Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 24, 2139

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Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

“Leona,” Mateo said, “this is Serif.”
“Oh?” she asked, like a mother to a child who’s just brought home that new friend she can tell will be a bad influence.
“Leona,” he repeated, “you met Serif years ago.”
“I did?” she seriously couldn’t remember. “I don’t recall that. Like...at all. Is she part of this...corrupted reality?”
“Well, yeah,” Serif said, “but I’ve been here for longer than that.”
“How long?”
“Since,” Mateo began, trying to remember exactly. He looked to Serif for help.
“2039,” Serif remembered.
“Right,” Mateo said.
“April 15, 2039; I was one of Ulinthra’s guests at the same time you were. In the timeline before Boyce killed Hitler.”
“Of course,” Leona sarcastically agreed.
Mateo sighed. “Oh my God. I’ve been spending this whole time trying to convince people of other people they used to know and love. It was difficult, because Arcadia had removed them from time. But here Serif is standing right in front of you, and you have no clue. Either Arcadia is losing her touch, or it’s just another wrinkle.”
“Well, if we failed to complete Nestor’s expiation, maybe this is part of our consequences,” Serif proposed.
“Not really fair,” Mateo said. “She never said there would be additional ramifications.”
Leona was not super happy about them talking to each other like they were old pals, but that was exactly what they were. Not long after this whole thing got started, Ulinthra had the two of them escorted to her secret base somewhere in East Bumblefork. There they met Serif, another salmon on their exact same pattern. She had been traveling with them ever since. That Leona could forget all of that was just adding salt to an already painful, wide open wound.
While Mateo and Serif were trying to talk things out, Leona was turning her head between them like a tennis match spectator, working the problem in her head. “What of hers am I wearing?”
“What?” Mateo didn’t understand.
She started pointing to her clothes. “I’ve got Lincoln’s belt, and Aura’s engagement ring. What did Serif give me so that I wouldn’t forget her when Arcadia tears her from time? If she’s really always been here, then I should have something.”
They frowned at the sad puppy. “Your ear.”
“What?” She felt her ears with her fingers, finding an earring on one that Serif’s great great grandmother had passed down through the generations. Paige had been given the other.
“I don’t remember this at all.” Her world had been turned upside down.
“It’s okay, love,” Mateo tried to comfort her.
“How could I forget? I am spawn. If she’s here, and I supposedly have her totem on my ears, why can I not remember?”
“Maybe it’s not working,” Mateo suggested, “or Arcadia found a way to alter that.”
“The totems were meant to have sentimental value. Maybe my connection to Leona just...isn’t strong enough?”
“That can’t be true,” Mateo said dismissively. It couldn’t be. “You love each other.”
“We do?” Leona asked.
“Oh yeah, it’s, uh...”
Leona was being impatient. “Mateo.”
“Well...”
“Mateo, are we polyamorous?”
Serif took the reigns. “We are, yes. At least...we were. I guess we won’t be needing the privacy hut tonight.”
“No, probably not,” Mateo agreed. “But we do need sleep. Obviously we’re all tired. Now, I’m not saying you’ll suddenly get your memories back overnight, but we should rest and deal with it in the morning. We shouldn’t try to argue with Arcadia after the day we had.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Serif said.

