Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 30, 2115

Things were awkwardly silent when Mateo was sent back to his own body in 2114. He found himself lying on the ground, the movement of the sun making it clear that time had passed while they were in the past. Their bodies had just been left there in the present, empty. They were all now waking up, and struggling to get to their feet. Atrophy, Mateo guessed, was responsible for their muscle weakness. Fortunately, none of them had left their bodies by the beach at low tide. Or no, maybe someone had, because someone was missing. Oh no, that’s right. His mysterious daughter, Kivi never existed. Mateo looked over to Lincoln, wondering whether he could remember Kivi from the other timeline, but Lincoln gave nothing away. Arcadia was right about the other thing, that there was someone with them he didn’t recognize.
“Is everybody okay?” Leona asked, having recovered physically faster than most.
“That was, uh...” Horace said, “not pleasant.”
“I—” Mateo started to say, but a few others had intended to speak at that moment, and were talking over each other.
“Well,” Samsonite said, “I think that Mateo should be the one to speak, if he so chooses.”
“Thank you, dad,” Mateo said. He realized he had never called him that, nor was it entirely true. He was like a stepfather he barely knew, standing right next to a birth father he barely knew, while the adoptive father he did know was dead. “Unless anyone has any objections, it might be best if we put a general moratorium on the Ashton Kutcher Experience that we all just went through.”
“The what?” Xearea asked.
“The butterfly effect,” Leona explained.
“Oh,” Xearea replied.
“I believe we should institute a—and forgive me for this—don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Please, do not be afraid to disagree with this.”
It didn’t look like anyone wanted to talk about it either. Vearden was nodding, “yeah, I think that’s probably for the best.”
“I...” Mateo didn’t know how to bring it up, especially after his declaration. “I do feel I need to say...” He pointed towards the woman only he apparently saw as a newcomer. “I do not know this woman.”
She looked to her left, and then to her right, and then she pointed to herself. “Me?”
“Mateo, that’s Angelita Prieto. Mario’s wife?”
“Mario has a wife now.”
“For a while now, from our perspective, and yours,” Mario explained.
“Okay. Um...could everyone just...go about their day, so I can get to know my new step-mother. Sorry I don’t remember. Time travel, right?”

