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It happened just like they teach it in schools.

It wasn’t even the plane crashes that did it. We were up to one a month, sometimes more. Not terrorism, just things breaking.

Everyone kept voting for deregulation, and everyone else kept voting to keep those people in office. You’ve learned about voting in school already, yes? First one vote per person, then ranked choice, and then how voter suppression actually saved our country? Because of the nanites? Good.

The real war started over our children’s bodies. Yes, when they were your age. It happened when three-quarters of the children under ten had diabetes. When a tenth of childhood mortality rates was due to measles. When child marriage was legalized in every state. That’s when politics stopped being the way they were.

Oh, I remember seeing toddlers too fat to walk, waddling down the sidewalk or trying and failing to climb the playground equipment. Nobody thought anything of it until they started dying before they turned five. Sorry, right, fatphobic language isn’t very nice. It was a different era back then. Very different.

That was the thing that made the American people come together. They realized that the politicians voted into office were the ones screwing everybody up. It happened faster than we thought possible. They voted in a new cohort. And as soon as they had power, they decided to distribute the damage across all voters. How? Well, we had created more sophisticated means of tracking these things in order to prevent voter fraud. What they call in the history books “voter suppression” had worked, had worked so well. Too well. With the voter tracking nanites implanted in everyone except those we couldn’t trust with our democracy: criminals, drug dealers, women who’d had abortions and miscarriages, immigrants…well, you know. You’re learning the history in school right now.

People were by then very sick, very, very sick. Diabetes for most, lung complications for others. Asbestos and polio were problems when your grandparents were kids, but then they came back! People had to take turns being activists and politicians, and then taking care of themselves and their sick families. One week on, two weeks off, that’s the way I heard it worked best. This was every family in the country, except the richest.

The nanites plus the records meant we could track everyone’s voting, everyone’s finances, even if we were looking at large gaps, people who never had a credit history. Because they were too poor. I know, you’ve read about them, people who worked every hour they were alive but still couldn’t afford food for their families. By the time the new government worked out the math, voting records factored in with income levels divided by donations to charities – real ones, not the fake ones you’re learning about in school, the ones that smiled while they hurt people who looked or loved different than them—we knew how to fix everyone and keep this country going.

It took a while to implement. People kept dying and getting sick, even the people at the top. Earthquakes and tsunamis don’t care how much money you have anyway.

The science faltered after not receiving funding for so long, but they eventually figured it out. Ironically, the people who’d been written out of the voting process, the ones who needed the most help, they weren’t even eligible to be chosen to be donors. They hadn’t been the ones voting to mess everybody up, mess the climate and the whole world up even though we thought we were.

What does “ironically” mean? Well, it means that the people in power back then thought they could take away the voices of people of color, immigrants, and poor people, by not letting them vote. Those poor people didn’t even get nanites, not even second or third-generation ones. We— I mean, they—weren’t expecting those people to be protected in the new regime… and from the new regime. Those people walk on new legs now, see through new eyes, have working organs and teeth and… Where was I going with this?

Oh yes. It was an honor to be chosen to be a donor. Just like they teach you in school.

Now, help Papa with his prosthetic leg. Then we have to give your father his insulin. Oh, of course most people can administer their own, you’re such a smart girl! It’s just that they took his eyes so late in his life that he’s had trouble adjusting.

No, of course it’s ableist to suggest that blind people are helpless. I’m blessed with such an intelligent granddaughter!

We’re all blessed. We survived, and that’s more than some can say. You have to learn from our mistakes, honey. Keep repeating what they teach you in school, because that’s history and it’s too late to change it. But if you learn it well enough, inside and out, and agree like you should, maybe you’ll get to write history later. Make the changes that need to be made for our side.

You’ll understand when you’re older. You’re our future.

Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...