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The Death of Knowing
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.