Wow, what a blast of heat, heaven help me the sun had already started to rise, but if I took the underground route I would never make it into the library in time. And I had to make it in time, even now all I could do was dream of my yacht drifting on the horizon, the storm clouds brewing overhead. I was a woman at sea, but only if I made it in time.
I started hurrying along the sand road making certain to hug the buildings as I did so. They were all super tall providing great cover from the rising sun, also they had no windows and in fact were all made with a substance designed specifically not to reflect light rays – even the reflection from a single shard of glass could start a fire. Still they would not keep me covered for long, once the sun fully rose the temperature would be so high that even with my protective clothing and face mask I’d be looking at instantaneous second-degree burns.
I was risking a lot to make it to the library, but it was the only place in this world that gave me a reason to keep living. After the oceans dried up, after the wars that followed the oceans drying up, the only way for those that remained to survive was if everyone did the job they were most suited to. In effect we were all conscripted.
It was the only way, if we did not do things this way there would not be enough workers, and there had to be enough workers. The lights, the air conditioning, the water tanks, so much more. There were so few of us and yet so much that had to be maintained to keep us alive, which was why all of us worked non-stop, the only free time we had, a couple of hours each week which we were allowed to spend at the library.
I looked at my hands as I continued running, they were singed and calloused by the brutality of my job, which was keeping the air conditioning unit functioning. They were also badly cut, more so than usual, a sign of the rough week I’d had. That’s why I needed to make it to the library. Please let me make it there in time, I deserved to surely?
Argh, a sunray blasted me as I passed between a gap in the buildings. And oh please no, a couple of others were taking the topside route, they were ahead of me. I could only hope they wouldn’t slow me down.
Wait what? A girl was trying to overtake the guy who was out in front, was she mad? Everyone knew not to overtake a person who was going to the library. It wasn’t a law but it may as well have been. Or rather the queue unofficially started the moment you left your workplace. The guy suddenly swiped her legs as she tried to cut past, sending her flying. He had been within his rights to do so, she had tried to get ahead of him.
But wow did she go for a tumble, and she was still lying in a heap in the sand as I hurried past her. Why wasn’t she getting up? She looked no more than eighteen, actually she probably had only just graduated, so she should be full of energy. But she wasn’t using it to get up, and the heat would soon be at deadly levels!
Argh, I’d lose my place in the queue but I had no choice. We were too few in numbers to allow such a needless death. My boots dug into the sand as I swiftly about turned.
“What are you doing, get up!” I said grabbing her by the arm. “The sun will be up in a minute!”
She was dazed and had badly hurt her ankle. Burns would be added to the list if she didn’t hurry up. “Come on!” I said.
She lent on my shoulder and I started dragging her towards the library. The building held the appearance of a giant metal box that had been planted into the ground, no windows and only a single door. We passed through that door and I immediately let out a groan. The queue! It was massive. Yet the guy who had been running, the one who had tripped the girl over, he was near the front!
I pulled my hand back from the girl with the intentions of hurrying over and joining the official line, but the moment I let go she staggered to her knee. She would never be able to even make it into the queue let alone manage it without aid. And everyone deserved the chance to get into the library.
“Come on,” I said taking her by the hand. “Put some effort in!”
Finally we joined the queue. “Thank you,” the girl said.
Thank you? “If you hadn’t tried to overtake that guy this wouldn’t have happened. Weren’t you taught that in school!” I felt guilty about lashing out but I just couldn’t help myself, I was so desperate to be on my yacht, to feel the water against my skin. In the real world we weren’t even allowed a bath or a shower, water was too scarce. Only in the library could I feel the torrent of water rushing against my body.
“Sorry… It was just it was so hot… I thought I wasn’t going to make it… That the sun was going to come up before I got there…”
There had been ample time but the fact that she had been afraid that there would not be? That she had both internally acknowledged and then externally expressed that fear? No one did that, the AI edited the ability to do so from our genes, that was what the library was for, or rather as it was officially called, the Library of Feelings was for, to allow us to experience it. In fact it was to let us experience everything, once in the Library of Feelings a person was able to feel any sensation both internal and external that they so desired so long as they were able to create a world in which it was possible to feel that feeling.
