THURSDAY: The Last Book

BY TRINA BROOKS

Copyright is held by the author.

I OPENED the door. The room was dark. Not all dark. Some light. Room at top of stairs. Top of old house. House in middle of field. Not city. The city is where all people live. No one lives outside city. We cannot be connected well if we are outside city. No control outside city. I work in Department of Preservation. I preserve culture. Early computer codes. Very old laptops. I save blogs from long time ago. As far ago as year 2050. Before that language was complex. Not concise like now. We have difficulty deciphering old language before 2050. They did not speak what they meant.

Today work sent me here. The last dwelling outside city. Older than 300 years. I was sent for technology. To find old tech. This is last room. No tech yet. I sent update to superior. No tech yet. Soon I go home. I am tired. Want to go back to my cube.

I sneeze. Dust. I see box of hard paper. Check database. Called cardboard. I am concerned about spiders. I saw picture in database. None in city. I open box. It is full. No tech. I will return to city. What is that? Picture is wrong. Not real. Represents girl. No representation allowed in city. All images must be real. Only reality allowed. No confusion.

Girl with animal in clothes. Animals did not wear clothes. Not real image. Real way better. No confusion. What is it? I investigate. Sit on floor. Lift heavy thing from box. Put on leg. Hard on front. Old language. I know word. In. Other two words unknown. I am educated. I know old culture. I can do this. First word. A . . . lice. In old days name identifiers were complex. Not like today. Mine is Pik 4. I am 4th Pik there has ever been. Simple. Life was not clear then. Try again. Alice. C sounds like S. Could be name identifier. Alice in. In what? I know land. What is other? W-o-n-d-e-r. Sound it out. I have it. Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland. I lift front. Inside paper. I know paper from database. What a waste. Screen better.

I should go to my cube. Heat on my back. Sunlight through glass. Stay 15 more minutes. Research.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’

Slow. Fifteen minutes done. I finish 57 words. Old words. What does it mean? I know something. Book. This is book. “What is use of book?” Alice asks. I do too. What is use? I should go to cube. Thirty more minutes. Then to cube.

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

I understand. “Hot day made her sleepy.” Today hot. Heat on back. I am sleepy too. So much unknown. Daisy-chain? Stupid? White Rabbit ran by Alice? Animal in real. So close. Rabbits on screen. Not real anymore.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, `Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

Hard on my mind. Must think slow. What does it mean? I understand Alice wondering. A rabbit does not talk. I also wonder at this. I have never before seen a waistcoat-pocket. I do not know it? Have never seen a rabbit in real. Alice is burning with curiosity. She burns but lives. She is not on fire. Why not say what is meant? Alice wonders. Is that what Wonderland is? A land to wonder. I will not set a time. I must discover where rabbit goes? For research. The sun is less hot. Comfortable now. I will read more. To learn about the past.

No, no. This cannot happen. A fall is a fall. A person cannot fall and not hurt.

“Ha.” That is humour. A rabbit worries about lateness. What a world! So much I do not know. Orange marmalade. New Zealand. Watch. I know rabbits. Small rodents. Lived in holes. I learned about as youth. No rabbits in city. Outside city? I do not think so. Was I wrong? Did they wear clothes? Were they on time?

Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains.

I am thirsty. Read of cool fountains. Makes me thirsty. Why? Words, language should be used to communicate. For direction. For instruction. Not to make feel what is not real. Not to . . . long for something. A bed of bright flowers sounds . . . nice. I would like to see that. No flowers in city. No flowers since most bees died, long ago. Would they be soft? Would they smell of something? I am picturing it in my mind. The words on paper are in my mind.

I must read more.

Alice thinks not many things are impossible. That is wrong. So many things are impossible. Life is structured. Laws keep us from chaos. Control keeps us from harm. Superiors guide us. There is much we cannot do. Are not allowed to do. Would not want to do. Alice is not right. Her thoughts are opposite of what is true. As though she is upside down. She fell down the hole! Maybe it mixed her up. Now she is drinking from unknown bottle. Beware Alice, it could be danger! It tastes of pine-apple, toffee and roast turkey. My tongue waters with . . . want. I read and now I want.

It is getting dark. The light on my device will illuminate Alice’s journey. I cannot stop now. My heart beats fast. My hands sweat. Do I have illness from outside city too long? I feel . . . compelled to take this journey with Alice. To be a silent partner. To see where the door leads.

***

The sun on my face woke me up. My device beeps three times. My superior’s message is on the screen. It glows green.

“You are not here.”

