. From The Flood Novels by me.
As the lights dominoed around the great room, I was struck by a moment of blindness. We had been in the semi-dark for so long that I had to squint in the face of the glare. I held my hand over my eyes for a while longer and waited for them to adjust. When I finally was able to look at the room that was being illuminated, I blinked in absolute disbelief.
My mother had told me about these places. She told me that once upon a time all communities had them. They were central to much that went on and the young, especially the young, were encouraged to use them. She said that the oldest ones went back to the birth of civilization and that great empires were built around them. She also said that some ‘great’ empires feared them and so burnt or razed them to the ground. Yet within these buildings was stored much of what man knew. She called them libraries.
What I was looking at now was certainly one of these places. Books, thousands of them, ran from wall to wall, sitting on shelves and tables. A rainbow of colours decorated the world in which I was standing, the books themselves illuminating their surroundings in a fashion that mere light could not do. I reached out my hand and ran it along the spines of a number of tomes. The feeling that came back was astonishingly comforting even though small plumes of dust took to the air.
“They’re beautiful aren’t they?” My companion had taken off his hood and was gazing at the library with the same fascination I felt. “No matter how many times I come here, I cannot get over the fact that they look so beautiful.” He smiled at me and continued, “When I first came here, I wanted to read everything there was. I started at the letter A and thought that I could work my way through within a month. That was ten years ago. I’m only up to E.”
“Yes. I know it sounds a little pathetic, but there are a lot of books.”
I allowed my eyes to roam over the shelves. There were many books. Many books and each one was of a size and weight that was surprising. I had never seen a real book before and had never expected them to be so big.
“Is it alright if I hold one?” I asked nervously. I was anxious to touch feel the reality behind those digibooks I had spent my life reading.
“Sure,” my guide answered, “go ahead. Anything in particular?”
“I like the classics.”
“Shakespeare and Dickens?”
I shook my head. In truth, I found those two rather silly writers lacking depth.
“Blyton,” I said. “I like Alan Blyton.”
“Alan Blyton? I don’t think I know him. What did he write?”
“Many famous novels. You must have heard of the Famous Five books, Malory Towers and Ernest, The Naughtiest Boy in the School.”
“Enid. You mean Enid Blyton not Alan.”
I shook my head, not fully comprehending what he was saying. His hood was still up and his face was half in shadow.
“What kind of a name is Enid?” I laughed.
“It’s an old fashioned name. It was a woman’s name.”
This made me laugh even more. The boy must be a little retarded.
“Women don’t write,” I told him.
He’d been half-turned away from me before this. Then he pulled his hood completely down revealing an oddly shaped face. Something about it reminded me of my mother.
“Well, I write!”
The weight of the statement almost fell past me. Then it landed. I looked at him with new eyes. I replayed the voice that had just been speaking, I studied the face some more, and then, I put what I had together.
“Are you a …”
“Girl. I’m a girl,” she said proudly. “You’ve probably never seen one before have you? Well, not one my age.”
She was right. In all of my life, I had only ever seen mothers and most of those were not always very evident. Girls, I had never seen.
“Your government, The Family, thought it better for you that girls were not part of society. They were discouraged.” She looked at me with the beginning of a wry smile. “Have you never questioned that? Have you never wondered where about the opposite sex?”
The truth was that I hadn’t. Of all the things that I had thought about (mostly how to pass exams and stay in school), I had never given a second to the fantastical concept of there being an opposite sex. But here, with one of them standing in front of me, it was no longer fantastical. My first thought was that I had met an alien, one from a different planet. My second thought, not so much a thought as a confused miasma of stirrings, was intrigue.
“They have really done a good job on you all haven’t they?” This time, there was an edge of anger in her voice and for some inexplicable reason, I felt guilty.
“Adam,” a voice called. Within it, I recognised a memory.
I looked up to the first floor and there leaning over the balcony was, well it was my brother