I stared at her intensely, was she lying to me, attempting to make excuses because she had been caught trying to cut the queue? I had heard rumours before that there were people who could still feel fear and express those feelings without the Library of Feelings, but I’d always believed them just to be rumour.
“What’s the best place to go to?” the girl said out of the blue.
“What do you mean?”
“In the library, when you’re inside where do you go, when I was inside last week I didn’t know where to go, and when I asked no one would tell me…”
That was because no one told anyone where they went to in the library, the Library of Feelings was a shared world but due to its size everyone was able to create their own little pocket within that world, but only if people stayed within their own little pockets. Someone found me once and totally ruined my world, poisoning it with their ideas, no way was I risking the same happening again, and I made that clear to her.
But then she said the following: “I understand, I just really want to find a place where there is kindness and just you’re the first person to show me any so I thought you might know a place…”
A place with kindness? What was the point of feeling that, what did kindness get you? Fear was what you wanted, I’d worked out that it was the perfect sensation for making you feel alive. And alone out in the ocean was the best place to get fear, once a storm hit you and you were in that fight for your life, the fear you felt was amazing, it was only topped by the elation you felt once you had survived. The fact that the whole time you were blasted by seawater, pounded by rain, just made it all the more perfect.
“Next,” said the burly guard whose job it was to manage the queue.
Finally. And wow how lucky, the door was going to be closed after me, I was about to be the last allowed entry. I realised what that meant for the girl, felt sorry for her, but I had done my best and had got her into the queue, had helped her navigate it, and I needed this time in the library. Deserved it. I stepped towards the door, but the guard put his hand up. “No queue cutting.”
No queue cutting? What was he talking about?
“She joined the queue before you.”
He was pointing at the girl! Why was he doing that? I desperately tried to think, the computer registered a person’s place in the queue, but only once they had joined the official queue.
Unless she had joined the official queue before me.
Oh no! No. No. She had. I could picture it, I helped her into place first! And the sign was already up, she was going to be the last to be allowed entry!
“Let her go first,” the girl said.
Wait, what? Had she just said that?
She repeated it! She was being serious! The guard looked at me, then nodded. I was being allowed entry, the feeling I felt inside, at first it was indescribable but once I stepped through the door, it was indescribable no more. I was on my yacht, the rain was pounding against my body, I was drifting towards the storm, but all I was thinking about was what this girl had just done for me. The feelings it had filled me with.
When I came out I found the girl sat on the floor by the entrance. Where else would she be, she could barely walk and it was not like anyone was going to help her other than the medical team, and they were always crazy busy and an ankle injury was not high priority.
I stared at her for a moment, I needed to get back home, get some sleep, my next shift started in less than four hours, but something was stopping me. “Give me your hand,” I eventually said, “you’ll never get back on your own.” I didn’t have time to help, it wasn’t my job to, but something inside of me, it just wanted to.
“Why did you let me go in?” I said as I helped her up.
“Because you already gave me my experience,” she said.
“I don’t understand?”
“When you helped me you helped me experience kindness, the library couldn’t give me that… you did.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that, didn’t fully understand it, but when we made it back to her accommodation, she thanked me, and the sincerity in her voice, the genuineness in it. It was something I had never experienced.
“Will I see you again?” the girl said.
I wanted to say yes, but my free time was so limited, and I needed my time in the library. Unless…
No, I couldn’t do this, could I?
I had to, a feeling inside of me was compelling me to, and I had no desire to resist it. “Next week,” I said. “I’ll help you get to the library.”
She looked at me in astonishment. “You’re going to help me?”
“But my ankle? What if we don’t make it, I wouldn’t want you to miss your time?”
It was true, with her ankle we may not make it into the library, but to find what she was looking for we didn’t need to. And I wanted her to find what she was looking for. “Don’t worry about it. See you next week.”
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