1. In the opening scene, well before he knows Kamla's true identity, Greg comments to himself about the eeriness of adult features and sensibilities that seem to peek out of young children:
"She frowns up at me with that enfranchised hauteur that is the province of kings and four-year-olds."
"She looks at me over the top of her cup. It's a calm, ancient gaze and it unnerves me utterly."
By the end of the story, we've learned the truth. Kamla is not a precocious 4-year-old, but a genetically modified 20-something future clone on a mission.
What does the eventual revelation say about these early details? Does the truth within Greg's observations break down when they morph into sly narrative clues? Or is the eeriness Greg senses only underscored when it turns out that, yes, some children do literally have wisdom beyond their years?
2. Oftentimes, time travel technology exists in a vacuum. We follow either the first person to time travel or the most powerful person currently using it. In "Message in a Bottle," that's all brushed aside when Kamla explains why her mode of time travel is so logistically complicated:
"They wanted to send us here and back as full adults, but do you have any idea what the freight costs would have been? The insurance? Arts grants are hard to get in my world, too. The gallery had to scale the budget way back."
Kamla reveals here the horrific-but-totally-believable reality that humanity will be able to widely utilize time travel before being able to effectively fund the arts (we screamed in acceptant agony).
But we also noticed that neither Kamla nor Greg felt any need to go over the wider world that Kamla comes from. Kamla, a curator, and Greg, an artist, stay hyper-focused on discussing the intricacies and needs of this future art world. What is this saying about Kamla? About Greg? About the way "art people" talk about art in general?
3. We end on Greg, a self-important and self-conscious artist on the rise. He is fresh with the knowledge that a National Gallery curator has come from the future to procure a seashell from one of his installations to include in a mega retrospective deep into the future.
The twist? They don't want it as an example of Greg's work. They want it as an example of the mollusk who lived in the shell's work. And these future curators only value that mollusk's work because other mollusks' shells appeared to be derivative of this one mollusk's shell.
So... what should Greg do? If he acquiesces, he cements his art legacy, but only as a footnote to a much "greater" artist's story. If he doesn't, he has no legacy.
And... does the mollusk care about any of this?
Let us know what you think! Our brains are still doing backflips.
Next week, we'll read:
"Delhi" by Vandana Singh.
Until then, stay relatively!