There was a time I needed those books, depended on them, used them. Before everything ended, burned to the ground, turned to ash. “You work for something, fight for it, build it, protect it, grow it.” I remembered the lost nights, tearing the contents of the books apart. How TCP/IP worked. Securing data files generated by applications using libssh to encrypt them in memory, before storing them to files. How to configure network firewalls using iptables, and when to use a whitelist or a blacklist.
And in one day, it all ended.
I hadn’t touched those books in over five years, and I knew I’d never touch them again. They’d been collecting dust on my bookshelves all that time. Once, I’d had a use for them, needed them. They were part of how I survived in my job, the work I once did. The work I’d loved so much.
Until the day everything burned.
A simple sentence, “They don’t want you to come back.” That’s all it took. That was the end of everything. People I’d worked with for over a decade were gone when those words were spoken. The fires erupted that day, I couldn’t think, couldn’t talk, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t focus on anything. It was like creeping along the edge of a cliff, knowing one slip would send me plummeting to the ground, hundreds or thousands of feet below. One slip, and I was dead. Creeping on the edge of that cliff, all I could do was watch the fire burn. And pray. Pray it didn’t reach me, it stopped, and left me a strip of ground, bare rock, by the cliff.
A few days later, I knew the fire wouldn’t stop, with another simple sentence, “No contact with any of the people you worked with.” I was in free-fall, the fire pushed me off the edge.
I’d put every book on a shelf. And never touched them for five years.
Until now. The first time I’d put a fire in the fireplace. It had been expensive, we’d had to have a chimney sweep out to clean it. We had to put in a grate, and screen, and add tools, then buy a cord of wood.
She’d gone to work, like she always did. I had Wednesdays off, didn’t work. It was snowing outside, the weather report said the temperature was in the teens. “Stay inside if you can.” I could.
That’s when I decided to do something about the books from the life I’d had. The leftovers. I’d gone outside, got some wood, and started a fire. And I watched the books burn, one book at a time.
And finally, I was free.
I wrote this for #FlashMobWrites 1×38, hosted by Ruth Long and Cara Michaels. Please, go read all the stories for #FlashMobWrites 1×38. You might find something you like. But if you don’t read them, how will you ever know?