A New Detail

Updated: Jul 19

In the analytical mind of the echo-librarian Narro, there are two truths: the first truth being the people of the city Detail want, more than anything, to place their prying eyes on the sacred books of All Knowledge; the second truth, to Narro’s chagrin — as well as the detriment of his society-title — is that there are no such tomes on which one may place their eyes. If memory serves Narro correctly, and it does, since he is a keeper of such moments, there has not been a book seen nor written in all the city Detail for about a millennium. Within the city codex, there was one law in which citizens were to abide: thou shall not write. Should one even pretend to scribe literature was to commit an offense punishable by being tossed into a non-sleep-cage for an indiscriminate amount of time.
To not write was a line Narro constantly teetered on the brink of walking, as being an echo-librarian nudged the urge to write and thus narrate the memories which he beheld. Once, Narro witnessed the memory of a man — a zookeeper, maybe? — trying his damndest to coax this slender, muscular feline — somewhere Narro heard it referred to as a tom? A tiger? Or was it a tabby? It had stripes — into this giant plexiglass container so that other men could feed the monstrosity. The entire filthy memory was a barbaric recollection of events for Narro, with two of the men being devoured and whatnot, but what caught Narro’s attention was that in this particular reminiscence, just outside of the plexiglass enclosure that made the beasts’ home, the viewer of this memory caught a small glimpse of what appeared to Narro as a bookstand. A small wooden apparatus that held these unique paper oddities that people once recorded history, told stories, and gossiped through. Books.
But that was were the reminiscence ended and, per his job, Narro was required to file the memory away, adding it to the database under “Plausible Location for Unfound Publications”. On the tab of the file that read “location”, Narro simply put “San Dieo”. He thought back to the giant green — or maybe brown? No, that must have been rust, not color — definitely green sign he saw while walking through the man’s echo. The spelling for the location had been plastered onto that sign, but if he searched the location using his MindCord construct, the results would show nothing more than the building as it was now. Ruined, corroded, and decayed. He would have to go back into the man’s mind to locate the exact spelling of the location, and he shuddered at the thought of that barbaric cat.
“San Deio” would have to suffice.
The MindCord AI chimed in Narro’s ear. A gentle ding that resounded throughout Narro’s being.
“Echo-librarian Narro, the Resplendent Superior requests your audience.” the AI voice said. Oh. That was interesting. While it was true that Narro was excellent at his job, and while he knew he was, he had never quite captured the attention of his supervisors. Never mind the attention of the city Detail’s chief government officer. Sure, he had impressed his bosses. Occasionally. And yes, he’d even secured the locations of three dangerous, errant written works — which were promptly destroyed, per government regulation.
But never before had he been congratulated, or simply noticed, for doing that which librarians were meant for: the location of books.
The Resplendent Superior. Narro wondered what the man — or woman, she could be a woman — even looked like.
The AI voice chimed in his ear once again, polite yet urging. “Please make your way to the Resplendent Superior’s vocational chamber. But, before you do that, I recognize you are in need of a syncing, Narro.”
It was time for the download of his own memories into the MindCord’s cloud tethering unit. No one’s memories belonged solely to themselves. Not in the day and age of social over-sharing, and a government body with almost omnipresent and all-knowing technology. An echo-librarian most of all. Lest they be tempted by what they witness and perform poorly in their roles.
“Please, make your toward the nearest sync-evaluator for processing and a wellness check, then head to the vocational chambers of the Resplendent Superior.” the AI said, thus ending any further communication with his MindCord.
Narro arrived at the sync-evaluator’s office during the noonday rush, a time where hurried people would be in a hurry to sync themselves before returning to their respective places of work. Luckily for him, the process of a “sync” included a brief plug-in to the overarching tethering unit overseen by the evaluator, a process which took all of two minutes for most people. Narro himself would be escorted away from the lines and the crowds, put into a many-windowed, small light-blue room with nothing but a settee and a chair and, of course, a private MindCord tethering unit.
“Echo-librarian Narro! Good to see you!”
“And you as well, Sync-evaluator Brone!” said Narro.
The office Narro had hastily made his way to was that of his long-time associate, Sync-evaluator Brone. They had met each other during their time at the Institute, a time where budding, ignorant adolescents grow into budding, hopeful professionals. It was a time prior to the monotony and the strained repetition that life would eventually bestow upon the both of them.
