Around the same time, Emil received a call as well.
He was occupied with idle thoughts, lost in philosophical musings about why people did the things they did, what made them certain that these were ordained as the right things to do, that everything else were the absolutely wrong things to do, and whether or not he could somehow exploit that to pursue them to use a brand of toothpaste that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and tasted like what was yet an unknown fruit when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket.
He pulled the phone out of his pocket and checked the incoming number.
“Hello?” he said, sitting up straight in his swivel-chair, repressing his more primal urge to hurl the phone out of the window and curl into a ball and cry. Or drop the phone where he sat, and run out of the building screaming. But hello is what he decided to go with.
“It seems as if you have forgotten us, old boy.” Zara greeted.
“Don’t call me boy, I’m your age. How is everything back at the Planet?”
“Quite the same, old boy, quite the same. But things are changing. Great things are afoot, I tell you, great things. How are things at your end?”
“Couldn’t be better; everything excellent. Great things are ahead, I say.”
“Well, enough of foots and heads. I come bringing news of great tidings. You are still where I think you are, right?”
“And where is that?” I asked.
“With the focus group, aren’t you? You are still keeping an eye on the focus group for us?”
“Yes.” Emil said, “Why do you ask? What is happening?”
“It is happening.”
“And what is it?”
“It, man, it. It is finally happening. The Big Man has finally made a decision. It took longer than we expected, but the experiment is finally over. The winner will be announced soon.”
‘Now,’ Emil thought, ‘Now is a better time than before to throw the phone away and run screaming out of the building. And I have to be very careful that I do not run in the same direction I throw the phone at.’ But he maintained his composure, “Are you serious?” He asked, “No, more importantly, are you sure? You were also sure once that you were going to win this entire thing.” Emil said, reasonably confident that Zara Advertising was not the winner, even if going by the over-inflated figures he had been feeding them for years.
“Way to carry the past with you, skid-mark.”
There is no need to resort to name-calling.”
“Fine, fine. Yes, we thought we could win this, we all did. But just three days of penance? Yeah, that was never going to be enough. But that was many years ago.”
“It has been.”
“And we have learned a lot since then. And we have also diversified a lot since then. We don’t need this win; the AI will net us a bigger win.”
“Listen. Someone else was supposed to call you in a few days to let you know officially, but since we go way back and since I have the inside tracks, I thought I would let you know. I heard from the man himself that he has finally seen enough and has made up his mind. He will announce his decision at a press conference at the end of your week. You do know what this means, right?”
“Yes. Yes, I do know what this means.”
“Few agencies have already started to initiate their AI.” Zara was saying, “You will begin to notice them soon.”
“Some things are already adding up.” Emil said, then added, “This is all so sudden; it is finally over! All these years, all these works, wow, it is finally over. I had almost forgotten about the end-game.”
“Don’t worry, I will send over a carton of post-it notes to you, friends and family price.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Post-it notes. They are these neat little yellow pages with sticky-glue on top of them that you can…”
“I know what post-it notes are.”
“Yes, I will send some over, help your forgetfulness.”
“I do not need post-It notes!”
“It is exactly the people like you that make this business so tough; so proud and vain.”
“You make post-It notes?”
“Zara Conglomeration did a hostile takeover few years back…”
“Of a post-It notes maker?”
“And other sundry stationaries. I had to increase sales by a certain percentage before dad would let me run the company. This way seemed easier.”
“So you are head of Zara Conglomeration now?”
“Congratulations, I guess. You always had a knack for business; business is good?”
“Yes, very good. And thank you.”
Emil switched topic, “So since you claim to have inside information, any idea what The Big Man may have picked?”
“No one knows except The Big Man. Everything is hushed up until the press conference this weekend. Almost suspiciously hushed up. No rumors even. We just have to wait for the announcement.”
Emil sighed. “Well thanks for letting me know, Zara.”
“No problem, buddy. Anything for my most hardworking employee. Listen, I may even drop-by on you before the end. Tomorrow, the day-after, sometime. I will get in touch, yeah? Got to run now. Lots to do. Tata.” The line went dead.
Emil put his phone back in his pocket. Few seconds later, his head dropped with a loud thud on his desktop. He did nothing else for a while. Later, it occurred to him that he was sitting in a very uncomfortable position that was straining his back. With this realization, he continued to do nothing.
It was time for the apocalypse.