Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" is arguably one of the
best science fiction short stories ever written: the
perfect blend of science and superb storytelling. It is
a sterling example of the art of the short story. Hajime
Saito uses that stoy as the basis for "The Thinning
Dear Reader -
Your assignment for today is to pick an appropriate
ending to "The Thinning Equations" by Hajime Saito.
You will not be recompensed in any way. You have only
your sense of civic duty brilliantly discharged to
reward your efforts.
Born in 1960 in Gunma, northwest of Tokyo, Hajime Saito
is a science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer. He
made his literary debut in 1988 with the mystery novel "Omoidoori
ni endo maaku". He has also authored several fantasy
books, including the "Mahou monogatari" trilogy
Toshiya Kamei translates short fiction and poetry. His
translations have appeared or are forthcoming in "Abyss
& Apex", "Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores", "F&SF",
"Helios Quarterly Magazine", and "Samovar".
Incidentally, there is no relation between the two
Saitos. It's a fairly common surname in Japan, like
Smith or Jones.
by Hajime Saito
Translated by Toshiya Kamei
"No, it can't
be!" I cried.
No, no way. Never
had I imagined that the "Cold Equations" scenario would
unfold on the spaceship I was on.
"Hey, you won't
eject me into space, will you?"
Just as I
suspected, she had no idea.
these days lacked basic knowledge. Because of the
limited fuel supply, the added mass, namely, this
stowaway girl would have to be jettisoned in order to
reach the destination. It was the law. It wasn't called
a cold equation for nothing. At one time everyone knew
such a thing. That was why stowing away was illegal.
humans weren't stupid. It was essential to have a backup
plan ready in case something happened. Surely, there was
a contingency plan of some sort.
"Wait a moment. I
thought something like this might happen...."
I touched the
control panel, and the door of the emergency system
storage bay slid open.
There appeared a
so-called "thinning machine." That was it. A bill was
passed into law, a budget was allocated, and then the
machines were installed on board all deep-space vessels.
contain an estimated ten thousand trillion cells, all of
which are indispensable for living, but not all cells
are unique. Except for the neurons, most cells have the
same function as the cell next to them. In other words,
they can be substituted."
simply put, only half of your cells will be ejected into
space, and then half of my cells will be ejected as
well. It doesn't mean that we'll be split into two. As
adjacent cells are united in one, you'll be half. In
short, you'll be thinned."
"Wow. So this
machine will do that for you, huh?"
The girl was
pretty, but she didn't seem too bright. What else could
one expect from a stowaway? An airhead.
Just set the timer and the machine will do the rest," I
said with a solemn face.
Thus we escaped
danger as half of what we used to be. We fell in love
with each other, which was a matter of course, as we had
gone through a lot together.
It was, of
course, a fling... no, it was a thin relationship.
machine didn't start. As I checked the interior, I
discovered that it was filled with junk electronics. The
bill was passed, but the technology of the thinning
machine wasn't complete.
"Hey, why don't
you just throw this junk away?"
She was right.
The junk had the mass of three girls or two plump women.
"You do it first
and prove it's safe."
I couldn't bring
myself to say no. However, I never expected to be
subjected to the thinning machine again immediately
As I was diluted
in half, I couldn't fight the girl.
quarters of you is ejected, it'll be the same as
ejecting the whole me."
I'd have to take
back what I said about her not being smart. At least she
seemed to know how to calculate.