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Speculative Historical Fiction Science Fiction

October 8th, 1531

Professor Schneider was right, and trying to talk her off Henry was a complete waste of time, and now I’ve blown a whole week. I don’t know what I was thinking--it’s not like she had any say in the matter! I’ve enacted Scenario Beta and moved myself forward to the early days of her exile, and now I’m going to do a hard push for the nunnery. Even if I can’t get her in by the end of the month, I think I can get the ball rolling enough that she ends up there before 1533, and then I can still win. Additionally, María is driving me nuts. Santimonious shrew. 

October 12th, 1531

I must say, I prepared so well for this. I was ready for the clothes, the language, the serious lack of hygiene, and the nasty, nasty, nasty food, but the one thing I didn’t think to practice was the kneeling. It is endless. Masses every day, sometimes multiple times. She can’t even kneel herself but she makes us do it and it feels like there are daggers stabbing my shins every moment in the day. Sitting is absolute heaven. I’ve been trying to escape for a minute here and there just to take a break, but María rats me out every single time, which makes my task even harder. I certainly hope no one puts mice in her clothes chest again. That would be just terrible, but would perhaps lead to at least a few hours of her being distracted…

For my next move I think I’m going to go for a fake letter, even though Professor Schneider says “mail always fails”. I spent weeks on the writing samples of all of her intimates, and I think I can make something super accurate and persuasive. I assume that in the past most students have gone with Princess Mary, an obvious choice, but any mention of Mary raises her chin and strengthens her resolve, so that’s a bad play. I wish it could be from Joanna, but it’s way too late in the timeline, and her son has locked her up at this point. I knew it was this bad for women, but seeing it with my own eyes is a whole other thing. It’ll be interesting to hear Jason’s impressions of Rome in the 300s. I can’t believe he’s going for Constantine. So obvious, and really so, so boring. What is he going to do all month? Plus I once saw him go white as a sheet and almost hit the deck when Amayah had a nose bleed. How on earth is he going to make it through a battle? Whatever. His holy Roman emperor is a lost cause, but mine may not be. If anyone’s going to get through to Katharine, it’s her nephew Charles. If I can convince her he’s pushing for it, she may start to see sense.

October 15th, 1531

I’m worried. I’m officially half way through and I feel like I’ve made no progress, other than destroying María’s clothes, which is somewhat gratifying. The letter didn’t achieve anything. I think that if she could get a push from another woman she trusted, that might work, but there’s no one other than María, and she’s even LESS likely to move off of this disastrous path. Whenever I talk to Katharine, our conversations are unchanged. We’re retreading the same points, going down all the same blind alleys again and again and again. Why can’t she see sense? I can’t present the deal until she’s a little bit open to change. 

And it’s all starting to get to me. She’s had a cold for weeks now, it just won’t let go of her. I can see how upset she is that she can’t see Mary, and she doesn’t even know that she’ll never see her again. Katharine has been on this trajectory before she was born, and maybe it was insanity to think that I could nudge her off of it. I know it’s all fake but there are times when it feels so real I start to forget my real life. It’s not really her, I know; she’s been dead for centuries, but this version of her still has a chance, and if I can’t find another way in, she'll be dead too. Is it too much to ask that she get a few years of respect, health, and maybe even peace? Only a few more days to push before I have to go to court. I’m excited to see it, but I know it’ll be hard. I’m angry just thinking about it.

October 20th, 1531

I did it. They received me at Hatfield house, and he was there, sitting in all his corpulent, murderous splendor. Anne was there too, of course. I picked the right month, for sure. She’s ascendant right now, the world is at her feet, but she survived an attack on the street a few weeks ago by a crowd of angry women, so it’s pretty real for her now and I think she’s open to a way out. 

The attendant introduced me as Ines, the (fictitious) lady-in-waiting to the Dowager Princess. That’s what they call her now, instead of Queen, and it took everything I had not to wince. I have nothing to lose now, as myself the student taking a final exam, and myself the servant of a doomed woman. So I laid out my deal, the deal that I hope will change the course of human history. 

