Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 18, 2103

Mateo woke up however much longer, and discovered that Xearea had apported him to a seedy motel. She was gone, but Leona was lying next to him. Her eyes were closed, but she appeared to be rather agitated, perhaps due to a bad dream. The Asia song ‘Heat of the Moment’ was already playing on a radio on the nightstand. “Hello?” Mateo called out to nowhere in particular. “Zeferino, are you there? Any hints as to what this tribulation is?”
“It’s not your tribulation,” Leona said with fatigue.
“Hey, you know where we are?”
“I’ve heard of that before. What’s that from?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You haven’t even opened your eyes yet. How do you know where we are?”
“I’ve opened my eyes hundreds of times by now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s a Groundhog Day loop. It’s actually based off a rather early episode of Supernatural, though.”
“So we’re stuck here, repeating the same day over and over again? Did you at least get to have fun with it?”
“You die at the end...every time.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Mateo said. Been there, done that. “How do we stop it?”
“I gave up a couple hundred times ago. I don’t even know why I’m explaining this to you. You won’t remember it tomorrow.” She haphazardly raised her arms to form airquotes for the last word.
“Dougnanimous Brintantalus,” Mateo said, trying to be spontaneous to tear her away from the monotony of repetition.
“You said that before.”
“I don’t know how I can alter the timeline with no memory of earlier loops.”
“You say that a lot too.”
“That too.”
“Tell me something that I’ve never said before.”
She took a deep breath and finally sat up in bed. “I’m not gonna play that game anymore.”
He didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t concerned about his impending death, but it was clear that the worst part of all this was doing everything over and over again. If she had gone through this hundreds of times, then just about everything that could happen, would happen. He couldn’t be random, because each thing he tried to do would be something he would have thought to do in some other loop. “You have to take control. You have to force us into an activity that you didn’t try before. You have to make changes, just for the sake of change.”
“I’ve tried it, it doesn’t matter. The Cleanser is going to leave me here for as many times as he likes, and not a single day less. This is my life now.”
“It is your life to watch me die repeatedly.”
“Has that ever not happened?”
“No. But it has happened in a multitude of ways. It’s not different each time, mind you. If I leave things alone, you’ll just be blown away by a shotgun, but the more I try to stop it, the more interesting the death.”
“That is interesting. It does not, however, make any sense. The Cleanser told me that he would leave you out of it from now on.”
“Well, it was a future version of him, but he said he would prevent his younger self from bringing you into the tribulations. These are now supposed to be just for me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he went back on his word. He’s not exactly the most stand-up guy.”
“You’ve never told me that before.”
“Well, yeah, I didn’t want you to feel bad about not being part of—wait, you mean I never told you this today?”
“You’ve had to relive this day hundreds of times, and not once have I revealed this secret?”
“You never have. I had no idea. I just thought he didn’t have any tribulation ideas that required two people. I guess I hadn’t given it too much thought, though. All in all, I haven’t done nearly as many of these as you have. I don’t understand what changed, though. We wake up here every single loop, and we’ve had similar conversations before. How were you able to say something original?”
“I couldn’t tell you. I was trying too, but I can’t imagine I wasn’t trying the same for other loops.”
Leona jumped out of the bed and starting pulling on her clothes. “We have to figure this out. And we can’t do that by staying here. We have to go outside. We don’t have a watch or a calendar. The only way to know whether this is 2104, or whether it’s still 2103 is if we check for the constants.”
“What are constants?”
“The mundane things that are happening out there. A dog barking, a child falling out of a tree, the dump truck picking up the trash. These things happen each loop because they’re already in place by the time you wake me up by whispering to the Cleanser.” She struggled with a tangled shoelace before giving up and just opening the door. “Let’s explore,” she said excitedly. And then a piano fell on her.

