“Are you ready?” Kate beckoned her daughter to come near.
She was sitting cross legged on the turquoise rug in the center of the living room. The floor was covered in books and various household items, and in the middle of it was a fairly big stainless steel box which was currently empty, it’s lid wide open like the mouth of the Cookie Monster expecting to fill its stomach with treats.
“Yes, coming—” five-year-old Ashley replied, trailing after her a big colorful fabric bag.
“Let’s see. What do you have there, love?” Her mother inquired curiously while Ashley sat down next to her.
The little girl started to take various items out of the bag. “Here, I think we need to leave them something to eat. Just in case the people who find it get really hungry after digging.” She handed her a jar of honey. “Ms. Day says it never spoils. I hope they like honey.”
“Such a great idea!” Kate exclaimed. “I’m sure they’d appreciate it very much.” She took the jar, made sure it was tightly sealed, and put it in the box. “What next?”
“Well, they’ll be looking for a treasure, won’t they? I think it’d make them happier if they found one.” Ashley reached back into her bag and took out a small plastic treasure chest.
“That’s the treasure chest from your pirate set. Are you sure you don’t want to play with it anymore?”
“Yes, mommy,” the girl looked really convinced as she passed on the toy. “Look inside! Open it!”
Kate explored the contents of the chest – a few pennies and a nickel, some colorful rocks and shells they had gathered on their last trip to the beach, and a few quite unremarkable animal figures that had come from a Kellogg’s box.
“That’s really nice, Ash,” she commended her. “Is that all?”
“I don’t play with these baby toys anymore, so you can put them in there too.” She revealed that the rest of her bag was filled mostly with plush toys and stuffed animals. “And we can put in this photo too.”
“Lovely idea! Will do that.”
“What about you, mommy? What are you going to put in the time capsule?”
I am woken up by the bright light of Jupiter shining across my face. Ashlee must have forgotten once again to dim the windows. Never mind, after my four hours of sleep I still feel fresh as a cucumber, even though I’ve never seen or tasted one. This is an expression I’ve learned while doing research on traditional farming. The latest data shows that Earth is slowly starting to regenerate, so Ashlee suggested we go down there and help bring the old third rock from the Sun back to life. Technically, she still owns some land that belonged to her family, and last we’ve checked it’s been lucky enough not to get swallowed by the ocean. All of this is actually really good news, considering the fact that the planet was struck by all types of climate change triggered disasters just a little over a century ago (in Earth years anyway; if you were to ask me, half a century is even faster from my point of view). Since her family was among the first colonies to leave it, my terrestrial girlfriend has never been to her home celestial body either. Naturally, she’s more than eager to explore her roots. Much like the green fruits and vegetables she dreams of planting there. Honestly, I’m also curious. Not that I don’t like Martian food or energy capsules, but life has not been the same since I’ve tasted Earth potatoes, carrots and garlic (mmm, garlic). If just the thought of those simple foods makes my salivary glands water, I could only imagine what it would be like to try even more varied produce.
While still dreaming of tomatoes and watermelons, I go to the kitchen where I quickly pop up a CoQ10 pill and turn on the tea kettle. Waiting for the water to boil, my peripheral vision is quickly summoned by the blinking red light by the front door. Incoming mail! I get excited because I know what this must mean. The parcel has finally arrived!
A few months back we hired contractors to check the state of Ashlee’s Earth plot of land and clean it a bit. There was nothing left of the house, of course, it being long destroyed by a tornado, but while the workers tested the soil to see if it would be able to grow food again, they found a buried treasure. Well, more like a very sturdy steel box, but to us anything coming from the blue planet is priceless. And today the mystery box is finally here!
I dash into the bedroom, eager to wake her up. Even though my little sleepyhead has spent all her life on Mars, she still appears to carry the Earth genes that force her to get at least six hours of quality bed time.
“It’s here,” I whisper gently into her ear.
“What? Where?” Ashlee rubs her eyes lazily and once she’s able to focus well she greets me with a smile, “Good morning.”
“Good morning, good morning!” I raise my eyebrows and repeat impatiently, “It’s here! The box!”
“You mean THE BOX!” Suddenly Ashlee sits up in bed all awake and alert. “Why didn’t you wake me up earlier?”
“I did. As soon as I—” I try to explain, but I’m cut short because she’s already thrown the covers away and is sprinting towards the kitchen.
“I’m so excited!” She jumps up and down around the treasure box. “Do you know what this means? This came from Earth!” She caresses the metal container on all sides and gives it a kiss on the lid.
