Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

They stood on level sixteen of the meat building, waiting for their order of sharkbeef.

This vat boutique specialized in hybrid delicacies and Kay was hosting a birthday dinner party tonight. The invites and accepts scrolled across her vision as she looked down at her son. The store prided itself on having curious antique items for the customers to handle while they waited. He was engrossed in something.

“What are these?” posted Adam. He was six years old today. “They look ancient. What were they used for? They look heavy enough to be weapons.” He turned it over in his hands while his pupils irised wide, scanning through several spectra and mags to see if there was something deceptively complex under the surface.

There wasn’t. He was looking at a book. He’d never seen one before. He had yottabytes of information in his cranial cavity just like everyone else but like his parents always said “It’s about asking, not having.” He had perfectly decent search engines installed but like most children, he just wasn’t that curious about the past.

“It’s a book.” Kay said. “It’s how humans used to record information when we stored it externally. Sort of like a baby internet. You remember that from your history downloads?”

“Yes.” Adam lied. He never paid attention to his school feeds. There were so many other cool things happening with his friend’s challenges in the socials. Pretty Renee from crosstag was finally paying attention to his scores.

“I know you haven’t.” she said with a sigh. She remembered being so curious at his age and wondered why he wasn’t. She took the book and opened it. The title had rubbed off but she recorded the first few lines into her eyes. The results fluttered through. No exact matches. Must have been a small publishing run with little to no success. Looked like a collection of poetry. She scanned it in to the general knowledge Linksys, tagging ownership and viewing rights to see if there were any challenges. There weren’t. It must have been quite obscure.

“It was a painfully laborious process and in real-world costs, entire forests were given over to these methods. Businesses made money off of them. Government sponsored storage facilities kept entire buildings full of them.” She searched. “Ah. Libraries, they were called. Like our file systems.”

Adam was already bored. He hated shopping with his mother.

She went on. “It’s a form of meditation in some of the enclaves to read them. Taking in information that slowly is like eating a great meal over the course of days. Flashing a book in seconds still gives you the same comprehension but it’s not the same. Actually reading, using your meat mind, well, some of them say they feel connected to our ancestors by reading this way.”

She had to admit to herself that it sounded boring. But she’d never tried it. She turned it over in her hands like a curious animal inspecting a possible trap.

The shopkeeper came over with the sharkbeef. “Here you go, Miss. Creds received. Ah, I see you’ve found something interesting.” He said, friendly eyebrows waggling at the book.

“Thank you Jake. How much for this, uh, book?” she asked.

“Take it.” Jake replied. “Bring it back if you don’t like it.”

Adam sighed theatrically. Kay tucked the book into her bag.

“Okay, let’s go, kiddo. Your birthday dinner awaits. Thanks, Jake!” she said.

Tonight she would read in the bath like her grandmothers did. She was looking forward to it.


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