Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 26, 2019

Mateo gently removed his face from Leona’s. She gave him her best evil smile. Then she turned around and grabbed an infant from Carol’s arms. “Mateo Matic, say hello to your son, Theo.”
“I’m kidding,” she laughed. “He’s my baby brother. Half-brother.”
Carol pursed her lips. “Wasn’t funny when you told us you were going to do that joke, and it isn’t funny now that you’ve actually done it.”
Leona handed Theo to Mateo. “Funny from this side. How was your trip, honey?”
“Instant,” Mateo replied. “Theo does sound like he’s named after me.” He lifted the baby’s hand with his finger and shook it politely. “Little odd.”
She took Theo back. “It’s a family name. Er...well, not really. But my dad says he was incapable of naming him anything else; like it was already his name, and we were just discovering that fact.”
Everyone went to bed. Leona’s father and stepmother were on a vacation, so Carol and Randall were taking care of little Theo. He was technically Leona’s responsibility but she, of course, had classes to worry about. They were more than willing to pick up the slack, having felt a deficit since the onset of Mateo’s condition. Frida’s father passed not long after Mateo’s last departure. He lived long enough to see Frida’s engagement to her now-husband, but not long enough to be there for the wedding. Kyle was better than ever, and had all but moved on with his life. He was back to being a lawyer, and was rumored to be a far more genuine one than before.
Upon waking, Mateo snuck out of the house again. He needed some alone time. It was selfish of him, but he had just spent the last several days dealing with all this. It was true that he would be completely alone in only a few weeks when everyone would be dead, but he couldn’t help it. He and his friends liked to hang out at the large cemetery on the edge of town, but there was a smaller one in the middle of nowhere that only he knew of. That was his secret hiding place. There, he could find some of the oldest graves he had ever seen. There were those who had died in the early 19th century. It was peaceful and calm, and not just metaphorically. It was literally calm. Something about the formation of the trees, or maybe by divine choice, made the air milder than just outside of its borders. When it was cold outside, the secret cemetery would be warmer, and during the summer heat, it would be cooler.
He leaned up against a headstone and began to pray with his birth mother’s rosary. “Sorry to disturb you,” came a voice from the side. He opened his eyes and saw a middle-aged woman dressed in two coats. It was much too warm for that. She took the first one off and stuffed it in a bag. “Could you tell me where I am?” She removed a bottle of water from her bag and took a long drink from it.
“I don’t think there’s a name for this graveyard,” Mateo answered.
“No, I mean...I mean the city,” she clarified.
That was an odd question, but she was dressed in more layers than necessary. She must have been a nomad. “We’re a few miles Southwest of Sherwood Lake. In Topeka, Kansas.”
“Oh, wow,” she said. “That’s not far from home.”
“Where do you live?”
“Kansas City. I don’t suppose you were driving that way.”
“I wasn’t.” She was deeply saddened, clearly having been far from home for a long time. He had selfishly left his family at home and come to cemetery to pray. This was a sign. It was a very Catholic sign. She needed help, and he was the only one around. The chances that she would be here at this special place during the one day of the year that he was in the timestream were too low. She needed to get to Kansas City, so he was going to take her there. “But I am now.”
They stepped into the truck and headed out. She introduced herself as Daria. When he introduced himself with his full name, she laughed. “Are you joking?”
“No, why?”
“That’s my name too,” she claimed. “I’m Daria Matic.”
“Ah, well. It’s my birth father’s name. I never met him.”
She sat in silence for a good long while. At a glance, it looked like she was working something out in her head. “His first name wouldn’t happen to be Mario, would it?”
He freaked out, and his first instinct was to stop the car. But he remained calm, and kept driving. There were very few things that Mateo knew about his father. One was his first name, one was his last name, and the other was that he hated pickles. That’s all his birth mother had ever said. In fact, the third one had slipped out in the middle of dinner once, and she treated it like a matter of national security; like she had just committed treason. He tried looking for him, only for intellectual reasons, but he could find no trail. Mario Matic was a ghost. “Oh, my God. Are we related?”
“Looks like it. Are you a traveler?” she asked. She emphasized the word in a way that made it seem like she wasn’t just talking about a person who goes to other places. Traveler was a category. It was a species.
This time, he did stop the car. “On my 28th birthday, I traveled forward in time exactly one year. I get one day every year, and then I’m forced to move on. My girlfriend...I mean, my friend calls it a timeslip.”
“Oh, interesting,” Daria said thoughtfully.
“Do you do that too?” he asked, not sure what answer he was looking for.
“I’ve never heard of any time travel. I’m a teleporter. Like you, I can’t control it. But there doesn’t appear to be a pattern. When I start having dry mouth, I have a few minutes to gather my things, and then I’m gone.”
“I don’t get dry mouth. I get really tired before it happens, but it’s always at midnight anyway, so I don’t know if that’s part of it.”
“Yeah, I call that my indicator. Speaking of which, I’m really thirsty.”
“Well, we can stop somewhere. Oh...” He realized what she meant. She was about to leave again. “We’re not done with our conversation!”
She rummaged through her bag to make sure she had everything she needed. “I am certain that we will see each other again. These journeys are controlled by someone, and they know we didn’t have enough time. That was surely done on purpose. But I have to get out of here. If someone is too close to me, I risk bringing them along. It’s not uncommon for me to end up in Antarctica.” She tried to open the door.
“Oh, it gets stuck,” he apologized. “You have to—” He leaned over to get it for her.
“No!” she screamed, but it was too late. They disappeared.
They were still in a sitting position when they teleported out, so they fell to the concrete upon arrival. “Had a little too much to drink?” a stranger asked jokingly as he passed by with his friends. Mateo got to his feet and looked up to where he could see the Eiffel Tower. “Heavenly father, we’re in Paris,” he exclaimed.
“No,” Daria said. She moved his head over so that he could see the Arc de Triomphe. Those two landmarks were not that close together. And they weren’t that small. No, they weren’t in Paris. They were Vegas. Either way, he wouldn’t get back to his family for another year, at least.

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