“Starting from scratch.” (Part Three)

Headhabit Ceo often said: “The Words you copy here will one day travel far beyond the walls of the Monkery and enlighten many of those who are left. One day Words will once again work their way into people’s hearts. Civilisation as it was will return, and that will be good.”

Why will it be good, Theo wondered. Why would anyone want to go back to the way things used to be, just to risk having the same horrors happen again? Not only that, how on earth would people not brought up in the Monkery understand the old language in which the books were written. Inglesh was difficult, even for Theo.

It was tempting to risk everything in the Wilderness, to forget the endless copying of the Words and take a chance Out There. But Theo knew Augusta was right. And he knew he would never be brave enough to risk escaping. There were stories of students – boys and girls both – who had broken out and whose broken bodies had been returned to the Monkery.

Theo sighed, wishing he hadn’t been so attentive and obedient in lesson-time and, as his teachers had told him, so gifted in Inglesh and quillship. In recognition of his superior skills Theo had recently been entrusted with copying the Big Book.

Only a handful of students received this honour. Augusta was jealous, although she would never admit it. The Big Book was the longest in their whole small library and one copy took at least a year to complete. With such a long and important work any mistake in the copying was a bigger disaster than usual.

Headhabit Ceo personally checked each copy before the individual pages were bound together. Mistakes, however small, meant that both sides of a whole page had to be done all over again.

But who really knew how many errors had been made in the centuries since the last printed copy of the Big Book had ceased to exist? This was another question Theo often asked himself.

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