Short on Time

free-scifi-flash

Need more quirk in your quarantine? How about a pair of short short-timer flash scifi pieces from Space Squid? Maybe another zucchini-themed short story to add to your mental collection? Free flash fictional fun and humor... enjoy!

~~~

The Final Crunch

by Cameron Stewart

Tom woke up knowing only three things: his name, the fact that he was falling, and the solid knowledge that zucchini must be somehow to blame. He tried to figure out a reason as to why he might be plummeting towards the planet’s surface.

Around eight months ago, the Galactic Bureau of Investigation found that the sound of a crunch would distract the common worker just enough that it led to an overall 0.00000000000001% decrease in productivity. Needless to say, they felt all crunching must be abolished. First step: shut down all the farms producing food with what they referred to as ‘High Crunch Potential.' Tom, an ex-farmer, was against the movement from the start. Took away a lot of jobs from good hardworking farmers like himself. Took away the crunch, too. That deliciously audible crunch.

###

Tom was decided in the fact that he did not like falling. He was almost certain he had passed the halfway point, and thought, “If I survive this, I most certainly won’t be doing it again.” The wind rushing into his face made it almost too loud to think, and somehow it was taking a lifetime to reach the bottom.

“It’s not the crunch that matters,” they said. “It’s all about high nutritional value for a low economic cost. It just works better as a paste.” Tom knew better than to believe that nonsense. When the Bureau of Economic Food Affairs Taskforce (BEFAT, for short) shut his farm down and took away the crunch, Tom found out just how satisfying that crunch was in the first place.

###

Tom had become what the Galactic Officials called a ‘cruncher’. One of those guys who went from place to place, trying to find that perfect crunch. For some it may have been carrots, cereal, or even the oddly satisfying crackle of a roach being swiftly stomped under a size 9 boot. For Tom, that crunch was zucchini.

Could this be why he was falling closer and closer to his impending and highly-probable death? Tom was still unsure.

###

“I suppose I really only have myself to blame,” Tom thought to himself, reflecting on the fact that his life was headed downward, quite rapidly at that, as he tried to recall the events specifically leading to his current dilemma.

Very recently, Tom had found himself in a crunchhouse. A sort of underground hideaway for other crunchers like himself to find their fix. This was his first time in such an establishment. He usually found his crunch on the streets, but zucchini in particular was being heavily cracked down on by BEFAT. It was becoming not only hard but dangerous to get a good crunch these days.

###

Tom tried to recall if he had any friends or family who might miss him. His wife had left him after they lost the farm, and his kids actually agreed with the proto-paste movement. Tom assumed they were brainwashed and rightfully cut them off when he learned this fact. Having decided no one cared about him and being rather depressed by that fact, Tom went back to figuring out how exactly he ended up in this situation.

###

free-scifi-flash2“You look like a man with a specific palate, unquenched by the average crunch.” A rat-faced little man who could only be described as a ‘Tweakmaster Supreme’ of some sort beckoned Tom. “I’ve got all the good stuff. Raw potatoes. Fresh apples.”

“No thank you, sir. I’m not really interested. In fact, I really think I should be going,” Tom stuttered and began to walk away.

“Ahh, must be zucchini, then,” said the man.

Tom stopped in his tracks and turned. “You have some?”

###

“What building am I even falling from?” thought Tom, looking around. “Actually, what does that even matter?” All he could remember next was something about zucchini not tasting too good underground, and ending up on a roof with the strange man.

“I thought you said you had zucchini up here,” Tom said, quite enraged but trying his best to keep calm. After all, it had been almost a fortnight since his last crunch and this man claimed to have the best of the best available.

“I said I can get you your fix,” said the man, a fierce twinkle in his eye. “Money first.”

All Tom really wanted at this point was closure, as would any man who had spent that much time and energy plunging to the ground at a high speed. Knowing the end was near, he tried his best to piece the final bits together.

“Fine,” Tom had said, nervously, handing the man the agreed-upon 1700 credits. The man quickly took the money and pocketed it, then smiled.

“Well? Where’s my zucchini? I need the crunch!” Tom finally burst out, unable to hold it in any longer.

“I’ve got a crunch far better than zucchini, friend,” said the man, kicking Tom in the chest, thus leading to the here and now.

“So that’s it then… well, no use fretting over it,” thought Tom, hurtling down. If there’s one thing he had learned from this experience, it’s that one should receive the product before handing out the payment. “And who knows? Maybe that strange man is correct. The crunch could be pretty good.”

Tom closed in on the pavement below.

CRUNCH!

“Yep. That’s the good stuff!”

