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News & Features » April 2020 » “The Mind Bar” by Tasha Cotter

“The Mind Bar” by Tasha Cotter

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, transformation is only a click away . . . 

The Mind Bar
by Tasha Cotter
The Future

At the Mind Bar, they each took a chair with a Mind Specialist, overhead lights beating down on each of them at their individual station. Mindi had heard a little about how everything would work through advertisements, but she had been unsure about visiting it. The Mind Bar was subsidized by the government and an unidentified core of scientific researchers.

From what Mindi could tell, she would work with her Mind Bar team to build her elixir drink or create her elixir box while Sybil worked with her own team, each customizing their own highly scientific protocol.

A young man with bright white hair in a black suit approached Mindi.

“Are you ready to change your mind?” he asked her, teeth gleaming, his whole face seemingly changing shape before her. The effect startled her for a second.

“OK. Should I sit here?” She said, motioning to the first empty seat she saw. The place was packed. The Mind Bar had once been a cosmetics empire, but was expanded decades ago as the ability to transform memories became more and more widespread. The resulting company, The Mind Bar, specialized in transformations of all kinds, namely the physical and mental. She felt tentative about how all this was supposed to work. She glanced toward Sybil, who had already stationed herself in a chair, two men waiting on her. She looked fine. She was all smiles, chatting away.

“Yes, please! Have a seat. I’ll bring over the menu.”

The man returned holding a broad golden tablet. The screen was the size of her home order station. Mindi had never seen anything so beautiful. She immediately wanted to touch it, to see what it felt like in her hands.

“So this is a mind body station, but if you don’t feel comfortable adjusting memories or enhancing abilities you don’t have to. If you feel more comfortable adjusting the physical, for instance, the length of your hair, or working on your nails, feel free,” he said, swiping through several different screens, all housing different protocols: hair, feet, skin tone. From the main screen you had two options: Mind or Body. From there, there were seemingly endless icons to tweak anything. She noticed there were substantially more options for mind than body.

“Do you know what route you want to go?”

Mindi hesitated. The Mind Bar was known for what it could do with your mind. They could change the landscape of your memories. But the company seemed shrouded in secrecy. Still, the results spoke for themselves: their elixirs and mental adjustments made people more peaceful or more ambitious. Mindi was hesitant to tell the man what she’d change about her mind. But glancing around, there were easily fifty people all doing just that. She was aware, too, of the line stretching out the door, there were dozens of people ready to take her place. She tried to think of something to say, to not waste his time.

“I’m not sure I’ll change my mind,” she said, swiping through the categories under Mind. Leadership, Mathematical competencies, linguistics…

He nodded. “OK. We can stick to the physical. There is just a tiny fee, if you want to only focus on physical.”

She glanced over at Sybil who was busy watching her elixir being made. The elixirs were all made in white ring-shaped table-top plastic devices that gently spun the contents.

“Is it a mixture of vitamins?…” Mindi asked, wondering why she had to ask it to begin with.

“I wish I could say, honestly, we don’t have the details, but I can tell you these are natural ingredients, all found in nature. They’re scientifically proven. You can also scan this code for the Sound Mind overview if you like,” he said, pointing to a small black code on the table. “Do you know about the memory work we can do? We can erase intense memories…”

She nodded. Sound Mind was some baseline that everyone got for free. It was supposed to improve your memory, thinking ability, and, most importantly target anxiety and depression. It was probably the most popular thing Mind Studio was known for. Mindi wished she hadn’t come, but she was glad to see Sybil enjoying herself. She tried to remember the last time she’d seen her mother so happy and couldn’t come up with anything.

“Have you thought about what you want? We can create a customized elixir for you.”

“I’ll take some freckles,” she said, gripping the steel armrest.


TASHA COTTER’S third collection of poetry Astonishments will be released in 2020 with FutureCycle Press. You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 17, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,