Thursday, September 26, 2013


Soy or Miso?
By James Pollard

The portal to Tanaka’s Noodles shop slid open and two men came in.  The 3D waitress, standing outside the door, said “Irrashaimase.”  They sat down at the counter closest to the door.
Nani kuu ka?” Hideko asked.
“Uhhh, I don’t speak Japan,” said one of the men.  “Do ya understand her, Al?”
“Nope,” said Al.  “I guess she’s askin whatcha wanna eat.”
“Shaddup, Al,” the man said.  “Hey dame, what grub you got?”
It was twilight in Neo Tokyo.  The woman picked up two menu pads and deposited them in front of the men.  A 3D neon bowl of noodles steamed in the air above the counter, a larger version hung outside over the small shop.  From the far end of the counter Tomoko Nakamura watched the men.  She had been talking to Hideko when they came inside. 
“Good.  I want a bowl of noodles.  Gimmie a fork, don’t want those dumb sticks to eat with,” the man said.
“I want the same,” said Al.
“Soy or miso?” asked Hideko.
“What’s that?” asked Al.
“Soy or Miso?” repeated Hideko.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with a soy or a miso?” the man exclaimed.
“Soy is soy and miso is miso.  It flavor noodles.”
“Soy or miso?”
“I dunno what miso tastes like,” said the first man.  “But I dun like soy.  Too salty.”
“Miso is a bean, I think,” said Al.
“Shaddup Al.  You dun know nuthin’. Hey dame, which one you recommend? Is the miso any good?”
Hideko raised two thumbs up.
“Alright, alright.  Gimmie a bowl of miso noodles.”
“Make that two,” said Al.
Hai, wakarimashita.”
“Hey.  You speak English?” asked Al.
Iya, eigo dekimasen.  Sumimasen.”
“She’s pretty cute,” said Al.  “Ain’t she, Max?”
“Not my type.”
Al looked at Max.  “Are you blind?  Both of these dames are hot.”
“Shaddup Al.  No, they ain’t,” said Max.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Al asked.
“Tomoko,” she said. 
“Tomoko, I’m Al.”
“I’m getting sick of telling ya, Al.  Shaddup!”
Hideko set down two bowls of noodles in front of the men.  She put a fork and napkin next to each bowl.  She watched the men eat.
“Whatcha lookin at, dame?” asked Max.
“She’s looking at this handsome fellow.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
“Hey, no need to poke fun.  What’s your name, good lookin?”
“Me no speak Engrish.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
“Shaddup, Al.”
They continued eating.   Both men wore identical black leather trench coats.  The man called Al wore a chain link utility belt.  Two long vibroknives hung from each side.  Smaller knives filled the rest of the belt slots.  He was short with white pasty skin.  He wore white lasgoggles above a long nose.  The man called Max was taller, broader, darker.  A bandolier containing multiple power clips hung across his chest.  The stock of a Mark IV blaster poked out of his coat pocket.  He had a round face.  He wore purple colored lasgoggles.  Max finished first.  The other man pushed his noodles around the bowl with the fork.
“Who’s in the kitchen?” asked Max.
“Tanaka,” said Tomoko.
“Call him out here.”
“Funny flavor,” said Al.
“What was your name again, Tokoko?”
“Ok Tomoko.  Listen up.  You know why we are here.”
Hideko picked up the empty bowl and dropped it down a chute in the counter.  She wiped the counter with a rag.  “Noodles?” said Hideko.
Tomoko laughed.  Al laughed.  He put down the fork and pushed his bowl away.  Hideko slid the bowl down the counter to the disposal chute.
“You talk silly,” Al said.
“Shaddup, Al,” said Max.  “Tokiko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Tomoko,” she replied.
Hideko wiped the counter in front of Al.
“Tell him to come out here.”
“Why?” asked Tomoko.
“Because I said so, smart girl,” said Max.
“Let me handle this, Max,” said Al.  “Hey, pretty girl.  You smart too eh?  Call the cook out here, will ya?”
Max laughed.  Hideko laughed.
“Shaddup, Al.  You really talk silly.”  Max unbuttoned his coat.  “Now Tokoko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Huh?” said Max.
“Tomoko,” she said.  “Me name Tomoko.”
“Whatever,” Max pulled out the blaster and set it down on the counter. 
Tomoko looked at Max.  She slid her hand along the counter to a small button panel.  She pressed a blue button, “Tanaka san.  Chotto soto e onegai.”
Max looked at Al, “See?  Ya dummy.”
Al was looking at Hideko.
A large android stepped through a recessed door behind the counter.  The door slid shut.
“Are you Tanaka?” asked Max.
The android bowed low.  It wore a dirty white apron and a red bandana around its head.  The silver face showed no emotion.