Mateo spent the rest of his day getting to know Angelita, who generally went by the name of Lita. They had apparently met when Mario was on a sort of vacation-slash-sabbatical in 2017 Spain. Yes, as it turned out, Mario was sometimes awarded breaks. Lita remained in her time period while Mario was working, traveling back and forth in time. He would sometimes be gone for days at a time, but no longer than that. Their timelines started running parallel so that, when Mario was gone for x amount of time, Lita would not see him for that same amount of time, as if he were doing nothing more than traveling out of town for business. Ten years later, they were both plopped onto Tribulation Island, but a few decades in the future. They both had memories of living here ever since.
Upon landing in 2115, Mateo found Samsonite to be missing. During breakfast, he spoke of Samsonite, and tried to give everybody a good idea of how they knew him. Aura was the most hesitant, but she trusted that Mateo wasn’t just straight up lying to everybody. Leona and Paige both had distorted memories of him, thanks to the remnants of his that they had never taken off. Leona was wearing his hat, while Paige was wearing his wedding ring, and those were enough to keep him tethered to their personal reality.
After breakfast, they spread out to get water, or tend to the fire. Mateo found Xearea hastily scribbling on a piece of paper with both hands. When he touched her shoulder, she flipped out and tried to stab him with the pen. Once he stepped back and gave her some space, she went back to her project. This was another trance. The instructions were probably too complicated to be spoken. When it looked like she was nearing completion, he raised his arms, and his voice. “Huddle up!”
Everybody stopped what they were doing and came over. Xearea, still in the trance, handed Mateo a list of their names, paired up together. She then looked to the crowd and spoke in that same creepy monotone the others had. “The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is a personality test designed to separate people into sixteen distinct categories. Though Samsonite was not technically a teacher, he did have a latent passion for helping people find their potential, enrich their lives, and achieve their goals. I have put you into groups of two. Each of you will teach your partner something you know, while learning something they know. My vessel has written further details, but it will be up to you to devise a legitimate test of accomplishment. You will have today to devise your lesson plan. School starts tomorrow, and your respective tests must be passed by the end of July 2, 2117.”
After the speech, Xearea started passing out slips of paper to everybody that explained what they were supposed to teach their partner. Mateo was the one with the partner list, and so he read it off while the real Xearea was coming back and recovering. “Okay, I guess we should all find quiet places to talk. Give your partner an overview of what you’ll be teaching them before starting the plan. Arcadia said nothing about keeping the lesson plan from your partner until you start, so I would say you can work on it together. Afterall, you have to know how versed in the subject they already are.”
Mateo’s birth father, Mario raised his hand. “Um, I don’t have a partner.”
“There’s an odd number of us,” Leona noted.
Mateo turned over the list to the other side. “Oh yeah, it says here you have to jump through time and find someone to teach and learn from. I don’t know if you will be able to find them yourself, or if you’ll be assig—” He chose not to finish his sentence after Mario suddenly disappeared. “Good luck,” he said after a preparatory sigh.
Xearea took Mateo by the hand and walked him into the forest. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“I thought you did,” Mateo said as he was watching Leona move off with Vearden. He carried with him the least education, so that made sense. But what would he be teaching her?
“I do know, I just don’t know what kind of memories you have of this place. Do you know what’s here?”
“Well, there were tons of buildings that have since been torn out of time, and you people don’t remember them. I think the Colosseum replica still exists, and I know we had a few huts on the other side of the island.”
“That’s not all,” Xearea said with a smile.
“Then what?” The smile was contagious.
“I think I’ll let you be pleasantly surprised. It’s the only true sign of civilization that we have here.” She kept smiling as she led him through the forest for well over a mile, never letting go of his hand.
When finally they had arrived, Mateo knew that she had been right. He was surprised, and it was actually kind of exciting. It was a gigantic driving course, even larger than the ones in the real world. There was even a raised highway, and building façades along the ‘city streets’. “Holy shit.”
“Holy shit is right,” Xearea agreed.
“When did who build this?”
“We don’t know. Vearden found it when he was out hunting many years ago.” Ah, hunting. That was probably what he was teaching Leona. “Nanotechnology obviously created it in a short amount of time, but we didn’t hear anything. You haven’t even seen the best part. She took him over to the only real building, and lifted the overhead door. In it, he could see dozens of cars of all makes and models, from all time periods. This was just the first floor of three, and it looked like there might be underground levels too.
“When this place was the hub; in the timeline that I remember, Baudin once spoke of adding a driver’s ed course, along with a garage like this. Theoretically, salmon could drop by and check out a car like a book from a library. If they were from a time before or after human-operated vehicles, or if they were going to be assigned a vehicle class they weren’t certified in, we would teach them.” He started rubbing his fingers on the hood of a 1967 Chevy Impala. “He never built it, though. I wouldn’t have been available for more than one day a year; if that, and the powers that be sent the emissary to inform him they wouldn’t allow it anyway.”
“It’s obviously more interesting to watch salmon struggle to learn something strange on their own.”
“Exactly. So why is it here now, in this timeline?”
“Maybe Arcadia commissioned it to be built,” she suggested. “She probably knew what most, if not all, of the expiations were going to be.”
“Yeah, maybe. Or maybe it’s proof that you can’t ever tear someone out of time completely.”
“Like a giant remnant?”
“A remnant that you can drive.” He was still eyeing that Impala. “Don’t know about you, but I could use a break.”
“Well,” she started smiling again. “This is nonstop for you. I get yearlong breaks.”
“I don’t need to design a new curriculum. I already know how to teach someone to drive.”
“In that case, let’s just...have some fun.”

“So you don’t know how to drive!” Mateo called over to Xearea as they were cruising down the highway with the windows down.
“Never needed to! I was turned into the Savior before I was of age, and it didn’t matter, because we don’t have human-operated cars in my time!” She called back. “And can we close the windows?”
“Yeah, okay!”
She just stared at the door.
“It’s that knob thing by your knee!—You turn it!—No, the other way!—There ya go. First the bag.”
“How did you survive the early 21st century?”
“We used buttons by then. This car is even older.”
“Then why are we in it?”
“You feel that vibration?”
“That’s why. They got rid of it in new cars.”
“Gee, I can’t understand why.”
He smiled. “That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. I’ve forgotten how good it feels to have this...”
“Average sized-penis?”
“Power,” Mateo finished, ignoring her remark. He then changed the subject, “so what you’re you gonna teach me?”
“I’m not allowed to say.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“I’m not allowed to say,” she repeated.
He knew he had to let it go, so he just kept driving. They drove a few more cars before the novelty wore off. Then he left her alone for the rest of the day so she could work on her own curriculum.

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