Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 10, 2125

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Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

Mateo jolted and fell out of bed upon the sound of screaming. He tried to stand up, but his legs were so weak that he just ended up doing the wobbly...wobbly walk. Someone screamed again, and he screamed back, as if in reply to them, but really he just wasn’t in complete control of his own actions. He struggled to pull his shirt on, but knew that it would take him about a year to get his pants on, so he skipped it. He ran out of their little privacy hut. His intuition grabbed the first aid kit, entirely without his knowledge. As he passed through the doorway, something pulled him to his left. It was like he passed through some kind of charged force field. It didn’t hurt, but it certainly wasn’t normal. It reminded him of the air on the other island when he woke up after having slept in the Camry.
He ran down the beach to see a commotion. Leona was on her knees, hovered over someone on the sand. Even from fifty yards away, Mateo could see the distinctive color of blood. Angelita was off to the side, holding what appeared to be a baby. Everyone else was standing in a line off to the other side, acting like they weren’t capable of getting any closer than they were. “What seems to be the officer, problem?” Mateo asked. He knew that was wrong, but couldn’t help it. Never in his life had he drunk enough alcohol to mess up his sentences that much, but this must have been what it felt like. All that time doping to stay awake for three days straight had taken a huge toll on his body, and his mind. He need to snap himself out of it.
“Mateo!” Leona cried. “How did you cross the merge border? Oh my God, you have the med kit. Bring it here!”
Mateo kept wobble-jogging towards them, eventually dropping the kit at Vearden’s bloody head. He then kept going all the way towards the ocean. Something was seriously wrong with his head, because it looked like there were two oceans to choose from. He tried to head for the ocean on the right, but some invisible barrier was preventing him from doing so. He just slid along the wall until reaching the water. Once he was far enough into it, he fell forwards, letting the salt burn his eyes and tickle his skin. He let the rest of his breath out through another scream. Once that was done, he popped back out of the water and stood up. Wow, that actually worked. After a few seconds of dizziness, he was back in control of his movements. He still felt awful, but he knew that he could at least power through the next hour, which was more than enough to figure out what the hell was going on.
He walked back up the beach and dropped to his knees across from Leona, on the other side of Vearden. “What happened?”
Leona was desperately treating Vearden’s many wounds with nothing more than strands of her shirt. It would seem that every one of his body parts was injured in some way. Blood was spilling out of “multiple lacerations”, as they would say in a medical drama on television. “There’s some animal on this new island, very aggressive. We’ve been avoiding it, but Vearden got too close when he was looking for berries, and it attacked.”
Humor intact, Vearden laughed up a little blood and said, “I’m just glad I did it on a day that you’re here. Had this happened yesterday, I would have been screwed.”
Mateo took some dressing out of the kit and started working on Vearden’s leg. “Why isn’t anyone else helping?”
“They can’t,” Lita explained, holding what Mateo could now see was def a baby. Hers, presumably. “We’re on the other side of a merge border. Arcadia is preventing anyone else from crossing. We’re also lucky that she let you through.”
Mateo let his muscle memory keep wrapping the wound while he looked around. He could now see that the merge border was real, and that there really were two oceans, only one of which he had access to. The privacy hut was just on the original side, its side placed right up against it. Arcadia probably designed it that way so that Mateo would easily and quickly be able to cross over once he woke up.
They continued to treat him as they were able, but this wasn’t exactly a full medical bag, and they weren’t exactly medical professionals. They exhausted the majority of their resources, and could now do nothing but wait and hope. Vearden seemed to be okay for now. He was sleeping, complete with breath and a pulse. Lita kept an eye on him so that Mateo and Leona could wash up in the ocean.
“I’m sorry I’ve been asleep all this time. How long has it been?”
“It’s 2125,” Leona explained. “I’ve missed you. How was the Xearea expiation for you?”
“Rough.”
“I see that. It wasn’t nearly as difficult for me; Memphis let me take naps. This was over the three days-slash-years before you, what were you doing all that time?”
Mateo told her the story of how he and Xearea drove over to the other island. He spoke of the supposed first immortal, who was bitter, and angry, and desperate for more immortality. He talked about how he accidentally drank some of that immortality water, and how there was a woman there who had already done Arcadia’s expiations before, and lost. “Who knows how many people could be out there, experiencing the same thing we are? She could be doing this all over the planet, or all over the universe!”
“Maybe, but we can’t think about that. Right now, we have three problems. Number one is Vearden’s health. Number two is the fact that we can’t cross back over to our friends and family. Number three, Lita practically has to raise her baby literally alone. Vearden helped during my interim year, but now he’s out of commission, and needs care himself.”
“We’ve done everything we can, especially you.”
“There’s something else,” Leona said, looking back to make sure no one was listening, like they were in a secret alliance on Survivor. “We are not on a different island.”
“We’re not?”
“No. I can’t tell you how long it’s been, but we are either in the past, or the future. I’m thinking past, because there is no evidence of the structures we built, but maybe there wouldn’t be. Some landmarks still exist, but others are different. Mateo, we could be separated from them by thousands, perhaps millions, of years. The gravity is the same, so we’re at least on the same planet.”
