In the Metal Town
“Hey! That’s not fair! You started before me!” I hear JC shout after me.
“Well, you’re older than me. So it is pretty fair!” I shout back.
I reach the market, panting heavily. JC catches up two seconds later. “Age has nothing to do with speed, Ellie,” he sputters between pants.
I hold up a finger signalling for him to wait, “Well the older you are, the taller you are. And the taller your legs are, the faster you are,” I say with a confident smile.
Did you really just turn this into an equation?” he asks with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s not a-”
“Come on, nerd. Let’s go get some candy,” he says.
We head straight to the candy section and get our favourite ‘Gummy Planets’ and ‘Biscuit Blood Sticks’. ‘Gummy Planets’ aren’t exactly flavorful. They are, however, really sweet and are shaped like actual planets. If we’re lucky we might find a Saturn-shaped gummy planet. ‘Biscuit Blood Sticks’ are tastier. They are basically biscuits covered in red-coloured, slightly strawberry-flavoured chocolate. Its name doesn’t sound that appealing, but it’s the best sweet we have.
JC buys two bags of each and saves five metal pieces to get me a hoodie.
“So, any colours in mind or are we gonna spend an hour in here just for you to get the ugliest thing?” he teases, referring to a brown hoodie I’d previously gotten.
“Hey! It wasn’t ugly,” I state, punching him lightly. He gives me a look, without commenting on my obvious lie.
“Ok, maybe a bit ugly. Still, I didn’t spend an hour looking.”
“Yes, L, yes you did.”
“Shut up, blockhead,” I say with a laugh. I rummage through all the hoodies until one particular design catches my eyes.
“This one,” I say, pointing in its direction. JC pays for the hoodie and we head out to the library.
“Here it is,” he tells me as we look at the empty building.
The library is, like everything else, made of metal. This, however, is a different type of metal, shinier and more expensive. If it weren’t for the gigantic heaps of trash scattered around the place, it would’ve looked pretty. A few stairs lead to a sliding mechanical door. As we step through, a bunch of stern-looking teenage boys glare at us. I roll my eyes. Almost everyone here is terrified, the only difference is whether they show it or hide it by being spiteful, I prefer the latter, life here’s hard especially for soft people.
As we approach the doors, it occurs to me that I’ve never been to the library. I think about how it’ll look. Will it be covered with ancient books preserved from a time when people had the luxury of reading? Will it just contain a bunch of e-tabs for anyone to borrow? We had one in the orphanage, an e-tab. Our teacher would read from it whenever we had storytime. She would put on the bracelet and we’d all get very excited knowing that we’re about to watch some silly animations go on about their life. I miss those days. All I ever worried about was whether the weird-fox thing would catch the bird. Or whether the giant, red dog could save the cat from the tree. It was all nonsense but I enjoyed it, in fact, if they weren’t so expensive, I would’ve bought myself an e-tab.
“So, what are we looking for, exactly?” Jack questions with uncertainty.
“I guess books that start with ‘F’?” I hesitate,.I honestly have no idea what we’re searching for and no interest, I came here to destroy the place but I guess I’ll have to help Jacklinso search since he’s taking this seriously.
“I mean, is F a place or a thing?”
“Maybe it’s an adjective or a person? Besides, why’s this so important anyway? Can’t we go splash each other in the fountain or something?”
“I thought you wanted to come here, Ellie,” Jack says with a hint of suspicion, “Or was this your great plan, telling me we’ll go to the library but you’re just looking for trouble?”
“No, it’s just I thought the library would be more exciting, all I see is books and a lot of dust. You didn’t answer me, what’s the importance of the ‘F’ anyway?”
“Think about it, it’s everywhere,” he takes a pause and starts looking through the books, “Why’s it EVERYWHERE?”
“Don’t know,” I mutter as I start looking too.
“Look!” I exclaim, after a while, ” Life Before the War, it’s written by someone called Rayland Rocksay, ever heard of him?”
“Nope, but it’s not like I read much.”
