Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 27, 2081

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

The void that Mateo and Leona jumped through was literally endless. It didn’t feel like they were falling, more like they were stuck in place and feeling it fly around them. Leona darted her eyes around like she was searching for her car keys. But she wasn’t searching for anything, she was painting the scenery around them with her mind. The land and other objects faded into view incrementally. The more she painted with her thoughts, the faster their surroundings appeared. It was shaping up to be the side of a nice and quiet hill. He couldn’t remember when, but he knew he had been there before. Once everything was in place, she gently removed her hand from Mateo’s and took in a much-deserved breath. “Are you okay?” she asked with little actual concern.
He just stared at her. If felt like he hadn’t seen her in years, and he technically hadn’t. But she had changed too much in that amount of time, because it should have only been a few days from their perspective. Did The Cleanser place her in a temporal bubble like the one Mateo had been in during the Cast Away, Life of Pi, and Gulliver’s Travels tribulations? Did she fall out of their pattern? How long had it been for her, and what had changed. Did she even still love him? “I love you.”
She laughed at the response. “I love you as well. It has been much longer for me, though.”
“What happened?”
“I’m from the future. A lot has changed since then. Being away from you for twelve years has turned me into a different person. You wouldn’t like me anymore.”
“Twelve years,” Mateo repeated. “You mean...”
“Over 4,000 jumps, yes.”
“You can manipulate time now.”
“That’s...complicated. I know you’ve been trying to figure out how to do that yourself, but trust me that it’s best if you don’t. I paid a price for these powers. Or rather, others did. There’s a reason I brought you to this hill; the one from our shared dream during the kidney transplantation.” Her voice was darker in tone, and much scarier. She really wasn’t the same person, and he feared she was right when she said he wouldn’t like her.
He was reluctant to ask, but did so anyway, “what happened to your eye?”
“Oh, this?” she asked, knowing the answer was yes. “This was stupid of me. I thought it would be a funny joke, but...I don’t think you ever watched Andromeda or My Little Pony so it just...doesn’t execute well.”
“What?”
She removed the patch to show that her eye was perfectly intact. “It was a joke. Not a good one, I see that now.” She laughed once. “No pun intended. Anyway, I really am from four thousand years in the future, though.”
“Okay, well I’m sure you’ve grown tired of explaining things to me, but...”
“Actually,” she corrected, “I’ve missed it. Like I said, you weren’t around. I’m from an alternate future. You were placed in the pocket dimension, which meant that you were stuck in a single moment in time. Your pattern ended, and I never saw you again. I continued on the pattern on my own. I’ve seen a lot, learned a lot,” she began before lowering her gaze to the ground out of shame and finishing, “and I’ve done a lot.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Mateo said. He had met someone from an alternate timeline before, but Horace Reaver was only a few decades off, and felt shame for nothing. “But you’re back now, and we’re together. Now that you have new powers, we might actually have a fighting chance against the Cleanser.”
“I’m afraid that I cannot help you with that. The other Leona, the younger Leona, your Leona is still waiting for you. She’s the one you need to be reunited with. I returned to this moment in time so that I could extract you from the pocket dimension, but now I must go. My work here is done.”
“Well where are you going to go?”
“That’s not something I’m ready to explain to you.”
“Oh, please do,” the Cleanser said in a disrespectful manner.
Future!Leona smiled at him like seeing an old friend she had always hated. “Hello, Zeferino.”
“Wait,” Mateo started, “your name is Zeferino, but you go by a nickname? I don’t think you understand how cool your name sounds.”
“I don’t think you understand anything,” Zeferino said.
Future!Leona kept smiling. “I’m gonna let you do what you need to do with Mateo, but I know more about the timeline than you do.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“You would. But know that I’ll be monitoring the stream. You do something I don’t like, I’ll be forced to step in.”
“Leona, why don’t you just stop him now? If you can?” Mateo pleaded.
She looked at him like he was a child. “I can’t. Zeferino’s methods are deadly and wrong, but he was given a job, and I’m not allowed to instigate his replacement, for any reason.”
“You’re telling me he’s actually doing what he’s supposed to?”
“Oh, definitely not. It’s like this...they can’t fire him without cause. And he hasn’t given them cause, at least not one outlined in the hypothetical human resources handbook of choosers.”
“Hell you talking about?” Mateo was angry, and was starting to like her less and less by the second. “Just end it! Right here, right now! Use your new powers!”
“I can’t, Mateo,” Future!Leona said.
“Yeah, Mateo,” the Cleanser mocked.
Mateo’s rage had grown dramatically throughout the short conversation, and in keeping with his plan to be unpredictable, he decided to punch the Cleanser, Zeferino in the jaw as hard as he could.
