CONTEXT: It is the year 2377. This is the real-time personal daily journal of a person living at that time in a place known as Continent 5. Our person is a graphic designer for a weekly publication about plants. It has been centuries since people identified with a particular gender, thus they are all referred to as people. A new pronoun was introduced, ‘Hse’ which is used to refer to all people. It is pronounced as ‘hsee’. Continent 5 is predominantly vegetarian, and there are no abattoirs or butcheries. People that live by the sea however are allowed to catch and eat only certain kinds and amounts of fish allowed by law. There are no bosses, only co-workers and everyone that works for a particular kind of organization or business earns the same kind of money. Everyone lives anywhere.
It has been months since Lou , myself and the gang have gone star gazing. The last time we spent the night camping up Signal Hill had been memorable, and we were all itching to do it again. None of us knew any of the constellations, the only heavenly body we could identify was the moon-and this coming Friday it will be full. So I sent out an email to the gang and made plans to leave work early on Friday so that I could fuel up the car and buy provisions for the evening. I have been working late every day now for two weeks, so I am sure my co-workers will let me out early.
I still have some work that needs doing, so for the next two days I will be working late again. Three pages in the magazine still needed laying out and five pages don’t have illustrations yet. I will probably be in the office until midnight.
So much for thinking that I was going to be done by midnight. That was a long shot if ever there was one. I pack up my things and make sure that the door is locked as I leave the building. I remember my great grandperson telling me of a time where every room in every house had an alarm system, and how hse had been taught the code to hsers when hse was only four. I’m so glad I did not live in the 2100’s. I wave to the security guard as I leave the building, and wish hser a good night. It’s a good thing that I don’t live so far from the office, so that I can walk home. I fish in my bag for a flashlight. Quite a few street lamps have gone out so I need some light to help me find my way. It’s a dark starry night, and apart from a few lights on in a few houses, I feel quite alone in the world. Home is a ten minute walk away through what is usually a busy neighbourhood. I cross the street and lake a left on Vleis Street, and continue on my journey home. Up ahead, a group of maybe six people spill out of Club Fifty, quite drunk and quite ready to go sleep. I think that maybe they will try and pack themselves into a taxi, but they decide to walk instead. My flashlight is still on because I will need it when I turn left again on Primrose Road. The group of drunk people start singing what I can only imagine is a soccer anthem and proceed to link hands and perform what looks like a cancan dance. I laugh a little as I watch the theatrics from a distance. Because they are drunk and dancing, I catch up with them in no time. I cough loudly (and quite dramatically) to alert them of my presence. sober up enough to make way for me to pass. I mutter a good evening to the group and they rumble one back in unison. I pass and continue on my way home. For some reason, the group of drunk people have stopped their clowning around and are quiet. I look behind me and find that they have stopped walking and are huddled together gesturing wildly in my direction. I turn back and take the left on Primrose Road. I can see the bush of wild Bottlebrush trees near my gate. Suddenly, I hear the hurried footsteps of people coming up behind me. I stop and shine my flashlight behind me. It is quite dark now, as there are no streetlights down my street, and there is very little traffic at this time of the night. I startle a little when my flashlight illuminates the bunch of late night revelers that I had left behind.
“Is everything okay?” I ask them. They all hesitate and there is an awkward moment before one of them says “Yeah, we’re fine, we were just wondering if you are okay.”
“I’m fine. I’m almost home. Thanks for the concern.” I say
“Oh okay cool.” The Talkative One says, and the others wave awkwardly.
I turn around and continue my quickly concluding journey home when I realize that the group is still following me. I stop, turn around again and say, “Is there something I can help you with?”
By now, the distance between the group and I has been reduced significantly, and they are maybe six big footsteps behind me. The Talkative One coughs and says, “No there’s really no problem. We’re just making sure you get home okay.”
I laugh out loud and ask “What could possibly happen at this hour? Everything and everyone is asleep”
“Well, we’re not.” The Talkative One says matter-of-factly. Hse has a point. I shrug and nod my head, “Yeah, you’re right. We are awake aren’t we?”
