Nino Cipri’s 2020 Finna is a standalone SF novella.
Heartbroken over her breakup with Jules, Ava has rearranged her life to minimize contact with her ex. A challenging task, given that the pair both work at soulless big box store LitenVärld. Still, careful schedule management should do the trick. At least if fucking Derek doesn’t call in sick, obligating Ava come in to work on what should be an off-day.
The resulting encounter between the former couple is as uncomfortable as it is unwanted. But it could be worse — and is.
Customer Ursula Nouri has vanished. She’s just one more victim of a tendency for wormholes to form between LitenVärld stores in neighbouring universes. An unsuspected side-effect of the company policy to make every store the same, thus providing customers with familiar environments wherever they shop.
It has been decided at the highest level that if most customers are happy and a few disappear, this is just another cost of business. It is not mentioned in any corporate brochures or documents, of course. Plausible deniability. However, at one point LitenVärld did maintain an elite team of interdimensional adventurers. Their Finna agents entered the wormholes to track down and retrieve errant customers. This department was eliminated after the 2008 financial crisis. Too expensive.
The new system: send off the two most recent hires to do the search and rescue. Give them inexpensive equipment that may or may not suffice to the task. Lose a few employees? Another cost of doing business.
At Ava’s LitenVärld, the two most recent hires are Jules and Derek. It therefore falls to Jules and Derek to venture into exotic worlds filled with dangers beyond their wildest nightmares. Or rather it would be, if Derek were not sick. In his absence, the task falls to Jules and the third most recent hire.
Derek does really well for himself for someone who never appears on stage, although it is unlikely he will ever know how lucky he was. Timing is everything, especially where interdimensional maws of probable doom are concerned.
This is a very modern story, which means Ava and Jules work for a supervisor utterly bereft of common decency and for a corporation might as well be some Cosmic Horror for all the concern it shows for staff and customers. But … no matter how badly things go for Ava and Jules, the shareholders will come out OK.
Their perilous adventure is complicated by the fact that Ava and Jules are a very modern, very queer couple. A couple with an impressive inability to communicate clearly and honestly with each other. Or rather, disparate inabilities; Ava has her issues, Jules has her issues, and the two sets interact in toxic ways.
This is a short, charming tale of love, heartbreak, late capitalism, and carnivorous furniture.