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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

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Joseph Zieja is the author of several speculative fiction short stories and novels, many of which have appeared in magazines and print. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and followed with a Master of the Arts in Intelligence Analysis. He currently lives and works as a member of the United States Air Force in Germany with his wife and cat, both of whom are a constant source of inspiration--or at least entertainment. You can visit his website at josephzieja.wordpress.com for updates on current projects and publications.

Hers was a life of spoons. Their size, their shape, their ability to measure sugar. Maela lined them up in neat rows in front of the plain white ceramic cereal bowl filled with plain white porridge.
Indecision tugged at her like the coy beckoning of a distant lover's finger, tempting her towards one spoon over the other. The one with the deep oval head would scoop up great gobs of breakfast, but wasn't very good for scraping out the thin white lines that formed as the scraps of mush cooled and hardened. The one with the steep slope would help with that, but everything seeped over and dripped out of the shallow sides. And she could only choose one. One every morning. That was her promise to herself.
"Every morning, Maela?"
The hydraulics of the door to her kitchen hissed as they slid open. Kris walked in, her heels clacking on the tile floor. She pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Every morning," Maela said without looking up.
Maela reached out with a delicate thumb and forefinger to snatch up a small gold spoon with scratch marks all over the bowl. She held it up to her eyes, ignoring Kris's long, obvious sigh. She put it in her mouth, the taste of cold metal kicking her salivary glands into production.
"Where did you even get those, anyway?" Kris asked.
"Here and there."
Maela dipped the spoon into the porridge, watching the white creep up the gold and envelop the bottom part of the handle. She stirred it around, took a scoop and ate it. It was tasteless and bland. It needed salt. It needed many things. But it contained everything the body needed to start the day. She concentrated through the porridge, trying to catch a taste of the metal again.
"You're joining with Bernard today, aren't you?" Kris asked.
Maela nodded as she swallowed the porridge and took another scoop.
"He's your first?"
Maela nodded, took another scoop.
"Are you nervous?"
Maela nodded, took another scoop.
"Don't worry," Kris said, tapping her neatly-trimmed fingernails on the table. Her class two citizen uniform hugged her curves as she shifted in her seat and switched her crossed legs. "Everything will be fine. You don't even have to worry about picking out a dress. Just wear your class-two."
Maela scraped the last amount of porridge out of her bowl and put it in the cleaner dispatch vent attached to the bottom of the gray table. Despite the blandness of it, she wanted more just like she did every morning. But no more ever came from the dispenser hanging over her head. One person, one serving.
"Can you imagine what that was like?" Kris prattled on. "Spending weeks and months looking for just the right piece of white cloth to go be with a man you had to be around before you joined with him?"
Maela shrugged. She could imagine it. She replaced the spoon in its proper place in the line on the table after wiping it clean with her fingers. She never put her spoons into the dispatch vent. She'd never get them back.
"I think it's stupid," Kris said. "Joining is so primitive. Only the boys like it, anyway. They should just take a sample from everyone they match and grow the baby somewhere. Then we wouldn't have to deal with nine months of this stuff."
Kris sighed. Kris had joined with three selected partners in the last five years, all of them specifically chosen for their genetic compatibility.
Maela picked up her spoons and put them back into the drawer one by one. The stack of broad silver ones that came with the apartment stood neatly shoved into the corner that they had been in for months now. A small ribbon of dust would have collected on them by now had the apartment not been so regularly cleaned at the same time every day.
She attacked an itch on her upper lip, pausing to breathe in the lingering smell of old metal on her fingers, left behind by the aging gold spoon. A sigh escaped unbidden from her lips.
"It's not so bad," Kris said, mistaking her sigh for one of anxiety. "It's just one night, if it takes the first time you try. They'll match you with someone else if it doesn't after three times."
Malea held the last spoon in her hand an inch above its place in the drawer. This one was her favorite. It was bent in three places and had a chip in the top that cut her lip from time to time. She ran a finger along its jagged edge. A small drop of crimson welled up and ran down the spoon, further marring the already stained surface.
"Be careful," Kris said. "That's why you shouldn't use those things. You want me to get a skin patch?"
Maela put the spoon down without cleaning it. "No."
"Alright then, let's go. You'll be late."
They walked through the clean silver hallways, passing by other men and women in their worker uniforms, house uniforms, military uniforms, and headed to the joining quarters. Maela was already trying to decide what spoon she would pick for tomorrow.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 15th, 2011

Author Comments

I’d like to tell you that this story was pulled from the deep philosophical caverns of my soul after months of meditative contemplation under a willow tree by the Euphrates River, but then I’d be a liar. Don’t continue reading if you want to keep that illusion of me as an author in your head. “Spoons” actually came about based entirely on the first line. As of late my wife has developed a strange penchant for collecting spoons--particularly ones that are really small or really old--and as a result I am always finding foreign utensils in our drawers and wondering if it’s safe to stir my coffee with a hundred-year-old piece of metal. I turned to her one day and said, “You know, yours is a life of spoons.” And there it went.

- Joseph Zieja
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