Skip to main content
By Isaac Richards

These were real swords, mind you. Long as a leg, snug in their scabbards, boasting ornamental handles. By my best recollection, one was a cutlass, the other a fencing foil. He carried them under his arm, nonchalant. 

I happened to be listening to Montaigne via audiobook at the exact moment he crossed my path, heading toward the library. How absolutely unremarkable to see people walking around carrying rapiers on their hips, Michel seemed to say. Five hundred years feels so close when visited in words. 

But how ignorant I felt, google-searching the anatomy of this obsolete relic with its pommel, hilt, and cross guard. A moment like that can stab you, make you wonder how long before the things in your pocket are on display in a museum. 

I, for example, still carry two keys made of nickel and brass, and a stick of lip balm, at any given moment. This, children, was used for unlocking wooden doors, and for ripping open cardboard boxes sealed with packing tape. And that, that was used for moisturizing one’s lips, perhaps before kissing. Ew!

I actually suspect that the future will have some kind of ChapStick, but I doubt it will have brass keys. Physical keys, in fact, will be found nowhere, except nicely lined up in velvety cases, in buildings that are only open when everyone is at work. 

Meanwhile, the magical phrase “open sesame” from “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” will become a default reality for all kinds of doors. In fact, we won’t even need words. These days, when I approach my car, it automatically unlocks. 



Isaac James Richards graduated from BYU with a BA in Communications in 2022. He is a reader for Fourth Genre and a current Pushcart Prize nominee. His creative nonfiction has appeared in Y-Magazine and Wayfare, where he is a contributing editor. Find him online at