The quaint little get together Jeremy envisioned earlier that day had ballooned into a seething mass of debauchery. He was doing tequila shots in the kitchen with people he didn’t know. The room wasn’t spinning yet, but the floor seemed to have tilted about fifteen degrees. Through a haze of hash smoke, he saw Chloe walk through the front door.
Jeremy waved to her, and she made her way through the fray toward him. He was glad she showed up, despite the strange incident outside Hannah Hall. He wondered if, perhaps, he had dreamed the whole thing. After all, he could have dozed off while he was on the bench waiting for her. He could have been in a half dream, half waking state when he saw her turn into mist, and then materialize back into flesh and bone. That explanation suddenly seemed very plausible to him. Occam’s Razor, he thought. The simplest explanation is usually the best explanation.
“Chloe, I’m sorry about . . .” he began.
“. . . Water under the bridge,” she said, and smiled radiantly.
“Wanna drink?” Jeremy asked, a bit wobbly.
“How about this one?” she said as she took the tequila shot he was holding and downed it in one big gulp.
“I didn’t know you drink tequila,” Jeremy said.
“Me either,” she said, wincing. “You want to go somewhere?”
“Sure. Like where?”
“You’ll see,” she said, and took his hand.
It was a cool night, and the Moon lit their way as they made the short walk to campus. Chloe stopped at a side entrance to the Science building and produced a key card from her pocket. She swiped it and the electronic sensor over the door handle flashed green. She opened the door and said, “After you.”
“How’d you get a key?”
“The teaching assistant for Doctor Russel’s ‘Western Civilization class’ gave it to me. I think he’s a bit smitten.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy said. “Smitten enough to risk getting kicked out of the grad program.”
“Come on. Just act like you belong here and it’ll be fine. I want to show you something.”
They walked through a labyrinth of corridors and descended a staircase. At the bottom of the stairwell there was another security door, and Chloe worked her magic with the ill-gotten key card. They entered what looked to be a warehouse entirely outfitted with gray metal shelving from floor to ceiling. The shelves were stocked with a mishmash of crumbling pottery, rusty swords, broken spears, tarnished coins, and assorted textiles in varying states of decay.
“What is all this?” Jeremy said.
“Artifacts, I guess. Stuff they found at archaeological sites, and they thought it was important enough to catalogue and put it in a climate controlled basement. Here, this is what I wanted to show you,” she said, pointing to a shelf labeled m317-A43. There was a marble bust of a bearded man with wavy hair. The nose had crumbled away, but the overall impression was that this individual had been very handsome, and very imposing.
“He looks like a rockstar,” Jeremy observed. “Like Jim Morrison before he got pudgy.”
“Well, you’re close,” Chloe chuckled. “That’s the Roman God, Jupiter. They excavated it in Calamus, Algeria, which was a Roman province way back when.”
“How did the university get it?”
“It’s on loan to our anthropology department.”
Jeremy was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Do you think it’s weird?”
“Do I think what’s weird?”
“How people are born, and most of them struggle through life, and they die. They just die, and decades and centuries and millennia go by, and we sift through the things they leave behind. It’s just really . . . depressing.”
“I guess it is kind of depressing if you only consider the things – the physical objects we recover from the ground. But the way I see it, these things are the manifestation of ideas. That’s the part that can’t rust, or rot away. Ideas resonate in their own perfectness, separate and distinct from the physical universe.”
“Wow, Chloe. Have you been talking to my roommate, Chett? Because that’s really way out there in outer space.”
“Well, you were the one being a buzzkill. I was just trying to put a positive spin on it for your sake,” she said as she folded her arms.
“Well, something apparently.”
“I . . .”
“. . . Just kiss me,” she said.