[AN] Just so you know, this was a assignment for my English 101 course. It tried to do what i could with it, with its limits. It was supposed to be a maximum of 6 pages, but I ended up doing 8. Oh well! Anyway, I hope you like it!
The ash from the bomb came down like snow, falling, falling upon the ground into my eyes and hair. It felt dirty, unsanitary like smog or acid rain. My eyes stung and my throat burned. The black snow stuck to my clothes and smelled of putrid waste. It wouldn't leave my senses. It was everywhere, polluting ever part of the world around me that it could touch.
The world as I once knew it was charred beyond recognition. Like bodies I had once seen, burned to a crisp like burgers that had sat too long on a barbecue.
Yet, after it all, the incident reminded me of what Dr. Simmons had said, about the Phoenix. The bird burnt itself up every hundred years—silly bird! I wondered what it looked like afterward. Was it like those people I'd seen so long ago, burnt, charred, deformed? Or was it like the ashes that currently consumed everything? He did say they sprang out from them…?
Ash continuously rained down in front of us, surrounding us, swallowing us in its suffocating embrace. I detested it.
Gazing beyond the falling particles, I could partially see my traveling companions. Granger was in front of us all; with Dr. Simmons behind him. And the Professor and Reverend lagged slightly behind.
It stunned me how they so easily accepted me into their fold. I was an outsider, a stranger to them and their ways. I didn't think as they did…or even feel as they did. They were so passionate, and I…I could barely feel a shred of loss for my poor, stupid wife…
Erasing such thoughts, I let my mind wander to other things. My eyes saw little but the dark flakes of destruction. However, far in the distance, there was a form, crumpled and decaying; my former home loomed dauntingly.
It was then that I understood that the life I once knew was over. I'd known this, but I supposed I'd never really admitted it to myself. I wasn't able to quite accept the fact either. I so badly wanted to return to the past, to my life with Mildred and Beatty. I so badly wanted to return home from work and see my wife swathed by silver sheets and listening to the wire through the SeaShells. I wanted normality, not this insanity. But, I knew all too well that my former life would not return to me.
Everything, the Walls, the Family—gone! My wife, Beatty, the firehouse, even the hound; it was nothing but cinder and ash, ash which was falling down upon me and my companions as we walked.
It disgusted me; it even disturbed me. I was covered by ash that was once the society I lived in; was once people and things that lived and breathed.
Hate grew in my heart then. I hated the world, I hated myself, but most importantly, I hated what had made all of these changes. I hated books.
"Why do you worry so Guy?" Granger said. He had stopped and was currently staring at me with a gaze filled with worry and concern.
Such…emotion struck me as odd. I had never experienced any type of care in my life. My parents…my parents…? I couldn't even remember them. I knew I had them, just like any other person. I was not artificially made. But still, I could not even summon a memory of them….
I knew though, that they had not cared. They had never ever cared. And because of that, the emotion I currently saw within Granger's eyes didn't make sense.
Clarisse…the silly girl, she might have felt something like Granger did, but she had been just a child—an eccentric, if silly child. She did not to know the ways of the world as we adults do. So such things were expected from a child, but not an adult…not a man.
Nevertheless, I was not used to seeing such things. It was awkward as much as it was disconcerting. Granger was a man—a grown individual. Why would he feel anything for me? There was no reason for him to do so.
"I—I am fine." I told him.
Granger smiled. It was a sad smile. "Always remember Guy," he said, his voice briefly wavering with indecision. "Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. You must always hope. Setbacks always happen but you must not let them become an obstacle you can't get around. Everything can be overcome; nothing can permanently stand in your way."
Granger's words startled me. I stared at him, absorbing the advice. I didn't understand it all, but I could grasp the basics.
Without another word, we continued walking. I found myself lost in my own mind. Nothing in my thoughts was pleasant, past or present.
When we stopped for the night, I could not help myself from asking: "Why do you accept me?"
My question didn't seem to disturb the others. They seemed to understand my confusion.
Surprisingly, it was the Reverend who confronted me. He stood, and came to me—calm and composed, just like I imagined a man of God to be.
"Walk with me Montag, let us talk." The Reverend said.
I hesitated. I wanted no form of confrontation, even if it was simply talking. My mind continued to simper and simmer over the injustices happening around me. But in the end, I went.
I followed the Reverend to a spot not too far from the others. It was near the stream we had decided to camp beside. We sat on a log, a massive chunk of debris that must have traveled down river to get to where it currently lay.
"You know, life is funny." The reverend began. He was staring out toward the quickly flowing water. The moon had come out already and was reflecting off of the surface of the water. "It's a lot like this river here. Sometimes it flows smoothly, other times it can become a dangerous current that could sweep us all off our feet."
I glanced at the Reverend, my eyes narrowed in question. I understood what he meant, and yet I didn't.
"The River, just like life can be brutal. Once it's got you off of your feet, it's going to carry you pretty far." The Reverend paused, glancing at me from the side of his eyes. "It has done that to you; gotten you all confused. It's turned you upside down, all the way around, and even blinded you. And now, you have no idea where you're even at."
