The Heroines Among Us
Cheryl Caesar builds an intriguing mash-up of fiction and non-fiction in this flash fantasy fiction piece! Read below to see her creative interview about the heroine she admires: Greta Thunberg.
I Don’t Expect You to Believe Me
Greta: Thanks for doing the interview, anyway, on such short notice.
I don’t want to do Zoom or Google Hangout. Staring at faces on the screen creeps me out. And I want to have time to think. What happened is really strange, and I want to express it as clearly and logically as possible. You can text me your questions.
The last one I gave was a podcast, with New Scientist, at the end of March. I wanted to remind people that we have to keep saving the planet while we save ourselves from COVID-19. All the headlines focused on my dad and me probably having had the virus, and the “herd immunity” thing here in Sweden. That’s not what I wanted to talk about. I hope this time you’ll concentrate on what’s important.
OK. Last night two strange girls came to see me in my room. I mean, I had never met them and they didn’t seem like anyone from Sweden or England or the U.S. or anywhere I’ve been.
One was wearing a white robe that was draped and tied. And one had a tunic kind of thing, and leggings and short boots. She had something on her head like a kerchief. I don’t know much about fashion.
We used Siri Translate. It’s not very precise. It said the first one was called Sandy and the other was Jeannie. Some of the words I used didn’t seem to have equivalents for them. When I said “science,” Sandy heard it as “sophia” and Jeannie as “knowledge.” It made it hard to understand each other.
I have never had visions or hallucinations. I have Asperger’s, which is not a disease. And when I was younger I was not depressed. I was sad, which is a logical reaction to the destruction of the planet. That’s why I stopped talking.
The same thing happened to them, too. That’s what they wanted to tell me. The Trojans said Sandy was crazy when she warned them about the wooden horse. She grabbed an axe and a torch and ran to show them, but they tackled her and threw them away. They called Jeannie insane too, and they’re still doing it. I looked it up on the internet this morning, and people are saying she was schizophrenic, or having seizures, when she heard St. Michael and St. Catherine and St. Margaret. I don’t know – this is hard for me too. I believe in science, not saints. But I could see that she wasn’t schizophrenic. And she definitely wasn’t having a seizure.
They called her “unmaidenly” too – why is it always about sex, and why do old men always know what girls should be like? Sebastien Gorka called me “thunder thighs” – have you looked at him lately? That’s what they said about Jeannie, for wearing a man’s military uniform. She told them she had to keep it on at night so as not to be raped. Her father just wanted to marry her off. And Sandy said when Troy fell, she hid in the temple and Ajax raped her, and she was given as a pallake, a concubine, to King Agamemnon. We’re sexless and we’re too sexy. We can’t win if we play by their rules.
They said they were glad to leave this planet, at the end. They were both murdered, and Jeannie was burned to death. But they come back every now and then. The way they described it, it’s like a long plane journey. You’re so tired of waiting and carrying your luggage around that you’re glad to get on the plane. But then after a few hours in the air, you’re bored and cramped and you want off again. That’s how I remember it, anyway. I don’t take planes anymore, and I don’t let my parents take them either. Anyway, they don’t want to see this planet destroyed. They said it’s not time yet. And they’re not ready to spend eternity in the air.
Sandy said that after hundreds of years, she sometimes imagined the Trojans trapped in the horse, smothering in the heat. She and Jeannie imagined the 7 billion on the planet today, all stifled and burned alive, and had pity for them.
No, they were not very encouraging. They said I would probably have to die too, before people would start listening to me. But I should do it anyway, because only the young have the courage for it. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”: that’s a saying my parents remember – isn’t that funny?
What kind of evidence do you want? I gave each of them a pair of my track pants – they thought they were really comfortable and protective. Well, you can ask my mom. She’ll tell you that the pants are gone. They didn’t want me to take a photo. They said I had to have faith – faith in my own experience. Well, isn’t that positivism and science? If I can believe it, why can’t you?
The day after this interview was completed, the journalist called me and said she was receiving death threats if she went ahead and published it. So I’m posting my answers here on my Facebook page, without her name or her questions. Though I don’t really expect you to believe me. Greta
Cheryl Caesar lived in Paris, Tuscany and Sligo for 25 years; she earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne and taught literature and phonetics. She now teaches writing at Michigan State University. She gives poetry readings locally and serves on the board of the Lansing Poetry Club. Last year she published over a hundred poems in the U.S., Germany, India, Bangladesh, Yemen and Zimbabwe, and won third prize in the Singapore Poetry Contest for her poem on global warming. Her chapbook Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era is now available from Amazon.