There's nothing like the start of the New Year to get us thinking of the future. And what does the future look like? We issued an open call for short stories — the only requirement was that they be set in the future, whether that future was dystopian or bright, separated from the present by the space of a few moments or several light years. These are the stories we received.

Presenting: Future Fiction. With art by Satwick Gade.

***

Feeling blue after dying? Don’t worry. Remember, post-mortem depression is real. Seek your division’s psychiatrists for help.

“Hello, I am your A.I. friend Hermes and you are aboard the Sagan Space Station orbiting betwixt Earth and the Moon. I am sorry to inform you that you have recently died, but I would like to welcome you back on your successful resurrection. Welcome back, Serrys Einher, it has been six days, five hours and twenty-three minutes since your death aboard Earth-Space Mining Vessel E.S.M. Amelia.” The A.I.’s voice was chipper, like an effervescent dog that bumped its moist nose into your legs and swatted your clothes with rigorous tail-wagging.

“It is currently 6 August, in the year Twenty-four forty-two. My records state that this is your first death since your birth in Twenty-four eleven in Neo Cairo, Republic of North Africa. Before you may begin your—"

“Where am I?” Serrys spoke, as she opened her eyes, looking at a sanitised white ceiling, a consistent pitch white circular room punctuated by the rare icon of a red bird in flight, edges of its wings capped by flames. Clasps smooth as mercury with a gentle underbelly of rubber held her down.

“You are currently on-board the Sagan Space Station. Currently in a rehabilitation room after your successful removal from a reconstruction pod. The nurses have already cleaned you of all organic preservative fluids, so you are currently no threat to yourself.” The A.I.’s voice was painfully spry in her head, and seemed to bounce with synthetic excitement inside her skull.

“How did I die?” Serrys tried to crane her neck, but the restraints held her down.

“You perished aboard E.S.M. Amelia while extracting minerals from an unclassified asteroid. The accident was caused by a faulty fuel-line in the Leyline batteries, causing an explosion that led to the deaths of all six of its crew members. If you desire, I can give you far more precise but decidedly unpleasant details on your demise.”

“No. But could you let me go?”

“In a bit. We must ensure that your body is operating correctly. Since this is your first post-death experience I shall tell you that these exercises are not so different from the ones you do when transferring from living with one gravitational force to another"

“Shut it. I’m fine.”

“I am sorry. It is protocol that I must ensure that you are mechanically sound and in no danger of dying again. Now, if you would—"

“Shut up. I just want to see a damn mirror. Release me.”

“Your range of aggravated movements — the fluttering of your eyes and energetic wriggling of your limbs — suggest that you are functioning soundly. Give me a moment… I have decided that it is safe to release you.”

The metal and rubber bindings gradually unclasped and she sprang to her feet. A mirror hovered before her, the only straight surface along the curved milky walls. In it she saw herself.

Her hair, which earlier fell beneath her shoulders, now barely reached her forehead.

Her eyes, copper with sharp edges where her tear ducts lay.

Her mouth and teeth, all as they were.

Her shoulders, not as stiff as she remembered.

Her limbs, smooth.

Her left ankle — blank.

“Hermes, I had… I had a tattoo on my left ankle... of my cat when I was a girl, Pompadour.”

“Sorry. While the Phoenix Resurrection Process recreates your body from your last Soul Data, it cannot recreate some blemishes on your skin — such as light scars and tattoos. During the process, we recorded that you lost an abdominal scar, an ankle tattoo and minor scars from lacerations on your legs. It is the same reason why we cannot recreate your hair and nails as they were before.”

“So it’s gone,” she sighed.

“I am sorry. I am also ordered to inform you that your last Soul Data was obtained on 30 July from aboard the E.S.M. Amelia at zero two zero eight, as per the Greenwich Time Zone.”

