Fortress | A Utopian Short Story
This was submitted to my local library’s Flash Fiction Contest.
It’s crazy how libraries still exist. Or why they hold so much weight whereas before they were mere havens for the more literate of our species. Not to sound judgmental or anything. After all, judgment day has already passed. I kid.
You’ve heard this story before. In fact, I think we heard these stories so many times that we were more prepared than we thought. Movies, books, shows, podcasts; these mediums all had their own confabulatory spin on zombies, bioengineering, plagues, the works.
Of course, that was my go-to genre. I was at the library at the time, reading a dystopia, when the muffled gasps did me in. It was the paragon of all synchronicities.
After all of the changes, and all of the catastrophes, libraries still stood. The ones that survived flocked to these structures. They were built of enduring material after one of the bills passed stating we needed bigger and better repositories of knowledge. We rejoiced, or at least those of us that had spent a substantial part of our lives utilizing such a resource. “We” being the stereotypically outcast, pursuing our lofty goals of graduate degrees and self-edification while our type-casted counterparts perused clothing aisles and hook-up apps.
It was an unlikely shelter, but it proved impenetrable. Libraries stood, like temples of enshrined knowledge, dignified but welcoming to those that had guffawed at their merit. Social ties were knotted and living arrangements made, yet the books remained unscathed. It was as if everyone had wordlessly vowed to do them no harm, no matter the lack of firewood.
It’s ironic how these same venerated books had warned of dystopias, but in the majority of cases, they had suffered a martyr’s death by being banned or burned to make way for some political change or whatever. One could claim that certain groups among us, with a penchant and proclivity for reading, had the advantage; reading and teaching came easier to us than to others. Ergo, we knew there would be dissent and we made a council and suggestion boxes. We tried to make communication lines unambiguous and rules, lucid. After all, most of those apocalyptic stories warned us about the breakdown of communication and the inevitable loss of the more intellectual facets of humanity.
But poor human ties wasn’t the problem. Actually, there were no problems. This is more of a commentary, anyhow.
Knowledge, it seems, contends with love as the most treasured human artifact. Without love, the survivors would have lost their compassion and loyalty. But without knowledge, we would have lost ourselves.
To be knowledgeable is not to be wise, but it is a step in the right direction. For even the most illiterate, bigoted, and ignorant of us, knowledge saved us. It was the electrical engineers that found just the right manuals to reconfigure our sockets for electricity. It was the way the troubled adolescents took it upon themselves to protect the youngest among us and in effect, protected themselves from their own demons by finding the books about developmental psychology.
Knowledge was and is our protection against our own primitive instincts. Every day we learn, from each other and from these books. We identify with the characters we read and the commensurate identities we talk to in the flesh. We love each other through these different mediums of communication. For in the rarest of spats, knowledge ameliorates misunderstanding.
Knowledge of the language you don’t know and thus, the customs you don’t understand and ignorantly disregard. Knowledge of the ecosystem and seasonal harvests to explain the temporary shortage that you assume was an unjust prejudice the farmer held against your family.
To this day, I watch the different groups of survivors and imagine what these people were like before it happened. Whatever they were, or thought they were, it really doesn’t matter. I see different races and skin colors. I hear different accents and dialects. But I feel an incredible sense of synergy pervaded by open-mindedness and creativity.
I hope this memoir clears some things up about how we finally, as a species, reached an attainable state of harmony and equilibrium. I figured you didn’t need my credentials; ethos wouldn’t make this memoir any more persuasive, especially when you’re only 11 years-old.
I’m just relying on my innate humanity to connect to yours. I’m just one part of the whole, as are you.