Title: Museum of Earth Art: a short story
Genre: Science fiction
Ophelia guards the treasures of the Earth, a.k.a. stuff deemed trash on U.S.S. Ithaka.
Every day, the thugs hammer on the door of the Museum of Earth Art, demanding that she vacate the only room that the museum currently occupies so that people can take up that space instead.
But more than Ophelia knows depends on her protecting this room full of junk.
*A short story about one person’s trash and another person’s treasure, set in a crowded starship.
In the dark, Ophelia sat under the ancient plastic desk attached to the equally ancient cubicle wall. The banging on the door grew louder.
“We know you’re in there, you waste of space!” shouted a man.
“Vacate the room, you rat!” another yelled with a lot more fervor.
Waste of space. Rat. Real original. By now, you’d think they’d come up with new bad words; but they never failed to not surprise Ophelia.
The men shouted a few more predictable curses. Ophelia hugged her knees, making herself smaller despite the increasing temperature in the room. Every time she fidgeted, she thought she could hear how one or the other side of her butt cheek momentarily detached from the standard-issue white overalls that separated her from the rug, only to come into renewed contact with the fabric, adding to the clammy unpleasantness. Sighing, she rolled up the sleeves.
Why the heat? Because the assholes outside had cut off the air conditioning and this room was located right next to the engines. The assholes had probably figured that’d make her abandon her post. But no, oh, no.
The heat-detecting light beams bzuhzzed. Shortly thereafter, the device beeped.
Ophelia could see the reflections of the shimmering red lights through the gap under the cubicle wall. But see, that’s the thing—they were reflections off of other objects in the room, such as mirrors and keyboards (the musical kind, not the computer kind) and vintage filament light bulbs. The beams themselves couldn’t get to her directly. The cubicle was her shield.
That was why Ophelia had changed the position of the ancient cubicle earlier this morning, so that its wall faced the door and she could hide under the desk. She’d placed an exquisite Persian rug, which was the only soft fabric in this room, under the desk for this very moment. Or, should she say, a sixteenth of a rug; the rest had unraveled or been stolen over the past hundreds of years.
Before those hundreds of years, there used to be the Good Old Days, when people still yearned for impractical beauties like rugs. Such days had really existed, or so she’d heard. But presently, the rug served a practical function: keeping her butt cheeks comfortable.
At this thought, Ophelia shook her head. Truly, she didn’t usually think about her butt cheeks this much. But when the only slight breeze in and out of the room came through a ventilation grille that covered the entrance to a duct, not much larger than a US letter-sized paper, those were the sorts of things that crossed your mind.