Find your place in the world

10 minute read

In the distant future, a young woman listens to a voice from the past, a voice filled with wisdom, a wisdom the woman has yearned for her whole life. The voice stops abruptly and the woman sighs knowing that she will have to work into the night if she wants to hear more.

The excavators had been working like possessed machines, digging up great mounds of dirt, unearthing secrets from the past. With each load, the workmen had been creating a separate heap of old objects they found, as per Morgan’s explicit instructions.

Every night after a long day at work, Morgan relished in the idea of finding a new object to restore. Many of the objects were simply old plastics from an era of unrestrained pollution. Humans had found new ways to create without the use of materials that took centuries to degrade.

The world had been plastic free for the last 200 years and the objects Morgan sifted through felt like blots on the evolving journey of humankind. A cylindrical metallic object caught Morgan’s eye; it was battered and bruised with the passing of time but the large puncture on its side was clearly new.

In her basement Morgan carefully begin the process of opening the old container. There was clearly something inside and Morgan, being an engineer, was filled with curiosity as to what secrets from the past lay inside.

The outside of the container had not fared well and any letters or markings had been eroded like rock faces against the sea of time. Morgan could make out the word “Polly” under a lamp light. After prying open the casing she found two seemingly unrelated items inside: a small frayed piece of cloth and a rather primitive looking electronic device.

The items had clearly been put in the container with care but after surviving all these centuries, an excavator had dealt what Morgan had hoped was not a fatal blow puncturing the container and its wounded tech device. Pieces of the device lay scattered around the latches designed to keep it in place.

Morgan picked up the piece of cloth which seemed to have a soft warmth to it against the stark cold metal container. She put the cloth in her pocket and spent the next couple of hours trying to get the device to work.

She had her virtual analyser, Vee scan the device and took a few minutes to register the date that Vee gave her.

“This device was originally manufactured in the 21st century by AsusTek Computer Inc. a electronics company based in the country then known as Taiwan. It was one of the main…”

“Pause, Vee what is…, I mean, what was it for?”

“It was known as a laptop which was widely used as a mobile personal computer”.

Spurred on by the possibilities that this laptop had to offer, Morgan spent the next 3 nights learning about, and working on the device. She was a gifted engineer and her curiosity and intelligence had always helped her to solve many complicated problems in her relatively short life.

She was currently a highly accomplished engineer specialising in several fields but her favourite was physics. She was one of the youngest engineers in the solar system to have achieved a triple doctorate in her fields of study. Working with machines and and using logic had always felt so natural to her but connecting with her fellow humans was something that felt alien.

Growing up, Morgan had lost her father to a rare disease when she was only 5 years old and her mother had abandoned them both when Morgan was only 1. Losing her father had been hard but she had been able to talk to him as he slowly died over a period of months, she had been able to let go…

Her mother had just left them and Morgan had never been able to understand why. Her father was a broken man after she left and after his death Morgan had been taken off world as was the case with orphans. She grew up in a well meaning but cold and regimented boarding school on the moon, Earth’s first outpost in the solar system.

Other kids in her school grew up in the system but Morgan was special, she was a gifted student and was eventually transferred to an academic school back on Earth. Here she excelled academically but struggled with the life part of life. After she became successful and financially comfortable she decided to move to the only place that she really remembered as home. The place where she had said goodbye to her only family, to her daddy.

Her father’s old house had been left boarded up as per the Orphan Children’s Act, a law passed to preserve any wealth entitlements for orphaned children.

The modernisation work that she was having carried out, the excavators that had been furrowing the ground, had been the the reason for the treasure that now lay as a puzzle to be solved, a secret to be revealed.

She liked the idea of a double basement, it felt like her new home would cocoon her from the rest of the world. The deep excavations had unearthed a relic of the past and Morgan worked diligently to coax it back to life.

She found the idea of storing data on something called a hard drive odd. In this century all personal data was stored inside a person’s biochip that interfaced with the environment around them. The hard drive contained a simple operating system which Morgan very easily created a virtual scaffolding around to access the files in it. The files contained timestamps for the year 2017 and the files belonged to a Polly Newman. Most of the files were system files but there was a single folder called my vlog.

During the day at work, Morgan imagined what the year 2017 would have been like and who Polly Newman was. The files in the vlog folder were identified by Vee as visual files that could be played but the files were barely readable. It took a while but Morgan was able to play the first one and while she watched, she felt transported to a simpler world.