Mateo looked back as well. “And we don’t want to tell anyone else?”
She looked back again. They must have looked suspicious to everyone else, but they were probably assuming that Leona and Mateo knew something bad about Vearden’s condition. “Arcadia didn’t tell us, so I’m assuming it’s a problem. I don’t know when we’ll be able to cross back over, if ever. We may be stuck here until the end of the expiations...ya know, to really make this difficult for us?”
“Leona, I think they have a right to be worried about the same thing you are.”
“I dunno. This has already been hard enough on them, especially for Mario. I heard that most of the time, he sleeps against the barrier so he’s as closer to her as possible.” She pointed to a tiny structure on their side of the merge border, and near the treeline. “Vearden, Lita, and the baby sleep in there. The ground isn’t stable, so that’s as close as he could build it. Mario’s almost to the point of tearing his hair out.”
Knowing that made Mateo realize just what the alternate version of his father had missed out on. As a salmon, he had no control over his time travel, and was completely beholden to the desires of the mysterious powers that be. For some people, not being able to raise their child wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it obviously was for Mario. He had never let on how much pain this caused him, but now Mateo was seeing his true colors. He was a father, and no one had the right to take that from him.
“Could you imagine not being able to hold your own child in your arms, even with her being only millimeters away?”
“No.”
“We better get back. It doesn’t take this long to wash blood off of your hands.”
“Yeah.”
They walked back up, and checked on Vearden. He hadn’t gotten better in the last few minutes, but he at least hadn’t gotten worse either.
“Family meeting,” Lita announced.
They all sat in a semi-circle, three on one side of the merge border, six on the other. Vearden still lied in the middle. They had clearly done this many times before, perhaps every day.
“I’ll start,” Mario said. “Today has been a struggle. Things should be better. With Leona and Mateo back, Lita has even more people to take care of her, but with Vearden hurt—it just seems like the universe is against us. We just can’t catch a break. Lita and Brooke feel further away than they’ve ever been. I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever truly meet my child.”
“Thank you, Mario,” Aura said.
“Thank you, Mario,” everyone else said in unison, including Leona. It was like a twelve-step program, except that this wasn’t anyone’s fault. Except for Mateo. It was all his fault.
They continued to go around the circle, airing their grievances to each other. Some spoke more, some less. Mateo had nothing to say. He couldn’t. All he felt was guilt, and he didn’t want to talk about it.
“Mateo?” Mario asked. “How did you cross the merge border?”
“I don’t know, I just did. I had no idea it was even there. I just ran out and something forced me to my left. I guess I just figured it was my own imbalance. I was pretty out of it. My Xearea expiation depleted all my energy.
Mario looked up at the privacy hut. “It’s right in the middle. The border cuts through. Why the hell did I not think to try that before? I’ve been sleeping on the sand this whole time, but that’s our way in!” He jumped up and headed for the hut.
“Mario, I don’t know if this will work,” Aura tried to reason with him.
“So I don’t try?” Mario asked rhetorically.
“No, of course you try, but I don’t think this woman wants you on the other side. You need to be prepared—”
He interrupted her, “prepared for what! To never see hold my daughter? To never comfort her when she has an ear infection? To never swing her in the air like a helicopter? To never hold her arms up as she tries to walk? I’m not going to stay on this island doing nothing! I have to fight!” He continued towards the hut. Everyone followed, except for Leona who had to stay with Vearden.
Mario ran inside alone and started banging on the walls. “Why didn’t we build more windows on this thing?” he screamed. He then marched back out of the hut, still on the original side, mumbling, cursing, and yelling. He ran over to the main camp and retrieved a hammer, the only tool relevant to this situation. He ran back into the hut and started banging on, and tearing at the walls, again. Lita begged him to stop amidst little Brooke’s cries of fear, but Mario would have none of it. He continued swinging the hammer as hard as he could. It took a very long time, because that wasn’t exactly the best tool for the job, but he did finally break through. He reached through and tore a few more planks out so that he could fit half his body through. As he did so, his head banged against the merge barrier. It wasn’t perfectly straight. Arcadia had built it to turn and move around the hut. Mario grabbed the hammer again and tried to break through the barrier, but it was impossible. They had certainly tried that months ago. There was no way in.
“Mario, please stop, just stop,” Lita pleaded with him. “It’s not going to work. She doesn’t want you over here.”
He finally did stop, dropping the hammer to the ground, and pulling himself back into the hut. They could see him pacing around the room, trying to catch his breath, and still mumbling a little.
“It’ll be okay,” Lita went on. “We will find a way back to each other. I’m not giving up, but I won’t let you act this way around our child.”
Mario bit his lip and nodded in agreement, seemingly prepared to calm down. But he wasn’t. He flew into a rage. Through the hole, Mateo and Lita could see him zig and zag around the hut, slamming himself, and other objects, against the walls. By the time he was done, the structure was completely destroyed, like a tornado had come through. He then walked into the woods, and Mateo didn’t see him for the rest of the day. Click here for the next installment...

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