Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 5, 2120

Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

Ambrosios was so freaked out about not being able to kill Mateo, and steal his blood, that he was frozen. This would not necessarily last, however, and he could still be imprisoned, so Mateo knew he would have to run and hide. Unfortunately, Ambrosios could likely walk this island with his eyes closed, he had been here so long. And so Mateo began to run as fast as he could, eventually ending up in the stream, which he ran through so that it would wash away his tracks as he went. This ultimately led him to a lake. He found a secluded area, and buried his belongings in the dirt, except for his rebreather. He was going to use the same tactic he had all the way back in 2038 when he and Leona were trying to get away from their family. That had only been for a few minutes, though. This would have to last him for hours. Was that safe? Even if the rebreather continued to function for that length of time, was it otherwise unhealthy to remain submerged in water for so long? He wasn’t sure, and he couldn’t exactly look it up online.
After the jump to midnight, Mateo decided he had no choice but to get out of the lake. His trail would have gone cold by now, and he couldn’t live there forever. If staying underwater for so long had any health issues, he didn’t experience them. His unbreakable skin was protecting him...at least for now. He was able to feel the cold, though, and the breeze was just excruciating. He built a pyramid fire only a few meters from the bank, and hovered over it, but then he he couldn’t help but succumb to sleep. The fire was still burning when he woke up. He boiled some of the lake water, and picked a few nearby berries. As he was eating, he tried working through a solution. The car. Ambrosios said that he turned off the battery, which must have been why it didn’t start. How exactly did he turn it off, though? Maybe he just meant that he separated the contacts. Okay, so that was one part of the solution to his problem...possibly, but it wasn’t the only. He first needed to get to the car, and that was dangerous. Though, to be fair, Ambrosios could be anywhere. He wasn’t any safer here than he was running off. He put the fire out, grabbed his stuff, and left.
He hiked the woods for a few hours, randomly picking fruit to munch on. Man, was he starving. With every bite he took, he felt even hungrier. He wasn’t feeling weak, but he needed to constantly find something else to put in his stomach. Something was terribly wrong, and getting to his destination was no more vital than it was now. He couldn’t remember exactly where the car had been, but he knew it was on the southern beach, so he just walked that direction, and hoped he eventually found it. He did, but that was not all he found. Ambrosios was waiting for him. He had the car hood raised, and was pointing a gun towards the battery. All Mateo could think about was how much he needed more food.
“I can’t hurt you,” Ambrosios said, “but I can stop you from leaving.”
“How would that help you?” Mateo dropped his bag and crossed his arms.
“At some point, the Invulnerability water is going to wear off, and then I’ll take your blood.”
“And how long with that be?”
“Three weeks. Each type of water stays in your system for its own period of time. Your skin cells are replaced about every three weeks.”
“Ambrosios, I’m a salmon. Three weeks for me is twenty-one years for you.”
“I can wait. I’ll live that long. It won’t be easy, but I’ll still be around.” He held up one of his water bottles. “I’ll ration my Youth water.”
“What do you want with my blood anyway?”
“I received a sentence here, not a complete abandonment. They wanted me to be stuck for thousands of years, just in case my immortality took longer to wear off than they thought. But they attached this sentence to the island, rather than me. Which means my time runs out in the year 4600. Of course, that’s far too long for me to survive, but if I only live once a year, that’s only a few more years. Then I can drink all the Youth I want, and move on with my life. I’ll have missed a lot, but at least I won’t be dead.”
“If you had asked, I would have just given you my blood.”
“No, that wouldn’t have worked. Just a few drops isn’t enough. I need all of it. I need to drain you.”
“I’m not going to let myself die so that you may live. You’ve been around for...however long. Your time is done, so just get over it, and stop whining. Everybody dies.”
“You could never understand. If you knew what it felt like to not be afraid of anything, you wouldn’t be able to go back either.”
“If you destroy that vehicle, how are you going to leave the island once your time runs out? Even if you don’t, what kind of shape will it be in? You can’t just switch on a millennia-old car, and expect it to run. The parts, the gas, it will all be worthless.”
“Well, I had it preserved in a special bubble, which you broke when you opened it...but I can create another one. For it, almost no time will have passed.”
“Still, you can’t shoot it. You need it more than me.”
“How do you figure?”
“I have something you don’t,” Mateo told him. “I have friends. Someone will come for me. Hell, even Arcadia will probably eventually just pull me out. You think you can wait? I can wait.”
An angry Ambrosios put his water bottle away, and retrieved something else from his bag. They were the same berries Mateo had eaten by the lake. “Hungerberries. They trick your brain into thinking the body is starving. It eventually commands your body to die. I’ll force feed them to you.”
Mateo laughed. “That’s no threat. I’ve already eaten a ton of those.”
Ambrosios lowered the gun and relaxed. “Then I guess my work here is done. When you die, your skin cells will die off too, and I can take your blood. Deadman’s blood isn’t exactly the most potent, but it’ll do, pig.”
Mateo really needed to get something to eat, because now he was hallucinating. He thought he could see an old woman creeping up from behind Ambrosios, but that couldn’t be, they were alone there. He even thought he saw her literally stab him in the back, and whisper something in his ear. Then his hunger overwhelmed him, and everything went black.

