Children Of The Free States
Young lovers of the future across two worlds.
“I know what’s out there. I’ve seen a different time. I’ve seen a different world with my own eyes.”
United Socialist States of America
Pleasant Valley, Oregon
May 14, 2049
Your letters arrived in that covax box and lucky I was there to get it! My mom would have seen it’s not like the kind we have here in Oregon. You need to be careful! I told you to just reuse the boxes I send you with my letters so nobody will notice and keep the vials inside. Can you do that for me?
I know it’s hard for you to understand the kind of trouble I could get in. The vaccine boxes are the only thing that doesn’t get double checked by the postal police here after making it through their scanners. I’d be grounded for weeks if they found your letters, and they’d probably report you here and you’d be on their lists. I’ve told you my stepdad Dale is with the sheriff here and he’d definitely do something bad. I don’t even want to think about it!
I loved your latest letters. I stayed up all night reading them last night, over and over again. I can only imagine a world like you describe. You have to understand they switched our networks when I was two. I don’t even remember when our Internets were the same. My friend’s older sister says when she was young she read about life in free states and saw photos of how people just mingle with other people in public places and you have all different kinds of restaurants where people eat together. But then people saw too much of that and wanted those things and that’s around when the networks split and the blackouts started. What is that go duck thing you mentioned in your last letter? We don’t have that. Everything here is powered by google which works with the state. I suppose your go duck thing isn’t the same?
So much of what you write about is so different from here. The only time I ever saw something from your networks was when some kids brought old images to school and we looked at them in the girl’s bathroom. I think I was in 7th grade. I saw a few for myself, even one of people dancing together in a big room with no masks! Word got out to the principal and the girl who brought the pictures was expelled. Her parents had to send her to a private school but then those got banned and she was home schooled. The last we heard she ran away to the free states.
I love your descriptions of where you live Jacob. I often see Texas in my dreams and imagine I’m there with you. I hope that doesn’t sound desperate but you have to understand things are very different here and now that I know so much about what’s out there, it’s like I can’t get it out of my head.
When I saw you at the Lincoln memorial with your cowboy hat and no mask, well, this might sound weird after reading all your letters about how you don’t have to wear masks there, but something happened to me. My heart just started beating real fast and my hands got sweaty. We don’t see people’s faces that much, almost not at all. Here we can only take masks off to shower. There are laws and big fines for people who don’t wear their masks for the full time. Each mask has a chip and a life cycle and it pairs with us so if you lost your mask they’d know it was yours. I still don't understand how you don't even have masks at all and how you said people are embarrassed to wear them there because of what happened in the past. What happened in the past you were referring to Jacob? I tried to search for something on google but couldn’t find anything before I was born. That seems strange to me.
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But that day at the memorial stays with me constantly. How both our groups were learning about two different Abraham Lincolns within earshot of each other. I heard some weird statements by your teachers. I still don't know which version is true. You really caught me off guard when you snuck up on me and led me away behind that pillar and pulled my mask down. Nobody’s ever done that to me before. You just can’t do that sort of thing here. That’s why the chaperones on that field trip told us to keep far away from you all and why I got scared when you got so close like that. My first instinct as I told you before was to scan your thumb with my thumb so I could report you to the police but then nothing appeared on my phone and I realized you didn’t have a chip in your thumb like me and then when you smiled at me I just stopped being scared all of a sudden. It was like a calm I never felt before. To think I could have reported you to the Police! I feel so awful for even thinking about it now but that's our first reaction here when strangers approach like that too close. You have no idea how weird you’d be here. You’d be like an alien here without a chip! Nobody could report you. People would freak out. It would be funny to see!
I finally got a bible so I can understand some of your letters better, and to know about the Christ you write about. It wasn’t easy. I had to go through a pile of books in my uncle’s garage. They were all dusty in boxes and I had to blow the dust off just to see the covers, but I found one. He’s not even allowed to have those books. Most of them are banned or out of print he says. But the bible is pretty. It’s old and leather and says New American Bible on it and I’ve cleaned it up when Mom was at work and I hide it in a false bottom of my sock drawer. I’m going to read those gospels that you talk about. It feels nice to have a book in my hands and to be able to turn the paper pages. I’m so used to everything in a tablet that’s connected to me that’s connected to the school server. We’re not allowed to access unapproved books. They have lists of what’s acceptable and what isn’t and the bible isn’t there. They say it’s a relic of heteronormative white supremacy. Even Francine has books she can’t read in first grade. She asks about you all the time Jacob. You’re like the brother we never had.
