Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 12, 2066

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Mateo started smacking his lips as they were heading towards Palace Glubbdubdrib. “Are you thirsty?” he asked.
“No, my name is Richard Parker, remember?”
And they laughed, but not quite as riotously as before, because they both really were thirsty. That would have to be the last Life of Pi joke.
“The sorcerer will surely have water for you,” the man who was their guide said to them several minutes later as they were passing the gates of the palace. And then he just kept moving without another word.
The two new friends walked past two guards in black who made no move to stop them. They climbed stairs and nearly crawled across the bridge as thirst threatened to take over completely. Finally, they made it to the front door and pushed it open with what little energy they had left. They fell down, but before they could reach the floor, they found themselves sitting at a dinner table. Before them lay candles, fruit, and wine. The Rogue was watching them from the other end.
“It’s you,” Mateo said. He looked for water.
“All we have is wine,” the Rogue said to him.
“We will die.”
The Rogue tilted his head side to side a couple of times before haphazardly waving his hand at one of his servants who furnished them with a pitcher of water. Mateo and Richard killed it, so they were supplied with another. They killed that one too. “May we move on?” The Rogue asked sarcastically.
“Why are you here? You’re not the Lord of Glubbdubdrib.”
The Rogue laughed. “No one is. I could find no one to play the part, so I stepped in. The show must go on and all that.”
“And this is the TV movie version, right?”
“It is,” the Rogue replied.
Mateo shook his head and started eating some of the bread. “I think I was, like, nine or ten when that came out. I was in the room when my parents were watching it, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I don’t know what we do next.”
“I don’t even think I was alive,” Richard commented.
The Rogue peered at him. “Your presence is not required.” He lifted his hand with the clear intention to spirit Richard away.
“He stays,” Mateo commanded.
“I’m sorry?”
“It’s not fair to make me go through a tribulation alone, so he will remain with me until such time as you see fit to reunite me with Leona. And when that day comes, you will take Richard wherever and whenever he wants to go, and you will place him there alive and well.”
“Are you giving me orders!” the Rogue yelled.
Mateo bolted to his feet and swiftly wiped his plate from the table. “If you want me to drink this wine and agree to be drugged for days, then you will do what I say. You don’t want me to die. You want me to play out your favorite movies. Ted Danson never threw his plate to the floor, did he? Unless you want me to make some more dramatic deviations, I suggest you afford me this one goddamn thing and agree to not kill my friends, which is what will happen if you return him to the probe!”
The Rogue lifted his chin and exhaled graciously. He closed his eyes and presented Mateo with his open palm. Mateo returned to his seat and gulped down the entirety of the wine.
“So you were paying better attention to the film, weren’t you?”
This was true. He could not play this out with the precision of Life of Pi, or even Cast Away, but he could pass. “I believe it is time for me to retire.”
“Take the wine with you—” the Rogue began to say.
“Yes, yes, there’s a storm. I remember.”

