Author : Tim Hatton

Judith switched her headlights on and checked the rearview. Deep brown hair slid around her shoulder as she turned to the right, looking down the street while the floating panel above the intersection flipped green.

She touched a few small switches in her console. Her chair reclined back while the car moved on in electric silence, making its own judgments about where to turn, and how fast to travel. A screen lit up and a man’s face appeared.

“How may I assist you Miss Amateau?”

“I just need the weather – oh, and some business news.”

“Very good… It is currently 10 degrees Celsius outside your vehicle, and 9 degrees Celsius at your destination. Overcast skies – “

She interrupted: “That’s fine N-Fo. So, how’s business?”

“In business news, the newest player on the market, BOOKCORP, has seen its most impressive rise in two weeks. They closed out the weekend up 35.9876 AC –“

She interrupted him again. “Ah, forget it. Just give me some television.”

The face melted back into the screen, replaced by a running advertisement. “…and this book just changed my life completely, I can say without doubt that I am a new man. I recommended it to all my friends and they –“

She heaved a sigh, flipping another switch and the cockpit returned to silence. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The Book was inescapable these days. Arcturus was alive with this new phenomenon. It was possibly the biggest pop-culture item of the generation, and Judith was a bit exasperated. She had read it and aside from being a complete bore to read, it was also full of subtle contradictions.

What was worse, she couldn’t go anywhere these days without some jumped up Book advocate following her down the street trying to get her to “open her eyes to the light of Jesus.”

Yesterday a little boy had come to her door and asked her politely if she would read his favorite book. She had leaned down with a captivating smile and asked which book it was. When he produced a plain black copy of the Book, her smile froze into an icy grimace, and she shot an ironic glare at his mother who was waiting in the street.

Judith remembered clearly how the book had surfaced. Some astronaut had brought it back with him on a routine terraforming excursion to Earth. On returning to Arcturus, he had brought it to a publishing agency attempting to have them publish his “new novel.” When they discovered the origin, the government had confiscated it and auctioned it with many of the other artifacts that returned from Earth with the terraformers. The market for Earth artifacts was voracious and exclusive. Lane Channer, chairman for one of the planets largest publishing (now the largest publishing) agencies, Book Corp, had bought it, read it, and decided it could make money. Long story short, he published it, everyone read it, and it changed enough lives to attract the largest fiction based cult following in Arcturus’ history.

Judith settled more snuggly into her seat, and as it sensed her restlessness, it slowly conformed to her body and smoothly wrapped itself lightly around her into a soft, artificial embrace.

She didn’t notice the new building that was going up near her street as the vehicle rounded a corner, windows dimming as the red sun rose very slowly over the horizon. Tomorrow she would scoff at the obnoxious wooden cross that was being set into the ground in front a humble building with a sign reading “Book Study beginning soon! Invite your Friends!”


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