Documentary History

by Emily LAWTON

Roland wheeled his wooden cart along the aisles of the archives. Three boxes of documents creaked and groaned from his cart as he moved deeper into the twenty-acre facility. At aisle 23, (1934, Jan–1934, Nov), he stopped to check the humidity and temperature readings. He peered over the top of his glasses at the gauge. Sixty-five degrees, 48 percent humidity. He grabbed his clipboard and noted the time, 12:41 pm, and wrote “within acceptable limits.”

The boxes, Roland thought, were not very subtle. After processing, they’d been stamped and sealed with multiple rolls of packing tape bearing the presidential seal. On the top and sides of each box were signs, boldly lettered, saying “CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS! DO NOT OPEN BEFORE 2096 BY PENALTY OF LAW!”

“We’ll all be dead by then,” thought Roland, but then that was the point. He wheeled his cart around the corner of aisle 156. In another seventy years probably no one would much care what was in the boxes. Roland considered his position of power, there in the fluorescent-lit aisle. The documents on his cart could be the unmaking of a president, perhaps the entire government. He drummed his fingers against the clipboard. Then, slowly, he hefted the boxes, one by one onto the fourth shelf on the right. He wrote on his clipboard “storage, 156-42R.” Then he turned and wheeled the cart, empty, back to the main processing area.

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