The immense building was unrecognizable as the former Louvre.
Gaston went through the glass tunnel entrance and at once high-tech sights and sounds hit his senses. The casino was bright with neon. Bursts of color reflected erratically on shiny metallic walls. The noise was a continuous digitized jangle. It mingled with the jumble of voices, laughter, and clink of drink glasses. A climate control system made quiet sifting sounds as it scrubbed and re-circulated the air.
For many decades, the ancient museum had been boarded up. Its vast contents of antiquities ignored and left to gather dust and dilapidation. A decade ago the museum had been re-imagined and renovated. It was now an ultramodern casino and entertainment complex. This renovation satisfied the shrill demands of crowded encroaching cities.
Gaston went further into the building. He wandered along corridors lined by posh high-stakes suites or VIP rooms. He was most horrified by the areas that contained mosaics. The mosaics were constructed of artifacts salvaged from the Louvre. These salvaged remnants—the ghosts of mankind’s diverse past—were incorporated into the casino’s decor in a random fashion. No attention to the details of presentation, chronology, or origin.
A woman’s voice interrupted Gaston’s silent horror. “Well. Here you are at last.”
Gaston turned. “Yes. Here I am. Good to see you, Albertine. ”
“I shall walk with you. If that is agreeable.”
Gaston gave a nod. He continued down the corridor, pausing at a corner in front of a small touch screen console. It was embedded into the wall along with a muddle of historical art, mainly German, Flemish, and Dutch paintings. Gaston tried not to look for artwork he recognized.
“What is this?” he asked, pointing to the darkened screen.
“Archives. Anyone who desires information or history on something in a particular section can use the touch screen to access it. There are many of them throughout the building.”
Gaston’s voice was sarcastic. “I don’t imagine they get much use. They probably contain too many words, right?”
“These types of archives are standard now,” Albertine responded in a teaching tone, ignoring Gaston’s sarcasm. “They’re located in all high-rise buildings.”
“You mean those bland modern skyscrapers? The ones that replaced libraries?”
Albertine didn’t respond. Books were considered inconvenient. Quaint collectibles only. More ghosts.
They went in and out of rooms and suites. Gaston would pause to study a lonely piece of history, caught like a flower in resin. He saw ancient relics, such as jewelry, tools, pottery, broken statuary, pieces of garments and more. These embedded items were from many centuries and cultures. They were placed haphazardly on the metallic walls. Afterthoughts.
The Louvre had been the last museum in existence. Now it was just another huge building that housed retail boutiques, food courts, theaters, and gaming rooms.
Albertine spoke again. “Shall we make our way to the untouched section?”
Gaston scowled. “Define untouched. When this place was left to rot, it was also ransacked.”
“The area is awaiting reconstruction, which is already in progress. But the untouched section is somewhat structurally intact with most of its contents. It’s the section known as the Napoleon Apartments.”
Gaston felt a pang of remembrance. The remembrance ran deep and strong. “I’ve still got a bit more I need to see,” he responded.
Albertine’s voice was stern. “You’ve had plenty of time, Gaston. You’ve been putting off the inevitable. Delay makes it painful and emotional.”
Gaston shrugged and kept moving.
They arrived at another corridor and proceeded into it. The walls were a quilt of tapestries, fabrics, and rugs. At the end of the corridor was a large multilevel room. The first floor was a massive ballroom. The ceiling, walls, and floor were artwork mosaics. Gaston recognized Klimt, Degas, Picasso, Rossetti, Monet, and more. No longer in frames, the paintings were seamlessly adhered together on the walls or on the floor. Patrons could walk, stand or dance upon history.
The second floor contained small low-lit salons that were semi-private. There was also bench seating for relaxing and watching. The third floor offered more recreational games of chance.
“I’ve seen enough,” Gaston said.
They traveled to a closed off part of the building. It was dusty and cluttered with debris. Spiders had been busy. There were cobwebs everywhere, draped like nets. The area was lit for bare functionality by vines of tiny electric bulbs.
They went into a dark and neglected but sumptuous parlor. Albertine moved to stand near a large empty hearth. She was luminous against the shadowy room. A ghost, like Gaston, she had waited to return until it was time to meet up with him. She’d had a long wait. He’d been stubborn.
Albertine spoke. “You’re finally through here? Or do you intend to haunt the Napoleon Apartments until this area is remodeled too?”
Gaston was studying a carved settee. He responded, “I have no compulsion for haunting any longer. Today was a ceremonial farewell. This place, even in its current despicable form, is awash with nostalgia for me. I cannot stay in it any longer.”
“Nostalgia can be seductive but obsessive,” Albertine remarked. “Especially for a ghost.”
Gaston nodded. “What happens next?”
Albertine turned to stare into the dark empty hearth. “Spin the wheel. Round and round it goes. Where it stops nobody knows.”
“A game of chance?” Gaston’s voice held scorn. “How cliché. So no resting on one’s laurels, then? Or is that a different sort of question?”
Albertine was evasive. “There are parts that you design yourself.” She held out her hand. “Shall we?”
“Where are we going?” asked Gaston.
“Make a wish, make a plan, try your luck,” Albertine replied. She seemed impatient.
Gaston joined her at the hearth. “Just one more look,” he said in a quiet voice. He gave the musty but exquisite room with its dying history a last glance.
The noise of the casino seemed to grow louder.