Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 29, 2022

The woman at the train station ticket counter gave Mateo a hard time about his identification. But since the train was leaving in less than 15 minutes—and he had purposely made himself look like a nomad—she gave in. He scooped up his bag and ran for the platform, boarding just in time.
He found his seat on the upper level and sat down. He took out a map and a calculator. When he was in Las Vegas, he jumped at midnight according to the central time zone, which meant that it was only ten o’clock where he was. The map said that the train would get into Salt Lake City at 11:05. That was five minutes too late. He would have to get off at Provo instead. Which was fine. He didn’t know much about Utah, but one city didn’t sound any better than the other, and they both existed within the “loci non grata” category. The trip was incredibly boring. Everyone else around had tablets and phones to play with, but he had to shed himself of such things. He didn’t know how easy it was for people to track him with technology. Leona would normally keep him up-to-date on world progress. He was missing out on so much. He decided to make a habit of going to the library every day and find a recap of each passing year. Perhaps he would just live at the library. It wasn’t like anyone could logistically stop him, and he would have to sleep somewhere.
Throughout the ride, they had to make frequent stops, and not just at other stations. They would wait, sometimes for nearly an hour at a time in the middle of nowhere. Freight trains held priority over passengers. No wonder people didn’t take the train anymore. It was an absolute nightmare. He was growing more and more concerned. The longer they were taking, the farther he would be from his stop when he had to get off. He shuddered to think what might happen if he were on a moving vessel during the timeslip. But then he had an optimistic thought. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to jump at all. Maybe whatever force was causing him to go through this would keep him tethered to the timestream in order to protect him. Afterall, you can’t throw someone through time if they’re dead; or rather, it would be pointless. In the end, it wasn’t worth the risk, though. He kept his map out and pulled back his departure station by station as necessary.
A voice came on the intercom after a particularly long wait. “We do apologize for the inconvenience. I would just like to mention that we are all in the same boat, so to speak. The crew is tired and hot and miserable, just like you.”
The man on the other side of the aisle laughed. He and Mateo locked eyes. “The difference between us and the crew, is that we are paying for the misery, while they are being paid.”
“So true,” Mateo replied.
“What is your final destination?” he asked.
Mateo had to think about his answer. He couldn’t say anything about Salt Lake City, or Provo. He tried to remember which station was his last before midnight. It wasn’t in Utah, this much he knew.
“I didn’t know it was a trick question,” the man said jokingly.
“No, sorry. It’s Grand Junction, Colorado.”
“Business or pleasure.”
Mateo breathed in deeply. “New life.”
“Ah, interesting. Running from, or just running to?”
He tilted his head and thought this over for a second. He wasn’t trying to get away from his family so much as he was trying to keep them away from him. And he had no real destination. His life was completely meaningless at this point. Part of life was dealing with the consequences of your actions day to day. But for him, each day was a pit stop before the next. There was no connection between them. He was in a constant state of flux. As a Catholic, he believed in hell, but had never trusted the depictions of it in art. It was at this moment that he realized what was really going on. This was his hell. If he died of old age, it wouldn’t be for another tens of thousands of years. Would humans even still exist? Would he spend most of his time alone on the planet, statistically likely to skip over any disaster that might consume the population? He took another deep breath and exhaled. “Both.”
“Well, I’m rooting for you. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“Thanks,” Mateo said genuinely. The train finally started moving again. “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a physicist. The name is Duke Andrews. I assume you don’t have a career at the moment. What’s your name?”
“Mateo.” He smiled. “I don’t have a last name anymore, though.”
“Full commitment,” Duke smiled back. “I respect that.”
There was one more delay a little while later. All in all, they were almost nine hours behind schedule. He looked back at the map and determined that he would have to get off at the next train station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. As he was double-checking his math, he could feel himself nodding off. His eyelids felt so phenomenally heavy. He couldn’t keep them open. He couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d last slept; at least a couple years.
He jolted awake after what felt like only a few minutes.
“Welcome back to us,” Duke said. He was holding a newspaper.
“Where are we?” Mateo asked in a panic.
“Don’t worry. You haven’t missed Grand Junction yet,” Duke answered in a fairly comforting voice. “You can go back to sleep. I promise to wake you up.”
“No, I made a mistake. I meant Glenwood Springs. I’m supposed to go to Glenwood Springs!” His voice woke up other people in the car, including a now crying baby.
“Oh, well you’ve missed that. But it’s okay. You’re starting a new life. Does it matter where? You won’t be that far off course either way.”
“What time is it?” Mateo pulled his sleeve back and looked at his watch. It was a couple minutes before the jump. “Oh my God. It’s almost midnight.”
“No, it’s eleven o’clock.”
“I mean a different midnight!”
Duke looked like he was about to tell Mateo to calm down, but he didn’t get a chance. The train screeched to a halt. “We apologize once more,” said the voice on the intercom. “We’re not sure why the train stopped this time, but we are looking into the matter and will have you back on track in no time.”
“I have to get off!” Mateo screamed.
“You won’t be able to,” Duke said. “We’re on a bridge over the Colorado River.”
“I’m still on the upper level!” He was making the rest of the car very nervous. He tried to pull his bag from under the seat, but it was stuck on something. He gave up on it and ran for the door. But it was too late. At midnight central time, he jumped forward. The train disappeared and he started to fall several feet, breaking his leg upon landing. He cried out in pain. He looked up and could see lights approaching. The year 2023 train was headed right for him.

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