Thursday, June 30, 2016

Microstory 354: Equality

Click here for a list of every step.
Love

Lots of people think that the rainbow flag is a symbol for homosexuality, and it’s actually rather sad that this narrow viewpoint has continued. While it did push the issue to the forefront of people’s minds, which is the purpose of symbols, I believe that it has hurt our cause as well. The original intention of the rainbow was not only to represent a particular group, but all of them. All of us. It is a symbol of diversity. Now that you know this, it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Google is currently running a campaign of “be together, not the same”. I find this to be an incredibly powerful and beautiful sentiment. People who argue against bigotry often try to find commonalities between the bigots and the oppressed. And that’s great, at least it certainly has its place, but Google and I are proposing a different approach. The question we’re ultimately asking is “okay, you don’t identify with these people; why is that a problem?” We have all been told that we should be celebrating our differences, but most of us seem to be having trouble acting on this maxim. I’ve discussed the problem of bigotry with people on the right side of history, and for the most part, we all agree that bigotry has remained a constant throughout history. The police didn’t suddenly start beating black people, it’s just that everyone has a camera in their pocket now. That’s the only real difference, as dumb as that sounds. So what is equality? We all know what it literally means, but what does a world like that look like? Truthfully, no one knows. But anyone not voting for Donald Trump knows that it will be better. Yes, I said will, because we’ll get there. Love will indeed win, and there’s nothing Trump can do to stop that. Thousands of years from now, assuming you’re young enough to be immortal, you’ll look back on these days and wonder what people were thinking. This will all look even more ridiculous than it already does. The bigots, on the other hand, will all be dead.

Free Thought

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Microstory 353: Love

Click here for a list of every step.
Acceptance

Love is when you not only agree that things are a certain way and that this is all right, but also that you’re for it. You’ve determined that what you hated or didn’t understand before is actually a good thing, and that you should be in support of it. My sister and I were raised by love. Earlier generations sound rather progressive to me, but they still held their fair share of ignorance, as was common in those times. Somehow, out of all that came my parents. They taught us to love people of different race, religion, sexuality, etc. It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with gay people, so when I first encountered someone who thought as much, I was massively confused. I can’t speak for my sister’s perspective, but I can explain my own. Even if I hadn’t been raised by my wonderful parents, I doubt I would have grown up bigoted. This is because I never felt like a normal person. I’m not referring to standard pubescent angst. I’m once more talking about my autism. I’ve always felt like a completely separate species. The way you people do things, it doesn’t make any sense. You are so inefficient, and resistant to progress. It’s actually quite infuriating, being able to see a better way to do things, with no one listening. It’s ironic that I’m one of the quietest people you’ll meet, but I’m the one who wants to talk about fixing the process. All that aside, my autism also causes me to see humans from a sort of outsider’s perspective. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, but it does mean I see no difference between a black father and a single Chinese businessman, or a girl in a wheelchair and a senator. You’re all just people to me. So when I hear about all this friction between two groups of people, it’s not something I can relate to. I just can’t understand it, except on an academic level. I came from a different place, but I too had to learn love, and I’m still working on it.

Equality

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Microstory 352: Acceptance

Click here for a list of every step.
Tolerance

Congratulations again, you’re one step closer to being a happy person. Here’s your ribbon. You have let go of most of your anger. You’ve stopped fighting the reality of the world. You’ve looked into the future and seen that your obstinance has no place in the world. I wish more people would be like you. Seeing the future isn’t all that difficult. Yes, we do have this thing called free will, and no it wasn’t bestowed upon us by God. If it were, then it isn’t real. Choice, like time, isn’t a conscious planning entity. It is but the natural course of events. So yeah, we are indeed free to make our own choices, but that doesn’t mean absolutely anything can happen, or that there is no such thing as causality. It just means that many things can happen, and these things can be understood. Past experiences never determine the future, but they can do a damn good job at predicting it. Every choice you make is put before you as the result of a series of prior events, some partially instigated by yourself, others by other people, and the rest by natural forces. You might be asking the screen, why is he talking about causality? Well, you see, it all has to do with this need to hold onto tradition. The past is not valuable simply by being in the past; it must be good on its own. I know I’ve used this as an example before, but I’ll say it again. This world has a history of slavery, and it is in fact persisting today, but that doesn’t make it okay. So when people argue against gay rights (read: human rights), building a wall in the year of your Lord 2017, or getting rid of schools, they just sound like idiots. They obviously have an inability to see the future, because things are going to change, and as an optimist, I believe they will change for the better. You have already changed by attaining acceptance, and soon things will get even better for you, and you’ll learn what love is.

