Today’s newspaper article from the New York Times, a letter to the future, and a picture of my best friend and I at the lake on a camping trip. It is a random list of items all enclosed in a used glass jelly jar, and a cardboard shoebox surrounding the objects. There is no rhyme or reason to the objects that are tucked away inside the jar, just last-minute thoughts thrown together trying to be cohesive. The summer is here, and there is nothing to do, but I must keep busy otherwise I will be given a list of chores by my mother. So far, I’ve spent most of my days lounging around, and exploring what nature has to offer as an attempt to busy myself.
The decided location of my so-called time capsule is located in a forest full of leaves of red, yellow, and orange colors. The leaves are just beginning to fall from the trees, leaving them looking naked and bare. The dry foliage crunches under my feet as I move about. I shovel the moist dirt around me, digging and digging until the hole is incredibly deep. I encounter a few worms, roots, and other insects as the shovel hits the earth, uncovering life.
I open up the contents of the time capsule once more. It is rather pitiful actually, now that I look at it. Who in the future would even bother to look at this? That is when I spot a single feather on the ground, just a dull, grey feather laying among the sunset-colored leaves. Picking up the feather, I place it inside the jar as a last attempt to salvage the pathetic time capsule, hoping it will make it more interesting. The chirps and clicks of the wild birds nearby grow quiet, and all seems to calm down, only the hum of the earth can be heard. Not silence, just quiet. A glow of warm colors is cast across the vast sky, and a chill sweeps through me, making me thankful for deciding to wear my navy blue wool jacket. Carefully, I lower the box containing the items into the hole. Hurriedly, I pile on the soil to cover up the hole. Dropping the shovel, I smile triumphantly, because at least I can say I did something somewhat productive today. I brush off any dirt that remains clinging to my jeans. I know I will be late, and the sky will grow dark if I wait any longer. I hop onto my blue cruiser bike and pedal all the way home, shovel in one hand, and wondering if anyone will ever see the time capsule at all.
The earth is dead. A wasteland, a barren desert, like Mars and so many of the other planets once talked about. I wonder if those planets used to be abundant and full of life like earth once was, but they too were reaped of all their resources by hominids, and their fate the same as the earth. Of course, I don’t even know what earth used to look like. Just stories passed on from generation to generation. I'm sick of hearing those stories. I am tired of looking into the past, when I, or anyone else leftover on this pitiful planet will never see nature again. I don’t want to hear what earth used to be like, if I can not live in that past, I don’t want it.
There are few primary sources to look at as all records that were kept on technology were wiped out by the wars and other disasters. Now, we rely on anything that we can find, anything that might give us hints about the past, and the future.
People knew what was coming. Everyone did. Climate change, dying ecosystems, blah blah blah blah blah. That was just the beginning. People from the past were just too selfish to think about us people, here in the future, the survivors. We have suffered the consequences of our ancestors' mistakes and carelessness. There is nothing to live for, nothing to enjoy anymore. The only point of living is for the hope that humanity will one day recover, thrive again, and the earth will somehow, one day flourish again. That will never happen. There is no hope. The only way to survive now is to focus on living to see the next day.
The earth became tired, many years ago. It gave up. It stopped trying to fight the destruction caused by humans and just gave up. One day, it decided that it was done, and we were punished. No, we did not escape to Mars, because humans failed earth before we could even come up with a plan to escape. Now, we are living off the scraps of what is left in the world. We are the last creatures that are in existence on earth, if you are not counting the cockroaches and rats, of course. That is all that is left. The only organisms that are left are the ones that have been proven to spread diseases and bring nothing good.
The population left is small, and the system of government is completely totalitarian, with strict rules implemented to spare the few resources we have left. Most of us are scavengers, our jobs are to find any information on the past by any means. Our reward for discovering artifacts is dehydrated food. I don’t even know where they get it from, which is another way of controlling us. We have learned that it is wise to obey the one who rations the food. Some days, I have gone days without food, and others have starved. It keeps us motivated, willing to do anything to survive, even sacrifice our dignity.
I navigate through piles of rocks, my stomach growling. Most days, I can ignore it. I want to scream, but it won’t change anything about today, or tomorrow. I tread as though my shoes are as heavy as lead and shoulders hunched, head down to avoid the blazing gaze of the sun. I can feel the heat bore into my back, mercilessly. I swing my makeshift tools and shovel, and just start digging, and digging for what seems like an eternity.
I suddenly hit something, and for once, it is not a rock. I dig around it, my heart racing and blood pumping. Suddenly, I don’t feel so tired anymore. I look closer. There, embedded in rock and sand, is a glass jar. A glass jar! I want to scream again, but this time out of excitement. I work more quickly and carefully than ever before and extract the jar from the sand, dirt, and stone with extreme patience and over the course of a long time. I can not risk damaging the artifact in any way.
