a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
“A Missive from a Time Yet to Come” is a letter from someone in the future written to their ancestor who lives during our time. It is hopeful and tells a story of some of the positive changes that happen when capitalism falls and people figure out how to survive. French was inspired by the style of Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ piece “Evidence” in the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. (Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, eds.). Chico, California: AK Press: 2015.
A letter from Shira Wildman to her great grandmother Chava Wildman, sent backwards through time.
I need you to know everyone does not die. There is a future. In your time they tell stories about how they created the end. They said the Earth would flood, that fires would consume everyone and that massive wars would kill multitudes. They were right about some things and wrong about others.
There is less land than there used to be but there is still more than enough. Worldwide, there were seven military coups and one large scale war between your death and my birth. Fires came, but many people and animals escaped. Fifty years ago, the markets collapsed. The stock market crashed and lay still, its limbs twitching. Investors walked out of their glass towers stunned. Many of them fell into a deep depression. Those of us who had been experiencing depression and anxiety fueled by capitalism and poverty felt grimly satisfied.
Suddenly all that mattered was the money you had in your pocket. It was incredibly humbling and equalizing. The scales tipped. People who knew how to make things, how to grow things and how to hunt and scavenge suddenly had the upper hand. People who didn’t have those skills had to apprentice themselves to people who did. Those who weren’t willing to starved to death.
Chava, I need you to know that everyone does not die. You would recognize those you love in my friends. There are people thriving here who are depressed and bipolar and schizophrenic; people who have HIV and cancer and shortened limbs; people who love dogs more than humans; people who eat vegan diets and people who eat mostly meat; people who are blind and Deaf and who need power for their ventilators and Cpap machines.
There has been a lot of evolution. Some of the differences in humans that were recognized as deformities were actually humans evolving into another life form. Webbed hands turning into paws. Curvy spines trying to be snakes. All the creatures went through intense selection pressure. Evolution sped up and some of our bodies were trying to evolve back into other creatures. Snakes have had an easier time surviving than humans. It didn’t really work but it was a good effort.
There are still dogs. And they are so much happier. We no longer use leashes or cages. The dogs choose who they want to be their people. People have gotten better at reading dog body language. We know to look for signs when a dog is stressed and not push them past their comfort levels. The dogs have been teaching us to follow our noses more.
Another thing that has changed a lot is gender. I know of at least twenty eight different recognized genders, complete with their own combinations of pronouns and ways of being in the world. Flannel shirts are no longer an indicator of gender. In your time people used to care a lot about the gender of their partner and believed it said something about who they were. Now we just ask how we should refer to each other and trust our desire will tell us who we should and shouldn’t date.
My work in the world is not so different from yours. I hold grief circles and birth circles and truth councils. Some people say I am a gifted facilitator. I mostly just channel the energy of trees into my work. There has been a lot of grief. Last week one of our elders died. We all got together and told stories and wailed and the dogs howled and we burned herbs ushering her body into the spirit world.
There was so much fear and despair during your time. Many things broke in the years between your time and mine. Capitalism. Cities. Human’s dominion over animals. Seaside cottages. But many things grew and flourished! Community. Self-sufficiency. Wildflowers. Our understanding of creatures. Interdependence.
Thank you ancestor Chava for persisting through the despair and fear. I am forever grateful.
Shaya French lives in New England and is a disability community organizer. Ze has had work published in Sinister Wisdom, The Things We Don’t Say: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths and Rewire.com. Ze enjoys reading hopeful queer stories about the future and walking around the pond near hir house.