The man folded the letter and placed it back to the envelope. He looked at the young man completely lost.
–I wrote this, said the man to him.
–I know, he answered.
-Yes, you know everything about us… eem… I mean about me.
He removed the silk sheet and sat on the edge of the bed.
-You should tell me also something about yourself. How exactly did the letter reach to you? What is this place? And what about my time machine, where is it?
-This house was once your house. I live in this room, my parents live on the floor below us as well as my brother and my partner lives in the next room. Your time machine is in the basement, where it has always been, for the last century. It passed on from generation to generation, without anyone knowing how to operate it. The only thing my ancestors knew was that they had to inherit to their descendants two envelopes that would be opened at a certain date, an envelope for the descendant himself and another one for the visitor that would come from the time machine. And then everything would be clear. So I am the descendant that possessed the letter at the exact date that it should be opened. The rest you already know.
-I see, said the man and sat thinking silently for a while. So many people in this tiny house? I guess country’s economy did not get any better even 100 years later, he finally joked.
The young man smiled.
–Things have changed, sir. I have seen documentaries about the way you used to live in the old times. A whole house just for one family, an outrageous waste of space and money of course. I will show you right away how a family lives in one room today.
In one room? wondered the man.
–Show me then, he said and got up determined.
–Bedroom no more, commanded the young man. Kitchen!
Suddenly a hole appeared in the floor, right below the bed which soon was sucked into it. The hole closed again silently and the floor went back to normal. The wall on the left of the room was withdrawn and a massive machine resembling a vending machine showed up. The young man approached it and then turned towards the man.
–Do you have any preference regarding your breakfast? he asked him.
–Eeem, I don’t know, replied puzzled. Eggs and bacon perhaps… and some coffee.
-Eggs, bacon, coffee, said the young man to the mysterious machine.
Making no sound and within five minutes the machine prepared the order. A plate with two eggs and bacon showed up in the front bench while a cup of coffee came out from the side. The young man took them.
–Table and chair, commanded and once more the floor opened and a table with a chair came out at the same place where the bed was before.
–Please, have a seat.
He sat obviously impressed. The young man placed the plate with the bacon and the eggs right in front of him. The man looked at them. He had never seen such bright colors in a plate with food. The egg yolks had an orange color as vivid as the sun in a spring day while the bacon was so red that you could actually taste its delicious flavor just by looking at it. He grabbed the fork and tried it impatiently. As wonderful and tasteful they seemed so flavorless and bland they were in reality. They both resembled something like egg and bacon respectively but their taste was definitely not the expected natural one. He tried the coffee. This was a bit better.
–What are these? he asked the young man.
–Eggs, bacon and coffee, he answered naturally.
–Well yeah, they look like it but they are not. Their flavor is not the one that it should be.
-Maybe it seems different to you because you are used to the taste of eggs coming from real chickens and bacon coming from real pork.
-What do you mean? Where do these come from?
-The exploitation and the slaughter of animals for our own satisfaction of food needs have stopped since several years ago. At least in the large civilized urban centers. There are of course still… savages who continue to breed animals and enjoy, as they say, the goods they have to offer. These eggs and bacon were manufactured in the laboratories of our food production. The necessary proteins, vitamins and all elements that compose a real bacon are properly combined in cell cultures and after a certain time of incubation in the lab, the final product is ready to consume. Completely harm free.
–I see, said the man disappointed from this certain progress in future’s nutrition. He pushed the plate away and got up. Maybe your food production scientists should work a bit more on the flavor than on the appearance of the products, don’t you think?
The young man did not reply and looked at the man almost dismissively.
–Alright then, said the man trying to get out of the awkward moment. I did saw how a single room incorporates all the functions of an entire house and how your food is supplied nowadays. What else can you show me about your future? Maybe we could go a walk outside, he said and turned to look outside the big window.
The man was speechless by what he saw. Or better say by what he did not see. His house, back in 2016, was built in the heart of a vast forest. Back then, wherever you would look through the windows you could see a sea of trees. Now there was absolutely nothing. He could not see a single tree for miles. Starting from the hill where the building was, a wide road was leading down to the big city, which resembled an enormous black stain spewing smoke in between other smaller dirty spots of “civilization”.
–B-but…what happened? the man stuttered, unable to take his eyes off of the barren grey landscape.
–What do you mean? the young man asked him.
–The forest, the trees. They can’t be all gone, there were so many. I see green nowhere, I don’t understand, it is like a desert.
