Editor’s Note: The following conversation has been recreated and reordered from the original. Mr. Gordon’s penmanship, normally artfully crafted, rapidly became obviously rushed and illegible. Some lines were written vertically in the margins and have been pieced together in their intended order with great difficulty.
H: Believe me, I’ve wanted to do it since we left HQ.
B: Oh, don’t worry, Sergeant. You’ve made your feelings toward me quite clear. I hope I don’t have to remind you that shooting your expedition leader in the head is against policy.
H: Policy won’t mean shit to me if you go through with this.
B: For your sake, I’m going to assume that was a joke.
H: I thought I was making my feelings clear. Do I sound like I’m joking?
B: Look, you’re upset. Understandably. You were just like them, once. You can’t help but sympathize.
H: And you were born in a bunker, so what does that say about your perspective?
B: It says that I can remain objective. I can distance myself from the situation in order to do what’s best for everyone. You can’t.
H: Don’t serve me the same shit you’ve been pouring down Gordon’s throat. You’re only doing what’s best for Hermann Brandt.
B: You know, your file did say you lacked forward thinking, but on the bright side, it also said you were quite good at swearing,scowling, and slaughtering barbarians.
H: Alright, you goat fucker. How does this help them? They love this library and you want to take it from them so you can put up a museum piece with your name on it.
B: Yes. A museum piece that will serve as a constant reminder to our superiors that there is a perfectly literate, perfectly cooperative community waiting patiently for our aid.
H: And just how are you able to convince yourself that the regents will ever send aid this far out of Minervan territory? We don’t have even have a foothold in Western Europe
B: Yet. If we bring back Frank’s scans, that’s huge. For all of us, incidentally, not just me. We will all receive breathtaking promotions. You’re welcome. Byrnwood of course will likely be forgotten. However if we bring back something physical, something that wont just disappear into the Archives in a day, then we have a debt to these people that our superiors will be much more likely to repay.
H: That doesnt justify stealing
B: Ive been over this with Gordon its not stealing its
H: Borrowing I know. But theyll never have access to the archives. We cant get a signal all the way out here even if we built them a new settlement. what do you call it when you borrow something that you cant give back?
B: I will give back whatever I can if its just a more stable more comfortable life then thats what I’ll have to do. Im sure they wont mind losing their books if they have clean running water and solar powered lights
H: you keep saying if. if this and if that. the only one whose sure to profit here is you
B: and the rest of the team please dont forget that
H: these books are sacred to the people here. you cant take them just to secure a fucking promotion
B: most people tend to find the comforts of modern technology sacred as well
H: not Gordon
B: Gordon is irrelevant he will most likely die of radiation sickness before we even return to Krgyzstan
H: he knows the truth or at least hes suspicious
B: what truth? what did he say?
H: nothing its all in the way he looks at you.
B: if he knew that wed already scanned his entire library I very much doubt that he would keep that revelation to himself
H: and if he knew that you want to take his books just to make yourself look better to the regents and maybe leverage some of your false promises into real ones, he would kill you.
B: not as long as I have my faithful shield by my side
H: careful brandt, I just might let him
B: do you feel better now that you have that off your chest? can I get some sleep now weve got a long day ahead of us
H: I just want you to know Im not going to let you go through with this Im an expedition leader too
B: we have a majority vote sergeant. Frank and I
H: Frank rybell has no spine just stick your hand up his ass and hell dance any way you please
B: just because hes on my side and not yours does not make him a puppet I suggest you try to make him dance and see how he responds
H: well see how persuasive I can be but if your right about Frank I will still burn you when we get back
B: how? you are nothing more than an extravagant bodyguard. oculus has made Minerva what it is today so who do you think the regents will side with
H: I think theyll listen to the truth
B: they will listen to what I tell them and you will allow it for your own sake, for your team, for that little waif your getting so attached to and for all the people in this community.
H: not Gordon
B: Gordon is obsessed and possibly dangerous. If he threatens me or any member of our team I expect you to do your job. Sergeant?
This is the exact conversation as I heard it through the pipes. Now that Brandt and Hassan have returned to their camp and my hands have steadied I’ve added initials to indicate the speaker, though that may not be necessary. I hope you will be able to decrypt my writing, rushed and shaky as it is. You will need it in order to understand why I have done what I’ve done. You will need my entire journal. No one knows me as well as these twine-bound pages. Not even you. I have spent so many sleepless nights pouring out my mind and pressing it into shape. There are truths in this ink that I have never shared with anyone, and lies I have never told to anyone but myself.
