Halloween I.F. – “Body of Work” – Day 5
[Apologies for having missed Day 4!
Please read the instruction post before commenting]
“By all means, don’t let me keep you!” Augustus said with a laugh. “Do you have a busy day even on Restday?”
Yujin pulled a face. “Not at all,” they said. They were perennially single, and though Augustus didn’t get the impression they preferred it that way, that didn’t mean they spent much time on solving that problem. Or doing much socialization for any other reason, in fact. “Just hoping not to do too much work on Restday either, if I’m being honest.”
“I’d always prefer you be honest,” Augustus said lightly. “No, no, by all means. I’ll take a look through the rest of the room myself, and I’ll follow up more tomorrow. And I’ll do my best to corner Fitzfleming and Pérez to get them to lay off.”
“Ugh, I don’t want them to think I went running to you.”
“I’ll tell them I got it out of you via torture.”
“Hm,” Yujin said. “Have a good rest of your day, professor.”
They headed out and Augustus sighed, scrubbing his hands through his hair and looking around again. Nothing for it but some hard work.
He wished he’d kept some sort of inventory; he suspected that half the books on his shelf could go missing and he wouldn’t realize which ones were gone until he had a need to look for it specifically. Still, there weren’t a lot of egregious gaps, and the few places where he noticed that a shelf seemed to have more wiggle room than usual, he was able to identify a title that should have been there but didn’t seem to be on a quick scan.
It took a few hours, but he made it through his shelves and his desk, and by the end, he was pretty sure the totality of what was missing was: The paper Yujin had mentioned (Shadows of Fear Etc); a book on how the other plane was segmented by kingdom of entity (demons, elementals, uncanny spirits and so on); several folios on various deep dives into different forms of entities; a book that scandalously conflated Structural Spiritualism with Conjuration and proposed our plane was simply another of the outer planes; several papers that were written in retort to it; a book about ghosts and possession from the perspective of material-vs-spiritual analysis; and a hobbyist collection of real life encounters with creatures and entities that seemed to come from no known plane.
The problem with determining a commonality in what was missing was that these were all subjects that related to Augustus’s field of study specifically, and so they all made sense to appear together. But at least no more personal things were taken. He put the list to the side and resolved to sleep on it.
But before that—well, he’d come out here to research, and so he might as well research. And if anything else were to go missing, it’d better not be a library book, or Fernandez would come for his head; best to get that out of the way quickly, as Yujin had suggested. He sat down, tried to clear his mind of his worries, and began to leaf through the book, making notes.
By the time Augustus had finished reading and note-taking on Umbric Resistance in Summoned Spirits, it was quite late. He hadn’t realized how much time had passed until his stomach growled, and he glanced out the window to realize it was already dark. It looked like the library book would have to be returned tomorrow, if he had time to do so—but he packed it to take it home with him, just in case whoever was doing this still had access to his office.
He put his husband’s ambrotype in his bag as well.
Once home, he cooked himself a modest meal (pan-fried salmon over a gingered rice and roasted vegetables); it was late enough now that he didn’t want anything too heavy in case it kept him from sleeping well, though he somewhat ruined the effect by slicing himself some of the leftover pie he’d purchased the day before.
Sometime eating sweets right before bed gave him dreams; disappointingly, that night wasn’t one of them. He woke annoyed, wishing that he’d had a chance to see his husband even if only in his dreams, and ate a breakfast of rich egg-soaked toast with cream, nuts, and berries to cheer himself up.
That took slightly longer than he had available, and he ended up three minutes late to his his Firstday morning class, but considering he was keeping them for three hours, he doubted anyone minded. He hadn’t left himself time to prepare for this class, but it was a 100-level introductory class that he’d taught dozens of times; he could teach it in his sleep. Still, wouldn’t do to make a habit of it.
When class was finally over, and the last of the students had walked, slithered, or scurried out of the lecture hall, Augustus began clearing the board with a frown, deep in thought. He needed lunch, of course, but after that … well, he had many options ahead of him for the day, yet only enough time to do two or three of them. There were the options of returning the library book or talking to either Fitzfleming or Pérez, of course, but he could also continue his research, work on his monograph, call his husband, or something else—should he be asking around about Yujin among their peers? Ask any of the other professors if they’d noticed something strange? Discuss the problem with the department head or the dean? Was it something that needed to go to the Ethics board? Or, hell, he thought to himself ruefully, maybe he could just go get drunk.
Not for the first time in his life, Augustus wished for more time than he had available to him. Surely that was a problem he’d be able to solve someday.
[What should Augustus do next? Comment with details.]
Can the ritual to call his husband be set and left to prep itself for the few hours it takes, or does Augustus have to give all his focus to it while it’s being cast?
If it can be set up and left, he should prepare it now so he can have a chat with his husband over dinner (maybe over the events of the day if Augustus thinks he’ll have input? But if not, it still sounds like he’s missing him and they should touch base.) While waiting on that, it’s probably worth checking in re: Yujin among their peers. Go looking for Pérez (who seems a little more likely to be the culprit based on what’s missing), and see if any other professors he runs into on the way are having similar problems — it may be that this is a widespread pattern of filching, and that should be confirmed before going to someone higher up about it.
If Augustus does have to give all his focus to the ritual, though, it’s probably best left for later, when it’s not prime time for asking around among the people here.
(ALSO, this isn’t an action prompt but I’m just curious on reading back: why doesn’t the ambrotype of his husband actually resemble the real thing? What are the differences?)
Honestly, getting drunk might not be the WORST idea. Or rather, going somewhere to nurse a drink, socialize, and eavesdrop, and see if there’s any gossip or rumors that might help you decide which person (if any) to pursue further or confront directly.
Returning the library book sounds like it might be a good idea. That way you’ll minimize the chance that it goes missing, and maybe you’ll be able to ask around a bit to see if anyone’s doing research that would fit in with all the stuff that’s walked out of your office.