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Submitted into Contest #162 in response to: Start your story with someone looking at a restaurant menu.... view prompt


Speculative Science Fiction

Hyper-seasonal special Fungi-To-Be-With

Straight from head chef Marlene Bartley’s vegetable garden/acres of woodland (a land guaranteed protected from the radiation after effects, being as it is covered a magnificent dome of state-of-the-art disease-resistant toughened glass), we are delighted to present a creamy vitamin-enriched garlic mushroom risotto peppered with crispy crickets, who reach your plate after spending their best days in our patented Bug Hotels, with prior counselling as to the benefit they will be serving greater life forms, i.e. you the customer

Christopher snapped his screen off in disgust.

“I remember when they gave you a menu that was a laminated A4 side, maybe two at a push, instead of these books they expect you to read these days.”

His sons rolled their eyes at each other. They were still slowly swiping through their screens, which had emerged from the table as they had all taken their seats. Rylo had to be careful due to a complex carbohydrate intolerance and Xani could not order anything with a description that had an odd number of letter ‘e’s.

“It’s the farm to fork story, people want to know what they’re getting,” Rylo said, barely managing to hide his sneer. Christopher looked at the face that had been so altered by cosmetic procedures that it had him often questioning whether it was the being as the same one he brought into the world.

“More like a pharm to fork cock and bull story to me,” said Christopher, yet it was only amusing to him, for that is the nature of the homophone.

“You’ll definitely not be finding any bull on this menu,” said Rylo.

Xani cleared his throat and adjusted his vision from short-sighted back to long by pressing down the ends of his eyebrows. He had never been tempted by lasers, not after what New Zealand had done with them to Finland three years ago in 2039.

“It’s your sixtieth, Dad. We just wanted to treat you. I’m sure you’ll find something you like if you just give it another shot.”

Christopher grunted, yet conceded to his (not-so-secretly favourite) son. Xani had done him proud by investing in air conditioning when Christopher had prodded him. In fact, he was pretty sure the restaurant they were sitting in – he had already forgotten the exact name, it was just a mess of zeros and ones – had invested in Xani’s systems. Meaning a probable hefty discount on the meal, but Christopher didn’t begrudge them for that. Rylo meanwhile worked in property management, where he mostly blew a lot of hot air at people asking if he would stop putting rents up on a monthly basis.

Still, even the best air coolant money could buy still meant the heat was only just about tolerable. Even underground, as they were. Christopher pulled at the neck of his tie, wondering why he didn’t think of comfort when he put it on.

It’s because he was thinking of his wife, and how she’d like to see him in a tie the times they went out together. She would always pick the perfect one out of his extensive collection to complement his shirt. Alison had been gone almost a decade now. All thanks to an eighteenth century deadly infection that had made a comeback from the permafrost thawing.

He rubbed at a bead of sweat that had dropped to the table, hoping it wouldn’t set off any alarms. Everyone was still so paranoid about bodily fluids, some of the remaining population even taking drastic steps like sealing up permanently various holes on their person. Might as well bring up the drinks menu, he thought. Rehydration was definitely in order.

“£250 for a glass of water!”

Rylo, who’d been distracted (as was often the case) by his phone, tutted.

“It’s guaranteed purified here, Dad,” he huffed, as though having to explain to a toddler why he shouldn’t pick his nose in public.

“Purified with what? The Virgin Mary’s tears?” A question which led to an honest lecture from Rylo. ‘Generation Woke’, as Christopher dubbed them, had no understanding of sarcasm, no sense of humour, but were acutely attuned to anything they deemed needed quickly correcting.

“Thank you for enlightening me, Rylo,” Christopher said drily as the monologue finally drew to a close. “You boys can order for me. The cheapest thing on the menu.” He stopped their protestations with a wave of his hand. “I don’t want you being out of pocket. Save it for my care home. Forgive me, care bunker. I’m off to wash my hands. Again.”

Christopher stalked his way over to the unisexes, his dress shoes tapping neatly on the blue-veined white marble floor. The restaurant was housed in what used to be a bank. He’d tried explaining the concept of the dead financial institutions to his sons once, who had both looked at him as though fish were flying out of his mouth.

He glanced over at the compartments where bank sellers used to sit. They now housed screens for placing orders to go. Behind the screens were a variety of people ranging from pre-teens on minimal wages to OAPs on minimal wages, all ready to step up should the machines fail. Which even these days was about every other order. They never did manage to get some things right, thought Christopher, even if they’d finally managed to cure cancer and conquer Jupiter.

He pushed open the door, praying there were no ladies in size. He understood the whole unisex thing but it didn’t mean he had to feel comfortable with it. He was accustomed to needing to buy a lady a few drinks and perhaps dinner first before he could contemplate being in the same room where he might catch a glimpse of seeing her genitals.

Thoughts and hands cleansed, he walked back over to what remained of his family. A creak in his hips reminded him why he was there; to celebrate being older. He still had at least another sixty years in him by his clock, and of course going by the times he passed the rest of the aging population going about their lives in the neighbouring tunnels.

He could see what looked like one of those £250 glasses of water waiting for him, whereas the boys had got a test tube rack of vaccine shots to trial. Christopher immediately had a flashback to his student days, downing shots of neon-coloured beverages that had the sole purpose of inebriation. Good times. Innocent times. And what else was that on his placemat? It looked like a roast chicken from afar, but he knew that couldn’t be right. The world had given up meat a long time ago.

Christopher smiled when he saw they had indeed ordered him the cheapest item on the menu, but they’d doubled down and gotten him a set of twins. He’d been outraged when the world’s governments had announced their plans to slow the pace of the population growth. Until he’d tried his first bite of grilled human infant, that was.

“Knew I could count on my boys!” he beamed, and blew out the candles.

September 08, 2022 14:14

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Jim Firth
18:58 Jan 28, 2023

Love this! It's effortlessly funny. I knew I was going to enjoy it loads after reading the first paragraph alone. I bet that £250 water tastes good 😏


Karen McDermott
08:04 Jan 31, 2023

Thanks Jim 😊


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Tommy Goround
03:24 Sep 28, 2022

Huh. I don't know what happened.. this is a very good and fairly memorable story. I have probably read 85 stories or more since I read this story and I still remember details of your story. So....I'll clap alone if I must.


Karen McDermott
09:59 Sep 28, 2022

That's very nice to hear. It's been stuck in my head too, so much so that I haven't been able to think of things for other prompts. Welp.


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Tommy Goround
01:50 Sep 13, 2022

Yay. I was actually disgusted. I'm so proud of you. Most of this was not funny because it was like way too real. And then I couldn't help but laugh at the absurd future. The good news: all of our grandparents thought we were weirdos too. Big claps.


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Kate Kilbee
16:05 Oct 03, 2022

Your vision of the future was thought provoking. I think it's going to stay in my head for a while. Really enjoyed it Karen.


Karen McDermott
08:24 Oct 07, 2022

Thank you for reading it. I've tried to make my latest a bit more light-hearted. Even I needed a break after the horrific future I conjured up, heh :)


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