For the next several days, Mateo began to notice small cuts on his fingers, but he had no memory of the day before. As far as he could tell, he and Richard had only arrived yesterday. Like a good little reenactor, he one day stopped drinking the wine. Upon seeing this, the Rogue dropped his napkin onto the table. “We won’t do the part where you pretend to be asleep in the dungeon. But before I show you the mirror, I would like to show you something else.” He continued to speak while they followed him down the hallway. “This version of the story is told in flashbacks, allowing us to see what Lemuel’s wife and son are doing while he tells the story of his adventures in an insane asylum.”
“That is not in the book,” Richard said. He was given a copy of the source material to read while Mateo was in his daze.
“It is not, no. But I’m basing this on the miniseries.” He began to open the double doors of the room at the end of the hallway. “And I need to stay as true to that as I possibly can.”
On the other side of the doors was Mateo and Leona’s room in their house in Topeka. Inside were Leona and Theo. Mateo instantly tried to go to them, but an invisible barrier stopped him. They were stuck in that observer dimension he and The Cleanser once used to eavesdrop on her and Darko.
“Should there not be a bookcase between us and the room?” Richard asked.
“I do not get that reference,” Mateo said.
“It was after your time,” Richard admitted. “Just after, if I recall correctly.”
“Are you going to watch or what?” the Rogue asked.
They began to watch the conversation between Leona and Theo. “He will be returning soon.” She didn’t sound very confident.
“It’s been more than three days,” Theo said with apprehension. Really? It’s been years for Mateo, and only days for the rest of the world, but he had assumed Leona would be part of his world, and not subject to real time. She barely had time to miss him.”
“Seems weird for the shoe to be on the other foot, doesn’t it?” the Rogue asked.
Mateo did not respond as he continued to watch the scene.
The Rogue continued, “ya know because she had to wait for you for a year at a time?”
“Yeah I get it, I’m not an idiot, asshole.”
He made the sound of an angry cat. “Sor-ry. I just wanted to show you that I’ve not been torturing her.”
“Thank God for small miracles.”
“Yes,” the Rogue agreed. “Thank me.”
Mateo rolled his eyes.
“Well if you don’t appreciate it, then I’m just going to end it.”
“No wait,” Mateo pleaded, regretting his attitude. But it was too late. The Rogue closed the door, and when Mateo reopened it, the special dimension was gone. It was just a random palace chamber. “Dick.”
“It’s time for the mirror.” They reluctantly followed him down another hallway. “I have somewhere to be, so we don’t have time for all the hubbub. I can retrieve one person from the brink of death. You will be able to speak to someone from your past just before they die. Who will it be? Your mother, your father, both of whom you killed? Or will it be Daria?” The Rogue smiled wickedly. “Decisions, decisions.” They were not technically at a mirror. Another dimensional barrier was placed in the threshold of a room, one that happened to be presently showing them a mirror image. It jiggled as if taken straight out of The Matrix.
Mateo desperately wanted to speak with his lost family members, this was true. But that would not be very strategic. He needed to be mindful of the game. It was time to turn the tables. He plucked the knife from the Rogue’s hand and recklessly tore into his whole hand, like a badass. He swung his arm and let blood splash into the barrier as he recited the incantation, “I stand at the gates of life and death. Come forwards. Come forwards, spirits! Here is life. Horace Reaver, great pain in my ass, leader of the board, smell blood! Smell life! I summon you!”
The Rogue was notably shocked, which was hopefully a good thing. Instead of an arm slowly birthing from the barrier, the scene simply changed, showing Reaver frozen in time in his special salmon prison. The explosion that would soon kill him was just now emanating from a machine, and it wasn’t actually frozen completely. It was just moving incredibly slowly. Reaver finally broke free from real-time and looked around. “Mister Matic,” he said through the barrier. “I’m actually very happy to see you.”
“Actually, I am too,” Mateo responded honestly.
Horace looked over to Richard. “Mister Parker, I am excitedly surprised to see you here as well. How did you survive the space probe explosion?”
“Simple temporal extraction,” Mateo explained, proud of his impressive use of technical jargon. “Like the one you’re experiencing right now.”
Horace drew his eyes up at the ceiling but kept his head mostly in place. “Quite.”
“Why did you choose him? You could have seen one of your parents, or your aunt! Or anybody, really! Why choose the one man you hate more than me?”
Mateo smiled. “One thing I’ve discovered with these observational pockets of superdimension—or whatever other technobabble you might use to describe them—is that salmon cannot cross the barrier.”
“You were meant to speak with a loved one again; not bring them with you. So no, you can’t cross the barrier.”
“But something tells me that you can.” Mateo jumped into action and began to force the Rogue through the barrier. Richard didn’t hesitate to help him.
The Rogue struggled using remarkable strength. From the other side of the barrier, Horace laughed with delight. He took the Rogue by the hips and starting pulling him through as well.
“You can’t kill me!” the Rogue yelled. “I’m immortal. I’ll return, and I’ll be pissed!” He stopped trying to stop them, and instead took Richard by the arm. “This is punishment number one!”
“No!” Mateo screamed.
Richard was not strong enough to resist the Rogue’s strength. “It’s okay, Mateo. I was going to die anyway.”
Horace was not letting up either. He was about to die, so his adrenaline was probably sufficiently high enough. “I kind of love you, Mateo!”
“I know!” Mateo yelled back. In another life, they would be friends. Then he remembered that they literally were friends in another life.
In one last desperate move, the Rogue snapped his fingers and an egg timer popped into existence before dropping to the floor. “This is murder!” He was all the way through the barrier, along with Richard, when time restarted and the full force of the explosion came upon them.
Mateo turned his head and closed his eyes, but was soon able to reopen them as the pocket dimension had disappeared, leaving only the palace chamber that was supposed to be there. The egg timer continued to click down from a minute. He could run, but that would probably do no good. He just watched it patiently. Tick, tick, tick, ding. Another island. But Leona was there. Click here for the next installment...

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