Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 3, 2118

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Over the course of the next couple of hours, the first immortal remained motionless on the ground. Mateo felt bad about hoping he was dead, but was also sort of over that kind of guilt. It wasn’t really helpful to strive for what he was before becoming a salmon. He needed to move forward, and sometimes, in a world like this, certain deaths can produce benefits. While he was waiting for confirmation, Mateo fought against his chains, little by little wearing them down. They were crudely bolted into the wall of the sorry excuse for a cave, and he was actually having some luck, but then the first immortal woke up, and it was over. Without even looking up, the immortal crawled over to a stake in the ground, pulled the chain attached to it towards his chest, and eventually managed to lock it around Mateo’s leg. Mateo didn’t really know what the point of that was. He wasn’t making that much progress with his current chains, and either way, he would be free of whatever the immortal used after the jump into next year. Well, he was wrong about that last part.
The immortal released him from his wall chains, and let him roam in a few meter radius, presumably because it would be easier to construct five sides of Mateo’s new prison, rather than having to contend with a rock face. Following the jump to 2118, Mateo found himself in yet another cell, this one made of wood and lashings. It wasn’t as roomy as the one Reaver threw him in a long time ago in an alternate reality Australia, and it wasn’t as hospitable as the government sanctioned Topeka jail cell his cousin, Danica kept him in. It was, however, sturdy and impenetrable. The immortal had been provided an entire year to perfect it, so he had taken advantage. It actually wasn’t technically just the one cell. The cube he was in was probably nine foot by nine foot, with a shallow pit dug into the center. It was surrounded by another cube about eleven by eleven foot. The third was likely thirteen by thirteen. They weren’t completely hollow either. Each cube had a narrow passageway that wrapped all the way around until reaching the door to the next one.
“Redundancy,” the immortal said while sipping something out of a coconut-like fruit. “You might get out of one cube, but then what are you gonna do? How much time do you think it’ll take you, and how much time do you think I spend hunting away from camp?”
“I get it,” Mateo responded. “You’re a clever boy.”
“That I am. I have been around for...quite awhile.”
“How old are you?”
“All the old. Every old.”
“Cute.” He did his best to look apathetic, when in reality, it was nice to have some conversation. “Got a name?”
“Ambrosios.”
“Ambrosios what?”
“Just Ambrosios. We didn’t have last names when I was born.”
Mateo nodded. “I see. Well, it doesn’t seem that we were properly introduced. My name is Mateo Matic. They did have last names when I was born.”
He didn’t say anything.
“What do you want with me?”
“I’ve not yet figured that out. All I know is that this is my island, I want to leave it, and you may be able to help me with that.”
“I am salmon. I cannot go anywhere. We're stuck on this island, and this planet…together. Like a cross between Hell in the Pacific, and Enemy Mine. You may as well let me go. I neither can, nor would, hurt you. Besides, if I’m free from here, I’ll be able to feed myself.”
“Who said I’ll be feeding you?”
He thought about this for a cool minute. Obviously that was entirely up to Ambrosios. He could let Mateo starve, and probably wouldn’t even be bothered by it. But it was possible he would, with a little encouragement. “Your heart told me.”
This made Ambrosios legitimately smile, which was probably something he rarely did in a place like this.
“Please,” Mateo continued. “I’m only here for one day every year. You’ll only have to worry about me during those days. For the rest of your time, you’ll be completely safe.”
“I won’t be safe, not from the rhinos.”
“There are rhinos on this planet?”
“They’re not actual rhinos, that’s just what I call them, because they have no name of their own.”
“Well...you’ll be completely safe from me. In fact, you’re safe even while I’m around. I am not a violent man. Xearea can attest to that.”
“Who?”
“Just a friend. You never knew her.”
Ambrosios didn’t speak for some time as he was chowing down on what could have been alien rhino meat. “I worked really hard on that cell,” he spoke with his mouth full.
“And it’s very impressive. We could use it for something else, like a cage for your livestock, or bait for the rhinos.”
