"What do you mean, the museum is closed?" Gaius asked increduously after Clovis announced his plans. The others with him said nothing but their faces spoke for them. Benedict wore an anxious expression---he had been unemployed for close to a year before Clovis hired him. What would he do now?
Marco, who had been with the museum the longest, nodded but said nothing. He would miss his old friend, Clovis, but Marco was planning to depart the museum soon anyway and this made his decision easier. Marcy fidgeted with nervous anticipation, looking forward to having Gaius all to herself. Lilly, the young woman who had accompanied Walter (and was a stranger here), merely seemed confused. She bent down and picked up her cat, Circe, placing the tabby back in the box she had brought with her, and then turned to Walter in askance. Old Walter muttered something obscene under his breath, but he took Lilly gently by the arm and led her forward.
"We'll be off then," he said, stepping up and shaking Clovis' hand. A couple minutes later, Walter and Lilly were gone.
Roger, who sensed something was up before Clovis revealed his plans, was still caught by surprise by the announcement. "What do you plan to do now, Clovis?" he asked.
"Travel," Clovis replied. "But I could use some company. I would be honored to have you and Ben accompany me." Benedict, who stood close by, heaved an audible sigh of relief.
"Sure, why not?" Roger laughed. "I need to broaden my writing horizons anyway."
Rosemary, no longer the innocent administrative assistant, smiled sweetly and stepped up to kiss her mentor and friend goodbye. Having possessed Clovis' journal for a time, she already knew his plans, and was the only one not surprised by his announcement.
"I look forward to our next meeting, Clovis," she whispered, her son Henry in her arms. "By then, my son will be fully grown, and you---you will be young again!" She laughed merrily and kissed Clovis once more.
Clovis looked at her long before speaking. "I will miss you very much, Rosemary, and you will be in the forefront of my thoughts. Yours is the difficult road, and I pray you possess the strength to face it."
"I'll be fine. I have Marco with me."
"Only for a short time."
"Long enough. Take care of yourself, my wonderful friend." Rosemary stepped back to speak with Helga and allow Gaius and Marco some time with the old curator.
The three men spoke quietly a few moments before exchanging their farewells. Gaius rejoined his wife then, but Marco lingered a moment longer.
"I'm going to miss you, old man," he said, his emotions vying with his tongue, making it difficult to speak.
Clovis smiled. "And I shall miss you, my loyal friend. Perhaps we will meet again, you and I. And if that happens, you can return this to me." The museum curator handed Marco a small esoteric device---the EZ-FOLD portable time manipulator. "You're going to need it."
Marco knew better than to protest, pocketing the device while wondering why Clovis thought he would require it. His attention returned to Rosemary.
"How much time will I have with her, Clovis?"
Clovis smiled again wistfully. "Long enough," he replied, reiterating Rosemary's earlier words.
The party split up shortly afterwards--Gaius and Marcy headed west; Marco, Rosemary, and their son, Henry, traveled north with Helga accompanying them. Clovis, Roger, and Benedict started a trek southward, stopping along the way to retrieve gear that Clovis had set aside earlier.
To the east, a massive volcano that had recently erupted collapsed in upon itself to form a caldera that would reawaken in a thousand years to destroy civilization. Far off in the cosmos, a brilliant star went nova.
Meanwhile, in an indeterminate time and place, the museum, finally rid of its human occupants, slipped into a deep slumber, dreaming endless dreams while drifting in and out of existence. The museum would rest for a time and then, in some far away and impossible future, reawaken again to confuse others about its mysterious purpose.
Well...that's it. For those of you who have read this little series, I thank you, and hope it brought some measure of enjoyment. I certainly enjoyed writing Morning in the Museum, and will miss working on it. But perhaps, someday and somewhere, I'll resume this story...
Goodbye and good fortune to you.