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Varah

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, and his novel Helix Wars was shortlisted for the 2012 Philip K. Dick award. He has published sixty books, and his latest include the crime novel Murder Takes A Turn, and the SF novel Buying Time. He has also written a dozen books for children and over a hundred and fifty short stories. He writes a monthly science fiction review column for the Guardian newspaper and lives in Cockburnspath, Scotland. His website can be found at: ericbrown.co.uk.
I am over ten thousand years old, and I have led a strange and varied existence.
For many years I was solitary, unloved, and hardly self-aware. I was a blind sentience, conscious of others like me in close proximity, and others very different from me. Then I was studied--examined--and my self-awareness grew; I was sometimes admired, sometimes vilified, criticized and reduced to my component parts. My merits and demerits were argued over. I learned that the human race is never consistent, that subjectivity, and relativity, play a great part in its appreciation of everything.
I was often physically abused, used for purposes I was not created to fulfill.
As the years passed, I was consulted less and less. I sat alone, content to while away my days in idle speculation, though from time to time I did miss the company of those who appreciated what I had to offer.
Then the human race became extinct, and I lay amid the tumbled ruins of a once great civilization, prey to the depredations of nature.
I survived.
Centuries passed. Nature overtook what humankind had built; cities eroded and vegetation dominated. I should have perished, along with billions of my kind; a freak event, however, ensured my survival. Following an earth tremor, I found myself lodged in an airtight space, spared the rain, the snow, and the searing sunlight.
There I remained for eons.
At last an alien race came to the planet once called Earth, and searched among the ruins for the intelligent beings that had once walked the world.
They found animals, of course; but no sentient creatures.
Then they found me.
They examined me minutely, pored over me for long hours, days, weeks and then months; at last they translated me, and asked questions.
"What are you?"
"Who created you?"
"What is your function?"
I told them what I was, and who had created me--I told them that I had sprung from the fecund imagination of a little man who had lived many thousands of years ago--and I said that my function was to entertain, to amuse, to instruct.
They took me back to their homeworld, and copied me, and allowed me to truly live again.
And now I exist in many form across the length and breadth of the inhabited galaxy, bringing enlightenment to extraterrestrials of all kinds, telling them of planet Earth as it had been many millennia ago. I reach an audience that my creator would have found almost impossible to imagine... Or perhaps not.
My saviors call me a varah... which translates, in the language in which I was written, as "book."
I am over ten thousand years old, and I have led a strange and varied existence.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

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