My breath fogs up the glass. I smudge it away with my sleeve and wipe my cheeks free of tears. She’s dead. She’s been dead for 1,946 years and 81 days—they all have—but I still can’t help the current of emotion I feel every time I look at her perfectly-preserved, blank expression.
I wish I could have met her. She was the same age as me when it happened—what the homo sapiens called “twenty” and “female.”
I prefer our term. “A murmur.” So quiet and yet so impactful.
The Diggers found her body bent over a writing desk, buried beneath layers upon layers of rubble. We owe a lot to her because by bending over the desk, she preserved the writing and electronic device that was on it.
Nearly all of the homo sapiens were found with or clutching a “mobile phone.” Hers was one of nineteen from which the Diggers were able to recover data. I use her “photo gallery” as wallpaper for four out of the six rooms in my home. It contains everything from “screenshots” of cooking recipes to “selfies” with legendary monuments such as the Colosseum and Eiffel Tower. I keep them to remember her by. They are my own personal window into the 21st century.
On the days that I am alone, I dress like her too. The Diggers kept her in the clothes she was wearing when she died: a white cotton shirt stained with “pen” ink, a silver chain necklace with matching earrings, faded “jeans,” and white shoes. It’s all very vintage and out of place in the modern world. That’s why I wear it in secret.
I like looking at her eyes. They are brighter in person than they are in her “photos.” Perhaps that is because they reflect what they see—the plain, white walls of her cell in the Museum of Men and Women.
Does she see me?
I would like her to like me. I would like her to tell me… everything. Everything her “photos” cannot tell us. Everything the Diggers could not dig up. I would like to see her smile in person and hear her real voice.
I raise my fingertips to the glass and I trace her tiny form: hair swept over one shoulder to cover the injuries on her neck; chapped lips parted; left arm limp and outstretched, palm facing downwards.
It’s still possible that one day we will invent a technology to awaken her and the others. Last year, I submitted a request to the Diggers to be there when she wakes up. I want to be the first one she sees. I haven’t heard back yet.
The way I see it, she is everything I could have been if I was born 1,923 years ago. I could have had those blue eyes. I could have seen the places she did. I could have read the same books. I could have listened to her music. I could have learned to “write” by hand. I could have.
“Handwriting” is a homo sapien art. We don’t have the agility in our hands to hold “pens,” that’s why we type everything by clatterboards. Homo sapiens were artistic.
My favorite, she was a “writer.” The Diggers believe every homo sapien could write, but “writers” were different. They didn’t write just anything. They wrote important things with messages and meanings for important purposes.
I’ve read every writing of hers that the Diggers found. Her “notebook” is a pile of papers bound by a green hardback cover, fastened with a bronze latch. The contents are the closest I can come to having a real conversation with her.
Some people begin the mornings with affirmations or meditations. I begin my mornings by reading one of her entries and imagining I am there.
“The day began,” she wrote on the 8th of November in 2022, “with a balcony view of orange trees and a sunrise over the mountains.
I turn my face to my LED lamp and imagine it is the sunshine. I wish the sun was still in orbit! It is a thought as futile as wishing the homo sapiens had not died.
If only her eyelids would flutter open and she would sit up in her chair. She would read the glass sign that summarizes her life in a paragraph of dates and estimations, wander the corridor labeled Homo Sapien Murmurs and know that even though there were no tears or poems at her funeral, she was not forgotten.
“You are not forgotten,” I whisper, fogging up the glass again. “Do you hear me?”
She stares back, bright eyes blank. A tear rolls off my chin and hits the marble floor with a splash.
Deborah Rose is the Managing Editor for Hey Young Writer. She is the author of YA, fantasy novels Dragon Pearls (2019) and Crown My Heart (2020). You can follow her on Instagram at @authordeborahrose or visit her website, deborahrosegreen.co.uk!