Curious Margo – A Story Extract

The headmistress winced, and turned her eyes to her computer. ‘Margo Winston doesn’t show a willingness to learn. So I am afraid she will have to go.’

‘Margo go and sit outside. Straight away, no arguing! I need to have a discussion with your headmistress.’ Her mother barked.

Margo rolled her eyes and sat outside the school office. Three other teenagers were in wait too. One delivered her life story through a mobile. The second was quiet and pretended not to be noticed, yet his height prevented that. He was huge. The third boy was scruffy, with mud on his trousers. He kicked her shoe.

‘What were you caught for?’ He grinned and leant closer.

‘Being curious.’ She replied aptly, avoiding his eye.

Phone girl butted in. ‘What, bi-curious? Were you doing gay things in the classroom?!’

‘No,’ Margo said stubbornly. ‘I like asking questions about things. Lots of questions. Apparently stuff that’s already in the syllabus chip.’

‘Ah so you’re not a swallower? Last one I heard of got excluded.’ The scruffy one teased.

Margo bristled and straightened her uniform. ‘I hate putting the chips in my mouth. It just takes so long, and feels so clinical and plain. Where’s the thrill in literally digesting knowledge?’

The scruffy boy snorted. ‘Are you one of those weird hippies who actually wants to work to know stuff? I thought that movement was shat on years ago.’

‘Shut up.’ The tall boy raised his voice. His tone was strong enough to shut up the others. Margo smiled in gratitude. That same smiled fell off her face when her mother yanked her down the hallway.

‘I don’t know where all this disobedience has been coming from girl, but it has to STOP. If I hadn’t been a co-creator of the microsyllabus you would have been kicked out. You’ve been given a thirty-day trial period for school that you don’t deserve, and I demand that you behave in that time.’

Margo’s mum left, choosing not to drop a goodbye behind her. A hallway length of eyes was on Margo. She sulked her way to Chemistry download.

‘Please assume the seating arrangement and consume the ‘Alkanes’ microchip located on your desk. Remember, this is a silent download environment.’ Mr Croft said in his lifeless way.

Margo was walking to her desk when the tall boy from earlier bashed into her. The abrasion knocked her down on to the marble floor. The class sniggered. He apologised and grabbed her hand to pull her up. She felt a chip pass from his hand to hers.

‘Amir Clark. Be more careful next time, or I shall have to find an ‘Etiquette’ chip for you to download promptly.’ Mr Croft scowled at the boy. Amir nodded his apologies to the chorus of more laughter.

Margo read the title of the chip: For curious Margo. She was sceptical. It was whispered around the school that some boys hacked the syllabus chips, so some would fail exams. Was the one in her hand that type? Margo wasn’t fully sure, but Amir had been urgent in giving it to her. What did she have to lose? She sure as hell wasn’t going to download alkanes for an hour.

On the count of three, everyone (including Margo with the curious chip), placed them on their tongues and swallowed. The effect was immediate. Microchip downloads disabled any other action in the occupant. Margo’s classmates slumped forward in their chairs, eyes glazed over as the micro chemicals swam into their brains. Amir’s chip didn’t have that effect on her body, so she copied the behaviour of the others.

It was a micro-video. Amir was standing tall and proud in front of a black sheet. The quality fuzzed.

Congrats! Whoever you are, I have decided to trust you. You strike me as different… or at least odd enough not to fit to modern education standards. As Einstein may have put it, a fish forced to climb a tree. You are not a failure as you have been made to believe, but instead a success. You are a seed of resistance. In the micro-video, Amir drew the sheet away from behind him.

Margo gasped aloud. Mr Croft didn’t hear. She quickly returned to her slumping.

In the micro-video, Amir was standing in a room piled to the ceiling something. Margo couldn’t place a finger on their name. They were square and brimming with pages filled with writings.

These, my friends, are books. Built in them are the springs of joy, laughter – feeling. They kindle the very fires of learning. They should never have left us. Amir flicked through one of the books. Margo was mesmerised. She had to stop herself from wanting to reach out. You are going to help me bring them back. I will be waiting for you outside of the school Download Archive at the end of the day.

*

Margo sent a micro-video to her mum explaining why she wouldn’t be home for a few hours – the school had a “brilliant way of catching her up, by letting her attend afterschool download classes”. Whether her mum actually believed it, or just wanted to believe it was unknown.

Amir didn’t break his word. He grinned at her when she arrived.

‘Did a chip malfunction in my body or is this really happening?’ Margo said in awe. He politely asked her to avoid the topic for the moment until they were out of their town. Amir led her out of eyes and ears and deep into the old mines of the city. Margo was too curious to doubt his motives. They finally stopped in front of a metal door in the belly of the mines.

‘Margo, you must swear an oath that our location will remain a secret. That you will promise to protect the future of our books.’

Margo nodded and put a hand on her heart and repeated his words.

Amir nodded and then unbolted the door.

From their high vantage point, Margo could see labyrinths upon labyrinths of bookshelves. It was like nothing she had ever seen before. After a nod from Amir, Margo raced down the stairs and into her first ever library.

Margo’s eyes and mind both starved for knowledge. Amir laughed at her reaction, and led her to his favourites.

‘Music, Theatre, Art? None of these subjects are on the syllabus chip!’ She was shocked. Opening up these books was like eating someone else’s chocolate bar. Delicious, yet spiteful.

‘Schools hide from us a crystal cove of knowledge.’ Amir gestured to the library. Sadness ran across his face.‘They only teach us what will fit their narrow worldview so that we may “succeed”. Here, we’re free from that. You’re free from that. You will train to become part of the resistance Margo, and these are your weapons.’


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© 2017 Elizabeth Brown All Rights Reserved

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