Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Pass it.” Jez hisses at me.

“Shan’t. M’readin’.”

“Borrox!” Kate’s disbelievin’: “What it mean, then?”

Lookin’ over the page, I hunt for really long ‘uns: “This word is ‘mountain’. That one is ‘distance’.”

“Bloody ‘ell, you never said you could read!”

I shrug: “Not much. Word here, word there is all.”

“More’n us. You smart, Nev.”

Kate’s adorin’ gaze warms me. I could talk this up an’ get a night in her bedroll. As soon as I think it, I know it ain’t a right thought.

I grin: “An’ you lot still get taken easy. Can’t read a damn thing. Can point out a word an’ lie.”

Jez throws a book an’ I let it hit me, coz it’s not as hard as the disappointment in Kate’s eyes.

Reachin’ out, I touch her wrist: “Like it when you think good o’me. Wouldn’t be right to get closer usin’ lies.”

She smiles an’ offers me a big, floppy book: “Set this in the ashes. When the pages start to curl, light it.”

That’s what I like about her. She loves the silly stuff that don’t help at all, because she’s so damn good at the stuff that keeps us livin’.

Like here. She found this place. It’s at the end of an ice tunnel so long we thought it was only another wurm run. She says it’s a ‘lie-bree’: a place where they stored words so smart people could come an’ get smarter.

O’course, when the deep ice came after the warrin’ finished, there weren’t too many smart people left. People I’ve met only got three answers: smart people either died out in one o’ the wars, died out tryin’ to outsmart the cold, or they got did somethin’ real smart an’ somehow left us not-smart types behind.

Don’t really matter. They left a few good dens. Got enough fuel here for life an’ then some.