No, I am here, still in a dusty attic. I fell asleep later than I ever have before. I traveled so far with Alice and saw so many weird and wonderful things. I could not stop. I could not abandon her. So I read until I finished. I slept soundly with my head on the book.

“I am still at yesterday’s destination.”

“Is there problem?”

“There is no problem. Oh dear Oh dear I shall be late.

I laugh as I write that. The rabbit is one of my favourite persons on the pages. It feels strange to hear sound from my mouth. We rarely speak out loud.

“Your device is compromised. Your words are senseless. Send it to bio-tech.”

“I shall, post-haste.”

“Communication outside city not good. Not safe outside. Return.”

“Yes. The long night has caused fatigue.”

“Return to cube for downtime. Send device for diagnostic. Out.”

“Out.”

Superior is the person I know most. I have been his junior for a decade and .25. We have the most affection for the other.

I put the book on my lap. I run my fingers over the front, “with simple and loving heart”. Yes that explains how I feel. This book is a wonderland of new words, ideas, sights and smells. I never knew a book could get into my mind and transport me without wires or devices. There is no implant or port. Yet it instills in my head a vivid world. A world I did not know existed. I can see the land, the people, the creatures. I know what the tea party looked like but it was not downloaded to me. It was a wireless communication. How is that possible from paper? I want to go there. I want to go to Wonderland and see a Cheshire cat, who I cannot find in my database. My database is not complete if it does not explain a Cheshire cat. I do not want to meet the Queen of Hearts. She is always in a “furious passion.” That must be much worse than a superior’s disappointed. Much, much worse. Never have I heard a superior say of their junior, “Off with her head!”

I will take book with me. I walk out front door. My transport vehicle is there. It is under a large tree. We have trees in city. They are smaller and perfectly formed. This tree is large. The branches twist and turn. So tall. I can almost picture a Cheshire cat grinning amongst the leaves. I feel the tree’s skin. It is rough. It feels strong. Stronger than wind and rains. It may be older than the dwelling. I use my device to capture image. I do not want to forget it. I put Alice in Wonderland in compartment of transport vehicle. I should return to cube.

I will take a moment to look at land. There is no reason for superior to send me back here again. This causes disappointment. When I came previous day I did not notice the land. Now I see so much. Fields. Alice ran through a field after white rabbit. Could there be white rabbits out there? Is there a rabbit hole? I see flowers. “The loveliest garden.” It is a wonder! Some bees must still live. I must see for real. I walk, not ride, through field. This is new. Walking and touching nature. I run my hands through tall plants. Some are scratchy. Some have tops that are soft and fluffy. I think I have broken some. When I touched them they broke apart and flew away. So lovely how they float through the air. I will try not to break any more.

I am here now. I am standing among flowers. A patch of purple, yellow and red. It is the most beauty I have ever seen. I feel joy in me. I feel . . . peace. Not peace like no more war. Peace like no war inside me. I kneel down. I put my head to a yellow flower. Breath deep. It is sweetness. I thought I knew flower smells. In my cube I choose flower or sea air for fragrance. It is nothing like this real flower. It smells like yellow. Like sunshine and air and the ground. Almost too much to tell about. More than one thing at a time is, as superior would say, a waste. Complex can lead to confusion. My head is confused with smells and sights and feels. But I like it. I have fallen down the rabbit hole to a whole new wonderland.

I feel like I am as Alice’s sister at the end. I believe in Wonderland but I know it not to be true. How can I hold two opposite opinions? How can I hold any opinion? In my life in the city all questions receive an answer. One answer that is final. Opinion is not needed. Choices can lead to mistakes so we have been relieved of them. I am now questioning. Alice was a young girl. She had so many choices to make. A child with no superior to lead her. How I envy her. I would like to speak with words that are flowers. Words that have touch, smell, sound. I want to download worlds that are not my own into my brain hardware.

I shall take the book back to my cube. It will be my secret. My wondrous, glorious, secret. I shall wonder and never tell anyone. Not even superior. Are there more books somewhere? Is this truly the last book? Could I create another one? Alice could go back to Wonderland. I believe she would be overjoyed and fearful to return to the land of strange adventures instead of, as her sister said, the “dull reality.” That is exactly how I feel now. I return to my transport vehicle with an ache in my chest. When I return to my cube I will check this curious pain in me. Perhaps I have an affliction to be remedied. In my head I think my pain is at leaving Wonderland and returning to my dull reality. I can find some small packet of joy inside me that I bring Alice with me. That makes me happy. I grin like a Cheshire cat.