At that I take the remaining ten steps to my gate, open it and let myself in. As I shine my light on the group of people passing, I offer to lend them my flashlight if they need it, and they can bring it back during the day since they now know where I live. The Talkative One politely declines and says that they will be fine. We bid each other goodnight. As I drift off to a short sleep before the morning, I can’t help but chuckle at how a group of six only had one talkative person.
Tuesday 12.33 PM
I’m meeting up with Aide for lunch. It’s been ages since we hung out and we are overdue for a catch up. Aide and I went to school together, so we have known each other a long while. Aide tells me that hse got a job at a supermarket and hse is so excited to start it soon, so that hse can start saving for hser house. I’m very excited for hser. I tell hser that there is a house that has been up for sale for a while in my neighbourhood, so hse should look into buying that. It would be great to have a friend as a neighbor. I still have so much to do. Being a graphic designer is not a glamorous as my lecturer had told me it would be.
Today is International Animals Day. So myself and a bunch of people from the office will be going down to the Barn for after work drinks and some tapas. I’m excited!
Briy is telling stories about how in the past tapas used to be made of dead fish and dead cow (hse says that they used to call it beef) and that people loved to eat it. I cannot imagine a world where people killed animals to eat them. That they even GREW the animals just to eat them. Makes no sense. All that blood. Briy needs to stop telling these stories when I’m eating. The Barn had the most amazing butter bean soup I have had in a while. Definitely my tongues’ highlight of the day. Carpo is thinking of getting and animal friend to live with, but hse’s not sure if hse’s up for the responsibility. We all agree that it is a huge decision, and that hse’s got to think about it long and hard. Maybe I should get an animal friend too…
This day will kill me. So much to do. My co-workers approved my day off-yay! I am so excited for tomorrow.
I survived yesterday-phew! I checked again with the gang and we are all set for stargazing tonight. I have borrowed Toe’s car and I am in charge of dessert and the fun foods. I remember talking to Lou a while back and saying we should get a car together. Lou laughed and asked what the heck for? Hse has a point-we cycle, walk and take buses everywhere we need to be, so maybe we don’t need one. Plus when we do, we have friends like Toe who let us borrow theirs. In fact Toe is the only person I know with a car. It might have to do with the fact that hse almost a hundred years old and misses the ‘good old days’.
Leaving the office now!
The market is packed, and they are fresh out of celery. Oh well, maybe next time. Okay, so I have some fruits, drinks, fresh rolls, nuts, chips and of course chocolate. Maybe some cookies. And more chocolate. Definitely more chocolate. I asked Toe what the car runs on and hse said that it is good to go, he has charged it already. My great grandperson had taught me how to drive-a skill I never thought I would ever need, but apparently, even so-called obsolete skills can sometimes come in handy. If we really wanted to we could have taken a bus up to Signal Hill, but the truth was that we like to sit in the car and soak up the ‘old-schoolness’ of it all. Plus on a cold night-a car made for better shelter than a tent. There were six of us in total, just enough to have fun, and not too many to end up with squabbles over cheese a chocolate. I’m picking Lou up first because hse lives closest to me. Vaiy, Meer, Nomma and Po live close to each other, and will take a bus to a store where they will get more drinks, ice, firewood and other things. Lou and I are going to meet them there and pack all the camping equipment and provisions in the boot of the 2098 Subaru Forester station wagon.
Vaiy is running late. Hse could not get out of work early it seems, so we are all waiting for her at the store. I swear the person behind the counter is the Talkative One. Hse looks at me like hse knows me. But I can’t be sure. It was dark and it was late and I was tired. Vaiy has finally arrived! We can get going.
The provision store that we met at did not have beer. Beer is so hard to find. And the bars will not allow you to take any home. So we drove around quite a bit looking for beer. By law, only ten places are allowed to sell beer in the town and they are quite spaced out all over the place. They also limit how much beer each person can buy per month, and your quota is reflected on your ID when they scan it to check your age. People get points if they don’t meet their quota for alcohol consumption a month, and the points can be used to buy stuff at the store. Anyway, why am I boring you with this nonsense. Point is that we got some beer in the end. It seems we are all below on our quotas. Meer is saving up hser beer points to buy a couch, which we think is funny. Hse insists it’s not just any couch.I have funny friends.
