The World That Was

This isn’t a sneak peak at anything from the Technophobia universe, just a little vignette in an experimental format. These 1000 words contain the following prompts:
Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds
Linda Hill at Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS
Julie Duffy at Write On Wednesday
Bree Salyer at #FFC2018

I think that I always knew that I was different. I wasn’t like other adults that I knew. I know, it’s not something you expect someone to admit. Most people will tell you that they weren’t like other children. Me, I’m not like other adults. I’ve tried time and again to figure it out, but it always eluded me. It’s like a scene from a… Well, this is going to shock you. I can trust you, can’t I? It’s like a scene from a book, but a book that I’ve never read. Right, no one reads books, except… I see the realization behind your eyes. Yes, I’m a librarian. You know, in the world that was, that word had a completely different meaning.

There are lots of words that existed once before, but are lost to the decay. “Gun” is one of those words. The easiest way to explain it is that that we used chemicals to launch a piece of metal at mind-staggering speeds. Right? Something like that up here? It would kill us all. Don’t look at me like that. It was an occurrence all too common in the worlds that was. People then weren’t confined to metal and plastic. They experienced endless vistas of sky and rock. So beautiful…

That’s, um. Well… That’s not to say that we don’t have beauty up here. I’ve sat for hours in the ring. Just watching. The black field with so so many points of light. Then she presents herself. The ancient Greeks called her Gaea. The equally ancient Romans called her Terra. I can only imagine what those ancient peoples saw when they looked up at the sky. But Gaea, or Terra, is just so sad now. I’ve seen images of her in books. Blue waters, green landmass, and puffy clouds of white.

What? I told you I’m a librarian. I go down to the surface all the time. Remember? I’m different from other adults. If I make you uncomfortable, you can leave. I know that you didn’t know who you were going to meet. No? Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes, the world that was. Right, how we killed Terra. Right, or Gaea. Well, those chemicals that fired hunks of metal at incredulous speeds? We kept making them bigger and faster. More chemicals, refined and shaped hunks of metal. And the chemicals? Explosions that could destroy great swaths of land and everyone on it. You can imagine, we almost caused our own extinction. We ravaged her, you know. We ravaged each other. We became so obsessed with how to hurt one another…

I’m sorry, I know you’re not exposed to the world that was the way I am. It’s a burden that I must bear. Out of the eighty thousand souls aboard this habitat, I’m the only librarian. I’m treated well enough. I’ve heard of other habitats that their librarians are deified. Can you imagine a librarian allowing herself to be worshiped? Oh, you’re sweet. Wrong, but sweet nonetheless. So, anyway, I watch the world that was, each time she arcs across the ring.

Exposure? Well, between the world that was, and my private time in the ring, I do get exposed way more than you all. I’m not worried, I’ll soon move on, and a new librarian will replace me. Besides, I don’t think that the exposure affects me… affects me… affects me…

No, no, no, no, no! I was only teasing you. Calm down, please. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’m so sorry. I’m different, remember? Please, come back and sit down. Don’t worry about the mess. Yes, it’s all right. There, there. We can talk about something else if you want. Really? Are you sure? Okay… The world that was. What else is there to say? You’ve heard the stories; the lessons. You know…  I keep a book here. Nope, I’m not teasing you. Do you want to see it? I know that it’s forbidden. You won’t be able to tell anyone. I’m serious. The protectorate won’t let you talk about it. It will be something special for you alone. Well, then…

It’s a heat exchanger. It prevents detection, and keeps exposure to a minimum. Just a moment. There we go. You can hold it. You look so scared. Maybe this was a bad idea. Yeah? Okay. This is the first book I ever touched. I remember how I felt on that day. I trained for it, you know. Being a librarian. Since I was a little girl. But seeing the world that was. I broke down and cried right there. My tears… Oh, my tears. I must have used up the entire time scheduled just wailing into the rocky surface. My assistant led me to this book. There were only a few minutes left for our visit. I touched it, the book, I touched it, and I knew that I would never be able to let it go. I read it every day. It just… Well, I can’t function without it. I thought that just having it close would be enough, but I just have to feel the spine against my fingers.

Okay, I’ll put it back. Are you sure? You may never get a chance to see a book again. I understand. You’ve indulged me. I appreciate it. There we go, out of sight, out of mind, right? Nothing to worry about. Let’s talk about something less inflammatory. I know, you said you were okay, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. It’s just that…

Hold on a moment. I need to talk to this messenger. Relax, I’ll be right back.

I’m so sorry, something has come up. That was my assistant. A representative from the Protectorate needs to speak with me right away. It was very nice to meet you. Yes, thank you very much, I’ll treasure it too. Remember, “fealty above all.” Good bye.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

12 responses to “The World That Was

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