Max picked up the blaster.  “Ok, now all of you here,” he said.  “We have a question for ya.”
Hideko said, “Soy or Miso?”
Al laughed.
“Shaddup Al.”  Max waved the blaster in the air.   “I expect answers.”
“What is the question, sir?” asked the android Tanaka.
“Don’t get smart, tin man.”
“You know why we are here,” said Al.
“To enjoy my noodles?” asked the android.
Tomoko laughed.  Hideko laughed. 
“Whaddaya know, Max.  A smart tin man!” said Al.
“Shaddup, Al,” he replied.  “I’m warning ya.”
Max tapped his blaster on the counter.  “We are here to kill the Martian.  Do ya know the big Martian named Ole Sammy?”
“He’s one of ya regulars, right?  Comes in every night?”
“Sometimes,” said Tanaka.  “He doesn’t come in every night.”
“And he comes at the 6th watch cycle, don’t he?”
“If he comes, yes.”
Al looked at Hideko.  “Hey gorgeous, whaddaya got to drink around here?  That soup was too salty.”
“Sake?” she asked.
“Yeah, sake sake.  That sounds nice.”
“Shaddup, Al.”  Max tapped his blaster on the counter again.  “We’re working here.  No drinking on the job.”
“Excuse me, sir.”
“You said the soup was too salty?” asked the android.
“Yeah,” said Al.  “My throat’s all dry.”
“Please accept my most humble apologies, sir.”  Tanaka bowed.  “That recipe is several hundred years old, passed down by the founder of Tanaka Noodles.”
“Wait a sec,” said Max.  “Someone programmed you to cook?”
“No sir.  I learned firsthand from the previous owner, who died without a male heir.”  Tanaka pointed to Tomoko.  “Tomoko has continued her family’s tradition, but given me the family name as tradition dictates a Tanaka male in the kitchen.”
“Didn’t you say to stay focused, Max?”
“Shaddup Al.”
“Excuse me, sirs.”
“Whatcha want?”
“What should we do if a customer comes in?”
“I’ll tell you what to do,” said Max.  “Tell him to go away.  Tell him you’re malfunctioning.”
“But sir, that is impossible.  I have 78 years left on my power source.  I can never malfunction.”
“You better if you know what’s good for you.”
Max looked at the wall time piece.  It was fifteen sectors past cycle six.  The portal hissed open and the 3-D waitress repeated the traditional greeting.  A young man walked in.
Sumimasen, kyo wa hayaku yasunde imasu node,” said the android with a bow.
The young man nodded and left.
“You see Al, the tin man is really smart.”
Two other people came into the noodle shop.  Tanaka said the same thing to each of them.  The android pointed to the wall time piece.  It was 5 sectors past cycle seven.
“The Martian will not come tonight,” said Tanaka.
“Let’s give him 10 more sectors.”
“Come on, Max.  He’s not coming.  Let’s scram.”
“Shaddup Al.  Alright, let’s jet.”
“What should we do about them?”
“What about them?”
“Well, we can’t just leave them here.  It’s sloppy.”
“Shaddup Al.  I dun like it either.”  Al pushed away from the counter.  “But it’s their lucky day, I guess.”
“Yeah, real lucky, I guess.”
The two men left the noodle shop.  The 3D woman said “Domo arigato gozaimashita!” as the portal closed.
“Should we warn the Martian?” asked Tomoko.
“I think you should forget about it,” said Hideko.
“I don’t like it,” said Tanaka.  “I don’t like any of it at all.”
“But they were going to kill him!”
The android cook turned away.
Tomoko pressed a few keys on a recessed keyboard.  A 3D screen opened up in the air above the counter.  After a buzzer sounded, a large man appeared on the screen.  He had dark hair, eyes, and skin.
“Excuse me, Ole Sammy.  I need to speak with you.”
“What is it?”
“Two men were just here in the noodle shop.  They said they are going to kill you.”
“Oh.  Ok, is that all?”
“Would you like their descriptions?  Should I call the police?”
“No, and no.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, there isn’t anything you can do.”
“They want to kill you, Ole Sammy.”
“There isn’t anything anyone can do now.  But thank you for informing me.
The 3D screen fizzled out.
“Told you to not think about it,” said Hideko.
“I just can’t stand the thought of Ole Sammy just sitting there, waiting for death.
“It’s awful, that’s for sure.”
“He must have got mixed up in some shady business on Mars.”
“I suppose so.”
“Double-crossed the wrong person.”
“That’s what people get killed for.”
“I’m closing the shop early tonight.”
“Ok,” said Hideko.  “That’s great.  I’ll call my boyfriend.”
“But I can’t just do nothing!”
 “Well,” said Hideko, “you best just forget about it.”  She folded the rag and placed it on the corner of the counter. 

