Hello, Norman? Can I chat with you a moment before you go back to class? If there’s any trouble, I’ll take care of it with your teacher or principal because I’m a white guy and it’s 1968.
You don’t know me yet, but my name is Will Ludwigsen. I’m a writer of the kinds of things you like to read – science fiction, fantasy, horror – and I wouldn’t probably be doing it if it wasn’t for you.
See, I’m from the year 2021 where the world is very strange, and I found this picture of you I’ve never seen before in the 1968 Fairhope Alabama school yearbook. You look hopeful and happy here, but I know from what you tell me when we’re friends in 1986 and onward that things take a turn soon, with other kids (and some adults) bullying you for being different.
Here’s what you need to know: they are horrible beast-people who are afraid of anyone smarter and browner and more imaginative than they are, which is almost everybody. It has nothing to do with you but with bad evolutionary software that makes them fear others outside their tribe, and they’re not fighting it hard enough because they suck.
No matter what, remember that.
What they want to do is terrify you into hiding who you are, making you flinch the rest of your life for liking monster movies and Star Trek and Dr. Demento, because you are alive in a way they will never be.
You can’t let them do that. You’ve got to get that degree in Physics or Computer Science that you want, and you’ve got to be the amazing person you are.
So here’s what I want you to do when the bullying starts. I want you to cock your head to the side and squint with one eye as will one day be your habit, and I want you to say this:
“Really, you’re gonna hit me? Like some kind of savage? Let me clue you in, cowboy: I’m a citizen of the future where people like you are on the run back to their caves, and when the bruises you give me are gone, you’ll still be a nobody forever and ever.”
They may still hit you, and I’d tell you to hit them back but I know it’s not in your nature.
What’s important most of all is that YOU remember those words because they’re true. These aren’t your people or your place. You ARE a citizen of the future, and we don’t take them with us. We leave them behind choking on greasy squirrel bones clogged in their lungs.
Uh, oh. Here comes the second bell.
One last thing: if you can find a doctor here or out of town who actually wears shoes and went to college, tell him or her that you have diabetes. That shit’s going to kill you.
Live long and prosper, my friend.