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Letter to a Future that Doesn't Exist

Author: Martin Stepek
Year: Future

Dear Future,

I know the philosophers say you don’t really exist, and the scientists, or some of them, say you’re here already, co-existing with Past and Present, but I want to write to you anyway.

Something else though, apart from what all those smart thinkers say about you. Why am I writing to you when you’re not a person, not someone who is going to read this and say 'That was a nice letter' or, hopefully not, 'What a load of rubbish!'.

Still, I do want to write to you, about certain disappointments in life generally, for which I can in part blame you, but also about some hopes that you might help make real.
When I was a kid in Hamilton, I became aware of my first real news story. It was Aberfan. I was in primary three. You can imagine how my mum felt. Had I been Welsh, that could have been me under all the bing. In fact it was around that time that my brother’s friend died in a much smaller, but otherwise similar accident, when part of the bing that some of our friends were playing at gave way, covering the poor boy. It's over fifty years ago now, but my heart weeps when I remember, and I was just a child, like the wee ones who died on those days.

You might say that it’s nothing to do with you, that those events, tragic though they were, lay far in the past, and you take nothing to do with the past, and that if this is my gripe then take it up in a letter to Past.

But those events were the future once. They were you before it happened. Why didn’t you stop them?

The list goes on. I’ll spare you the details, but names ring though my head like bells tolling for the innocents. Biafra, Vietnam, that girl running naked down the road burning with napalm, Bangladesh. Heck, I’m barely past my primary school years with that lot.

Sorry, I had to get all that off my chest.

Can you tell me if the future really is bright?

Because you don’t really exist and you aren’t in the present, you might not know that we’ve been having another tough time here. It’s called Covid-19. Sounds like a computer game or some new software. It’s here now, causing havoc, and although a lot of the worst of it might be in the past, we tend to look to you for hope, or dread. So what’s it to be?

Will our scientists find a vaccine and save us all? Will track and trace at least reduce the number of deaths to a more bearable daily number?

Do you think we can one day reboot everyday life with some of the good, albeit enforced stuff, coronavirus gave us? Like daily walks in the woods. Clear skies, shorn of jet stream. The realisation that quiet is healing, and the absence of cars on our streets could help prevent climate change? Can we be a society again, but without all the crap this time?

And speaking of climate change, that’s surely one of your big projects over the next hundred years or so. I know we can’t stop it but any chance you might help us minimise the consequences of it by helping us change our ways?

Since lockdown I’ve walked in the woods outside our back garden every day. I’ve come to love the songs of the blackbirds, the starlings chattering at each other, the robin, coy and cute. The weather has been ridiculously good, and daisies and dandelions and buttercups so fill the waste area that mankind’s housing developments left behind, that it looks like something out of Heidi or The Sound of Music. We’ve got a night camera too. Badgers, foxes, rabbits, mice, most days. I even saw a deer, live, six yards from where I stood, having walked out of a wooded area into a clearing. I could have cried, I was so thrilled and happy.

I know it’s naïve and you’re just the messenger, so I don’t blame you as such but is there any prospect of the Future being more like this; Bambi, without the sad bits, and less like Aberfan and this Pandemic?

It’s surely not beyond human ingenuity, don’t you think? You know us better than anyone except Past, and to be honest, Past is a bit jaundiced and pessimistic by nature, whereas we all kind of think of you as the optimist, or that you at least contain some Hope in those deep pockets of yours.

As Past will verify, I’ve lost a lot of people I love fairly recently. My mum and dad, less than a month apart, coming up for eight years ago. Then my brother and sister – too young, cancer – in a six months period a year or so ago. Next it was the turn of my aunts and uncle; my dad’s sister – she survived the Gulag but in recompense Death gave her a long, happy extension, for which I’m so grateful as she was a lovely lady. My mum’s brother and sister – the latter a hundred years old – during the lockdown, in a care home. But not from the virus. Just her time.

I mention these as I come to the conclusion, Future, just so you know I’ve been through a lot, though not nearly so much as many. All I’m asking for is for the avoidable to be avoided. No one is asking for the unrealistic. We all know Death has a job to do, and you, Future, deliver what Fate presents to you.

I’d like three things: peace of mind for all, fairness amongst humans, and stability and protection for the planet and all the creatures that live on it with us.

I know you can’t promise but see what you can do, please.

Warmest regards.