I wrote this story for the December Science Fiction Microstory Contest. Rules: the story had to be up to 750 words long, introduce a theme of a mind-altering substance or technology and include a grandma or a grandpa and an original pet. Here it goes:
“They are genetically engineered to live on space stations and feed on dust, mold, bacteria and all the nasty stuff,” Likik said showing a hologram to his grandma.
“Looks like a jellyfish,” Sabi commented, marveling at a transparent mushroom-shaped being with a purple rim, expanding and contracting.
“Yes, only it’s ultralight and thin, which means it can float on Earth, too! And its waste is oxygen and healthy microelements. And it glows in the dark!” with a swift gesture, Likik changed the hologram. In the darkness, colors were cascading from top down, pulsing, changing from green to yellow to blue to purple to red.
“That’s what you want for your birthday?”
“Would be cool.”
“And it would surely impress Kaissi,” wrinkles gathered in the corners of Sabi’s eyes as she hid her face behind the mug of herbal tea.
“They’d probably like it,” Likik blushed, his eyes darting to the left and to the floor.
“Of course they would,” Sabi smiled to her grandson. “But honey, don’t you think a creature engineered for zero g would have a hard time on Earth?”
“I mean… some people keep them around… but yeah, they don’t live too long,” Likik admitted.
“You don’t need a space jellyfish to impress a person you like. You are intelligent and funny, you are a great friend, and you build robots.”
“Only very simple ones… and Kaissi is from Mars! I’ve never even been on an orbital tour.”
Sabi made a mental note to look into orbital tours for Likik’s fifteenth birthday. Might be expensive, but he’d be so happy. Aloud, she said, “And you are from Earth! It’s just as exotic for Kaissi as Mars is for you. Take them to the forest, swim in the lake, pick fruit from the trees. All your mundane things are magic for them.”
Likik looked dubious.
Sabi loved her grandson, but she was happy when he left. Seventy-eight now, she needed proper rest.
“MoFo,” she addressed her AI assistant. “Turn on the ‘Out There’ mode”.
MoFo only sighed in response, as he was set to random moods display. The lights dimmed to soft sunset hues, tree holograms sprang all around, stars appeared on the darkened ceiling. The music of Sabi’s youth filled the room: rhythmic electronic beats, rising and falling like waves of euphoria. Just like at the festivals she used to attend.
She put a thin psy-band onto her head to complete the experience. It connected to the nanobots in her brain to stimulate the regions of her choosing. Settling into her favorite gel bag chair, Sabi was immediately filled with blissful relaxation. Her body felt weightless, all the pain accumulated through the years forgotten. She was floating in a warm lake, stargazing, listening to the whispers of trees and music. She could reach out to touch a star, and it would explode with colors, leaving sparks on her nose and cheeks. It was perfect… but… there was something at the edge of her perception. A nagging sound. A doorbell? At the festival? Oh.
“Shit,” Sabi said. She took the band off, but it didn’t help. It would take at least an hour to get back to normal perception. The angry holo by the door depicted her neighbor from above. Of course.
“You are blasting that horrible music again!” a tall, slim twenty-year-old man said as soon as she opened the door.
“Hi, Lumio,” Sabi couldn’t stop grinning. The bliss didn’t go away. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Wait,” Lumio scanned her and the room suspiciously, his eyes widening in realization. “Are you high!?”
“It’s… medicinal… for… my migraines,” she replied and burst out laughing at how ridiculous it sounded.
“That’s it, I’m calling Social Adaptors! You clearly live in the past and require help to adjust to the modern world,” the neighbor poked a finger at her.
“No!” that scared Sabi. “Wait!”
But Lumio was already walking away. She had to think fast, which was difficult under the circumstances. She darted into the room with all the speed and agility her age allowed.
Lumio was near the elevator when Sabi jerked the psy-band onto his head. His face changed from confused to scared to angry to happy, and he hugged her.
“Sabi,” he giggled. “Actually, tea sounds nice. The music is still horrific though.”
“You haven’t tried dancing to it yet,” Sabi replied leading him to her apartment.
Lumio followed happily, completely forgetting he’d just used the instant alert feature to reach Social Adaptors.