Day 2. He rode in silence. Forty miles an hour. The open car drove itself, allowing him to gape at the scenery.
So gorgeous. He knew now what breathtaking meant.
Although he’d eaten breakfast after an overnight stop, he snacked as he went. Nervousness.
Other people weren’t encountered. Only bots. They didn’t interact. Once this had been cities. New York. Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. As climate changed and space travel advanced, people departed the planet. Pockets of humanity remained. Some worked for the place he visited, the Great Earth Library. Built in the twenty-third century, trillions of books lined the high, massive shelves. Paperbacks and hardcover books were still being published on less advanced planets.
That’s where he came in.
The car slowed. He could have teleported to the location. Where’s the fun in that?
Turning right, the small vehicle approached a librarian station. The car hummed to a halt. A bot came out.
Stiffly he climbed from the car. Stretched. Picked up the packet from the other seat.
The bot said, “Merr Liu-Gardner?”
“We’ve been expecting you. Would you like to sign our guest book? It can be done digitally with your bios or cursive on paper. Many guests prefer the latter.”
“I’ll do cursive.” He picked up the pen. Bic. Blue ink.
A fresh page awaited. He flipped to the previous page. One entry, six years before. Ngato from Mars Station Five.
Smiling, he signed his name, dated it, and added his home, Cixin Outpost, Trisolaria. Despite that name, only one sun warmed his world. Three moons, though. One red. Two white. All beautiful.
His great-grandfather named the planet and led the colonizing expedition. He’d taught his grandson cursive writing, feeling it important to know. “Let’s not let the old knowledge die.”
Poul Liu-Gardner II handed the box to the robot. “My great-grandfather wrote and published these books. The Library was established after he died but Dad always thought the books deserved to be here. Two are non-fiction, a history of our world and another about our city. The other six are fiction.” He smiled. “Three murder mysteries and three thrillers.”
“I understand. Thank you for the gift. These are the first from your world. We will shelve and honor them.”
“I know. There are more books from my world in the car. I just wanted to personally deliver these.”
“Of course. We’ll unload them.”
“Feel free to walk the shelves and enjoy the books. You can remove them from the shelves and read them here, but they can’t be removed.”
Poul II watched the bot take the books away. Lost and empty-handed, he gazed up at books.
Deep breath. Sigh.
He’d smelled books before. Grandpa Poul had established a library. Of course. Today’s smell dizzied him. Maybe it was the sheer number of books. Perhaps it was the thoughts behind them, or the readers’ thoughts.
Probably all those things. Strolling among the shelves, he thought that he might write a book. He’d always thought about writing one. The desire now was an urgent weight.
Sitting on a bench, he drew out his pad. Opened it.
A blank screen waited.
He could type. Or use voice. Grandpa Poul always printed his first rough draft.
He didn’t have paper.
His fingers tapped.
Once in a Lifetime
The stranger from Trisolaria was a formidable presence.
Leave a Reply