- - -
Born and raised in South Louisiana, James enjoys traveling and reading. He loves to write poetry, especially haiku, as well as fiction and non fiction stories, though only his poetry and non fiction has been published so far. He currently lives in Hong Kong. This particular story is science fiction parody of the famous Hemingway short fiction "The Killers".

Thursday, September 19, 2013


We've Got A Live One
By Madeline Dyer

“We’ve got a live one.”

Those were the first words I ever heard the aliens say. Several of them said it, one after another, passing the message down the ranks. Some sounded excited, others amazed, many of them awed. I was rather surprised that my built-in translator was able to translate these odd being’s words; maybe we’d caught one of them before? Maybe I was the first live specimen of my species to be caught by these strange, strange beings. And I wasn’t entirely sure whether that was a good thing.

Well, of course it wasn’t; it was never a good thing to be caught!

“I don’t need a lead,” I told the nearest alien, (who suited the name of ‘Kypzi’), the one who was holding the other end of rope, “I’m hardly going to run off when you’ve got a gun pointed at me.”

My words made no difference to my situation; maybe their translation devices weren’t up to the standards of mine? A shame really, considering the consequences...

I stared at the alien to my left, and decided to call him (I believe he’s male) ‘Xolprehone’. Xolprehone had a large beaky nose and a monster amount of rugged hair. His eyes were deep and big, sparkling with lost gems. His friend, a lighter-built version of himself, who suited the name of ‘Jyog’ wrote something down on his clipboard and turned to inspect me.

“Oh, yes, definitely a live one, this one. Oh, the fame!” Kypzi lifted his massive limbs into the air. He was a good five feet taller than me, like the majority of his species were, and I flinched.

“Just have to make sure we get this one to the depot, alive,” the alien behind Xolphrehone said. Her voice reeked of exasperation.

“Do you think this one’s female?” Jyog asked, casting his strange eyes over me.

“Of course I am!” I screamed back, rather insulted, because I am very feminine. “And what exactly are you planning on doing to me?” I added rather anxiously.

They, of course, ignored me.

* * *

The Tirrotin Times 18th July 2304



* * *

The old woman sat in her old cottage at her old table, cradling her wizened hands. She trembled with every sound of the trees’ fingers brushing against her cracked window pane. It couldn’t be true, could it? No, it couldn’t.... Her son was gone.... They couldn’t bring him back.... It was too late... And anyway, she didn’t believe in this new-fangled magic.... she didn’t believe in aliens...

Nothing could bring him back, she was sure.

The lengths that these mad scientists were going to angered the old woman, they were stupid! The methods were stupid, the ideas were stupid and the scientists were stupid. He was gone! As if an 'alien’ could bring back her son. The very idea was absolutely ridiculous.

She got up and looked at the clock. Twelve hours left. In twelve hours she’d know. Ha! They’d know. They’d realise how stupid they’d been. As if this could ever work!

