Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 12, 2097

Two years after Mateo Matic disappeared into the future, a television series premiered. It actually technically didn’t run on television. As time went on following the first jump, media began to bleed into the internet with increasing speed. People were getting used to the idea of watching what they wanted, when they wanted, and not having to worry about recording programs. The most powerful of these services provided audiences with an amazing show called Stranger Things. It took place in the 1980s and followed the residents of a small town as they battled supernatural forces. The first season revolved around the premise of trying to find a missing child.
Upon spiriting Mateo away from his planet, The Cleanser sat him down and forced him to watch every single episode of the series, much like Boyce had done for those dancing films. The difference here was that the Cleanser was not allowing them to be watched at double the speed. It took the better part of two days to watch them all straight through, with absolutely no opportunity for rest. By the time he was finished, Mateo was wandering around the house, purposely bumping into walls, because it each time felt like a good idea. His vision was blurred, and his mind unfocused. He shoveled food onto his cheeks and poured milk down his chest. After failing to eat, he went back to walking aimlessly. Despite, or maybe because of, his extreme fatigue, his mind was telling him to do one thing: escape. Whatever would happen next, sleep had to be worse than the attempt at freedom. Looking back on it, his logic was fundamentally flawed, but at the time, it made perfect sense. He just kept going. When he ran into an obstacle, he would turn only far enough to break himself of it and walk in the new direction as far as physics would take him.
During Mateo’s fugue state, the Cleanser stood back and watched. He must have considered it entertaining that Mateo couldn’t think straight. At some point, though, the wandering became boring on its own. Presumably in order to spice it up, he began snapping his fingers and teleporting them to various locations around the world, or possibly the universe. Mateo started stumbling around deserts, mountains, prairies, and city streets. Sometimes, the Cleanser would even mash two or more different locations together in this complex web of hyperdimensional superposition. Mateo was no scientist, like Leona, but those were the words that came to him. They sounded right, as far as he knew. And then it happened.
Apparently, the Cleanser had been apporting Mateo to random locations, without even thinking them through himself. His eyes lit up when he saw where they were with this last trip. It was a dirt road with a mountain on one side, and a huge cliff on the other. It looked surprisingly similar to a particular scene in the first season of Stranger Things. Mateo recognized this, but he couldn’t stop himself. He just kept shuffling along the road.
“I never actually planned on you recreating anything from the show. I’m not The Rogue, afterall. I have no interest in watching you reenact my favorite movies. The tribulations are meant to be difficult, deadly, and distressing. I don’t care how. Forcing you to watch one of the best shows ever created without sleep was meant as a form of torture, and so that you would be the only person in the world to harbor feelings of anger and pain towards it.”
Mateo could still speak, but chose only to babble back, because no words would help in this situation.
“I wanna see how suggestible you are. But first...a thousand words.” He apported a digital camera into his hands and pointed it towards Mateo who instinctively stopped and looked to the lens. He didn’t pose, but he didn’t shy away either. “Now this moment will live on forever. Walk off the cliff.”
Mateo thought about arguing, but he was having trouble remembering how, and assumed it would end in his compliance no matter what. It was easier just to let the world go. If you counted the time he remembered being stuck in another dimension, he was thousands of years old. That was enough for anybody. He turned and stepped right off the edge, as he was told, raising his arms like it was nothing more than a fun roller coaster. He hadn’t managed to fall very far before he could feel someone else’s hand take hold of his wrist. “What?” he asked in an indoor voice, as if he simply hadn’t heard his teacher’s question.
“Take my other hand!” a voice called to him.
Mateo twisted around and grasped the side of the cliff. He looked up and could see the figure of a man, but he couldn’t tell who it was since he was still delirious.
“Reach up and meet me halfway, dude!” the voice pressed.
Still easily suggestible, Mateo did as he was told and grabbed the man’s hand, using his feet to help himself up as the man pulled.
“Here ya go,” the man said, jabbing something into Mateo’s leg.