Lou likes to hold my hand when we are driving. It’s nice. I like it. In fact Lou just likes to hold my hand. Or likes it when I hold hsers. Hse read somewhere that hand holding is good for relationships. Lou is always reading something about relationships-hse is always full of information. In the 2100’s people would have called hser a geek.
We missed the sunset, but that’ s okay, we are here for the moon and the stars. And goodness me is the moon full. It looks so big and so close I am tempted to throw a stone at it and see if it bounces off. Po is singing some song off key into a bottle of beer. It’s hser fifth bottle, so anytime now we expect hser to rip hser t-shirt off and howl at the moon. The rest of us are lying in our sleeping bags and staring up at the sky. It is quite beautiful.
“You know what I read the other day?” Nomma begins. We all moan. Nomma is always reading up something about the 1900’s and 2000’s and how different life was back then. Often hse comes up with some of the most ridiculous stuff that we have ever heard. They say the moon affects different people in different ways-it seems the moon makes Nomma dig into her treasure trove of all things weird and wonderful from the 2000’s.
“You know Signal Hill was a very dangerous spot back in 2013?” Nomma offers that tidbit of intellectual bait. None of us try and encourage hser but hse soldiers on. “If we were back in the twenty hundreds, up here, at this time, we’d probably all have been raped. Every single one of us.” Damn hser hse knew how to get us curious, using words and terms we don’t know.
“Raped?” Vaiy asks.
“Yeah, raped.” Nomma says matter-of-factly. None of us know what that is, and Lou would sooner die than let another minute pass without knowing what the word means.
“What’s ripped?” Lou asks.
“Raped, not ripped.” Nomma corrects Lou. “Rape was this thing that happened a lot to people back then. It was when someone would force you to have sex with them.” Now I’m listening.
“That’s ridiculous-why would anyone want to do that?” I ask.
“Research says it’s a power thing. Makes no sense how that could be a power thing. I really don’t get it. But that’s what they did back then.”
“I don’t get it,” Po says. “So someone, or people, would come here, find us stargazing then force us to have sex with them? Just like that? Why?” We were all thinking the same thing. The very thought that people would do that just seemed impossible. Rape. We sat there in stunned silence for a bit, and thought about just how far we had come as people.
“It even happened in families. Parents would rape their little people…” Now we have heard enough and we cut hser off.
“Okay Nomma, that’s it for this month I think.” Meer, who has been quite quiet the entire evening finally pipes up. “Whose up for some chocolate?”. We all agree that something sweet will help wash away the bitter taste of mankind’s past out our mouths. And maybe our minds.
I snuggle closer to Lou and we have a moment of whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears before someone shushes us. We make out for a while-as silently as two people can on a quiet night surrounded by four other people. Despite Nomma’s bombshell of startling information-I’d day it was a successful stargazing night out.
Back home and I am pooped. We hiked, and ate, then swam, and drank, then danced, and ate and drank. It was lovely. But I’m tired now and tomorrow is work.
Despite myself, I share with my co-workers Nomma’s piece of information on rape. Briy chokes on hsers coffee, and Sau does the same. Some of my co-workers have heard of this rape thing and they confirm that it is a real thing and that it happened a lot, all over the world.
“It’s like that whole female and male thing that we learned about in history. How ridiculous was that, but it happened. The world was different then. People thought they needed as many divisions and identities as possible. It’s just how it was back then.” Dele says.
“So in 2030, what would I be then? I don’t know these things, I didn’t study history.” Ern asks.
“They would call you a female to male transsexual,” I say, and the whole office bursts out laughing. It’s so silly.
“A fe-what to who trans-what? What was wrong with just being Ern back then? Goodness people had issues.” Ern says and shaker hser head.
Lou and I are going to see a movie to night. A scary sci-fi I think. I don’t really care. I’ve never gone to the movies to actually watch one…