“Oh! Why is there a whole tomato floating in the bowl?” Emil asked.
“Because sir wanted the day’s special, tomato soup and grilled cheese.”
“And so I did! Where is my grilled cheese?”
“I seem to have forgotten it.”
“Will you please go and get it?”
“Certainly. Immediately. Should I also take the tomato away?” The waiter asked.
“You mean the whole tomato floating on top of the broth?”
“Yes, that one.”
“Will the chef turn it into soup and send it back to me?”
“Sir already has a tomato soup. Would he care for another?”
“No I bloody well do not want another!”
“Stop shouting at him, Emil.” Inora said, taking a bite out of her chicken cutlet and grimacing, “Just bring him his grilled cheese, please.”
The waiter bowed and left.
“This place has really gone to the shitters since I left.” Emil said. They were sitting outside, on the balcony of a café, because Inora wanted a view.
“But this is all the same.” Inora said, dividing her time between looking up and around to see if anything unique was going on, reading everything she could find about the Planet on her phone which had connected directly with the café’s WiFi not behind the firewall placed on Earth, and making her way through the chicken cutlet which was, Inora confirmed, definitely chicken, if not only that. “Why is everything exactly the same?”
“Well, it is not exactly the same. I mean if you look around…”
“The streets are empty; so I guess you Pplanetpeople have used your superior knowledge to eradicate traffic-jams.”
“No really, we have done much more than that. If I may…” Emil took a spoonful of his tomato soup, deduced it was not, and said, “look at this soup-spoon for example. Much more curvaceous than any soup-spoon I used on Earth. Enhanced soup-carrying capacity.”
“Why are the streets completely empty?”
“Everyone teleports here. And honestly, if you would come to a museum with me, I can show you all our achievements.”
“No one drives?”
“No, we do not produce those vehicles anymore.” Emil said; then it occurred to him, “Aha! See? Just imagine how much we have cutdown on our carbon footprint! No cars, no busses, no airplanes!”
“No one even walks from one place to another? Go hiking? No one jogs?”
“Small price to pay to stop killing the Planet.”
“Is that why I can find no street maps of this planet? Because everyone teleports?”
“You are oversimplifying things.”
“Do you have any idea where you are?”
“This used to be my favorite café, but…”
“Oh my god.”
“This all makes sense. Now I see why you can’t tell your left from right.”
Before Emil could respond, his grilled cheese arrived. It was, after a fashion, a slab of grilled cheese, scrapped off the pan using a spatula, and then thrown on dish. “Where are the breads?” he asked.
“Breads? How provincial. A very good one, sir. Breads. Hah. Enjoy your meal.” The waiter said and walked away.
Emil missed Earth already.
“What do you think is happening back at Earth?” Inora asked.
“Not very different from the state we left it in.”
“Will everyone be back at the Asylum before the announcement tomorrow?”
“No, that will be few more days later.” Emil said, “Listen, whatever it is that you will do tomorrow…”
“It’s pointless and won’t change anything. I know.”
“I’m saying be safe. Don’t get into too much trouble.”
“How long have you been at Earth, Emil?”
“Maybe a month longer than I have known you.”
“And you never thought to tell me or anyone else about all these?”
“I was hoping I would not have to. This experiment had run for so long already. Why could it not go on for another lifetime?”
“And you would have never come back here if it had?”
“I had no plans to.”
“Well, you are here now. And out of everyone on Earth, you chose to unplug me out of the Matrix.”
“Everyone will show up here eventually. You are the one who would have fought hardest against getting institutionalized.”
“I had to get you out. Quickly.”
“Very funny. And what now?”
“Let’s see. If we do not get thrown in the Asylum anyway after tomorrow…”
“Why will you get in trouble?”
“I am not letting you go at it alone, am I? Whatever it is you are after, I will be there with you.”
“Maybe you will only get in my way.”
“Then you can walk over me.”
“If you are not going to finish your soup, let us leave already. I want you to show me around.”
“What is there to see? Everything is exactly as in Earth. Only bigger.”
“How about the Asylum? Let’s go check it out.”
“Visiting hours should be over by now.”
“Just take me somewhere nice. This may be our last night as free people.”
And so, Emil asked for the bill.