Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 5, 2151

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

Real!Mateo, the one that belonged to this reality—even though technically no Mateo belonged here—didn’t have to spend much time with his alternate self in 2150. Arcadia kept Alt!Mateo there really only long enough for them to exchange awkward pleasantries. The most meaningful thing they said to each other was when one mentioned Leona’s Time Traveling Rule Number Four. The other then responded with its verbiage, “avoid alternate versions of yourself.” It was interesting that a different Leona had not only come up with the same list, but in apparently the same order. Later on, Real!Mateo couldn’t remember which one of them had said which, and it caused a massive existential crisis in which he questioned whether he truly was the Real Mateo in any scenario.
He said nothing of this to Leona and Serif, instead wanting only to spend quality time with them before they had to return to Tribulation Island and await their disappearance. The last conversation they had was in the literal eleventh hour. The two women were arguing about whether they were going recite the final words of TV characters who disappeared from The Vampire Diaries, or the one from Teen Wolf. Serif argued that the former made the most sense since there were two of them. Then Leona made a good point that the latter was more relevant to their situation, because the people they left behind wouldn’t remember them. In the end, time was coming at them too fast. In a panic, Leona said dramatically, “Talyn...”
Serif joined in for the rest, and they simultaneously said in mild Australian accents... “Starburst.”

