This excerpt is from a work in progress, a novella set in the Eterna Files universe. Please note work in progress status, all work subject to change upon further editorial input and in publication.
New York City, 1880
Clara Templeton sat surrounded by precarious towers of paperwork and random items. This was unwise in her gas-lit office where she liked to keep all her prized, brand new Tiffany gas lamp fixtures trimmed very high to marvel at the bright, exquisite colors and stunning textures and effects the new genius artist wrought on lamp-shades and sconces. But never minding the fact that the whole place could burst into flames with the least tip of a paperwork pile, Clara never felt happier than when she was entirely surrounded by interesting things.
Curiouser and curiouser were Clara’s general states of mind. This hadn't wavered much since childhood, and now at the age of twenty seven, working in a career that was entirely unheard of (especially for one of her sex) she felt now it was her most vital asset.
Franklin, her partner in the Eterna Commission office, would have thrown a fit at how she was keeping the place, but he wasn’t there and so she had taken the liberty of spending the entire day giddily abandoning his fastidious principles of organization.
Clara was infamous for collecting everything, for throwing nothing away, and making an ornate mess of things. To her credit, she knew where every single thing within the mess was located and could find it in impressive time, if asked. And despite her eccentric flair, she had an eye for décor, so even though the place looked like the attic of a mad collector and archivist, it had some semblance of style. Her taste in art, at least, was thoroughly cutting-edge. Her golden-framed Pre-Raphaelite sensibility lit by Tiffany glass made the place a treasure of rich colors and bold, iconic sentiment that offset the dark mahoganies of the office paneling quite spectacularly.
Talismans of good luck were kept in an overflowing curio cabinet that she liked to periodically empty and examine the contents of. She often hung the pendants and icons up around her, tacked to her window behind her desk, if she felt in particular need of protection. This was one of those days. She felt that something was ‘in the air’. And when she felt that sense, she guarded her delicate sensitive’s sensibilities with care. Whenever she was alone in the office, she took caution deathly seriously.
Early in working together, the impeccably neat Franklin had burst out, having yet again knocked over one of Clara’s carefully stacked piles in a maze of notebooks and papers; “May I ask, Miss Templeton, why you insist upon keeping everything that comes into your hands? I try very hard for our office not to fall into the state of an unmanageable hoarder’s den, but it’s rather impossible to keep up the pretense, let alone some kind of cataloguing system.”
Franklin was so polite and reserved, and generally deferential to Clara to the point of irritation, it had been odd to see him so fraught, but just as her habits frayed his only delicate nerve, so had he struck upon hers.
She remembered blinking up at him from behind a precarious stack of ledgers where a small stone gargoyle procured from a recent investigation looked out in scowling protest of his surroundings. In a painfully earnest, childlike voice that didn’t even sound like it belonged to her, she replied; “because all of this means something to one of them. I… don’t know how to let go of any of it.”
Franklin had come to learn just what she meant by that. It meant something to one of her previous lives. Clara had an uncanny sense of how many times her particular soul had made its rounds in various trajectories about the world and through time. And while she tried not to let this life get too busy with all her other ones, sometimes they were terribly sentimental and she simply had to honor the things that reminded them, variously, of home. She was her own living graveyard. While others might find that morbid, Clara found it rather endearing.
I hope this piques your interest in Clara and in The Eterna Files. Stay tuned for future word about how this piece fits into the grand scheme of things and in the meantime, meet Clara and others you'll run into again in future novels in The Double Life of Incorporate Things.
Cheers and as always, Happy Haunting...