Prompt 103-Old Time Occupation

If you had lived hundreds of years ago, what kind of work do you think you would have done? What job would you have wanted to do?

A rooster crowed. My eyes shot open in the pre-dawn darkness. Which of my idiot neighbors had gotten a rooster? I rolled over to check the digital clock on my bedside table.

It was gone.

Slowly, it occurred to me my blanket was scratchy, my bed lumpy and smelling vaguely of hay. This was not my cozy two-bedroom Connecticut apartment. Where the hell was I?

I threw off the uncomfortable cover and fumbled in the darkness to the wall. The floor was rough wood. Was I in a barn? It certainly smelled like it could be. I groped for a doorway, my eyes taking all the time in the world to adjust to the lack of light anywhere. They were open, weren’t they?

I waved my hand in front of my face. I couldn’t make out the distinct shape, but a shadow had passed in my line of sight. I bit back a curse as a splinter dug itself into my foot. If this was a dream, it was a very realistic one.

I found the door and ambled into the hallway. A faint light drew me to one end and I emerged in a big open kitchen. Through the window, I could see the horizon was just beginning to turn from navy blue to steel grey. Land stretched out as far as I could see. The rooster crowed again.

A grumble came from my bedroom, followed by a quick striking sound. Light poured out of the doorway shortly after. In my panic, I hadn’t even realized there was someone else in my bed. My heart pounded in my ears as the lantern-light got brighter.

A muscular, bearded man followed it into the hall, looking around cautiously. I held my breath, praying the light would not find me. I was not granted that wish. “What are you doing?” he asked, voice still raspy with sleep. It wasn’t a demand of a stranger. It was curious and familiar. He moved closer and held the lantern up to my face. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” And he smiled.

Not a ghost, surely. But something bizarre had happened after I went to bed last night. This man was still my husband. His hair was long, and his beard unkempt, his arms well-toned from working the fields… I sighed. Of course. We were farmers. How had I forgotten? I smiled back at him. “Just woke up from a rather disorienting dream.”

Wait, that wasn’t right. I shook my head. This was the dream. What year was it? Farmers. Lanterns for light. Must be a couple hundred years back at least.

I tried not to groan as my husband lit another lantern for the kitchen and returned to the room to dress himself. So much for our engineering degrees. Was I alone in this Bizarro World transplant? Did he have any memories from the present? Er, the future?

I stoked a fire in the stove and set the kettle on to boil water. How did I know how to do that? Maybe I retained something from all those Little House on the Prairie books I read growing up. Farm life was familiar, my grandfather was a farmer after all.

If I’d had my choice though, I’d have woken up as a merchant or trader of some sort. Try to pass on some of the knowledge from the future. I’d have to figure out how to get back some day. Maybe this really is just a strange dream and I’ll wake up back in my air conditioned bedroom. Until then, there’s work to do.

Notes: This was a weird one. I had a lot of thoughts as to how something like this would pan out and in the end decided to take myself on an adventure. This could go many ways depending on how far back you go, and where. America in the 1600s was very different from, say, Japan in the 1600s. In the end, I stuck with the things I know for this prompt. My grandfather was a first generation farmer, my husband’s grandfather was also a first generation farmer, so it followed logically to me that if we were transplanted to a pre-Industrial time period, we would also very likely be farmers. This gets even trickier as a woman, because depending on the society you were brought up in, your options were very limited.

Historical fiction is not my forte. I would need to do a lot more research before I would turn this into anything resembling good fiction, but it was a neat prompt to get the gears turning. How do you think you would have lived a handful of centuries ago? Get some ideas down!

Stay safe out there today, friends! Drink plenty of water and keep your fingers clear of exploding objects! Have a happy 4th! I’ll see you tomorrow!

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