And just like that, nearly a third of their remaining group was ripped from time. Lincoln, Darko, Marcy, and Dar’cy were his only friends left, and though only Mateo could remember the others, they could all feel an emptiness. The remainders could sense the deep sense of loss unlike anything he had expressed with the other disappearances, and were sympathetic. Dar’cy, who was too old to be called little anymore, was particularly difficult to see, though. She was about the same age Leona was when they first met, and looked a little bit like her. Or maybe that was his mind playing tricks on him, seeing resemblance where there was none.
“What do you want to do?” his brother asked patiently.
“I just wanna go to sleep,” Mateo answered.
“Okay. The privacy hut is all ready for you, with a few new amenities.”
“No. I don’t wanna be alone.”
“Okay.”
Late in the morning, Mateo woke up late and then went off to gather firewood. There were plenty of trees in the area, so that was more of an unspoken code that you didn’t want to be disturbed. He started wandering through the jungle, not really thinking about anything. He just forced himself to hyperfocus on every step, and on taking note of every leaf and blade of grass that met his eyes. Before he knew it, he had stumbled upon the Colosseum replica, which had totally held up, even after all this time. Lit—teenage Dar’cy, his niece was in the middle of the grounds, practicing some sort of martials arts by herself.
“How much did you see?” she asked upon realizing he was watching.
They started walking towards each other. “I just came up. Why?”
“My mother would go ape shit if she knew I was doing this.”
“I was to understand she never got angry.”
“You haven’t seen her around my boyfriend.”
“Who’s your...Lincoln?” He was the only man on the island she wasn’t related to.
“What? No. It was a Dardieti boy. The relationship didn’t last long, of course.”
He nodded. “Right. Sorry.” After they started to walk out of the stadium, he restarted the conversation, “so your father’s teaching you the trade?”
“Yeah, in secret.”
“Isn’t martial arts all zen and stuff, like your mother?”
She squinted at the sun, stretching her lips like a smile, but not. “It teaches patience, and discipline. It teaches other things too, though, which mom does not appreciate.”
“Kind of an odd couple, those two, eh?”
Now she did smile. “No, they’re perfect for each other. And also just perfect.”
“Treasure them. They could be gone someday.”
“You mean, like, in a few days.”
“Yes,” he answered solemnly. “I believe they’ll be next. Maybe just him, I don’t have all the answers.”
“And me?”
“I’ve been told that you’re exempt.”
“That’s nice,” she said sarcastically.
“Listen, Dar’cy, I’m glad I ran into you.”
“Okay...”
Mateo took out his mother’s rosary and fidgeted with it. “My mother gave this to me when she left, in the other reality. Besides some clothes that I’m not wearing anymore, and lost track of, it’s the only thing I know of that originates in a different reality.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m not sure how your father’s ability works, but I want you to have this...in case. You may be able to go back there, and it might be safer.”
“Why would I go back there? How could I go there, to a different reality?”
“I don’t know, maybe you can’t, but it’s not a bad escape plan. I’ve just learned that returning to collapsed realities is, in some way, possible. Maybe you could thread it, and do the same.”
“What makes you think I have my father’s time power?”
“You’re a Matic. We all have something. I’ve never met one who doesn’t.”
“You should keep it,” Dar’cy asked.
“Power or not, it’s a gift. I’ve missed every single one of your birthdays, and this is all I have.”
She tightened her grip on the rosary. “Thank you. And you’re right. I do have my father’s powers.”
Before he could react to what Dar’cy had just revealed to him, Mateo was suddenly standing in the middle of a highway bridge. Two cars were behind him, along with most everybody else. Marcy was sitting in one of the cars, while Dar’cy was sitting in another. Lincoln had landed several hundred yards away, and had to make the jog up to them. Darko was nowhere to be seen, nor was anyone else in the world. They could see buildings and parking lots, but no sign of life. It was the middle of the day, someone should be around. Arcadia walked up in a ponytail, wearing a tight and sexy outfit, including very short shorts. “That did not go as planned,” she lamented, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“What happened?”
“You were in a race, and Darko cheated,” Arcadia explained. “While he’s on Tribulation Island, I can stop him from using his powers, but whenever we go anywhere else, he regains access to them. And he used them to rig the competition, which I did not foresee. So here we are, back at it again for a second attempt. Your brother’s been excluded this time around, obviously. Just in case he Bill and Ted’s this shit in the future, everything in this mirror dimension originated here. He has absolutely no way of getting in, and you have no way of getting out until you finish the race.”
“Who are we racing?” Mateo asked.
“Glad you asked.” She snapped her fingers, causing Alt!Mateo to appear next to her.
“Him?” Real!Mateo questions. “I’m racing myself?”
“The ultimate challenge,” she said simply.
“Don’t we both want the same thing?”
“I told you that these expiations would be extremely dangerous,” Arcadia began. “Only one of you can win. The Mateo from this reality will get Serif and Leona back at the end of all this if he wins. If the visiting Mateo wins, however, he gets to stay, and must choose which of the two ladies he’d like to bring back.”
“I don’t really know either of them,” Alt!Mateo said.
“Then your decision shouldn’t matter. What does matter is that this isn’t really about Leona, or Serif. It’s about you two. The loser has to go back to the other reality, at the moment just before Reaver kills you. I only need one of you, and honestly, I don’t care which one anymore.”
“This is sick,” Real!Mateo argued.
“This! Is! Sparta!”
Alt!Mateo rolled his eyes. “Really?”
She laughed. “No, but...this! Is! Delaware! And that! Is! New Jersey!” she shouted, pointing down the bridge. You have to get over this bridge, and then pass under the Broadway Bridge, which is the finish line. Yes, Alt!Mateo, this is a reenactment of your screw up when you killed Alt!Leona. This is not a happy challenge.”
“Why are the other three here?” Real!Mateo asked.
“Incentive,” she answered. “I need to send one of you to the other reality, and I need one to stay here, so if you were thinking about knocking the competition into the wall, think again. I can’t have either of you dying.”
“I would never try that anyway,” Real!Mateo said.
“Nor would I.” Despite him being the competition, Real!Mateo had to remember that his alternate self was still him, and would still share his values. It was easy to think of him as evil, and an intruder, but he wasn’t. He was just as much of a pawn.
“Still, I’d like to be safe,” Arcadia said dismissively. “Real!Mateo, you’ll be driving Dar’cy, because I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t hurt Marcy. Alt!Mateo may need a few extra feels to do the right thing, so I’m betting he’s less likely to hurt his innocent niece.”
“What about me?” Lincoln piped up.
“Oh.” Arcadia looked at him with exaggerated disgust. “You’re still here? You can sit on the bench, like the weakest guy on the Survivor tribe with too many players.”
“You can still back out of this,” Real!Mateo let Arcadia know.
“Thanks for the advice. Get in the goddamn car.”
“I wanna switch,” Dar’cy divulged. “I don’t know the other Mateo, but I know I can’t trust this loser.” She spoke in such an entitled millennial tone; it made him cringe, and almost want to tear up.
“Yikes,” Arcadia said. “Fine by me, I suppose.”
“Dar’cy,” Real!Mateo begged, “what are you doing?”
“Whatever,” Dar’cy spat back, completely unlike her. Though, to be fair, he’d only known her for a couple weeks, and she had just recently grown into her rebellious teen years. Regardless, he couldn’t argue, and neither could her mother. They all stepped into their respective cars and waited for Arcadia to drop the flag.
“Live your life a...two-point-one-six miles at a time. Nailed it.” After a dramatic pause, she lifted her handkerchief into the air, and dropped it onto the pavement.
Tires squealed and smoke billowed. They shot down the road, and since they were both essentially the same person, neither one was able to significantly overtake the other. They were going extremely fast, though. With no turns or obstacles, they didn’t have to worry about downshifting. Just tack up, and let it fly. Again, though, neither had an advantage over the other. It was going to be a tie, except that Dar’cy was rolling down her window, which was creating more drag for Alt!Mateo’s car.
“What are you doing!” he cried.
Ignoring him, Dar’cy signaled for Real!Mateo to drop his window too, which he did. “I wish we coulda had more time together. You woulda been a great uncle!”
“Dar’cy, what’s going on!” he called out to her, battling the wind.
“Thanks for the gift!” she yelled back, letting the rosary hang from her fist so he could see it. “I love it!”
“Dar’cy? What are you doing with that?”
“I love you, mom!” she said finally. “Tell dad the same!”
“Honey! What are you saying?”
“We’re almost there! We can’t risk it! Goodbye!”
They could see her reach up with her other hand and take hold of Alt!Mateo’s shoulder. He was indeed pulling ahead of them, more determined than Real!Mateo to evade his fate.
“Dar’cy! Don’t!”
He couldn’t stop her, though. She closed her eyes, and threaded the rosary back to some point in the past, in the previous reality, taking Alt!Mateo with her. Click here for the next installment...

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