While it’s against the rules to tell people about future events, Katharine has to know that things are not looking bright for Mary. A good marriage, however, one worthy of her birth, one that would give her her own household, and a family, would be a huge win for all involved. So I told their majesties that the Dowager Princess (I nearly choked on the words) would be amenable to taking holy orders if, and only if, a suitable marriage was arranged for Mary. Then she, Katharine, would be overjoyed to celebrate her daughter’s wedding by her husband’s side, and then, having achieved this goal, and having served England with honor as Queen, she would spend the rest of her days in a nunnery. I added, as the cherry on top, that she would additionally be very happy if Mary’s marriage took her overseas, and that she would prefer to join a nunnery in that country, so as to occasionally see her daughter and perhaps her grandchildren as well. 

Henry was unreadable, but Anne’s eyes burned at the prospect of a Katharine and Mary-less England. Part of me hates her for her role in all of this, but how can I? Like Katharine, she didn’t choose any of this, and much of it was already in motion before she had any will at all. Really any time period before 2077 is just a hotbed of crap for women. Thank god I’m living in the post-Gravida era. 

Speaking of women living their worst life in the, I decided to hedge my bets and execute Scenario Gamma (that’s right, Jason, I set it up that I could pull two simultaneously!), and found Susanna while I was at court. She is amazing. One of the best artists of her time, and she’s relegated to stitching and inane banter. Honestly if I could pull her out of this time period and bring her back to the university with me, I would! But a quick chat with her, and Gamma is in motion. We’ll see if that pays off.

April 21st, 2213

Well I got pulled out early. I knew this was a possibility, but I had to risk it. I made my last, impassioned pitch to Katharine. I told her that her pride was standing in the way of a future of happiness for her, and that Mary would suffer more for it (if only she knew). I had practiced this a lot, if only to avoid breaking any of the rules about revealing the future. It was a thing of beauty, but I could tell from the first second it wasn’t going to work. Nothing I did in the last few weeks made any impact, and all I was accomplishing was making Queen Katharine of Aragon super mad. Weeks and weeks of trying to help her see the light, and it all came to nothing. Which, in itself wouldn’t have been a big deal, and she would have moved past it, but I messed up and didn’t realize that freaking María was behind the curtain, and six sentences in she’s rushing out and hitting me--HITTING me--and saying I’m a witch. 16th century England isn’t the worst place for that word to pop up, but it certainly isn’t the best, and Hassim ended the simulation. I’m frustrated with myself for not doing better, but there’s nothing I could do other than get out of my corset, grab some tacos (Side note: perhaps this all would have gone better if I had introduced England to the taco? Think of how much happier they would have all been!), and wait until Saturday to see how the scenario plays out. 

Final Notes from Professor Schneider

Leila, this was a very valid attempt. Now that you’ve completed your final, you can access other exams in which students tried to convince Katharine of Aragon to take holy orders, clearing the way for Anne Boelyn to marry Henry the VIII, thus preventing the formation of the Anglican church. As you can see, very few students over the years have chosen this scenario. You will also notice that none of them were successful, and I am sorry to say that you were not either. 

However, the secondary strategy you deployed did change the course of history significantly. Susanna Hornebolt did take your words to heart about taking care of women in the process of childbirth. She did not, as you had hoped, end up saving Anne from her fall from grace, but she did save the life of Jane Seymour. Her extended marriage with King Henry saved the life of Catherine Howard, significantly changed the nature of Elizabeth I’s faith, and resulted in the Anglican church staying very close to the Catholic church in doctrine and dogma, and the two re-merged in the mid-1700s. This religious reunion was extremely impactful on the timeline, and earned you a lot of points for historical deviation.

You received a grade of A for your exam, and came in second in the competition. Jason Dorsey came in third, and Selina Davidson won first prize. As I mentioned during the first week of the course, the most creative solutions are often the most successful. Converting Napoleon to Scientology is a new one for me, and you should run Selina’s scenario. It is…wild.

January 13, 2024 20:14

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1 comment

Francis T. Baker
13:17 Jan 20, 2024

Very interesting premise, a real original take. There were some inconsistencies in language along the way though and I do feel there was a lack of conflict. I think you partially filled that with the Jason and María characters but because neighter character was very fleshed out they lacked depth. Nonetheless a fun read, well done!

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