Serrys felt… the same. She poked at her skin and traced her fingers along the bones, trying to find some sign that something was different — some sign of something, some metamorphosis or betrayal in her body. But she was herself. She had never been quite sure how dying would feel... her sister had done it, her girlfriend had done it, yet she didn’t expect it to be quite so pedestrian. Inexplicably, she felt a vortex within, a swirling of doubt and sadness — had she even really died? What happened to her between death and now? Why was she?

“When you are ready,” Hermes chimed in, “I can call the nurses to help you clean, dress and rest in your room for post-mortem rehabilitation. Be advised that it will often take two to three days, and very rarely more, for you to bounce back from death, and start to live as you did.”

Serrys scratched the mirror with nails that weren't there. The pristine whiteness of the room felt suffocating, like someone had layered oil upon her skin and lungs. The closest thing to a flaw in its peerless white features were the slits of the door. It was all a soft plastic that cushioned every step, bending and morphing to the shape of her feet.

She sat before herself, one hand upon the mirror and the other on her face.

“Did I really die?” she thought aloud.

“Certainly. Shock and confusion are common after your first death and I can assure you can that any subsequent deaths will not be as perplexing.” Hermes replied, cheerily. “Though I suppose I should warn you that your first three deaths are free and then charges apply.”

“Ugh,” Serrys groaned, “Couldn’t they programme you to be less chipper about this whole f**king deal?”

“My apologies. My voice is meant to foster a jovial and cooperative environment and the intention is not to make light of your situation. As for my attitude, I am just overjoyed to see it when a friend makes it alive. And I am thrilled to see you back and have you ready to continue your service.”

“Right…” Serrys habitually stretched her spine, but no cracks emanated from it. “You can send for the staff, I think I’ve got my bearings well enough.”

“Jolly good. I have notified the nurses that you are successfully alive and they will be here shortly. Please remember to collect your Death Leave Certificate before you leave the Phoenix Ward. And remember, death is not the end.”

“Right…”

**

You have your own sole Soul, don’t step on it! Remember to invest heavily in securing its future.

With her right hand, Serrys picked up the mug and took a long swig of the now lukewarm coffee and with her left hand, swiped upward on the holographic screen — bringing up the report on the E.S.M. Amelia. It was impossible for Hermes and his chirpy voice to lie, but she felt compelled to study the report sent to all concerned parties and deceased individuals.

A fault in the Leyline energy coils had caused an implosion that caused the vessel to crumple into itself, devouring the six crew members along with it. The Trade Federation was currently conducting investigations on the accident and would fund the resurrection of all deceased crew members, which could be claimed retroactively. Serrys’ eyes hovered on a single line.

‘Remains of the craft and the crew were retrieved for further investigation and salvage procedures.’

She downed the last of her coffee.

“Yo, sis.” A voice called out.

Serrys swiped away the screen and as it dispersed into the air, she sat up and brought her gaze back into the coffee shop — the amber table with the STARBUCKS logo emblazoned upon it, the carpeted floor and the person standing next to her.

“Took you forever, Sebyl,” Serrys sighed.

Sebyl had long brown hair, the same hue as her own, tied into a single braid that rested across her shoulder. She wore regulation Terran Orbital Force civvies, a flowing Prussian coat, pants, and imposing weighted boots.

“I see you didn’t wait for me,” Sebyl tapped the empty mug as she sat down in the opposite oaken chair. “What’re you reading?”

“Just checking the reports of the accident,” Serrys swiped the edge of the table, opening a holographic menu across the table. “What’d you want?”

“Eh, the usual. Hope you’re not over-caffeinating yourself already.”

“There’re no downsides. Besides, this was just my second cup.”

“It’s on me, what’d you feel like? Usual?”

“Actually,” Serrys swiped through the menu, “I think I fancy this.”

“Thought you hated the sugary crap.”

“Hmmm…” Serrys droned as Sebyl punched in the order.

A validation of the order flashed on the table and zipped away.

“How’re you holding up?” Sebyl asked, as she removed her boots and sat cross-legged on the chair.

“I’m…” Serrys replied “...fine.”