I take her to the forest to get away. She hates her mask. She’s like me, a little rebel dying to be free. We bring a book she likes that I liked too when I was little, but they banned it from schools years ago because it promotes white supremacy. Maybe you’ve heard of it, Dr. Seuss “If I Ran A Zoo”? I never saw any of that stuff in it when I read it as a kid or even now but they banned it here anyway along with thousands of others for doing all kinds of things. I can’t even find most of those books in my uncle’s garage on google. There’s no record of any of them because they violate laws here. Crimes they call them. Misgendering. Stereotyping. Bigotry. Racism. All kinds of phobias that aren’t allowed in books, even the fictional ones. We have to learn about all of them here constantly in oppression studies but it’s weird because then we’re never allowed to read about real examples to judge for ourselves because they are banned. I’m barely passing this course. It’s like my own oppression having to sit through that hour every day. I’m getting A’s in all my other courses but oppression studies is the one course that you have to do extremely well in here to have a chance at college so I guess that's out of my future.
Francine’s reading that book right now while sitting on a rock in the forest. I’ll take a photo and send it to you. She looks so pretty with her mask off. We come here to get away from Mom and Dale, so we can take our masks off for as long as we can get away. It’s so wonderful to breathe the fresh forest air beneath the Douglas fir trees. It rains so much here sometimes I bring a tarp and she and I curl up on the rocks in the forest beneath the tarp without masks and she asks me to tell her stories of Texas! I read her parts of your letters and you should see her eyes Jacob, they light up with wonder at your stories. Please keep writing as often as possible. I don’t want you to forget me.
One day soon, maybe when I turn 18 this summer, if I get chosen for the driver’s license lottery which I missed the last two years, and I pass their tests I’m going to save enough money to pay the transportation credits and recharge credits. I’ll drive to the border with Idaho and ditch the car and hike across on foot to free country. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’d have to do it on a weekday when both Mom and Dale are working. If they find out I’m gone longer than a few hours they could activate the kill switch on the car and I’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere and the police would locate me easily. I’ve been trying to plan it out in my head to avoid getting caught.
In Idaho I could take one of those buses you wrote about that burn petrol all the way down through free states to Texas! Dale says they outlawed those twenty years ago here, before I was born. But what a journey that would be. I don’t even know if my digital money would work there! I’d have to take my chip out and ditch it with the car or they’ll track me. I could do it. I’m not afraid of the sight of a little blood, but my money is all tied to that so I don’t know how I’d get to go on one of those buses or do anything with no money. Can you tell me how money works there?
Maybe I’ll take Francine and get her out of this place and get her chip out of her and she could go to school without masks or stupid shots every month and she could have a different childhood like those children in the free states you write about. You should see her face Jacob when I tell her of the children in the free states. She can’t believe that nobody goes home for a week when they catch a cold, or that the kids don’t have to separate all the time and everyone has seen everyone else’s faces. I could only have dreamed of going to school there myself.
Mom says it’s completely normal, it’s always been like this here but I know that’s not true! She tells me that because she was forced to wear a mask as kid, that I have to also and that’s just the way it has always been and we have to be safe because you never know what’s out there. Well I know what’s out there! I’ve seen old photos on a wheel thing in my uncle’s garage where I got that bible. It’s a wheel thing called kodaks and inside the wheel are these little white square things and if you hold them up to the light you can see people like in a photo. All my uncle’s kodaks show people not wearing masks and nobody is social distancing indoors or outdoors. They’re all together eating and drinking and everyone can see each other’s faces and they’re always hugging and touching each other. I know my Mom’s a liar Jacob. I’ve seen a different time. I’ve seen a different world with my own eyes. I saw it when we were alone together and you looked at me with those blue eyes. I saw it in your bare face and your smile. It’s a world I’m going to get to one day. I don't know how or when but no matter how long it takes I hope that you’ll always know I'm coming and that you'll be there waiting for me when I arrive.
I have to go now. Dale is home by this time and he and Mom can track us so they know we’re here in the forest. If they come looking for us and see us without our masks we’ll be in big trouble.
I’m sending back that untraceable chip you sent, with some photos Francine took of me in the forest here today. I’m wearing one of my Mom’s old dresses that she calls her Marilyn dress for some reason. I think it was her mom’s dress from the last century. I hope you like them.
I’m sorry these letters are always about me and my dreams. I love your letters about Texas and all the things you do there so please keep writing Jacob. They give us hope.
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