I'm guessing this might be a little unexpected, but today I'd like to show you something I wrote.
I recently read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and really enjoyed it. I think it's the kind of book you can- and should- go back to at a later date though, so I'm not too worried if I missed something. I sometimes worry I haven't 'got' every little detail in a book, or even a film for that matter (I'm constantly asking my Beloved to explain movie plots to me!) but I've realised that I read for pleasure, not for study and so, as long as I'm enjoying the story, who cares if a few bit and bobs here and there fly over my head? I can always go back to it another time if I so wish. Constantly re-reading complex paragraphs disrupts the flow of the story and you just end up losing where you were.
Anyway (phew, Ctrl Z just saved my life!)
A couple of weeks after finishing Fahrenheit I found myself, one day, feeling a bit uninspired. I'm a singer/songwriter at heart but haven't had the inclination to write or play much at all for a long while now (I try not to worry, reminding myself that Sting had a 10 year period of writers' block apparently!). I simply needed something to do, and for some reason that something turned out to be this piece of writing. I had the urge to write but I didn't know what, and somehow this came out.
Now, this evidently isn't an original idea and I'm probably not going to do anything with it (I may not even add to it, let alone finish it) it's basically something I did when I was bored; but it exists, it's a thing, and I'm quite pleased with it. So seeing as how it's a piece of writing, and pieces of writing are meant to be read, I thought I'd put it to you guys, just to read, if you like.
So here it is, no title or anything, a piece of Fahrenheit 451 fan fiction. Enjoy, (or don't!)
It's in there. In my bag. Silently. Making no fuss, just... laying there. Shoved in at a moment's notice, packed away carefully after much deliberation, included by accident along with a pile of other paperwork. It shouldn't be in there, but it is. It shouldn't be mine, but it is. For the time being at least.
I stole a book way back in 2010 when I was just a kid. Books were pretty commonplace back then, but it was beginning to become somewhat looked down upon to be reading them. Sure everyone owned books, but no one actually read them, and if they did I doubt many people admitted it. Amongst kids it was seen as geeky and uncool, amongst adults I could only wonder.
Now days the winds of democracy blow chilly round our shoulders, most of us realise there isn't any now, but they still brand us as a democratic society. That's how is it now: us and them. I used to work in a school but left under cover of proverbial darkness, when all the riots and strikes were hogging so much of the limelight that no one cared to notice an ordinary, everyday resignation for 'purposes of change of abode' being casually handed in. The very day after I was gone.
Did I heck change my place of abode, I stayed right smack bang where I always have been, all my life, and always will be until I run out of time, until I drown in a treacherous ocean of words.
I stayed right there and read. I read everything I had, everything I'd stolen, but especially that one little book from the naughties.
They'll find me one day, sat here with this book in my hand. Sat here, taking-in type. They'll find me, but I don't care- we all have a time to take leave of this world as it is, why should I hold out for a later date than anyone else? A later date than is already marked out for me, especially set aside for the occasion? They may already have found me and just be waiting it out for official purposes. Funny all their documents should still be hand-written. Hand written warrants for arrest, hand written death sentences; when the rest of us aren't even permitted to read the familiar typeface of our childhood, let alone put ink to paper whether by print or by pen. They must think they're hilarious.
When I was at school the future looked as though it would evolve books out of the equation, not prohibit them. This was their idea exactly. Let us think it was natural progress when all along it was a dirty great scheme. Screens and tablets of all kinds began to infiltrate our lives, both in the classroom and at home. The traditional keyboard was gradually usurped by the touch screen variety, and slowly but surely the whole act of inputting language manually was replaced by voice activation and registering, removing any need of knowledge of the written word at all.
This was technology progressing they told us, this was technology making our lives easier, helping us to do less and less ourselves every day. Soon, they said, we wouldn't even have to speak aloud to communicate our commands to our machines.
Children forgot how to spell, teachers found they had no need to remind them, the parents that cared tried to revive the old traditions but then came the ban.
No books. Bookshops were forcibly closed and compensated, along with an apology for the advancement of modern technology; schools ran completely on-screen, there was a book and paperwork amnesty with local drop off points in every neighbourhood, and it was all hushed up and branded as a new technological dawn.
