fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Fifty One. {fiction}

The next morning our horses were packed and ourselves astride them before the sun had cleared the eastern horizon.

The sky was cloudless, but that changed by mid-afternoon, when we received our seasonal daily dousing from our modest monsoon. Numerous birds flitted amongst the trees and other plants set around the Maker enclosure.

Several of the Maker scientists and security people accompanied Victorio, Frank, Ching Shih, Tochuku and myself. They were on foot, laden only with backpacks, since the university was little more than a mile away.

Tochuku was loathe to leave the Maker compound, with its huge array of technological wonders, but they had agreed that Tochuku should return once winter had passed.

“There is so much I could learn from them, that would benefit us. We could have an indoor garden like they do, and make so many things…” he commented.

Leaving Robert was hard, but we too promised to reunite in the spring.

If the Makers’ plan to eliminate the Slavers by transforming their very characters was successful, then travel in the spring would be much safer and easier than our journey there.

“I’d sure like to come visit,” Robert said as he held me long and close in his bear-like embrace.

“That would be great,” I said, noncommittally. I wasn’t in a position to grant him a unilateral invitation, as much as I would like to. I would have to gain the permission of the rest of our community.

Robert shook Victorio’s hand.

“Thank you for taking good care of my friend, my sister, Lakshmi,” he said.

“More like the other way around,” Victorio commented wryly, “at least lately.”

The Uvies had no way of knowing that the Northern Slavers had been temporarily incapacitated, so we had to follow the usual routine of approaching the hidden entrance and using the rather complicated secret knock upon the door. I suspected it was Morse Code. The Makers were in somewhat regular contact with the Uvies so they knew the knock.

Most of us stayed out of sight while three of the Makers knocked at the reinforced steel door.

It seemed like forever before our Maker emissaries whistled for us to come.

“They thought maybe we were being forced by the Slavers to knock. We had to tell them the whole story about the raid, and about you guys, before they’d open the first door.”

As we made our way through the double doorway, horses and all, we found ourselves in a long, dank, cinder-block passage that led to another huge steel door, which required another knock that allowed us into the building itself. That knock was changed frequently, and only given to the Uvies’ security people.

Then we were led through another long hallway and out a door that led into a grassy courtyard. The buildings that comprised their whole living space were surrounded by high chain-link fences topped with razor wire, much like the Slavers used. Several guards walked the fence perimeter, enough to ensure that they could each see two others at all times, I was told later.

The courtyard housed goats, chickens and a few horses.

Once our horses were shown the water trough and a pile of freshly cut grass for eating, we humans were led into the largest building, the Student Memorial Building from the lettering on the side. We had hardly passed through one of the long line of doors on the east side, and into a broad tiled hallway, when I saw it.

To our left stood two heavy glass-paned doors with the word Library printed above them, formed in thick wooden letters, painted in dark red with fine gold lines that traced the edges. Through the doors I saw an enormous room with stairs that ran up to two more stories. The long rows of books continued too far into the depths of the room for me to be able to see the end of them. Three stories of books.

My library wasn’t the Library of Alexandria, this was. Sita’s library, as impressive as it was, wasn’t any more than a large personal collection in comparison.

Victorio, who had been focused on the introductions being made by our Maker escorts to the Uvies who greeted us, looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“What’s going on, Lakshmi?” he whispered in my direction as I stood slack-jawed, gaping at the informational spectacle before me.

I turned to him, completely mute and eyes wide. He directed his gaze to where I had been looking. His eyes widened too, and a broad smile spread like warm honey across his face.

“You found the mother lode, eh?” he said, clearly amused by my astonishment.

“And this is our librarian, Lakshmi,” Frank was saying to a tall serious-looking man in front of him.

I turned at the sound of my name, and when the man took in my face, his frown melted like summer ice cream and he exclaimed, “Oh my god. Lakshmi! I can’t believe it’s you.”

I was amazed for the second time in a matter of seconds as I found myself confronted with one of my mother’s old friends and colleagues, Elphias Dade.

“Doctor Dade!” I exclaimed.

He laughed and shook his head at me. “No need for the ‘doctor’ anymore, my dear, just Elphias is fine, or even ‘Elf’, as most around here call me,” he added, rolling his eyes comically. I couldn’t think of anyone who looked less like an elf than Dr. Dade, tall, wiry, beak-nosed and grizzled, but I was so happy to see him I would call him anything he wanted.

I had never known Elphias, Elf, particularly well myself, but my mother often chatted with the university’s librarian as I followed her through the stacks as she searched for suitable material for her classes. As a child, Elf had always treated me with a kind formality completely unlike any other adults I knew.

Memories of my mother came flooding back to me. I would always associate the smell of books with her, and here I was, with a mountain of books to one side, and her dear librarian friend on the other.

But there was no time to indulge in nostalgia now. Our hosts, including Elf, led us away from the library to show us to the rooms where we would stay.

First, we descended the stairs, passed the second floor of the building which housed the huge kitchen and dining room, then down to the ground floor which served as a general gathering area. We emerged out the southern doors then headed east towards two enormous buildings which had been the dormitories before the virus.

“This is where we all have our bedrooms and personal living space. Many of the individual dorm rooms have had walls removed and doors installed to connect several together so families can live comfortably in one continuous space. The bathrooms are at either ends of the halls on both floors,” said Elf as he guided us to several rooms at the end of the second-floor hallway, the ones so far unoccupied by the permanent residents.

“After you’ve gotten settled here, we’ll be happy to show you around our little settlement. I’ll be in the library, as usual,” he said with a wry grin.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.

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Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home‘ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.

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