Daily Prompt: The Cathedral

Daily Prompt: The Cathedral

I’ve had the world’s slowest week of writing. I.e., this is almost all I’ve written, all week, and it’s 686 words. That’s like 1/10 of my normal weekly wordcount.

From [community profile] dailyprompt: “preparing for change,” and “cathedral of data.” It’s misc. post-apoc, based on a Gehenna(*) cult idea I’ve had running in my head for 10 or 20 years.

They had built it, and they had come. The movie misquote was long past archaic by this point, but Tess still found herself thinking it when she stared out over the ramparts and towers of The Library. They had, before the disaster that had ruined their world, designed this place, built it and fortified it and stocked it.

It hadn’t been that they had known the disaster was coming, she assumed (fifteen years old when the world had collapsed, she hadn’t been consulted on the decades of preparation that had led to the library), so much as that they were, by their charter, always planning for change.

So they had built this, The Library, an academy, a town within walls, a cathedral of data. They had built a storage place for all of the knowledge of the world as they knew it, and done everything they could to keep it safe.

Sometimes Tess wondered what the Founders had been planning for. Change, of course. The entire mandate and charter of their foundation was “to prepare for the smoothest transition in times of change.” But that left open a whole realm of things, from a governmental shift of power to a world-ending cataclysm. Had they really expected this?

Expected or not, she could find no fault with their planning. Inside their fortress, they were safe, they were warm in winter and cool in summer, well-fed and well-clothed. Inside the Library, they educated generations of children and young adults, preserving knowledge that would otherwise have been lost, and, through their students, spreading that information across the continent. They had, for their small corner of the world, held off another Dark Age, through their vigilance and preparation.

The job, however, wasn’t over. There was no end point on the foundation’s charter, and the world did not stop changing just because most of the major governments had fallen. And Tess, who had been running the Library and the foundation for longer than she had been alive when the world had ended, who could barely remember what things had been like under a continent-spanning government, found herself second-guessing her predecessors’ plans.

She walked from the high wall down to the main hall of the library, nodding politely at the students as she went. In their comfortable, warm, wooly robes (the sheep and goats, too, lived within the fortress), they looked like a woodcut of medieval monks. And that, Tess believed, was the problem.

It wasn’t that the founders hadn’t planned well; their preparations were impeccable. Tess cringed to think of the billions of dollars, the thousands of man-hours, that had gone into the Library project, resources that the founders had had to burn, that she no longer had. They had built to last, and it had worked.

But what they had built, that was the problem. They had built a temple of knowledge, a chapel with the information of those-who-had-come-before as their god, and students came to worship it, to soak up the knowledge and spread the word of the founders far and wide. It staved off a Dark Age, yes, but what did it leave in its place?

Tess had a feeling, a vague one but supported by research, that there ought to be innovation. People ought to be striving to find new things, create new things, invent new things. People ought to be trying to do what had never been done before, and instead, they were simply retreading old ground. Stagnating. Not falling into barbarism, but not growing, either.

Maybe, she wondered, staring at her robed students, their pens scratching on their paper (both made here, as well as the ink) as they researched the work of long-dead scientists from long-destroyed places, maybe the purpose of a catastrophe was like winter for the trees: a chance to rest, a chance to reset. Maybe by fooling the order of things, the foundation had taken away a necessary step of human evolution.

And maybe they had just slowed it. Change was coming; Tess could feel it in her bones. It was their job to be prepared for it, that was all.

* Okay, “apocalypse.” Onceuponatime, when I played VampireLARP, E.Mc played a character in a Gehenna cult bloodline (Gehenna is the vampires’ end time in World of Darkness), so the phrase always wants to be Gehenna cult in my mind.

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22 Replies to “Daily Prompt: The Cathedral”

      1. I am intrigued. But it’s a story about a Library. Are we surprised? You still have to write more about the mysterious library on the college campus… which you wrote ages ago while working at the play right on the lake.

          1. It does! I bet you can transplant that library. You’ve also got a number of college stories from… World of Doors, was it? Some characters could maybe migrate?

          2. Okay, I guess I do need a Summer icon. What does she look like? I think the college stories were mostly Ninefold/Whatif. But they could easily migrate.

          3. It’s been long enough that I can’t remember. I know I skimmed through them during my Drakeathon dig in your archives, but I still can’t recall the setting. But yes, they seemed like they could move… I see Summer as a blond, myself. But that could be free-associating with beaches and summer highlights. She was very much not described in her stories.

          4. Since I see her as a blonde, too, that’s a good start. Of course, Winter has white hair in my mind… …four different da’s?

          5. Blonds and redheads can show up in one family – I had light blond hair as a child, and my sister is a redhead. But white is unusual. And what about Spring? Either four fathers (might work with two fathers) or possibly some magic involved…which fits the setting.

          6. Spring is probably a light auburn. I think Winter just went white really prematurely. Hedgehog!!

          7. Yes, Hedgehog! Genes, and sometimes life experiences determine when one goes white. That would work! I do like the four of them.

        1. Wasn’t impossible, no. But in this case, they’re not. Thessaly the mermaid isn’t bright enough for this job.

  1. Intriguing setting and character(s) and I love the discomfort of stagnant knowledge vs learning and innovation. The students’ pens on paper make me want to grab a pen (a real fountain pen! Brown or green ink, of course…) and find some real paper to write on. Then I’d only have to work out what to write, of course. I do seem to write more fluently on a keyboard, these days.

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