Why AWOL?

The library was nothing like how we had left it. After inching our way through the tunnels that led to it, we waited and watched. Beyond the odd scavenging rodent, nothing else moved. Eventually, Peter indicated that a group of five should move in accompanied by himself. I held back with the others. It must have been over half an hour before they returned.

“They’ve trashed it. They had a number of bonfires for the books. Almost all of them are beyond repair.” 

He put his hand in a leather pouch he must have picked up and brought out a book. 

“This, I think, is one that you were reading isn’t it, Adam?” 

He put the book into my open palms and smiled.

I stared in amazement at it. It was the Diary of Ann Frank and it had escaped the burning.

“How?” I tried to say, but my throat had stiffened.

“I don’t know. I found it under a reading desk. It was just lying there. Anyone could have seen it.”

I lifted it to my face to smell its familiar cover. Smoke had managed to work its way into the pages, but it only added to its value; it was as an acrid reminder of just how close it must have come to extinction. I thought about the young girl who documented the persecution, who was hounded from her life and then finally, ignominiously cut off from existence. It seemed to me that here, with this book, she had finally outwitted her would-be killers; she had found a different escape and ultimately a rebirth.  

Peter was off somewhere searching and I waited in the shell of that once great place of learning. What glee they must have experienced as they smashed and tore and burned.  A shiver of rage ran through me and I thought about the role my brother would have played in it. He never bothered to hide his hatred of books or…I thought about it…me. 

I remembered those looks, the ones he saved for me at the gym. Pure hatred. And now he had Evie and that caused a ripple of dread to spread through my being. Now she would be at his mercy and I knew the quality of his mercy.

“Found them!”

I turned to see a triumphant Peter holding a roll of paper aloft. 

“What is it?”

“Mother kept these hidden. Only I knew what they were and where she had placed them. She made me promise that I would keep it secret until the proper time. Only at the proper time.”

“And what time was that?”

“A time like now.”  

“So, what are they?”

Peter sighed before explaining. 

“I don’t know for sure but they seem to be plans for some type of machine. I say machine, but it looks more like a building, a factory like the one in which we found the car.”

“Factory,” I said, thinking about it as if for the first time.

 I remembered the building that I passed everyday going to and from the Academy. It was a huge, faceless structure surrounded by great brick walls that were crowned with barbed wire. The gates were automatically controlled and the only people allowed access were the TTs and the officials. It had become part of the scenery of my life, a part that I had ceased to question. In that way, it was like so many of the other features of life under The Family.

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