John offered the block of nicely sculptured chocolate. Everyone, including the King was confused. They didn’t seem to understand what it was. They just stared at it, some in disgust. The King began to look impatient.
In response, John pulled his hands back, took the chocolate in one hand and motioned it towards his mouth. He then rubbed his stomach with his other hand in a circular motion and smiled, making a “mmmm…” sound.
Now they understood. A man in the background was motioned forward. He moved slowly, unwillingly. It seemed as if he sensed impending doom.
John placed the chocolate in the man’s hand. The man broke a very small piece off. He moved it towards his face, grimacing and looking around, as if he was being willed to act by others in the room. All the time he was looking accusingly at John as if John had ruined his life. He sniffed at the piece of chocolate. All of a sudden, the grimace disappeared. He then inhaled the scent of the chocolate much more deeply, his eyes glazing over for a moment. This was the moment that John had been eagerly awaiting.
John had worked out by now that the man was a food taster. No wonder he had been so cautious. He was putting his life on the line. Who cares? He’s only a time copy. It’s not as if he had a real life or anything. He was there only for John – at John’s will. John wasn’t going to worry about every object (person) on his holiday. Strike that – every “copy” of every object here.
Finally the man took a very small bite. His eyes lit up. His eyebrows lifted. John could tell that he was in absolute ecstasy.
The King had seen his taster’s reaction and now seemed eager to have a taste himself. He motioned the smiling taster away as if he had become a nuisance. The King took a large greedy bite into the chocolate. His reaction was just as John had imagined. The King was delighted.
“What do you call this?” the King bellowed with his mouth full of chocolate, spitting a few droplets into the crowd.
John hesitated slightly. “Chocolate.” He said. It was an automatic response. It didn’t matter if he called it what it was. Of course, he had missed the opportunity to call it a name that gave him credit for it. But that would have been pointless given that this was only a copy of time and it wouldn’t make any difference in real history.
“Choclat?” the King echoed uncertainly.
“Cho..co…lat” John corrected.
The King was certainly enjoying the flavour. So much so that he chose to overlook the condescension in John’s voice.
“You must get me more of this,” the King said after a short but pleasant pause, “I will reward you handsomely. Where did you get it from?” The King’s real plan was to find out where to get it (or how to make it) and then find a way of executing this fine fellow. This substance was like gold and he couldn’t let any ordinary man control its supply. The King sensed great power and wealth in its control.
That was a very difficult question for John to answer. John hesitated. There was an uneasy silence, only broken by the King’s impatience. “Well, I am waiting for your answer and I have not much time.”
John was caught in an awkward paralysis. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to answer. He hadn’t anticipated that question and hadn’t therefore rehearsed any answer. Stupid!! It was so f*cking obvious. John was so f*cking smart but he couldn’t even anticipate such a fundamental human response!
The pressure was mounting. He didn’t have any more chocolate to give. He didn’t have a place to name, or a recipe to call out. Even if this just was a copy of time, he didn’t have an easy answer. What could he say? It’s from the future… You’re not real… I’ve come here on a holiday so that I can use you to get some excitement? [That sounds pretty suspect :)]
He became even more stuck as he began to realise that the King was sounding angrier by the moment.
“I see.” said the King in a very gruff tone. “You don’t want me to know. You want to have control of this and you want to keep it to yourself. You disrespect me in front of all of these people. If that is your intention, then you will…”
John finally found his voice. “But…” John tried to interrupt, but it was too late.
“… have to face the consequences.” The King had become bright red in the face. It was almost as if he had some kind of a rash. His lips were a little blue. It was probably the extremity of the emotion… or so John thought.
John’s heart sank and he became very worried.
“Guards!” the King called out confidently as he motioned his armed guards towards John. Despite the appearance of anger, the King was delighted (a fact that hadn’t escaped the food taster standing quietly in the background). This stupid greedy man had made it easier than ever. The King would torture the information out of him and have him killed soon after. It was great that there were so many witnesses. Again, the King has pressed all of the right buttons. His manipulation was perfect.
The guards approached John with their weapons drawn.