It baffled me. When I travelled back to 2021, I realized I had forgotten how much we complained about our oppressed freedoms. We’d waltz in and out of shops, restaurants, and pubs (with seated service only) - without being monitored or followed to the degree we are now. When I travelled to what historians refer to as the ‘idiot era’ I noticed people complained about the aggravation evoked when they were instructed to conceal their faces with flimsy, cloth masks. It irritated them when they scanned track and trace by dancing their phones at café windows until QR codes invigorated a tick's appearance on their screens.
I saw a lovely couple; they reminded me of how happy Tucker, and I once was. He had azure blue eyes and she had ginger hair, it was peculiar to see hair again. I remembered all the different hair colours, the blondes, brunettes, the styles, the braids, the dyes. Their eyes were adorned with eyelashes, something I also missed. Hers were coated with a layer of mascara. I observed her enviously, whilst raising my index finger and stroking it over my empty lash line, to feel nothing but skin.
I annotated their every movement. I watched their eyes roll upwards and visit the inside of their skulls when the waitress asked them to track and trace as she nervously clasped her hands together, fidgeting. They smiled with relief to each other when they pondered their fingers through the loops of their masks, unhooking them from their ears as they sat down.
If only they knew what they were inhaling – they would’ve kept them on. As a visitor from the future, I was astounded at how stupid they looked. Their sighs and eye rolls conjured an anger to soar upwards from the pit of my stomach, because 2021 was the last time I remembered any kind of freedom. This was as free as it was going to get – yet they sulked.
If only we knew. The future that was ahead of us was a gargantuan quintessence of humanity self-inflicting its own demise.
“Oh, my life, what is that?” The lady screamed. Everybody gasped, they had spotted me. I forgot that a person with no eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, and any sort of hair wasn’t usual to them. I ducked, attempting to envelope myself into the bushes.
My name is Chelsea Matthews. I am from 2041, twenty years have transpired since ‘the idiot era’. Everyone has realized that everything they had ignored was piling higher into a sundae of oblivion, eventually causing the world to crumble. Climate change was the largest contribution, there were two primary conspiracies about where it all began, Covid-19. Some believed it was created in a lab or it was the government’s invention.
Nobody considered the truth that researchers discovered in 2025 - how global warming was melting the ozone layer, an ozone layer which was the hand, holding billions of frozen viruses inside its palm. The more emissions we would idiotically utilize, the more the planet would cook, causing these viruses to defrost and linger into our atmosphere and mouths.
Global warming began to conjure earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, year after year a new blood bath would erupt until the government finally did something. Did you know that methane produced from cows is twenty-three times more damaging to the climate than emissions from vehicles? This problem became so overpowering to the atmosphere, they completely stopped the meat trade in 2026.
Criminals began to sell meat illegally – everybody yearned for it to the point normal citizens murdered and sold their own, domestic, household pets for sources of meat. Illegal dog and cat farms alongside slaughterhouses emerged, police shut down the ones they discovered, but the majority were difficult to track down. There were no appliances available that were used in abattoirs, the government forced every tool to be destroyed that enabled animal slaughters.
Nobody had access to the “humane” killing appliances but did access devices such as knives that could be arguably necessary for other things. Dogs and cats would get stolen daily, Whiskers, my twelve-year-old Bengal cat, never returned home amid this anarchy.
Then there’s the radiation – just being back in 2021 made me feel lightheaded. We didn’t realize the dangers of what we were using. What we thought was technology advancement, was nothing but the advancement of cancer. Bluetooth radio waves microwaved our brains whilst we voluntarily connected ourselves to them. Obliviously, the wireless signals surging down onto our phones oozed with ionizing radiation.
The World Health Organization informed us through their emergency broadcasts that when we lost all our hair, our eyelashes, eyebrows, everything – it was the mere consequence of delayed radiation poisoning from these frequencies. Everybody's electronical devices were disabled from use, all phone carrier businesses were terminated and halted every SIM card. Apple, Microsoft, Google – every technology company to ever exist was assassinated. NASA removed the satellites that slumbered on our clouds, hovering miles away from us yet causing our eyelashes to malt.
I remember losing my hair, I didn’t just wake up bald. It was a slow progress. I would wake to a few eyelashes scattered on my pillow each day. In the shower, I’d massage shampoo into my scalp, removing my hands to greet a lump of hair extracted from my head. I was vacuuming my apartment when I noticed my arms – the vacuum needed emptying, so I unlatched the bag. My arms’ sudden movement caused the little hairs to shred onto the carpet like specks of sawdust.
Everybody was losing hair and losing themselves. We had no technology to share our thoughts, we all craved and were accustomed to virtual stimulation, making us bored and foreign to face-to-face interaction. The suicide rate soared. The only choice the government had was to monitor us like felons, our houses became prisons. We were no longer in charge of our own money, everybody’s estate belonged to the government. We had no privacy. Overnight, we were all jobless and controlled, the world became an infinite loop of chaos. We were all too poorly to do anything about it.
