Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


“How is not a question we like to ask around here,” she said awkwardly.

“You don't know, do you?”

“It’s not that,” she replied. “It’s a matter of training. As you learn the ropes, you learn the history. The real history, I mean, not the history on the plaques out there.”

“Well, I'm here, aren't I? I can see them. I'm here to help maintain them. Is that not enough? Teach me.”

The woman couldn't help but let out a laugh. “No,” she said. “It definitely is not enough. This place, and you must never call it the M word, is a hierarchy. You start where you are, and you move up.”

“Hm. And where are you on this ladder?”

“One above you,” she almost – almost – sounded defensive.

“So you don't know.”

“No,” she conceded. “I have my guesses, but that doesn't mean anything as you might have already guessed. You'll come up with your own at some point. Its impossible not to.”

“It does tickle the imagination, doesn't it?”

“Mm,” she replied, nodding, turning to face the glass as he was. “You can hear them when you're alone.”

“Now I know you're fucking with me.”

“Hand on heart,” she said while making the gesture. “When you do a night alone. You come down here. They're different.” She stopped talking before she could say yet another banned word. “But you wont be allowed by yourself for a few weeks yet. So no overtime for you, unfortunately.”

“I'm not particularly keen on working overnight anyway,” he shrugged.

“Hmm,” she replied, and then carried on with his orientation tour which was taking longer than it should because he stopped to look through every thick pane of glass as they walked.

The not-museum – words like exhibit, display, feature, and attraction were banned too – had been wildly popular. When it opened, long before the young man who now stood at the door and took tickets was born, it had visitors from all over the world. People travelled here specifically to see what was here. To verify. To challenge. But they all left satisfied. What was in the marketing was what was here.

Now, though, it wasn't much of anything. Few people came here anymore. The ones who did weren't interesting. They sat before a particular pane of glass and watched. Waited, perhaps. Then left again. They seemed sad, the man thought. A strange kind of sad. A sadness he could never experience nor understand. It didn't matter. Not to him. This was a job. The challenges he was here to help maintain weren't for him. He didn't know who they were for. But that, also, didn't matter.

The woman who had trained him, who had shown him all the tricks and shortcuts when he had first started, was in charge now. She was still the bubbly, cute girl he had met on his first day. The crush he had formed was still there, but like her, it had dimmed in intensity.

She walked the halls – both the ones the visitors used and the ones they didn't – with a smile and a neatly pressed uniform, but the smile she provided had stopped reaching her eyes some years back. She faked it well enough to keep the doors open, but they both knew that it was only a matter of time before they closed for good. Despite it all, people just weren't interested anymore.

“We could just lock it up and leave,” she said one day. They were having a break together, a rare occurrence. “We could go anywhere, do anything.”

“Here?” he said cynically. “In this waste of a town?”

“Anywhere,” she said again, her eyes locked on his and for a moment, a split second, the intensity was back. But it faded again almost immediately. “The world exists beyond our city, you know.”

“Our paychecks do not,” he said with a snort. “Done anything about that?”

“Answer’s still no,” she said, shrugging. “Get more people through those doors, they said. Sell more things in the gift shop, they said.”

It was just the two of them. There had been more, but they had left and hadn't been replaced. Just the two of them to maintain the -

“What do you call them?” she asked, interrupting his thoughts.


“Those things,” she said, motioning towards the main hall of the building. “When you say what you do for work. Do you call them anything?”

“I call them ancient,” he said. “They're for my grandparents. Not for me. I don't know what they are. I know what they aren't. No one can really say what they are though. Even you have never said.”

“You know what people say.”

“I don't care what people say. People are boring. They are wrong and they lie. It doesn't matter what people say.”

“Yes, but you know.”

“I've heard them.”

“That's what they are,” she shrugged and stood from the table. “There was a guy who worked here before you. When I first started. He was old. Really old. He said he was one of the original captors. A hunter. He knew what they were. He used those words too.”

“Do those words even matter anymore?” he asked but got no reply as she just walked out of the room.

It was his turn to lock up. Make the rounds. Ensure the building and its inhabitants were secured. Before he could leave, each tank needed to be checked one by one.

He may not have understood these things. Whatever was in each of the tanks. But he knew that if they weren't secure, there would be repercussions.

None of them moved as he shone his flashlight up to the large deadbolts that secured each tank. It took him about an hour. There were almost 90 tanks to check.

Each tank was filled with a pale, thick, blue-green liquid which itself housed a creature. That was the only word he had ever used to describe them when people asked. A creature. In his mind, his intellect, he knew what they were supposed to be. But looking at them, inert and still in their tanks, he couldn't reconcile it. They weren't gods. They weren't powerful. They just floated there, at their windows for people to leer at. What god would allow that? What god could be caught? What god would want to be put out like this? For people to see. To joke about. To forget.

He sighed deeply as he checked the last tank. Locked. As it always had been and as it always would be. None of these so-called gods would be leaving their tanks tonight. If they were still alive – no one had ever been able to answer that question adequately – they would just remain here, floating. Forever.