At the time, Narro and Brone bonded over their love of the Classics: the study of branding one’s self using the MindCord. While the MindCord was not a new technology, branding yourself so that everyone might know who you are, was. An avenue within the MindCord had just been discovered, and it was open access to anyone’s and everyone’s innermost thoughts. Narro and Brone discovered they were both thinking the same lewd thought about the girl sitting in front of them.
“I take it the AI sent you?” Brone said, making a gesture for Narro to lie back on the settee. “You’re actually not due for a syncing for another two cycles.”
Sixty-two days. Narro thought the AI had sent him in a bit early. But no matter. A syncing was a syncing and was required to be done in time.
“Yes.” said Narro. Brone glanced up from Narro’s sync chart and furrowed his brow.
“Well, yes.”
“That’s it? You never hold information back.” said Brone.
Narro returned Brone’s quizzical stare. “Of course I do. We all do, but especially me.” Narro watched his friend as the man walked over to where he lay and unfastened the plug-in from the tethering unit.
“Being an echo-librarian, yes, I concede there are things you are unlikely to talk about, but this seems basic. I’m sure you could guess what’s going on.” said Brone.
Narro considered the man’s words. While Brone was correct in his consideration referring to Narro’s own society-title, he was also correct in saying that Narro rarely held information he could speak on. But because Narro was unsure what his meeting with the Resplendent Superior was about, he opted to keep the information regarding the meeting private.
“I could say, but I won’t.” And in Narro’s mind, that was that. Narro felt a small prick on the back of his neck and then heard a buzzing whir. Brone was plugging the tethering unit in.
“All right, well, let’s get started I suppose.” Brone sat down in the chair opposite Narro, without so much as a sound about the ending of that topic. Insightful, yet respectful of the boundaries of their friendship as ever. One thing Narro admired about Brone, and the reason they had remained familiar after all these years.
“To business then.” Narro said.
“How have you been handling your position?” asked Brone. Narro knew the routine and knew that this would be the first of five questions before the syncing began and he was released.
“Well enough. Nothing’s changed with my society-title, really. There haven’t been too many traumatic memories, and when there are, I’m emotionally removed enough from the incident that it is of little consequence on my psyche.”
“Good. What about work load? How are you handling that?”
“Again, well enough. I’m able to process and file away about eighty-three echos on any given day.” And with a small, self-appreciating grin, Narro added, “Most librarians only handle fifty-six echos.”
Brone mind-marked some things down on a translucent tablet in his hand. Narro was familiar with how the devices worked. You thought of a word or sentence, and it appeared on your synced device. A work-around for the entire ‘no-writing’ clause. Only problem was after a syncing all tablets wiped themselves.
“Good! Progress and effort our key traits that make our city perfect. Next question: how are you handling society?”
Question three. Narro’s least favorite question because his answer usually meant that he had to explain why he was not attempting to find a partner.
With slight annoyance in his tone, Narro answered, “Same as it was during the last sync.”
Brone stopped making his marking. Narro watched as Brone hurriedly stood up from his chair and walked over to the tethering unit, immediately pulling it from Narro’s neck. Narro breathed pained gasps as the unexpected disconnection from the MindCord’s cloud pierced his brain.
“What—” Narro tried to speak between aching pants — “was that?!”
“That, my friend, was you foolishly answering a question with little thought!”
Narro watched as Brone left the room and returned with a glass of water. He handed the water over. Narro snatched the glass and gulped down the water. Unplugging from a unit too fast could lead to headaches and if Narro did not consume enough liquid, this could certainly lead to that. Before Narro could request more, Brone was standing in front of him again with another cup.
“You need to be mindful of your words. Your position may not have changed, but sync-evaluators have.” Brone said.
Narro hesitated, too nervous to ask what Brone meant. ‘Changes’ meant nothing worth celebrating about. Civilization was too old, too set in its way. Whenever the government made a change, something — or someone — disappeared. Went in the way literature had.
“I can only delete that one part before my supervisor inquires, but please, be mindful of your speech.” Brone looked worried to Narro. Understandably so, if whatever changes that were taking place warranted Brone risking his society-title to warm him. Brone went to the tethering unit and plugged Narro back in.
A click, then a purr.
Brone sat back down. “Good! Progress and effort our key traits that make our city perfect. Next question: how are you handling society?”
Said as though not a beat had been missed. Narro thought through his answer. He figured he should make it sound as though he had put effort into finding a partner, although that would be an overstatement.