Mateo woke up in the motel. Leona was lying next to him, just as agitated as before. He reached over and slammed his fist on the radio to stop it from playing that same Asia song again.
“Wait, what!” Leona cried. “What?”
“I remember yesterday.”
“You do?”
“Yes. Is it still 2103?”
“Uhh...I don’t know. We could go outside and check.” Without getting her clothes, she started heading for the door.
“Hold on,” Mateo commanded her.
“What is it?”
“Let me open the door. Tell me what the constants are.” He went over and opened the door himself and checked off a list in his head as Leona listed them.
“Well, you broke the clock radio, but by now, there should be a car abandoned in the parking lot. You should also be able to see a dump truck about a block down to your left. A young boy is throwing rocks into it, and the driver doesn’t care. A teenage girl rolls through a stop sign and is pulled over by a cop on a bike.”
“I thought this was supposed to be the 22nd century.”
“They’re robots, not real people, that’s why they don’t act like they’re from the future. This bloody snowglobe was built just for us. I even think we’re on the same planet as Tribulation Island, but I’ve never been able to get very far. Our plane will always crash, or our boat will sink.”
“I think it’s safe to assume that it’s still 2103. Why I remember the last loop this time I don’t quite understand. Maybe it has something to do with me telling you about the future version of the Cleanser.”
“The who?”
“The Cleanser? He comes back from the future and tells me that he’ll prevent his younger self from making you do the tribulation.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“I did tell you. Yesterday. Or today. In another loop, this last loop.”
“I have no memory of that. In the last loop, we slept in most of the morning, and then you choked on a sausage.”
“Oh my God. I remember our last loop, but you don’t.”
“I remember the last several hundred.”
“And I don’t.”
“What the hell is going on, Mateo?”
“I have no clue.”
She didn’t have anything to say.
“What happens if we just stay in the room?” he continued.
“You get electrocuted, or slip in the shower. Or you’re hit by a stray bullet. Whatever we try, death will find its way to you. We can’t hide from it.”
“Okay, put on your clothes, make sure you get your shoes all the way on. We’re going out, not trying to hide from death. I’m kind of curious to see what happens.”
“As am I. We’ve never done this before. I mean, I’ve often explained to you that I’ve been in a timeloop, and unlike the movies, I don’t have to convince you that I’m not crazy, but never have you been cognizant from the start. This is new territory.”
“Just...again, just make sure you put your shoes on.”
She laughed a bit, not knowing quite what that meant.
Once she was ready to leave, he cautiously stuck his head out of the door and made sure there wasn’t a piano waiting for them. They walked outside with no problems and began heading downtown. She smiled as a little girl fell off her bike and scraped her robot knee with no help from Leona, who would have known that was going to happen. They came across a crowd in the square, watching a man juggle sticks that were on fire while his partner made faces and tried to distract him, much to the pleasure of the audience. “How many times have I caught on fire?” Mateo asked, recognizing it to be a very likely and interesting way for the Cleanser to watch him die.
“I never counted, but any number above zero was too many.”
A young man lost control of his tennis ball and accidentally threw it towards the performance. His dog happily ran through and barreled right into the juggler. A fire stick flew out of his hand and stuck itself into Leona’s neck, killing her frustratingly slowly.

Mateo woke up again in the motel. Leona was lying safely next to him. They went through the whole thing over again and realized that they had somehow switched places. Before, only Leona was remembering the loops, but now, only Mateo was remembering them. They continued to see what they could do; if they could make any positive changes to the day’s timeline. But no matter what they did, Leona would die at some point, and revert them back to the beginning. And Mateo would have to watch her deaths. Several times, they tried separating from each other, but fate would always bring them back together so that he could see her die.
After hundreds more of these loops, the Cleanser jumped into the timestream with a wicked smile. He informed them that, unlike in the movies, the lesson was that there was no lesson. The Cleanser was the single most powerful being they would ever encounter, Meliora included. They could do nothing to stop him, and that surrendering to his will was their only option. The best they could do was hope for him to eventually get bored, and move on. In fact, nothing they did during the loops resulted in finally breaking free of them. The Cleanser stopped it because, when he wanted something done, it was done. No questions. He apported them back to Tribulation Island where they went to sleep in their own beds, and finally woke up on June 19, 2104.

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