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Popsicle

Katherine Sankey is a freelance writer from the East Midlands, England. She writes Doctor Who articles for What Culture and has had several stories shortlisted in Tortive Theatre's monthly FlashFiction101 competition.

The nebula was stunning. Suzy leaned further onto the metal safety bar, her forehead nearly pressing against the observation window. It was like waves of pink smoke had been painted across a star-studded sky. This, she told herself, might just be worth the pain of the past. This and maybe... Suzy sensed the elbow next to hers, and looked up. Adele stood there, grinning stupidly, her electric purple hair perfectly matching the vista behind her.
"Wow, you're really enjoying the view." Adele said.
"It's incredible!" Suzy replied, "I've never seen anything like it!"
Adele raised an eyebrow. "Missed the school tour did you?"
"Huh?" Suzy blinked, "Schools come here?"
"Yeah, of course!" Adele laughed, "The schools come every year. You must have seen it before?"
Suzy looked away, her fingers gripping the cool metal. Damn it. Had she had been caught out? She'd wanted to go on two, maybe three more dates, before she'd told her.
"Suzy? What's wrong?" Adele interrupted her panic, "Sweetie?"
Suzy took a breath. She didn't want to do this. She really didn't want to do this.
"I haven't seen it before. Ever. I've... I've never been to school here." She said quietly, "In fact, I wasn't born on this station, or even in this century." She turned and tried to look at Adele, but her eyes automatically dodged to the floor. "I'm actually from 2024. I was cryogenically frozen when I was twenty-two. Cancer. I'm--"
"A popsicle?" Adele said, eyes widening.
Suzy winced. Popsicle. She hated that word. It was always spoken with a hint of pity, or sometimes even disgust. Despite successfully finishing the government adjustment program and attaining her 23rd-century citizenship, she was still considered lesser. People spoke slower to her. Treated her like a child. Worse, some exclaimed that she was barbaric and shouldn't be allowed in society at all! Just because she'd eaten meat and driven diesel vehicles. Some people questioned her role in historical events, especially the climate crisis. Like she had been personally responsible for not halting global warning. It was dreadful.
Finding friends outside of the adjustment program had been hard, but dating had been harder. She was considered too much work, too different, or just too socially embarrassing for most people. After all who'd want to introduce a popsicle as their partner? It would be like someone in the 2020s hooking up with an 18th-century farmer.
Suzy prepared herself for the pity, the questions, the downright hostility. Most biases had been considered eradicated, but apparently popsicle hate was acceptable. After all, they had lived in backwards, savage times. They were probably horrible, ignorant people, right?
"Are you crying?" Adele asked softly.
Suzy opened her eyes. She hadn't even realized she'd shut them, or that hot tears had started building up in the corners.
"No," She gulped.
Suddenly, Adele was hugging her.
"What are you doing?" Suzy sniffed.
"Hugging my girlfriend." Adele said.
Suzy's heart flipped. "But... I'm a dumb popsicle! I grew up in an era of stupidity! I--"
"Just because you grew up in a different place and time doesn't matter to me. You're a human being. A human being who has had to adapt to a completely new world. That's a scary, difficult, brave thing to do."
"So, you're not dumping me?" Suzy croaked.
Adele took her hand and grinned. "Nah, you're too cute."
Suzy laughed, relief pouring through her.
"Come on," whispered Adele, "Let's go get an ice cream."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 29th, 2021


Author Comments

Before I wrote this, I had been thinking about the old trope, where someone from the past has to learn to live in the future, and the thought struck me--what if that person was actually considered inferior, because they were from the past? It wasn't something I had really seen on screen, so I wanted to explore it in this story. After all, just because a society might be more advanced in the future, doesn't mean it would automatically be more accepting. Humans have difficulty understanding and empathizing with each other in the present, when we have relatively a lot in common. So it seemed to make sense that a time traveler, attempting to integrate into a new time, might face some prejudice. Nevertheless, I still felt the story should end positively. If prejudice can endure into the future, then so could compassion. Which is why, in the end, Suzy gets the girl.

- Katherine Claire Sankey
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