22 April 2021

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.

They met at 11 in the morning every day. Kat bought him a coffee. Dave realized that, with habits like that, she must be wealthy. And she proved it soon enough when she invited him over to her floating house. It may as well have been made of gold, with everything just so, rooms unfolding upon rooms, space everywhere, high ceilings with artfully concealed air handlers, skylights with automatic blast curtains that timed themselves according to the heat of the sun.

You live here all by yourself?”

She nodded and looked at her feet with a private smile. But it was he who felt silly, holding a potted plant he’d brought as a gift and looking around at the exotic plants everywhere in the house. She had a greenhouse, a climate-controlled glass room with a jungle of plants. Many of them didn’t exist in the outside world anymore. She was preserving them there, in something like a plant museum.

Dave knew that working in that room, among the plants that didn’t live in the outside world, would be perfect for him. Many of the languages he worked with for the Universal weren’t used by many people. They had become rare, like these plants. He didn’t dare hope that he could work there, though. Many things had to happen first.

What was amazing to him, and to Kat, was that they did. One by one, they occurred in the perfect order. She accepted the potted plant he’d brought, even though she didn’t need it. One day, after their coffees, she invited him back to the house again. There was a special light in her eyes.

Would you like to see the bedroom?” she asked.

Of course he agreed. He didn’t have to be a linguist to know that the surface question was not the question being asked.

They made love, forgetting to close the blast curtains, and the room became very hot. They fell back on the sleeping pad together, drenched in sweat and happiness. From then on, for months and months, they became inseparable. She worked from the floating home whenever possible, and Dave worked in the greenhouse on the Universal. He surrounded himself with books and was gloriously happy. The Universal was progressing well. He got the languages talking to each other, sharing what they knew. The study of languages is the study of the human mind. Dig into language and you get to see how the mind works. His mind was filling up with happiness and he transferred every bit of it to Kat.

Soon he stopped sleeping at his own pod. Why keep up the pretense? He shyly brought over a bag of clothes so that he could stay over and the smiles they traded as he opened it were like a sacred pact. He brought out a toothbrush and asked, Where should I put this?”

They both laughed at that. Nobody used toothbrushes now. Kat hadn’t seen one in years, probably since she was a child living in New York. Dave shrugged. He liked the old things.

Later, after he finished putting his things away and worked on the Universal, drew her down on the sleeping pad and kissed her.

It’s only 2 in the afternoon.” She laughed and melted into his arms.

I know what time it is,” he said.

Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.