“Y’ don’t seem so certain.”

“Ugh. To be honest I expected to feel… different, somehow. Hermes and the nurses keep telling me about how the depression takes on many forms and all that. But I feel the same.”

“Well, everyone takes to their first resurrection differently. I remember feeling really confused because in my mind I felt the tiredness of the around fourteen hours of flight before I died, but my remade body was not tired at all.”

“H-How did that feel?”

“Well,” Sebyl giggled, “it almost was like my brain was running on a delay. My body was fine, energetic, but my brain kept thinking of the endless flight.”

“Do you remember… your deaths themselves?”

“No, that’s literally impossible. Have you slept well?”

“I want to say yes… but I just couldn’t really relax, I did sleep in bouts — but barely. My Soul data updated fine, but I never expected being awake for the process to be so dizzying.”

“Yea, it can be a real b*tch — been through it on many sleepless flights. Still barely used to it.”

The barista droid swooped in, a small four-rotor droid dyed green with the STARBUCKS siren embossed upon its cranium. It laid their beverages upon the table, Sebyl’s cup with a willow of heat floating from it and Serrys’ chilled cream-sugar-syrup laden drink. It beeped in gratitude and flew back to the counter.

Serrys stabbed her drink with a straw and swirled the frozen mass, then took a sip. It was dense as soil and deliriously sweet with its swirling sugar and caramel.

“How’s it?” Sebyl smirked.

Serrys frowned. “Really f**king sweet.”

“What did you expect?”

“I’m not sure. I think I wanted to see if it’d feel different.”

“I doubt your taste-buds have devolved.”

“Anyway,” Serrys put her glass down with a scowl, “do you remember anything, anything at all about dying?”

“I remember nothing of the first time. Nothing of the second time. Like I said, it’s literally impossible. You are the you who was last saved in the Soul Database, not the you who was in the accident, not the you that died. You could say that a very minute part of you has gone for good, and that’s the part between your last upload and your death. Just hours, a grain of your entire life.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that,” Serrys returned to stabbing her drink. “I just feel… bothered that I am almost the same. I’ve lost my tattoo of Pompadour, scars from my abdomen and small burns from tinkering. But there’s like a… compulsion, to discover something has changed. Doesn’t the Phoenix become an egg and come back as a chick after it dies?”

“It does, and if you want to compare then all the time you spent under reconstruction was your equivalent of time as an egg and a chick. Now you’re you again.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Serrys slumped against the side of her chair.

The bustle of the Phoenix Sector continued outside the café, nurses leaving duty, nurses entering duty, droids buzzing around with supplies, shoes squeaking against the reflectively polished white floor outside. Announcements from Hermes, stating various facts about the Phoenix Programme, played at regular intervals.

“Remember, your first three deaths are free, and then charges may be applied.”

Phoenix patients were recognisable by the identical sky-blue fatigues and short hair, not unlike those Serrys wore. Sebyl took slow sips from her steaming coffee, Serrys took the reluctant few sips from her mush.

“Please remember that if you die too much then your resurrection charges will increase.”

“Something is obviously biting you.” Sebyl broke the silence.

“Well…” Serrys droned, trying to puzzle words together, “I was thinking that my body is the same. My mind is the same. My thoughts are the same. But… are my emotions the same? Will I still love the same things? Or is it my mind just telling me, has it ingrained, that these are the things that I love? How the hell can I tell the difference?”

“Can’t give you an objective answer,” Sebyl flicked open a drawing screen on the table, “but I can give you a pseudo-philosophical one.”

“Oh spare me,” Serrys feinted holding a gun against her temple.

“Well...” Sebyl started to draw questionably related geometric figures — a box divided by a dotted lines and a bundle of cycles intended to be a brain and a cartoon caricature of a heart. "The way I see it is that your mind and your emotions are separated only at first. But, over time, there is a sort of osmosis between the mind and your feelings — it’s slow and takes time and it might be biology’s way of keeping us loyal and s*it — and gradually your emotions reside in your brain and your thoughts become the emotions you seek.” Colours flowed between the two sides of the box, till it became a single homogenous hue.

