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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 4, 2119

In the morning, Mateo threw the three remaining bottles of the water into his bag and headed out. This could be home, but he also had the instinct to explore the rest of the island. Maybe there was something better out there, like a six-star resort, or an ice cream shoppe. He walked for hours. The island was beautiful, full of flora and fauna he had never seen before. Around lunchtime, he took a break to eat on a fruit/vegetable root he had dug out of the ground. Peeking through the tallgrass, he could see Ambrosios desperately running around. He kept stopping, looking around, and running in a different direction. He must have been giving chase to a creature too small for Mateo to see from where he was sitting. Mateo ducked down a little more when it looked like Ambrosios was looking in his general direction. It must not have been enough, because the old immortal started running towards him with the ferocity of a jungle cat.
“Hey, hey, hey, I was trying to stay away from you,” Mateo argued. “You came to me.”
“I came looking for you because I didn’t realize what year it was. You, my new friend, are about to witness The Homecoming.”
“And what would that be?”
“Everyone knows that the Earth orbits the sun.”
“Except maybe Tila Tequila.”
“Never mind.”
“What many people don’t know is that the sun orbits the center of the galaxy. Every two-hundred-some-odd-million years, it arrives in the same place it was before. Except that not really. The inner stars move faster than the outer stars, like runners on a racetrack. And the galaxy itself is hurdling through space.”
“Yeah, I remember Leona telling me about this stuff a little.”
“Well what all this means is that the galaxy never looks in one moment exactly as it does in another. It’s constantly shifting, except for one small example. There’s a reason that Earth and this planet look nearly identical. We were once part of a binary planet system. This was many billions of years ago, but it placed us in something called quantum entanglement. Changes to one planet will have an effect on the other.”
“Whaaat? I’ve never heard of this before, and they definitely would have mentioned it sometime in high school, probably elementary.”
“People don’t know about it. Literally aeons ago, this planet was ejected from the system, and sent flying through space, eventually finding its way to this star system here, but it is still connected to Earth. Once that happened, a cosmic event started happening as well. Like I told you, the Earth is always moving around the center of the galaxy, but this star system does not. I do not know why, I do not know if someone else knows why, but I know that it doesn’t. This star is fixed, so every galactic year, it and sol come within exactly one lightyear of each other. It’s called the Homecoming.”
“This sounds ridiculous. It’s only been a century since I became a salmon, and I haven’t always been on these islands. We would have known. We know things that are going to happen in the future. Hell, I distinctly remember hearing that galaxies are colliding, and that ours will one day be combined with some other.”
“From what I understand, this galactic anniversary coincides with the solar system passing through some kind of interstellar gas? I guess instruments are out of whack, at least for now. Either that, or some choosing one is shielding us from view, possibly this planet’s previous owner. That doesn’t matter, though. This is real, and it’s happening now, and we have a chance.”
Mateo didn’t know what Ambrosios was trying to say. He just waited for further explanation.
“Mateo, we can leave. Not only this island, but this planet. We can both go back to Earth. We need the star puddle, and we need two people.”
“I dunno, dude. You don’t sound like someone I can trust.”
“Yep, that’s fair. The last few years have been rough, but Homecoming has gotten me excited. It’s led me to want to be better. This is important, Mateo. This is life or death. If you help me with this, I’ll give you something in return.”
“You’ll give me what?”
“Most of the ingredients for immortality. I don’t have all I need, but I’ve kept what I have in a safe place.”
“The powers that be aren’t going to let me run around looking for the rest of the ingredients. They’re useless to me.”
“No, they’re of use to you as they are. They won’t make you immortal, but they do help with other things.”
“With what?”
“Well, one of them makes you invulnerable, another keeps you free from disease. One even makes it so that you can’t be killed in your past, so nothing can prevent you from becoming immortal...once you’ve found it in one timeline.”
“Well, fine. I’ll help you.”
“Speaking of water, I didn’t take enough with me to look for you. I severely underestimated how far away you would go. Come, I’ll show you the stream. It magically keeps itself purified.”
“Oh, I have some water.” Mateo reached into his bag and tried to hand him one of the bottles he had found in the car.”
Ambrosios looked shocked. He snatched it out of Mateo’s hand, and inspected the label. “Where did you find this?”
“I came across an old car. It doesn’t start, but it was good enough to keep me out of the elements.”
“Oh my God. I can’t believe you opened that. This is Health. What have you had so far?”
“Well, I mean, I didn’t keep the bottles with me. Here’s what else I have left.”
