“Spa-ntaneity,” by Meagan Noel Hart

Aug 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Doris straightened her jacket and patted her curls. Potential customers filled the plush white armchairs before her, buzzing like curious flies, all lured in by her fancy paper fliers and the promise of free pastries. All that was left was convincing them to subscribe for Spa Today Away’s Spontaneity Vacation.

That woman in the front row with the face tattoo? Doris would seduce her with the concept: vacations so spontaneous they could happen at literally any time.

The tall business man in the back row? Emphasize the bottom line. The deals on teleportation were astonishing!

The trendy but nervous elderly couple in matching hats? Flash the little golden watch that made it all possible, and remind them they could pause their service anytime.

This would be like selling air to the suffocating.

Doris had sold 999 subscriptions. If she hit 1,000 before her own first getaway, her entire trip would be comped at executive level. Penthouse lodging. Champagne welcome. Designer vacation wear. And, she desperately hoped, a morally fluid bellhop with strong, loving arms.

Everyone was seated except a mouse-like man stacking donuts high upon a tiny paper plate.

Doris strode to the front of the room, all confidence and clacking heels. “Welcome!”

The unseated man startled, nearly toppling his leaning tower of fried dough.

Doris cleared her throat.

The man placed another donut on the pile, then carefully took a seat in the front, placing his edible Janga on the glass coffee table.

Doris snapped, and the projection wall behind her glowed to life, “Spa Today Away: Spa-ntaneity, anytime, anywhere!”, the words an expensive shade of green.

Doris began. “Did you know that over 900 million vacation days go unused every year?”

“But there’s only 365 days in a year.”

Doris started. The question was meant to be rhetorical. She spotted the speaker: Donut man. His face screwed up, chasing intangible mathematics.

Doris forced a laugh, shaking her head. “Obviously. I mean that’s the number if you combine all of working Americans’ unused vacation days. That’s 33% of paid vacation that goes unused each year.”

“Paid vacation?” The man’s eyes were big, like the puppy on a kid’s valentine’s card. “Like, you pay us to go on vacation?”

“No.” Doris squinted. “I mean paid leave. The days you can take off without a dip in salary?”

“I already have those.”

“Right,” Doris smiled at the group. “Everyone since 2050 has, but they aren’t using them! Why do you think that is?”

“The Fair Works Act.” Donut man beamed. “I know my history.”

The old couple with the matching visors nodded.

“I meant,” Doris stressed the question, “why do you think they go unused?”

“No time!” offered the tall business man in the back. “Not to mention the planning.”

“Exactly!” Doris pointed to the man like he just solved a murder mystery. If this was going to be a participatory group, what the hell, she’d roll with it. “All that planning. Coordinating schedules. Predicting weather. Finding the best deal. Not to mention: When is a good time?” Doris spun, her arms wide. “Did you know that most Americans never go on vacation because they can’t figure out when to go? Maybe next season. Maybe after that project at work.”

The group was nodding.

“It is hard to get away,” said the donut man, lifting a donut from his stack.

Doris leaned forward. “Not anymore.” She snapped. A series of gorgeous vacation destinations danced across the screen. “We’ve got beaches, mountains, glistening lakes, hidden hideaways. Top notch spas at them all.”

The group oooohed and ahhhhed.

“All yours at a moment’s notice.” Doris was back in her grove. She snapped, and a floating gold watch appeared on the screen. “With our new patented teleportation method you can go anytime, cheaper than airfare.”

The man with the donuts laughed loudly, spurting crumbs. “Teleportation? Those are booked years in advance.”

“Exactly!” Doris refused to be thrown off track. “Meaning… when someone cancels on short notice, they don’t get refunded.”

“Who would do that?” asked the tattooed woman.

“Suits,” answered stout woman from the back row. She shot a not-so-subtle glare toward the businessman beside her.

“Yes,” said Doris, stomping out the tension. “Because businesses can write it off. So it happens regularly. But what we care about are all those unused teleportation boosts. Did you know, for a very small fee, you can claim them?”

The crowd shook their heads, back in her web.

“But there’s no way to plan for that,” said Donut man.

“Enter Spa Today Away!” Doris snapped. The screen zoomed in on the little gold watch, exposing its complex inner workings. “With our new tracking technology, you can teleport anywhere, anytime, so long as you’re wearing your gold Spawn Away Watch. For a small monthly subscription, we monitor cancellations. One opens up, and zoom! You’re off.” Doris snapped, and a little video of a cartoon man sitting at a desk appeared. Suddenly his little gold watch started beeping and poof! He was on the beach in his khakis.

“That sounds terrifying.” Donut man stared, crumbs clinging to his open mouth.

“Terrifying?” Doris started at the screen.

“You’re saying, if I wear that little watch, you can just steal me away any time. To anywhere. Against my will?”

The crowd murmured.

“Not against your will…” Doris hurried. “You sign up for the experience, you provide a list of preferred locations. I assure you it’s perfectly safe. We’ve never lost a client or, you know, had any of those terrible accidents.”

“Those were horrible,” said the elderly couple almost in unison.

“Do those still happen?” a timid woman in row three asked.

“Oh no, no.” Doris held up her wrist. “Look, even I use it!” She had in fact never actually used it, but she intended to.

“Yeah, but, I don’t want to be on the beach in my good slacks.” Donut man gestured at the screen.

“That’s a good point,” said the businessman.

“Oh,” Doris laughed, relieved the conversation was shifting away from dismemberment. “That’s just a dramatization. You’re always teleported to one of our secure on-site facilities to obtain the proper travel wear and accessories. For a nominal fee of course.”

The business man leaned forward. “I’ve heard this includes work coverage?”

“Yes!” Doris pointed. “We contact your company and make sure they comply, and for another fee, we can even provide a temp to cover you.”

