Friday, February 18, 2011

Gross Memory

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.


  1. A little like Swift's Battel of the Books, but more sincere in its drama. So what do they do with this democracy?

  2. This really leaves me wanting to know more. What the world is like, what happened before (far before) this scene, and what happens next. This is incredibly intriguing and... different. (I use ellipsis because I seem to come back to "different" every time I want to comment on something of yours; must get out the trusty thesaurus next time)

  3. @John, thanks for the reference that looks interesting and I hadn't heard of it before. The characters have started talking to me, so there may be more to this talk of democracy.

    @Rebecca, lol; I've heard a people worry about voice; at least I know I'm "different" ;) I'm glad this is intriguing; I'm hopeful this is more a seed for a short story than a novel; since my novel queue is too long :)

  4. most def a seed for something longer, like a deathworld with a literary spin. Like this reference to the man who fantasized he might read everything.

  5. @Adam, I read John Gross' obituary in the economist and knew that I had to use it as a seed for a story idea.

  6. I like the idea of a post-apocalyptic future in which people are named for literary figures (writers or characters). It appeals to the bibliophile in me.

    I wrote an alternative history flash with a similar idea, where the masters of the British Library (gone underground) were named for authors.

    I like this, especially that they think a man who wishes to share knowledge is a dictator, and that to deny another man that knowledge is democracy. (I suppose the decision itself is, for them, if not the man they freed)

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing... ;)

  7. Reminds me a little of Fahrenheit 451, where the rebels each memorise books so that the knowledge can always be carried and passed on. Loved their names, too. Raises a lot of interesting questions.

  8. Hi there Aidan - I liked the way this subtly piqued my interest as it progressed: The Librarian, 'becoming learned', the fact that Keats and Shakespeare are used as names, and the riff on the idea that knowledge is power. Very good. St.

  9. I love post-apocalyptic tales. Set them in a library with a couple of witty characters, named after great historical figures, and you have me hooked. The last line made me chuckle a bit. Who doesn't enjoy a bit of well placed satire?