I grab the heavy book off the shelf and blow the enormous amount of dust off the cover. Even if someone didn’t know how unusual it is for people to read, they’d find out pretty soon that reading isn’t a part of our everyday lives here. The whole place is covered in dust, which is pretty weird considering we’re in space and we rarely see any dusty furniture or objects. I flip through the book. I can read English as good as anyone else here and yet I can’t understand a lot of the words in this book.
“Found anything?” JC’s sudden inquiry caused me to jump out of the wooden chair I’d sat on and the book falls from my hands.
“Careful, I don’t want us getting in trouble for ruining the library’s property,” he warned.
“Nothing much,” I state putting the book back.
“Look at this cookbook,” Jack suddenly says with a chuckle, “This is supposed to be food?”
“Looks like worms,” I joke back, “How do you say that name anyways?”
“Spag-het-ti,” he says with a laugh, “Old Earthers are weird, there are tons of spag-het-ti recipes here, why was this food so popular? It doesn’t even look appetizing.”
“I don’t know. They’re pretty strange.”
That’s a fact, these people were very unusual. They did things like making big balls of snow, putting them on top of each other then calling the structure a snowman. Some people celebrated death! Why would someone celebrate death? Did they run out of things to celebrate?
“Wow, How to Make a Time Machine,” Jack chuckles in disbelief, “Those people had a lot of time on their hands.”
“What’s it about?”
“What do you think, brilliant?” he retorts.
I gawk at him, ” Well, certainly NOT on how to make a time machine, not a real one at least.”
“Nope, it’s basically an instruction manual for ′the aspiring time travellers’. Thing is,” he pauses while scanning the book again, ” The writer seems very confident that an actual time machine can be made.”
“Well, not all books are realistic, like there are those fairy tales, ummm, the Grimms brothers or something and that magical boy in the magical school and then there’s also Greek Gods, I mean,” I look at Jacklinso and realize he’s not even listening to me, “Jack!”
“Look at this one, Famous People of History. Anthony O’Niel, Deesha Samuel, Reed Watterson, Clark Wyatt, Alia Ahmed, Zoe Johnson, Flarins Quazink...”
“That’s a lot of famous people,” Jack comments, “I wonder what they did.”
“Probably painted a few good paintings, or cooked something ‘amazing’,” I say sarcastically, “Oh, I know! They BOMBED OTHER COUNTRIES!”
“Calm down, Ellie. Why are you getting so worked up?”
“I’m just getting bored, let’s leave, JC.”
I’m not bored. I’m bubbling. These old Earthers worshipped all the wrong types of people. Mr Jim Bakerson, the brilliant physicist who created the flire. Argulus Filsus, the great commander who steered humans on the right track to keep fighting. And what did that do? It only caused us to divide into two, the Fighters (our army) and the Rebels (one of the durmies). Now our strength is divided by half and we’re slaughtering our own kind!
“915 to Ellie, are you listening to me?” Jack’s sudden shout brings me back to our current situation, “Look at this book, U.P.G.F. It’s called United People’s Government but doesn’t state what the F stands for? It’s just like our orphanage.”
“I don’t know,” I answer, my interest slightly peaked, “Check the book.”
We sit there rummaging in the book for a while and find nothing useful. I just get angry again. This book is basically worshipping our government and explaining how they helped us reach this far in the war.
“Laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?” Jack sighs, still browsing, “Oh wait, LOOK!”
I hurriedly look at what Jack’s pointing to. It’s a photo. Its colours are faded but I can make out three people, two men and a lady. The caption underneath reads ‘Famous archaeologist, Flarins Quazink, poses with UW president, Clark Wyatt, and her majesty, Queen Isla II, for the opening of U.P.G.F.’
“He must be our F, but he’s just an archaeologist, why would he be posing with two world leaders?” Jack inquires, ” And why is his name included in a governmental facility?”
“Well, it says he’s famous,” I answer.
“No, he must have done something very important,” Jack says, “Maybe there’s a biography for him here or something.”
We search for what feels like forever without finding anything.
“That’s weird, how are there no books about him?”
“I don’t know, JC,” I groan, “This is tedious, let’s go break in somewhere or steal something.”
“No, Ellie, we only stole when we had to. I have metal pieces now, we can use those. But sure, let’s go find something fun to do. This library’s not gonna help us with anything.”
Jack places the book back in its section and we leave the library.