“Hello world! My name is Polly Newman and this is my first vlog”, a nervous looking middle aged woman stared nervously at the screen until a little girl came jumping into the frame giggling and shouting “Why are you talking to the computer Mommy?”

Polly giggled with her child and said in a childish tone “The doctor said Mommy should talk about things so that she can be the best Mommy is the whole world”. Hugging her giggling daughter with an over exaggerated hug, her face seemed to relax as she squeezed her daughter slightly.

A voice out of shot called to the girl and the woman began again: “Hello world, my name is Polly Newman and this is my first vlog!”.

Morgan listened intently as the woman talked about everyday things, looking after her 2 children and her relationship with her husband. What must have been everyday for Polly, was a fascinating glimpse into history for Morgan. Over the next couple of weeks as Morgan restored more and more files she came to rely on Polly’s daily musings of her life and it became something to look forward to after dinner.

There were some recordings that felt forced, even desperate; there was more to this woman’s life and her motives for creating these vlogs, something that bothered Morgan. Underneath this woman’s calm exterior appeared to be something being surpassed, some secret that had been buried.

“The doctor said this would help, but I feel the same feeling of isolation, of not belonging”. Polly sobbed as her body shook on screen. There was a sense of despair in her eyes, she seemed afraid to say what was on her mind, frightened to express her thoughts, perhaps saying them out aloud might make them real. A noise out of shot of a door opening triggered an immediate end to the vlog.

The next ten vogs made no mention of a doctor or the strange vlog that saw Polly so shaken. There was something happening here and Morgan painstakingly restored and watched all the vlogs in date order searching for any clues to the mystery that now consumed her evenings and eventually spilled over late into night. The answer came in the last visual file on the laptop.

Tears streaming down her face, Polly spoke directly to the camera, she was in the study again which had become her secluded place, away from the family. These vlogs were now private ones between her and the camera.

“I don’t know if it’s related, but I’m sick, really sick and I don’t know how long I have left.’’

Polly had become like a close friend, almost family and hearing these words, Morgan paused the visual file and sobbed uncontrollably. She let out a sorrow that had been buried deep inside her, a sorrow that she had almost forgotten was there. It was 1 am, the rain poured down on her father’s old house, the deep excavations filled with what seemed like an unending flow of water and the mounds of dirt dissolved almost as if being cleansed of years of concealed secrets.

In her basement Morgan could hear the rain as the clouds burst not able to stop the inevitable downpour. After composing herself and wiping her cheeks, she resumed the visual file.

“Morgan I love you, I miss you, forgive me my child wherever you are, whenever you are, I will always miss you.”

A chill went done Morgan’s spine, she was frozen but her brain continued to process the rest of Polly’s confession.

“That night, your father and I had a terrible fight and I walked out of the house, I just needed to get out of there. I continued walking into the night and remember getting as far as the fork in the road.”

“After that I was in a strange hospital, everything looked strange and unfamiliar. After years of therapy I came to terms that it really was the year 2017. I was told my memories of you and your father were delusions and that they were elaborate inventions of my mind”.

Polly was in an era she didn’t recognise, displaced in time and questioning her own sanity. The only thing that kept her sane was the little torn cloth that the doctors had given to her on being discharged from the hospital. They told her that it was in her clenched fist when they found her.

“It was the remnants of your baby bib that I still had in my hands when I left the house that terrible night. I knew I wasn’t crazy and it took me a long time to realise that I had to learn to live in this old world knowing that I was from the new world”.

“I’ve been told I may have a few more weeks to live…” Polly’s voice trembled but there was a determined look in her eyes, it was the look of a strong woman who had done her best to deal with the hand that had been dealt to her.

Morgan watched and listened motionless as the vlog came to an end with Polly’s final words: “Morgan, my sweet Morgan, I always saw a spark of brilliance in your eyes, you are special and you will do great things, be well my darling…”

Before Polly passed away in 2017 she had visited the vicinity of where she had been found in the year 2017. There she had buried the laptop and the frayed cloth, her last connection to Morgan.

Twenty years after having discovered what had happened to her mother, Morgan stood up in front of the solar system’s media.

“I dedicate this award to my mother, Grace Stanley, who later became known as Polly Newman. She was the unseen force that drove me to discovering the Grace-chron-anomaly, a phenomenon that has displaced many throughout time, the number of which we do not yet know”.

“In accepting this award, I would like to remember the countless souls that have died due to the chrono-active effects of this phenomenon 2 of whom were my mother and father”.

Clearing her throat and pausing for a second, Morgan looked at her daughter in the first row and and said: “I believe..I know, that love transcends time…”