Twenty-eight

46 6 8
                                                  

The Temple was warm and dry, noticeably different from the cool mist that lingered around the village outside. Its metal walls were simple and bare, with no adornments. The single, central chamber was large enough to host everyone in the settlement, with cushions positioned at intervals across the stone floor. The ceiling was high and tapered, while the wall opposite the entrance held the enormous knowledge board, with its single button positioned centrally just below.

Eva sat cross-legged on the floor, having pulled a cushion beneath her, and was busy playing a game with Erik. The boy being only six years old meant that it wasn't an especially difficult game for her, but she made sure to occasionally let him win. It involved a sequence of hand movements and claps, in synchronisation with the other player, until one risked breaking the pattern and 'attacking' the other. Erik was fast and energetic, as with all tiny people, but his aim was often amusingly poor. Eva tried not to take too much pleasure in outwitting a child. Still, he was already more coordinated than she ever had been at his age. Maybe when he got to fourteen he'd give her more of a challenge.

"Stop getting so excited," she said, laughing. "You make such a big deal out of it I always know what you're about to do."

He emitted a grunt of frustration. "It's so hard! I'm no good at this."

She ruffled his hair. "You're better than you were last week. All you need is practise."

"That's what you always say."

Even on a pleasant late-spring morning she liked coming to Temple, before anybody else was there and away from the village meetings. It was the hub of the tribe but she preferred it when it was just her and the bare walls. And occasionally Erik. Reaching out to the wall, she pressed the button with one finger. The board lit up, casting the room in a soft, white light.

"Have we unlocked anything new?"

The board displayed several symbols, representing different areas of knowledge: farming, hygiene, sociology, construction, language, cooking, medicine, astronomy, physics. Everything they'd ever needed to know. The telltale exclamation point was absent from any of the sections.

"Nothing today."

Erik huffed. "Not been anything new for year. A hundred twenty hundred years."

She smiled. "It's only been a few weeks."

"Wait, what?"

"It feels like ages because you're small."

"You're small."

"I'm short," she corrected. "You're small. A mini person." She looked up at the board. "You want to look at anything again?"

"Astronomy!" Erik shouted, pointing. The board responded, the other symbols fading away as the moon-and-stars enlarged. A simplistic representation of the solar system appeared, showing each of the planets. "Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune," he recounted.

"Are you reading that or doing it from memory?"

"Bit of both."

She squeezed his shoulder gently. "Well done, Erik. Which one do you want to learn about today?"

Erik narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips as he thought hard. "Ooh, I know," he said, "how about we do Earth?"

"We never do Earth!"

"Literally!"

The board responded, zooming to an image of the green and blue Earth, as it might look like from space. "Earth formed more than 4.5 billion years ago," the board said, its voice like a warm cup of tea. "It has a radius of over 6,000 kilometres and its gravity is 1g: the baseline for all relative gravitational measurements. Life first appeared four billion years ago, becoming multicellular around 1.5 billion years ago. For 174 million years dinosaurs were the dominant lifeforms, until the mass extinction 66 billion years ago. There have been multiple mass extinction events on Earth, as demonstrated by the fossil record."

No Adults AllowedWhere stories live. Discover now