Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Literary Apocalypse

Decided to do the flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig's blog. You can check him out at terribleminds.


These are the last words that might ever be written. I warned them that it was coming. I warned the others. But they didn't listen. Why do they never listen? They thought it was a game. They never dreamed the law would past. They thought the club was just for fun. Something to do when they were bored. But they were wrong. So wrong. And now they've "disappeared" and it's just me Ally. It's just the two of us left to fight for the written word. For the truth.

I still don't understand how this all came about. I saw it coming, sure, but why? I never saw the "why". Until yesterday.

I was walking down the street. Words, written ones, anyway, were nearly eradicated by this point already, but it wasn't illegal. It wasn't a federal offence. People just thought it was archaic. They didn't need to read or write, they just asked their machine of choice and it did everything for them. It would surf the web and find the answers. It would control the oven temperature, lock your doors. People didn't read for pleasure or anything now. The machine read it all too them. New "books" were transcribed by voice. Company signs were now just images and logos, no letters, of course. No one owned a pen or paper or even a pencil. It took quite a bit of money and secrecy to come by the one in my hand now, but I had to do it. I had to warn the future.

Little by little they eroded away our dependence on writing and reading, and that gave them full control. Without written words to confirm the accuracy of what people said, they could just put in whatever loop they wanted. There were people who tried to tell the truth with their voice, but they controlled the media. Secret recorders were sent around by people who knew what was going on, but they sent out a signal to distort the recording so it couldn't be listened to. Pen and paper was the only way to get a message out, but the majority had never learned or had forgotten how to read and write. And only a select few like me and Ally, had banded together to stop what was happening. But I think we might be too late. I don't know if the world can be saved. And I don't know if it will matter in a few days. They’ve been purging everyone with the slightest connection to our group, and any group of our kind. Soon only the ignorant and the willfully quiet will remain, and they will have full control.

Bryan looked up from his writing. Ally had just slipped in the door, a nervous look on her face.

"Is it done?" Bryan asked.

"Yes," she whispered, going over to the crib off to the side. They're baby girl lay sleeping, blissfully unaware of what was happening. She was their last hope. Maybe the world's last hope. And she had no idea what was even going on. She was only two months.

Ally turned from the baby and looked over Bryan’s shoulder at what he had wrote.

"You told them about us?" Ally asked, quickly scanning the page. "Why?"

"Because they need to know our story, Ally. They need to know what this cost us."

Ally frowned but didn't say anything. They both knew what was likely to happen to them, and they both were willing to pay the price. They couldn't do anything to stop what was happening, but maybe someone in the future could. Maybe their daughter could save the future.

***
"Just a little further," Ally said, carrying the baby in a basket. They were on their way to a sanctuary, where they prayed someone would find their daughter and raise her as their own. It was the best they could do for her.

Bryan was following a little behind, mentally going over the last words he had written.

Some might wonder why it is so important to protect the past, but it is not the past you are protecting, but the future, dear child of mine, whom I will never know, will never see grow into a strong, talented woman. But I hope I can impart some wisdom to you. I hope you can learn the value of words, and that words, written words, hold the truth of the world. Even these are not fool proof, but if a person can no longer voice their opinion in the written word without fear of being persecuted, then we are no longer free as a society. We are all slaves living to the whim of our master. Voice recordings are not enough. They can be tampered with. It is harder to tamper with something that has been written out by hand.

It was too late for us. But child, and whoever else is reading this, maybe you can change the future. It wasn't always like this. Things were different once upon a time ago. Maybe you can restore them.

With love, Bryan and Ally

It was almost time. Ally set the baby down in the basket outside a building. It was the community centre for the sanctuary. Bryan looked around, then took the folded pieces of paper and tucked them inside the onesie of their baby, so no one would see. They didn't give the child a name. They hadn't dared to. Names were traceable. Dangerous. It would be easier for her if she started fresh. Bryan only hoped that whoever found her could be trusted with what was written on the paper. Otherwise this was all futile.

"Come on," Bryan said, tugging on Alley. "We have to go. Before someone sees."

With a last look at her daughter, Ally nodded. She would have liked to have said something in the letter, but it was Bryan who had the gift with words, not her. But she trusted him enough to know what to say.

It was starting to snow now. They hurried back up the hill they'd come from, wanting to get away from the sanctuary as soon as possible. They had an escape route planned, but they both knew they weren't going to make it. Neither of them were surprised when a group of soldiers stopped them just a few mile from the sanctuary.

"Kneel," one of the soldiers bit out. Ally and Bryan did as they were told, and kneeled in the mud and dirt on the road. It was the end. They both knew it.

"I love you," Bryan whispered, as he turned to look at Ally one last time.

"I love you, too," she said, a single tear slipping from her eye.

The soldier watching this display remained emotionless. He pointed the gun at Ally, and then Bryan, pulling the trigger as if he were doing something as simple as pulling out weeds.

***
"And that," said the history professor, "is what happens to traitors. People who betray the truth of this glorious country. Questions?"

A boy in front with dark hair raised his hand.

"Yes?"

"What happened to the baby?"

"It was killed, of course."

A girl with brown hair cast her eyes down. Her name was Gabriella. She knew what story the government pushed, but she knew the real truth. The baby didn't die, it had survived. She knew because Ally and Bryan were her great grandparents. Ella, that was the name the baby had been given, had been taken in by a kind old couple, but hadn't been able to do anything to fight back. It was enough trouble just to stay alive and keep what Bryan had written safe. But she made sure to pass on what was written to her daughter, Gabriella's mother, who had given the papers to her just last week, when she had turned 21.

Gabriella ran a finger over the smooth paper in the inside pocket of her coat. The paper was worn thin from the years. She couldn't read it, but she didn't dare let it out of her sight. She knew how important it was. If her great grandparents had died to protect it, then it had to be important. She didn't know how, but she was going to find a way to read it. And maybe, just maybe, she could finish what her grandparents had started.




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