Coffee Break Read – The Classics

By daylight, with sunshine streaming in through the high, narrow, windows, the room looked like something from the set of an exotic fantasy vidcast drama.
The bed itself, dominating most of one side with its intricately embroidered thick felt curtains and broad wooden pillars reaching up to a canopy above. The wide-mouthed hearth, edged round in coloured bricks and painted tiles, and the floor of polished boards, scattered over with thick, fleecy, rugs here and there. In one corner there was a carved screen, inlaid with parquetry and coloured stones and against the wall opposite the fireplace, was a magnificent shelving unit, carved and decorated. In the middle of the room, near enough to the fireplace to benefit from the heat, were two comfortable chairs.
There were incongruous touches though – as if someone tried to slip in reminders of the high-tech reality that lay out there beyond the sky. One of the chairs was a regular, cheap, office style recliner and the shelves held a diverse selection of odd items which were so out of place it was hard not to laugh. There was a broken vidcast device sitting proudly displayed next to the remains of some food packaging, which had been encased in a clear-sided display box to preserve it. Half of a remote link visor nestled beside the innards falling out of some hard screen unit. There was even a three-fingered prosthetic hand gripping the kind of disposable cup you’d get from any drink dispenser.
More demanding of her attention was the figure sitting in the recliner, holding a book and looking at her.
“Morning, Sweetpea. Blondie had to get up and see to some things with our host.”
“What is that?” She had to ask. The sight of Jaz with a book was the most incongruous thing in the room. Jaz held up the book and looked surprised as if he’d never seen it before.
“This, Sweetpea, is called a book. It’s a bit like a handheld fixed screen only the text isn’t interactive.”
Charis felt herself colour.
“Yes, I know that. I mean what book? Why are you -?”
Jaz swung the recliner upright.
“It’s one of a set of classics.” He gestured to the shelving unit where there were two shelves devoted to an odd assortment of books. “I think it’s a set called ‘Great classics of literature no one ever made into a vidcast because they were just too long and too dull’.”
She found it impossible not to smile at that.
“I didn’t think you’d be interested in those.”
Jaz gave a slight shrug and closed the book. “Not sure I am. But there is not a lot else to do so I think I’ll likely be really well educated in classic literature by the time we leave here. Guess at least I’ll be able to impress people with all the quotes.”
“Except no one else will have read them so they won’t know what the quotes are from.”
Jaz gave a brief laugh. “That’s too right.”

From A Walking Shadow the final volume in Haruspex Trilogy of Fortune’s Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook.

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