Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg - A Not Really SF Short Story (Alfred and Bertha's Marvellous Twenty-First Century Life) by Cora Buhlert

Release date: April 17, 2015
Subgenre: Parody, hard science fiction, short story

About The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg

Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy all a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument at the breakfast table about egg boiling times escalates and threatens to end their marriage.

This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 3500 words, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s.

This story was written in response to E.P. Beaumont's "Not Really SF Short Story Challenge".


Bertha awoke to the shrill beeping of her alarm clock. She opened her eyes to see the numbers six zero zero edged into the clock face, in truth a display of so-called liquid crystals, that is matter in a state which has properties between those of conventional liquids and solid crystals.
What was more, the alarm clock was so accurate that it would neither gain nor lose a single second in an estimated one hundred and thirty eight million years, for it was controlled via a radio signal received from an atomic clock which measured time using the microwave signals that the electrons in a caesium atom emitted while changing energy levels at near absolute zero temperatures.
Bertha hit the button labelled “Off” on the alarm clock and got out of bed. Beside her, Alfred groaned in his sleep. Being a man and Bertha’s husband, Alfred was entitled to an extra fifteen minutes of sleep, measured to an accuracy of plus minus one second in an estimated one hundred and thirty eight million years by the alarm clock on his own nightstand.
Bertha walked over to the window and pressed the switch that closed an electrical circuit, which in turn activated a small motor, which pulled up to electrically operated window blinds. Outside, the sun was shining and the neighbour drove past in a small red hybrid vehicle, which was powered alternately by an internal gasoline combustion engine and an electric motor supplied via an array of high energy efficiency lithium-ion batteries under the hood. The vehicle emitted a whizzing sound, which told Bertha that the neighbour was currently using the electric motor.
Bertha smiled. Wasn’t it wonderful to live in the twenty-first century?
She went into the bathroom, which was illuminated via electrified glass tubes containing rarified neon. She brushed her teeth with a vibrating battery powered toothbrush and showered with water that was kept at a steady temperature of twenty-five degrees Celsius via an inbuilt thermostat. Finally, she dressed herself in clothing made of synthetic polymer fibres and walked over to the kitchen.
The kitchen was also illuminated via electrified glass tubes containing rarified neon, though Bertha did not switch them on, for it was summer in the Northern hemisphere, which meant that the sun rose early in the morning due to the axial tilt of the planet. However, Bertha switched on the radio, which received a broadcast of the morning news via its aerial, which intercepted radio waves of a particular frequency and transformed them into electric power, which was then amplified into sound.
Next, Bertha began to prepare breakfast, for Alfred would be hungry when he woke up. Besides, such was the duty of a wife.
First, she made the coffee. She opened a cupboard and took out a package of plastic-coated aluminium foil that contained the roasted and ground seeds of the Coffea arabica plant, which was cultivated in large plantations in Southern and Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. With a perfectly calibrated, spoon-shaped measuring instrument, she filled exactly the right amount of ground coffee into a plastic funnel that was covered by a layer of fine pored paper for filtration purposes. She inserted the plastic funnel into the electric coffeemaker and poured an accurately measured volume of tap water into a compartment at the top of the machine.

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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

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