“Okay, ma’am.”

“Heh,” Sebyl signed her name beneath the diagrams, “seriously though. When you said you no longer had the tattoo of Pompadour you clearly seemed distraught.”

Serrys stabbed her drink.

“You know you still have your feelings. You’re worried about Val, aren’t you?” Sebyl winked.

“I…” Serrys looked at Sebyl, then the floor, “I remember her. I remember love for her. But are they just the memories, the thoughts, the mind — for f**k’s sake what if I don’t even go that way now? What if I suddenly find sausage desirable?”

“Eh…” Sebyl smirked. “Why not fire up some porn and explore? See if you feel any different… tingles.”

“I tried,” Serrys sighed “but what turns a human on turns a human on. I remember feeling turned on by anything that is meant to turn someone on — I was looking for the things that ‘turn me on and then some’ but didn’t really find anything.”

“Did you consider calling her instead of starting your catalogue of kinks?”

“Yeah… I just can’t.”

“What’s the hold up?”

“I just want more time. I want to recollect and, well, come to terms with my death. Centuries-old texts spoke of death as such a strange and transformative thing. As a mistress, as a warden, as a scythe-wielding cloak… so many things. But it’s so mundane that I can’t quite believe that I really died.”

“You read the report,” Sebyl said, took a swig of yet-warm coffee. “It’s in the reports, it’s in the logs.”

“Yeah, yeah. But I can’t help but wonder why my body and mind are the way they are. All the experiences, all the thoughts that have me lead me up to here. Just… why?”

“I don’t quite get you.” Sebyl raised her eyebrows.

“Ever since I died I have this thought within me,” Serrys laid a hand across her own face, “Why am I so specifically me?”

**

Saddled with Post-Mortem debt? Remember, you can apply to become a conscripted miner. Humans always need resources, and we need you!

“This is E.M.S. Chawla, we’re in Leyline range of asteroid A4322. Awaiting confirmation to go ahead with scan and extraction,” Yuriko spoke into the mouthpiece.

Pilot Yuriko and co-pilot Nathaniel sat in the cockpit, the other four crew members sitting in rows of two behind them. An array of flight controls stretched in front of the pilots, many analogue buttons and sticks alongside myriad holographic screens. Rows of seats lined the walls behind them, behind the seats various and consoles and further behind a suit maintenance station adjacent to a large door with a jagged spine that entwined with itself.

“Copy that, Chawla,” a female voice responded, “engage tether and initiate scans. You have the go-ahead to power the Leyline coil.”

“Got it.” Yuriko turned around and nodded at the rest of them.

Serrys stood up and joined Rem at the scanning interface. A large black square with a console of latitudinal and longitudinal controls alongside empty spaces to display the specifics of whatever they discerned.

“Prime Scanner Rem primed to scan,” she said, tucking her grey-black hair behind her ears “Co-Scanner Serrys at post too.”

“Do it,” Yuriko nodded, then turned to the others. “Engage tether control. Once I give the word, float out and place guidance rods.”

Rem guided the scanning echolocation while Serrys narrowed the cone, keeping the space dust and adjacent shards of rock from interfering. White ripples echoed across the screen, waves that gradually distorted from concentric circles into rocky masses till only one rotund mass drifted in the screen. The ripples intensified and the interface let out tones that sped up and then halted. Information scrolled its way onto the screen.

“Boulder’s real rich in aluminium. With some decent sums of platinum and silver,” Rem announced. “Good find.”

The ship lurched and spun till it locked in place with a shudder.

“Tether engaged,” Nathaniel acknowledged. “Guidance rods, go ahead. Cycling airlock in 3… 2… 1.”

Even through the entwined airlock doors they could hear the rush of force as the airlock chamber cycled and opened itself to the outer void.