“I know, I know. I’m just as excited as you are.”
“Hardly,” she always wants to be on top. “This is from MY home. My family!”
“OK, OK,” I agree, “Let’s just say that we both really want to know what’s inside. Can we open it already?”
She takes the box and places it in the middle of the big living room. There are a bunch of screws keeping the container tightly shut. Nothing that a magnetic screwdriver can’t solve in a matter of seconds. I let Ashlee do the honors and as she removes the metal cover we both stare hungrily, taking in each object on the inside one breath at a time.
At first we are a little taken aback. The box seems to be filled with all types of stuffed animals – bunnies, teddy bears, little sheep and cows. Is this a joke? I quickly realize it isn’t, “Oh, see, there’s stuff below. They must’ve used the toys as padding.”
Inside the big steel box we find a small plastic one. “A treasure within a treasure?” I suggest. “Open it.”
I am quickly drawn to the coins we find, “Wow! Those must be old Earth coins. These should be worth a fortune!”
Ashlee doesn’t hear me. She is staring hypnotized at the way Jupiter’s light is reflected as little rainbows off the surface of spiral shapes not much bigger than her hand. “Look, those are seashells—” she says while gazing in awe at the dancing colors. “Have you seen anything more beautiful? I wonder what a sea full of creatures would be like. The ones here are just water, rocks and sand—”
“Ahem,” I cough, “I’ve seen you and I wouldn’t trade you for some seashells.” I know I’m cheesy, but she laughs and tenderly strokes my cheek.
“What about this?” I almost drop the glass jar I’ve just taken out of the box, as reading the label causes quite a shock. “HONEY!? Ashlee, honey, this is HONEY! It’s literally liquid gold! This used to be made by little insects called bees. And there are no more bees on Earth or anywhere!”
“That’s great,” she replies quite unfazed. “Make sure it’s safe. We could sell it and finance even bigger projects. Then, once we replant and repopulate Earth, maybe even the bees could come back.”
I smile back at my little lady full of big ideas, “Maybe they will.” I get up to put the honey jar in a safe place and go back to exploring the contents of the metal box.
Curiously enough, the box also contains quite a few books (paper ones). They all seem to be old science fiction novels. Apparently whoever put them in there wanted future generations to find them and see if any writer’s predictions have come true. Actually, the colonies did bring Earth’s entire literary heritage in digital format, so I’m familiar with most of them. There are the classics (1984, Brave New World). There are a few space novels (Herbert, Bradbury, Adams). And oddly enough there is a romance novel called A Match Made on Mars, featuring a green alien with bald head and huge eyes (yet with a six pack) on the cover. Being a native Martian, I am strangely attracted by the last one.
I open the book at a random page and start reading. It’s hilarious. Apparently the hunky alien came with a ton of integrated gadgets that would pop out of his body just at the snap of his (only two) fingers. As I continue reading, I also learn that if the Martian’s special advanced body parts are not enough, he’s able to make his lady climax by simple telepathy. I’m almost rolling on the floor laughing, when suddenly I have a thought and leave the raunchy novel aside. “Ashlee, have you ever wished that we were more like what Earth books portrayed us to be?”
She’s distraught and doesn’t understand me at first, “We who? Us as a couple?”
“No, us – native Martians. Do you regret that I’m not special?”
“What do you mean you’re not special?” She looks at me incredulous. “You’re one of the most intelligent, confident, and handsome Martians I know. And you ARE special to me.”
“But I am not, you know… an alien.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s such a relief to know that we’re the same.” She leans over and gives me a peck on the lips. “Besides, there are no aliens. We all live in the same universe, don’t we?”
As my heart fills with joy for having the best girlfriend in the Milky Way, something slips from between the pages of the book. It’s an old printed photograph with three people hugging and grinning at the camera. On the back it says “Kate, Ben, Ashley”.
Ashlee takes it from my hands and looks at it as if she’s just found the Holy Grail. The emotion is too strong and her eyes start to water, “Ashley… that little girl is my great grandmother. She’s the one I was named after. She was too old when they had to leave, so she couldn’t go. She never made it to space—”
I put my arms around her and say, “But now we could go back and visit her home. I think it’s time we book those tickets to Earth!”
“Mommy, mommy,” Ashley kept skipping excitedly around the hole in the back yard where her father was burying the time capsule. “Do you think they’ll like the treasures we’ve left them?”
Kate smiled, “I’m sure they’ll love them.”