(Parameters: 6 paragraphs 3/3, Random scenario generator: “Two families having a picnic, one 50 years in the past and one 50 years in the future”)
“Then and Far from Now”
50 years ago, under the ancient oak tree, there was a family having a picnic, like they did every Sunday after church. There was a checkered blanket, a gently used wicker basket brimming with home-made delights and a lovely family surrounding it. The boys would run ahead and set the blanket down on top of the prickly oak leaves after a fun quick round of tug-o-war. The girls followed more sedately, carrying pitchers of lemonade and fruit punch, dutifully helping mother while trying to keep their dresses clean. Father carried the basket and mother carried a bouquet of sweet lavender and mint to set on the edges of the blanket to discourage bugs.
When they settled they held hands and bowed their heads, and father said a prayer for forgiveness, health, love and strength for the coming times. Then the meal was brought forth, juggled from hand to hand and settled on the blanket, a smorgasbord of mother’s fine cooking. The boys ripped through their sandwiches, orange slices and cookies, eager to play after hours of being forced into stillness at church. The girls preferred to chat quietly first among themselves, savoring the meal and the reprieve away from annoying brothers. But eventually even they couldn’t resist the beautiful day and were soon running through the flowers and playing as children should.
Mother and father sipped lemonade, touching shoulders as they sat back on the grass and enjoyed their day of rest, thanking the Lord in their hearts for a bountiful meal and beautiful children, knowing that so many had much less. When the children were distracted, they shared a kiss and a secret smile, still as in love now as when they first met. “Till Death do Us Part” was a serious vow but it wasn’t a burden. Not for them, the forever young couple who believed it took three to hold a marriage together.
The Oak tree heard it all. It remembered the pitter-patter of little feet turning into the loud thumps of adults coming to and fro, doing chores and going to work. It remembered fevered lovers conversations, tearful fights, mournful grievances and all the elderly advice given to younger generations. It also heard the hum of technology and felt the electrical current of the world increase. The world became white noise, dulling the senses and distracting from the beauty of nature.
Instead of visiting nature to be in it, 2068 observed it from behind a fence. “For preservation”. A museum collector’s item instead of a connected piece to the puzzle called Mother Earth. Disinterested eyes glanced over its mighty branches and craggy bark. The whisper of its leaves in the wind fell on deaf ears, plugged with head phones that funneled in noise directly to the brain. The families didn’t interact with each other now, but with their gadgets and phones, taking selfies and sending them to friends thousands of miles away; getting likes on social media for visiting “the oldest tree at blah blah museum and recreation!”. Even the youngest ones were plugged into tablets, scrunching their chubby cheeks in concentration over the cacophony.
There were different kinds of picnics held there under the shade of the tree now, ones full of lights and sleek black boxes blinking lights that offered a full entertainment experience. Music, movies, and video games, all played out in nature. With the click of a button, suddenly Abraham Lincoln was there, talking and interacting with humans as if he had never been dead. Trevor Noah joined in the conversation, cracking jokes and truths like a modern-day Jester as did Stephanie Meyer and Freddie Mercury. Donald Trump joined in briefly, said two words and was quickly eliminated to the groans of the crowd. They ate the food as an after thought, mostly synthesized to preserve resources and enhanced with vitamins, then continued to push buttons and smile into the artificial lights of their rectangles.