Once, in a future world where great metal trains ran underground in long snaking tubes that criss-crossed under the mass of the vast city above, something of great and small significance took place. One man saw: though it can’t be ascertained if any other citizen of the place took note. The city-world had reached a stage of insouciance, and citizens weren’t citizens at all — in the old-time sense of it all: citizens were dwellers of the caves they’d found, and every other soul had Medusa’s eyes.
Up above, in the constant throng, the city was a glass array of screens, and virtually every existence was not an existence of the space and time of the place itself: virtually everyone lived elsewhere, had their punch-drunk minds locked into other realms, such was the state of the state they were in. It was a sore world of small segments looked upon. No-one saw the sky. Life was millions of individual paving slabs wide.
Down below, in the catacombs of the tubes that writhed, one man saw an accidental sight that maybe wasn’t permitted any more: a woman sat locked into her own small segment still, opposite him as they trundled by and by and through and through, riding the central line core of the subterranean realm; yet her segment slice was lightly dusted with the gritty glitter of something wondrous but dangerous. She pushed a heavy finger along the insides of the object in her palms. Her lips moved, but it didn’t matter: the man was mesmerised.
Here was a deviant: a subvert who might easily be hauled away and flogged for her flagrant disregard of the modern ways. She held the thick, large object open and it was clear she’d had it for some time. No-one else saw, or chose to see: or, if they did, they didn’t seem to realise what it was she held. The man knew it as a book. It was real and crisp and loved and dense with words. There was paper still, after all. He wanted to reach out and touch it, have it, hide it away.
The woman scraped her hair behind an ear and kept her eyes down. What courage and naivety; what immersion and foolhardiness she showed. To think, a book, open and in full sight, even if in the tubes that writhed under the city mass above. Up there she surely wouldn’t dare. Down below, at least the dwellers of the caves might be dulled enough not to raise their neck hairs in fear. The man wiped the sweat from his forehead. He had to leave, yet he wanted to stay.
The doors slid apart and the fleshtide swept him out into the dank, warm, moist air. The woman and her paper book slipped away and into the dark. He wondered if she’d have time enough to hide her love, somewhere down the line. Out and up in the city mass, the heave of the modern future world swallowed him whole again. Down below, deep down where eyes can’t pry so well, or where thoughts don’t rush because of dullness, a real thick book exists: read in actual time and space.