Coffee Break

A Sci-Fi Short Story written by Mason Yates

Coffee Break

by Mason Yates

 

Mason Yates is from a small town in the Midwest, but he currently lives in Arizona, where he graduated from Arizona State University.  He has interned with the magazine Hayden’s Ferry Review and has served as the fiction editor for ASU’s undergraduate literary magazine Lux during the 2021-2022 school year.  His works can be found in magazines/webzines such as Land Beyond the World, Scarlet Leaf Review, Fabula Argentea, Idle Ink, Pif Magazine, and others.  To read more of his publications, go to https://linktr.ee/masonyatesauthor.

 

The two women sat outside the café at a metal table, their chairs facing the bustling street while steaming coffees rested on the flat surface beside them. Richie took advantage of the cream and sugar placed in a miniature wicker basket in the middle of the black table. Marmalade drank hers strong and analyzed the scenery. Silent electric vehicles cluttered the roadway, and a mob of diverse women hustled on the sidewalks. Overhead, modest jets tore across the cloudless sky, disappearing and reappearing from behind the many glass skyscrapers that glistened high up above. Patrons at nearby tables discussed in casual tones, many voices passive, without emotion. All in all, an average Tuesday morning.

“What’s on your schedule today?” Richie asked as she stirred her coffee with a thin straw found a second ago in a plastic container inside the wicker basket.

Marmalade glanced at her friend across the table. She grinned. “Nothing much. Just the average workday, I guess. I have an hour break, then I’m back to making phone calls. You?”

“Same.” Richie sipped her brew, then set it on the table. “Except I punch numbers into a computer. Statistics is what they call it. Same thing different day.”

“Doesn’t sound so fun,” Marmalade said. She set her coffee on the table, too. Half gone. Bright red lipstick stained the brim.

Richie shrugged. “No, it’s not fun, but someone has to do it. It’s important work.”

“You know,” Marmalade started with a giggle, “even though I’ve known you for a whole two years, I still don’t really know what you do. You’ve told me that you do statistics, but—”

“What kind of statistics?” Richie interrupted.

“Yeah,” Marmalade said and reached for her coffee again. She drank.

“Well,” Richie started, “I look at statistics that involve artificial insemination. In a way, I am researching what works and what doesn’t. At the end of every week, I report my findings. A lot of people count on me to do my job right.”

“How do you get these statistics?” Marmalade inquired, intrigued. She put her cup down.

“Artificial insemination factories send me their data via emails,” Richie replied.

“Like, is it about what babies live and die and stuff like that?”

Richie tilted her chin back and bobbed her head side to side. Her long, carrot-colored hair bounced on her shoulders, and she curled her lips in contemplation. “Kind of. A portion of it is. Another is having to record what manipulated batches are leading to male children, or way worse, deformed type of children. As you already know, we immediately abort all the males and deformed.”

“Does manipulated batches mean like test-tube babies?” Marmalade asked.

“Yep,” Richie answered without hesitation. “They’re made in, like, a science lab or some type of research facility similar to the one I work in. They manipulate DNA. They can make the perfect woman, you know? They choose not to because our society isn’t quite ready for cyborgs, but they’re able to. In fact, there’s a rumor that they already have in the east, but I don’t know.”

Marmalade laughed out loud. “It’s getting crazy. Imagine what it’s going to be like.”

Richie smiled. “I assume it’s going to be even crazier. We’ll be half human, half robot.”

Marmalade chortled. She reached for her coffee again and finished it off. “Gosh, is it too soon for actual cyborgs, or do they already have that in the works? You would know, right?”

“Like I said, there’s talk about it,” Richie said with a nod. She sipped her coffee, placed it back on the table, then glanced at the sidewalk feet away from where they were seated. “But as of now, it is just a rumor, nothing more.”

Marmalade examined Richie for a moment, gazing at her red hair and hazel eyes and pale-white skin before looking down at her own lap. She crossed her legs and folded her dark hands together, then flicked her eyes up to observe the street. Silent vehicles still waited at the red light. Pedestrians traversed the sidewalks. At the corner twenty or thirty feet east, a pair of policewomen laughed, glazed doughnuts in their hands. On the sides of two towers, enormous holograms played muted ads about the newest electronics and women’s products. Pairs of shoes blinked on screen now. Marmalade watched the advertisements for a moment, then felt a soft vibration in her jeans pocket. She shoved her hand inside, came out with the new iPhone, and looked at the message on screen: 45 MINUTES UNTIL BREAK IS OVER. She pressed the side button to turn the screen off, returned it to her pocket, and refocused on Richie, who sat beautiful and silent across the table.

“I wouldn’t mind having a child,” Marmalade broke the silence.

Richie turned. “You wouldn’t?”

“No, I wouldn’t mind it,” Marmalade said and sighed. “In fact, I think I would like to. It sounds like fun, and I bet I’d be a pretty good mom. Do you know how much it costs to get one? Maybe one day I might.”

“Depends on the characteristics you want it to have,” Richie said and drank more coffee.

Marmalade tried not to cringe at the word it. It made a baby sound less human, as if a kid meant being an object or a toy or something of the sort. But, Marmalade told herself, Richie was programmed by her work to think of children as a statistic. Instead of cringing, she said, “Well, I think I’d like my daughter to have my same brown eyes, as well as dark skin. On top of that, it’s also important to me that she be smarter. I’d like her to be creative, you know?”