The radiation poisoning aroused nausea that I cannot describe. My head felt a burden to carry on my neck, dizzily weighing me down to the point my vision would blur. In 2041, it is a statistically known fact that by thirty, you will have died from cancer or endured at least three cancers by that age.
My husband, Tucker, was a computer technician for seven years, and in 2038 we had our first child, Lillie. Tucker suffered from late-delayed radiation myelopathy from his exposure which paralyzed and massacred him. He used to lay with his tongue drooping outside of his mouth, with his eyes in a frozen latch, endlessly staring to the left. They were glazed over and so cloudy that his irises looked like they had air condensing onto winter windows inside of them. He didn’t look like he was there. But he was there, witnessing every second. Experiencing his little baby growing up without the ability to hug her, talk to her or smile at her.
She would ask me who the scary lobsided face man in mummy’s bed was, I’d tell her he was daddy, but she was petrified of him. I knew that broke Tucker’s heart - he was there watching everything unfolding, whilst his numb body restricted him from expressing it.
Lillie too became a victim of radiation myelopathy because the condition is genetic. At three years old, she is now paralyzed. Tucker had to watch that during the last month of his life. This wasn't how we imagined our family, we imagined teaching Lillie to walk together, having Christmas’, taking her to school. We didn't know that our lives were going to collapse.
One thing that never collapsed was the government’s ability to develop more technology despite their acknowledgement of it being the instrument that incapacitated humanity. They conducted time travelling resources and authorized the public’s usage of them for medical purposes. They designed a crimson heart shaped locket, and on the back was a button to sink your finger into, and by pressing it, you are immersed into the precise date and time the government have encrypted you to join. This costs £25,000 and has years of documentation accommodating it before use, as by using the locket system, you are exposing yourself to 1,000 radiation watts per minute.
There are laws that you are obliged to abide by, otherwise you are sentenced to death. The Prohibited Future Tampering Law (2028) states; people must only visit the past to modify a permitted component of it, anything else is unsolicited tampering and can have immense, detrimental effects. A dictum in this law states that informing somebody in history about their future is considered future tampering. If that’s your offence, the government won't be as generous to death sentence you. They exterminate you whilst you’re there.
You sign numerous documents agreeing with every law, condition, and penalty before you invest your twenty-five grand and clasp the locket around your neck. If you have a child and they are suffering radiation contamination, one of these laws states that you are permitted to travel back to the time of conceiving and refrain from sexual intercourse.
On the 30th of June 2041, I travelled back to the 1st of July 2021, the calculated day Tucker and I, created Lillie. I was provided the heart, crimson locket teamed with its pendant on the back which functioned as my transport button.
I arrived at 10:30pm. The flock of customers pooling outside of an Italian near my apartment, including the content couple I told you about earlier, were certain that there was a “creature” inside the bushes. They knew I was there. Under their astounded chatter, I hurryingly scurried to my apartment, attempting to conceal myself with the cloak of the darkening sky, hoping nobody saw me. I was petrified of being caught and examined; it was evident by the customers’ reactions that I was alien.
Noticing my fingernails growing back from where radiation poisoning had stolen them, I crawled down the cobbled pathway leading to my apartment. My arms warmed from the diminutive coat of hair returning, and my brunette locks branched out, resting on my shoulders. I imprisoned strands of hair in my fists, feeling the soft silk in my palms as the nostalgic aroma of shampoo encircled my nostrils. I marvelled at different strands of hair in awe, it felt like reuniting with an old friend.
“You’re back early, Chels.” A homely voice distracted me. It was Tucker. I turned around. He was clutching a carrier bag with a baguette erecting outside of it. He was alive. My heart ached. I yearned to see the dimples that pierced his cheeks when his smile spread across his face. My eyes collected tears as I galloped towards him, fumbling over my feet, “I love you so much.” I broke into a cry against his chest. His homely arms and familiar smell caressed me.
“I love you,” His warm voice trembled. “What’s wrong? Have you taken another negative test?”
That’s when I remembered I took pregnancy tests every single day around that time. We were giddy and goofy as we pleaded for the second line’s appearance on the crumb-sized screen. I remembered everything. I had sunk into his cradle like my head discovered a pillow it had craved for years. My ear fastened to where his heartbeat was. I could hear its rhythm, I could feel him, smell him, he was really there. “I have missed you so bad.” I clung onto him.
How could I lie to his precious face the way I had agreed to? But how could I tell him that the miracle we were constantly waiting for, existed, sealed in another dimension, hairless, pale, and paralyzed, whilst he is dead? How could I tell him that our future was agonizing? I pondered hopelessly, hugging him tight. I couldn’t stop crying.