The Death of Knowing

December 29, 2011
The blood spilt out onto the pavement, staining the black surface red. Blood ran out of her scraped chest, her slit throat, and her gaping mouth. No one stopped to look, though.

The butcher continued arguing loudly with his customer about the price of a pound of beef. The businesswoman continued to chat idly on her cell phone, drawing up sales profits on her laptop. A lone educator sat at an outdoor café, staring into his coffee cup. No one saw her.

The life bled out of the girl, light retreating from her eyes slowly. Her hair matted and tangled in her own blood.

A future doctor and current student stepped delicately over the body, not even noticing whom it was. She wished they would clean the filth off the streets; it made the city look poor and run down.

The teacher left his seat, intending to pay for his drink. Unwillingly, he cast his eye over the girl and turned away quickly. His coffee fell out of his hand, splattering onto the sidewalk and spoiling the businesswoman’s new leather shoes. The CEO shot him a dirty look.

All thoughts of paying escaped the teacher's mind. Moaning, he staggered away from the café and broke into a run.

The image wouldn't leave.

Her innocent eyes wide and pleading… Run.

Her white shirt stained with blood… Faster.

Her books still clutched at her side… Run.

His legs burned from the effort, but he finally reached his apartment. Quickly, he whipped open the door, activating thirteen locks as he slammed it shut. He hadn’t signed up for this.

His mind burned with the image. Drunkenly, he stumbled into the shower, turning the cold water on.

White pages tainted with vile red… He fell hard into the cold wall. Even it could not block out the memories, though.

Braleyn Hasley raised her hand slowly, her brown eyes looking expectantly at him. He didn’t know why she was waiting. The dismissal bell had rung and all the other students had already vacated the premises. But she was still there.

“Yes?” he asked, turning from the chalkboard.

The girl bit her lip uncertainly. “Teacher, why is it we no longer read books?”

The educator’s jaw tightened. It was not a question he was supposed to answer by order of The Administration. He spared a glance at the security camera, now deactivated for repairs. He looked back at the girl, who still gazed up at him curiously.

“My mother and grandfather always tell me about books and writing,” she said anxiously. “What are they?”

He seated himself at his desk. She was in high school, a half a year away from graduating. He grimaced. She deserved to know.

He proceeded to tell her about the new administration emplaced nineteen years ago, before she was born, and when he himself was only a teenager.

“Books are not outlawed; though, their usage is highly discouraged,” he concluded. He winced, remembering some of his friends who openly used such scandalous things in their teaching methods. They had disappeared nine months ago.

She looked at him, awed. The silence was tense in the room, and, despite himself, the teacher glanced up at the camera. He should not have told her.

“I want to read,” the girl whispered. “I want to write.”

The educator looked back at her, surprised by her quiet determination.

“Will you teach me?’

Hesitatingly, the teacher nodded. It was in his silent oaths as an educator to teach. And he would.

The secret, nightly meetings began a month later, taking place in his apartment. The girl had insisted on it there. She had argued that her father was a policeman, a government official. Her aunt was equally conservative about books. Besides, she had said, he had all the books anyway. Grudgingly, the educator had agreed.

How many times had she sat, patiently listening to him at his kitchen counter?

He slid further down the shower wall, stomach twisting. He let out a sobbing moan.

Oh God, what had he done?

Her face beaten and bruised…

Her hair matted and twisted…

White turned red…

His stomach lurched. And nobody had noticed. They had all passed by. She had merely been another exhibition of the dangers of learning and knowing too much.

The educator scrubbed his mouth vigorously and left the bathroom, the water still pounding in the shower.

He averted his eyes from the pile of books, half covered by a blanket in the corner of the room. He vowed to burn them that night.

Her eyes glassy and unseeing…

Her lips parted slightly, unmoving…

Her chest painfully still…

The educator shook his head, pouring himself a large glass of wine. He didn't bother to water it down, as he usually did. He downed the liquid in one gulp.

Fingers wrapped around novels…

Clothes torn and muddied…

Red smeared on black…

Another glass disappeared. Many more followed it. Finally, the bottle ran out and the teacher staggered, drunken, over to his couch.

His couch. Where she had spent so much time laughing and learning.

His couch. Where she had laid her eyes on her first printed text.