At first those who didn't play along nicely were given discrete cash incentives, when that stopped working they began to be arrested and labelled as rebels. As time went on and the minds of the masses easily clouded over with the delusion that this was normal progress, the rebels began to make problems for the authorities. They started to stir peoples' memories, people's intellects, tried to remind them how things were before, tried to explain to them how this was all part of a huge government plan to strip us of freedom of expression. Some came to their senses and joined forces, forming underground parties and holding secret meetings, others remained blind, and still others became afraid of the rebels for reasons they didn't even understand.
Homes were barricaded against the outside world and its unknown enemies. Frustrated, the rebels resorted to violence, gaining themselves a reputation and creating, in due course, a real cause for concern. Civil war was not an impossibility.
I'm sitting here now, in a cafe. A place were people used to meet up and discuss things, whether intelligent or banal. Now they only talk banal. A place where people used to sit and relax with a coffee and a book. Now there is only the coffee- and it isn't that good on its own.
I'm waiting for someone. I feel like a clandestine dealer. I am a clandestine dealer. Except it's not drugs or counterfeit treasures we're exchanging, it's thoughts.
When he gets here I'll slip him the book under the table, that precious little book, we'll chat the banal stuff, we'll sip our tasteless brown slop and part ways, the book travelling on with him.
I am one of the rebels.
When I was about 8 I remember going to bed one night and hearing an awful banging noise downstairs. I got up and ran down into the living room to find my parents knocking nails into wooden planks placed across the inside of the front door.
'What are you making all that noise for Daddy?'
'Oh it's just to keep the bad people out honey.'
My frightened expression occasioned a different response from my mother,
'The man on the news says we must make our doors and windows stronger, darling. We'll buy new ones soon but until we can afford it, this will have to do.'
I was sent back to bed with a reeling mind and no further explanation. Who were these bad people, and why did they want to break into my house?
Over the following years I learnt to keep my mouth closed on the subject of the 'bad' people. If I asked about them, my father would try to change the subject or my mother would give me some soft excuse of an answer. I could never get any concrete information. I held on tight to anything I caught on the news, although I was always sent out of the room when the headlines were announced on TV. I used to hide in the hall instead of going to play in my room as I was told to do, peaking through the gap at the front room door hinge and straining my ears to listen. I could understand precious few of the words on-screen as I hadn't had an English lesson since the age of 7, but by the time I was 14 I had gathered enough tit bits to work out that books were bad and therefore illegal, and that the 'bad' people wanted the books back. It seemed that the 'bad' people wanted other people to join them and sometimes broke into houses to force them to listen. I wasn't sure why the others wouldn't listen, why books were even bad in the first place, or why they had gone away; but I was interested.
The day came when I was approached. Far from being something fearful, I was waiting for this.
A friend of mine at school put down her tablet one day in social studies class (we were 'learning' about etiquette in the work place: never question your superiors, never write anything out by hand, never read aloud in a work environment... ) As the teacher left the room on a quick errand she leant over to me.
'Hey' She whispered, 'Have you ever met a rebel?'
'What? What are you talking about that for? And here!'
'So you know about them then?'
'Not much, my folks do all they can to keep me from finding out what this is all about, but I know something's going on, do you know what it is?'
She looked at me, a kind of vague relief and hope came to her eyes.
'Meet me after school by the gates...'
The teacher came back in
'Erm, right erm, yeah, we'll walk home together.'
We did walk home together and all the time she was agitated. We got to the end of my street and she pulled me back behind a tree, out of sight of the glaring sitting room windows.
'Here.' She said rummaging in her backpack, 'My boyfriend gave me this.' And she produced a book.
'What on earth Gemma? You could get us killed!'
'Don't be so dramatic!'
'Look do you want it or not?'
'I don't understand, I thought you were going to explain this whole thing to me.'
'I don't understand it completely myself, but take it will you!'
'Well do you want it?'
'I don't know'
'Come on, just take it!'
'Is it very bad?'
'I guess. But maybe it's a good kind of bad, my boyfriend seems to think so.'
'Does he know what's going on then, like properly?'
'I think so.'
'What should I do with it?'
'Read it for goodnesss' sake!'
'I can't read'
I hesitated. I felt this was an important moment in my life, but I didn't quite understand why. I knew I had to take the book, but I was scared by all the things I gleaned over the years. I knew it was bad. I didn't know why, but I knew it was bad.
'Come on you'll have us locked up!'
'I, do you think I should!'
She shoved it into my hands and closed her satchel.
'See you tomorrow. Read.'
And she was gone.