“Relaying scans to your suit interfaces,” Rem spoke as she swiped at the information on screen and drew lines linking it to the others. Then, she sat back and sighed.

“Did I ever tell you you’re here early, lass.” She cracked her neck as she glanced at Serrys.

“Lass your ass, gran.” Serrys replied.

Rem chuckled.

Yuriko and Nathaniel chattered constantly with the crew floating outside, snide remarks breaking the commands and statements. Everyone repeating reminders that alcohol consumption is prohibited in Zero-G air-space, to Yuriko’s chagrin. It was an accident, she claimed, the fact that she smuggled a flask of rum on-board and the fact that she drank it – ‘yeah, right’ the others laughed.

Rem stretched her arms above her head and sighed. “Aluminium, huh.”

“What’s up?” Serrys responded to Rem's frown.

“Nothing,” Rem brought her arms back down. “I was just thinking that we’ve only found stuff we know about on these boulders.”

“What of it?”

“Just… wondering why we haven’t found anything new.”

“You’re looking for mithril? Adamantium? Vibranium?”

“Maybe, whatever. In a century of orbital mining we haven’t found anything unknown — nothing remarkable, nothing confusing. It’s seems like everything is something we know, gases on our planets, everything in these boulders — we seem to know exactly what goes into comets from other systems, for f**k’s sake.”

“You want to find something that’ll shake sh*t up?”

“It’s not about shaking sh*t up,” Rem shook her head, “all this old-world literature dreamed of the stars, of all the unknown beyond their sky. All of them would be disappointed that we know what’s going on around us. Don’t you want something new? Something completely outta left-field?”

“Maybe you just want to see the next turn of the century before you decay of age.”

“B*tch, I’ve got another sixty to seventy years of age left in my Soul. Not gonna be fading out for good anytime soon.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Serrys stood up, stretching from side-to-side.

“Either we are not alone in this universe, or we are alone — both possibilities are terrifying.” Rem muttered, chin resting on her palm.

“Clarke,” Serrys responded, “maybe I’m not so bothered by that thought cause I’m still just trying to get my damn life together. I trained to be an orbital journalist, not spend months on mining ships just to make ends meet. Maybe I’m just too young to start caring about what lies beyond my life.”

“I’m just double your age, whippersnapper,” Rem grinned sheepishly. “Guess love and money are on your mind. While booze, money and the universe are on mine.”

“I was,” Serrys entered a tangent, “reading some old texts about how, ages ago, it was only possible for a man and woman to have a babe in accord. Back then women also had to push the babe out of their vagina.”

“Yeah, hubby and I had read up on it during the year-long parental leave. There was a point when sex was considered purely to be a means of babe spawning. Which would explain why only a man and woman could make a babe back then, it was imposs—"

“Rem. Serrys.” Yuriko barked, “you’re up.”

The two of them nodded. Serrys drew her visor down, attaching it to the neck of her suit. Lights flickered across the glass of the helmet. Initiating. Sealing Suit. The squelch of a vacuum as the locks around her neck engaged. Circulating Air. Serrys could breathe freely again. Welcome, Serrys Einher. The interface faded onto the glass, gauges and meters specifying the state of the suit lined the bottom and graphs of the Leyline status filled her periphery. The two of them marched into the airlock cycler, the door sealed itself behind them.

“Cycling airlock.” Yuriko’s voice boomed in their ears.

They were in a circular room with a large arc of a door before them. Both stood in demarcated areas, locking their suits into a spine-like device. The arc slowly slid open, nothingness drowning out the mechanical sounds around.

“Personal tethers engaged.” Rem spoke to everyone, as their suits were released by the mechanical spines.

Rem grabbed a handle and swung outside, toward the bottom of the ship, while Serrys followed her lead. Like spiders on an inverse web they climbed the underbelly of the ship, till they crawled to the manual console for the Leyline system. Around them stood darkness like a smooth undulating ocean, a tranquil sea that would consume you with nary a churn.

