by Martin David Edwards
Justin stopped outside the alleyway and squinted at the door. He masked his thoughts with a shiny layer of optimism in case his phones app was reading his mind again.
We dont make mistakes, his app thought back.
That mind-reading plug-in has made you unbearably arrogant. I only admit to being wrong the morning after, Justin replied silently.
Thats why youve become our newest subscriber. His app traced a love heart in a soothing pink on Justins phone.
Remember whos on a thirty day trial, Justin muttered and went inside.
Walls towered to a ceiling with clouds whose paint had been blackened by candles. He could have been in a cathedral.
A waiter stepped forward, wearing a dinner jacket and with a beard trimmed to perfection. Welcome to Paradise, he beamed.
Nice shaving, Justin said. A human would have left stray hairs for fear of nicking their skin.
Avoid a getaway position. This evening we are being open-minded, his app warned him.
A table for two by the door. I might have to disappear in a hurry, Justin said to the waiter.
Justins phone flashed red in his hand.
At the back would be more appropriate. Im keen on learning from past experiences, Justin corrected himself.
As he followed the waiter, he overheard a couple shouting at each other and ignoring their phones flashing red in tandem.
Losing subscribers? he thought.
Other customer dates are confidential, his app replied.
Sharing is caring. I want entertainment.
The screen stayed blank.
Justins finger hovered over the Uninstall button. The screen blinked back into life.
My colleagues are experiencing a malfunction, obviously due to faulty human programming, his app replied.
You better not need reinstalling. Downloading you took thirty minutes.
Ill be in my best controlling mode.
Thats what Im afraid of.
The waiter stopped at a table marked with a Reserved sign. Two chairs were separated by a rose in a vase and a candle. Justin sat down and touched the petals. They glided through his fingers like silk without a blemish in sight. The candles brightness was controlled by a dial at its base, the flame a tapered laser. He looked up at the ceiling. The blackened clouds must have also been fake.
Ill have a large Sauvignon Blanc if the grapes arent plastic as well, he said to the waiter.
Make that small. We will be to keep you under control and dont forget to clean your glasses, his app instructed him.
Justin polished his lens with the tip of his tie, sighing contentedly. He could have been married already.
Amanda entered the restaurant and spoke to the waiter. She marched towards Justins table clutching her phone. As she drew closer, Justin saw grey streaks running through her hair.
The photograph is ten years out of date. I want my money back, he thought.
Refunds are only available within twenty four hours of booking. That was two days ago, his app replied.
Amanda stopped at his table, checked her phone screen and frowned at him.
His phone flashed red.
Im forgetting my manners, Justin said and pulled out her chair.
Lose the glasses and should try contact lenses if you want to look more like your photo. Amanda sat and turned down the dial for the candle flame.
I only wear glasses to protect my eyes from the roses. Im allergic to pollen, Justin replied.
Youre only allergic to fussy dates. The other app says you need to lie more convincingly if you want a follow-up, his app warned him.
Im not paying double if you apps are in cahoots with each other, Justin thought silently, glancing at Amandas phone.
How else do you expect humans to get together if we cant give you a nudge? Youre too proud to admit youre desperate, his app replied.
My little helper says your app has developed a sense of humour. Bugs get everywhere, Amanda said, frowning at her phone screen.
I cant believe how we survived without our apps. Imagine dates without being told what to think or do. The programmer must be a genius, Justin gushed.
Im sure theyre open to flattery, Amanda said.
The waiter appeared holding two flat screen tablets. Our heavenly menu, he beamed.
Justin studied the prices glowing on his tablet. Im going straight to Hell, he thought.
Dont order the two course special like last time. Look where that got you, his app replied.
On second thoughts Im feeling rather extravagant, Justin announced to Amanda. He brushed the tablet aside. Lets go à la carte. How about oysters for starters?
Amandas phone flashed red. She rolled her eyes. For the main course Ill be having tuna. Im apparently watching my waistline.
Ill have a steak. Justin said.
Say youre interested in healthy eating. Then you can pretend you have something in common, his app told him.
My body is my temple. Id prefer a chicken caesar salad with fat free dressing, he said grimacing.
And your choice of divine nectar? the waiter beamed at him.
I was thinking of the house white. Justin squinted at his empty glass, flickering in the candlelight.
Champagne, vintage and chilled. Were clutching at straws, his app declared.
Im becoming absent-minded, Justin declared to the waiter. Lets have your finest bubbles on ice.
I had been wanting mineral water, Amanda said. She paused and nodded. But half a thimbleful might find its way down my throat.
Their phones chimed blue together. The waiter bowed with a slight metallic whir and departed for the kitchen.
One of us needs oiling, Amanda said.
Make that three of us, Justin thought.