-Ah, the trees, of course, I forgot about them. The forests, sir, are endangered. There are only a few left and they are in protected areas where no one can have access to without special permission. Imagine, I am 50 years old and I have not been between trees yet. I should visit them one day, people say it is quite a life experience.
The man was shocked. His mind had stopped, it was too much information to process. The forests are gone? Protected areas? Life experience walking between trees? This was not happening! And the young man standing right there was actually 20 years older than him? The man got dizzy and sat slowly on the floor since all furniture had disappeared in the floor or the walls.
–Please sir, don’t sit on the floor. Shall I call a chair for you? said the young man and provoked the laughter of the man.
He could never imagine anyone saying this phrase to him. Neither the trees would go extinct.
–Alright then, he said finally. Let’s start from the beginning. What happened to the forests? How the hell did the trees become extinct?
-It happened in the period that we call the Era of the Great War for the Oxygen. Many forests had already been cut down the previous years because of the increased needs of our civilization. The once endless Amazon forest got extinct in my grandfather’s time. The rhythm of destruction was much higher than the one of restoration. That in combination with the air pollution led to an elevation in such high temperature degrees that the humanity hadn’t experience ever before. As a consequence, fire incidents were also increased which of course worsen the initial problem. The oxygen levels dropped dramatically, rainfalls decreased and drought became a reality in many countries. Under these circumstances as you understand it was even harder for new trees to grow. We were trapped in a vicious circle and it was too late to recover things to the way they used to be. Obviously the fact that mostly worried humanity was the decrease of oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Without it we cannot live, this has not change and never will, no matter how many years will pass. So the war began. The financially powerful countries made an agreement in finding an alternative source of oxygen but until then its consumption had to be restrained in some way. At this point, a black page in human history was written.
-What happened? asked impatiently the man who had already been horrified enough with what he heard so far.
–In order to reduce the consumption, the consumers had to be… repressed. Therefore the emergency extinction programs were initialized, aiming at people whose breathing was found to be… pointless. As you may already realize the places that were mostly targeted were crowded poor regions. South America, Africa, India and China lost a significant part of their population. Uprisings burst everywhere. Five years of chaos and atrocities followed. Finally, scientists put an end to the Great War with the invention of the valuable oxygen generators. These machines can be seen everywhere now and they are necessary for our survival. They produce huge amounts of oxygen taking advantage of another source that we did not consider to be important until then, the phytoplankton. We are currently going through a period of prosperity and peace, even though a lot of people claim that another crisis similar to the forest crisis is approaching: the ocean crisis. The accumulation of plastic in the oceans has reached to such disturbing levels that in order to avoid the worse any use of plastic materials was forbidden two years ago.
The man had literally no words. Before he was able to comment anything a young woman entered the room. She seemed about 18 years old, she was tall with blonde hair, blue eyes and a flawless face. She was wearing a skin tight suit that revealed every detail of her body, leaving almost nothing to imagination. The man looked away quickly as he felt like he could see her almost naked. The girl stand by the young man and gave him a cold kiss on the cheek.
–Hello, she said. I hope you are enjoying your day in our… future. I am the partner of your descendant. But why are you sitting on the floor?
The man got up and reached out his hand to introduce himself. She hold his hand and touched it seductively. Then she came closer to him and touched him on his arm, run her fingers slowly up until his neck and put her hand inside his t-shirt. The man stopped her grabbing her wrist. He looked at the young man. No reaction.
–So that is how men were like 100 years ago, the girl said. They had no interest in beautiful women.
She returned to her partner’s side and he put his arm around her waist mechanically.
–Forgive me, said the man. I clearly don’t understand the new ways of this society.
-No, you do not at all, said the girl. You are stuck on the absurd beliefs of your century when a couple should depend upon each other. You see, things now work in a different way. I can go with whoever I want and my partner can have whoever he desires. I am not with him because I need him, nor because I love him to death. What a foolish statement anyway! You say many things like that in your time, isn’t it? “I love you to death, I will wait for you as long as it takes, I will never leave you, I will love you forever” and other cute words.
The girl laughed mockingly.
–Poor people. You still believe in “forever” like people once used to believe that there is a God. Or do you still believe in God as well? Oh, I don’t know, I always confused these old times, they all seem so similar to me, so… primitive! In any case, you should know that in this world relationships are free because we all are aware now that no one is irreplaceable and of course nothing lasts forever. Simple logic, said the girl and hugged her partner with apathy while at the same time she was staring at the man in a provocative way.
The man took a look at the couple. A man and a woman, apparently perfect. So perfect that they look fake, he thought. A man and a woman without any true feeling for each other, standing in an empty room. A room fitting their empty souls…