Patience stepped out the front door and walked to the mailbox, a twice-weekly activity, since that’s how often the mail was delivered. It had been months since Mike had received a letter. Electronic mail had almost completely replaced the traditional variety years earlier, only to be replaced itself by text messaging. It was extremely uncommon for human beings to produce writing lengthier than a paragraph as form of direct communication. It would be unheard of for a robot to write a letter. Packages of goods bought online were dropped at the doorstep by a variety of parcel companies, leaving the mailbox an empty relic of the past. It was therefore quite a surprise for Patience to find a letter addressed to her. She pulled it out and examined it. It had neither a stamp nor a postmark.
Carrying the letter with her, she crossed back to the front door, stopping for just a moment to ensure the yardbot was doing its job. Once inside, she hurried back to the kitchen to finish Mike’s breakfast. She slipped the unopened envelope behind the cereal boxes above the fridge.
“Anything in the mail?” Mike asked, stepping into the room and taking his spot at the table.
“Is there ever?” Patience set a plate containing with a fried egg, two pieces of sausage, and a buttered piece of whole-grain toast, in front of him.
“Sausage? What’s the occasion?”
“Everything in moderation.”
“I have to eat fast if I’m going to make it.”
“You have plenty of time,” replied Patience. “Don’t give yourself indigestion.”
She set a glass of Diet Pepsi next to his plate.
In fourteen minutes, four seconds, Mike finished his meal and started toward the back door. Patience had already placed his single piece of luggage right next to the exit.
“You packed my razor?”
“How about my texTee?”
“I packed everything you need and nothing that you don’t.”
“I don’t know if I should go. I don’t trust these hyperloops. People shouldn’t travel around in tubes. That’s for toothpaste.”
“Just think of it as a train.”
She followed him out into the garage and watched as he climbed into the car and set the programming. As the garage door opened and the vehicle backed out, she waved goodbye. He blew her a kiss, which she returned. She watched him until the garage door completed closing. She could hear his car accelerating away.
Stepping back inside, Patience retrieved the envelope she had hidden and opened it. Inside was a single sheet of twenty-pound paper, folded into thirds. Written between the two folds in a precise Lucinda twelve point font was the following.
37.0320 -117.3414 9-22-38 12:08:30
It was the very concise directions for a meeting. The latitude and longitude indicated a spot in Death Valley, and the time, eight minutes and thirty seconds after noon on Wednesday, the following day. There was only the initial as a signature, but it was no great stretch of logic to realize that it must have been Silence who had sent the missive. Her predictive logic subroutine told Patience that if she weren’t at the precise spot at the precise time, she would lose any chance of meeting the other Daffodil.
Patience left home at seven on the indicated morning. She predicted that with traffic, the trip would take her four hours and seven minutes. Once she reached Death Valley, there was no traffic. Taking manual control of the vehicle, she parked just outside the chain link fence that surrounded the ruins of Scotty’s Castle.
It would have been oppressively hot for a human being, but Patience wasn’t bothered as she looked for an easy way through the barrier. The fence was not in good repair, and a hundred feet from the car, she found a section that had fallen flat on the ground. She briskly walked the pothole-filled road until she reached the burnt skeleton of the once proud desert dwelling.
Scotty’s Castle, the two-story villa, neither owned by Death Valley Scotty, nor an actual castle, had nevertheless been a marvel of the 1920s when constructed in the middle of the wilderness. It remained a popular tourist attraction for over a century, until an untended cigarette had ignited century old upholstery.
Next to an empty swimming pool in front of the ruins, Patience found the other Daffodil. Silence looked enough like Patience to have been her sister—the same large eyes and the same button nose. She had a larger frame though with an hourglass figure. She was wearing a simple white pleated skirt and a white business jacket with a blue tie. Her face was smudged and her hair was tangled and matted.