Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 5, 2059

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

The Cleanser had been right about “the next Reaver” coming. Mateo just didn’t think he meant so soon. Though, to be fair, it was technically a year later. And it could have been even longer from any other salmon’s perspective. He woke to find himself in the middle of the woods with Leona and Prince Darko. It was the dawn and their phones were nowhere to be found.
“What’s going on?” Leona demanded.
“Why are you looking at me?” Prince Darko asked, astonished. “I didn’t have anything to do with this.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Leona scoffed. It was becoming a bad habit.
“Leona, you can’t accuse him with no evidence.”
“He shows up and now we’ve been transported outside of our pattern.”
“That doesn’t mean that I’m the one who brought us here. I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to do such a thing.”
“Puh-lease.”
“Leona, stop. We have to work together to figure this out.”
“Oh, you would take his side.”
“There are no sides. There’s only survival. There’s bears in these woods,” Prince Darko said ominously.
“Bears can be dealt with,” Leona said. “They don’t attack humans as much as you would think.”
“I’m not talking about animal bears,” Prince Darko clarified. “I’m talking about bears that eat salmon. Everything is a danger.”
“Oh, ha!” Leona laughed sarcastically. “Good one.”
“I’m serious,” Prince Darko complained.
“We need to find some help,” Mateo jumped in, trying to defuse the situation with logic. “Or maybe not. Don’t they say if you’re lost in the forest, you’re supposed to stay put and wait for rescue?”
“That’s for when people know you’re there. We don’t even know where we are,” Leona nearly yelled.
“Hey, he’s just trying to get through this!” Prince Darko yelled back.
“Both of you shut up. I hear something.” Mateo didn’t really hear anything. He just wanted a few seconds of silence. But then they actually did hear something. It was a zipping sound that flew past their heads and landed in a tree. An arrow.
“Oh my God,” Prince Darko grumbled, “we teleported into a horror movie.”
Mateo was determined to fix the problem. It was probably just a hunter who didn’t realize that they weren’t deer. “It’s probably just a hunter who can’t see us very well.” Mateo stood up straight and started waving his arms.
“Mateo,” Leona whispered urgently, “please get down.”
“Hey! Don’t shoot!” Mateo pleaded. “We’re human!” He could see the hunter up ahead, and he was definitely close enough to hear Mateo’s cries, unless he was wearing headphones or something. Mateo realized his folly far too late. Another zip came and forced itself into Mateo’s heart. They were the ones being hunted. It wasn’t clear whether the hunter was actually intending to kill them specifically, or if they just happened to be the ones he found while on his hunt. Mateo was able to eke out one word as he was falling towards his back. “Run.”
Everything froze. Mateo stood from the side, staring at his own body, hanging in midair. Leona appeared to be on her way to catching him. Prince Darko was eyeing the hunter with violent rage in his eyes. But no one was moving; neither were the leaves or the wind or dark clouds in the early morning sky. Time was standing still.
“Mister Matic,” came a voice from behind Mateo’s temporary figure. It wasn’t the Cleanser.
“And you are?”
“They call me The Rogue.”
“What is it with you people and nicknames?”
The Rogue laughed. “I dunno. But they call me this because I don’t follow their rules. I’ve gone off on my own.”
“I’m pretty sure that position has been filled.”
“Yes,” the stranger nodded his head in understanding. “The Cleanser and I are very much alike. But his intention is to wipe us all out. Mine is to have fun.”
“From what I’ve been told, that’s exactly what it means to be a choosing one.”
“That’s true,” the Rogue admitted. “However, they are trying to shape the timeline according to their liking. I don’t care about the timeline. I just like to watch the struggle.”
“You’re trying to create a bad timeline,” Mateo posited. “Leona would actually probably call it the darkest timeline.”
“That’s right,” the Rogue said. “From your perspective, at least.”
Mateo massaged his temples. “I am so tired. I haven’t been doing this for very long, but I don’t wanna go any further. If I agree to let you do what you want, will you cancel mine and Leona’s pattern?”
“What about your brother?”
“What about him?” Mateo felt himself not caring. Prince Darko was obviously trying to strain his and Leona’s relationship. He should have been taking the moral high ground and tried to save them all, but he couldn’t help but just not care anymore. “You leave my family alone, and Leona’s, and I’ll let you go.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll have to defeat you, just like I did Horace Reaver.”
The Rogue thought about this for a long time. Or rather, for literally no time at all. “Interesting proposition. You didn’t seem like the kind of person who would forgo the world, just for your family.”
“Before all this, I wasn’t.”
“That’s fair, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.” Mateo knew he would do this. There was no way a guy with the power to stop time would agree to end his game so quickly. He was obviously a psychopath, and needed to be stopped. But Mateo couldn’t do that if he was acting like himself. These people knew everything about him. There was even evidence that they could read his mind. He had to remain as unpredictable as possible. He had to keep them guessing; rule number eleven.
“So, what are your plans for us?”
“To make your lives hell. One day at a time.”
Mateo apathetically turned his head to look at his real body, still hanging in the air, on the verge of death. “You don’t have much time.”
The Rogue laughed again. “Tis but a flesh wound.”
“I feel myself dying.”
“You want me to correct this? You want me to give you a pass?”
“Just this once.”
“Very well, but there will be more tribulations. Wanna see something cool?”
Yes, definitely. “Not really.”
“Pull the arrow out of your chest.”
“Doctors will tell you not to do that.”
“Just trust me. Make sure you take it out in reverse.”
Mateo had no choice, and he was curious to see what was going to happen. He took hold of the back of the arrow and begin to pull on it. The arrow didn’t move right away, but his own body did. Once he was back upright, the arrow began to slide out of his chest. He looked over and could see Leona crawling backwards and Prince Darko turning his head away from the distant hunter. Mateo pushed the arrow back in and watch the scene play out in slow motion. Back. Forth. Back. Forth. The faster he moved, the faster the scene moved. He was manipulating the passage of time with his hands. That was cool.
“All right, you’ve had your fun. Pull the arrow all the way out, and then you can adjust its path so that it avoids you altogether. All you have to do is think about changing time, rather than reversing it.”
Mateo had a better idea. “I have a better idea.” After the arrow was all the way out, and his wound had magically sealed back up as if it had never happened, he moved his own arm up. He wrapped his fingers around the shaft of the arrow and clasped it tightly.
“Leona and Prince Darko are gonna know something’s up if you catch a freaking arrow in midair.”
Mateo shrugged. “Somehow I don’t think that will bother me.”
The Rogue shook his head like he was watching his dog chew on a shoe. “I can’t reverse or slow velocity once we step back into real time, so you’re going to have to match it with an equal opposing force. Leona would understand this better,” he added with a sigh.
Mateo thought about it for a second then reversed the arrow a few more inches back to give himself more time to slow it down. “There.”
“There,” the Rogue agreed. He snapped his fingers and restarted time, placing Mateo back into his real body.
The arrow tried to keep moving, just as the Rogue had said, but Mateo was able to hold onto it before the tip could pierce his skin. He had succeeded in making it look like he had superhuman reflexes. He looked over at Leona and Prince Darko who were shocked by this.
“Buffy,” Leona whispered. Click here for the next installment...

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