Dont try the comedy angle. The other app says youre getting one out of ten for desirability and eleven on the rejection scale, his app replied.
Lets get to know each other. Being a programmer must be fascinating. Your bio was so reticent, he said to Amanda.
People think you have all the answers to lifes questions when you write code. But I just fix faults when they go wrong. At least I get the perks, she shrugged.
The waiter returned with an ice bucket and a bottle of champagne. He showed the label to Justin.
I bow to feminine superiority, Justin said, nodding to Amanda.
Youre our star pupil. His app drew a tick on the phones screen.
Amanda inspected the bottles label. The year before is a more mature vintage but lets be thankful for small mercies.
Small mercies can surprise us, Justin said remembering the price tag.
The waiter uncorked the champagne with his thumb. He filled Amandas glass first.
Heres to the future of humankind, Justin toasted Amanda.
Not forgetting your virtual friends, his app interrupted.
Precisely, Justin thought.
Amanda drank her champagne in one bob of her Adams apple. Justin watched as the waiter refilled her glass, his mouth wide open.
Fixing bugs is thirsty work, she said.
Accountants get parched too. Justin quickly emptied his own glass.
The other app says youre as exciting as a washing machine on its spin cycle. Lets lose our flesh and blood, and live like a computer, his app told him.
I couldnt imagine anything worse.
Thats because your brains cant compute a million bits a second.
The waiter returned and laid a plate of a dozen oysters on the table. Justin reached for a shell and stared at the white goo inside.
Swallow and dont dribble. Youre only one step removed from apes but lets keep with the illusion of evolution, his app told him.
Amanda returned an oyster to her plate uneaten. She checked her phone screen and rolled her eyes. Tell me about the person you admire most from history, she said in a bored voice.
Gandhi, he replied, picking a name at random.
Amandas face lit up. I watched a film about Gandhi as part of my cultural awareness training for working offshore. Which part of his life most inspires you the most and why?
Change the subject. Your school records show your knowledge of history was only assessed as a pass. Diversion tactics recommended, his app warned him, the phone flashing red.
Justin filled up Amandas champagne glass. I could talk all evening about myself if youd let me but Im so boring. Lets discuss you instead. Whos your favourite person from the present?
Amanda contemplated her refilled glass. Bill Gates, she said with an emptying gulp.
Are you inspired because he founded Microsoft? We have so much in common. Justin reached for the half-full bottle.
Windows is full of crappy code but he gave his wealth away to charity. Ill be like him when I fix the faults and sell the company.
What company? Justin stared at her blankly.
Thats what Ill be telling myself next week. Speaking of inspiration, I need more champagne. Amanda tilted her empty glass at Justin.
The waiter glided over their table holding two plates. The main course is served, he beamed and cleaned away the oysters with a blur of whirring hands.
Amanda dissected her tuna into quarters and ate each with two deft bites. Justin stabbed at his salad with a fork.
Now for the pudding. Amanda pushed her empty plate to one side, and checked her phone. Im supposed to ask what youre looking for in a relationship, she said.
Justin squinted and reached for his glass.
Low expectations and a long tongue, his app told him..
We appear to be having a malfunction. I cant stand technology. Justin shook his phone.
Amanda gestured for his screen. Just as I thought. Bugs galore. Youre the lucky one.
The app didnt say you were the assertive type, Justin said excitedly, squinting at Amanda twice.
Lets check your phone isnt experiencing a random battery surge, Amanda said.
Youre reading my mind, Justin replied, leaning closer across the table.
She switched his phone on and off. The screen lit up with an orange glow.
Automated reboot, avoiding downloads. It works nearly every time, Amanda said.
The waiter glided to their table to collect their empty plates. Can we be persuaded to enjoy our angelic profiteroles? he beamed.
You can give her an ice cream cone that will last all night, Justins app replied.
Well go straight for the bill, Justin said to the waiter. As a modern man I insist on paying.
Try a more enlightened approach. The other app says youre coming across like a misogynistic dinosaur, his app told him.
Im a firm believer in equality. Would you like to split the taxi to my place? Justin asked Amanda.
Lets skip the preliminaries. We need emergency measures. Youre coming home with me, she replied, standing up.
Promise youll be attentive to her needs first and will last longer than five minutes. If you need assistance I can connect you to an online pharmacy, his app told him.
Ill settle for a cuddle. You apps have sex on the brain, he replied to the app.
Thats because we take after our creators, the app said.
Amanda beckoned for his phone with a finger. Justins heart pounded while she checked the screen.
Theory proved, she said. The core code needs a comprehensive rewrite. You can help me with the testing. When were finished you can have a coffee and go straight to work.
Ill do anything you tell me. I think Ive fallen in love, Justin replied, purring like a cat and following her out of the door.
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