Isolation Journals Day 52: A Letter to the Future

Read more about Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals.


I remember hearing once the results of a poll about death. The question was about how much and under what circumstance people fear the prospects of their own deaths. The poll found that people feared their own death less if they knew that their loved ones and descendants would prosper on after them. But when confronted with the idea that the people they love will suffer and maybe perish in some unfortunate way—say a comet or a global pandemic—then people feared death more, even though they would already be gone by the time the imagined horrifying event took place.

I think about this notion a lot, because for me it suggests that the connection we have to one another extends, in some way, beyond death, or at least beyond the idea of our death. It makes me wonder if we know, in a most fundamental and perhaps cellular sense, that this connection extends beyond the physical and into what might be called the spiritual.

Your prompt for today: 

Imagine you are able to speak to someone in your community, family, or lineage, even after you have passed on from this earthly plane. It is a person who was born after you were gone, so you do not know them personally. But they are able to find the message you have left behind. What would you say to them? What things do you want them to know about you, about this moment we are in, and perhaps about life and time as a whole?


Yesterday’s isolation journal was very self-reflective and vulnerable, so I wanted to play with something totally different this time. This one’s a fiction!

If I may offer a suggestion: you can read this with an eerie sci-fi soundtrack like this one from “Arrival“. (Though I can only hope to write something as great as “Arrival” someday!)

A Letter to the Future


You remember dark shapes in the sky, loud, unearthly noises and then – darkness.
You wake up in the hospital, wondering what’s happening outside.
And then a nurse you’ve never seen before hands you a letter.

Dear you,

If my calculations are correct, this letter should be handed to you less than hours after the first explosion. You’ll likely be panicked and scared and still in the hospital. Don’t worry, I put you there on purpose. You’ll probably survive with minor bruising.

With any luck, this letter will still be attached to a small, locked wooden box. If you’re anything like me (and I hear you are), then you might want to see what’s inside the box. But I am ordering you now to never, ever open the box. Ever. Just set it aside for now. You’ll get to open it if you follow what I say.

Read this letter through, then hide it and the box until you’re discharged, which shouldn’t take more than a day. Return home and walk out to your backyard. If you have any neighbors left, try not to let them see you. Start digging in the bottom left corner of the yard. I apologize in advance if you’ve planted a garden or built a fish pond. You’ll have to destroy it all to get through.

Once you’ve dug a few feet, you will find a machine that looks like a toaster. That’s because it is a toaster. I’ve placed it there to alert you to be careful as you continue digging. Just under the toaster you will hit a second machine, which looks like the toaster except bigger and with a panel you can slide open. It will be very old and frail – hence the toaster warning.

Open the panel and you’ll see a screen, a keyboard, an empty space, and another sliding panel. Before anything else, take the machine inside. I suggest closing your curtains and sitting in a closet before hitting the power button and following the instructions on the screen for setup. Once prompted for a code, type in WTT$TPO3TN2. Then, open the sliding compartment to find a vial, a clean knife, and a bandage. For this next portion, I recommend the inside of your arm but whatever works for you. You only need one vial full to get back here, so try not to cut too deep. I need you alert when we meet.

Bandage yourself and insert the vial into the empty space. Before you finish the instructions, make sure you’re holding the box. Again, do not open it. Just bring it back with you.

You’re probably even more scared now than you were before you started this letter, and for that, I apologize. Our second chance rests on your shoulders. I know that is a heavy burden to bear, and for that reason, I acknowledge that you have a choice. You could throw this letter and the box into the trash can next to your hospital bed and move on. I will accept any choice you make. But you should know: the second explosion is coming. You might feel it already. I leave it up to you.

I’ll be the woman standing next to the mailbox wearing a yellow sundress. Maybe you’ve seen me wearing it in old pictures. Tap me on the shoulder when you see me. I’m waiting for you now.

Remember – don’t look in the box!



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