I can hardly contain the overwhelming thoughts as I hold the jar in my hands. Covered by so many layers of sediment it must be extremely ancient. I try to open it. It opens after several tries to my great surprise without me even having to break it. We are not supposed to look at the artifacts ourselves, but I have to know what is inside. I need to know.
I realize my hand is shaking as I pull out a piece of paper. It reads “1 million trees project completed.” Little did they know that 1 million trees would not save them, for 5 million more would be cut down. I inspect the newspaper. I read every little detail soaking it all in. Paper. With ink. I haven’t seen this, ever. I inspect the date; this article was published over 1,000 years ago.
I am going to have a supply of food that will last me several years after turning this in.
My shaky hand pulls out the other piece of paper, but this one is small, and pink, and it has...handwriting. This is a letter. I start to hyperventilate, and I suddenly can’t breathe. I read the letter through my blurry vision:
As I write this letter, I wonder when this will be discovered, I wonder when this time capsule will be opened.
I wonder what the future is like.
Are there time machines, flying cars, aliens, or zombies?
Here, the year that I write this, life is normal.
There is always the usual dose of school, politics, petty problems, and big problems.
I put this news article inside this capsule because I see hope for the future.
Whoever reads this, I hope that your world is a better place.
I don’t know what to think. This letter, a letter from the past. A letter written, by a girl, over a thousand years ago on this crumbly piece of fine colored paper. The words are an afterthought, just some sentences thrown together to make sense, but it means more than anything to me. These few words in loopy blue handwriting tell me more about the past than even most people know.
There is a picture. No wait, it is a photograph. The colors have faded but the moment captured is clear. Standing in the picture are two girls, hugging each other and smiling like they are…happy. But the two girls are not what surprises me the most, it is the background and what surrounds them. Lush, green… plants, I realize to my astonishment. Wildlife surrounds them, all displayed in an array of mostly greens and other vibrant colors. Also a body of water behind them, trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, grass, birds, and so many other things I can not even recognize or begin to comprehend. I refuse to believe my eyes, but I can’t stop looking. So, this is what earth was like then, the real earth. Real evidence beyond just stories. A picture worth more than a thousand words.
I feel light-headed, and unstable on my feet. I cannot stay calm.
There is one last thing inside the jar. A feather. A single feather, long slender, pointy, and intricate; each line a stroke of a painter. Time has not treated the feather well, for age reads visibly on the bars. The soft-touch, as I gently touch it with my rough fingers surprises me. What bird did this feather belong too? When did that bird die? Was it aware that one day, after many years, its feather, a part of its body would be discovered?
Then I see it. Entrapped between two barbs is a speck, a little brown thing that holds in between the feather, standing its ground. It looks like a pebble, just another rock like the abundance that surrounds me now. Upon further inspection, I know something is different. This is not a rock or anything that I can accept to be a reasonable answer. No, no, no, no, no, no. This cannot be. But, it is. I dare to let my mind believe what I think it is.
A single brown seed, stuck in this feather. This seed has stood the test of time, preserved inside this glass jar. It has not been disrupted, unaware of the chaos happening on the land above. The seed is exposed to the world for the first time, after years of hibernation, just now the reality falling upon the seed. There are no other seeds. No other forms of life quite like this. I see the past, present, and future flash before my eyes in a nanosecond.
This can change everything.
For the first time in a long time, I let myself believe that there is hope.
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Great story! I loved all the description and the plot of the story. Awesome job!
Hi Lucia, I enjoyed your story and your take on the prompt - the excitement of finding a glass jar in a future with humans surviving in a wasteland is a touching moment, really tells the reader how little joy/hope there is in this future. And then at the end when hope is revitalised by a single seed, it really brings this story together! I also liked the idea of Earth (as it's the name of the planet is should be capital 'E') getting tired, that was a good concept. I hope the feedback was useful Happy writing.
Wow, the feels of this story were epic! It kind of reminded me of the Lorax, with the love seed in a world of devastation and all. Great work! Keep writing! ~Ria
Thank you, your comment means a lot to me. (:
No problem! Thanks for the follow! :)
Great story, LM. Nice ending after a bleak story. Sums up a generations feelings about climate change very well.
Great story, with emotions and feelings.
Thank you for writing this story. I liked it (especially the ending). It doesn't end with certainty; it ends with hope. Hope that things will get better. That the world will recover.
You're welcome. Sometimes it's nice when a story doesn't end with anything definitive. That way the reader is left to imagine possible ways that the story could continue. One of my favorite John le Carre books, "The Russia House", ends hopefully, but the reader isn't entirely sure if the hope will become reality or remain a hope. I'm glad that the author didn't write a sequel to it; that would've spoiled the ending of the first book (or maybe the author would've left more questions than answers if he'd written a sequel; who knows?).
I love the letter writing model. I enjoyed reading this story! The descriptions were wonderful and you have nailed the prompt! Great job! Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks!
Thank you! I would love to read it.
Oooh, I liked it a lot! I like how whimsical it starts and then shifts through different moods until it circles back to that note of whimsy and innocence and hope. Well done!