- Sci-fi comic about ancient things people find in melting icebergs
Have no doubt: the world had been designed and built by someone intelligent and caring for it enough to make everything convenient, beautiful, and fun. Green parks - check! Lakes - one per district - check! Okay, you still don’t believe? But even if we assume that parks and lakes got to be there for no special reason at all, naturally, then what about attractions? What about cars? What about all the machines that clean trash, cook food, teach you how to walk when you are little? Could they be “natural” too? See, the world had been designed and created.
So what did our creators had in store for humankind? First of all, a short lifespan limited to 18 years. No one lives longer than 18 years and everyone is okay with that. What, not everyone? Okay, there is a handful of rebels. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Here’s Leroy, the glorious leader of these miserable people who waste their short lives on reading and searching instead of having fun, the Bookwyrms.
“...Miriam has left this world today. I knew what I was getting myself into when I married a girl two years older than me…”
Leroy closed his diary with a slam and burst into tears. He promised her he wouldn’t cry. He broke the promise crying himself to sleep that evening…
In the morning, his little son woke him up. The kid was only three years old, a robo-nanny still followed him everywhere, but seemed wise way beyond his years, his eyes deep and old, his voice steady and cheerless. That’s a growing up Bookwyrm for you.
“Mama died,” the boy said. Leroy shuddered at how severe and non-childlike that sounded. “Soon you will die too, right?” “Yes…” Leroy couldn’t lie to his son anymore. “All my life I read and searched, searched and read, hoping to find the solution, some way to save people from dying. I don’t have much time left, Oshi. If I fail, you will have to…”
Oshi looked his father in the eyes and nodded.
Leroy got himself together, he had to, for the sake of everything Miriam held dear. He still had two years left to live and two years is a lot of time. Two days later, he was already back in the library, clad in white and having his famous ancient specks on. He did his best to keep smiling no matter what he felt; he bowed to his older colleagues and gave orders to the younger ones. He worked, a lot for every Bookwyrm knows well that work is the best cure to despair.
Little Oshi joined his father’s bookish cult. By the time his mother had turned 17, he had already stopped playing with other kids on the playground and spent all his time in the library, with his parents; now, after his mother had left this world, the boy put even his favourite toys aside. He no longer played and had fun. He had no time for such nonsense. Now, three-year-old Oshi spent all his time reading even though he barely understood what he was reading yet.
Poets are special; there’s a saying that they’re “not out of this world”. Invir, Leroy’s best friend, was living proof of that. It was like he used to have wings once, lost them, but still couldn’t forget how to fly. He could make words and hearts dance with words alone; his gaze was distant, unearthly, always beyond the grey truth of material things.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” he told Leroy that day.
Their eyes met; their souls too: window-to-window. There was no bitterness in Invir’s, none at all, as if he was not going to die but just going home.
“Come to wish me a good journey,” the poet went on. “It’d be nice to see you all guys together before I go up the Sky.”
“I’ll be there,” Leroy promised, his hand on Invir’s shoulder, shaking, his throat suddenly dry. He tried to smile but failed miserably.
Invir’s last evening on earth was filled with tranquil melancholy of the most poetic sort. He recited poems, played ballads on his guitar, and promised everyone to watch them from the stars. Invir stayed calm even when the Ray from above descended on him and began lifting him up, to the Sky. He left this world while singing a song about death being a lie…
Later, people said that Invir was the only one who had left this world with true dignity. For most, the last moments weren’t pretty. Some wept, some cried for help on top of their lungs, some thrashed in the Ray’s grasp like lunatics… The ones watching them from the ground didn’t feel much better. It’s the worst of horrors: watching your friend die like this. But Invir… the tranquil sadness was all that the guests of his last party felt that evening.
“I will never be that brave,” thought Leroy. He couldn’t imagine leaving this world peacefully, without a fight, without a scream. He saw enough farewell parties in his life to learn that death was terrifying. Invir’s tranquil goodbye could not erase the memories of people screaming, thrashing, weeping in the Ray, losing sanity and dignity both. Invir believed in something beyond the Sky, in some just afterworld, perhaps; Leroy had no such faith. The most he could hope for was not to shame himself in front of his son and friends. You don’t have to be a poet for that.
When Leroy’s time had come, he stepped into the Ray in silence and just stood there watching the beautiful world of short-lived people grow smaller and smaller below. He felt no fear, only regret. He spent his entire life in libraries, searching for the way to save his people; he failed…
The white light grew brighter and brighter until it swallowed Leroy whole. Being a naked mind devoid of the body felt weird; the moment was brief, though; the white light let Leroy go.
He found himself standing in the centre of a small square in front of a bubbling fountain. Unfamiliar stars and five crescent moons shone above his head. Somebody called his name, he turned to the voice and saw the greeting party…
“Invir, Rich, Den, Arten!” he cried, barely able to believe his own eyes, and then... “Miriam!!!”
“So, guys and gals, is this the Afterworld?”
“No, silly, it’s an adult world!”
All his fellow Boorwyrms were there, even his parents (of course, they were no longer 18).
Happiness, however pleasant it is, can be as stressful as grief. It took Leroy a month to calm down, adapt to his new life, and regain his curiosity and ability to think rationally. Only then he looked at his new home as a true Bookwyrm does.
There were children too, born in this world, raised in an old-fashioned way, without robo-nannies. Local machines were more simple. No alien super mind had ever touched them; they were created by people. There was only a handful of outsiders who came they the same way the Bookwyrms did. Where did the other kids from their world, the Childhood, as they named it, go? There was no answer. Most people began and ended their lives there and knew nothing of the other worlds.
The Bookwyrms had a whole new set of puzzles on their hands now and a whole new life ahead of them. Leroy could be with Miriam again, love, read, search, and wait for Oshi to come to them. What more is there to wish for?
When Leroy turned 20, he wrote in his diary: “They say, adults eventually die too, not like we did in Childhood, though. There is no Ray, there is no precise time, and farewell parties are not a thing in this world. I wonder whether there is another world above this one, a world with unfamiliar stars where everyone who had died before me will greet me when I’ll come. Death no longer scares me. The only thing that keeps me from being completely happy is my son’s fate. What if Oshi finds a way to close Childhood forever? What if we will never see him again? He is only five years old now, so we’ll have to wait for another 13 years to find out…”
(September 9, 2003)
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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.