The next night after dinner, I went to the Maars’ quarters to clean Silas’s room. “I got it,” Silas said.
“You got what-“ I saw a book in his lap. It was a giant book, covered in pictures. I had seen pictures before, but they were in school. They were rare, we didn’t have the technology to make photographs anymore. The book said LIFE in large white letters. “Silas!” I cried. “What are you doing with that? You know you’ll get in trouble if they find out you have it!”
“No, I won’t,” he said. “They don’t even notice if we keep it hidden.”
“Books are rare!”
“No, they’re not,” he chuckled. “They’ve got a whole room full of books in the Elder’s wing. On shelves and stacked on top of each other in giant piles.”
“A whole room?” I repeated, trying to imagine it. “Is that where you got these?”
“Yeah,” he said, flipping through the book. “There’s thousands of books. Tens of thousands. Maybe even a hundred thousand!”
“You’re making that up,” I said.
He showed me a beautiful printed page. It had yellowed a bit, the edges were dog-eared. I felt a chill; I never was allowed to handle something as precious as a book before. I had learned to read by a chalkboard and it helped when there were directions painted on the walls of the laundry and the directions on the cooking cards. This was special and sacred, and Silas was letting me handle it like the bag of laundry I picked up every night. I looked at the page on the book: in the middle, a picture was in black and white of a group of women dressed in pantsuits, like the mechanics in our commune, standing by some large metal thing. They were grinning, proud, brandishing tools, not ashamed to be forced into wearing pants like the hard labor whores were forced to, their hair under colorful red patterned bandanas.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)
I blinked. “Real women in the militia?” I asked.
“Yeah. They used to have a militia with an entire department where they flew airplanes.”
“Airplanes are made-up.”
“They used to drop bombs on the enemies during wars. They’d blow up entire cities. And shoot each other down in air fights.”
“Men can’t fly,” I snorted.
“You’re making that up, you have not. It’s impossible!”
“They used to know how,” he said. “Papa says that there are people that still know. People go to places to get onto planes called aeroports. And the pilots would drive them across the world. You’ve never read a book, have you?”