~~~

Transmission 27…28…29…

by Steven Fischer

Have you ever heard the one about the chrononaut stuck in the time loop?

No? Me neither. I suppose it wouldn't be very funny, would it? Terrifying, actually, I’d imagine.

Thankfully, all our preliminary readings seem to suggest it’s impossible. No Mobius abnormalities, no graviton wobbles. Looks like we were worried over nothing. Must have been a bug in the simulations -- you know how overly cautious they can be.

It's been a flawless first run -- a bit dull, if anything, to be honest. The Jurassic was neat, although the Tyrannosaur wasn't nearly as large as had been promised. Nothing to write home about.

What's that? My emergency recall? Why would I want to trigger that -- I just told you we haven't found anything interesting yet.

Sure, I can read off my time stamp, but I don’t know why you’d want it. It's not like we need any help here.

Hurry? I suppose I can. Why?

Well then the problem must be with the instruments on your end, because I can assure you everything’s completely fine here.

No, no, no. Are you even listening? I said there WEREN'T any signs of looping.

How many times already?

Not possible.

Although now that you mention it, I feel like there's a bad joke in there somewhere...

~~~

About the Creators

Cameron Stewart is an Austin-based two-time winner of the famed Armadillocon flash fiction contest. He spends the majority of his time working on film/TV sets (watch some of his film work here) and fending off various alien invasions. You know… the usual.
Steve Fischer is a writer and resident physician living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. When he's not too busy cracking open a textbook (or a patient's thorax), you can find him exploring the Cascades by bike, boat, or boot.

World's Shortest Creator Interviews

Cameron Stewart

The robot overlords have gifted you with the choice of one cybernetic module that will make one of your existing skills or traits all bionic and stuff. What do you choose to buff up, and what would be the unexpected plot twist?

I would choose to enhance my creativity, perhaps adding some RAM and a solid state drive so I can think of bigger and better things, as this will help with my daily life and hobbies, and be extremely useful as a DM for my D&D group. Unfortunately, choosing this will have the downside of every creative thing I concoct having a chance to become physical instead of being trapped in my imagination. I would probably have to live the rest of my life like some sort of strange Twilight Zone episode, being extremely careful to be as uncreative as possible, just in case. It would be great for thoughts of dinner, though.

Due to a bureaucratic mixup, you have just been appointed Czar of All Mammalian Nutrition. What is your first edict?

Without much forethought, I would make a sweeping declaration that everything is now edible. Although I am just now realizing this only affects mammals, but hey, food allergies would be a thing of the past, so that’s great!

Steven Fischer

I'm really into Korean TV drama right now. Why don't you talk about that for a bit.

Hi, I'm Really Into Korean TV Drama, I'm Steve. "That" is the eighth most commonly used word in the English language, and generally functions as a pronoun to identify a specific object, person, or idea being observed or referenced by the speaker. That said, the word can also be used as a definitive article, conjunction, adverb, or an adjective (quite versatile). It derives from an Old English and Proto-Germanic word of essentially the same form, and even more distantly from the Proto-Indo-European word "tod." For those of you interested in these sorts of things, might I humbly refer you to the excellent podcast series "The History of English Podcast."

Do you hope to see lighters or iPhones waved when the song-story of your life is performed? Are you expecting a mosh pit? Or are you hoping that the crowd will stomp their feet in rhythm and raise their glasses, or some other response, perhaps?

In my dreams, the weak, flickering glow of torches held in tiny human hands pales in comparison to the blaze of smouldering cities behind the mobs which have gathered to oppose me. Among the echoing cries from the mouths of the masses, I recognize only my name. It is the only sound, mixed among the futile protests and threats of the weak and undeserving species that has somehow claimed this planet, that means anything to me. Their only form of true worship. The song of their world burning around them, and the new, brighter one I will build with my own tentacles, is the truest music of...Ummm. iPhones. I mean, iPhones. Yeah. No one really carries lighters anymore.

About the Artist

Hugo and Chesley finalist Sara Felix is an artist living in Austin, Texas. She works mainly in clay and resin, with a few shrinky dinks thrown in for fun. She designed the 2016 Hugo base and co-designed the 2018 Hugo base with Vincent Villafranca.  In 2018 she also designed the 2018 WSFS Young Adult Award. Her art can be seen and purchased at science fiction conventions throughout the states.

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Posted in Featured Fiction