The Cleanser was notably hurt, and not just physically. He probably wasn’t used to people working so hard against him, because of how powerful he was. He wiped his face and looked at his hand like he had never seen his own blood before. He may not have. “You’re going to regret that.”
“Prove it.”
“Mateo, leave it alone.”
“No,” the Cleanser said, never breaking the lock his eyes had on Mateo. “He thinks he’s above consequences, even though I’ve shown him time and time again that he’s not. I can’t let that stand.”
“Please let it go, Zef. He’s just a kid.”
“Yes, and this is going to be a lesson.”
“I can stop you!”
Without looking, the Cleanser placed his hand on Future!Leona’s chest. When he removed it, a gaping hole was left in her body. As her knees bent, her legs twisted and pulled her towards the ground on her back, head pointed towards them.
Mateo was, understandably, horrified. “What did you do to her?”
“I sent part of her through time. I left the rest here for you to admire.”
He couldn’t help but think about how this was a different Leona than he knew. She had been through so much. Alone. Which was not something he could truly relate to, so on one side he felt bad for her, but on the other, his Leona was still alive. This was more like a clone, a backup. It was hard for him to be too terribly upset about Future!Leona’s death, and that made him feel terrible. But it was done, and if anyone could prevent it from ever having happened, it certainly wasn’t Mateo. So he chose to use it as an opportunity to protect his true love. “You’ve gotten revenge now.”
“I’m sorry?”
“You were mad about Darko’s death, and bent on killing Leona for it,” Mateo explained. “I don’t know why you cared about Darko so much, and I don’t need you to tell me. That’s your business, and you can tell me when you’re comfortable. My point is that you’ve completed your mission. You killed Leona.”
“That was a different Leona.”
Mateo shrugged. “It was an older one. So think of it this way...it took you four thousand years to get your revenge, but you didn’t have to perceive that much time, and you did finally succeed. Think of the woman you killed as the Leona. Think of mine as the other one, and don’t worry about her.”
He didn’t respond.
“If you choose to feel satisfied, I think you’ll find closure.”
“This is very clever of you. I must say, it’s rather heartless, though. Pun extremely intended.”
“I’m desperate.”
“I would sure think so,” he said. Then he added, “I would hope so.”
Mateo closed his eyes and nodded towards Zeferino, like an academic receiving minor recognition for his work.
“It would appear that you are learning.”
“Your lessons are...” he trailed off unable to find the right words. “You make quite an impression.”
He seemed pleased by this, but was not done. “I will accept your loophole, and I commend you for coming up with it. Once you are finished with the Gladiator II tribulation, you may reconnect with this other Leona, and I promise that no harm will come to her. Not by my hands, anyway.”
“We already did the Gladiator II tribulation,” Mateo pointed out, very confused.
“Yes, but you remember reading about all those crazy ideas people had for the sequel? You completed the most normal sequel plotline, but we’re going to go after the others as well.”
“You mean the weird resurrection-time travel storylines?”
“Yes, which of course, we’re fully capable of doing. I’m pulling you out of your pattern using my loophole powers. You’ll first be going to April 30, 1945.”
Mateo knew what that day was, as poor a student as he had been.
“I guess I have no choice.”
“You don’t.”
“Okay, I suppose we’re done here.”
“Not so fast. There’s still a matter of punishment for you punching me in the face.”
“Are you really that upset about it?”
“I am. But I’ll let you chose. Either I kill Present!Leona, or I torture you with the timestream.”
Mateo laughed. He didn’t know what that second one meant, but nothing could be worse than being responsible for Leona’s death for what would be the fourth time. “Second one.”
“I thought as much,” he said before a quick pause. “You were only in the pocket dimension for a few seconds, which was just enough to let Future!Leona slip in and get you out before The Merger closed it off.”
“Right,” Mateo agreed patiently.
“But that’s only in this timeline. In the timeline that Future!Leona experienced, you were in there for four thousand years, repeating over and over again the same moment. You don’t quite understand what she saved you from by coming back in time and pulling you out before the reality was sealed.”
“Oh no.” Mateo knew where this was going.
“But you will.” He took Mateo by the head and flooded his brain with the memories of an alternate version of himself. He could suddenly remember what it was like to repeat a single excruciating moment billions of times. The Cleanser removed his hands from Mateo’s head and popped out of the timestream mid-laugh.
Mateo just stood there stunned. He now knew eternity. He had gone to hell and come back, and he didn’t know what to do next.
A bloody heart appeared in midair over Future!Leona’s body, exactly where it had been moments ago when it was still in its rightful place. The Cleanser had only sent it a few minutes forwards in time. It fell towards her and reestablished itself within her chest cavity, which closed up and healed completely. She got back to her feet, brushed herself off, and said with a smirk, “he shouldn’t have taken the heart.” Then she smiled at Mateo and asked dryly, “what? Is there something on my face?” Click here for the next installment...

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