You will think I am selfish and cruel and small-minded. You will wonder how a fool like me ever managed to fill up so many pages with just the contents of his brain. More likely you will scream out curses at me and beat at my corpse, if anything remains. I know what this will do to you, but I am going to do it just the same. This cruelty cuts both ways, but only one of us will have to live with the pain, and for that I am truly sorry.
I can’t let them take the books. They are not bargaining chips or museum pieces. One of the lies I fondly told myself was that written words were immortal. This lie gave me hope for a transcendent moment, a point where I could slough my disgusting shell and live eternal as a beautiful Voice. But the Voices are not eternal. They can outlive their Speakers by centuries, but they can be silenced. Ray Bradbury envisioned a nightmare future where books are burned and the creature comforts of Brandt’s false promises are revered. In that future, the Voices are nearly extinct, though the weakness of the flesh fills all corners of the globe. You did not care for Fahrenheit 451, but I want you to consider it for a moment. To burn a book is to martyr it. To kill a Voice is a symbolic gesture of incredible power. To lock away a Voice, to trivialize it and fossilize it in data is a far more terrible undeath than any other fate imaginable. If I understand Brandt correctly, my books have already been digitally copied, and there is nothing I can do about that. But the plastic people of Minerva will never Hear the Voices as we Hear them. This will make them Hear. The Scream of the bonfire will shake the sun and hide the dawn. It is a sound they will never forget.
You will wonder why I did not go to Hassan. You will think that we could have conceived a solution together. His conversation with Brandt proved his sympathy to us, after all. But he is no more interested in the Voices than Brandt. He cares only about the human injustice, and ultimately, he is bound by human conventions. He will not help me with what I must do. He may even try to stop me. Perhaps you would want that. I do not.
I wish I could continue writing and never stop, just write until my skull is empty and my head has collapsed in on itself. But I have work to do before the others begin to wake. I have to find a petrol can and a sharp dagger. I have to tuck this journal into your pack, along with a selection of your favorite books (I believe Something Wicked still resides there). Then I have to wake up Secretary Brandt.
You will hate me, and you will have every right. You will consider burning my Voice, and I would not stop you even if I could. You may never write again, but that would be the real tragedy. Because we have a common cause. We have shared so many experiences, and none compare to those cold musty days and late candlelit nights spent shaping the ink together. Nothing in my life has filled me with such pride and awe. I love you, Thalia, and if you will permit my love to thrive on this page and outlive my petty cruelty, perhaps you will understand why I did this. Perhaps you will feel this one genuine, inadequate attempt to express my love as the years pass and you keep this journal with you. Perhaps it will feel like your slender fingers closing over my weathered knuckles. Or it will remind you of the smell of melting candle wax and black ink in the firelight. I hope these memories are not too painful to bear. I want you to love them, as I do now. I want you to take them with you to a better life.
Editor’s Note: The following note was written in a child’s handwriting on Minervan stationary and folded into thirds, labeled on the outside with the name “K. Hassan,” and tucked inside the front cover of Mr. Gordon’s journal. It has been recreated in all its grammatical, spelling and typographical imperfections and placed here at the end, since it was obviously written after the events of the journal.
I dont now if I want to say thank you or sorry so Ill say em both. First thank you for takeing me with you. After wat happened I wanted to die. No resen to live. Dint care about anything that was left. But you took me and you dint haf to. this place is like out of a book. the peaple here treat me ok but I dont talk to enyone. I jest read the e-reader you give me. theres too many voices to ever read. Its amazeing. Secont Im sorry for wat Papa Julius did. Im sorry your face got burned. Im sorry I dint say none of this in person. Im not sorry about Brandt but I feel like I shoud be. I want you to hav Papa Juliuses journal. You can do wat you want with it. Put it in the archieves or watever. He thought it woudnt be too painful to keep but he was wrong. Come visit the senter somtime. I want to here more about Aegis
– And thus ends Mr. Gordon’s “Undying Voice.” I have done my best to corroborate the events detailed in the journal, but little first hand evidence remains. All of the members of the Byrnwood expedition have since died, and their is no record of a Thalia in any of Minerva’s archives. This journal, however, was a donation from Captain Hassan near the end of his life. He gave no history or explanation, but merely said that this record needed to be read. To the best of my knowledge, it was digitized, archived and promptly forgotten. After reading the record myself, I want to change that.