Short Fiction

Psychedelic Cinderella

Published by Lit Up in May 2024. Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

The day that everything went bug nuts, a mess of my friends were helping me clean shelves in Gram’s grocery store. We were singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to a crazy beat. The night before, we’d programmed our mobile ear studs to give us different dream stories. This big company behind them all, Nuhope, triggered different dreamisodes mostly based on what we plugged in — maybe we wanted a dream about meeting a hot dude or eating crazy-good food, that sort of thing. But sometimes it threw in something extra. Don’t think any of us even knew that “Spangled” song before those dreams.

My bestie Kirsten was yowling it the loudest. Gram zinged her with a fly swatter.

“What you do that fer?” Kirsten said.

“Prevention medicine. Against deviltry — and so’s you stop that song,” Gram said.

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“Imaginary Children” was originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. It is based on a portion of Janet’s novel “The Juice.”

There was no way I could reveal my state of sinking distress as I sailed toward Victory Star, the second largest media corporation in the world. Tiny paparazzi drones zinged around me like mosquitoes, taking in my skirt, which shimmered with an ocean video in gray and green. They all knew I was Petra Cardinale, President of Entertainment and Information at Victory.

I was one of the key people in charge of the corporation’s vast holdings. It was home to nearly 400 studios for holographic productions and distributed thousands of series and games. The whole content portfolio was served up in 300 different languages all over the world and some outposts in space.

As my elevator soared up some 200 floors to my office suite, I maintained a façade of calm authority for all the tiny surveillance cameras in the elevator’s walls. And that’s the way I started my first meeting of the day, with Rico Reingold, before turning into a mess.

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