“Serrys,” Rem’s voice crackled in her ear, “you never did tell me why you volunteered to ditch your post-mortem leave.”

“Well,” Serrys transmitted back to Rem alone, “I had died doing this and I just felt… just thought that I’d remember something by being out here again.”

“It’s impossible to recall a thing between your upload and your death. So what’re you trying to remember?”

Serrys’ laugh mixed with a hollow sigh fogged the glass in front of her. “I haven’t a f**king clue.”

**

Remember, death is not the end.

Serrys sat in a STARBUCKS not far from her quarters, on an oaken chair before an oaken table besides a window that looked into the void outside, half of which was occupied by the green and blue sphere with swirling blotches of white, also known as Earth. A mug of coffee rested upon the table, steam billowing out from the contents, and in front of her hovered a holographic screen with the question ‘Call Val?’ spread across it. Serrys took a sip of coffee, set the mug down and then swiped her fingers across the confirmation. The screen stretched to the size of a window and hovered over the middle of the table. The screen lit up.

The image of a woman with short red hair, the fringe arcing over her right eye. She too sat at a table with a cup before her and a plate dotted with brown crumbs; she wore a plaid shirt — checks of red and blue — with the collar unbuttoned and the green cloth of a member of the Earth Environmental Survey wrapped around her neck and shoulders like a shawl. A beam of orange light glowed upon one side of her face, shining in her hair. She smiled.

“What took you so long?” Val sipped on her tea. “It’s been four days.”

“Hey Vee,” Serrys replied, probing the desire to touch the face on the screen. “I’ve just been a dazed mess after dying. Sebyl was the only one I was able to get myself to talk to.”

“I understand, Es. Your first death is always a bit dazzling, confusing or saddening. Tell me, how are you holding up?”

“Well, fine. Just confused and a bit… disappointed.”

“Death didn’t crack up to be all you expected?” Val smirked.

“In a way… yea. I can’t help but feel kinda disappointed that everything is the same, I can’t help but feel that something I can’t quite find has changed. Anyway, where are you?”

“Hong Kong, visiting the folks,” Val shifted the screen from the view of her and the brick wall to that of the window and geometric shapes of the skyline shrouded by the darkening light of the sun. “I went to the university. I really missed — I really miss you.”

She shifted the view back to herself, a finger swirling the strands of her fringe. Hermes’ voice chirped from outside the STARBUCKS:

“Remember, space farers have a mortality rate 18 percent greater than those of planet dwellers and a whopping 46 percent greater than those of Earth dwellers. Which is why the Terran Council will reduce taxation on space deaths with effect from 12 November. Please avoid dying before then if you wish to avoid needlessly paying more.”

Serrys shifted the screen from the view of herself and the café behind her, to that of the window and the swirling Earth.

“I can see H.K. from up here, we aren’t that far apart.”

“Sure,” Val giggled, “ geographically we’re close. But…” her voice trailed off “not really.”

“I want to touch you too...” Serrys thought aloud.

Val’s lips curved ever-so-slightly downwards as she moved a strand of hair off her face. Serrys plunged into her brick eyes, pupils dilating and constricting. Val stuck her tongue out and then winked.

“You popped your death cherry,” she sang nasally.

“Is that a thing?” Serrys sighed. “Though tell me, how was it for you?”

“I was much younger. They say that dying at a young age can cause some complications and all that — but I think I’m doing just fine.”

“H-How did it feel?”

“Honestly, as a kid I didn’t think of it much. It’s when I entered my teens and puberty hit full swing that I began to think about it.”

“In what way?”

“A lot of questions. I had many thoughts about whether dying had changed who I would have been.”

“About your mind and your feelings?”

“Yeah. I just thought about if it had changed my wiring, my subconscious — how would my mind know? I knew what I knew, but can I know an unconscious shift in me? If I never died could my life, my choices and everything have been different? Would time have treated me differently?”

“I…” Serrys hesitated, looking down at her civvies, closing and opening her eyes before she continued, “I have been thinking if I still love you.”

