This is my first week participating in the Indie Ink Writing Challenges. I challenged Wendryn and my challenge - the day you became unable to read or write - came from Katri. The prompt was hard and interesting at the same time and it forced me to go outside my comfort zone.
Nothing like this had ever happened before, at least not in any history that had been recorded. Maybe eons ago, a tribe of people woke up and their drawings on cave walls looked like gibberish, but as far as the world was concerned, this anomaly was never-seen-before-obviously-the-end-of-times-or-probably-just-dumb-luck. It wasn’t every day that the collective human race woke up one morning unable to read or write. Didn’t matter the language or your how smart you were – reading and writing was like advanced Physics for a liberal arts major.
“They’re saying it’s got to be a solar flare and everything should be fine in forty-eight hours,” one friend offered.
“I heard it’s permanent,” another said.
“Do you think we’ll forget how to talk next?” someone asked.
No one had a clue what was happening. The world was suddenly thrown into the type of chaos that was never accounted for in those History Channel apocalypse specials. It seemed that our teachers were right all those years they harped on us about learning how to read and write – it was important. After all, if you couldn’t read that “dead end” sign as you barreled down the road, you were screwed.
I flipped through the various television stations, intermittently stopping on the latest “breaking news” broadcast regarding “the Illiteracy Plague” running amuck around the world. It seemed the general consensus at the moment was that no one had any idea what was happening. Scientists couldn’t figure out a reason why an entire species would randomly wake up like this and they offered up hypotheses that ranged from massive-spread strokes to alien weapon. I couldn’t really blame them for the ridiculous. None of this made sense.
Last night I had been able to read. Last night, I had written in my journal before turning off the light and going to sleep. Routine acts that I took for granted until this morning when I couldn’t do either of those things. I tried. I ignored what my roommate told me and the news was broadcasting. I thought that I would be different. I was always the class bookworm and, after years of being used as derogatory term, it made me special. It meant that I was immune.
Except I wasn't. I was yet another victim of the Illiteracy Plague. I opened one of my favorite books and while I remembered the sentences, the words were unfamiliar. I couldn’t pick out words or sound them out and the pages jumbled together in a big mess of ink. I tried to write down a thought as it flittered through my head, but as much as I tried, a wall had gone up in my brain that I couldn’t get around. I knew what I wanted to say, remembered being able to do it, but had no idea how to get it back. I wanted my abilities back. I wondered if this was how some people lived every day and felt guilty for the assumptions I made about these people I didn’t know. I panicked and tried to bargain with God – just let me be able to read again and I’ll go to church every week. I became angry that no one seemed to know why this was happening or for how long and then it faded away to a dull sort of indifference.
I stared at the bookcases lining the walls and pictured never being able to read the words again or to get lost in imaginary worlds and cheer on fictional characters. It probably wouldn’t be the end of the world – despite how much we whine, we’re a pretty tough species – and humans would adapt, but things would always feel inadequate. I clung to the hope that it was temporary as some people were suggesting as I made mental lists of how much would change. How would I do my job? How would things get done? How would I learn new things? How, how, how?
This new world, temporary or not, was foreign and terrifying. I grieved for the comfort of what I knew as I turned the television off and shut my eyes. It will be okay. Everything will be okay. Life will be okay.
Except I wasn’t sure I believed that. Not yet, anyway.