Stars blinked indicating the flying silhouette rapidly closing on Keats who guarded the Librarian's mounds. He threw himself to the dirt and rolled to look upwards. Flying through the space where he'd been, the man-sized bat's momentum carried it over the radiation jungle beyond the mound's rim. Keats hoped the bat would hunt elsewhere and dreaded another night of evasion. At least, the monster's hunts would hinder the Beattites raids as well.
He felt more than heard the footsteps of a Beattite. A shadow moved down into their fields to steal corn. Keats slid down the side of the mound. He wove between the leaves, his footsteps sounding loudly to his ears; yet, the crack of ears pulled from stalks punctuated the darkness.
Keats leapt upon the back of the Beattite raider and curled his arm around the man's throat to squeeze his windpipe. They rolled through the dirt knocking cornstalks to the ground. The man's elbow caught Keats in the jaw, but he held on.
"Who's out there?" Fear laced Shakespeare's voice.
"Raider!" called Keats.
The Beattite landed a knee in Keats ribs and his grip loosened. The raider ran towards the mounds and into Shakespeare. Keats chased and tackled him from behind and together they wrestled the man to the ground.
"What do we do with him?" asked Shakespeare.
"Our duty." Keats knew their duty was to bring Beattites to the librarian, but it didn't seem fair that outsiders learned stories from the man. Yet, he had to accept it. The Librarian had rescued them following the disaster.
"Why should they become learned?" Shakespeare shook the man between them.
"The librarian says," answered Keats.
"Why should we listen to the librarian?"
Keats swung his arms to point to the corn. "His wisdom recalled the teachings before the bombs and brings us plenty."
"No," Shakespeare pulled the Beattite toward the mound. "The word of a single man is a dictator. We should decide. We should become learned. We free this man."
Keats and Shakespeare watched the man fall down the far side of the mound and spring upwards to run into the depths of the San Joaquin jungle.
Shakespeare muttered under his breath, "Democracy begins."
Scene seed in memory of John Gross who fantasized he might read everything.