June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 13
The smell of falafel is always the first thing I notice in the Cairo terminal; recirculated air is laden with the scents of parsley, mint, cilantro, and garlic. The bustling hallways of disembarking passengers and the vendors selling their falafel, hummus, and baklava.
I woke on a sleeping couch in the Ambassador Lounge.
For the life of me, I could not remember boarding the hovertrain in Sao Paulo, but I must have.
I hear Sharla before I see her; she is tall, loud, boisterous, and fun, possessing a sense of mischief that is oddly alluring to most.
My memory touches the forgotten rail trip again like a tongue probing a recently vacated tooth socket.
“Stephen, there you are. I trust your trip wasn’t too stressful,” she says, grinning.
“It wasn’t stressful at all,” I say.
But I don’t remember it.
“Still, you must be exhausted from the trip. Let’s get you checked into your hotel.”
Automatically I look at my watch, 4:58 PM
Something is wrong here.
According to my watch, which displayed Brazil and Cairo time, I had left Sao Paulo only 58 minutes ago.
The bullet trains are fast, but they aren’t that fast.
I sent you an email from Brazil, didn’t I, before boarding the train?”
“You always do. I wish all my employees were so attentive,” she says.
But that was less than sixty minutes ago.
She grins at me. There’s a punchline here I don’t understand.
I tire of waiting for her to break the silence.
“How could I possibly have been on the other side of the planet an hour ago?”
She tilted her head and smirked. “I didn’t mean all of you.”
Oh, no. Surely, she didn’t.
I stop walking and look to my right. An Irish pub’s dark window front casts a high-contrast reflection.
My jaw drops. The face gazing back at me isn’t the familiar, pale one I see in the mirror every morning as I shave. No, the person I see in the darkened window is a five-foot-nothing, sharply dressed black woman.
“Rapid Transport? Really, Sharla? You swore you’d never do that to me again.”
“Well, it looks like I broke that promise,” she says, smiling.
Despite the violation of trust (I never take RAPID TRANSPORT), I laugh.
The bullet train makes the trip in 11.5 hours.
With Rapid Transport, the trip is instantaneous. Most of my missing 58 minutes were because of that process being completed in the same place they always are, the Ambassador Lounge, waiting for my digitized psyche to finish downloading into a new brain.