Val’s lips parted and stayed agape. “How so?”

“I love you. My mind loves you, my thoughts and consciousness feel a desire for you. But how can I know if the root of my emotions are the same? Is it merely my thoughts, my memories of us from Uni and beyond, all of that that lures to me to you? But could there have been a shift in me that my heart tilts a different way but it is muffled by my mind? Could this be a mirage? Sebyl hypothesised that for us humans, thoughts and emotions meld to become the same — such that the emotion persists in our thoughts and the two aren’t divided by some barrier. I suppose that might answer why we cannot resurrect non-sapient beings in the same way, because they do not have the same pattern of cognition as us — they’re just masses of emotion, not meshes of thought.”

Val’s eyes looked downward and she nodded slightly. “I had similar thoughts.”

“What?”

“Once I hit puberty I found myself attracted to other girls around me and I could not help but think that could that have not been so if I had not died. Would I have been straight if I never died? But then more questions arose from that, I fell into depression, an obsession with the thought of why I was myself. I questioned the colour of my skin. I looked at those with darker skin, those with skin paler than me, and I just wondered ‘why?’ and that branched out, like these vines of doubt, to so many other aspects of myself. Why did I have red hair? Why was I born where I was born? Why did I have the parents I have? And the questions never left me. I always wondered why I felt pulled to you, I thought it was your long, smooth hair and studious stoicism — but it wasn’t. I found myself lured even when you cut your hair and when I learned what an anxious motor-mouth you are. I doubted my doubt, but I still doubted. If I had never died, would I have never met you? I still enjoy sitting at a café with a cup of tea, and just looking outside at all the others that blaze past — thinking that in a way, these are all people that are me, just with differing variables plastered all across their lives. It’s frightening but it also makes me so… comfortable in my skin.”

“I…” Serrys stared at her hand, gripping the mug. Her middle finger, her index finger and thumb that wrapped themselves around the ceramic handle that flowed into the side of the mug, “I have my memories. And I can think about our memories together. And I can feel a tingle, a sort of cold breath on my neck and a spiny caressing on my skin. And I suppose I doubted the doubt. Would my body react the same if I had been changed? I have my memory of when we made-out in the back of that empty tram — and I admit that there is a feeling in my body, a physiological reaction no doubt.”

“You said,” Val grinned, “you wanted to touch me. And I doubt a brain’s logic would hardwire someone into just wanting to touch another person. I don’t think there can be a fully logical explanation detailing the reasons you just want to touch someone.”

“That’s… a little creepy.” Serrys laughed.

“We’re lovers. The creeping is consensual.”

Val stuck her tongue out again, while Serrys rolled her eyes. The light that painted Val now turned crimson. The barista droid hovered in and collected Serrys’ mug, whirring gratitude as it floated away.

“Thanks,” Serrys said.

“F**k off,” Val shook her head, “you don’t have to thank me for the obvious.”

“Okay. I’ll just get you a wine from hydroponics before I come to Earth.”

“Sure. Listen, I’ve gotta meet my folks for dinner and it’s about time I headed out,” Val said, shifting her cup to the side of the table. “I’ll ring you once I’m back at the hotel. Till then, love you.”

“Love you.” Serrys replied.

Val lifted her hand to swipe the screen off. “Oh, and make it whiskey.”

The screen went dark.

Serrys sat back and stretched her arms. Tilting her head towards the window. She held her left palm over Earth, closing her fingers one-by-one till her index finger was left standing. She closed one eye and stretched her finger across Earth, crossing continents and oceans, flitting past deserts and frozen wastelands, skylines and old submerged metropolises. She opened her palm once more and laid it across her chest. That rhythmic drumming echoing in her skin.

Then, she sat up and ordered another coffee — but added a brownie this time.

Yavar Ahmad is a writer who specialises in contemplating nothing and then contemplating why he contemplates nothing. He tweets @VolatileSeraph

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