Authors: Donna Callea
A New Era
I’m not a child. A girl who menstruates is not a child. That’s a given.
But I’m treated like a child by my brothers, and by Mama.
Papa not so much. He talks to me like an adult. At least some of the time. Papa and I are alike in many ways. Not just our coloring. Our red hair. But in the way we think. Our interests.
Papa’s fields of study are history and anthropology. That’s why we’re here. Someday, I’ll become an anthropologist, too.
Anthropology is the study of humankind.
“It’s as simple as that,” says Papa.
In a sense, everyone is an anthropologist. We all study each other every day. We all wonder, I suppose, how we got here, why we are the way we are. That’s what Papa says. And he’s right, of course.
But for those who take it very seriously, and make it their life’s work, anthropology is a very important calling. It’s all about searching for answers.
We’re searching for answers here on this expedition.
Our whole family has come, along with a group of other anthropologists like Papa, and anthropology students from the university where he teaches. We sailed here from Thunder Bay this spring, across two Great Lakes. It was very exciting. We’ll likely stay here for at least several months.
It takes years of study at the university, and then field work, if you’re lucky, to become a real anthropologist. So I’m very lucky to have this experience now. Or would be, if Mama would let me out of her sight.
For a very long time after The Great Flood, people just stayed put and tried to survive. What else could they do?
Land masses washed away, and the people who were left—on this continent, anyway— mostly huddled around The Great Lakes. The Designer Virus destroyed vast storehouses of shared knowledge. Communication over long distances came to a halt. And if that wasn’t bad enough, girls stopped being born. At least in most places, as far as we know. And no one knows why. Even now.
But there’s been a long period of repopulation back home. We have thriving cities. Technology is advancing. And Papa says we’re now in the midst of a new era.
“We’re now living in the Era of Exploration, Rebekah,” he says, capitalizing the words Era and Exploration with his voice.
That’s what I want to do—explore. Which is possible now that new and powerful sailing vessels have been developed, like the ship that brought us here.
Of course, this land is not the only place that people are interested in exploring. But it’s a good place for us to begin.
This is where it all started, says Papa, for our family anyway, many centuries ago.
My brother Michael and his wife, Thea, aren’t anthropologists. They’re engineers—or will be when they complete their university studies. Their interest in coming here is to search out the remains of ancient power generating systems and other mechanical artifacts. Michael and Thea were married just before we left home. We don’t waste any time in our family getting on with things, like finding lifelong mates.
My brother Daniel thinks he wants to become a physician like Mama. He’s sixteen—four years older than I am. Which is why he either totally ignores me, or teases me unmercifully.
I’m the baby of the family.
“You’ll always be my baby, Rebekah,” says Mama.
Yes. Fine. But I don’t want to be treated like one.
I want to be free to roam here—to go with Papa and the other anthropologists when they seek out more remote villages. I don’t want to be tethered to Mama’s makeshift clinic, where she and a few other health care workers from our expedition are providing what they call “humanitarian aid.”
The people here are very primitive, although I’m not sure if that’s the correct term to use. All technological knowledge is just the stuff of myths for them. From the time before, is how they put it. Their language is similar to ours, but sometimes hard to understand. The men and boys are primarily hunters. They hunt for food. The women and girls grow vegetables, tan the hides the men bring back, weave cloth. That sort of thing.
Mama doesn’t like me roaming off by myself because she’s worried some of the young males might get the wrong idea.
“Their ways aren’t our ways, Rebekah,” she says. “We have to be careful.”
Yes, I know.
Our coming here has been a revelation for them. Like we’re a gift from their god or something.
Many centuries ago, girls were very rare here—girls were rare everywhere, as far as we know, except in New Eden and some of the other early monogamist settlements.
To cope with the severe gender imbalance, people here set up a strictly enforced system called polyandry. Women had to marry multiple husbands. They didn’t have a choice.
In most societies that we know of, including ancient Winnipeg, women also had to service many men sexually outside of marriage. Eventually, the population almost died out entirely. But over the last several centuries, it’s rebounded.
Girls and boys are now born in just about equal numbers. And not just at home, we were happy to discover.
