Year 820 p.a.
Aira had always been fascinated by the sky. When she was a child she would spend hours cloud watching and when the weather turned bad and the wind picked up she would cheer. Her fascination grew alongside her. As the years passed Aira became focused on one particular aspect of the sky, gravity. She would drop pebbles from the window, climb a ladder and jump down, all in the name of science. Looking back, Aira could pinpoint some milestones of her early childhood quite easily: when she was finally able to read a book without pictures and when she finally gained access to the library. She had spent countless days there, to the point where her parents started forcing her to go outside. But Aira found a way back to her books, to her notebooks and to her study. Because she needed to know more. Her fascination stayed with her, became a lifelong companion. Some people might have imaginary friends growing up, Aira had her lust for knowledge.
As she grew responsibilities started demanding more and more of her time and her parents insisted that she let them. She went to school, had a few friends and eventually got herself a job. She still lived at home, because why move to a place, where there's nobody to cook for you and nobody to do your laundry? No, adult life wasn't really for Aira, except it did come with some perks. Now that she had a job of her own, it meant she could decide for herself where to spend her free time. Aira went to the library of course, or when that wasn't possible she procured knowledge by other means. Her experiments had become more elaborate, but they allowed her to wrap her head around how things worked. The texts were so insufficient, but they were all she had. In school nobody had cared about the sky, the cloud nor about the gravity. Her teacher had said that as long as the sky didn't fall about their ears, he didn't care. And the sky never fell.
She was at her usual table, the one in the back by the corner, where the sun never shined too brightly. Stacks upon stacks of books were in front of her. She had read many of them before, but sometimes she enjoyed re-reading paragraphs or chapters at the whim of her mood. It helped just being surrounded by them. It was dark outside and the moons was emerging to claim their time in the sky. She enjoyed the exchange of the celestial orbs and took great care in never missing it. But the darkness also brought along the closing time of the library. It was a shame, because today was a special day. It was the half-annual day, where the library got a new shipment of books, scrolls and other writings. This meant that most of the stacks in front of her consisted of new books she had never read. It had been years since Aira had been prohibited to borrow books any longer. Somehow the librarian found her excuses for not returning the books inadequate, Aira herself felt it was a reasonable argument that the books should stay with her simply because she cared more about them. Because of this unreasonable rule, solemnly put in place for her annoyance, Aira had come to stay at the library as late as possible ever since.
She was still going over the new material, the shipment this time had been bigger than usual. She had smiled at the sight. Though the stacks remained bountiful, Aria got up yet again to go over the new books. New was a strong word, hardly any of them were new, in fact most was either scavenged or found forgotten in worn down buildings. Aira couldn't fathom who would leave books behind.
She caressed the backs of the new books, teeming with excitement at the treasure hunt, eying the titles carefully before continuing onwards. She hadn't looked over this bookcase yet, as the librarian hadn't finished putting them on display until an hour ago. Most were of no interest to her, but there was one which immediately piqued her attention. It was leather bound in a rough and primitive way, which was one of the characteristics that took it apart from the rest. Its backside had a symbol; no, a drawing of sorts, carved and coloured deep within the leather. It depicted a triangular animal of sorts with an additional shape which, judging by its placement, could only be the animal's tail.
"Rites and tales of the Followers of the Bird", she read out loud in a library-appropriate whisper. The title was written in rough letters with a tar-like substance. She took a closer look and realized it was painted on and covered the original title of the work, which had been carved in a fashion similar to the triangular animal.
Carefully Aira pulled out the book, it was thick like her elbow and heavier than it looked. She cradled it as she made her way back to her table. She couldn't wait. Gently she placed it on the table and dragged the lamp closer. The leather had been painted and coloured beautifully in detailed patterns of triangles, which reminded her of the symbol on the backside. The same title was painted on the front cover, but more elaborately as it had been enhanced with red. Aira drew in a deep breath and let it out before opening the book and turning onto the first page.
"This tome contains the holy insights, rememberings and rituals of the Followers of the Bird, the only ones to understand the secrets of flying", she read aloud softly. Flying. It was a myth, which she had encountered early in her search for knowledge. It had fascinated her so, because flying was said to be an act of defying gravity itself. She continued reading and without realizing the library started fading around her and she walked among the Followers of the Bird. They all wore customary robes, braided and crafted to look as plumage of the creatures they worshiped. Aira was just about to locate the chapter, which would contain all the Followers of the Bird knew about these flying creatures, when a voice said behind her:
"Miss we're closing now. I'll ask you to tidy up the space you've used and clear the premises", a stern voice said. It was the librarian who, besides his love for books, was simply devoted to rules. Through the years he and Aira had learned to tolerate one another.