He opened his eyes to see firelight dancing on a rock wall, making it look like the cave drawings were animated. A woman sat on the edge of his cot, and drank something out of her mug. “How are you feeling?”
“Full.”
She giggled. “Good, so you’re cured.”
Mateo struggled to sit up and lean against the wall. “Who are you? How did you get here?”
It looked like she didn’t exactly want to talk about it. “I angered someone very powerful many years ago. She put me here to redeem myself by surviving these...expiations, she called them. I failed. My whole family is gone.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Mateo said to her.
“They’re not dead, mind you. They were just...”
“Torn out of time, yes. I know. It’s happening to me right now.”
“It is?” She was surprised. “How many do you have left?”
“Eleven.”
“My God, how big is your family?”
“Family and friends.”
“I see. What did you do to her?”
“She holds me responsible for her brother and sister’s deaths.”
“Oh, wow. What I did wasn’t that bad.”
Mateo chose to not ask her to get into the subject.
She stood up and placed her mug inside of a basin that was carved out of the natural cave structure, like it was just any normal kitchen sink. “Well, Ambrosios is dead. You can take his car...” she paused to lift up Ambrosios’ bag, “and his precious water.”
Mateo stood and approached her. “We can both take it. We can both leave now.”
She sported a small smile. “I can’t leave now. Arcadia said that she may one day return my family to me, if I’m patient enough.”
“Are you sure? I feel like I should do something to help.”
“You’ve helped. You gave me the opportunity, and the courage, to take this island back. I kept him alive in case he ever got over his grudge and started talking to me again, but that was never going to happen. And I think Arcadia wants me to be alone.”
“He held a grudge against you too?”
“I rejected his advances. We were the only two people on this planet, he thought I was owed to him.”
“I’m sorry.”
“On behalf of all men?” She smiled wider. “That’s okay.” She wrapped some of the hungerberries in a piece of cloth, and tied it off. “Here. These might come in handy for you someday.”
He took them, as morbid as it was. “Thank you.”
“You better go.”
“Yeah.” He left the cave and ran for the car. If he didn’t make it back to Tribulation Island by midnight, he would end up in the middle of the ocean.
He did his best to ignore Ambrosios’ body, and looked under the hood of the little Camry. When he said that he turned the battery off, he meant it. Someone had installed an actual switch. When in the Off position, no power was coming from the battery to the rest of the car. He had heard of something like that, but it was only ever needed when there was some kind of short somewhere that the mechanic couldn’t find. Yes, the car started after only one failed attempt, but how many other problems did it have? Was the engine going to fall out after one small bump? It didn’t matter, he had to try. He had to rock it back and forth to get it out of the mud, then he drove it down the beach, and headed for the driving course.
He topped off the gas at the little station, letting some of it drip down the side of the car, just to make sure it was as full as it could possibly be. Going at about fifty-five miles an hour was the most fuel-efficient for any standard car. It would take longer, but he needed to make it, and this was the only way. It wasn’t enough. After summoning the magical exit by driving the beltway a few times, like Xearea had before, he went on his way. Hours later, the gas ran out. It just didn’t hold as much as the ones he and Xearea had driven here could. He didn’t know how far he had gone, or how far he would have to go before reaching Tribulation Island, so he just got out and started jogging. It was grueling, but he did not stop. He could not stop. He couldn’t die without seeing Leona one more time. At the stroke of midnight, he still could not see land. The ocean highway disappeared from under him—or rather, it disappeared a year ago, soon after he had, and was just no longer there in 2121—once again sending him falling towards his death. Click here for the next installment...

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