IN THE LAND OF WORROMOT
To the one who knows it all, I salute you.
I admire you. I’m even jealous of you. (Don’t tell.) You should know that I used to be one of you. I used to understand the deepest threads of philosophy and the longest ribbons of words a voice can speak. Now my sister, born yesterday under skies blue enough, joins your ranks and I’m jealous of her, too, but please keep that just between us.
If I’m being completely honest, Worromot is hardly the kind of place for this. Our land is nothing extraordinary; we have no castles or canyons or people who can fly. There are exactly three stores in Worromot: one for produce, one for meats and one other for books, mostly about produce and meats. And as the sun rises or melts, those who live in Worromot busy themselves with their own cares, trying to ignore the backward journey of their minds. At least in this endeavor, they become more successful with the passing of time.
I once heard from my friend, Thistle – she was six then, so I believed – that somewhere, there’s a place where men and women understand more as they grow old. I’ve never seen such a thing, so I can’t confirm it, and I’m no longer able to know how that might work. Here in the land of Worromot, all people begin life just like my sister, knowing everything in the world there is to know, and then forgetting it little by little each day.
Because I was named leader of Worromot two months ago – the last leader, though stronger and taller than me, was no longer intelligent enough for the job – I get to spend my days in whatever manner suits me best.
Most go like this: In the morning, I visit the elderly, reading books to those who can no longer read and trying to teach letters to anyone who can’t remember how the curve in a “b” should go or which direction the swivel of an “s” should travel. At noon, I call a Council of the Infants, gathering together a group of the brightest six-month-olds Worromot has to offer. They inform me on the efficacy of my latest orders and decrees, sometimes making suggestions on how I should rule according to Socratic ideals. Then, I usually spend the rest of my day at the book shop.
Named Benson’s Books by a small handwritten sign above the door, the book shop sits at the edge of Worromot’s largest hill, and as far as I know it’s been there since forever. Maybe there’s some grand story about how the shop came to be and who Benson was but I don’t know it anymore.
I like the book shop because it’s made from old, quiet wood and its shelves contain even quieter books that smell of worn leather and smudgy, finger-turned pages. It’s also the only place in Worromot where knowledge isn’t some changeable collection of memories that withers with the wind. At Benson’s, understanding is frozen in time – even if it’s just wisdom about the best butchering methods for hogs or ways to properly grow corn from seed. I don’t care. Sometimes, I don’t even read the words on the pages. It doesn’t matter much what they have to say. Instead, I sit at a table near the ever-burning lantern in the center of the room (another Benson’s Books mystery), open some book – today Succulents in Springtime – and watch words on the page redden with the flickers of fiery life.
This afternoon, Scynthia Coddweather is next to me. She’s thirty – sixteen years my senior – but still fairly smart because she runs the shop and reads often. Her hair is always neatly brushed into a series of twists below her neck and she’s young enough to know she’s pretty without painting false colors to her face. Most days she doesn’t talk to me but I guessed she might now. With only one other reader in the shop, it’s possible she felt lonely.
“Hi, Henry,” she said plainly, no discernible streak of naiveté in her voice. Innocence typically arrives in full force around 60 years of age.
She said a few things more to me, simple pleasantries that I mostly ignored. Then I left Benson’s Books to meet my sister, who last night mentioned she knew how to slow our people’s minds from decay. We planned to meet just after her nap and diaper change, (her body was still that of someone newly born), because tomorrow she might not know.
As I passed our meat and produce stores, a familiar thought – the same one that huddles inside my head every late afternoon – escaped me: It’s a strange life I lead in the land of Worromot, but at least I’ll soon forget how very strange it is.