Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 21, 2014 & March 22, 2015

Mateo Matic walked downstairs to find the living room packed full of people. Just about everyone he was still in contact with was there for his birthday, and a few old faces. It was completely ridiculous, and he loved it. His family and friends were the most important thing to him, and only one of them was missing. When he was only seven years old, his birth mother disappeared with no trace. She had never been the one to raise him, but she had been part of the family the entire time. His adoptive parents maintained a healthy relationship with her, and she was able to see him whenever she wanted. It was unclear where she had gone, or why she hadn't told him, at the very least. There was no evidence of foul play. There was evidence of nothing. The Gelens had been good to him, though, and he was grateful for his life. Except for the one thing, he couldn't imagine anything changing. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
The party was spectacular, but it was lasting a little too long. He was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. The guests started filing out at around five o'clock so that he could have a quiet dinner with his parents. They ate a delicious and healthy salmon meal and exchanged gifts. For most families, gifts were given to only the one in celebration, but his was different. For all three birthdays, each of them would find something to give the other two. They weren't the richest people in the world, but they felt they had everything they needed. The gifts were usually small and thoughtful. He made his adoptive mother, Carol a necklace out of seashells, a callback to a similar one he had given her twenty years before. He bought his father, Randall a new pack of razors. They had a nice laugh about that one. Carol had gotten him the same thing. He playfully threw up his arms and conceded. He would finally clean himself back up. Ever since his retirement, he had let loose, but was willing to go back on that one thing.
Randall gave his wife a self-help book about how to make decisions that she had been trying to decide if she wanted. After those were done, Randall made an announcement. In lieu of a traditional gift, the two of them had decided for set up a bank account for him. It was a long-term investment, designed to help support his future children. All that money stuff went over his head, but he was speechless. He gave them both a big hug. “This is the best birthday ever. Ya know...except for my seventh.” They smiled and nodded.
“Okay,” Carol said. I know we decided the account was our only gift, but I couldn't help it.”
“Carol, what did you do?” Randall asked, but it was obvious he knew what second gift she had chosen.
She pulled a metal rosary bracelet out of her pocket. The beads were in the shape of shells. At the bottom was an oval; one side of which showed an image of the Virgin Mary, while the other had an image of Jesus. An eleventh bead connected that to a depiction of the crucifixion. “This was your birth mother’s. You know, she was far more religious that we are. She was always leaving trinkets at our house, subtly trying to get us to go to church more often. This was the last one before she went missing. I don't know why I didn't give it to you right away. I suppose I just wanted my own reminder of her. But it’s time that you have it. You are my reminder of her.”
That was the last time Carol Gelen would see her son for an entire year. After dinner, Mateo left the house to hang out with his old friends. When they were underaged, they would gather at a graveyard on the edge of town, and drink. They wouldn't ever get too rambunctious, but it was just nice to be away from the adults; away from judgment. They had grown up and grown out of it by now, but they went back to reminisce.
He was enjoying a beer with a lime stuck in it when a friend from college slithered up to him and snatched the bottle out of his hand. “It’s almost midnight.”
“So, I'm not allowed to drink anymore?” Mateo asked.
“Nope. The birthday boy is designated driver on the day after his birthday.”
Mateo took his beer back. “Your jokes aren't even funny, because they have absolutely no basis. I swear, man. You need to stick to data entry.”
“I'm a lawy—”

Mateo didn't hear his friend’s last statement. For no reason, his beer shattered into a hundred pieces. “What the hell?” He looked around. He was alone. There were a dozen other people with him a second ago, but they were all gone. “Hello?” No one answered. “As far as pranks go, this was pretty impressive. I haven't had that much to drink. How did you disappear so quickly?”
“Hello” came a voice from behind. Mateo turned around and found himself blinded by a flashlight. “Is that you, Mateo?” It was Mr. Halifax, the gravedigger. He had been letting them use the cemetery since the beginning as long as no one got hurt, everyone got home safe, and they kept the grounds clean.
“Yeah, do you know where everyone went?”
He released a disappointed sigh. “Come on. I'll drive you home. Your parents will want to know you’ve come back.”
They didn't talk on the way back. Mateo tried to ask what the problem was, but Halifax just kept saying that it wasn't his place, and he wasn't no psychologist. Carol gave him a big hug and broke down crying when they opened the door. Randall was behind her, crying as well. After some time, he was able to get answers out of them. He had been gone for exactly one year. He had disappeared without a trace, just like his mother before him.
“It’s happened before that too,” Randall started to explain hours later, after everything had calmed down a little. “Your family have been keeping diaries, claiming that an ancestor of theirs was from the past, and had been travelling forward in time, meeting and interacting with them long after he should have died. During one of these times, he apparently fathered a child, starting a family that was always paranoid about it happening to them as well.”
“But it never did,” Carol continued. “Not until your mother. Of course, even after her disappearance, we didn't believe the outrageous rumors that time travel had anything to do with it. But if you say you were in the cemetery in 2014, and suddenly you're here, I don't know what to believe. Maybe it’s all true.”
“But I came back,” Mateo complained. “If I’m here, where is my mom?”
Randall shook his head. “We don't know, son. I promise you, though, we are going to figure this out. We are not going to lose you again.”
But they did lose him again. At the strike of midnight that night, Mateo disappeared for the second time. It was March 23rd, 2016.

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