“But what if it’s a bad time?” A woman in a practical top raised her hand.

“A bad time?” Doris paused, her watch had just glowed green, meaning she would receive the next teleportation. It could happen an hour from now, a day, a minute. She’d better wrap this up. All she needed was one sale before it activated.

“What if I’m at a funeral?” Donut man interjected.

“Sorry?” Doris’ attention snapped back.

“Oh, yes,” said an elderly woman.

“What if I’m speaking at a funeral,” Donut man continued, “then poof, hot tub.”

“Again,” Doris took another deep breath, “that’s not how it works. But, if you have an important event coming, we pause your account for a few days.”

“What if I’m on the toilet?” Donut man’s eyes gestured downward.

“The toilet?” Doris echoed.

“Yeah!” One of the eccentrics chimed in. “Or naked?”

“Or worse…” Donut man leaned in, placing a careful hand on top of his donut tower. The group seemed to lean in with him. “What if I’m with a lover? Would they just be left there…” his voice dropped to a nearly imperceptible whisper, “thrusting?” He sat back up. “Or do they come with me since we’re, you know, connected? Like a free ride.”

All eyes burned into Doris, their expressions suggesting they were imagining possibilities they never had cause to imagine before.

Doris buried her face in her hands.

“The logistics do seem…” the woman speaking didn’t finish. Just stared into the distance.

Doris put her hands up as if to say, whoa! “We’re a multibillion dollar company. Logistics have been considered. For temporary indisposition, you simply remove the watch. If your vacation becomes available, it will beep to let you know.”

“So, I can just skip the vacation if I don’t want to go?” The tattooed woman looked disappointed.

“No… I mean, if you haven’t paused your account and you miss your vacation, you’re still charged… The watch teleports without you.”

“This is getting complicated,” someone in the back groaned.

“I assure you it’s all super simple.” Doris tried to locate who had spoken. “We take care of the complicated parts.”

“I don’t know…” Donut man crossed his arms. “What if I don’t like the place?”

“That’s why you can supply us with a preference list.” Doris gave her best commercial smile. “But not knowing for sure is part of the spontaneity!” Doris snapped three times, bringing the package deals up on the screen. This wasn’t the next step, but this session wasn’t exactly going as planned. “It just depends on the level of spontaneity you’d like to experience.”

“See, that’s what bothers me the most.” Donut man was pointing to the screen. “The spontaneity.”

“But, that’s the whole point.” Doris tried not to grind her teeth. “It’s what the flier promised!”

“Flier?” Donut man looked around the room.

“The yellow flier. Inviting you here?”

“Oh,” he smiled, taking the folded paper from his pocket. “I just came for the donuts.” He pointed to the picture of piled pastries.

Doris sighed.

Her watch beeped.

No. Not now.

She still had a few minutes, and she was certain that was enough to convince someone — anyone — this was a good idea.

Doris hastily took her phone from her pocket. A contract glowed on the screen ready for a thumbprint signature. “Twenty percent off for anyone who signs now.” She would eat the cost, damnit.

“Oooo,” said the elderly couple, standing.

“Why the sudden hard sell?” asked the businessman. “That seems suspect.”

The couple sat back down.

Because, I’m about to go on my own fabulous vacation,” Doris held up her wrist, “so this truly is a limited time offer.”

“Can’t you pause it?” The eccentric looked concerned.

“No… that has to be done in advance,” Doris sang, pretending she hadn’t just said this two minutes ago.

“Well,” Donut man stood, taking his precious stack of donuts. “Your destinations do seem nice, but again, this whole anytime, anywhere—.”

“What if we booked you an old fashioned vacation?” Doris nearly shouted over her watch, which was beeping faster now. “Told you when it was going to happen and everything!”

“How much?”

“Same price. I’ll run it as a special.” Her watch was beeping louder. Any second.

Donut man looked up thoughtfully. “Now that sounds lovely.”

“Wonderful!” Doris shoved her phone forward. “Sign here.”

Beep, beep.

The man fumbled with the tower of donuts, trying to get a free hand. Then he reached out his thumb.

Beep, beep.

His thumb hit the screen.


“Oh, sorry.” The man looked at his thumb, thick with glaze. He licked it.

Grimacing, Doris pressed her phone closer, her heart racing. 


He reached out again— 


Doris teleported, the man’s thumb, still sticky with glaze, landing in thin air.

Doris found herself in one of Spa Today Away’s little white welcome rooms. No Champagne. No sexy bellhop.

Her watch beeped. Welcome Doris. You were one sale shy of your free corporate getaway experience, but you can still enjoy this average experience at your nominal employee discount. Please proceed to check in.

Doris checked in and collected her bag of custom vacation wear, for an additional fee of course. It included a parka.

Doris stepped out into the awaiting blizzard.

“You look like a disappointed Spa Today Away customer!” A man in an insulated suit greeted her with a shining smile. “Did you know if you book with Schedule the Fun Away, we carefully arrange your dream vacation in advance? You’ll know your date of travel and destination, months before you go!”

Doris scoffed, yet she had to admire his timing. “How about instead, you tell me if you’re hiring?”

“Actually, we are!” The man handed her a brochure. “With incentives!”

Doris smiled. “I’m listening.”

Meagan Noel Hart is a life-long lover of stories with three story collections of her own, Twisted Together, A Short Stack of Silly Shorts for the Morally Sidetracked, and Whispers & Fangs. Whether they make you laugh or cry, her characters find themselves most at home in the odd, the speculative, and the fantastical. You can find her most recent work in Daily Science Fiction, Fudoki Magazine, and Literally Stories. When she isn’t writing, she’s teaching writing. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, children, and adorable pack of pets.

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