In the future, birthrates are so low that teknoid children and created to fill the void for hopeful parents. They are raised as normal children, many not even knowing they are themselves not actually a real human. EXPIRATION DAY is Tania’s story of growing up during this time period, told in journal entry style. I adored it!
And if you’re just a boring old historian, or some kind of slimy-tentacled alien archeologist called Zog from the Andromeda galaxy trying to find out who on earth I am and what human beings were… ~pg 9
The author was lovely enough to write a special missing journal entry from EXPIRATION DAY for my site NOT YET READ that does not appear in print anywhere else! This is definitely a Science Fiction YA novel that you do not want to miss. It bucks the norm and stands out among other novels in the YA genre. (and a stand alone to boot!)
Wednesday, August 27th, 2053
The summer holiday is nearly over and I’ll be back at school on Tuesday. I messaged John.
Hey, Ginger Mop. Meet up?
Sure. Half way?
OK. Got something in mind?
Amersham. Can you find eats? 4some. Kieran’s here.
Sure. I’ll call Siân. We’ll go somewhere smart. bfn
Not quite what I had in mind, but it would have to do.
* * *
Mr. Fuller drove us there in his Mercedes, which is just so comfy and quiet compared to Dad’s car. He dropped us both off outside the station, promised he’d pick us up again at half-past ten. No sign of John or Kieran, and the arrivals board was blinking No Data.
We crossed the road and sat on a low brick wall, from which we could watch the station. Siân didn’t say much, but I could see her giving me a few sidelong glances.
“You’ve had another revision, Tania. I’m right, aren’t I?”
I couldn’t help grinning.
“Yep. What d’you think?”
“Stand up. Let me look at you.”
I stood up and moved back a little. It felt a bit awkward at first, like I was back in the design room at Oxted, except I was the model and Siân was looking at me, trapped behind the screen. For a moment it felt as though she might issue a command, and I’d sprout new pixels.
The illusion passed, perhaps because Siân smiled.
“I like it. You’re a bit darker, I think. And your face is different. Just a bit more mature. Taller, for sure, though I can’t work out how much more. I think you’ve been playing games with the height of your heels.”
“Yep. We settled on an extra four and a bit inches, so I’ve working up to that since the start of the summer.”
“So you’ve been doing some clothes shopping – without me to help. Spoilsport!”
She pouted in mock annoyance, then grinned again.
“You did OK, Tan. You’re definitely learning how to dress to kill. Or at least to inflict serious wounds. John should like it.”
“It’s not too much, is it?”
“He’s a normal boy. He’ll like what he sees. Oh, and expect to be hugged tight.”
“That was the idea.”
Siân grinned again. Then she looked thoughtful.
“I know you’ve said, but you know, technology marches on… Can you… I mean, is there any extra … sensation with your new body?”
I shook my head.
“Oh, Tan. I keep hoping they’ll invent something better for you.”
“I did ask. Doctor Markov said that parents don’t want their precious teknoids to be sexually active. The teknoids don’t get a vote. So we are how we are.”
“That’s so unfair.”
I didn’t argue.
* * *
John did hug me, when the tube train finally arrived, and very warmly. And I let him – encouraged him to put his arm around my waist as we walked up the high street to the restaurant. In my low heels I could still find that special place beneath John’s arm. But if I wanted to wear anything taller, I was going to have to talk John into taking his own next revision.
The restaurant we chose was an Italian. Not a pizzeria – a proper ristorante. Quite posh, and it would make a dent in my allowance for sure.
We entered, and the waiter smiled a beaming welcome. Siân had gone in first – which probably accounted for eighty percent of the smile – and asked for a table for four, by the window.
There were a few diners already seated, all my parents’ age or older. Some couples, some foursomes. Several heads turned to follow us as the waiter escorted us to our table. A lovely, prime location in the restaurant, where we could look out the window at the passers-by, or just as easily survey the other customers and people-watch.
So we sat, boys opposite girls and we chatted about this and that, and the waiter brought us sparkling waters and fruit juices and took our orders. I don’t remember much of what we talked about, but there was band-stuff in there – John had uploaded our Denmark Street recordings on to one of the TeraNet showcase sites, and he and Kieran were arguing the mathematics of trend predictions on the basis of about four weeks data.
And then we became aware that the owner had approached our table and was trying to catch a lull in our conversation.
