The Time Capsule

by Elizabeth McGinn on March 18, 2021


hand holding a piece of paper
Graphic design by Elizabeth McGinn ’21

by Sarah Kirchner ’21

It came too soon. Every year, it came too soon. It caused a sense of anxiety in the hallways. It lingered in every conversation. It was hard to avoid, but also a necessity we all knew we needed to keep. A tradition to help our future. Our children.

“Don’t look so worried, Lozzie,” Jack said and kissed my forehead. He smiled, as always, keeping that upbeat attitude alive during this weary time. “It’s our last year. What are the odds it could be one of us? Or anyone we know for that matter?”

The chances were one in five hundred, actually, but I wasn’t going to remind him of that, so I nodded instead. I slipped my hand into his and we began our walk down the school hall. “I just don’t know what I would ever do if they called your name.”

“You don’t ever have to fear that. It’s me and you versus the world. God knows I couldn’t do this life thing without you.” He winked at me, and for a second I was able to let the worries slip away.

The school was decorated for the big event. Glitter covered the floors, gold and silver balloons floated at the ceiling, and white streamers ran above our lockers. The school did its best to make the event seem livelier. A day for celebration, but it was hard to view it as that each year.

Our friends were most likely already waiting for us in the auditorium. Penny and Liam were never worried. They saw it as just another day for them, but an unfortunate day for one poor soul. I tried to ask Penny how she really felt about it. It always seemed like Liam forced her to see it as a minuscule thing. He reassured her, just as Jack did with me, but Liam acted as if it was ridiculous for anyone to see it as a real threat. Penny wasn’t like that, though. Before they started dating, she worried about it each year, too. We would make pacts about what would happen if either of us were chosen. But I hadn’t heard her mention our pacts in over two years now. It was good that this was our last year, then.

“Happy Capsule Day!” One kid shouted behind us. A bunch of boys joined in with cheers. I noticed Jack crack a smile

The pit in my stomach grew.

“Lighten up,” Jack said. We turned the corridor into the auditorium, and suddenly I couldn’t stop myself from shaking. “Lozzie, seriously.” Jack stopped walking. Around us, kids murmured curses, annoyed we stopped in the middle of the entrance. People were anxious to get into the room, anxious to get the day over with.

“Take a deep breath,” Jack instructed and held on to my other hand as well. Together, we took a few deep breaths staring at one another. For the moment, my heartrate calmed again, and the shaking stopped. I knew he was right that our chances of being chosen were low, but they weren’t nonexistent. There was still that tiny chance—that point two percent chance.

“Ready?” Jack asked. I nodded and he smiled. “Good. Penny and Liam already saved us seats up front.” He pecked my cheek and guided us down the aisle. The room was almost full; nervous chit chat filled the air.

“Look who finally decided to show up!” Liam shouted as we joined them in the aisle. We were in the third row, too close to the stage for my liking. Liam and Jack high fived one another, and I offered Penny a smile.

“Exciting day, huh?” Penny chuckled, but I could see past the laugh. She was tense. We all were.

“I’m just happy it’s our last year,” I said.

Static noise interrupted the chatter. Our attention turned to the stage where Mrs. Gallagher stood at the podium. She smiled, and my skin crawled. “Happy Capsule Day, everyone!” Her voice echoed in the silent room. Next to me, Jack cleared his throat.

“Each year, we are honored that you join us in giving the future a better insight into what life is like today.” Mrs. Gallagher paused and let her words sink in. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It wasn’t like we had much of a choice in participating. Everyone who attended Grove High knew about the tradition. The community thought it was all too important for our future generations to have the best artifacts to learn from.

“The yearbook has already been placed into the capsule, along with the wonderful journal entries you each wrote to reflect on a normal day here in Grove.”

Liam snickered, “I submitted a blank page.” Jack cracked a smile too, but I only shook my head. It wasn’t funny what he was doing. He was ruining the very system that our school and community thrived off of.

“And so, without further ado, we select a name for the lucky participant that will be buried with the capsule tonight.” Mrs. Gallagher walked to the computer on the side of the stage. Behind her, a projector lowered. I sucked in my breath. I pitied whoever’s name appeared on that screen.

Jack grabbed my hand, and I began to breathe again. He was always able to bring me back from my anxieties. I knew he had a point. It was very unlikely any of us four would be chosen, but I still worried each year. At least after this, we wouldn’t have to worry for a while, not until our children were in high school.

“Good luck to you all,” Mrs. Gallagher shouted from the computer and then she pressed a button on the computer to generate a name. My stomach knotted and I held on tighter to Jack. Penny released a deep breath next to him. The seconds ticked on, and the name appeared.

Lozzie Cornwell.

Jack dropped my hand immediately, and before I could process another thing, security surrounded me.