I was never close to my uncle, but then again, no one really was. His work always came first. He never came to any family gatherings, no matter how much anyone asked him. Even physical letters went without reply. He never even showed up for my dad’s funeral!
I resented him for that, until I saw his work.
He was an archaeologist who focused in ancient languages and cultures. Clive Sterrenson was his name, and in his field he was widely respected. Being in his old office was the nearest I ever came to visiting him, and he was dead now. At his funeral, there was no family, only colleagues who seemed older than the manuscripts he pined over. Funerals already make me sick, but the smell there was really terrible. Something about the way old people smell really flips my stomach around inside me. There was only one other middle aged person there, who seemed strangely out of place. A blank face and a white suit he wore among downcast grimaces and black clothes. I approached him, and asked him how he knew my Uncle Clive. He stared back with that blank face and muttered:
“School.” Without another word he turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd of mingling mourners. Odd. I talked politely with some of my uncle’s old friends, and they were remarkably tight-lipped with me about his work. Each question was answered without specifics and between quick glances between each other. My uncle had died of some sort of flu that took him in his old age with his weakened immune system. Natural causes. But there was something about this funeral that made me curious. I felt compelled to learn more about my uncle, a man his own family did not understand. I always liked a challenge, and I used to read the Hardy Boys when I was a kid. Maybe there was something beneath the surface of all of this. Maybe I just wanted to understand what kind of man would ignore his family for some old tomes and ancient etchings.
So before I knew it, I was pulling up in front of an esteemed college with towering spires and glamorous architecture with the loud and old truck I had. I found a spot between a Lexus and a Bentley. I remember feeling glad that even if normal teachers did not get paid as much as they should, at least these college professors were taken care of by the university.
The secretary seemed to be expecting me because she was stoic as a wall until she heard my name, which brought a smile to her face and a flurry of motion to her hands. Ruffling through some papers and dust, she found a letter that my uncle had written and addressed to me!
“Why wasn’t this just mailed to me?” I asked, annoyed.
“He left specific instructions with me to only deliver it in person, and if you came in ‘of your own volition'”. She said with a forced smile, the smile of someone trying to assuage a problem customer. With a sigh I took the letter, and she led me to his old office. Dark wood everywhere, giant bookshelves on the walls that were behind and flanking his massive walnut desk. This place took fantastic care of their professors. The woman closed the door behind me without a word, and left me alone in the dusty darkness. Thick curtains blocked out most of the light, only a sliver of sunshine found its way in. Dust danced in the thinness of it.
I sat at his desk and a massive creaking shot out from underneath me. All of this money can’t stop chairs from squeaking. Looking at his desk, I saw it completely covered in papers and rolled up manuscripts, and in a large jar for pencils I saw an awesome letter opener — probably the coolest I have ever seen. The child in me lit up as I saw the light reflect off of its gold. It was shaped like a tentacle, the handle thick and there were suckers that fit my fingertips perfectly. The opener was more like a knife I saw, the tentacle part curving down then flitting out toward the tip, the blade surprisingly sharp for a normal letter opener. Probably some gift from the college. A model ship in the room hinted, perhaps, at an affinity for the nautical.
I opened the letter with ease, the blade doing the entirety of the work. Surprisingly sharp. The letter was covered in beautiful penmanship.
I’m sorry for never being around. I wish I could have apologized to my brother before he left us. But it is my own fault. This damned work I have been involved in for 40 years now has finally killed me, if you’re reading this. And Miss (Redacted), if you are reading this, mind your own goddamned business.
Sorry (Redacted), but she is a bit of a snoop. She’s probably still reading this. So I’m going to hide another note somewhere in this room for you. It’s in something… that holds the whole world in it. Even you should be able to figure that out, no offense. Burn this note so no one can — “
The door swung open with a clatter, and I was so startled that I quickly stuffed the note into my crotch for some reason. Why not a pocket? I have no idea. The strange man from the funeral was there, dressed in pressed khakis and a blue shirt. A student? He looked extremely irritated.
“What are you doing in here?” He spat words laced with venom. I sat back in the chair and leveled my eyes toward him like I do with my son when he has an attitude.
“Perusing my late uncle’s work. What are you doing barging into a dead man’s office?” His face became even more irritated, narrowed eyes became the slits of a snake’s nose.
“I’m here to protect your late uncle’s work, all due respect.”
“Oh, were you a student of his?” He looked like he had been stung, and he shuffled slightly and became visibly uncomfortable.
“That is no concern of yours. We were colleagues. We were working together when he became ill. I’m here to collect his things.” Not if I could help it.
“You will do no such thing, not until I say so. He made me his executor. What was your name?” The man turned on his heel and said as he walked down the hall:
“Good day, sir.” Extremely strange. Naturally I had to find out more. So I collected as many papers as I could carry, loaded up my truck, and instructed the secretary to ensure the door remained locked and no one got into that room.
I’m home now, and about to go through some of his works. Hopefully my boss is alright with me cashing in more vacation hours. I will update as soon as I can.