The Storage Space would have yawned, rattling each of its individual storage units, if only a building could yawn.
Karen! Despite every possible inclination to the contrary, the thought of her suddenly intruded…irresistible and totally unavoidable.
Along with that thought came a flood of memories, some not even its own:
Gorgeous wood carvings, when brand new.
Her. Charlotte Amelia Booth. Now in Imogene’s belly. But remembered in her finest hour upon the stage. Just before Edward the Ghost, when he wasn’t a ghost, and his equally long dead rival joined her from opposite sides of the stage. They’d ignored the marks, indicating where they should have stood, and jostled each other in a battle to see who could get closer to her. Edward had failed to notice that it was his foot, not his rival’s, that tripped her and sent Charlotte Amelia Booth pirouetting off the front of the stage to her death.
Sunsets over the Pacific.
Him. Frank. In his apartment in Sausalito…
What was this connection between The Storage Space and this utterly alien other, this person Karen? And why did a connection with another, anything outside of itself, lend everything such poignancy? Such importance? Why did it make the Storage Space not only care, but care so much that the agony of it couldn’t be borne?
And just what, pray tell, had over a hundred sentient years of caring at all done for the Storage Space, which should have been spared all of this by virtue of having been “merely” a building? Had that squat, cozy 18th century farmhouse across the street…situated so very comfortably amidst its orchards and vegetable gardens…cared one whit when it was torn down and even its extensive grounds were replaced by brownstones? Had the Storage Space’s own adjoining tea room cared when it was subjected to the wrecking ball?
Another thought intruded, a question that had echoed about in the stratosphere of its consciousness for over a century, conveniently ignored in the same way it chose to ignore anything that was troubling if it could get away with it. It was like a whisper on a wind one assumes cannot form words: Why? Of all buildings, why am I sentient?
The answer had always been there, had it only listened to the question. It was in the conversation it had overhead on its opening night, when its builder had attended a magnificent performance of Macbeth. As the brand-new curtain went up, the Storage Space experienced its first thoughts: anxiety over whether it would go up properly.
Its builder leaned over to its owner as they both watched the three witches at the beginning of the play. “You know, a funny thing happened last night while the stage crew was testing that curtain.”
“Ummm?” queried its owner.
“One of those witches… That one on the left. Did you know she’s not wearing any makeup?”
“Yes! She doesn’t have to; that’s what she really looks like. Anyway she appeared out of the shadows…shadows too small to have concealed her, I might add…and walked over to me. In the light of the cigar I was lighting I found myself looking deep into eyes I’m thoroughly convinced are not human.”
“Imagination. You’ve been working too hard to complete this building on time.”
“Believe what you will, but I’ll tell you this: When she told me she loved me and that she’d given my new building a gift, I believed her.”
“What, supposedly, was the gift?”
“No idea. I couldn’t see anything, and the stage crew interrupted just then.”
But the Storage Space knew, pulled back as it was to the present when it heard that Sebastian of the Rainbow Sneakers screaming in a way no actor could ever duplicate. It sounded as if someone was literally ripping him limb from limb.
But Karen didn’t care. So neither did the Storage Space. After all, what kind of gift was sentience to a building, who…unlike people and whatever that creature was that had given the Storage Space consciousness…couldn’t even speak, let alone move to do anything about whatever it became aware of? That gift it had been given so long ago turned out to be…absolutely, positively…no gift at all.