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Contemporary Speculative Fiction

“I want it!” My mom won’t let me get any candy because she says I’ll get hyper in the movie, but I won’t. I’ll eat my gummy bears and M&Ms one-by-one, so I don’t get sick. I will too be good, I said. Other kids are filling little sacks from the big glass tubes of candy. It makes a happy sound falling in the trays. The other kids have piles of color in their hands and are laughing. I bet they didn’t have to promise to be good. Mom said maybe after the movie. If I’m good. But she’s lying. I know that maybe means never. I want to pick my candy from the tubes like the other kids. I deserve it.


“I want it.” I realize I sound like a little kid, but dad needs to know. He’s not very good at buying Christmas presents, so I have to spell it out for him. Seriously, this is the Lego Hogwarts Castle! None of my friends has one, so I’d be the first. It has over 6,000 pieces! It even has the Chamber of Secrets and Hagrid’s Hut and all the characters. I tug at Dad’s arm because he’s not listening. He’s looking at some lame STEM kits. He thinks everything should be educational. When I point out that building with Legos is also educational, he says the stupidest thing ever: “Did you know those blocks won’t fully degrade for 1,300 years???” I cannot believe how my dad can ruin everything. He’s going to give me a wooden puzzle or a Make-Your-Own Compost kit or something. I need to convince him. He’s a teacher, and they like to talk about critical thinking and twenty-first century learning. That’s what I’ll say about the Legos. I try to get his attention, so he’ll get the Hogwarts Castle and not the worm farm he’s looking at. I deserve it.


“I. Want. It.” WTF? I cannot believe I am having this debate with my so-called friend. If I want to dye my hair this fantastic color, that’s my business. He’s sticking his nose in to lecture me, “hair dye products get into the water supply and harm the algae.” Where does he get off? This shade of blue matches my eyes EXACTLY. Aquamarine hair with my eyes would totally pop. It’s not enough anymore to just take selfies of my hot self; I’ve got to take my whole presence to the next level. If I look good enough, maybe Got2b will even sponsor me. But my friend won’t let up. I’m starting to wonder why I hang with him if he’s got a stick up his butt about everything. So, I’ve gotta lay it out there for him. If I want blue hair, I am going to have blue hair, and it’s none of his business. None. I’ve worked hard to get a following and I need to be able to keep it fresh. I deserve it.


“I want it.” Who the fuck does this salesman think he is? Just because I came in with a beat-up old Ford pickup, he has me pegged as some low life who’s going to waste his time working up the financing on a new truck and then not be able to afford it. He’s trying to show me “lightly used vehicles.” Lightly used, my ass. I want the Ram 3500. This thing is big. It’s got a 6.4-liter V-8 engine, 410 horse and can carry a hell of a load. Monster tires. Maybe only 11-12 mpg, but what the hell. I will own the road in this thing. Not to mention the ladies. Usually, salesmen are falling all over you to sell you the priciest car they’ve got, so I don’t know what’s wrong with this guy, but it chafes my chaps, I tell you. I mean, he’s not wrong. I can’t afford it, but who does he think he is, looking down at me like that? Making assumptions. Anyway, that’s what financing is for. I have a job. I work hard. I deserve to be able to tool around in this powerhouse. Yeah, that’s right. I deserve it.


“I want it.” This is the cruise package I’ve been looking for! I hold the laptop out to Alex so we can scroll through the Viking Cruse site together. The cabins are luxurious, particularly if we spring for a suite with a balcony. “Look!” I tell Alex, “There’s seven restaurants, swimming, spas, a full gym, a climbing wall, zip lines, shopping. There’s so much to do! I think it’s worth it. After covid and not being able to go anywhere for so long, the kids stuck in the house zooming all day, plus all that trouble at your job. A week of this could be rejuvenating, a way to bond as a family by having fun!” I’m getting a skeptical look that says, ‘Yeah, but a cruise line?’ like it’s a dirty word. Well, they are kind of. They are super bad for the environment, I know that. I can see Alex gearing up to tell me about their carbon footprint. “Honey,” I interrupt, “We haven’t done anything as a family for ages. Just think about it. OK? You deserve it! We deserve it!” I pause to let that sink in and add under my breath, “I deserve it.”


I want it.” The doctor is looking at her monitor, not at me. Pretty typical. She looks like she’s still in high school. Kids that young, how can they be expected to understand what it feels like to be in a failing body, with failing children, a failing job, every goddam thing failing. Of course, I get anxious. Who wouldn’t? She’s telling me to try meditation and yoga, but she’s still looking at the computer. Jesus. What do they teach people in medical school nowadays? I need medical help here. Valium, Xanax, something with an equally weird name. Not yoga. She says because of my age I need to be more careful. Well, I could be if I wasn’t so stressed out all the time. That’s what I came to the doctor for. My kid’s no help. She found this article about how drugs are making the fish sick, so it would be “morally irresponsible” to take them. I’ll tell you who’s sick. I am. I’ve worked all my life, raised my kids, and now I am old, tired, and my heart feels like it’s about to detonate. If I don’t calm down, it will. And here’s this snot-nosed doctor telling me she doesn’t think drugs are a “good idea.” You know what I think is a good idea? Give me what I’m asking for. I deserve it.