His couch. Where she would no longer sit.

He groaned. Even in drunken stupor, the image would not leave. He broke out another glass.

The books disappeared into the flames, fire devouring them rapidly. The pages blackened and turned to ash.

Her face, lit with eagerness…

Her eyes, so starved for knowledge…

Her voice, never failing to fill the silence…

A soft moan drowned out the crackling of the fire.

The educator buried his face in his hands.

Join the Discussion

This article has 13 comments. Post your own now!

AlwaysAbditive said...
Aug. 13, 2012 at 9:11 am
I really enjoy this piece. It's very interesting. It just reminds me a lot of the one novel, Farenheit 451, I believe. I really like your imagery and where the story was going. Also, your attention getter was outstanding. The only thing I didn't like was your ... use. I didn't like it at all. It wasn't sophisticated enough and I think it just messed up the story. You only use an elipses to draw out a very dramatic part and you can only use it so many times before it loses its mea... (more »)
Lacer said...
May 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

You have good context, a semi-common theme, and you control your characters thoughts. Your syntax is excellent, yoru action isn't too rushed, but some details are a little stilted...

You need better transition between the teachers dream and reality, use asteriks, or italics or something better distinguishing. You describe your scenes well, which is good, and helped me catch on to the transition, but that little fix would still be good.

However, the theme is confused. At first, w... (more »)

Allicat001 said...
Apr. 13, 2012 at 11:20 am
Absolutely amazing!  You did an awesome job with putting details in your story, keep it up!
NinjaMonster123 said...
Mar. 17, 2012 at 11:02 am
Wow, that's really GOOD! I love the details you put in!
beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm
The imagery used was fantastic. I could picture the story along as I read to myself. What a world this would be without the knowledge of books---their existence is so important. I wouldn't want to live in that world. This had sort of a futuristic vibe to it. I could imagine this all happening in a place/setting such as V for Vendetta and Minority Report or from the book The Hunger Games(can't wait for the movie!). Anyways great job~
Tatiel said...
Mar. 5, 2012 at 6:45 am
Wowwwww. I love this! It reminds me of Farenheit 451. =) I love how you don't tell your readers everything right up front, and leave them guessing as to who the girl is and why the sight of her causes the teacher to run. Your last sentence is very good. =D
Artemisia said...
Mar. 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm
Wow: I'm completely in awe after reading this. It's such a unique concept, and you carried it off so well. This is a really interesting world you've created, where reading is outlawed. Such a creative idea! I think you did a really fantastic job on this.
Artemisia said...
Mar. 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm
Wow: I'm completely in awe after reading this. It's such a unique concept, and you carried it off so well. This is a really interesting world you've created, where reading is outlawed. Such a creative idea! I think you did a really fantastic job on this.
SteelJam said...
Feb. 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm
I love this! The first part kind of reminded me of the murder case of Kitty Genovese when she was killed while everyone saw, but no one called the police, but then as I read on I saw that it was so much deeper. I loved it! 5 out of 5 stars!
SmileyRayyn said...
Feb. 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm
That is amazing. I like the effect of the short sentences. At the beginning I was a little confused, but then after a little bit I understood why the teacher would be the one to run. This is actually the best-written work I've read on teenink in a really long time and I really like it. Awesome job and keep writing!
IntrepidRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm
Nice piece. The subject matter seems a little familiar, but it's well written. I like how you seperated the sentences into single lines. It gives off a nice effect as one reads.
SarasotaWonder said...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Wow! What great drama and rythmn to this....and plot! (You could really make a novel out of this if you wanted to....reminded me a tad of Farenheit 451) The only thing I noticed was that in the begining you used "blood" a lot...just a fyi. Though, right after the scene of the dying girl, I thought it transitioned really well with the butler.....and how he deals with blood too :)
ChampagneSun This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

This was fantastic! The suspense was just right. I loved how you slowly revealved what was happening over time. At first it seems like two seperate scenes: a dead/dying girl and a normal city street. Then you reveal they are the same scene, which for me as a reader obviously makes me wonder 1. who the girl is 2. why she is dead and most importantly 3. why is no one worried about the fact that there is a dead girl on the street.

Finishing this I really want to know what happens next! Wh... (more »)

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