Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 4, 2058

Mateo and Leona decided to keep from introducing Prince Darko to the rest of the family until 2058. Leona had been right in that he jumped forward in time one hour before the two of them, still attached to the Eastern timezone. That could be helpful or hurtful to them. It was just a crapshoot. The following late morning, they all gathered together to have brunch, which was apparently what they were going to be doing from now on. “That is, until the next Reaver shows up,” Mateo said after they were finished with the meal.
“He may already have,” Leona volleyed, still far more unsure about Prince Darko than he was.
“You need to stop thinking like that. Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?”
“Have you?” she asked, pointing out how dumb he was via subtext.
“That wasn’t necessary.”
“I’m sorry, but my experience in that prison suite was different than yours in the regular cell. Being locked up is one thing, but being catered to by your enemy is just creepy.”
“Well, talk to me about it,” Mateo urged. “Every time I try to bring it up, you brush me away. I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“Typical man, always trying to fix something. I just want you to listen.”
“I can listen. You’re not talking!”
She knew he was right, but wouldn’t admit it in a million years. She was hurting, and she didn’t know how to express her feelings about it. “Never mind.”
She started to walk away, but Mateo gently took her by the shoulder. “Hey, are we okay?”
Leona looked like she was coming up with a complex and difficult answer, but in the end just just said, “I need time.”
“And I need to speak with our new friend alone.”
“I have some questions for him, and I need to know what he says when you’re not around. He obviously doesn’t like me, and we need to understand why.”
“So you’re going to be alone with him.”
“You let him in, you can’t be scared about it now.”
“I let him in. Doesn’t mean I’m handing him my social security number. I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, not accepting him blindly.”
“Well, let me go get a good look.”
“Leona...” Mateo tried to say.
“I promise to not give him your social security number.”
Image courtesy of Megan Highfill.
Once Leona disappeared from sight, the scene changed, and Mateo found himself looking at an ancient temple he recognized. He didn’t know the name of it, though.
“Angkor Wat,” the Cleanser said. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Mateo didn’t even turn his head. “It is. Have you bought me a tour.”
The Cleanser laughed. “I just like beautiful places. The Pit of Jhaseg on the planet Eiusagl, this temple. I would take you to Stonehenge sometime, but it’s taken.”
“What am I doing here?”
“I’m here to warn you about Prince Darko.”
“You heard about that, huh?”
“He is incredibly dangerous, and he’s lying to you.”
“And you’re not?”
“I’m not lying, I’m just not telling you everything.”
“I am growing wary of our conversations already. How often are you going to extract me from my life?”
“As many times as it takes.”
Mateo waited for him to elaborate.”
Feeling the tension from the silence, the Cleanser corrected himself, “as many times as it takes for you to understand that if you want your life back completely, you’re going to need help from someone like me.”
“You say that salmon are really just choosing ones who happen to be locked into an uncontrollable pattern by someone else.”
“Essentially, yes.”
“All things being equal, what’s to stop the other choosers from locking you up. I mean, sure you have power now. But can you not be overpowered by someone else. Sticking with the prison analogy, it’s possible to lock someone up who’s stronger than you, especially if you have friends.”
“I’ve already told you that we don’t play well with others. In order to stop me, they would have to work together, and they don’t like doing that. I mean, I know you’ve already talked about the fact that they didn’t really need your help to stop Reaver. They just chose to enlist you because you’re a character to them. It’s like a video game. They can move you around, but there is still a right way to do things; certain limitations, however arbitrary they may be.”
“Oh, so now we’re video game characters.” Mateo started roughly massaging his eyes. “Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, do the analogies never end?”
“No,” was all the Cleanser said.
“Do you have any evidence, or at least anecdotes, against Prince Darko, or are you just feeling jealous?”
He laughed. “It’s not jealousy, and I can’t tell you about his past...but I can show you his present.”
“How so?”
He waved his arms ceremoniously and swept them away to a new place.

They were walking alongside Leona and Prince Darko in the park who didn’t appear to have any idea that they were there. Another choosing one trick. How often were they watching so literally? “Don’t worry,” the Cleanser tried to comfort him, “they can’t see us, but we don’t do this as often as you would think. Literally watching salmon jump through the water isn’t the most interesting way of getting the story.”
“I see,” Mateo said, unconvinced and uncomforted.
“Now pay attention.”
They began to eavesdrop on Leona’s and Prince Darko’s conversation.
“What are you doing here, Prince Darko?” Leona asked.
“I’m here to help,” Prince Darko replied, “in any way I can.”
“What if we say the way to help is to leave us alone?”
“Is that what Mateo wants?”
“It’s a hypothetical, just answer it.”
“I would do everything in my power to comply with your wishes, but I’m as bound to the powers that be as you are.”
“I can’t shake the feeling that you’re lying, and you’re actually not bound.”
“I’m not sure what I could do to convince you. Have you not met others like us? How did you start trusting them?”
“The only two salmon we trust who aren’t part of the family saved our lives.” She must have been referring to The Doctor and Vearden. “Horace and Ulinthra were never on our side.”
“I heard something about security guards.”
“See, that’s it right there,” Leona said. “How do you know about those people? We’ve never encountered you, yet you already know a lot about us. Your claim that you were alone for a month and a half seems thin at best.”
“The Delegator filled me in.”
“The Delegator likes to talk, but not that much. He wouldn’t tell you all this.”
“Oh, no? Do you know him very well?” He was right about that. They didn’t. “You obviously don’t like me,” Prince Darko began, “and I don’t need to understand why. It’s becoming quite clear that you will never be all right with me around.”
“You’re not wrong.”
“So I’ll tell you what, you go ahead and poison your boyfriend against me, but I think I may have the upperhand.”
“How so?”
“He has a soft spot for family, and I can be the brother he’s always wanted.”
“Now you’re starting to show your true colors.”
“You be the best girlfriend you can be, and I’ll be the best brother. We’ll let him decide.”
Leona stopped walking and scoffed. “That’s what you don’t get.”
“Mateo is not the boss of our relationship. We’re a team. He doesn’t decide what we do. We come to decisions together.”
Prince Darko tilted his head inquisitively. “Are you sure about that?”
“I’m going back home. I can’t stop you from following me, but I highly recommend you turn around and return to Ohio.”
“Why is that?”
Leona started to leave. “If you’re with us, then you’ll be fine. But if you’re against us, eventually we’ll figure out why, and you will lose. Mateo and I can’t be beat.”
After Leona was out of earshot, Prince Darko said to himself, “maybe not as long as you stay together.”
“You see?” the Cleanser asked, sure of himself.
“See what?”
“I know you’re not that dumb.”
“Yeah, he’s trying to pull Leona and I apart.”
“So...that doesn’t bother you?”
Mateo shook his head. “Not anymore than it bothers me that you’re trying to do the same.”
“I’m just trying to give you some perspective.”
“Could you take me back to the regular dimension, or whatever it is you need to do.” It sounded like it could be a question, but it wasn’t.
“Prince Darko may not be your enemy, but he certainly isn’t your friend.”
“We’re done.”
“Are you going to tell Leona that you saw their conversation?”
“Just wait and find out. Evidently you can spy on us whenever you want.”
“That’s not...I just—”
“Home! Now!” Mateo ordered.
“I will, but first I have a warning. And this one you’ll want to hear.”
“What?” Mateo was becoming impatient. He needed to get back in the house before Leona came back, or he would have to explain where he was.
The Cleanser either sensed this, or could read his mind. He waved his hand and jumped them back to Mateo’s bedroom. “The next Reaver is coming. And he’s much worse.”

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