An offering of flash fiction, set in a distant future, that calls attention to history’s uncanny ability to repeat itself…
by: Gabrielle Johansen
Lady’s locket, gold, encrusted with rubies, circa 1662
Brass pendulum clock circa 1734
Silver sugar cube tongs, ornately decorated with silver flowers and vines circa 1842
Mother-of-pearl pen tray, wrapped silver, circa 1927
Floppy disk, inscribed with “email@example.com” circa 2001
The “Through the Ages” display was not coming together. Howard couldn’t believe the museum directors thought five paltry items constituted an entire tableau. He supposed it would fall to him to find more pieces, though by rights and job description, Penelope should do it but she was immersed in reconstructing the tribal art collection after the previous week’s vandalism by the Dark Justice Truthers. Did they even know the poison roots they grew from?
So, no — Howard wouldn’t put more work on her plate. He could add a few more objects to its current sparsity. Find something to replace the floppy disk. He thought someone from the collections department put it in as a joke. He perused the catalog and scoured the storage areas to add:
Small Chinese Gilt Bronze Cup, circa 1613
Carved Gilt-wood Architectural Elements with Fruit And Flowers, Italian, circa 1700
English Oak Dollhouse, with wainscoting and newel post stairs, circa 1869
Two Art Nouveau Wooden Fragments with Faces, circa 1900
Monteverde Invincia Fountain Pen, Lilac Dream circa 2021
Maybe this was enough. Still, the first grouping had five objects, if he took away the disk, it would be four and the pairing would be unequal. Could he forget the 21st Century? Leave out the pen and the disk? Perhaps he should spotlight it. Bring it all to a focal point. Howard could see the items to add in his mind’s eye:
MAGA hat, circa 2016
Disposable Face Mask, circa 2019
Sanctioned Water Cube, circa 2027
Nuclear Contamination Zone World Map, circa 2032
Soy Candle, circa 2048
He took one more look at the gathered objects. Picking up the fountain pen and its inkwell, he discerned a little slosh inside the bottle. Was it possible? Howard uncapped the well. A gleaming pool of iridescent purple caught the light. He really shouldn’t, but he cannot resist. A quick glance confirmed he is alone. He dipped the nib in the ink, feeling the pen’s weight. The letters on the blank white side of the display card are dark violet, immediately fading to a docile lilac. Pen capped once more, Howard sighed. It was time to get back to the matter at hand.
The museum’s edict was clear though — no politics, nothing that could be construed as “taking a side.” Even though it took almost a hundred years for humankind to scrabble back to “civilization.” Howard believed they were not as far removed from the 21st Century as most might wish. No, it was important to include some representation of that time, even without the last set he imagined. Besides, the pen was truly beautiful.
Gabrielle Johansen creates fantasy and science fiction from her Charlotte, NC home. She has been published in the premier issue of Haven Speculative. Having visited Roswell, NM she can confirm the truth is out there.