Author : Joseph Pascale

My ears were assaulted by a variety of sounds as I entered the 21st Century-style café. The most alarming was the grinding sound that could have come from a malfunctioning robot, but was actually emitting from large copper contraptions. I was also unaccustomed to the period music and the actors working behind the counter, shouting orders such as, “Decaf mocha latte!”

“Welcome to Café Literarti, may I take your order?” one of the actresses said to me as I peered at the handwritten menu.

“Um, I think I will go with a standard coffee.”

“I’d be happy to make that by hand for you just as soon as you verify your age,” she said, her affixed smile unwavering.

I flicked my wrist over her micronner to prove I was old enough to purchase the drug.

“Perfect. Will that be all?”

I nodded, sending the payment.

She pretended to use a cash machine and when she pressed a button it beeped. “Please wait over there while we hand-make your order.”

“Wow, this seems like real paper,” I thought as I took my steaming hot beverage and found an empty table. It was small and wobbly. “Did the tables really used to be like this?” As I moved a chair, it scraped up against the tile floor, and once seated, I found it to be hard and uncomfortable. “People couldn’t have stayed in these for long, could they?” I thought. “Well, I wanted to be in the appropriate atmosphere. Maybe it’s working.”

Taking the slightest sip of coffee, my tongue told me it was tasty, but still too hot to enjoy. Accessing my Libraria Ultima, I found the beginning of the first novel I intended to read. It was the debut work of an author from the 21st Century who I’d never heard of before an acquaintance mentioned him yesterday. As I began to read, I found his writing style simplistic, but engaging. The smell of my coffee tempted my eyes away from the words and I took a few more sips. It was beginning to cool down. I was midway through his third novel when the coffee was cool enough to swallow in gulps. After I read all of the fiction, I began to make my way through the blogs, diaries and letters. The coffee on the bottom of my cup was lukewarm by the time I got through the final message he had ever sent, and I held strange emotions about what I had just read.

Peering down at my empty cup, I decided against staying for another coffee and took the cup back toward the counter. I tried to hand it to one of the actors, but was pointed in the direction of a “garbage” container. I laughed as I dropped my cup into the cylinder. “This place must be pretty authentic,” I thought as I made my way toward the front door. The recently read fiction returned to my thoughts due to my confusion over one of the motifs. Crammed among the stacks of books in his room, the author treated literature as if each book were a window in a city of unstable skyscrapers, and he was the window-washer tasked with the impossible job of cleaning them all. Not only did he lack an easy way to scale the buildings, but the city was so vast that he hadn’t yet managed to clean all of the first-floor books. I suppose that was how a reader felt living in an age before they began to augment humans.

I left the café, but the thoughts stayed with me.

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