Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi
Gross physical changes weren't enough to keep him down for long. After two days lounging in bed and living like a ghost in his rooms, he felt he'd finally had enough. So he pulled on some clothes and ventured out to see if there was anything interesting in the Compound.
He didn't think about the fact that he'd waited for Park to be gone somewhere to do it either. He was just glad to have a few minutes for himself.
There was a sense of the forbidden as he wandered through the large building, peeking into unlocked rooms and finally making his way to the Family library.
He was shocked by the number of printed books he saw. They must have been worth a fortune, yet they were just resting on shelves for anyone to touch. It was such a casual display of wealth that he wasn't quite sure how he was supposed to feel about it.
"Can I help you?"
Gregor jumped a little in surprise and turned to see that there was a small woman seated at a large desk next to the door. "Oh, I didn't see you there," he said.
She smiled, a remarkably sweet expression for such a weathered-looking face. Even with the use of a Face-Maker, her laugh lines and wrinkles were too deep to be smoothed away completely. "I didn't mean to surprise you. I am the Librarian." She said it as though the title were her name, and maybe it was.
"I've never seen so many printed books in my life," he said. "Is it okay for me to look around?"
"That's what they're here for," she said. "Books are meant to be read, not stored away like priceless artifacts. So you look around and let me know if there's any you want to read."
Gregor looked toward the tall shelves that lined the whole room. "I don't know if I would trust myself with anything so precious."
She looked at him as though he'd done something unspeakably adorable. "Don't worry your head about it. Though if you're that uncomfortable about reading a print book, we have them all available as digital. I even have some spare Readers here behind the desk if you'd like to borrow one."
He beamed at her. "Thank you."
There was something about books that made him feel as though the world was opening up in front of him. It was strange because he'd never been much of a reader, as there had never been much spare time in the midst of his scramble for survival. But now he had the time to see if there was something in these books that he would enjoy.
He wondered if there were any copies of his mother's books. She'd been a writer of growing reputation when she'd been killed with the other protesters at Clavell. He hadn't even been allowed to reclaim her body; she'd most likely been cremated and had her ashes scattered to the winds.
Gregor reached out to touch the spine of a red banded book. It felt glossy and smooth under his fingers, a completely alien sensation. He wasn't brave enough to pull any of the books out, not wanting to ruin such priceless artifacts, but he looked at them with interest.
There had been a time when paper books had been everywhere. People had treated them as useless scraps and after the Last War whole libraries had been burned for heat during the Long Winter.
Most books had been backed up as digital copies, but there had been so many that were lost without a trace. Years of history had been wiped out of existence as people fought to survive. It was what some people–those that had never experienced a food or heat shortage–called an unforgivable tragedy.
Gregor could kind of understand where they were coming from, though he could respect the loss of choice people had experienced when they were cold and hungry and there was nothing else to turn to but burning paper to live. They hadn't had any other choice and the will to survive was strong. He was a Third. He understood that.