The Archivist

By Richard MacLean Smith

  • Go on show us your bum.

The auburn-haired woman turned round and pulled her trousers down. The screen flickered to black then a baby’s face appeared there. A scruffy mesh of thin red hair on its head. Zooming out, the baby swayed for a second before sitting down hard, a large white diaper anchoring her to the floor. She burst into giggles.

  • Say hello… helllll lllo.

            The door opened and clattered against the side of the room.  A middle-aged woman in thick red lipstick and a white dress-suit appeared at the counter, her eyes hidden by a large pair of Dior sunglasses. He knew they were Dior because it said so in garish gold script on the side.

  • Videoworks?
  • Sorry?
  • Is this Videoworks?
  • Yes.
  • I spoke to you earlier on the phone…
  • Yes right, I remember. About the DVDs.

She hauled a black Chanel bag onto the counter and pushed her sunglasses up, pressing them firmly to the top of her head.

  • I need 50 copies sent to London for first thing tomorrow. Can you do it?
  • How long is the footage?
  • How long is it? How should I know? Three minutes maybe?
  • Ok, that shouldn’t be a problem.
  • And I’ll need them to be sent as well.
  • I’m afraid we only make the copies.
  • Seriously? I go anywhere in London and they’ll deliver it for you. Look, I can pay extra, whatever it costs.
  • I’m sorry.
  • Fine. Where’s the nearest post office?
  • St Vincent’s street.

She snorted, opening her arms in extreme exasperation.

  • Right, and where’s that?
  • Just take a left out of here, then the first right and it’s at the end of the street.
  • Great, thank you, that wasn’t so hard was it.

He studied her silently for a moment. It seemed to make her nervous. Then her phone started to ring. She grabbed it from her bag.  

  • Hello, David?

He wondered how quickly it would take for her to die if he put the pair of scissors right through her neck. Three or four minutes give or take, depending on where he put them of course.  

  • Yep, they’ll be with you tomorrow first thing. You won’t believe the place I found to do it. Honestly, it’s like something from the X-Files!

He turned his attention back to the screen. The auburn-haired woman was lying by a pool, sunbathing in a cobalt blue bikini. She was older now. The camera crept up close to her then a small girl came running into the shot, showering the woman in water. She sat up with a scream then chased the little girl, they were all laughing. He paused the footage.  He’d never seen anything so beautiful. It was the kind of beauty that caused possessiveness in people who don’t deserve possessions. The woman must be her mother, he thought.


Part Scottish, part English, Richard MacLean Smith is a writer and podcaster. Richard’s podcast Unexplained, an iTunes Best of 2016, was described by The Guardian as the”spookiest podcast ever.” It has been #2 in the United States, U.K. and Canadian Apple Podcast chart and streamed over 30 million times.

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