Richie hummed. “Creativity is expensive.”

“I’d just like her to have a better job than I do. I don’t want my daughter to have to call a bunch of random people to make a living. I’d… I’d want her to be an author or a musician. That would be nice, you know? Maybe a talented artist that is known across the solar system.”

“In order to have that,” Richie started and shook her head, “you might have to fork over a lot of cash. I mean a lot. It takes money to manipulate DNA. And what about a partner to help? You can’t do it yourself.”

Marmalade shook her head. “I think I might be asexual. I’m not attracted to anyone.”

“There’s not one woman out there you wouldn’t mind just diving into?” Richie asked and giggled. She spread her lips into a wide smile, her sparkling white teeth peeking through. “You, Marmalade, are quite a dandy.”

Thanks.”  Marmalade grinned.  She rotated in her chair and watched as women streamed by—a multitude of young, old, fat, slim, short-haired, long-haired, dark, pale, etcetera.  She felt a lurking curiosity pertaining to all those women, but she did not feel any sexual arousal.  None.  It caused her to question herself.  What would arouse her?  She wondered about males.  Then doubt crawled into her thoughts.  No, she told herself, males were close to extinct, not to mention nasty and egotistical creatures.

I think Mary and I might have a child,” Richie said after a moment of silence.  “We both make enough money, and she’s at home half the time.  I’m not too big into the idea, but I’d do an awful lot to make Mary happy.”

Marmalade refocused on Richie.  “You should.”

We might,” Richie said.

What kind of child?”

An athletic one,” Richie said with a nod.  “I wouldn’t mind a soccer player.”

Marmalade smiled.  “Sounds lovely.  Who would bear it?”

Her,” Richie blurted out. She shook her head twice and laughed. “Not me. God, no. I won’t. Can you imagine the pain? Can you imagine me with a baby bump? Not on my watch.”

Marmalade grinned in reply.

Richie chortled and smiled in thought after her outburst. “In fact, if it were up to me, I’d like to try that new technology.”

What new technology?”

You know,” Richie started and glanced at the hologram ad across the street (an Eltra car, the best electric car brand, spun around on the advertisement), “that new method where they grow the child in a pod. It’s completely safe and painless. The pods acts like an artificial womb. Great, right?”

Marmalade cringed. “What about the natural way?”

Stop being such a traditionalist,” Richie laughed and leaned forward. She reached out in a flash and slapped Marmalade’s arm in a playful manner, a gesture of love rather than hate. She retreated. “Society is progressive, not traditional. Jump on the bandwagon. Look to the future!”

Marmalade forced a smile. “I’m guessing Mary doesn’t want to grow her kid in a pod?”

No,” Richie replied. “Not at all. She’s kind of a traditionalist… like you.”

Is that a bad thing?”

Richie shrugged. “No, but progressivism always wins in the end.”

Marmalade dropped her gaze to the table. “Do you ever wonder what it’d be like to have, uh, you know, a man impregnate you? Don’t you think that’d be interesting?”

Richie leered at her. “Are you saying you want a man to fuck you?”

No!” Marmalade exclaimed. She looked up. “I’m just seeing what your thoughts are.”

I think it’s disgusting.” Richie shivered. “Horrid.”

Do you ever wonder why society exterminated them?”

Isn’t it obvious?” Richie questioned.  She grinned. “It’s because men are utterly useless. Think about it. They hold no purpose anymore. In modern society, we can clone sperm. And to want a man in society would be to want chaos. Men have always been at each other’s throats. If you really think about it, what wars have started lately? None. We’ve only had one war. And if I recall it correctly, that was, well, fifty years ago. And to add, men think they can hold us ladies down, hold back our true potential. It’s a better world, trust me.”

I can’t argue with that.” Marmalade laughed.

Because the facts are on my side,” Richie said in a cocky manner. She wagged her head back and forth. “Plus, why would you want a man? A woman, you know, is more emotional and intelligent and… and all the rest. Men, I say with confidence, have no use in our society.”

It’d just be nice to see one,” Marmalade said. She relaxed in her seat and folded both of her hands over her belly. She lifted her chin up in contemplation. Her black hair dangled behind her. “It’d be cool, and I bet we wouldn’t be as disgusted as we think we would be. After all, they’re human, too.”

Have you seen the male at the zoo down the street?” Richie asked.

Marmalade leaned forward.  “There’s a male at the zoo?”

Richie nodded.  “Yeah.  He was put there over a year ago.”

No,” Marmalade whispered and leaned back again.  “I didn’t know.”

Would you want to go see him?” Richie asked and brought her purse up and into her lap. She fished out a coin from inside and put it on the table.  “It’d only take ten minutes.  I’m ready.”

Looks like I don’t have a choice,” Marmalade giggled.

Richie grinned. She stood up and gathered all her things into her purse. “You don’t. It might change your mind about the whole ‘man being a human thing’ you mentioned. Let me be the first to assure you, they aren’t. If we go now, we should get there as soon as the zoo opens.”

How far is it?” Marmalade asked

Literally right down the street.”

What time does it open?” Marmalade asked as she got to her feet.

Richie checked her touchscreen watch. “Five minutes.”

1 Comment

  1. Really interesting story I’m the type that likes sequels it would be really cool to see a story like this progress further. Good read! Two thumbs up

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