“You really want out of there, don’t you? It’s been, what, five minutes? Wuss.”
“I have this thing about being locked up. It is not my first time.”
Ambrosios set down his food and approached, still chewing. “My immortality is wearing off.” He paused. “But it has not worn off yet. You will not be able to kill me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. I really wouldn’t.”
“Get in the fetal position in the pit. Close your eyes.”
Mateo did as he was told and waited as Ambrosios slowly unlocked the series of redundant openings. He didn’t unlock the last one, though. Instead, he threw the key into the pit with Mateo. “You can do the rest.”
As Mateo was standing back up, he could see Ambrosio make his way out of the cage maze. Mateo unlocked the final padlock, and started following him, but was careful to not make any sudden movements, or appear at all threatening.
Ambrosios grabbed his bow, and some arrows. “I’m going hunting. When I get back, all of my belongings better still be here...and you better not be. If I ever see you again, I’m shooting you on the spot.”
“Fair enough.” Once Ambrosios was gone, he stole a few pieces of fruit that he couldn’t see growing in the nearby area, and ran off in the opposite direction.
Shelter. He need to find shelter. He didn’t need it to be that great, but it needed to stand up for years, and it needed to already exist, because he didn’t have much time on his hands. It was growing dark, and Mateo was starving, having long ago finished the last of what he decided to call lionfruit. He came across a few signs of life; wooden cups, broken handcrafted chairs, an empty lighter. Either Ambrosia had come here with a few things, or others had been here at some point. He started thinking about what else would be on this planet. Leona said it would have to be about the size of Earth in order to have the same gravity and temporal durations. Xearea had said something earlier about the mainland. Was it inhabited? Was this just a regular planet with natives, going about their days with no clue that humans were in a few disparate places? What kind of technology did they possess. Were they aware of time travel? Were these thoughts at all useful to him? They did at least protect him from dwelling too much on his hunger, so that was something.
As twilight was nearing its end, he found a short tree with more lionfruit. He grabbed a few and started carrying them in his shirt before continuing on. Shelter was still number one priority. He couldn’t build a fire until he knew where it should go. As he was savoring every moment of one lionfruit, he nearly ran into something. No, it wasn’t something, it was someone. The newcomer had presumably been focusing on the Compass of Disturbance, but it wasn’t The Navigator. No, it was Mateo Matic himself. He had run into his own doppelgänger. The two Matics stared at each other for a few seconds. The true Mateo cleared his throat and wiped some juice from his chin. Navigator Mateo looked back at his compass and walked past without saying a word. Mateo found his breath again, and then moved on as well. Leona’s fourth rule for time travel, avoid alternate versions of yourself. He would try to forget about the encounter as best he could, paranoid that anything short of total obliviousness could result in the collapse of the spacetime continuum.
Just before it was too dark to really see where he was going, he noticed a glint of light. After clearing some reddish-green brush and other debris, he could see that it was coming from the metallic surface of a vehicle. The car was just sitting here on the edge of the woods, possibly from having been left for decades. Rust had formed on the all around, and the engine wouldn’t start, even with the key in the ignition. According to the gauge, there did appear to be gas in the tank, but the battery must have died. Welp, there was no way to charge it here, and it wasn’t like the gas could still be potent after all this time? Could it? No, probably not. It was, however, a good enough shelter. He also found a few supplies in the trunk; a first aid kit, jump starter cables, a blanket, a case of bottled water, and a few miscellaneous items. Someone must have been driving around one day when they accidentally fell into a temporal rift, ending up here. This 1985 Toyota Camry could have been new at the time of arrival, but right now, it was just going to be where Mateo slept.
He built a fire on the beach and sat there for a few minutes before realizing that it was kind of pointless. There was nothing to boil the water in, because what did plastic do when heated again? Heh, science, right? He just drank it plain, and hoped he wouldn’t get sick. Or he could get sick, whatever. Did it really matter at this point in his life? He put the fire out, grabbed the blanket, and crawled into the backseat.
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