Love

Monday, June 27, 2016

Microstory 351: Tolerance

Click here for a list of every step.
Self-expression

Tolerance is the first step for this week, but it is not the last. In fact, if you get stuck on this step, then I can’t be sure it was worth all the trouble we went through trying to get you that far. Tolerance is understanding that there’s something in the world that you cannot change. You don’t accept it, and you certainly don’t like it, but you have finally given up fighting it. Congratulations, you’re on your way, but you’re not done yet. You might feel like you’re being tolerant, but if you keep complaining about it, then that’s not really what’s happening. I’ve heard people say that they’re all right with gay people “as long as [they] don’t have to hear about. Really? Really? How often are you hearing about it. Where are you going that your ears are being filled with detailed descriptions of gay sex acts? You’re probably not actually hearing about it, and that’s just a poor excuse for you to retain your ignorant hate. But you know what I hear a lot? Heterosexual stories. Rape jokes. General NSFW comments. I bet you would be pretty upset if I told you it was okay for you to be straight as long as you kept it to yourself, and that it was “your business”. In fact, I would go so far as to say you’d be enraged over it. That’s because we live in a world where you’re born straight, and of a gender matching your visible genitals, until proven otherwise. And maybe not even then. That’s pretty frustrating, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, because we are now talking only about tolerance. In this post, and in others, I have really driven home this idea of rights for those who do not identify as heterosexual. That seems to be my main issue, but it’s not the only one. There are plenty of other problems in the world, but everybody already knows they’re not supposed to be racist, for instance. They’ve reached tolerance on that issue, so I won’t be speaking on it until later.

Acceptance

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...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Wind (Part XI)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the entire story.

