Stephen L. Thompson's Monthly Stories

Monthly Story for May 2023

If the two panes make it tough to read, here’s a page with a more basic layout.

“Two Futures”

The blare of an alarm clock jolted Charlie from a deep sleep. It took her a few seconds to wake up enough to turn it off. She then rolled back over and covered her head with the blanket. She had taken the day off because it was her birthday, so technically she could go back to sleep. But she had also volunteered to work at the clinic.

Groaning, she sat up. She sat on the edge of the bed for a minute with her head in her hands. Eventually, she forced herself to her feet and stumbled into the bathroom. A blast of cold water from the showerhead woke her up. Once it warmed, she gave herself a quick scrub.

When she stepped out, the mirror above her sink hadn’t even fogged up. She dried off, and then took a few moments to admire her body.

Dressed in a light gray blouse with matching slacks, Charlie went into her kitchen and made a cup of coffee and two slices of toast with raspberry jam. She ate while scrolling through the news on her phone. There had been some technical hiccup at the moon base, another intern had come forward claiming Senator Brantley had sexually assaulted them, and there were new reports of more ethnic cleansing by all sides in the Tafoni Civil War.

Checking the time, she shoved the last bit of toast in her mouth and downed the last of her coffee. She then ran to the bathroom and “brushed” her teeth in a way that would upset her dentist.

Out on the sidewalk it was pleasantly warm, although that meant the trees all along the block would soon be in full blossom. Charlie made a mental note to check her allergy prescription.

Shortly after she reached the bus stop, the bus quietly pulled in. The elderly man before her had trouble between his cane and suitcase, so she carried his suitcase on for him. Onboard he thanked her again, and when she sat behind him, he told her he was off to visit his grandkids. The next ten minutes were a flurry of pictures and stories.

All too soon, she had to leave him. The Iris K. Sloan Gender Care Clinic was less than a block from the bus stop, and as Charlie got off the bus, she could already see the dozen or so protestors standing before it. She pretended to put her phone away in her purse, and took out the can of pepper spray that fit in her hand.

Clutching the spray she walked past them on the edge of the sidewalk, completely ignoring them. Fortunately, they stayed on their side and didn’t say a word. Charlie imagined they gave her disgusted looks, but she always figured if she disgusted people like that, it must mean she was doing something right.

Whatever tension had built up dissipated when she reached the clinic. As she signed in, she told the receptionist, “This looks like the start of a good day.”

The blare of an alarm clock jolted Charles from a restless sleep. He would love to go back to sleep, but that was unlikely. Even with his fan on its highest setting, his blanket and pillow were damp from sweat. A quick shower washed the sweat off and left him cool, but as he dressed in the dorky store uniform, he could feel himself starting to sweat again.

He poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat at his little table to eat. He listened to the message from his mom wishing him a happy birthday, then played a couple rounds of a stupid tower defense game. While he methodically brushed his teeth, he kept his eyes in the sink, refusing to look in the cracked mirror.

Even though it was still early, the sidewalk was broiling, which just did wonders for the stench of week-old garbage. Just as Charles reached the bus stop, the smoke belching bus rumbled up.

He sat by the window and relished the bit of breeze he got. Buildings and cars went by in a forgettable blur. The only notable thing was a glimpse down one street where a crowd of people were protesting something. The police had already arrived to disperse them.

Eventually, Charles got to his stop. It was about a block to the Appignani’s and by the time he clocked in, he was already damp from sweat.

An hour or so later, as he stocked seemingly endless boxes of cereal, one of the cashiers came running down the aisle screaming, “He’s got a gun.”

Charles never heard the shot that killed him.

Go back to the main Monthly Story page, or the main page of my website.

For each story I publish, I like to give the backstory, or anything interesting that happened while writing it. You can see what I wrote for this story on my Published Works page.


If you liked this story, you might want to check out The Future is Coming, a collection of essays on science fiction becoming science fact.