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Letters Found on the Backs of Pepper Labels next to a Skeleton in an 800-year-old Hibernation Capsule Ruptured by What Looks Like Sword Damage

Luc Reid (lucreid.comis a Writers of the Future winner, the founder of Codex Writers' Group, a third degree black belt, an organic gardener, a Zen Buddhist, and an energetic advocate for carbon footprint reduction (www.faceclimatechange.com, www.sustainablewilliston.org). His prior publications include stories like "When a Bunch of People, Including Raymond, Got Superpowers" (Daily Science Fiction) and "Ways to Enjoy Nutrient Blend 14" (Nature) as well as plays, articles, the flash fiction collection Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories (lucreid.com/bam) and the non-fiction book Talk the Talk: The Slang of 67 Subcultures (Writers Digest Books, 2006; expanded and revised edition 2014 - lucreid.com/ttt). Luc lives near Burlington, Vermont with his wife, kids, and compulsively disobedient garden.

So it turns out these people don't even have paper, they just write on sheep hides or something, so I have to write this amazing historical account on these pepper wrappers. This grad student named Eleanor had me get the pepper. I was going to bring beads and hand mirrors and things, but she said people paid through the nose for pepper, so I bought some at Costco. She was right! It's incredible how much money I'm making. Plan's going amazingly.
When I paid that professor off to get me into the time chamber, he said it was acting erratic and they weren't sure if it was going to keep working. These scientists don't know anything. I told him I was going to be a king in Medieval Times, and here I am getting rich.
I hate these people. They're as dumb as dogs and they won't shut up about God. On the other hand, that means they're probably looking for a savior and ready to believe in miracles, so I can make that work out for me.
I decided to take Eleanor along as a tour guide. She said she'd do it for nothing if we took back a hibernation capsule for her so she could sleep her way back to write her thesis.
I'm beginning to think I'm going to have to learn whatever these ignoramuses are speaking. I can't make out a word. It's a good thing I brought Eleanor, since apparently she understands it. Chaucer, she says, which I guess is the name of their language. We're in England. Why don't these idiots speak English?
They also stink. They're too stupid to take a bath. Can you believe these people? I'm not sleeping with any of their women, I'll tell you that. The teeth on them are just gross. I'm lucky I brought toothpaste, but I'm going to have to do my own dental exams. Probably I'll have to import women from China or someplace where they keep them clean. Don't know about those tiny feet they have, but maybe it will be sexy. Who knows?
Gaining money, influence, followers. Had to shoot some guy with my Beretta for trying to squeeze me for money. Eleanor says something about taxes, but taxes haven't even been invented yet, so she obviously got taken in by a scam. Anyway, it's better this way, because a gun is like powerful magic. Magic plus money plus incredible future knowledge = King. Just wait, it's going to be amazing. Found some guys who want me to be King and are backing me 110%. They say I'm going to take England back to when it was incredibly great.
Eleanor's complaining about everything now, but I need her to translate, so I still pretend to be nice.
Finally tried the women here. You just have to get past the teeth and have them washed up first and they're okay.
The king thing was bloodier than I expected. I only brought eight guns and used up a lot of bullets just teaching my guys how to shoot, so at the end there was a lot of hacking and crying and people crawling around on the floor missing limbs. Anyway, point is, mission accomplished. I'm King. I'm going to be the greatest King in history. England is going to rocket into the future. I made all the guys that helped me knights, and I said I'd make Eleanor an Earless or whatever they call that, but she said she just wanted to go home. What a crybaby. I told her she could go home in another couple of years when I was settled.
Goddamn traitor knights! It's like they were just using me to get the throne for themselves. I'm lucky I'm the only one left with bullets. I ran out, but the ones that are left are fighting each other for it, and I'm done with this craphole. Have to use Eleanor's capsule, which is tough for her, but she's getting along fine in this place anyway. Nobody cares about her, it's just me they want to kill, because I have the power. I'm setting the thing for ten years early so when I get back, I can make a bundle on investments. I might invent this iPhone I brought or something too, I haven't decided.
This marks the end of the pepper wrapper letters. The following is a translation of a short passage written in Old English on a piece of parchment sealed in a bronze tube and left with the capsule.
Near Westminster, Year of Our Lord 1265. Here I, Godefray of Spalding, at long last found and slew the sleeping cur who infamously offended my gentle wife Ellenor, now returned to Our Lord after many years of faithful marriage. May God and Ellenor forgive me for doing after her death what she held me back from doing all the days that she lived.
As a remembrance, I take from this place the Usurper's storied Glass Book, smaller than any true book and, proving the stories false, empty of the words and pictures that were said to have magically appeared on its face.
It is for historians to argue whether this last note is meaningful in connection with the invention of the iPhone by Ambrosius Spalding in 1546.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Author Comments

I think much too often about what people from different eras might make of their past or their future, and as you can imagine, this rapidly turns into a careful consideration of what trade goods I would need to bring if I were going to time travel to Medieval Europe. But thinking about that rapidly brings me to wondering what a person without a moral compass does when they get their hands on disproportionate power and wealth. OK, you've got the pepper advantage: what do you do with it? Do you consider your own needs met and start helping other people, or do you just try to claw in more?

- Luc Reid
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