* * *

“I demand that you let me go immediately!” I tried to sound civilised, and repeated my order in the seven hundred and fifty-three languages that I knew; a process which is really quite quick considering that many of the languages are on the telepathic level and can be ‘spoken’ at the same time as the ‘hearable’ tongues.

The room was cold and harshly lit. I was strapped to a bed in the most uncomfortable positions, and the bed had an alarming amount of tubes growing out of it that wrapped around my little body, trapping me. The gun was also nearby.

“Is there any way to turn it off?” Jyog asked the alien behind me. He pressed a button near my ear and the bed moved into a sitting position. But, it was only a little better.

The alien at the foot of my bed shrugged and rolled his eyes. “You got the tool?”

“Getting it now,” one of them replied in a crisp voice that was of a neutral tone. I couldn’t see that particular alien, but I think he or she was behind me.

Ok, so now I was getting very worried. Very worried indeed. Especially as it looked like they were about to perform some sort of experiment that none of the aliens seemed entirely comfortable with. And neither was I, but they didn’t know the consequences...

“This better work,” one of the aliens whispered.

I gulped as my suspicions were confirmed. It was inevitable; she was wielding a knife and it was travelling towards me at an alarming speed. The light glinted off it, slicing the air, as it came nearer and nearer...

* * *

The Tirrotin Times 19th July 2304



* * *

“There are some things that happen, that we understand,” the prime minister spoke, surveying his audience with his eagle eye, “and some things that happen, that we’ll never understand; this ‘new-life’ is one of them.”

The prime minister signalled to the woman at the back of the stage. She reached up and pulled the velvet rope. The crowd gasped as the curtains drew back.


“Oh my-”


“That - No!”

“What the-”

“It can’t be true!”


“Utterly Impossible!”

* * *

“You may return to your own world now,” Kypzi spoke directly to me, over-emphasising every word, speaking to me as though I was a tiny toddler.

I looked at him through my dreary eyes, the world was spinning and I’d never been so exhausted. I could barely breathe.

“Off you go!” Another of the aliens shewed her hands at me, “go on! Your job here’s done.”

“Oh no,” I whispered, “we are not done. It’s only just begun-” I broke off coughing, shielding my eyes from the harsh light above me.

Kypzi looked at me, his strange eyes full of compassion. He mouthed one word: ‘Sorry’.

Yes, I thought, yes. He was sorry. Yes, he was sorry...

...Sorry that he’d just started a war.

My people were furious, I could feel it in my bones, my blood, my limbs, my tail...

Our powers are special, unique and no one should ever force any one of us, against our will, to use our incredible magic to bring someone back. It should always be our choice.

And the humans have broken that rule.

- - -
Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in Devon, England, and has a strong love for mythology and folklore; this in particular inspired her to start writing fantasy. She is currently working on her sixth young adult fantasy novel.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


The Bank Teller
By Jerry Guarino

    Joey handed the customer one hundred dollars in crisp twenty dollar bills.  “Here you go Mr. Jones.  You might want to try the new brew from Costa Rica.”   Ever since the merger of coffee shops with banks – my readers may remember the story Starbanks – the public has been clamoring for more services within the bank.  In addition to bank teller, Joey also spent time serving coffee in the morning and waiting tables at the new Italian Bistro, Soldi Facili, in the afternoon.  Not that Joey minded his new multi-tasking job description; he was able to double his salary without an extra commute.
    Of course, the building layout for these businesses had to change.  Even though the Café and Bistro were in the lobby of the bank, they had to be separated from the bank vault.  Then there was the artsy cinema, providing foreign films and fancy appetizers in the evening.  All in all it was quite an incredible business venture.  You could start the day with morning coffee, do your banking, have lunch in the bistro and catch the latest film from Italy at night.  The dry cleaner will be moving in next week.
    And who would be providing loans for all the construction and new business accounts?  Why, the bank of course.  In fact all the employees of all these businesses supported each other because they had 25% discount cards for in-house purchases.
    A tall woman limped over to Joey’s station.  “Excuse, me.  Do you know a good doctor in town?”
    “Just visit our clinic, around that corner in Red Level C.  Tell them Joey sent you.”  (Joey got discount points for referrals)
    A short, rotund man wearing a rumpled black suit waddled over to Joey.  “I’m new in town and I’d like to open an account.”
    “Certainly sir.  We just have to fill out this form.  Where are you coming from?”
    “New York.  Around Niagara Falls.”   That was the wrong answer.  Suddenly

everyone on the platform focused on the new customer.  In unison, they performed the

old vaudeville skit. They walked menacingly toward him.

