Time Capsule Project — Part 3
Storytelling — I wrote a long story based on my Time Capsule Project!
At first, I was just writing down a few words and constructing a simple storyline for the final part of my Time Capsule Project. Eventually, all my thoughts expanded into a long story with different contents in it. Themes such as environmental issues, adventure, love, marriage, memory, and human relationships are the fundamental elements that support the development of my narrative.
My protagonist is a young girl called Saya. She is my fictional great granddaughter in this case and the one who eventually opens my Time Capsule and reads my messages. In my story, my focus, however, is not on the moment when Saya opens the capsule or what happens when she finds out what are inside. Instead, I concentrate more on the processes of searching and retrieving the time capsule, which are acts done by another important character, Saya’s fiancé and childhood friend, Sam, in the story.
Saya eventually fulfilled her responsibility as the key guardian by installing my treasure box back to her family, even though it was through the hands of others. Indeed, she retrieved the object that her family believed to be ‘priceless treasure’ throughout generations, but at the same time she lost Sam. Was this the desired outcome at all? Furthermore, when the moment Saya opened my time capsule and found out what had been sitting inside were just very common and mundane objects, it ironically contrasted the fact that Sam was forever gone. So, what was the real gain in this trip?
I interpreted my story through writing and documented my writing through a combination of words and images. I used Canva and Adobe Fresco.
Time Capsule Story - A Journey of Found and Loss
If you look down from the space, you can see a planet that is an amalgamation of water, mountains, and clouds. Since it is so far away from us, it looks like a funny looking jelly ball that has a dull combination of colors– blue, green, and white (well, white is technically not a color). My parents told me that was where our kind originally came from, as their parents had told them, and that one day we will all go back to our mother planet — our home.
My name is Saya, I’m the fourth generation born and raised in the spaceship Sojourner №4. I love to sit by the window all day and just to think about how far we are away from our mother planet “Earth”. I wonder what the world is like on the other side. People always gossip on the spaceship and through bits and pieces, I have also learnt about how Earth went down more than a century ago. They say it was because of severe issues like environmental pollution, global warming, and the sudden shutdown of ecosystem. My great grandma was an Earth inhabitant. Back in her days, she would never dream that humans would be forced to evacuate Earth within a century. She used to keep a diary when she was young and that was primarily how my family learnt about most of the things on Earth from throughout generations.
Recently, people have been talking about that our government has been secretly building a spacecraft and planning to send some people down on Earth to find out if the environment and atmosphere are now habitable after 125 years. Some of the older friends I know even told me they have signed up for the mission and showed me their application forms. Although I’m not so intrigued by this idea of being ejected into the space and landing on a planet that I don’t really know much about, I think I will probably still sign up for it just because I want to run away from something. My parents set up a match between me and Sam, a fine young man who is the eldest son of our family friends, Patrick and Gabby.
I have known Sam since I was a kid, we played together, we went to school together, and we grew up together. But despite the plentiful time we have spent together since childhood, he is just like a family to me. I can’t stand up against my parents’ arrangement alone and I don’t know how to tell Sam that I don’t have any romantic feelings for him. It’s obvious to everybody that Sam likes me, and he would just do anything to make me happy, even if that might make him look like a fool. However, I just don’t look at him the same way and marriage is simply too early for me.
Somehow my secret plan to escape was exposed and my parents got so angry with me that they locked me in my tiny capsule. The fact was they thought I was being reckless and just signing up for fun, but they didn’t know my intention was to run away from the arranged marriage. Sam came by one day and talked to me on the other side of the door.
“Did you really want to go there, Earth?”, he asked.
“YES!!!”, I shouted and realized that I was being rude and desperate. “I’m sorry,” I felt bad and yet extremely upset and mad at the same time, being locked inside the capsule for days must have made me emotional and easily provoked.
All of a sudden, with all these despair flooding in my head, I started to make up reasons that I didn’t even understand myself. “I wanted to go because I wanted to go find the treasure box that my great-grandma left behind on Earth. She hid it in a safe place somewhere before landing on Sojourner no.4. There is a key passed down by her in my family and it will help locate the box on Earth.” I lied but I didn’t lie at the same time.
“You are very brave, Saya. Not many girls of your age would just decide to go to a place that they don’t know nothing about.” Sam commented quietly on the other side.
“Ha-ha I guess”, I laughed embarrassingly.