Vearden discovered after watching him disappear in a literal flash that Sargent’s first name was Adolphe. It was rather ironic, but almost certainly done on purpose by the powers that be. Even more strange was the fact that, upon joining the salmon battalion, he was arbitrarily assigned the rank of Sergeant. Shaking it off, Vearden instinctively stepped into a tent and ushered Saga in. After letting the flap close behind them, they walked back through it to find themselves in a different camp altogether. Everyone on the campgrounds was running around, somehow both chaotically and systematically. Saga recognized a few of them as salmon, and the others held themselves in a similar fashion. This was another major time travel undertaking. A woman was standing under a canopy behind a folding table, barking orders to the others in a sexy Louisiana accent. They were all wearing what looked like Canadian military uniforms.
The two new-comers approached her with haste, knowing that they needed to start there. “Who are you?” she asked of them.
“Saga and Vearden.”
“What do you do?”
“We’re the door-walkers. We travel through portals, assisting others on an as-needed basis.”
She jerked her head around, upset about not having been given all the information. “Are you salmon or choosers.”
“Oh, sorry,” Saga apologized. “We’re just salmon.”
She slid her fingers down a list that was taped to the table. There was a second list to its left, probably containing the names of choosers who were helping them. “Saga and Vearden...I don’t have you on my list. Who told you to come here?”
“We are rarely told anything,” Vearden said. “We walk through openings, and appear somewhere new. We don’t always know when, and we never know where.”
She nodded as he was talking, still perturbed by how long the two of them would take to explain things. “If you’re—Glaston!” she screamed, interrupting herself.
They looked over to see a man on the boundary point between two locations. A section of the ocean had been pulled into the area. He had his arms out to balance himself between solid ground on his right and the deep, cold water on his left.
The leader woman continued to scream, “quit screwin’ around! I need you to merge southern Saigon with New Brunswick!”
Glaston just stared at her like a kindergarten refusing to participate in naptime.
“Now, Glaston! You have your orders!”
He just flipped her off.
She dropped her volume down so that only those in the canopy could hear her. “I guess we know why you two were brought here. You’ll be replacing him.” She turned her chin partially towards the man on her right, but didn’t look directly at him. “Mister Kolby, please send The Merger to Beaver Haven.”
Kolby lifted a very odd looking gun towards the dissident, and pressed it against the side of his stomach. He quickly pulled the trigger, hitting his mark expertly. Glaston slammed his palms on his chest where the bullet had hit. As small amounts of electricity surged throughout his body, he started to yell, “Yippee ki-yay, mother fffffuuuuuuuuuuu...!” Before he was able to finish his expletive, he shuddered and disappeared. Saga and Vearden widened their eyes and looked back towards the leader woman.
“Don’t worry,” she assured them, “he’s not dead. Kolby’s gun just expels people to a special prison. I’m not here to babysit.” She took a deep breath and released it. “This is Operation Second Wind. Starting today—April 30, 1975, by the way—the United States will execute a contingency plan to evacuate soldiers and civilians from the city now known as Saigon, South Vietnam. Due to extenuating circumstances, fixed-wing aircraft cannot be used, so dozens of helicopters will be flying back and forth between the embassy and an armada of ships in the South China Sea.”
“Yes,” Vearden said. “I remember this from history class.”
Yeah, they should definitely not interrupt this woman. “Yes, well unfortunately, not everyone makes it out. Not everyone can. If we evacuate the entirety of Saigon—which we’re fully capable of—we’ll be too exposed. 1975 is just too close to the invention of the internet for us to brush it off and bury it to history. But we are going to take who we can and sprinkle them throughout the world twenty minutes into the future, primarily in Canada.”
“So, we’re going to southern Saigon.”
She ignored them for a second. “Kingmaker! Kingmaker! What are you doing here?”
The Kingmaker threw up his arms. “Trang wasn’t there!” He drew nearer.
She started itching all over her face from the stress. “Okay, we must have the dates mixed up. But we gotta get that kid and his family to Indonesia. Tai Trang is too important to the future!”
“If the powers that be don’t take me there, I can’t get there,” he said, in full agreeance with her.
She continued to itch herself, but seemed to be getting better. “Okay, okay, okay.” She pointed over to another canopy where an elderly man was consulting one out of hundreds of books sprawled out around him. “Go speak with The Historian again.” As the Kingmaker was walking away, she yelled up to crowd, “and somebody find me The fucking Emissary! I’m sick of being jerked around by the powers!” She pushed the air away from her face, “okay, who are you people again?”
“We’re the—”
She cut Saga off, “the door-walkers, right. Southern Saigon. Kolby, please find me Glaston’s mission files. Hopefully he didn’t throw them to Jupiter or some nonsense like that.”
Kolby pulled them to the side so that the leader woman could move on with her very important work. “I’m not going to hunt for those files, that is not my job. He very likely could have left them on Jupiter.” He pointed to a tent next to the Historian’s. “The Archivist lives there. Tell him that you’ve been given the Merger’s assignment.”
“Understood,” Vearden said.
“Hey, how are Mateo and Leona?”
Saga shook her head. “We’ve not seen Leona lately, but we left Mateo over a hundred years from now. They’re not great.”
He nodded. “Give them my best if you ever see them again. I believe they refer to me as Guard Number Two.” He smiled warmly, but briefly.
“We will.”
They walked briskly over to the Archivist, dodging fake soldiers running through their path. They hesitated at the tent, not wanting to just walk in without first warning him. But there was no way to knock. “Umm...Mister Archivist, sir?”
They heard the sound of glass dropping, but not breaking. “What?” He did not sound well.
“We’re looking for, uh...the..the Merger’s mission files.”
“What do you want with that?”
“We’re replacing him. We, uh...we’re the door-walkers?”
“The Freelancers,” Vearden added in a quiet voice.
“The Freelancers,” Saga repeated so that the Archivist could hear.
They could hear him cough and scramble up, sticking his head through the opening. “Saga and Vearden, as I poorly keep track of records and breathe.” He tried to worm his hand through the opening as well, presumably to greet them. “Uhh...I need pants. Half a moment.” He pulled his head back in too quickly. The flaps separated just enough to reveal his member as he was turning around to look for clothes. He awkwardly laughed from inside. “If I managed my pants the way I manage my files then...well, then nothing would be different. I’m not very good at my job. I’m the fourth one, and this isn’t even my time period.” He reopened the flaps so that they could walk in. He hurriedly tried to clean up the bottles of cliché all over the place, but there was really nothing that could be done. “Sorry for the mess. I’m just the Historian’s red-headed stepchild, so no one visits me.” He took a swig of mouthwash but swallowed it quickly.
“It’s quite all right,” Saga lied.
He spoke rapidly. “Now, you’re looking for Glaston’s files—hold on, do you want something to drink? No, of course you don’t. You’re on duty. I have water, though. No, I don’t, I don’t know why I said that. I can find water. No, you don’t need water, you’re in a hurry. Of course, Glaston’s files.” He turned towards a metal filing cabinet. “You wanna see something cool? You’ve probably seen it on TV, but this one is real.” He smirked and released the catch on the top drawer. It started rolling open at a medium rate. The drawer was much longer than could fit in the cabinet. Had they no experience with spacetime manipulation, they would have looked behind the cabinet to find out what was going on.
The drawer continued through the flaps, and apparently hit someone walking outside. “Ow!” she yelled.
The Archivist warped his face, only playfully concerned about the woman’s safety. “Whoopsidoodles.” He clapped his hands together in preparation, and then started to run his fingers through the folders. “Chooser Kayetan Glaston, also known as the Merger, born June 25, 2016. Keeps mostly to the 20th and 21st centuries on Earth. He’s a total dick, and nobody likes him. And he...” he trailed off while looking through one of the folders.
“What is it?” Vearden asked.
The Archivist looked up at them then clumsily put the file away. In a clear attempt to downplay whatever it was that he had read, he said, “that’s from an alternate timeline, don’t worry about it. What you need is the mission file from today.” Without looking, he smugly reached over and pulled a fairly full accordion folder. “Here ya go. Don’t spend it all in one place.” He winked.
“Thanks,” Saga replied with almost a curtsy that she hoped she managed to hide well enough.
“Did you just curtsy?” Vearden asked after they left the tent through a portal to southern Saigon.
“Shut up.”
They spent the rest of the day, and part of the next, extracting South Vietnamese and third country nationals from Saigon, some to their respective homes, others to nearby ports, and yet others to random points in Canada. They had to give these refugees specific instructions to, of course, never mention to anyone exactly how they survived. Glaston’s mission files included packets of false stories that the refugees were asked to memorize so that they would have a credible explanation for getting out of the war zone. It seemed to work, because no one in the future suspected that anything unnatural had happened during Operation Frequent Wind. The question they had now was who wrote all those falsified documents, and how many other historical events had happened differently than the world knew? Click here for the next installment...