This is just a teaser to begin with (though it is the actual opening section), but I’m too excited not to put something up🙂
Bibliotek: Nanograph Zero
No one had been down the hole since Hazmats’d poured their concrete over the contaminate some twenty years ago. No one else would have dared. Under her inflatable bubble helmet, Julia didn’t want to think about what the ‘crete-eating bacterium she’d pumped over the seal could do to her lungs. So she carefully eased herself down the tunnel. Best to be safe, she didn’t want any tears as she rappelled along her newly made, curiously organic tunnel. The bacterium had left nothing but a smooth drop.
She was following a tip from her data miner; they hoped that whatever might be down there was still live. There’d been other digs, on other sites, and some successes—but nothing like an undiscovered strain. Under the feet of these Parisians might be the most powerful organic since Acid. A whole new form of Inspiration. But not since she’d picked up one of the long lost Footnotes from an old Kremlin bunker had it been this difficult.
The usual halogens were too strong for this work, so she went in with just her own eyes and an IR sensitive film over the bubble. As she entered, the slow goo of masticated ‘crete gave way to a warm, false-colour room. There was something still live. She could see it, in the crumbling walls of warm, soft yellows and red, where the organics ate into the stacked pads of cellulite. The old library was now just a bioreactor of paper and mold. That’s what she’d broken past the security for, what her employers wanted.
There were no titles or authors there, nothing she could read anyway. Low light and heat vision only showed Julia the extent of the horde—reading it no more than she’d read the yeast in bread. From a precariously shifted shelf, she took a bound, stupidly huffing at it—though all her lungs got was the pale smell of recyc’d air. Good. She didn’t want to be exposed.
She wasn’t an addict herself. Not addicted to the bounds; to the chemistry of them. She laughed wet exhalation into her mask! It’s what she’d always sold; if only she had known it. Molds and spores which had grown in and around particular collections, bred amongst centuries of reader discernment. That provoked the accentuated ‘enlightenment’ of reading, and that had so neatly explained the addiction of bibliophilia. What had made it worse for those who had an inclination to write.
Thanks to the publishing Houses and Librarians locking up all the bounds, those classic highs had since truly gone underground. And that opened up a new career for Julia. Selling the drug distilled from it was part chemistry, and part storytelling. Text and mold literally informing the other; histories came alive, and science sparked whilst huffing from a moldy cloth. The genres of Inspiration had to be taken with certain text, or would not be satisfied.
In this old tomb, the infestation had taken root in the histories, and spread out to the literature section… to the world’s first, true collection of the ‘new’. The French novelle. After that it had taken the whole of the twentieth century to tell that there was something wrong with the rabid desire for narrative which had grown around the collection. Even then in the millennium, the authorities had only covered it up. Not until the call had come through from her miner, Clinton, had anyone thought more of it.
By Paul McLaughlan
Historiated decorative initial capital letter N in Blue , Reed, Sue Welsh & Wallace, Richard: “Italian Etchers of the Renaissance & Baroque” (1989)