Isolation Island 3 - the Overseer
We walked outside. "This is the village," the Colonel said. He gestured to the surrounding circle of wooden buildings, all of them identical to the one we had left.
I recognised nothing. The place was strange to me. And yet ...
Although my memory was gone I still had words. The sun. I had seen it before, many times. Just not here.
Words. They came to me as if by magic. 'House'. 'Sun'. I knew them all and with them came a distant trace of memory, a hint, a taste, a flavour of my life before, but it was lost before I could register any detail.
Words were important I realised. I must seek out words.
"I'll introduce you to everyone in due course,” the Colonel said. “You can explore the island in your own time, there isn't much to see. We have The Farm to the North, and the Power Station to the East. But they can wait. This is the Mayor's house," he pointed to the hut opposite, then going left, "The grocery store ran by Wendy, then Sam Murrell, the Which Doctor.
"A witch doctor, like a Shaman?” Again, I found the words without knowing where they came from, or, in the case of Shaman, what they meant.
"No, we call him the Which Doctor because he gets his medical knowledge from the Which Book of Medical Ailments. He’s not trained you see, but he has a cupboard full of pills and delivers a pretty good glass of brandy if that's the medicine you need."
Pointing to the right of the Mayor's office this time, the Colonel continued the tour. “We have the hardware store, then Linda’s tailors, she sells clothes, linen, rugs. And finally, we have the library, which is where you'll be working."
None of the buildings were named or marked in any way, and all were identical to one another, so I made a careful mental note of which building was which. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by walking into the rug shop when I needed the doctor.
The Colonel led the way inside, without knocking I noticed, but then I suppose you don’t have to knock to use a library.
“This is the Overseer,” the Colonel said, introducing me to a young blonde woman with a big smile.
“Overseer?” I said.
“I'm also known as the Librarian”, she said, smiling even more. “I oversee the books and stories. You'll be working with me.”
“And what's my role going to be?”
“You're the Reader.”
“What's a Reader?”
“You read the stories.”
“Why do I need to read the stories?”
“Because a story isn't complete until it has a reader. A reader makes sense of a story, gives it meaning. The problem is, nowadays, everyone writes, but nobody reads.”
“Where do the stories come from?”
“People write them and post them on a website. You read them on the website and mark them as read.”
“Do I have to rank them or anything?”
“You can do. I used a five-star marking system. The really good stories I marked with a cherry so that other readers could find the best stories easily.”
“Did that help?”
“Not really. There are no other readers, so nobody needed my cherry-system. And nobody looked at my ratings.”
“And I guess that without a reader your ratings are nothing.”
She looked at me, as if expecting explanation.
The Colonel interjected. “I think young Terrence is making a joke. If stories are nothing without a reader, then your ratings are also nothing if nobody reads them.”
“I don't think they're nothing,” she said, taking offence. “I worked hard on my ratings.”
Great, piss off your new boss on your first morning. Good start.
“I didn't mean anything by it,” I said.
“Then why use words if they don't mean anything?” she said.
“Well, you two are going to get on fine, I can see that,” said the Colonel. “I should go, I have to keep lookout.”