SDI: Chapter 1 – A visit to the Archives

Rudra visits the chief archivist to hear a story that SDI wants him to hear.

Rudra didn’t mind waiting. If there was any one thing he could claim mastery over, it was waiting. He had waited as a child, then as a teenager and now as a twenty-five year old, he still waited. He waited for an answer that didn’t have a question. He knew who he was, of course, but he also had memories of a life he did not remember. Memories of reality, experienced in the dreaming that he had come to call a living.

Now, in his first week, at a new job, he found himself waiting to be let into the sanctum of the chief archivist. He looked around once more. The walls and the floor hadn’t turned any greyer. Still granite.

When he looked back at the door, it was open and he caught himself in the mirror-like visor of the security guard. Just an induction program, he said to himself and stepped in.

Everything else he had seen at SDI screamed high technology. Everything was digital. Impressive hardware dotted every inch of the facility – the doors operated on retina scans and voice recognition. The halls had motion sensors, and there were video panels everywhere. The archive on the other hand smelled like a place where books went to die.

A smell of old newspaper and ink suffused the room if it could be called a room. From where he stood, a corridor, the breadth of a ballroom, ran into the distance and out of light, like looking into a darkening rail-tunnel. As he took in the room, he realized, he couldn’t see walls. Just massive wooden shelves that ran up to a balcony that ringed the room, then beyond it, to touch the ceiling. The shelves were filled with books, binders and even loose sheaves of paper that were stuffed between volumes as if to keep the wind out.

A heap of paper in the centre of the room stirred and Rudra spotted a tiny bald head with feathery white hair, almost indistinguishable from the pile around it. The head popped up, and Rudra got a look at the chief archivist. A wizened little sparrow of a man, with large horn-rimmed glasses perched over a bulbous nose. He sported a white mass of untrimmed whiskers that a nicer person may have called a beard. He was dressed in the timeless attire of the Indian bureaucrat – a beige safari suit.

“Agent Rudranna… come in, sit down, will you have some filter coffee?” he boomed in a rich and resonant voice that a frame like his had no business having. “Let me see, you are here for the primary induction program… Hmrrr… that would make your first module, the Story of the first Descension…”

The first lesson in learning to wait is to know how much was enough. “No coffee, just the program, thanks.” Rudra intoned. The archivist either didn’t hear him or didn’t care. He handed him a tumbler of coffee, sat down and lit an old pipe.

“Righto, young man…” he bellowed. “let’s begin…” then the archivist crooked a finger a Rudra, and waggled it back and forth. “No questions and interruptions during the telling. You keep your mouth shut until I finish. Don’t interrupt me ok, no questions.” He pronounced ok the way the older generation of Bangaloreans did. “Wokay?”

Rudra just waited, and so the Archivist began.

Next: The Story of the first Descension

This is a chapter from SDI, a story that i’m teaching myself to write. See this introductory post for a background.