“Niagara Falls.  Slowly I turned.  Step-by-Step.  Inch-by-Inch.”

Just when the stranger feared for his life, they all gave him a smile and pat on the back.

“We try to keep our theater skills up to date.  You never know when you’ll be called on

for a song or a skit.”

    “Whew.  I was worried.  I think I’ll take this application over to the bar and have a drink while I fill it out.”
    “Certainly” said Joey.  “You can give it to the waitress when you’re finished.”
As the bank was closing for the day, Mrs. Mariani, the branch manager motioned over to Joey.
“Joey, please sit down.”
    “Yes, Mrs. Mariani.”
    “I noticed how helpful you have been in cross-selling our customers to other in-house businesses.  How would you like to be promoted to Floor Director?”
    “Why, yes.  That would be great.  Thank you.”
    Mrs. Mariani flipped a switch under her desk; the branch was transformed into a stage with lighting and seats.  From the left wing, a dozen Indian dancers appeared and performed a Bollywood song in celebration of Joey’s new job.  Naturally, this drew a crowd that joined in the dance like a flash mob.
    The next day, Joey came to work in a tuxedo, with spats, a whistle, and a mustache (it must have been fake), looking very much like the ringmaster of a circus.  “Joey.  You look great.  Everyone will know that you’re in charge here,” said one of the tellers.
    “Thanks.  It’s not too much, is it?”
    “Not at all.  As long as you don’t set up a trapeze and high wire act.”
    So Joey wandered among the crowd, answering questions.
    “Excuse me sir.  Do you know where I can find a caterer?”
    Joey paused a moment, looked at his iPhone, then looked up.  “Yes Ma’am.  We have a new caterer on level 2.  Appetites To Go.  They cater parties for the Food Network.  I’m sure they can help you.”
    Well, it wasn’t long before Joey was approached by the owner of Soldi Facili.  “Joey, we are going to remodel our bistro into an elegant evening restaurant, prendiamo più soldi.  Would you consider being my maître d?”
    Joey was taken aback.  “I certainly would.  When will it open?”
    “Within a month.  All the construction is being done at night, so it won’t disrupt the other businesses.”
    Joey shook the restaurant owner’s hand.  “Thank you.  I can’t wait.”
    It was Joey’s first night at prendiamo più soldi.  A sophisticated couple was seated at the best table, adjacent to the opera stage.  As the tenor was preparing, Joey approached the couple.  “Welcome.  My name is Giuseppe.  If there is anything special you need, please call on me.  Your waitress will be here in a moment.”  Joey snapped his finger and a lovely young Italian woman glided into position.
    “These are very important patrons Soriana.  Only your very best attention will be expected.”
    “Yes, sir.  I will treat them like family” said Soriana.
    “Very good.  Then I will leave these dear people to your care” said Giuseppe, and he motioned for the tenor to begin his concert.
    The tenor had a magnificent voice and delighted all the restaurant patrons with arias from Italian operas.  By the end of the night, the owner was convinced that Joey was the best hire he had made.  
    “Joey.  A perfect first night.  How do you feel?”
    “It is a dream job sir.  I couldn’t be happier.  Thank you again for giving me the opportunity.”
    “Well, get on home now and get some rest.  Tomorrow is Friday night and with the reviews we are going to get from tonight, it should be packed.”
    “Very good sir.  See you then.”
    As Joey was walking out, he noticed a light on in the bank.  Hmm.  The cleaning crew would have been gone hours ago.  I better check this out.  Joey peeked into the vault area and saw two men putting cash into bags.  Joey reached into his pocket, dialed 911 and waited for the police to arrive.
    The men finished sooner than expected and headed out the back exit.  Joey knew he had to do something.  That was his bank and no one was going to rob it while he was there.  He rushed out the side exit and confronted the robbers.  He put his hand inside his jacket pocket in the shape of a gun.
    “Stop right there.  Put the bags down and walk away and you won’t get hurt.”
    The robbers weren’t afraid, but cautious.  “Who are you?  You’re not a cop.”
    “Never mind what I am.  The gun will do all the explaining if you don’t leave now.  Police are on the way.”
    “Look at this guy Al.  Looks like a waiter”
    “Yeah, he probably has a sausage in his pocket.”  The two thieves laughed at Joey.
    Joey pulled out the object from his pocket, pointed it all the robbers and gave one last request.  “I warned you.  This is your last chance.”
    The robbers saw that it was no sausage, but some sort of weapon, like a space gun.  One of them surrendered, but the other one turned to run with the bag of money.
    “You asked for it,” said Joey and he blasted him with 20,000 volts of electricity.  It was a Taser gun.  Joey had apprehended the men and all the cash.  Then the police rolled up with sirens blaring.
    “He tried to get away, but I zapped him.”
    “Good work son.  Say what are you supposed to be anyway?”
    Joey stood tall and straightened his tie.  “I’m a bank teller.”
    The next day, Joey returned to the bank and of course, worked evenings at the restaurant.

