object so dearly. The light of the setting sun has been slowly creeping in through the window and by that subtle creeping suddenness with which the sun operates the box was splashed in light. The light bounced back towards Carson as it came into contact with every facet of dust on the inside. As he watched the nothingness of the dust and air swirling within he felt his self worth plummet amongst the realisation that he was all but dust and air too. However, just presently occupying a slightly different arrangement.

He sighed and looked away to the window. I was large, horizontal and placed in the wall rather where a giant painting might have been hung. The window did not contain any glass so Carson leaned blithely over the edge seeking a hit adrenaline. The museum and its grounds were sealed inside a giant io-glass orb so there was no need to keep out insects or bad weather. He cast his eyes at the skies in the southern eastern and towards a present moment he was glad not to be a part of. He checked his watch. He was early, so he let his eyes roll languidly over the museum grounds and the dense thickets of trees that surrounded them.

Yesterday an inter-departmental memo had arrived entitled “R-72”. Demands from high above only ever arrived in such clumsy and secretive fashion. Simply stated the memo ordered 72 new artefacts to be located and readied fo travel to the new colony. Carson had not made it to the mask in time, although he was not sure what he would have done if he had, would he have concealed it? Or let it go? He was highly perturbed and had been since yesterday because the future of human history was about to be cemented and distilled into 72 incoherent objects. He was observing mythologisation occurring before his eyes. There was a growing intergalactic trade for Earthen artefacts and he liked to watch the beings - whatever they may be - purchase into his history. It was something he struggled to understand, why those with no connection to this planet or even this sol-system would be concerned with such stuff...things...ornaments.

He felt a sympathy for the rocket wo/men, and the intergalatic journey they were embarking upon. In Carson’s very-personal-and-not-shared-by-anyone-else opinion...the new colony had become sly advertisement for the latest utopia. A bandwagon as they used to say.

For as long as he could remember he had watched and interpreted the code. He knew that the others didn’t bother anymore and that it was no longer taught it schools, but Carson believed it a trustworthy and reliable source of information. He run the searches over and over and the code had reiterated the words ‘new colony’ approximately 72 times in his own lifetime at 72 distinct and separate destinations in the cosmos. This coincided neatly with seventy-two artefacts being removed from the museum and the suspicious skeptic in him had decided it was a farce.

With each year that passed Carson felt he was experiencing the end of history. It hadn’t occurred to him yet that perhaps he was already observing the aftermath of the end. This place often felt like the end of the world. And in a sense it was. He knew he wouldn’t live long enough to experience the beginning of another history so he held onto an ongoing struggle to make his peace with the present situation of things.

He moved his gaze to his hands, the veins were showing blue below the thin skin and he remembered the day the mask had been acquired. The artificial sky above his desk had complimented his dark and moody mood and the atmospheric sounds of thunder groaned across the surrounding speakers. After following a string of recent transactions for weeks he had suddenly and unexpectedly hit a vine in the code and lost all sense of direction. The sulk this had triggered had lasted until an off site arc-team deposited the mask on his desk.

Recovered from the Mofannini crater, Carson had been the first to categorise it. When a new item is acquired, each acquirer provides an independent assessment of the artefact. The acquirers, of which there are twelve meet to discuss, agree, fix and corroborate their findings before the artefact is deemed to the public or to the vaults. For some reason the unearthing of this mask had caused a stir in the code and although any other item of that age and mystery would have been kept in the vault for further study, it was directly displayed. Eventually and for the second time in its life, it was forgotten about. Visitors gradually stopped ascending the tower and the picture of the mask disappeared from the guide log.

Carson wished he had spent more time to examine the mask’s purpose. In the catalogue it was categorised as O.O.U.S.: ornamental object of unknown significance. The peculiarly striking nature of the mask had left Carson to wishfully suspect that it channelled a forgotten energy or power source.

In some moments he praised the mask for its otherworldly qualities and thanked it for its presence in his life yet at other times he furiously convinced himself that he was simply unwell and that otherworldly qualities were of the quasi-spiritual he read about in old books. He scolded himself for unscientific thoughts verging on the religious.

He turned and faced the box again determined to envisage the mask he squinted his eyes. The harder he tried the more fragmented and distorted the image in his mind became until it slipped from recollection altogether. He wandered aloud whether the materials had been designed to withstand time but he agreed with himself that it was most likely a desperate attempt to not be forgotten. He checked his watch again and turned toward the edge of the horizon. A few seconds later, there it was. The rocket-smoke plume shot up into the ionosphere.

As Carson watched the mask leaving his vicinity he felt a sense of calmness wash over him. He didn’t stop looking until the smoke stream had dissipated. The unbroken sky was now deep blue at the edges and he turned to look at the box once more.

As he closed his eyes he pictured the arterial-red colour and the strange angulations of the facial features. It’s shiny texture and the brightness that never seemed to fade. Above the brow bone, two white-tipped protrusions stood up and Carson thought peripherally of the snow-capped mountains his ancient-ancestors had looked upon. Ice no longer formed at the poles or high altitudes. The ground: dry, cracked, scorched and burnt by the heat of the sun. The idea of natural coldness was a no-longer-living memory. Then the image was gone, like a jellyfish stranded on a beach it dissolved back into the ocean of his unconscious. Carson stared at the sky for an unknown amount of time before he bowed his head slightly and descended below the parthenon to his desk.

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