Mr. Gilroy sent a special request to move my work-shift to the morning the next day. I got a temporary pass for the afternoon Algebra class, and reported to the museum promptly at seven. I stared in shock at the machinery and large-scale renovation going on inside the building!
Workmen climbed ladders, shouted to each other, and busied themselves doing… something. Before I could discern what it was, Mr. Gilroy grabbed my arm and shoved me toward the employees’ wing. “Hurry quickly!” he cried, “Get to the Schlimme Exhibit! Go on, then!”
I automatically made my way to the Closet and grabbed my cart. I dimly wondered why he needed my help when Snowden House hadn’t even opened yet.
In the exhibit hall, Krasimir Schlimme was overseeing the collapse of the large dividers containing the fairy and elf displays! I winced as the workmen simply folded the hinged dividers, and Krasimir, driving a forklift, picked them up and loaded them on a large flat-bed cart, like they use at hardware stores for the huge boxes and stuff.
My stomach turned as I saw a pile of displays in the middle of the floor, the cracked frames and broken glass speaking of the harsh disregard paid these delicate creatures. I wondered why they were off the dividers, when I suddenly heard a crash. I looked up in shock.
One of the displays slid out of its space in the divider, and fell face-down on the floor as Krasimir dropped the stack of dividers onto the cart-bed. I heard more glass shattering inside the stack, and it gave me a headache to think of those poor fairies, crushed but unable to do anything about it.
Krasimir jumped out of the cab of the forklift and kicked the fallen display toward the pile with a sneer. He waved his hand superiorly at me.
“Quickly, boy!” he cried. “Pick these things up and dispose of them!” He—typical of his nature—did not wait for me to respond, but started throwing the displays into my cart himself.
My gut wrenched at the way he cast display on top of display, each, I knew, crushing the poor soul beneath it. I was more careful in my placement of the exhibits gently into the bin. I tried to work fast so he wouldn’t notice, but he was too wrapped up in his work, anyway. I didn’t need to worry.
As we worked, I asked him, “Why are we doing this?”
He stopped, stared at me, and I winced as a scene depicting elves at a tea-party slipped from his fingers and slid down the side of the pile.
“Why—“ he gasped, still staring at me strangely. “You… you didn’t hear? Gilroy didn’t tell you? We’ve got to make room!”
He caught himself with such a jump that the two pieces he held flew from his grasp and skidded face-down across the floor. “What do you mean, ‘who’, I said it! It’s arriving today!”
I had distinctly heard him say “her”, so I knew this was obviously a cover-up, but I decided to play along anyway.
“What is arriving, sir? And are you really going to throw away all these exhibits? Don’t you want to save them?”
He waved a hand, flinging the last fairy display into the air as he did so. He was so enraptured by his thoughts, he didn’t even see the way I gently caught the display and laid it in the trash-cart.
“What is arriving?” he mimicked my tone, “Do I want to save these meaningless, pitiful pieces? No, my boy! That which is coming is worth more to me than the contents of this entire hall!” He slapped me patronizingly on the back and chuckled. Jerking me into the crook of his arm with surprising and vicious strength, he pointed to the doorway with a jovial laugh.
“Listen, boy: In a moment, through that wall—note well, lad, I say wall not door—“ he gestured to the workmen thronging around that area, “through that wall is coming the centerpiece of my exhibit, my piece de resistance, my masterpiece,” his voice fell, but I was close enough to just barely hear him remark to himself, “the single greatest prize of all my expeditions,” he released me and stood upright as an entire floor-to-ceiling section of the wall swung outward. He announced, “I call it, Girl in Bed.”
I gasped; slowly wheeling in on a ten-foot-by-fifty-foot mattress was the gigantic form of a girl, a young woman. What with all the fairies and elves, I had no doubt that I was looking at a real-live (though obviously unconscious) giantess.
She lay mostly on her back, tipped slightly on her right side, with her knees bent and her toes barely on the edge of the mattress. Her left hand draped over her hip, and her right lay palm-up just next to the five-foot-high pillow. Anyone looking at her without knowing she was real would be stunned by the amount of detail in her skin and fingers and such, but I knew better. I pretended, however, to be just such a person.
“How big is she—ah, it?”
Mr. Schlimme cleared his throat before responding, so I knew he had prepared an answer for just such a question.
“I worked on a ten-to-one scale. Do you know what that means, young man?”
“Ten feet to one, sir?”
Mr. Schlimme laughed, “Right you are! I used a five-and-a-half-foot-tall girl as a model—“
I’ll bet you did, I thought to myself.
“—so this piece of work is fully fifty-five feet long.”
I whistled in honest surprise. I made some calculations in my head. Fifty-five feet meant that her legs were about thirty feet long, which meant she was about twenty feet tall sitting up on the mattress. The ceiling of the Exhibit Hall was only thirty feet high, which meant that if she sat up while on the mattress (which she probably would), she would be five feet too tall for the room! I didn’t know if I wanted to risk it, but Sheerya had said that all the creatures must be awakened at least once before we could even discover the portal, and all of them must go through the portal of their own volition, or they could not leave our world. I really had no choice.