“I want it!” I stare at the shiny picture I found when I was scrounging in the storage rooms of the library. Food is so scarce now. Anything from before the Cascade is pretty much gone. If I’m lucky, I find some place no one else thought to look. I found a faded brown package of candies once on a shelf in a shop full of dead flowers and broken containers. I ate the colored beads one by one to make them last. Each crunch exploded like happiness in the back of my mouth. They gave me the runs but were so good for just a little while. It makes my mouth water remembering. Anyway, that’s what I was looking for, but instead, I found this book thing. It’s a little bigger and floppier than most books. I can read pretty good and the front says National Geographic. Not sure what that means, but the pictures are like something you could only dream about. No, I couldn’t even dream it up if I tried. My world is grey and brown, and either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. But when I opened this book thing, one of the pages folded over and out, so it was extra big, and it was like a whole new world fell open in my hands. The sky is a blue I have never seen, and it spreads over land that is wearing nothing but green. Every kind of green. All the greens of growing things, I guess. I haven’t seen a lot that grows. There’s animals in all the green. I don’t know what kind, but some are big and heavy-looking like those cars parked on the roads getting turned into rust. I’ve never seen an animal bigger than a cat, which aren’t all that good to eat. Or that easy to catch. These big things look like so much food. My stomach growls thinking about it. It growls a lot. I look at the picture harder to distract myself from my hunger. I can see there's a river running through the green. It's also blue, like a path reflecting the sky, but there isn’t any garbage tangled on it. If one of the other kids catches me with this, they’ll take it. That makes me feel anxious. They might rip it or get it dirty. It is too valuable for that. I tuck the book thing into my shirt and head back to the cineplex where I live in the space beneath a wall of clear tubes. I don’t know what they were for, but there is a little tray under them where I can store this book thing to keep it safe with my other special possessions, like the colored blocks that fit together into different shapes. I open the picture again, though, and look at it in the grey light that comes from the big hole in the roof. My eyes water at the brightness of it all. I am really tired. I think maybe I wouldn’t be so tired all the time in a brighter world with all that green. I should have been able to live like this, like people lived before the Cascade. Even me. Don’t I deserve it?

February 19, 2023 17:07

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29 comments

Lily Finch
05:20 Feb 21, 2023

Laurel, I like the idea of your last paragraph getting back to Nature and National Geographic, suggesting that awareness of "I want it" followed by "I deserve it" was and is arguably how some people live their lives around the globe. I like that you take the reader from childhood to different stages of adulthood. That is impressive. It reflects that perhaps parents teach their kids to behave that way by what parents show their kids by doing. You make a thought-provoking story. Not maybe, speculative after all? LF6.

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Laurel Hanson
12:16 Feb 21, 2023

Appreciate the feedback. And is it speculative? Good question!

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Lily Finch
13:21 Feb 21, 2023

Yeah, that begged the question because I read your tags. So I guess we agree. I wonder how many other readers will agree? I am glad you found the feedback helpful or thought-provoking. LF6.

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Michał Przywara
02:24 Feb 20, 2023

Great! Two threads come together - "I want" and the damage we cause the world. The environmental theme is more subtle but ties everything together, naturally. I wasn't expecting the speculative twist and it's a nice inversion of the previous pattern - kind of going from "I want" to "I need". It's easy to condemn the narrators in the previous scenes. They're driven by a short-sighted selfishness, a need for some external gratification that will take them out of their otherwise mundane life. There's a couple things that make this interesting:...

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Laurel Hanson
12:46 Feb 20, 2023

SO glad that this element was clear: "Keeping people miserable is profitable, because miserable people buy things they don't need to momentarily feel better. The deck is stacked." I did feel I was being pretty snotty about choices individuals make and was hoping to cover all kinds of/ages of people to create an "us" not a "you" tone. And also wanted to include the corporate names in all but the last to include the overarching reality that materialistic pressures are bigger than we are individually. The structure was super fun to play with, t...

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Wendy Kaminski
18:57 Feb 19, 2023

You are on fire with this story, Laurel. I love how you brought it full-circle " I don’t know what those clear tubes were for either, but there is a little tray under them where I can store this book thing to keep it safe." and incorporated so many environmental issues to show the denouement of the activity behind the prompt lines. I was chuckling to myself at first, how the environment kept blocking the speaker's wants, until that morphed into precisely the devastation you'd expect. Millions of "I want its" will do that. "I mean, he’s not w...

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Laurel Hanson
19:10 Feb 19, 2023

Thanks for the feedback. I jumped the gun a little here so am still trying to tidy it up, but mostly I hope it isn't as heavy handed and judgmental sounding as it feels to me. But then again, maybe it's time for a little heavy-handedness? I don't know.

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Wendy Kaminski
19:15 Feb 19, 2023

It wasn't heavy-handed at all - I didn't think so, anyway! Perhaps you are right, just the right amount and certainly more than a little is warranted! :)

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Laurel Hanson
19:53 Feb 19, 2023

Thanks!

