This is the seventh in a series of posts featuring speculative flash fiction in translation. The series highlights both new and established spec fic writers from around the world.
Born in Toronto, Jean-Louis Trudel holds degrees in physics, astronomy, and the history and philosophy of science. Since 1994, he has authored (alone or, in collaboration with Yves Meynard, as Laurent McAllister) a trio of novels published in France, four fiction collections, a historical guide to science fiction in Quebec, and twenty-six young adult books published in Canada. His (over a hundred) short stories in French have appeared in magazines including Solaris, imagine…, and Galaxies, but also in various other venues, countries and languages. In English, his short fiction has been published in several Canadian and U.S. anthologies, as well as in magazines such as On Spec. His short story “The Snows of Yesteryear” was published in Carbide Tipped Pens (Bova and Choi, Tor, 2014) and reprinted in Loosed Upon the World (Adams, Saga, 2015) and Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction! (Kasturi and Stueart, ChiZine, 2016), also garnering an honourable mention in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection. When time allows, he translates and reviews science fiction, as well.
“Face to Face” by Jean-Louis Trudel, translated by the author
I’m the only one who can see him. I chose and adjusted the model parameters until he could melt me with a smile, his lovely nut-brown eyes vowing that I have his entire attention.
There are few men like him in the real world.
I’m not the only one to think so. Several of the restaurant’s tables have been set for two.
Wine was poured into both wineglasses and the second chair moved back slightly even though there is only one person sitting at the table. In the physical world.
Amit doesn’t let me dwell on the other customers who are staring, like me, at a point in midair on the other side of the table, whispering sweet nothings to the empty chair.
“Clémence, tell me…”
“I would like to know if there are dreams I could help come true for you.”
For a virtual companion, this is a loaded question, but it is less risky than letting my attention wander. I don’t think for long, raising my gaze almost immediately. When we can be satisfied with a sophisticated avatar’s company, we no longer dream of might-have-beens.
I looked up so fast, though, that I saw Amit wink at somebody. Going by his head’s angle, I deduce the person’s location and I look back. All I see is an empty chair, moved back slightly, opposite an older man who is favoring it with a tender smile.
If I’m the only one not seeing anything, I suddenly wonder which one of Amit and myself is the other’s avatar.