We didn’t know what we’d find when sailed here. It’s very encouraging, Papa says.
The men and women here seem to be mostly monogamous. They live in family groups in huts with thatched roofs. Both sexes seem to have an equal say in how things are done. Which is somewhat surprising, according to Papa. Men are naturally bigger and more powerful, but they don’t lord it over the women.
The adolescent boys, though, tend to be very brazen and wild. They go around showing off to the girls, who mostly ignore them. Some have approached me, wanting to tell me what good hunters they are.
“Don’t believe him,” a girl named Betina advised me, when one of the boys boasted to me that he’d killed a stag all by himself.
Betina and I have become friends. She’s about my age, and hangs around the clinic when she has free time from her chores. She thinks Daniel is very handsome. I can’t imagine why.
I sat with her at the ceremony they held shortly after we arrived at the village. An extremely old woman, who’s their main religious person, led the people in prayers of thanks. They’re very grateful to their god for forgiving their past sins and bringing us to them. They sort of think of us as long lost relatives who’ve returned bringing gifts.
Papa and the other anthropologists think that their belief system is what keeps the people from reverting to ancient belligerent, and ultimately destructive, ways. It’s why the women have equal standing with the men, and aren’t treated as just sex receptacles and baby making machines like they were in the past. I’m mature enough to understand how it was. It’s been explained to me. And I think it must have been really horrible.
They call their deity The Designer. Although they’re illiterate and have no written history, they have storytellers—like the old woman at the welcoming ceremony— who reminded everyone how The Designer nearly destroyed the world because people behaved so abominably.
Religious people back home believe basically the same thing about the Holy One. Who knows? Maybe the Holy One and The Designer are just different versions of the same god. Except the Holy One is always referred to as She. I’m not exactly sure what I believe. No one has ever figured out a scientific explanation for the gender imbalance. But it is comforting to think that my ancestors in New Eden might have been the first to be chosen by the Holy One to be blessed by Her again with girls being born in equal numbers.
We’ve visited New Eden many times. The vineyards there are a big attraction. And the city itself has a wonderful history. Our family has roots there. We’ve also gone on expeditions to Winnipeg, to explore the ruins there. It’s all in ruins, really, and full of interesting artifacts. No one has lived there for I don’t know how long.
Many generations ago, my ancestors emigrated from New Eden, and were among the founders of New Hope, which is where the university was established. Our city is considered a major educational center in our part of the world. Life is good there, but kind of boring, I think.
It’s not boring here. And the people have been very friendly. They consider themselves blessed that we’ve come.
Still, Mama is not so sure that adolescent boys, no matter what their heritage or religious beliefs, can be trusted to control their raging hormones. Which is why she doesn’t like to let me out of her sight.
“You come from a long line of brave, stubborn and determined Rebekahs,” Papa likes to tell me. “But it won’t hurt you to obey your mother for a few more years.”
One girl in every generation of our family is named Rebekah, after a previous Rebekah who’s died. According to family lore, the first Rebekah came from this land, though probably not this village—what are the odds?
She and her lifelong love, David, were so determined to live as one, they rejected polyandry, and escaped—after a harrowing journey—to New Eden.
That’s what I would have done.
Someday, I’ll find someone to love forever.
And when I’m grown, I’ll be free to make my own discoveries.
There’s a whole lot more to explore besides just this land. Someday, I’ll sail across the ocean and see what’s there.
Special thanks to my tireless and dedicated editor (who prefers not to be named). A retired professional, who took an interest in this work from its inception, he was a guide to all things technical. He also prodded and cajoled me to write, and rewrite, until he considered the characters fully fleshed. I shall be forever grateful for his guidance, contributions, and, most of all, his friendship.
About the Author
Donna Callea is a former newspaper reporter, based in Florida, who much prefers writing fiction to writing news. Her other published novels include
The Haircut: A Love Story, New Coastal Times (or when the sea swallowed Florida),
a dystopian reimagining of the Cinderella tale. All are available in Kindle e-book editions as well as in print.
Donna loves to hear from readers. If you email her at
she promises to reply. She also greatly appreciates reader reviews. If you enjoyed this novel, please consider leaving a review on the Amazon webpage.