In the year 3725, only the Readers practiced the ancient art of translating letter symbols into words. Centuries earlier, when all computers converted to telepathic function, recognizing the written word became unnecessary for the masses. But every ten years, an infant would be selected from each pod-group as a Reader In Training, or “Rit”, as they were commonly called.
It was an honor to be chosen as a Reader, Lissy reminded herself. Mom and Dad had been so proud to have a Reader in the family. The thought of her parents caused another outburst of sobs, choking their way out of Lissy’s chest.
She still couldn’t believe they were gone. Along with every other adult on this space galleon, they had fallen victim to a deadly virus, fatal to all those over twenty years of age. The disease had hit so quickly, there was no time to quarantine or research the virus. The devastation was complete in a matter of hours.
Their pod, consisting of the required 300 adults and their families, had volunteered to spearhead the colonization of Planet 237. They had left New Earth more than nine months ago, and were scheduled to reach their new home in just a few weeks. Now, here they were in deep space, with less than one hundred souls remaining on board, and all of them young, too young for the responsibility that was being laid upon their shoulders.
Someone was buzzing at the entrance to her family’s quarters. Wiping her cheeks with the tail of her shift, she squared her shoulders and opened the door.
“Lissy O’Connor?” A young officer stood uncomfortably at ease, hands behind his back.
“I’m Cameron. I mean, Captain.” He ducked his head. “Captain Cameron. May I come in?”
She motioned for him to enter and sit.
Obviously nervous, he began, “I..uh… This is not supposed to be me, talking to anybody as the captain of this ship, but...I’m the only officer left to take the job.” He ran his hand across the short hair on top of his head, then stared at her, a strange expression in his eyes. “I’m twenty.”
He continued, “You’re the oldest Rit we have. The only other one is six-year-old Jaden. So, it’s you, Lissy O’Connor. You are The Reader of the pod now.”
Lissy sat numbly as he briefed her on their situation.
She lay across the bed, cuddling her younger brother and sister who were sleeping soundly. She had known for a long time that the reading itself was not the only task that fell to The Reader. The pod counted on The Reader to be intuitive and wise, interpreting the words so that the correct meaning was applied. She was only sixteen and she knew she was not ready. Exhausted, she finally slept.
The artificial morning light grew brighter, rousing Lissy from her first restful sleep in a week. Careful not to wake her siblings, she slipped out of bed, got her favorite book and went into the living area.
She needed encouragement today. She needed to know that someone else had faced difficulties and sorrows, and had conquered them with courage and truth and sacrifice. This book had been stashed away in the rare volumes section of the Readers Library. Intrigued by its stories, she had requested her own copy. Now, she found the story she wanted toward the front of the book and began reading. This was the story of young Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery. Through all his calamities, he did what was right and he never gave up, no matter how dismal his circumstances.
She flipped on toward the back of the book, searching for the words from the man who sacrificed himself for everyone in the world. The man who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”*.
With a wisdom demanded by necessity, Lissy pondered the possibilities for the years ahead. The remainder of the pod, young as they were, were to proceed to Planet 237 where facilities and provisions awaited. For the next two years, the older teens would manage the colony alone. And she, Lissy O’Connor, would be their Reader. She accepted this as her destiny.
Then, a vision came to Lissy and she embraced it. In this new world, why couldn’t all people be readers? Yes! She would teach them. And she would begin with the stories from her favorite book.
* John 15:13, NASV
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