Those Who Come After

Another rainy day when Reya Quinn found herself at the local library again. She drew in the black umbrella and took in the smell of aging paper, goosebumps rose on her arms, not from the chill, but from the nostalgia of of stories from decades ago and yesteryear. Each aisle, she would loosely draw her fingertips along the bindings, plastic and fabric, bound by machine or hand. Every so often she would stop, take a step back, and open a book with her black-painted fingernails. Skimming through the first chapter, she would make a decision – Was it worthy of reading, sitting down in a comfy chair in her favorite corner, and allowing the day to melt? Or, would it be placed back onto the shelf for another reader at another time?

Today was different. The thunderstorm just outside the window had turned the sky a dangerous green. The library, which was normally rather busy, was nearly desolate. The tables were bare, with the exception of one elder gentleman, three college-students, and a handful of middle-aged adults in a Book Club. Even the employees were scarce. A few people murmured something about the tornado and rushed back to their cars, disappearing behind a wall of rain.

Brave Reya found the weather, the lack of other people, and the silence comforting. Her routine began after her umbrella found the side of a comfortable armchair in the corner surrounded by windows and her lunchbox laid upon on the end table. Adjusting her black, pleated skirt, she sauntered to the nearest aisle and drifted back and forth, stopping here and there.

For some reason, she could not choose a story for the day. Nothing matches how I’m feeling. This book is too feisty. This book is too ‘romantic’. This one is too blasé. Too allegorical. Too fictional. Too…

“Wait,” she whispered to herself.

Something caught her eye. “What’s this doing back here?”

The oldest book that Reya had ever seen found it’s way into her hands. However, it was in excellent condition. As if it had never been touched. She had to remove half the books on the shelf in front to make enough space to remove the book without making a peep. When the last library book was on it’s shelf, she rushed over to her chair and studied every inch of it.

There was no title, no indication of an author. The front of the book did not have a dust jacket or date of publication. Nothing – or the lack of information – caught her intrigue. A familiar crackling filled her ears as she opened to the first page. It was nearly blank with the exception of one line. Two sentences.

To whom it may concern. Read at your own risk.

Deep down, her gut urged her to turn the page. Her heart began to race as she unknowingly turned to next page. A paragraph was all that was written.

This details the final days of Earth and all that transpired to it’s ultimate demise. My hope by sending these notes into the past, someone will carry on the message until the events begin. My only concern is how far in my past I send this. Be warned reader. What is contained in the text cannot be unread. You alone will be responsible for carrying the message in whatever way you see fit. But by doing nothing, you are only delaying the inevitable. You have my well wishesReya Quinn.

Reya looked around at the rest of the library. No one stirred. “This has to be a joke,” she mouthed. The next page turned and she felt herself literally being sucked into the parchment.

The next thing she knew, a somewhat familiar sight filled her gaze. Shards of moonlight fell on the grassy plain where she lay. The moon itself was no longer spherical, but blown to smaller, jagged chunks. Reya immediately knew that she was no longer in 2019. The book had literally brought her into the future. Somehow, someway. What had been filled with stories was now a binding of blank pages and a pen in her hand. Without actually knowing why she was there and for what purpose, she started down the hill and towards a city lit with lanterns and trash fires.

For six years, Reya Quinn recounted the downfall of the country and the world. What started as numerous civil wars expanded into the war to End All Times. Every country, every continent battled for survival. Nuclear wastelands decimated the Third World. When ammunition became scarce, iron mines and scrap metal were hoarded, mined, and melted. Livestock became a delicacy and rice with potatoes became a staple in food. Death was no longer a mysterious occurrence with funerals and wakes. It became an uncommon thing not to see at least a dozen each day. This brought disease which slowly drained humanity of it’s numbers… until we became a rarity… an antique.

Still, Reya pursued. In the past, she had nothing. After a while, she realized that the book she found in the library never had any content. It was meant to find her that day and meant to take her back to write it for another. She was the liaison between time and space to keep the world from it’s ultimate collapse… On October 16th, 2257 something in her gut said that the end was near. Her final day, she reminisced of the past.

I have had the pleasure of meeting wonderfully profound individuals working to rebuild what we have lost. Growing up, I had no idea that my role in life would be so pivotal, so filled with uncertainty. The scientists who have spent so much time healing illnesses I could never comprehend in that library two hundred years ago have given me one chance to go back. Myself or the book. But who would listen to a goth-girl claiming they were from the future? No. It must be the book. But it could not be found in a library by someone with the quiet voice of sheep among wolves. Whoever it is, must be of sane mind and faith that what is contained in the pages is truth.

My deepest love, Naomi, took liberty in sketching scenery that would be unmistakable evidence of what we see on a daily basis. Perhaps even some of the diseases that raid our people will be cured prior to this time. Reader, with the utmost haste, do not let us down. You may not be directly effected by the events of my today, but your future generations and your namesake will be. I understand that humanity is inherently selfish, but please do not succumb to the pitfalls of the primal brain. I beg of you, do not delay.

Now, I fear the end is near for the rest of us. Another force, somewhere outside our atmosphere is growing. We have had dealings with some foreign beings, but none who seemed to have any animosity for our measly existence. Deep down, I believe that we have been deceived. If I say my goodbyes today, I will feel that my work is done, but still hope for a tomorrow...

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