The Time Capsule
By LuAnn Williamson
“I have an idea!” Ray said, setting down another moving box.
“Is it a good idea? Jill teased, pausing her task of putting the dishes on the kitchen shelf. Their baby, Sibyl, sat in the high chair, gleefully munching on a teething biscuit.
“Well, I think it is, he teased, putting his arm around her shoulder as she walked into the living room. “We were going to rework the wall in the bathroom, right. Take it down to the studs and add a few feet to include a laundry center.”
“Yeah,” she paused. “Let’s get finished moving into our new home first, then consider the renovations.” She slipped her arms around his neck. “I still love the sound of it: our new home.”
“Seriously, Babe, we’re going to do all that work, let’s consider putting a time capsule into the wall, next to the basement celling.”
“I’ll think about it.” Just then, they were interrupted by the sounds of the baby starting to fuss.
Summer faded to fall, which blended to winter. The young family took a break from home renovation to decorate for Christmas. On Christmas Day, they gathered around the beautifully decorated tree with both sets of parents, his brother and her sister and their spouses and children.
Jill opened her gift. She sat on the sofa, staring at it for a few minutes. It was a silver colored capsule that opened down the length. Still wearing a baffled look, she searched the package. A small booklet said, “Time Capsule Kit.” It offered suggestions on what to include and where to place the memory keeper.
“Great idea!” The group was unanimous in approval.
“Let’s do it now,” someone suggested.
“Right after dinner,” Jill announced. “It can wait and the turkey won’t wait to be eaten.”
The family discussed the message to the future. What should they add to celebrate their own family and show the people who opened it what their life was like in that time? They agreed to add a photo of the entire group. Pictures of each family were a certain addition. People shouted out their suggestions. Cell phone? Computer watch? A newspaper, probably one of the last to be printed since everyone agreed they would soon be obsolete? They laughed and discussed life, time and keepsakes.
A crisp new dollar bill went in, along with a five, ten and twenty were included, plus coins minted that year went into the capsule.
Jill considered carefully what one object could best represent her for future generations. She had such a good life with a wonderful husband an adorable toddler girl and another baby on the way. Her picture, of course, that showed what she looked like, but what would show what she was like on the inside. Amid the Christmas chaos, she sat down with a pencil and paper and wrote out a mini-autobiography. Despite calls to hurry up and disregarding pleas that they wanted to get the time capsule sealed and placed before they left to go home.
Finally, although still not satisfied, she realized she probably never would be, she finished her note. She put it in the metal canister and her husband added the wax seal before it was closed, to be opened up in a hundred years. With everyone crowding the hallway, they placed the capsule into the wall. They would finish putting the drywall in place when they finished the renovations over the next few months.
* * *
In the year 5150, five million inhabitants of Rigel Five received the news that a new planet had been discovered. The majority of the citizens did not care. They went on about their daily lives with barely a though to the information.
In the year 5175, six and a half million inhabitants were informed that the planet had previously held life; some species seemed to be sentient or at least semi-sentient. Although that concept would be debated in scientific circles for many years, the majority of the planet’s population did not give it much thought. Archaeologists were dispatched to study the ruins.
In the year 5201, ten million inhabitants read the news that a home had been discovered virtually intact. Many of the inhabitants were unconcerned but some were pressuring their leaders to hurry the archaeologists along so the planet could be made available for colonization.
In the year 5220, the news feeds, consisting of hundreds of tiny dots that ran the length of a reading board, located in houses, businesses and feeding places, announced the deciphering of the writings. But it was inconsistent and differed from continent to continent, even place to place on the continents. The most common name for the planet had been “Earth.” More of the planets’ fifteen million population pressured the government to make the planet available for colonization.
By the year 5233, scientists had developed a way to extend the hibernation cycle that all occupants of Rigel Five could achieve naturally when food was scare or climate unfavorable. Even more citizens put even greater pressure for colonization of the planet as well as newly discovered planets in nearby solar systems.
By the time the year 5250 came around, the population of the small planet what increased to over a billion residents. The inhabitants were forced to go into their dormant phase more and more often as resources were increasingly strained. The government was forced by popular opinion to make the planet available for colonization. The archeologists could continue to work on the sites deemed to be of the greatest cultural value.
The first settlers from Rigel Five came to the newly opened planet in the year 5275, after a hibernation cycle of one hundred Rigelian years.
Ka a Atte, was one the three sexes of the planet. The genetics of all three were required for mating, which they engaged in with great frequency and joy. She was young when her family made the journey to the planet they were starting to call Earth after the name the original inhabitants had called their planet. She was fascinated with the work of the scientists working at a site about a hundred measures from the place that her trio of parents were setting up their colony. Just past the larval stage, she was too young to do much of the work involved in the building of the structures that would house the colonists that would be arriving shortly. It was supposed to be a time for her to improve her mind as well as help with small chores such as planting the food crops to be introduced to the planet.
Whenever possible, she would climb to the highest place on the ruins, spread her wings and fly herself to the dig site. She made friends with the archeologist and the geologists and the botanists. Scientist the universe over tends to feel themselves an unappreciated group. So when an apt pupil takes an interest in their work, they tend to adopt that person as their protégé.
In the year 2555, the news feeds announced the ability to understand the majority of the human’s languages. The available writings confirmed that the majority of humans had died from a pandemic that began with a disease called Coved 19 which mutated and became more deadly with each mutation. Those who did not die from the first version of the virus, died from the subsequent mutations.
One day, after her learning period was finished and the resting period began, Ka a Atte flew to the dig site. Standing at the edge of the pit, she watched as the workers excavated a tarnished silver canister about 10 centars wide by 25 centars in length. She extended her upper appendage to him help him as he climbed the ladder, carrying the precious object carefully.
“Look here, Ka a Atte” the chief archeologist told her, setting the object on the work table. He used the abundant supply of water the planet provided to wash off the centuries of dirt. “Human languages are hard to understand and even harder to translate correctly. This looks like it says “Time Capsule.” Of course we have no idea what that means and have found no records of anything similar.”
He began to take measurements, making a cast of a material similar to plaster and taking visual recordings, something that the humans would have called video. The other workers began to gather around the table.
Eventually, the device was opened, the seal collected for further analysis. Everyone gathered around as the contents were revealed.
A collective exhalation of air escaped them. The Rigelians excelled at doing things in unison, a product of their insectoid heritage. It was independent action for the betterment of the collective was difficult.
On top of the items included in the container was a picture. With upper appendages swathed a hard protective covering, the lead archeologist fitted the tools used for delicate grasping. He carefully removed the photo. After much study and recordings, he handed the photo to Ka a Atte.
She stared at the image in her hand. She’d known that humans were mammals, bipedal. She knew there were only two sexes, not the three, and they lived in family units consisting of the two parents and any children.
“It has such small eyes,” Ka a Atte remarked. In comparison, hers were huge and multifaceted.
She stood, staring at the picture as the sun set on the planet they called Earth. She wondered about the creature she saw looking back at her. What were its hopes and dreams? This could not be the future that it planned for when it enclosed the image into the sealed container.
The chief archeologist slowly translated the biography that Jill included. “Female, if this paper matched the photo. I don’t know what the term “Wife or Mother” means. She was age 22, in Earth years, of course, other terms with no meaning, like “Christmas.” He went on. Ka a Atte only listened as he roughly translated.
“So much to learn,” Ka a Atte said, more to herself than anyone else.
“What did you say,” the leader asked, rubbing his antennae on his carapace in annoyance.
“I just said there is so much to learn,” she handed him back the photo. “But now it is time to go home. It is time for my dormant phase.”