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Where would we be without books?

By Lucy Purbrick All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Scifi

"To die will be an awfully big adventure."

As I stand here, about to go onto the stage, I am not afraid. Many would be, if they had to act in this grotesque performance. That would be the normal reaction. But I was never normal, and I won’t start at my own public execution.

“Saffron – McKellar. Stand – On – The – Stage.” A pair of hands roughly pulls me up onto the synthetic platform as my name is called out by the speaker. Nobody makes speeches anymore, like they did in my books, unless it’s an incredibly special occasion.

I stand on the plastic and stare at the news screens around the square, where 3D images of me are shown. I don’t look particularly special; just a mixed-race teenager with dark corkscrew curls and eyes the colour of dark chocolate. I wear the clothes of judgement – a plain, white, cotton affair, consisting of a t-shirt and loose trousers. My feet are bare, and the only adornments I have are a dog tag with my data engraved on it and a crown of golden roses, which I chose as my one item of colour to wear.

The idea is that The Master of All Things will judge you only on what your soul is like, so you can’t bribe him with finery or riches. You choose a colour to represent what you believe in, and you receive an accessory of that colour. Most choose white, grovelling to Him for forgiveness of their sins. The rest usually pick red or black, out of defiance, with the occasional person opting for blue or green in a hope for peace in death. But here I am, peculiar again, choosing yellow – the colour of hope – to wear as I die, slowly and painfully.

You may not consider it fair to execute 14 year-olds in your time, but society is strict about reading fiction in 2649. Apart from the Librumelior, our holy book, there are no other books with stories in them. The politicians decided that reading fiction gave the general public too much freewill. People are taught to read, sure, but reading facts off of screens is the only reading they do.

My parents, when they were still alive, were high up on the social ladder, and rich, enough to not be bothered by anyone. They home-schooled me, tutoring me themselves, and I learned of what it must be like for you – for reading to be a pleasure, a necessity. For there to be great buildings called libraries, which inside held shelves upon shelves of books, meticulously ordered by the names of their authors or the topics they covered. That’s why I ended up here – I built my own library.

It was an old warehouse, the one I had lived in since the “accidental” fire that destroyed everything I knew. I was 12 when it happened, and it took another year for the idea of going back to the ashes, to rescue my parents’ collection of books, to occur. Since they had been in the vaults they suffered no damage, just smelled a little smoky, so I began to lend them to close friends. Word got round, and my secret library was established.

But it’s all gone now, because of a traitor, and it’s my time. I gaze up to the gunmetal sky and hope my parents are proud. As the syringe penetrates my light-brown skin, I manage to get out my last words before the drug sets fire to my blood, tortures me, kills me. They are whispered, and are from my favourite book, Peter Pan.

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.”


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