Museum of Antiquity, Episode 2
(My parents gave me a book years ago called the MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY. It was 944 pages, bound in leather with gold leaf imprinted on the cover. Inside were magnificent illustrations, covered in tissue to protect them from the acid in the paper. It was like taking a voyage, or stepping into a time machine. While growing up I spent many rainy days or sunny Saturday afternoons…traveling and exploring in antiquity as far as the edges of the page. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like if the book could transport more than your imagination. What if the MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY appeared in your neighborhood like…a traveling museum? What if a book’s power was like magic. What if you could wander from chapter to chapter like walking from room to room? So let’s wander…a bit…ready? Let’s wander into the dark and changing hallways of the Museum of Antiquity…ILLUSTRATED.)
Adventure begins at the Title Page
The door opens. A tall man answers. He smells of sand. His skin is white and taut across the face. He wears butler’s garb, an Upstairs Downstairs monkey suit. He is the guardian of THE MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY. He smiles showing tiny marbled teeth. His eyes are black as ink. He is a walking mummy that survived his wrappings.
“Yessss..” he says like the sound of sand pouring through a hole in the floor.
“How long have you guys been here? I don’t remember this store being here yesterday. Are you guys new?”
“New?” He chuckles in amusement. “New? What a thing to ask. We are far from that I assure you.” The deep eyes like two black pits stare at you.
“Do you mind if I look around?”
“Not at all. Come in, pleassse.”
You enter into the title page. Now, when I say title page, I actually mean the words “Title Page” for it is cut in bronze over the door.” There is something additional there as well.
ILLUSTRATED, Law King and Law Publishing House, 1885.
You turn to the oddly dressed man. “Eighteen eighty five? This place is ancient. How odd. I swore I did not see your building in this parking lot yesterday.”
He chuckles. “You consider 1885 ancient? That date is a mere blink of the eye.”
“What is this place?”
“Located in a shopping center?”
“What better place than a gathering of people,” The doorman says. “Markets are a place of historical artifacts. Perfumes from Alexandria, bottles of fine blown glass, sun disks on finely breaten necklaces, tell the make and breadth of an any civilization,” the doorman said as if he had personally traded on the routes from Rome to the ancient cities of the east.
“Where should I start?”
He smiles and points down the hall to a glass enclosure that shows a mummy lit in green light. He says: “Go ask him. The creature behind the glass. He is reconstructed with spit and guess work,” the doorman said. “His body was torn apart by tomb robbers in the search for jewels, thinking he hid his fortune in the packing where his stomach used to be. Because of this, the mummy likes order, the kind you get in the table of contents. However, in a book sometimes people start in the middle or read the end. In the MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY you will notice that at the base of every door are the pages and over every door is the chapter. All I am required to do is open the front door. It’s up to you to choose the direction. Some people read a book sequentially, some hop from chapter to chapter, from room to room as the whim takes them. If you are still not sure of the direction you should go, ask that dust filled sleeper over there the direction you should go.”
This is just a little too weird for your tastes. However, you nod and say,”OK, I”ll ask the dead mummy…no problem.”
He leaves you and walks into the shadows disappearing like closet dust. Watson growls after him. You move forward to the green mummy and see a scribble of ink on a brown shattered paper.
Here are a few snippits.
ADDRESS TO THE MUMMY
“And thou has walked about, (how strange a story!)
In thebes’ streets three thousand years ago,
When the Memnonium was in all its glory,
And time had not begun to overthrow
Those temples, palaces and pile stupendous,
Of which the very ruins are tremendous…”
The poem goes on. It rhymes, sure… “Stupendous” and “Tremondous”…got it. It speaks of Pharoah, Solomon, Queen Dido and Homer’s hat. Yes the Roman Empire set in rhyme.
“…The Roman Empire has begun and ended,
New worlds have risen — we have lost old nations;
And countless kings have into dust been humbled,
While not a a fragment of thy flesh has crumbled…”
Whose flesh? The mummy or your own flesh? You skip to the end. Most poems at the end get to the point and you are not disappointed.
“Child of the later days! thy words have broken
A spell that long has bound these lungs of clay,…
Unswathed at length, I ‘stand at ease’ before ye,
List, then, O list, while I unfold my story.”
The building wants to unfold its story. The building is coming alive. Doors are revealing themselves down each hall. From the depths of each room green-jade light glows from within. Each room, each chapter is asking for you to enter its secrets. Lights are beginning to snap on as if the building has arisen from a slumber. Nothing is brightly lit…not here…the lights fill the rooms and corridors like oil lamps, allowing a flicker, then black, and a flicker again of illumination.
The first exhibit, the first room is Pompeii. The pages 18-19 are cut into the floor. The numbers glow. The MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY wants you to step through.
You and Watson enter the room. There is no loud explosion, no swish or the whir of a time machine sending you back. All that happens is the world bends its shape and you are somewhere else. You see Einstein was correct: space is flexible.
You are transported days before August 24, A.D. 79. You stand in a small street in the city of Pompeii. Moans and shouts fill the air. The air is suddenly foul with the stink of sulfur. You hear women crying, children shouting, and men crying out in agony.
Watson whines and looks up at you. You know what he is thinking: “Let’s leave. What do you say?”
It is too late. You have started the journey.
In a few days something will happen…a voice comes out of the dark. The words belong to the book. The MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY is talking to you. In its world you can stand in a tomb or outside under the stars.
Remember Einstein? Space is flexible.
“The darkness grew into profound night, only broken by the blue and sulphurous flashes which darted from the pitchy cloud. Soon the trick rain of thin, light ashes, almost imperceptaible to the touch fell upon the land. Then quickly succeeded showers of small pumice stones and heavier ashes, and emitting stifling, eruptic fumes. After a time the sounds of approching torrents were heard, and soon streaming rivers of dense black mud poured slowly down the mountain sides, and circled through the streets, insidiously creeping into such recesses as even the subtle ashes had failed to pentetrate.”
You are moving through a dream darkly. Is this the chapter you want to go?
Welcome to the living book: you are in the Museum of Antiquity and you can’t get out.
(This concludes episode 2. Why read a electronic book? Get the leather bound one and feel like you are holding history in your own hands. A Nook or a Kindle does not give the same feeling. To adventure, to truly explore, don’t trust the ebook. It takes leather and dust to begin a journey. It takes pages that a thousand scholars touched. The book MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY is your passage…Look for Episode 3, titled: “Down a dark hall.” )