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Ken Cartisano
07:53 Feb 07, 2024

Great story. Gruesome.. I thought it was an odd prompt, but you covered it well.

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Ken Cartisano
07:53 Feb 07, 2024

Great story. Gruesome.. I thought it was an odd prompt, but you covered it well.

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Laurel Hanson
21:42 Feb 07, 2024

I think this prompt was a writer's prompt, not one that would produce a decent story for reader's. Personal opinion. SO yeah, odd prompt.

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Ken Cartisano
07:53 Feb 07, 2024

Great story. Gruesome.. I thought it was an odd prompt, but you covered it well.

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Kevin V
19:15 Feb 26, 2023

Hi Laurel, This is interesting. At first a I thought it was the same person progressing through different stages of their life, but this is, I think, a series of stories of people living different lives. Or maybe people of different era's in life from the more simple progressing through complexity and culminating in someone who lives in a more dystopian time after the Cascade. Regardless, it's thought provoking and well written. Funny in places, snarky in others and disturbing in the last one. Fine job with the prompt and how each paragrap...

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Laurel Hanson
12:28 Feb 27, 2023

Appreciate the feedback. A few people did read it as a single person, which wouldn't make a lot of sense, particularly at the end. I've been trying to figure out how I could clear that up while staying in the 1st pov, Thanks for reading!

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Kevin V
17:06 Feb 27, 2023

You could use names? Parents use their kids names all the time and I can see from the thoughts of your first person protagonists that it having them refer to a name might not be too difficult. For instance the cruise one with Alex: - If he gives me that 'this again, Janet, look I swear his chin won't be the only thing with a cleft... Just a thought to consider.

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Laurel Hanson
18:04 Feb 27, 2023

Thank-you!

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Viga Boland
00:19 Feb 25, 2023

I’ve read several of the stories this prompt triggered and yours is definitely one of the best. Very provocative and intelligent while making some not very nice, but true statements about society. I was tempted to tack “today” on the end of that previous sentence, but the older I get, the more I realize how little people really have changed over the ages. We all grow up “wanting it”. The only difference is what is each person’s “it”?

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Laurel Hanson
12:06 Feb 25, 2023

Right! I was hoping to explore how we are all complicit in the consumer culture that isn't helping the planet, without singling out any one "type" of person. Thanks for responding.

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Viga Boland
13:32 Feb 25, 2023

It was my privilege to read your story

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Jack Kimball
16:06 Feb 24, 2023

By my read, this started as a series of humorous vignettes that turned much deeper, and, no surprise, well worth reading Laurel. I didn't see the same character so much as different characters. Wouldn't the dystopian character, once grown up, know about books? But maybe I missed something. Lot's of food for thought in the comments takes it even more interesting. Do miserable people buy things they don't need to momentarily feel better? Maybe. Probably. But is there a corporate conspiracy to capitalize on miserable people? I'm not so sure ...

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Laurel Hanson
16:48 Feb 24, 2023

Waw! Thank-you for both reading and responding. You are correct in that my intention was not that the vignettes were of the same person, but of different people representing different ages and temperment. I basically wanted to say that all of us are responsible for over consumption and environmentally unfriendly conduct, not point the finger at a single individual. Thus, in the final scene, that would be a different person years from what we term civilization. I was perplexed at the read by a few very good writers of it being the same person...

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Jack Kimball
17:10 Feb 24, 2023

Sure. I think the thread of first person present “I” typically ties to one person so keeping “I” but moving to a new character might throw off the reader. In my read I didn’t figure that out until the guy with the truck. So, I guess, each “I” needs maybe an intro clause like, “I want it!” says Mary, five years old. Mom won’t let… Anyway, that would be my input on your question. Could be wrong. It’s great as it is.

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Laurel Hanson
21:11 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks. I do appreciate your time to respond. I'm not sure how I feel switching it to the 3rd pov, but I'll sit on it and revisit it at some point with a fresh eye.

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Jack Kimball
21:33 Feb 24, 2023

No big deal. I meant to keep it in 1st person though, just a touch of exposition. It’s great already though. Now you break a leg!

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Suma Jayachandar
07:37 Feb 24, 2023

Laurel, I like how you structured this piece, taking the POV character right from their childhood to post-Cascade days. You took care to subtly alter their voice too throughout the transitions. That was neat! Does she ever stop to think if her ‘ I deserve it’ attitude was partly responsible for Cascade? That’s a clever subterfuge you have embedded in this piece. And it works!

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Laurel Hanson
12:19 Feb 24, 2023

Thank-you!

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Zack Powell
22:20 Feb 23, 2023

I was wondering what the Speculative element was halfway through reading this, only to get hit with that doozy of a last paragraph. What a way to end, my goodness. What I really like is the repetition of the first "I want it" sentence of each paragraph. That's the stipulation of the prompt, of course, but I really like how it has a different feel to it each time, with the period or the exclamation marks or the italics or chopping it up into three one-word sentences. It's a pretty clever, subtle way to reflect on the different stages of one'...

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Laurel Hanson
12:18 Feb 24, 2023

Thanks for reading and responding. I noticed your absence since I look forward to your stories, and glad you are better. Take care.

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