The building ahead of you looks like it used to be a barn or garage of some sort, from the days when vehicles were large and liable unexpectedly to go ‘bang’. While freshly repainted in racing green, it’s clearly not a new building either: the ivy scaling one flank sprouts from trunk-like stems, and spreads across a pitched glass roof to which the grime clings grey-green and greasy. A jackdaw eyes you suspiciously from a hole in the brickwork, making sure you have no designs on its nest.
You approach across the gravel, crunchy underfoot but marked with occasional puddles from recent rain. A small A-frame blackboard, perhaps borrowed from a nearby pre-school, bears inexpertly-chalked lettering telling you that the Museum of Tuataria is open. And beside it, in the massive barn doors, a smaller door is held open with knotted twine, nonetheless swinging gently in the breeze.
You step through the door gingerly, minding at once both head and feet. As your eyes adjust to the relative gloom, you become aware of a figure bustling towards you, a person of indeterminate size, age and dress sense. He shuttles just a little closer into your personal space than you would prefer, and peers at you over a pair of half-moon spectacles perched on a somewhat wizened nose.
“Ah, my first visitors of the day,” he beams, glancing a yellowed smile. “It’s so nice to have company.”
He ushers you gently into the reception area, scoots a large grey cat off the desk, and plants his hands in a proprietorial manner. “So, welcome to the museum, my little labour of love. Just about managed to get it more-or-less finished in time for the fifth anniversary. A few ragged edges in places, but haven’t we all?”
You nod in a vaguely approving way, edging away from the urn conspicuously seeking donations.
“Now, there’s a lot to explore here, it’s really good value. We’re not exactly busy today too, so I can show you around myself a bit, tell you some of the stories. Everyone just calls me The Keeper, by the way. There’s no entry fee, incidentally, but, uh…” – he gestures vaguely in the direction of the urn – “…well, maybe later, if you’re impressed.” The yellow smile again.
“There’s also some little puzzles around the place, too – you mustn’t miss those! I do so love my little brainteasers. They’re terribly worth solving, too: you can get to find some lovely little extras. And I’ll be around if you get awfully stuck, of course: don’t want my guests to suffer.” You fancy this time that the yellow smile was ever so slightly sinister.
“Now, shall we get going? Don’t want you to miss a thing.”
With a sweep of a velveted arm, The Keeper ushers you through a curtain to the museum’s entrance, and follows at your elbow.