- - -
Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "50 Italian Pastries", is available on and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at

Thursday, September 5, 2013


By Nicholas Slade

- -
Many years ago, I was standing beside my mailbox, as I did every day, waiting for the mail to arrive. Each day had it’s regular routine, I’d stand by the mailbox, the postman would arrive, he would hand me my usual stack of mail, and he would be on his way. That particular day started off like any other, I’d stood by my mailbox, the postman arrived, he handed me my usual stack of mail, and he went on his way. But as I walked back to my home, I noticed something different. There was something in my usual stack that was not so usual at all. It was a letter, from a man I could have sworn I had never met, from a town that I had never been to.
I walked into my home and looked at the envelope. In curiosity, I opened the letter. The letter was from a Mr. Shire; a name that I did not recall ever hearing before, but I read the letter anyways. The letter read:

Dear Johnny,
Hope you are doing well. You were right, New York is as big and bright as you said it would be and the wife and I are having a fantastic time. I am writing to you now because I had an interesting conversation with a Mr. Millar. He was going on and on about how he should have invested in Biggerton Company and how he would be rolling in the dough if he had just took the chance and invested in it. I thought you, of all people, would find this interesting. Well, I’ll see you when I get back old chum.
Sincerely, J. Shire

Now, I had never met a Mr. Shire before and I have certainly never been to New York, so I thought that he must have sent it to the wrong address. But I did find the contents to be interesting. I had heard of this up and coming little company, Biggerton, before. Everyone was saying how it would go belly up within the year, so I didn’t bother following it any further. But this letter made me rethink it. I had saved up some money and was considering investing it and this seemed to be the perfect excuse to do it. So, the next day I bought some Biggerton stock.
What could it hurt? I wondered.
I was absolutely shocked that by the end of the year, this little company that everyone said would be belly up, had shot up the ranks and become one the largest software companies in the country. I was rolling in the cash and never had to worry about money again. A short time later at a party, I met a man named Jacob Shire. I remembered the letter and chalked it up to coincidence. Jake and I would go on to be the best of friends.
Many years later, Jake told me that he and his wife were looking for a place to spend the week at. I recommended New York, as it had become a favorite place for me to visit. A week later, I was feeling nostalgic and was looking at the letter that had led me to my first million all those years ago. Suddenly, Jake burst through the door.
“Johnny,” he yelled. “How have you been doing this past week?”
He looked at the letter in my hand.
“Oh, I see you got my letter.”
“What?” I said.
“My letter that I sent you a few days ago. But dear God, look at the condition it’s in. You should fire your mailman.”
A cold sweat came over me. Jake walked up to me.
“What’s wrong, old chum?”
I looked at him, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

- - -
Nicholas is a writer currently living in Florida. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to Florida in 2012 and is currently studying for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.

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