"Yeah," I murmured. "It has." Everything seemed backwards. It didn't feel right, even though I knew it was all true.
"Why do you think we accept you, Guy?" Asked the Reverend; he stared at me expectantly, awaiting my answer.
I didn't have one. I was not like them. I had never truly read before, never truly understood. When I was young, I'd picked a book up, but been punished for doing it. The teacher who'd caught me with it had been extremely unforgiving. Just like everyone else. Reading a book not sanctioned by the government was unforgivable.
"I'm sorry. I don't know why." I said.
He sighed, as though he was a weary old man. "It's quite simple. We are in the same boat, Montag. We have all had our lives turned about in so many different ways, that it's almost a blessing to have it calmed, even if such calm was created through disaster."
I felt myself frown. I didn't necessarily feel like I was in the same boat as them, even though for some circumstances that may very well have been true. "My boat…it is not the same." I said.
I watched as the Reverend restrained exasperation, although he never let his calm mask drop. "Tell me why you think that Guy? What makes you think such things?"
I could say nothing satisfactory as an answer. All that I knew was so very different from what he perceived. I was not what he thought me to be. I had been the majority. I had been normal. He had been a part of the society I had once despised—the strange.
"Who do you think that you are Guy?"
I frowned, my eyebrows cascading down over my eyes, shadowing them with confusion. "I am—I am a Fireman…I—"
"You are no such thing any longer Guy?" The Reverend interrupted intentionally. "You might have once been, but now you are no longer."
I did not want to comprehend such a thing. I did not want to think of such a thing. How could I be anything but a Fireman? I had been one for so long. I had destroyed so many things. Property, possessions, books and alongside the books I'd destroyed people's ideas. I had taken it all away and never once felt bad, never regretted what I'd done.
I'd destroyed lives and took away what people believed in. I made them loose hope. I'd made them loose everything. I knew this…I'd seen what I'd done…
They were burning…burning into oblivion.
I laughed as they began to char and a woman began to scream. She screamed so loudly, proclaiming us murderers.
I thought nothing of her words. She was crazy; I was sane—I was normal. I was the good guy. I was a fireman. My job helped to insure peace—insure freedom.
The smell of gasoline wafted through the room. The foul smell was delightful to my lustful state of mind. I could not turn away as pages were slowly incinerated and more of the delightful smell permeated throughout the room. It made me shiver.
And then we were all laughing while the woman of the small apartment complex cried. She cried and she cried; she would not stop. And when everything was said and done, I turned just in time to watch as she was taken away by the authorities who would 'help' her.
It was then she looked at me, tears of anguish and anger running ruthlessly down her face. I saw her eyes at that moment. They were dull—dead. She had lost. And I didn't care.
I hadn't cared.
That woman, I had stripped her of her hope, I had taken away everything that had once been important to her, that she had believed in and cherished. I'd taken it all away with a grin on my face and a joyous laugh on my lips.
Glancing down at my hands, I found I saw many things—things I didn't want to see. There was a taint, a taint so dark I found it surprisingly similar to a very bad burn. It brought to mind that woman…the one who had wanted to die alongside her books. They must have been everything to her. They must have been so very important. But how, how could books be important? Did they bring about hope…?
I greatly doubted that. What I had experienced from the little texts that I had read; they'd never inspire any such emotions in me.
The manuals I'd read had been rather boring. They didn't inspire me as well as they seemed to inspire others.
"I—I am Guy Montag," I stuttered out suddenly, "I—I am nothing, I—"
The Reverend once more halted me from speaking any further. And then, looking into my eyes, he said something very surprising. "No Guy, you are not nothing, nobody is nothing. We are all something, we are all important."
"I—but I don't know the same things as you. I do not know the world through your eyes. I see through my own."
My words startled the Reverend for a moment. They were self explanatory, they were simple, but they held so much meaning for me and for him.
He shook his head, and softly smiled. "Perhaps Guy, but to see the real word does not mean you must be well-read. The book you carry inside you…inside your mind," He pointed to my forehead before softly prodding the spot. And his smile grew steadily. "It's all you. This is where change starts. It starts with ingenuity. It starts with a thought, an idea, and it morphs into something…spectacular. You want to change the world. You want to make a difference. Then use what you know and make a difference Guy."
"But how do I do that? How…" The Reverend shook his head and I became quiet.
"Through allowing change, Guy, that is how you do it, through allowing literature, which allows for individuals to think for themselves. Literature is more than just insignificant tales, it's about saying something…speaking out. It's about change and understanding that change must occur."
I glanced down at my feet, scuffing them against the ground like a scolded child. "Change." I said the word softly, reverently.
Yes, the world needed to change. And it would. Life would get better for us all…it would change for the better like the Reverend said. And instead of oblivion there would be a new world full of growth and greatness—of true freedom and of real happiness.
I grinned softly as I began walking away with the Reverend back to our little out-cast group. Yes, life would change. One day this oblivion would end and life would once more being. We just needed a good idea…