Kenz Bradbury strode into The Library with her soul in turmoil. Were Smith’s words true? Had she and so many others been deceived all these years? They said that certain things needed to be suppressed for the good of all. They say that it was dangerous to let people have access to fantastic tales filled with things that could never be. They said that such writing created impossible desires in people’s minds, especially the young, and it was unkind to allow that to happen. They said. They said. She nodded to a few Library customers and a couple of Librarians 3nd Class as she swept down the wide hallway to her office.
Her private work space was as spacious as her flat was small. The outer reception area was filled with art that was all related to books and the accumulated knowledge of humanity. Posters, paintings, and more were hung with care on the walls. Kenz paused to appreciate the painting of the old man in his cluttered office. He looked kind, with smiling eyes, but those same eyes also seemed to be filled with wonder and mischief. For at least the thousandth time she wished she had been born a hundred years earlier and had a chance to know him. But that thought was private. She barely let herself admit it, and certainly did not say so to anyone at The Library.
“His eyes seem to draw you in, don’t they?”
Kenz jumped, then turned to her secretary Kristen. “Uh, yes, they certainly do draw one’s attention,” Kenz replied as she unlatched her cloak and handed it to the young woman. “I don’t suppose I will ever tire of seeing him.”
“I wish I could have met him. He looks like an amazing man,” Kristen continued.
“He was dangerous. A radical filled with outlandish ideas. He is the symbol of why this branch of The Library is so vital,” Kenz retorted.
Kristen lowered her head, “Yes, of course, Ma’am. I didn’t mean anything by it. I, uh, I just though he looked like a nice man.” The young secretary briskly accepted Kenz’s cloak and hung it on a peg next to the door. “I hope you won’t be offended, but I can’t help wonder about his name. Ray Bradbury. I wonder if you are one of his descendants.”
Kenz reddened, but shook her head. “I’ve done the research. He had only daughters, and in his era they would have kept their family name. I, uh, I have thought that it would be nice to know that I have dedicated my life to undoing the damage he did to society. Just think of all the young minds he filled with nonsense. All the children he distracted from important things with his fantastic tales. Unforgivable.” She spun and continued into her inner sanctum, closing the door firmly behind her and leaving the poor, confused secretary standing with her mouth agape.
Alone in her office, Kenz booted up her computer and waited. And waited. She muttered a curse, “Damnable technology! Why can’t you ever work the way you are supposed to?” She glared at the blank screen and resigned herself to its whims. The computer system was aging. Supposedly it was the most up to date, but she could not remember the last time it was upgraded. Meanwhile, it took longer and longer to accomplish anything. It seemed as if there were fewer and fewer qualified technicians every year and very little in the way of innovation. She thought back to her teen years and her mouth fell open. Was that what Smith was talking about? She remembered the excitement when there seemed to be newer, faster, more powerful technological innovations being released every week or so. Now she was lucky if she could find someone to keep the aging dinosaur of a system on her desk operating at minimum capacity. Her hands began to shake as the system finally booted and she was able to type in the first search parameters.
She worked for an hour, growing more and more frustrated with each passing moment. She purely hated fighting this outdated system just to find a few answers. Even the monitoring screens showed blind spots today. She would turn in a report and request maintenance, but expected little to come of it. Things seldom got fixed.
Another idea crossed her mind and she opened a new browser to type in “John Smith, 4922 Jackson Street, building C, apartment 101. She waited. Soon, information began to scroll up from the bottom of her screen. It contained the information about the overdue book and the fine he owed, but little more. A smirk crossed her lips. It took fifteen years for this wonderful computer system to notice the crime and alert her. Fifteen years. Was the system really that bad? She shook her head.
Kenz tried a few other search parameters, but nothing showed up other than the basic name, address, and contact information. Smith was a shadow, a ghost. A sudden idea struck, and after a few false tries, managed to cross reference her search with a city map. Her eyes widened in surprise. That block didn’t exist! She tapped a few keys and backtracked to older satellite maps. There! It was there ten years earlier. More searching led her to a news report of the building being torn down. So where did he go? Where did he live now and why was his information so out of date? Kenz’s heart raced. This was the sort of mystery she loved to solve, and solve it she would, if she had to fight every computer system in the country to get what she wanted. The most pressing question was who IS Smith? Who is he and what danger does he represent to her world?
Kenz rolled her neck, realizing that it had grown stiff, and a glance at the clock surprised her. Hours had passed. Her eyes ached from staring at her screen all evening, so she gently rubbed them as she printed out the results of her search of historical records both of technology and literature. There had to be a connection. The truth had to lie buried in the annals of the past. She would find it.