“I have decided. I will sign up for this trip too.” Sam suddenly said and before I could react, he already walked away.
A week later.
I got the news from my parents that I was not selected for the trip. They sounded relieved, but they didn’t look so happy either. I asked them why and they told me that Sam got chosen instead.
What?! That idiot!!
I almost rushed to Sam’s capsule. Somehow there was this bad feeling slowly rising from my gut and I had no idea what it was.
“Ha. What are you huffing and puffing about?” Sam laughed at the sight of me. I was out of breath.
“Why did you do it? I, I, I mean…it’s a serious fly, not a child play!”
“Yeah, but if you were brave enough to do it why would I be afraid?”
I was speechless and suddenly an unknown sadness tightened up my throat and I couldn’t utter a word. I knew nothing would do at this point; nothing would change the fact that Sam would get in that spaceship to Earth in three days. It was just this unsettled feeling that something was going to happen kept on bothering me and I couldn’t stop worrying.
“Fine. Take this key with you then.” I took off the key necklace that I had been wearing ever since I was a kid. It was the key that my great grandma passed down to my family. My parents gave it to me because they said it was my responsibility to guard it with care and faith. “You better find my great grandma’s treasure box for me and bring it back with you. I will never forgive you if you lose it.” I pounded the key in Sam’s hand and tried to make myself sound really serious.
“Okay. Hey!” Sam chuckled. “Don’t you worry.”
It was the last time I saw Sam before he went on his mission. Three days later, he and other chosen ones left for Earth. It was a long journey flying towards Earth. Sam would video chatted me at night and send me pictures of the brilliant stars and interesting matters that he took while he was fixing some parts of the spaceship out in the space. He told me that life was pretty boring in the spaceship because all they could do were navigating the routes, observing the surrounding environment, fixing the machines, and taking classes about lifeforms on Earth all day.
It took them almost a month to finally get to Earth. The landing was successful. However, according to Sam and others, Earth looked completely different from what was recorded on the textbooks and historical artifacts. Skyscrapers and concrete jungles no longer existed. There was no more land and mountains were just protruding in the middle of the ocean. The air was thick, all eyes could see were green and blue. There were no flat lands to set foot on or build houses upon. Wild plants grew fiercely everywhere, it was a completely primitive world.
They managed to find a comparatively flat spot at the top of a huge mountain and land the spaceship. Sam and other people spent some days just exploring and walking around out in the mountains to collect samples and study the geological features of the surroundings. They hadn’t seen any high-intellectual life forms on Earth yet, but if there was any they were certainly alarmed by the arrival of the spaceship by now. However, they did see interesting animals and plants here and there. Sam was able to locate my great grandma’s treasure box with the key I gave him. It seemed that before great grandma got on Sojourner no.4, she hid it in the base where military used to shelter people and build weapons, spaceships. Sam told me he found out where the base was located, he would go check on his own when he was free of duties.
A couple of days later, Sam contacted me through a satellite call. He said that he had arrived at the base. The exterior shape of the base was no longer recognizable and after more than a century, it had already blended in the mountains and become part of the natural feature. The key I gave him had a sensor that was able to detect the approximate location of the treasure box. Sam was led to a cave that eventually brought him to the entrance to the base built many years ago.
Sam’s tone sounded somewhat nervous when he was talking. “There might have been something else here other than me…some living things.” He spoke. As he was carefully moving to the entrance, he heard something was coming towards his direction. He quickly tiptoed away and hid behind a huge statue. Thanks to those tiny shiny floating creatures in the air, he was able to vaguely see what was coming. It was not just one, but a group of figures — they had human-like builds, but their limbs were longer and slender, and their eyes and heads were proportionally bigger. Also, unlike humans, their skin color was a mix of light green and blue. As they walked, they spoke in a language that Sam couldn’t understand. The leader of the group touched something hidden behind a piece of rock and the entrance was open. Sam managed to sneak in right after before the gate was closed again. While the group was walking farther away, Sam started to look for the treasure box based on the direction given by the key.
He spent several hours just locating the exact spot where the box was hidden. When he found it, it was covered up by a bunch of random stuff that nobody would pay attention to. “Does the box look like a pearl shell?” He asked. “Yes!” I couldn’t believe he actually found it. “Just take the box with you and leave. It’s not safe to stay for too long.” “I’m on my way out” he replied.