“I’m so sorry, young ladies, young gentlemen, but Ercolo made a mistake in offering you this table. He is new here, and you must forgive him for his error. I’m afraid this table is reserved for another party, some of my regular customers who reserve this table every Wednesday. Would you mind moving? – there is a lovely little alcove off to the side, quite private, and it will be my pleasure if you will accept your drinks “ – he gestured at our waters and juices – “complimentary and on the house.”
“Of course,” I said, and started to rise.
“J-j-just a moment,” Kieran interrupted. “I d-don’t think Ercolo made a m-mistake. I was n-next to him and saw the p-p-plan. This t-table was d-definitely f-f-free. All evening.”
I glared at Kieran, and I think Siân did too. Fancy making such a fuss, and the confrontation was bringing out his stammer, too.
“I’m sure you’re right about the plan, sir, but this is a regular booking. Every Wednesday. Being new, Ercolo just didn’t know to enter it on the booking sheet.”
“Ah, that explains it,” said Kieran. “Of c-c-course we will m-m-move and thank you for your k-k-kind offer of c-c-complimentary drinks and s-s-starters.”
I think my mouth dropped open. Quiet, Kieran. He gave the owner such a look, blatantly daring him to challenge. The owner hesitated only a moment, though, before nodding, and saying ‘of course’.
So Kieran nodded his agreement, stood and gestured to the owner to lead us to our alcove.
The alcove was certainly private – we couldn’t really see much of the restaurant, and it felt a bit cramped. I thought it would be really nice for a couple, but a foursome was a bit claustrophobic. Maybe I wasn’t quite used to the extra four inches on the new body.
We settled down quickly enough, and Ercolo brought us fresh drinks and our starters – all, he assured us, on the house.
“So what was all that about?” I asked, when we were all alone. “It was an honest mistake, and you extorted free starters out of that poor man.”
“That poor man, as you call him, was a poor liar,” Kieran replied, his stammer now gone. “One of his customers put him up to it. I overheard a little bit of what was said. The gist of it was that we’re all mekkers – excuse my French, ladies – and ‘our sort’ shouldn’t be allowed to eat with decent folk, let alone be given one of the best tables in the house. I didn’t hear the rest, but I imagine she’s the sort who can organise a boycott and close this place down if she chooses. And that poor man knows it. I just squeezed a little on the starters to let him know I knew what was going on.”
That rather took the shine off the evening. Still, the main course, when it arrived, was delicious, and so were the desserts. I think we all took a perverse pleasure in going to the loo more often than we really needed, just because it meant walking past the diners by the window – our old table was still empty – but they weren’t above making a few snide comments as we passed…
“… they can’t taste food, you know. Not really…”
“… cheek of it. Pretending to be human …”
“… waste of good food. Kitchen scraps, or just sugar solution …”
“… a member of Humanity First for years, you know …”
“… lights are on, but there’s nobody home …”
It wasn’t a very nice atmosphere, actually. Nobody wanted to stay for coffee, and anyway, John and Kieran were starting to look at their watches – they had trains to catch.
* * *
We walked back to the station as couples. John and I walked behind, whispering so Kieran and Siân wouldn’t hear.
I was almost crying. Some of it was anger, anger at the bigots who’d managed to spoil our evening. Some of it was shame, shame that I wasn’t flesh and blood. Some of it was frustration and jealousy, because I could see Kieran and Siân in front of us, and they were close, and it wasn’t a huge leap to imagine them together, making love.
Don’t get me wrong, Mister Zog. I love them both dearly and I really hope they do end up skin-to-skin someday. I hope they feel the ecstasy of souls and bodies blending. I wouldn’t want to diminish what they might experience together. I’m just a little bit … jealous of what I may never understand.
* * *
John and I had a moment to talk at the ticket barrier.
“I’m coming to visit you on Saturday.”
“You’ll be there, won’t you? Just nod. Good. I’ll see you then. Now kiss me, then go catch your train.”
It was a good kiss. The best yet. Perhaps we would do better on Saturday, though.
William Campbell Powell was born in 1958 in Sheffield, but grew up in and around Birmingham. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and gained a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. Leaving Clare College in 1980 with a BA in Computer Science, he entered the computer industry, which is where he has been ever since.
William has been writing since 2002, experimenting with various genres, but he is most at home with Science Fiction, Historical Fiction and fiction for Young Adults.