Human librarians, or "not every human is visually, vocally, or physically intimidating...or needs to be to be fearsome." -- Anon Guest
[AN: Have you met any librarians, Nonny? They only appear soft and weak. They lift tomes on the daily, have a vast knowledge of nearly everything, and a supernatural ability to put up with seventeen different kinds of horseshit at once. They are therefore minor gods.]
In a world of ignorance, a knowledgeable person is either king or crazy. In a world of disasters, a knowledgeable person can rise from the latter to become close to the former. Sometimes, both can happen at once.
Never mind what apocalypse occurred to lay this particular world - or part thereof - to waste. There are plenty to go around. Famine, disease, war, all of the above and the environment striking back against the slings and arrows of outrageously overblown industry... Or your generic judgment from an otherwise uninvolved deity. Take your pick. What's important is that the central structures have collapsed, and all the might-is-right, survival-of-the-fittest numbskulls have come out in force to attempt to predate upon the weak.
Like so many wannabe barbarians angry at institutions for ruling them and science for confusing them with facts, they sought out the edifices of both. The former seats of law and government quickly fell, but the libraries... The libraries were defended.
They might have been a handful. They might have been a collection of weak-bodied nerds. They might have been the usual victims of the wannabe barbarians just now learning that ammunition is not an infinite resource. What mattered was that while the might-is-right set were asserting their authority and shooting up everything they objected to, these people were preparing. They had cached the more important books with detailed instructions on how to farm, how to make things, and how to turn things into useful things. They had cached those important tomes well away from anything the alleged mighty might try to shoot. They had laid in supplies, true, but the most important part was that they had laid traps.
Pop-out spikes on the streets for the road warriors. Pits with more spikes in them for those prone to charging in without thinking. Walls with narrow slits so that those defending the temples of knowledge could take careful, sighted aim and gain one kill per missile. Those with more preparation time built massive fortifications, replete with other death traps like murder holes and moats.
Sooner or later, the knowledgeable had figured out, the warriors would realise that they needed knowledge. They could not plunder and pillage their way into the future of their dreams. In fact, the future of their dreams had very little future in it at all. Especially once they ran out of bullets to shoot, fuel to burn, and stores to raid. They could not hunt nor gather what they needed, and a vast majority of the alleged mighty poisoned themselves by accident during their first weeks of gathering and hunting. The majority of the survivors soon realised that hunting was harder than it looked, and 'spray and pray' was no tactic when one was down to one's last magazine and using all of it was doomed to render a potential meal into a fine, inedible mist.
Those who hoarded found things out like: fuel has an expiration date, machines break down, and clothing doesn't last forever.
It took them a few years, but they realised that they needed libraries.
This time, when they came, they came barefoot and scarred, barely clothed if they were clothed at all. Ragged and near to starving. They came unarmed, with their hands open in surrender. They came asking instead of demanding.
"What have you to offer in trade?" challenged the librarians and keepers of knowledge, armed with arrows and hot cauldrons.
The mighty conferred. Their knowhow with guns was limited and their ammunition gone. Their vehicles were rendered useless. The rations and hoardings of commercial goods had gone bad, if they had survived each others' predations. Vermin thrived on both them and in their compounds. They had nothing left that they valued, and then wondered what a librarian may value.
A spokesperson emerged. "We have nothing material," they said. "We have spent all our resources in useless fighting, but we have learned that this is wrong. We have hands to carry and help, we have legs to move things, and we have minds that are open to what you wish to teach us."
This caused many librarians to ease their drawstrings or tilt their cauldrons away from the edge. There was a series of signs and whispers.
"You will be watched," announced the head librarian. "If you slip back to your old ways, you will be marked and cast out to fend for yourself. You will pay the respect due to us as a student respects a teacher. You will not lay a hand on anyone without their permission. Do you accept these terms?"
It was accept, or die in the snow. They accepted.
They were lead past the fortifications, down through the empty library's shell, through the cellars and through some tunnels, to an underground rail that let them out into a new city made entirely by people who had thought things through. It was powered by the sun and the wind. Most buildings were made to work with the environment instead of fighting against it. Most buildings were covered in plants. The animals they raised roamed in large pastures and bicycles were the preferred mode of transit.
"Welcome to the liberal dystopia, people," said one of the librarians. "First up - everyone is getting a bath and a health check. It's routine to shave anyone who's got lice. If anyone has egg allergies, you're going to have to be tested for horse serum allergies. Those are currently our only options for vaccines. You'll have to be quarantined for two months anyway, just to be sure."
Another spoke up, "We mint our own money here for the sake of convenience, but everyone gets a standard base payment from Public Works. It's enough to pay for food and lodging with just a smidge left over for indulgences."
"Who pays for the medicine?" asked one of the mighty-brought-low.
"Oh, that's free," said a librarian. "Making people pay just to live is counter to human nature, counterintuitive to a healthy society, and just plain evil. We don't do that."
"Why?" asked the confused former mighty.
"Build the world you want to live in," said a librarian, gently leading them onwards. "This is ours. You've already seen what happens in yours."
If you have been truly wicked, they say, they let you tour Heaven before they send you to Hell. If you are willing to be redeemed, they let you stew in Hell before Heaven very kindly takes you in.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / pterwort]
If you like my stories, please Check out my blog and Follow me. Or share them with your friends!
Send me a prompt [64 remaining prompts!]