Picture it and Write: The Archive

by joetwo

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!

The Archive

Normally small boys are not quiet. It is usually fairly easy to know when they are around from the screams, shouts and sounds of things falling and breaking. It was always a bit of a surprise the when Marcus, one of the youngest in our little community comes into my study as quiet as you like. It is almost like magic: you are minding your own business and then poof there he is right in front of you.

That is not to say that these surprises are in any way unwelcome. I am quite fond of the boy. In so much as I care for each and every child we have he can be unashamedly be called my favourite. There is a curiosity and hunger for learning that truly reminds me of myself at that age, in so far as I can remember my youth at such a distance. His visits, as many and as irregular as his chores allow, are always a highlight of my day.

“Good morning Grandfather.” He tells me in the style of our times, Grandfather referring to all of us ancient folk, he is, sadly, no blood of mine.

“Good morning Marcus” I respond, removing my glasses, my most precious possession and turning to face him. “Care to look at the latest work.”

He is always eager to look at what new miracle I have transcribed. Across the desk, littered with brushes, pens and half-made pigments, there is a manuscript, half completed. Along the neat hand-written, script are delicate drawings of wildflowers.

“Is this all about flowers Grandfather?”

“Yes Marcus.” I chuckle “These are about flowers that are found on the high mountains. Some have medical uses that we could exploit if we ever send gatherers there.”

He looks at the pages, flipping back as delicately as he can. “Do you think we ever will be able to use them?”

“That is not for me to know Marcus. Who knows when such knowledge would ever be useful? But don’t you think that if we ever send people there they will appreciate having this written down?”

“I suppose Grandfather. That is the whole purpose of the Archive, isn’t it?”

“Very much so Marcus.” I point towards the shelves and shelves of books along the walls. “At the start we only taught what people needed right now. And that is useful. But what will happen when something unexpected happens and we are not here to help anymore?”

“Don’t be silly! You’re not going to die.”

“I may have been around all your life, and the life of your father and grandfather before him. But that does not mean that I am immortal. I am aging, slowly but surely, and eventually I will die. And with me all the knowledge I have saved.”

Marcus bent a little at that. That was part of the lore amongst our community. Now the ancients had saved all they could from the vast and mighty Internet and stored it in their heads to aid the people who survived the collapse.

My perfect memory remembers how it was before. There were few books outside museums. Anything we wished to know could be injected, right from the ether, into our minds, as if we had always known it. Then, in the panic as the first servers failed. Those with foresight. Took as much as our minds would hold. Science, engineering, possibly useful skills. When the implants no longer responded and we found ourselves alone in our heads for the first time. Many panicked, so many died. But those like us, those who saved knowledge, managed to keep going, if only for a while.

The next generation didn`t have implants, no genetic adjustments or neural connections, they had to be taught the old-fashioned way, so we did. They learned enough from us to survive, even to thrive in a way. But so much had been lost. The miracles of the old world long since crumbled to dust.

As keepers of wisdom we are revered but we are not eternal. One by one, time claims even us and with us the priceless trove of knowledge in our possession.

“All these books” I tell Marcus “Is but a tiny fraction of the knowledge I have in here.” I tap my head “But it may be enough to help start over should you need.”

Even in the fading sunlight coming through the window I can make out some of the titles. Advanced Calculus over there Human Anatomy there and Introductory Nuclear Physics in the back. 

I hold the book in my hand “These books.” I say to the boy “Will be added to from all I know for as long as I can. After that: I will entrust it to you all. In the name of the future. So that it is there whenever you need it.”

“Like when someone wants to go to the high mountains?” He says pointing at the book in my hand.

“Exactly Marcus!” I ruffle the hair on his head. “The Archive would be no good without the knowledge to use it. To have an idea what is needed and when. The wrong information can be worse than useless. It would be an important duty for the good of all.”

“I’m sure I can do it.” Marcus said boldly, sticking his chest out. “You can trust me!”

I laughed again to myself. I say it again. I like this boy. But I figure that he will be long gone by the time I finally pass on from this world. Still: Accidents can happen and it is no small measure to have a contingency in place in case there is an accident.

“OK Marcus!” I say “I’m sure I can.”

I open my latest manuscript at the start and invite him to look.

“Now why don’t you read this with me?”