fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Fifty Three. {fiction}

We returned to the Student Memorial building again, this time to the dining hall, for lunch.

The Makers we had traveled with were already there, engaged in such focused conversation that they hardly noticed as we served ourselves from the buffet and joined them at their long table.

“We’re not sure we have enough security people to go on the raid and also keep watch here. We have lots of people, but not a lot of well-trained people,” said a serious looking woman with the leathery skin and the thick freckles of a fair-skinned person who spent a lot of time outdoors.

“We brought everyone we could spare,” a rangy-looking Maker responded.

Frank chimed in, “Well, we brought our whole security team with us,” nodding to Ching Shih, “so we’d be happy to come along if that would help.”

“I could come,” added Victorio. I stayed silent. My job was to collect books, and I was glad I had a valid reason not to round up more Slavers.

The Makers and Uvies looked at each other.

“Yeah,” said the leathery woman, looking the trio over, “I think that’d be enough.”

The Makers and other Uvies nodded in agreement.

“We should go soon though, while they’re still trying to regroup after our last raid,” said the rangy Maker.

“We need to head back home within a few days, so if you want our help, we need to do it sooner rather than later anyway,” said Frank.

“We don’t have much more to do,” said leather lady. “I think we could get all the sedative spray into the bottles and pack our gear today and tomorrow. Be ready by tomorrow night.”

“Sounds good,” said the Maker. “Let’s have a full briefing tonight after dinner, with all the folks coming.”

That evening the rest of the Cavers met with the Uvies and Makers who would make the trip to the Slaver compound, while I went with Elf to get the tour of the library.

“They’re all clearly marked, and though we do still have the computers we used to use to search for books, we’ve also made an old-fashioned card catalog. It wasn’t much of a change for me, since I remembered that sort of catalog from when I was young.”

Staring at the immense rows of floor-to-ceiling books, the shelves neatly labeled according to the Dewey Decimal system for non-fiction, and alphabetically for fiction, I felt overwhelmed. How on earth was I going to decide which of these books to copy and which to leave? I had a list of books, or subjects, requested by everyone at home, but surely there were others that we should have too.

I decided to start fresh in the morning, with the lists I had been given, then figure out what else to copy from there.

After the raiders’ meeting, I rendezvoused with Victorio in our room.

“We’ll leave tomorrow night, around midnight. The Makers and the Uvie chemists will put the sedative in spray misters. Others will prepare the wagons that will hold all the sleeping Slavers. And trauma specialists will be taking other wagons to help the captives get back where they were taken from.

They say that some of them will have been there so long that they won’t have any place to go, so they’ll get to choose between coming here or going to the Maker place,” Victorio explained.

“Does that mean you’ll have time to help me copy books tomorrow? I want to get that done as fast as possible so we can get back home soon, and it will take a good couple of days even with your help.”

I had asked Tochuku if he would help me, but he just made some cryptic comment about important work he would be doing with the other scientists and handed me the big hard drive he brought to store the books that have been scanned.

“Yeah, I can’t help the Makers and Uvies much since it’s their wagons and misters and everything. I’ll have to take a nap in the afternoon so I’m not too tired for the night work, but other than that I’m all yours.”

After Victorio had gone to sleep, which came after our delayed tryst, I lay on my side in bed and stared at the wall wishing I could sleep, images of books of all sizes, colors and bindings danced in front of me. I wanted to take all the books back with me. I was greedy for knowledge.

The next morning after breakfast, Elf, Victorio and I started our search. I read the first list aloud, the one given to me by Gavin, and Elf dashed off into the stacks while Victorio and I rushed to keep up.

“Let’s see, let’s see,” Elf muttered to himself as he scrutinized the row in front of him. His eyes lit up and he quickly pulled down a mound of books onto the floor. “That should get you started,” he said with a nod to me. “What have you got, Victorio?”

Victorio read his list, one from Jeanne, and the two shot off while I pressed the knob on the front of the scanner against the first book’s cover and clicked a button, as Tochuku had shown me. It would take several minutes per book for the scan to be completed.

Elf bounced back and forth between Victorio and me, replacing the books he had taken down while we did the scanning. Despite the tediousness of the work, it was exhilarating to see the counter on the scanner register one book after another so quickly.

We took a short break for lunch, then went back at it. When it came time for Victorio to take a nap, I decided to take one with him, though I had to remind him several times that the purpose of our being in bed together was to sleep. An hour later, we were scanning again. By dinnertime, we had scanned a hundred books or so.

After dinner, I watched as the raiding party packed their bottles of sedatives, blankets, medical supplies and the like. As I saw them head into the tunnel from which we had entered, I felt especially glad for the afternoon nap. I knew I wouldn’t sleep until they returned. Hopefully it wouldn’t be long.

I spent the time waiting for their return in the lounge area on the bottom floor of the Student Memorial Building with the others who would help get the captive Slavers to their drug rehab center across the lawn in what had once been the gymnasium. Elf came to join me, sitting next to me on the couch.

“Did you happen to pass by the public library on your way here, Lakshmi?” Elphias asked.

“No, I didn’t. Why?”

“Because it was burnt to the ground soon after the virus. Deliberately. A mob declared that it was the scientists who had made the virus, that all the ‘book-learning’ had poisoned people, figuratively as well as literally. They called it a ‘turbo-charged’ book-burning. They sang hymns, holding hands, then cheered as it collapsed.” Elf sat in silence, remembering.

I couldn’t imagine such a thing. I wondered where those people were now. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing at first.

After a few long moments, I announced, “We have a library. Much smaller than yours.”

Elf turned to me, eyes wide.

“You can’t tell anyone though,” I continued in a rush, “we’ve all promised to keep it a secret, to protect it. But I’m telling you because, well, I was thinking of our library as the Library of Alexandria, but now I realize it’s really here, with you.”

“Yes, yes, I understand. After I saw the public library burned, I started rounding up people to live here at the university, to help me protect the library here. I thought of the Library of Alexandria too. That’s how it started. Of course most of the professors left alive were thinking along similar lines. Our community is mostly centered around preserving knowledge as best we can.”

I felt relieved that the burden of all the knowledge of humanity did not rest on my shoulders after all, but mostly on Elf. Still, as much as it was valued, the Library of Alexandria was destroyed eventually anyway.

“Maybe our library can be kind of a backup library. I’m going to copy as many of your books as I can. I won’t be able to store all the books here electronically, but I can at least get a good sampling of each subject. It’ll take a lot of time, but that’s okay,” I told him.

“That’s a great idea,” he said, looking at me, a slow smile spreading across his face.

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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