November Writing Contest: “Graveyard” by Chelsea B.

Graveyard

By Chelsea B.

“What are you doing?” It was Andie. She was looking at me impatiently. Anyone else would keep going, not bothering to spare a glance around them as they ran towards the promise of a meal. Especially on days like this, when the pollution hung so low you could barely see your hand in front of you, every kid well enough to walk would be in the basements of ruins like this, getting a bowl of something we couldn’t identify from the few people left who still cared. “Aren’t you hungry?” It was a stupid question. Of course I was hungry. But I was also fascinated by the rows upon rows of shelves. The whole room smelled of something sweet and musky, so different than the smell of metal and rust and smoke. It was almost peaceful. I wondered if I could sleep here. “I’m looking at the books,” I said. I reached out, fingering the corner of one. It must have been the needle prick that broke the boil, because the spine split down the middle. I watched it fall to the floor, wondering how much of the dust was really just ashes. This library was full of corpses, left without a proper burial. I’d heard, once, though I couldn’t remember from where, that books were extraordinary. I’d heard that when a person read, it was like being lifted from the squalor of your own life and placed into someone else’s. Oh. Tim had said that. I remembered because I’d asked what squalor meant, and he’d said it meant that we were miserable, but people in books didn’t have to be. He knew how to read because he actually remembered his mother and father, and I guess they’d been important people. Teachers, or something, back when school was something people cared about. “Why are you so fascinated with these things?” Andie asked, and then coughed. “I think I would like reading,” I said, picking up another. I was gentler this time as I ran my hand over the embossed words on the cover. I couldn’t properly read, but I recognized an M, and a D, and a C. I knew those letters, at least. “All those words?” Andie said. “You’d get bored.” “I think I’d like to know lots of words,” I said. “Remember when Felicity told us about that well, how we shouldn’t drink the water from it? I bet she learned that from a book.” “I bet she doesn’t even know what a book is.” Andie pulled on my arm. The book tumbled from my grip, and fell to the floor, breaking with its brothers. “Come on. If we don’t hurry, we’ll only get scraps.” I knelt to the floor. The pages were still intact, and tucking the book under my arm gave me an oddly reassuring feeling. You never know what you can find in books, I thought, and followed Andie away, looking back at the shelves, and our footprints in the dust.

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