"Of course, give me just a minute", with care she closed the book and gave it a little pet before picking up one of her stacks. Almost routinely Aira deposited and tucked away the books in their rightful spots, though it took her a bit longer with the new books. Little by little her table was cleared and tidied until only the bird tome remained. She could hear the squeaky shoes of the librarian closing in on the exit opposite of her tucked away corner table. Aira always brought her backpack with her, as this was where she kept her notes and writing equipment. The tome was too good to leave behind, they would be apart for too many hours. Aira made a rash decision and with a brief look over her shoulder, she shoved the leather-bound book into her bag as gently as she could. She hastily covered it in notes and papers before closing the bag carefully. She dangled her jacket over her bag to minimize its conspicuousness. She was ready to leave.
Turning on her heels, she saw the librarian eying the moon outside, tipping his shoes up and down impatiently.
"Coming", she called and took up a brisk pace. "Sorry about the wait", she said, in an effort the appease the librarian, so he would let her leave without a fuss.
"Don't let it happen again", he mumbled after her as he turned to lock and secure the inner door of the library building. She continued down the short hallway, which lead to the outside door. Aira stepped into the sharp night air, her spirit lightened by the burden in her backpack.
Aira didn't sleep that night but she managed to read a third of the tome.
She now knew all about birds, or at least as much as the Followers of the Bird knew, which turned out to be quite a bit. She had found out that a bird wasn't just one creature, as she first suspected, but rather a name for a special group of animals that could fly by commanding the air using their magical feathers. She was deeply fascinated by feathers and started to understand why the Followers sought to create plumage of their own. She still wasn't entirely sure how they managed to do so, but was determined to find out the following evening. Sadly now the sun was up, which Aira of course saw as a remarkable event, but it also meant she had to get up and go to work. Today, at least, she didn't have to worry about getting up in time.
Over the next couple of days Aira altered between reading, sleeping and working.
If it had been up to her she would have skipped the latter part and gone straight to reading, but her parents always nagged her about how important a stable income was and they would hardly leave her in peace if she didn't go, so she went. But when working her mind floated away as she dreamed herself capable of flying, and she forgot her purpose. It didn't bother her, but her boss seemed of a different opinion. Also her parents and sister seemed bothered, Aira wasn't sure why. She greeted them when she got home, politely asked how their day had been, inquired further if appropriate. Then she appeared when dinner was ready, ate until the plate was empty, thanked for the meal, cleaned her plate and then left. She saw nothing wrong with her behaviour, but her family seemed to think otherwise. Aira could have investigated why, but really only cared about the content of the tome. She felt it in her gut, in her bones and in her fingertips, the book was the answer she had been looking for. With it she would finally be able to overcome gravity.
Maybe the book would even serve as evidence in her agelong suspicion; that the gravity had been unstable once. Sure it was all myth and legends nowadays, nobody believed anymore. But Aira believed them, all the stories, every single one. She had gathered them alongside the knowledge she had uncovered. She could recite quite a few if anybody cared to listen. This was the sole reason for her interest in gravity. The thought of it once having been unstable made her giddy.
Aira started being late at work, she stayed up till dawn to read or until she collapsed. It made it hard to get up, made it hard to concentrate about the pointless tasks and made it hard to care. Looking back maybe that was her problem, maybe that's what caused her to get that slip of paper. Aira had owned many pieces of paper during her life, and still did, but this was a new one. It was formal looking, yet had a rushed and emotional feel to it, but the most remarkable thing about this piece of paper was the big lettering in red ink scribbled diagonally across: 'YOU'RE FIRED!' it read.
Aira wasn't sure the exclamation point was necessary, the capital letters carried the message sufficiently. Her parents got upset when she showed them, but Aira wasn't bothered by it.
After all now she had more time to read.
YOU ARE READING
The effect of gravityScience Fiction
A post apocalyptic short story collection aiming to explore how unstable gravity affects people through the centuries. The world as we know it ended when the gravity disappeared. Many years later the gravity has finally stabilized enough to only van...