Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 15, 2039

Death. Death was lingering in the air when they woke up on the morning of tax day. Last year, after staying off the beaten path for a while, they met back up with Loop Trail and followed it due North. At some point, though, the trail started heading away from their destination, so they went back to walking in the woods. They kept going for about six hours, taking special pills that maintained their endurance and speed, but required a higher intake of calories to compensate. They had to cross the creek twice; once with a bridge, but another by wading, because walking all around the bend would have taken far too much time. They had passed their halfway mark at eighteen miles, and decided to make camp, hopeful that their tent would remain in place during its time alone in a remote spot in the middle of nowhere, knowing that this was a longshot. Somehow, however, the powers that be treated the tent as they do clothing, and seemed to send it to the future with them, along with all of their belongings. That was nice to know, for future necessity.
Upon exiting the magic tent in 2039, they found everything around them dead. The trees, the grass, the brush. It was all blackened and deteriorated, for as far as their eyes could see. Some of the wood was still burning. They walked down a ways toward the creek and saw the water to be thick and blackened as well. “What happened here? Did that huge volcano finally erupt?”
“No. Forest fire,” Leona explained, looking across the distance. “And a really bad one, at that. It destroyed a great deal of the landscape. There must have been a heavy rain right after it too.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“It’s not,” she said. “It would be why the water is black. Ash runoff.” She reached over to feel a still-standing tree trunk. Her fingers turned black. “My God, this probably happened only yesterday.”
She fumed. “It’s very likely. Though, the summers of this last decade have been some of the hottest on record for this area. It might have just been caused by a heatwave.”
“It’s April.”
“True, but as bad as he is, his attacks have been precise. Tactical. This seems...reckless. Messy. It’s overkill, and why did he start the fire yesterday instead of today?”
“Perhaps he had intended on it lasting longer, but the rain came on. If he had started after our jump, we could have seen it coming.”
“I won’t rule it out. We are certain of other times that he’s tried to kill you, so I wouldn’t give him a medal if this turned out to not be one of them.”
“What do we do now?”
She took a few moments to process what were probably a thousand options in her head. “What we do now is have a clearer shot to the city.”
“We keep going?”
She shook her head, not as an answer, but as a general distaste for their situation. “We have no choice.”
As they were packing up their things, Mateo asked, “you’re sure it wasn’t the volcano?”
“No, Mateo. It wasn’t the volcano. Don’t ask me that again.”

They continued to walk, but this time without so much of the woods. After two more miles of straying from the creek, because it was no longer the easiest route, they came upon Forest Rd 30050. Waiting for them was a man, leaning up against a luxury car in a chauffeur’s uniform. He smiled, and they were worried that their family had tracked them down. But they should have been more worried.
The man looked at his watch. “That’s funny. You’re late.” He paused to consider the possibilities. “I must have stepped on a butterfly this time.”
“Bradbury reference,” Leona said. “You must be a salmon.”
“I’m afraid not,” the man replied. “I just work for one.” He opened the back door and pointed a gun at them. “Get in.”
Mateo and Leona looked around for an escape. There were plenty of places to run, but there was nowhere to hide.
“You know what they say about futility,” the man said ominously.
“No, I honestly don’t. What do they say?” Mateo asked.
“They say get in the fucking car.”
“Oh yes, I’ve heard that.”
They abided his orders and stepped in. He climbed in afterwards and kept his weapon trained on them. “Take us home, Harrison,” he said to his car’s artificial intelligence.
“As you wish, Dave.”
Leona let out a kind of snort-chuckle-cough thing.
“Yes, a computer talking to someone named Dave. That’s hilarious,” Dave said.
“I don’t get it,” Mateo said.
“Right,” Dave said. “I was told you were kind of dumb.”
“Well, if that’s a reference, I must have been away at the time.”
Leona shook her head. “You weren’t.” She turned her attention back to Dave. “How much is Reaver paying you? Do you even know what he wants with us? He wants to kill us. He’s evil.”
“I don’t work for Reaver,” Dave responded. And it sounded like the truth. He seemed like the type of person who wasn’t afraid to hurt someone, but who would never lie. He probably never needed to. “Reaver’s man, Allen, is waiting for you on Forest Rd 30060. The fire didn’t spread that far, so he’s trying to use trees as cover. I wasn’t afraid of you seeing me, because I do not intend to hurt you.”
“What do you intend? And who do you work for?”
“I work for his nemesis, his archrival, his opposite.”
Mateo felt a little uncomfortable, but decided to voice his thoughts. “I kind of figured that I was his nemesis.”
“From what little I know, you’re an enemy, but you weren’t designed as his counterpoint. I wasn’t told why he hates you so much. My boss can do what Reaver does, and has been using this power for years to quell Reaver’s power as much as possible. Certain events have led my boss to believe that it’s time you met. For real, this time.”
“What do you mean for real?” Leona asked.
“Well, like I said, my boss can do what Reaver does. Their pattern is the same.”
“We don’t know what his pattern is.”
Dave eyed them with disbelief and curiosity. Then he looked down at the minibar, trying to work something out in his head. “You knew it before. Reaver must have told you after getting to you.”
“What are you talking about?”
Leona seemed to understand. “You’re talking about an alternate timeline.”
“You met my boss under different circumstances yesterday. But we’ve changed things now. Maybe I shouldn’t take you.”
“We didn’t meet anyone yesterday.”
“Yesterday from my boss’ perspective; not yours.”
“I am so lost.”
Leona massaged Mateo’s knee. “It’s all right, honey. You’ll get there.”
But he didn’t get there. Skipping an entire year every day he understood. His teleporting aunt he understood. But when it came to his father’s seemingly random time traveling, The Doctor’s apropos appearances, or The Delegator’s sporadic use of Stonehenge, it just hurt his head. Dave refused to explain further, insisting that he not speak another word to them until consulting with his mysterious boss. Leona didn’t try to help either, instead claiming that it would only confuse him more if she tried to explain things without having all of the facts.
The car drove them all the way into Idaho and informed them—since Dave wasn’t talking—that they couldn’t go to any of the nearest airports because Reaver would be monitoring those. Harrison transferred his consciousness to a relatively small but sleek and futuristic aircraft that was hidden in an empty grain silo. It rose into the air, commanded the top hatch to open, and then shot straight into the air. Mateo and Leona watched as the ground flew away from them, but then Harrison tinted the windows completely because they weren’t allowed to know where they were going.
The trip only took a few hours, but Leona told him that they could be anywhere on the planet by that time, due to advances in air travel. They were tucked away in a pleasant and comfortable prison room at this undisclosed location. Before leaving, Dave said that his boss would wait to speak to them until tomorrow/next year so that they could have the entire day to discuss matters. Used to being out of control of their lives, Mateo and Leona agreed to not worry about what was happening. They stuffed their faces full of food, watched a movie trilogy that both of them had missed about a group of people in another galaxy who wore jackets that let them manipulate reality to their liking, and fell asleep on the most comfortable bed in the history of history.

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