Mika grew very tired of the twinge. The constant pressure to check and recheck his mobile. His small circle of contacts were mostly silent, either no one truly contacting or they got lost due to the dodgy connection of the temporary device. Barrell’s reports of life around his farm, Hildo’s junkmail trailing lonely emissions from his abandoned storefront (his debt to Rafe meant every element of his life was a little bit compromised), work reminders from Malishka, and the daily contact with Excena, all of this was missing. Most of the time he turned it on and nothing. Muscle twitch and then empty. Or junk. The taco copter had somehow started sending him advertisements, someone telling to eat a dick, and something from the mayor’s office about new connectivity. He felt no joy every time he answered, his reserve of strength for the day fading with each empty or worthless communication. Paused halfway down the hallway to Malishka’s office he almost ignored the incoming call. He had become slightly hypnotized by water falling down through the roof of hallway, pooling and then streaking out under the shelves of backup food. It must have started raining, he thinks and then answered the mobile almost by accident.
It was Exsena. She was in the desert holding the hands of half burnt man in a uniform. It felt too strange to be jealous of.
Mika, I’m on my way to the city. I should arrive before dusk tomorrow.
Aren’t we having a picnic today? I was trying to call you about that.
Well, we were but that really isn’t me. That is a clone from the dating service. This is me. I am real and I may need your help. Will you be there tomorrow?
Who is this guy?
A survivor of a crash, I couldn’t leave him out here.
How did you end up out there?
Don’t know, just was.
This is very strange. I will be there though. What else could I do?
Behind her eyes he saw someone else. Not the eyes of the Exsena he knew or this new one that he just met with yearning and desperation in her eyes, something else, something that gave no more thought to him than the universe does to the cosmic dust and dead stars cluttering its veins. Something that did not love or hate, that didn’t even consider him worth such conceits. Then it was gone and he found himself agreeing and nodding along to what this new Exsena asked of him.
What about the picnic? Should he get his money back from the dating service? He kind of wanted to go on that picnic. Sitting in a park eating food with his beautiful girlfriend was what his day needed. Sure she might be a clone, but she was who he knew. Who was this new Exsena? What would she bring to his life, and what with her?
Mika was beckoned into Mal’s office (Mal is what she insisted on being called) which per the usual ritual had the door open. This would be inviting except physical presence was a low priority in the court of Mal. She sat in buzzing web of communication devices. Constantly continuing another line of communication in mid-thought you never quite knew if she was ever really listening to you.
Mika noticed her coffee maker had been pushed into her printer and was slowly being repurposed. It made a distracting gurgling sound. Mika would never give up his coffeemaker. Off course Malishka could always just print a new one. Hers was turning into forks and plates that were slowly dumping onto the floor as the printer’s tiny perch got filled.
She waved him to a seat as she stared off into space, occasionally replying to someone with affirmatives.
Sit down just push that off. One minute.
She held her finger in the air as if feeling for the direction of the wind.
Mal I have something …
No, sorry another minute. No you continue, thank you
Mika sat and thought of how to deliver his message in this heavily bugged office.
Okay now what.
It took Mika a minute to realize her eyes were on him.
I have two matters. First the van got splashed with a parking enforcement spray.
We don’t pay parking tickets.
It was just a splash we could try to negotiate our way out of it.
We have no sway with them. It’s just better to pay.
Really that’s what I get…
He almost wanted to forget the other manner
Here is a deal. I will deal with them and you can pay me. They can be excessive when collecting so this good for you.
But, try to explain that it was an accident.
Let’s not complicate things with blame, or who is at fault. There is no arguing with the parking patrols.
More thugs to deal with…
Well we’ll deal with it. I sent you an estimate of today’s road blocks. Good luck, I have a conference call in 20 that...
Wait; there has been a complaint about the meal schedule.
That is impossible we have those things coordinated to an exact. Wait, oh you’re ready. Continue.
She began to shoo me out of the office with hands.
Mika noticed it out of the corner of his eye as he left Malishka’s office. A pyramid of dog turds was piled next to the door.