In the middle of an awkward breakfast wherein they discovered that none of the other island dwellers could remember Serif either, Arcadia teleported in.
“I hear you’re having some trouble,” she said, impersonating a repairman.
“I’m the only one who can remember Serif,” Mateo complained.
“Uhuh,” was all Arcadia said.
“Did you make a mistake?” Serif asked. “Did you take their memories, but forget to actually take me?
She was reluctant to answer, so she avoided it. Instead, she pointed to three of them. “You, you, and you. Come with me right now.”
“Why is Lincoln going with them? Mario asked.
“And why am I not?” Leona questioned.
Arcadia drew closer to Leona. “This is one of those times when what I say is law, and you questioning that can hurt you real bad. Stay here until I tell you otherwise.”
Leona was not afraid. “Okay.”
Mateo, Serif, Lincoln, and Arcadia all stood in a circle just inside of the treeline. The first three waited for the fourth to say something. They could still see the rest of the group eying them from the fire pit.
Finally, Arcadia spoke, “Lincoln, did you have something to do with this?”
“What?” he asked defensively. “No. Why? How?”
“Where is your art project?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said with feeble shrug.
Arcadia pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. “I know what you were doing with that thing. I didn’t put a stop to it, because I was totally all right with it. Kivi’s disappearance from history was not part of my plan, and I was rooting for you, Lincoln, but it looks like you screwed up.
Lincoln looked Serif over head to toe.
“Yeah, she does look a little like her,” Arcadia said, overexaggerating a head nod. “But not quite enough, huh?”
“Well, I was working from memory. I’m not The Artist, ya know. I was hoping to contact him so he could cut the detail for me.”
“Can someone tell me what’s happening?” Mateo implored them. “What does Kivi have to do with all this?”
“When you went back to the Hitler Tribulation, you altered the timeline. Slightly. That expiation both created Angelita...and destroyed Kivi. Mister Rutherford here was trying to remedy the situation.”
“Lincoln?” Mateo asked simply.
“It was meant to be a gift. When she was ready. When I was...done. I was gonna call The Artist to bring the statue to life, so you could have your daughter back.”
Mateo looked to Arcadia. “Is this possible?”
“It’s what he does,” Arcadia confirmed, “our father.”
“He’s your father?” Serif asked.
“He’s our creator,” she corrected. “He can create entire people; souls, minds, even memories. At one time, he and the Curator had a whole crew of people managing the timeline on a metaphysical level. Then they all left. But those jobs still needed doing. Unfortunately, it was literally impossible to recruit anyone else, so Athanaric Fury took his tools, and built me and my siblings out of clay. Then he gave us life, along with the powers we would need to act as a skeleton crew for The Gallery. Then we were thrown out of The Gallery as well, including Fury. He built the body that my brother, Zeferino ended up stealing. That’s why he had so many different powers, because it was Fury’s last attempt at protecting the timeline from people—well, from people like my brother. And my sister. And me.”
Serif was uncomfortable and worried. “Are you saying that Lincoln failed to make a good enough Kivi...and they ended up with me?”
“Sorry, kid. I know that’s not something anyone wants to hear.”
“So I’m not real.”
“Of course you’re real.” Arcadia was confused. “How do you think Leona has your earring? You had a real effect on history, I’m impressed.”
“I wasn’t born, though. I was just...made. Do I even have a brain, or a heart, or skin? Is this skin?” She started pulling at the skin of her own arm.”
“Serif, stop it!” Mateo yelled.
“Why? I’m not a person. Just a big block of...rock! I don’t know what he used, what did you use? Marble? Granite? What species am I?”
“You’re the same species as Kivi was,” Arcadia answered calmly.
“What?”
“Lincoln knew that Fury could give life to the Kivi statue, because he had done it before. I don’t know why, but I kind of think she was supposed to be a gift for you, even then. Lincoln remembers that, so he was trying to repeat it.”
“I don’t know The Artist’s original intentions,” Lincoln added, “but she didn’t have a past either. She was about a month old when you two first met.”
“Well,” Arcadia said. “The first time you met her.”
“What does that mean?”
“Oh yeah, you ran into her on this island. She didn’t know why she was there, so you took her to the Archivist, who reset the timeline far back enough to delete her. I guess she had shown up too early? I dunno, that’s not really my responsibility anymore.”
“Can we get back to me, please?” Serif asked. “What’s going to happen? Are you going to erase me?”
“Do you want me to erase you?”
“Of course not.”
She shrugged. “I don’t really think I need to. I wouldn’t tell the others what you are, though, if you plan on staying. They’re already gonna have a hard enough time accepting you as it is.”
“What can we tell them?” Lincoln wondered.
“Whatever you were gonna tell them before I came here. You have memories of her, right?” she asked Mateo. “And you have your own memories?” she rhetorically asked Serif. “So just go from there. You can say that someone else messed with the timeline, or you can just blame me. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. I just need to know, Lincoln, how you contacted Fury.”
“I didn’t,” Lincoln replied with an honest tone. “I was going to, sure. But I hadn’t made it that far. Like we said, she doesn’t look quite close enough to Kivi.”
“Well, how were you planning to get in touch with him? You don’t have what you need here on Tribulation Island.”
Lincoln just stared at her with his hands in his pockets.
“Oh my God, you were gonna go Bill and Ted on me?”
“What is that?” Mateo asked. They were asking a lot of questions today.
“Retroactive preparation. It’s when you plan to go back in time and do something you can’t do right now. It creates an ontological paradox, which is dangerous as shit.”
“Not if you frame it right, which is something I know how to do,” Lincoln argued.
“Obviously not, or we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
He shook his head. “No, something else is going on here. Maybe I could one day screw this up, but the Artist wouldn’t. There must be a reason. Serif is supposed to exist,” he said before repeating himself directly to her. “Serif, you’re supposed to exist.”
“That’s comforting,” Serif lied.
“Well, no one has been taken out of time today,” Lincoln changed the subject. “Unless you’ve found a way to erase my memories too.”
“No. I was planning on letting you grieve for your loss yesterday. Every single player needed to cross the threshold, Mateo, not just you. I can’t bring Nestor back.”
“We figured,” Mateo said sadly. Through all this drama, they didn’t give themselves the time to be disappointed in themselves for having failed one of the expiations.
“If it’s any consolation, he was a screw up in his own right,” she explained. “His family kept loving him, despite his many mistakes; no one more than his sister, but he never felt like he deserved their forgiveness.”
Mateo nodded. “I can relate.”
Arcadia turned her head like she had heard her name being called. “Oh, I don’t want to be here for this. But good luck.”
“Good luck with what?” What was going on?
“Not even I can stop them from taking you, and I’ve learned not to piss them off.” She disappeared.
“Lincoln, do you have any idea what she’s talking about?” Mateo asked.
“I think maybe that,” Serif said, pointing towards the jungle.
They turned their heads to find a door sticking out of the ground, completely out of place.
“What the hell is that?”
Vearden Haywood opened it from the other side. “Come with me if you want to live,” he said in a thick fake accent. “Nah, I’m just playin’.” After another pause, he added, “but I am gonna need your clothes.” Click here for the next installment...

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