He waited for the group to leave and followed them quietly at the end of the line. Somehow, Sam had this strong feeling that those human-like beings could use their eye sights perfectly in the dark, so he made it extra careful not be seen by them. While he was getting closer to the place that he parked his space capsule, he saw those human-like beings were already there talking to each other and studying the machine. Sam was not sure if they were friendly or hostile, so he continued remaining in the shadow. It seemed that they couldn’t figure out how the machine really worked and eventually gave up and walked away. Sam felt relieved when all of them disappeared in the sight, he quickly entered his capsule and started the engine. The sound of the engine must have startled the beings who had already left. Through the camera in the back of the capsule, Sam saw many more coming back towards his direction and started throwing their arms around the space capsule. Sam was shocked, he controlled the handle and tried to take off. While his space capsule managed to slowly break through and fly out of the cave, he realized that all those forces that were holding him down fell back. It happened all in a brief moment that all those figures retreated back in the shadow. “It was the sun! They were scared of the sun!” I could hear Sam’s shout over the call.
Sam flew back to the main spaceship safely at the end of the day. However, because the ship members had to continue doing research on the air quality and other assignments, they had to stay down there for another month. From Sam, I heard that several people had fallen sick after their arrivals on Earth. It seemed like there was something in the air that was toxic to human bodies and had been attacking their immune systems. One day, Sam chatted with me over the video and told me that some members in the spaceship did not make it and died of some unknown disease the night before. His face looked pale and his voice sounded weak. “Are you alright?” I asked with grave concern. “I’m alright. I still have to bring your great grandma’s treasure box and key back to you, remember. I’ll make it back to the Sojourner no.4.” He tried to sound like cheerful, but I knew he was just pretending everything was okay.
I hadn’t heard from Sam for a while. Regardless how many messages I sent and calls I made; he did not respond to any of it. Did something bad happen? I asked myself and couldn’t imagine I was actually considering the worst scenario. I made visits to families whose sons or daughters were also sent down on this mission and they said they hadn’t heard from them for a while either.
An unexpected announcement was broadcasted on public media in a random afternoon a few days later. The media shared the unfortunate news that the mission did not go well as planned. Although the ship members were able to collect data and samples of the living forms on Earth, all of them seemed to suffer from some toxin in the air and eventually died of some strange symptoms. I was utterly shocked and couldn’t believe that those people were already gone. Sam would never come back to Sojourner no.4 either.
Sojourner no.4 received many space boxes that contained samples and data that the ship members collected. Sam and the others managed to launch them out to the space and set up a route to send them back home before disease burnt out their lives. One day, a person in suit came over to my capsule and handed me over the personal belongings that Sam sent back to Sojourner no.4. He told me that these belongings were specifically instructed to be handed over to me. The lab had already deep sanitized all the belongings and made sure no toxic elements remained.
Among Sam’s belongings, I found his diary, his favorite book Moby Dick, the family heirloom watch he had been wearing since he was a young boy, a bunch of photos of us together, and a pearl shell looking box with a small key attached to it. This was it! It was great grandma’s treasure box. Even though the box was eventually unearthed after a century, I did not feel excitement at all because I knew in a way, I could say Sam traded his life for it. The box felt so heavy in my hand, it was like the weight of life.
I opened the treasure box with the key and found what had been sitting silently inside for over a century. They were just some very common things: a woman’s watch, some picks for the instruments, a bundle of old postcards (some had words written on them, some did not), great grandma’s graduation portraits, and souvenirs she collected on vacations. There were also notes in the box that told stories of each item. At the very bottom of the box, there was a sealed letter written by great grandma. “To whom find my treasure”, it said. I opened the envelop and read the words that my great grandma wrote down in her 20s.
I couldn’t finish great grandma’s letter because it was so heartbreaking to think about now that Sam was forever gone, and I couldn’t help but take the guilt that he lost his life because of my selfish act. Maybe, many years ago, when great grandma buried her time capsule on Earth, she knew already Earth wouldn’t recover within a few centuries. Yet she still had faith and believed humans would be able to return to their mother Planet one day.
That was why she installed her faith in the key and passed down to her family as a reminder of our origin, history, heritage, and responsibility. She expected that one day when it was the right time, her family would unearth her time capsule together and understand that the happiest things in the world were nothing more than being healthy, being surrounded by people you love, and having someone you can create meaningful memories with. But it took me too long to grow up and understand.