And so it came to pass that the Earth was saved from annihilation.
Emil liked to think that he played his part in it. And Inora did not often feel compelled to correct him. No one had saved Earth, as far as she was concerned. Not on that Thursday, and not on any other Thursdays since. The Earth is something in perpetual need of being saved. Always, from a threat worse than the previous threat.
But, as far as Emil was concerned, Inora and he had set off from Earth with a goal in mind, and that had come to be.
Hours after her reunion with Uncle Man, Inora found herself sitting out on the quiet and secluded porch of the Asylum, reading the latest compilation-report about Earth. It was classified, but Uncle Man, or, Big Gawd, as she had taken to calling him now, had handed it to her himself. “Perhaps,” he told her, “this will shed some light on what the AI is all about.”
Old Gawd took his leave then, but not before assuring Inora and Emil that he would be visiting them very soon on Earth, and Inora expressed how much she looked forward to listening to more of his stories. Emil decided to take a walk around the Asylum and jog his memories that were starting to come back to him now.
“You say the people won’t be extracted, and that is great. But what about all the damage AI has caused?” Inora asked Big Gawd. He was sitting across her on the table.
“What do you mean by damage?” he asked.
Inora scrunched her eyebrows, “There was a bloody riot going on in Dhaka when we left. And the whole world, I think.”
“Yes, I have received news of that. Business cycles, we cannot do anything about them.” Big Gawd dismissed her concerns.
“What do you mean business cycles? It was Zara Decimators’ doings!”
“That is pure speculation, Inora. Granted, cosmic carrom was unfortunate. A breach of contract. And Zara has already lost the contract for that, but…”
“Lost the contract? He is on Earth right now, overseeing AI.”
“I can’t tell him he has lost the contract now, can I? He will stop working straightaway. But I have sent him a snail-mail which he will receive around the time work on the AI ends. But, as I was saying, cosmic carrom was unfortunate, especially when we asked for discretion. But the destruction caused by that stupid game was minimal.”
“Then what about the riots and destruction I saw with my own eyes?”
“The financial market crashed, Inora, like cascading dominos. And that set the world on fire. People lost their money, then lost their senses. It’s always doomsday with Earthians when some messes with their savings. But that is not our doing.”
“How dare you!” Inora spat out and was about to pounce on Big Gawd again.
But Big Gawd was ready, and he handed her another report about the global financial meltdown.
“What exactly is the AI after all?” Inora asked.
“Plenty of agencies set up offices on Earth. We are extracting those. They, and also the Asylum, had people working on Earth. We are extracting them back home if they want a ride. And of course, the original patients, if any of them wants to return here.”
“And nana always wanted to return?”
“Yes, Inora. You saw him, pleased as a punch, back in his old cell. Do you know what you will tell your mother?”
“The truth.” Inora said, “I will go back to Earth tonight. And I will tell her right away. Can you let me know when nana wakes up? I want to meet him one more time before leaving.”
Big Gawd nodded his head, “Already done. Someone will come find you when he wakes up.” He excused himself for a minute. He still had the Asylum to run. Dusk was falling and Inora sat alone out on the porch and the cool breeze for a long time.
“I feel such a deep connection with this place suddenly.” Emil said, walking up the path towards Inora. “I remember that tree.” Emil said, “I could see this through the window beside my bed. And this porch? I spent so much time on this porch back then. And that nurse! Oh my god! How long has she been working here? She used to bring me my breakfast and lunch every day! Nurse! Do you remember me?” His brain had only just started to unseal the repressed memories of age 6 through 7, and that, unfortunately, also meant he was feeling a profound connection with everyone and everything.
The nurse walked up to the two of them, “Of course I do, sweetheart. Are you having fun out here?” the nurse asked.
“Yes. This is her first time.” Emil told about Inora. I am showing her around.
“How lovely. You have a visitor. We encourage visitors, it helps our patients.”
Inora giggled, “That’s very kind of you.”
“How have you been, nurse?” Emil asked.
“I’m doing great, sweetie. Thank you for asking. Well, look at the time. Visiting hours are over in twenty-minutes. I’ll leave you two alone. Say your goodbyes.” She said, nodded towards Inora, and walked away.
“Emil, that nurse is like twenty years old. She cannot be who you think she is.”
“Well, maybe her mother then…”
“No, not her mother either. Let your memories unrepress themselves. You don’t need to fill in the gaps yourself.”
“I don’t have time for that!”
“Still set on going back to Earth?”
“I can’t show my face around the Zara headquarter again.”
“But what about your friends? Home? Favorite restaurant?”
“Exactly. All on Earth. But I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to most. The weekends. This has been one hell of a week. An apocalypse of a week.”
“What do you mean weekends?”
“Fridays and Saturdays of course.” Emil said, “What’re you asking?”
“But days are longer here.”
“And we’ve been on the Planet for a day and a half.”
“Oh no! Please no.”
“When we arrive back on Earth, it will be Saturday evening.”
“You will have to go to work in the morning.”
Emil only lifted his head off the tabletop five minute later when Inora said they could teleport to the cottage next weekend and drive her car back to the city together.
Later that night, as they stood on top of the TeleDev in Emil’s apartment, Inora asked him, “How come you don’t want to stay back a few days and get your affairs in order?”
“I am not happy here.” Emil replied and that was that.
They both took a deep breath, there was a bright flash and then, they were both gone.
And then, Emil was shouting.
And then, he was crying, as unbearable pain shot through his extremities.
Inora averted her eyes in agony as Emil fell to his knees, beaten by the destruction in front of his eyes.
And Masum bhai, as he tried to shield Sania away from Emil’s gaze, which effectively meant that he had to expose himself to Emil instead, greeted Emil jovially, “Hello Emil! You are back! How are you? I’m sorry we broke your bed.”
And Emil knew loss in that moment.
He did not have a car.
But he thought he had a girlfriend, and that was nice.
And he knew he had a bed, and he liked his bed. He used it every day.
“My girlfriend and my bed.” He muttered pitifully and broke down.
Inora bent down and put her arms around him to try and console him.
Masum bhai got off the floor and scampered around the room, looking for their clothes flung around the room. And Sania scampered around with Masum bhai, trying to stay unseen behind him.
And then, a plain voice said, “They have been doing this all weekend, Emil! I saw everything.”