Mateo went for his leg with his hands, but was unable to control his motor functions. Whatever was in the injector began to course through his body, supplying him with a massive boost in energy. Within seconds, he wasn’t back to his old self, but he was much better. He could see, and he could understand. The man who had saved him was none other than Horace Reaver. He looked about Mateo’s age at the time, and immediately seemed much nicer than before. He looked over to find a totally stunned Cleanser, his jaw literally dropped.
A young woman Mateo didn’t know printed a piece of paper out of some kind of gizmo and handed it to the Cleanser. “What does this picture look like to you?”
The Cleanser took it. “Well, it’s—oh no!” He tried to drop the photo but it was too late. His body quickly pixelated and disappeared into the photo, which itself pixelated into oblivion upon landing on the ground.
“What just happened?”
“Mister Matic,” Horace began as he was helping him off the ground. “This is Miss Paige Turner. Paige, this is my good friend, Mateo Matic.”
She extended her hand. “Pleased to finally meet you. I have heard so much about you and your adventures with my father.”
“You had another daughter?”
“No, not in this timeline,” Horace said, shaking his head. “She accidentally slipped through time. My boyfriend and I took her in and raised her.”
“How did you get here?”
“That dumbass took a picture of this moment,” Paige explained. “All I had to do was get my hands on it.”
“If you’re from this new timeline, how do you have any memory of the other one?”
“The Blender,” was all that Horace said.
“Oh God.”
“She approached me many years ago, hoping to return to me the memories I had of our hate towards each other. She has it out for you, man. I do not know why she’s so bloody angry, but her intention was to get me to start trying to kill you again.”
“And are you?” Mateo asked.
“Very much not,” Horace replied.
“Because you’re a good person in this reality? These ones are overpowering your old memories?”
Horace shook his head. “It wouldn’t have mattered. Had she removed this reality’s memories, I still wouldn’t be against you right now. My experiences with you were driving me to become a better person without my realizing it. Once you finally got me into that prison cube, I was free to reflect on my choices, and I realized that I preferred you as a friend than an enemy. And I prefer myself as a good person.”
“So we’re friends now?”
“From my perspective,” he said, “yes. Though I cannot speak to your feelings.”
Mateo breathed in deeply through his nose. “I could sure use another friend right now.”
“What about two?” Paige asked.
“Even better,” Mateo responded with a smile.
“It could be three one day. We left my husband several years from now. He wasn’t capable of coming back with us, but we’ll catch up to him eventually. For you, it’ll only be a few days.”
“Do you still have your day rewind thing?” Mateo asked.
“Not as I did before. I don’t remember Round Ones consciously, but I feel them. Though I usually don’t anyway. Serkan has the ability to suppress or limit temporal powers.”
“You mean...” Mateo started to ask.
“Yes,” Horace said without needing Mateo to finish his sentence. “Soon, the days of skipping time could be completely behind you.”
“That would be nice.” Mateo went into another trance, fantasizing about permanent settlement in the timeline. Maybe this guy could cure him completely so they wouldn’t even have to be in proximity. That was a question for another time, though. He looked over to Paige. “Do you happen to have any pictures of Tribulation Island?”
“Yes, but only one,” she answered. “We were saving it for an important occasion.”
“You can only use them once?”
“We all have our limitations,” she said with a shrug. She printed another photo from her gadget and slipped between them so they could all see. “Say boo to a goose!”
They were suddenly in the Nexus control module on Tribulation Island. They could see Saga Einarsson elegantly walking down into the transport well. Before Mateo could open his mouth, an orange light swallowed her up and she was gone. “What was she doing here?”
Paige laughed just a little. “She was the one who took the picture.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
Horace looked at the computer screen. “It’s almost midnight. You better get back home and get some rest. We’ll be waiting for you when you wake up next year.”
“Okay, thanks.” Mateo started to walk out of the Nexus building but then turned back. “And Horace?”

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