“I’ve tried to make connections, but I can’t seem to make further progress.” There. Clear, unassuming, and straight-forward.
“Echo-librarian Narro, let me remind you it is your duty to secure relational attachments. Please have a more acceptable answer upon our next syncing. Failure to do so will result in the appointment of your partner by the MindCord.” Brone made further mind-markings on his tablet.
What the hell? Appointment of a partner? This must be the recent change Brone spoke of…
“Last question.” said Brone.
Narro gulped nervously. Another recent change.
Brone said, “Well, not exactly a question. We’ll be syncing in together, and walking through a memory that you may have forgotten, or lost.”
Narro shot up from his position on the settee. The tethering cord yanked him back down, jarring Narro from the seat and placing him face down on the floor.
“Echo-librarian Narro,” Brone said, helping the startled man from the floor, “do not be alarmed by this new protocol. While only people with your designated society-title are qualified to walk through echos, the Resplendent Superior has recently deemed it necessary to teach sync-evaluators how to walk with echo-librarians through their own memories. For safety, of course.”
Narro did not know what to think, let alone say. Brone’s warning was the sole thought in his mind. So Narro said the only thing he could, “Safety. Of course.”
“Lay back down. Let’s do this together. As this is your first time, we’ll go through an easy echo.” Brone said, clearly trying to ease Narro.
“This is my first time using this technology,” Brone said, “but I assure you I know the theory well.”
Narro knew from his own experience setting up echos for surveillance that Brone only need to check the first few layers of his hippocampus to find a memory that would be, as Brone so eloquently put it, easy. Maybe they’d go through his memory of “San Deio” and that brutish black and orange cat.
A few clicks, and the tethering unit purred. The unit emitted a low-resolution grey light and vibrated. Gently at first, and then violently. The purr grew to a sound akin to a screech.
Narro knew the units were not supposed to do that.
“Uh oh…”
And Narro could ask what the hell it was his friend meant by that phrase. There was a loud pop! and Narro’s vision went black.
Narro awoke to his room — the one he’d slept in as a boy, back in a world where he still had his parents. He remembered that during this time in his life his father was campaigning to sit on the council for the city Detail, and his mother — well, she was just that, his mother. She was beautiful, like some old-time queen in a book he’d once seen in a memory. The most beautiful woman in the world — what was the book? Illiac? The Idyllic? The Iliad? Written by some poet with one name.
In the echo, his room was dark, save for a light turned on. A light Narro had hidden under his sheets to — what, read? In Narro’s hands — the boy echo of Narro, that is — was a book. An actual book!
There was a knock on his door. Narro cut the light, tossing the book under his pillow. Into the room entered his mother. That beauty of a woman.
“Na-na,” cooed the woman — and Narro, the adult, horrified at his younger self for liking the nickname, vomited in his mouth a bit — “you know you shouldn’t have that.”
A younger Narro, Na-Na, sighed.
“Mom, it was just one more page.” whined Na-na.
“No, not one more page. Your father and I shouldn’t even allow you to have those. We could get—”
A few clicks and a loud purr.
Another memory. One long forgotten.
Narro remembered he had hidden in the closet during this incident. This one comprised enforcement-guardians in his childhood home. They were clad in black kev-silk armor, leveling menacing looking firearms. His dad and mom were on their knees. His mom, weeping. His father was pleading with someone. A man, washed in gold silk robes with black sashes that swam down his shoulders. The sashes bore the insignia of the Resplendent Superior. A black dove bathed in fire.
A few clicks and a loud purr.
This time, Narro fought against the hands of the tethering unit that sought to pull him into another echo. He needed to see this. He needed to remember this.
Narro watched, safe from the echo, as his younger self did his best to contain any sobs and all snivels.
The man in gold directed the enforcement-guardians towards his parents. They dropped items at his parents’ feet. Books. His books. They pointed the weapons at the couple, fingers dangerously close to pulling the trigger.
Somehow, somewhere, Narro heard a sound that reminded him of a match being struck.
Then Narro saw the flames.
Little Na-na watched — helplessly — as his parents, along with his books, went up in flames.
Na-na’s skin went hot, and his vision turned white.
Narro was safe.
He’d forgotten that memory, and who wouldn’t?
But now, he remembered. And he had a meeting with the Resplendent Superior.
another few clicks and, at last, a loud purr.
Narro allowed himself — remembering, mourning, and seething — to be carried wherever the tethering unit went next.
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