Jack stopped at the coffee place right outside the office. He rubbed his hands together, inching forward in line, eager.
“What can I get you?” the woman at the register asked him.
“A smoothie,” Jack said. “No! Wait! Iced tea! Ah, no, a mocha, but with whipped cream, and sprinkles! And that caramel syrup! You know what? Get weird with it! Get real weird with it! Make me something absolutely bizarre!”
The woman stared at him. “What?”
“Just start mixing ingredients together,” Jack demanded. “Make it wild! Pick up anything and ask yourself, ‘would adding this be stupid?’ And then add that if the answer is yes.”
The woman kept staring. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“Oh!” Jack exclaimed. “Am I not allowed to do that? Is that not an option that’s programmed in?”
“Yeah, sure, it must not be possible for you to execute that command. Fine. Whatever. Mocha. Whipped cream. And you bet your ass there’d better be sprinkles on it. Oh, wow, and get me one of those sandwiches too. Nah, just half of one. I’m not that hungry.”
The woman looked one hundred percent flummoxed, but she put in the order and motioned for Jack to get out of her sight.
A guy brought the drink out promptly, and the sandwich was soon after. “Hey, hey!” Jack said. “I only ordered half a sandwich.”
The guy looked at the plate. “Oh. You don’t want it?”
“No, not particularly. I doubt I’d finish it even if some external force mysteriously were able to empty my stomach. No, no, I won’t stand for this.”
The guy took a step back. “Look, man. I don’t want any trouble.”
Jack’s eyes lit up. “No trouble! No trouble! This isn’t what I ordered!” He snatched half the sandwich off the plate and held it in the air. “Here. Eat this. Get it out of my sight.”
“Good lord, my boy! This half of the sandwich needs to be disposed of! You don’t want it going to waste, do you?” He flapped the sandwich half in the guy’s face.
“Okay! Okay! Jeez!” He took the half from Jack’s hand and nibbled it nervously.
“Faster, I don’t have all day,” Jack demanded. “Customer’s always right and all that, yeah?”
The guy seemed close to tears. He was taking bigger and bigger bites. The whole half of the sandwich was gone in half a minute.
“Perfect! Perfeeeect!” Jack said. He took his drink and looked at the plate. “Eh, I’ll take this to go.” He picked the other half of the sandwich up and then struck the plate with his elbow. It hit the floor so hard it would’ve shattered it the programmers had been ready for it.
As he walked out of the coffee shop, he noticed a professionally dressed woman carrying a briefcase. She seemed to be looking right at him.
He went to the bus stop. He was going to do it. He was going to get on a bus, go to the airport, hop on a plane, not give a damn where it went, and maybe he’d just keep going, forever! Push this simulation to its limits!
The bus pulled up right before he was about to reach the stop. He’d just missed it. Ha! Tough luck. He’d have to wait for the next one. Fifteen minute’s time. Jack finished his drink and threw the empty cup on the ground, despite a trash can being inches away from him. Who cared? The cup would despawn as soon as he was out of this loading zone. Every video game did that. It saved memory. He finished the half of his sandwich and realized that he probably could’ve handled the other half of it.
The next bus came, but apparently it was totally full, filled to the brim, people packed in like sardines, so it just drove on without him. “Funny,” Jack said. “Weird! Ha ha! That’s nuts! Surely a coincidence!”
The next bus was running late. Real late. In fact, it seemed like it wasn’t going to show up at all after enough time had passed. “Whatever,” Jack said. “I’ll call a taxi.”
He took out his phone, looked up the number, and gave a taxi service a ring. An automated message came through, saying that all of their cars were busy, and would be for hours. Ha! On a Wednesday afternoon! Gibberish! He tried calling an Uber, but it seemed they were all busy too. Zany! Ludicrous!
A car stopped at the traffic light right in front of him. “Eh, this’ll do.”
Jack opened the door and got in the passenger seat.
It was an old man driving. “What! What are you doing? Get out of my car!”
“Hey man, nice to meet you,” Jack said, cheery as can be. “Where are you headed? Airport?”
“No! I’m not going to the airport! I’ve got to get these groceries home!”
Jack looked in the back seat. Bags of groceries were piled there, but he could’ve sworn they hadn’t been there a second ago. “Really? What a convenient excuse!”
The old man was suddenly frightened. “You’re one of those carjackers, aren’t you? Please! Don’t hurt me! I just want to go home to my wife!”
“Wow, what a cliché! Nah, nah, pal, cool it. I’m just trying to get to the airport. I know it’s something of a detour, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. I need to get there before the programmers manage to delete all of the planes.”
The man’s face changed. He was afraid, thinking he was talking to a crazy person. How wrong he was! “Alright. Alright. I’ll do as you say,” the old man whispered. The light changed, and he went.
Jack tilted his seat back, his hands behind his head. He hadn’t bothered with a seatbelt. “Ahhhhh yes. This is the life. Didn’t even have to pay bus fare.”
The old man was silent, focused on the road.
A couple of vans with tinted windows were driving on either side of them. Looked like something the CIA would do in a movie or something.
As soon as they were on the highway, traffic got really thick. Rush hour wasn’t supposed to start for another half hour or so. Somebody had decided it would come early today.
The old man was shaking with anxiety. His hands were tight on the wheel.
“You know what?” Jack said. “I’ve changed my mind. Looks like I’ll be walking. Heck of a lot faster than sitting in this, right?”
Without waiting another second, Jack opened the car door and stepped out onto the highway. Everybody was giving him odd looks. He paid them no mind.
There were a lot of vans on the highway, all with the same tinted windows he’d seen before. Goofy! Loopy!
As he passed by one of the vans, making great time by the way, the door slid open on one of them. A woman stepped out, holding a briefcase. She was dressed for success, that was for sure.
“Excuse me,” the woman said.
“Ha ha! Hello!” Jack said. “You’re walking too! Crazy traffic, right? Almost supernatural!”
The woman was expressionless. “My name is Venus. I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with me.”