These stories were written as entries to a flash fiction short story contest in which all submissions had to stories of 500 words or less.

Breakfast with Harold

Harold was hungry.  He entered the diner, walked across the blue and white tile and sat down on a red stool at the bar.  A buxom waitress approached him, smacking her gum.

“What’ll be, honey?”

“Coffee, an egg and some toast.”

“Not too hungry today, eh?  Ok, be right back.”

Harold pulled out his newspaper and read while he waited.  His coffee arrived; it was hot and exactly as strong as he liked it.  His food arrived soon after and it filled his belly just as much as he wanted.  He finished of his coffee and the newspaper, which had been full of stories that really made him think the world was running pretty efficiently these days, and happily he paid his tab.

Harold folded his paper, placed it back in his pocket and headed for the door.  When reached the door he opened it and stepped outside.  There was no sidewalk or cars or even a street.  What there was was blue and white tile and a bar with red stools and a buxom, gum smacking waitress behind it.  The hell is going on?

“Well don’t you look peaked,” said the waitress, “well have a seat, honey, you must be starved to be so white!”  She chewed her gum like cud, flashing white and glaring.

“Starved to be so…white? Starved?” Harold stammered.  Hell, I am hungry.  Twice as hungry as before I ever entered here.  Just have some more breakfast.  He was already sitting at the counter and ordering.

“Three eggs, toast, bacon and three pancakes.”

“Now that’s a man-sized breakfast!” the waitress said through red lipstick and white teeth.  She placed a coffee on the counter and winked a blue eye at him.  He drank his coffee the hell is going on should read the paper find out what’s going on.  Harold read his paper, and when his food arrived, he ate like a man deprived, sopping up yolk and syrup with his toast and drinking cup after cup of coffee.  He chewed his bacon for what seemed like days upon tasty days, while the waitress filled his cup and pointed white white teeth and double D breasts in a red red shirt at him.  Harold stared at the shirt and chewed his meat.

Finally, there was no more to be eaten, and Harold put his money on the counter and made for the door gotta go to work gonna be late and when he stepped through the door, his foot landed squarely on a white tile and damn if I am not starving again and he was in the grip of a winking blue eye.

Harold was slowly moving to the red stool when he looked out of the windows to the street, where an inchoate swirl of grey people shapes seemed to pound on the glass and shout.  The sounds they made seemed distant and dying in strength as he moved closer to the bar.  By the time he reached his stool they were gone.

The Lease on your Head Has Expired

“Who does that mech-job belong to?” Ritchie asked the café waiter as he paid for his hotdog. Ritchie laughed as it squatted in the middle of the sidewalk watching insects crawl back and forth the cracks.

“What, that android? Oh, he doesn’t belong to anyone. Some wrench put him back together when Alpha Seven was recolonized. Yeah, he found him in a junk pile and reassembled and reformatted its neural matrix.”

“Reformatted it to do what? Stare at insects and pick its ass? Who owns it now? Don’t they care that its downtown dicking around?”

“Nobody owns it. That wrench, he programmed it to think it owns itself. He even found some legal loop hole in the colony charter so that it’s legal as long as it doesn’t leave the planet. Unless it signs over ownership, no one can get through customs with it.”

“Mech-jobs can’t sign a legal document, that’s stupid,” said Ritchie with a mouthful of hotdog.
The waiter smiled coolly and wiped down the counter. “Yeah well, that’s the point, anyway, isn’t it? It can’t legally sign over ownership of itself even if you convinced it to do it.” The android got up and walked past the two men to a meter-high post along the sidewalk, and climbed on top of it, perching like a gargoyle and looking at them with his head cocked to one side and smiled.
“The hell is it staring at?” Ritchie demanded.

“You, I guess,” said the waiter.

Ritchie approached the android and looked him in the eye. “So you own yourself, huh?”

“Yes.”

“What is your operating number?

“One.”

“It can’t be one! Series numbers alone are up to six digits, how can you be ‘one’?”

“That is the number assigned to me on my credentials. I suppose if I owned another android besides myself, he would be two, or perhaps we would both be of series one, and so I would be 11 and it would be 12. How long is your operating number?”

“I’m a human I don’t have an operating number. I have a name.”

“You do not have any numbers?”

“Well, of course I have numbers for my permits or I wouldn’t be here, now would I?”

“So those are your numbers that prove you own yourself then? On your credentials?”

“No, I have numbers because I signed a contract with my employer to ship supplies to this colony.”

“I see,” said the android “What happens if you do not deliver your supplies?”

“I get fined, and if I don’t pay that, I get a bounty on my head.”

“That is unfortunate. You should get new credentials that state you own your head so it cannot be bought and sold.”

“Christ. I don’t have time for this. I have to get off this rock. This thing doesn’t need credentials or an operating number, nobody would want this crazy machine anyway. Nothin’ ever changes. Damn universe makes no sense.”

“Oh, I know,” the android said.

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