READ THIS FIRST – 2

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I hope you had a good sleep. The bathroom’s in the basement. You’ll need to take the lift, which is just behind the armillary sphere. The water’s always warm – it uses hot springs or fault lines or something. I left you a towel down there.

I can still remember my first shower here, back when Dad brought us in. I hadn’t realised it was possible to feel so clean. There wasn’t any soap then, of course, but Mum found a recipe in one of the herbalist books in Section 615.3. There’s a couple of bars left of the last batch. Sorry about the smell – I burned the mint. But hey, soap!

There should be enough non-perishable food left in the kitchen for a couple of weeks, until you’ve found your feet. That’s just off the bathroom. I think the designers figured they’d put all the potentially leaky stuff at the bottom, so if there was an accident with the pipes it wouldn’t damage the Collection.

Oh, yeah, it’s a minor point but I’ve always thought of it as the contents is the Collection and the structure itself is The Collection. Powerful enough that it deserves both capital letters, right? I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who cares about that sort of thing.

Anyway, breakfast. Rohini will have whatever you’re having. If he hasn’t made an appearance yet, just leave some out on the table. He’ll find it. He’s probably watching you from a distance, deciding whether you’re safe. A lot of people aren’t, but I guess you already know that. I found him in a shanty-town somewhere in Uttarakhand. They’d kept him in this tiny cage and shaved him over and over to use his fur for warm clothes. So you’ll understand if he doesn’t immediately make friends with new people. Dad wanted to call him Dewey but I thought that was too easy.

You won’t know the Dewey Decimal System yet but it’s pretty important around here. Every subject has a numerical code, and the books are all marked with the appropriate one and filed together. Each class (each group of subjects which share the same first number, so everything religiony starts with a 2, for example) has it’s own floor in The Collection. So there’s ten floors of books (because 0 is a number, obviously) plus the DNA bank, the art gallery, the observatory, and the basement.

Dad used to make my sister and me recite the classes every morning over breakfast. He said if we knew our way around Dewey we could never get lost. I guess he was wrong about that. He was wrong about a lot of stuff, as it turned out.

By the way, if you’re wondering whether you’re going to trip over my corpse at some point, don’t worry. I don’t think that’s how it’ll go down. I know what’s coming for me and I don’t think they’ll do things that way. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, but I’m so tired of running. To be honest, it’s kind of a relief to stop. I’ve got time to finish the filing, write this up, maybe have a final bowl of blackberries if the harvest comes through before they get here.

I’m guessing you’ve never tasted blackberries. They’re the best food I’ve ever tried. Tiny clouds of silky skin that bulge against your tongue before bursting into mild sweetness, or tart sweetness, and always so fresh you can practically taste the sky. I bought Rohini for a carton of blackberries, actually.

The garden’s on the basement level too. Don’t ask how it grows down there, I don’t know. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I could never figure out the mechanics of. I guess it’s part of the tech we lost the knowledge of, from before the Cold. I can’t find it written up in the Collection. That always made me a bit nervous because, if it broke, I didn’t know how to fix it. But it never broke.

Anyway, go have a wander. I recommend taking a flask of water with you, and there’s a ball of red string in the kitchen to keep you from getting lost. It’s a big place and you don’t know Dewey yet.

rubus-leucodermin-drawing

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