Ambrosios took the bag from Mateo’s hand and looked at the other two bottles. “Youth and Longevity. Which means you drank Invulnerability, Time, and Body.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. What did I drink? Were these the ingredients? Did I find your stash?”
“Yes, Mateo, that’s what you did. Each ingredient gives you one part of what you need to live forever without dying. You drank Invulnerability, which speaks for itself. You also drank Body, which allows you to experience nonlinear time.”
“That must be what The Cleanser left out when he offered it to me and The Navigator. He said it would break me out of my pattern.”
“That’s right, you basically drank your own kryptonite. But you also drank Time, which is the one that comes from the star puddle. It protects you retroactively, so that a traveler can’t go back in time and prevent you from drinking it.”
“Like The Hundemarke.”
“Yeah, kinda.” He wasn’t furious about Mateo drinking his precious water, likely because he now had a way to get off the island, but he also wasn’t super happy about it. “Unfortunately for you, none of this is going to work. If you had just taken one, that one would have been fine, but they counteract each other unless you first drink Catalyst. And they won’t last very long unless you drink Activator at the end. It’s this whole thing. You can’t go ‘round drinking other people’s shit, Mateo. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
“Man, I didn’t know that car was yours. I found something that was going to help me survive, so I took my opportunity.”
“That isn’t my car. It’s The Superintendent’s. And I turned the battery off because I was saving it for when I got my hands on Existence water. I couldn’t leave the island without it...until now. If I tried, I would be torn out of reality.”
“Like my friends.”
“Like who?”
“Like Xearea.”
Mateo sighed. “Trust me, you met her.”
“Well, it looks like you don’t have to help me. You only took what I was going to give you as payment. I guess I’ll see you around.”
Mateo stopped him. “I don’t know if this is supposed to be a guilt trip, but you have to realize that you don’t know me very well. I’m going to help you; not because I want off this island too, or because you were going to give me something, but because that’s the kind of person I am. The plan is still in place...whatever that plan happens to be.”
“We need to start the plan now, but we can’t complete it until one year from now. It would seem that your jumps, and the galactic year, match up perfectly...and that’s actually better for us. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, or by design. But we need to take advantage of it.”
“Then let’s go.”
And so Mateo and Ambrosios headed off on their adventure together. The water was simple enough. They just filled up a few pouches. The other stops were strange. They found a grove of lionfruit, which Ambrosios had no name for, but he was happy enough with Mateo’s terms. They didn’t take the fruit itself, but instead some of the leaves they were growing with. Not all the leaves were good enough, though. They had to have the right ratio of blue and green. And he required tons of the stuff. Then Ambrosios made Mateo climb up to the top of a cliff and tear out a particular kind of fairly sharp shale rock. He asked for a few pieces, “just in case”. Meanwhile, Ambrosios had retrieved a special sap from a nearby tree.
“What is all this for?” Mateo asked.
“The ritual.”
“Yeah, that was what I thought you would say. Does it hurt?”
“A little bit.” He sealed the coconut-like fruit he had used to gather the sap, and stood back up. “Come. We must go to the star puddle.”
“Very well.”
It took them a few hours to get all the way back. By then, it was nearing sundown, and Mateo still had no idea what was happening. Ambrosios, however, refused to offer any further explanation as he went about his work. He ordered Mateo to dig a pit in the ground while he built a fire, using the leaves as fuel. Mateo watched out of the corner of his eye as Ambrosios held the shale rock over the flames, every once in awhile using a different kind of rock to knock chips off the edge.
Finally, Mateo asked, “is this deep enough?”
Ambrosios looked over. “It’ll do.” He stoked the fire a little bit, and added a handful more of the leaves. “I’ll crouch down.”
“You’re getting in the pit? Am I getting in the pit?”
He laughed. “No, that won’t be necessary.” He took a second to inspect his heated rock, ultimately determining that that part of the job was complete. “It’s not perfect, but I am wasting no more time. We will begin.”
“How is this going to get us back to Earth?”
“How will this weird rock-heating get us back home.”
“Oh, it’s not.” He stuck the rock in the ground and poured some of the star puddle water over it. He then started rubbing the tree sap over his whole body. As he did so, he started breathing heavily. It looked like it was burning his skin, like a volatile acid.
“Are you okay?”
“It’s fine, it’s...I need to do this.” He poured the last of it over his head. “This is the best way to get the blood into my system.”
“What blood?”
“Yours.” He picked up the shale rock, and dragged it across Mateo’s neck before Mateo could stop him. It wasn’t pleasant, but it also didn’t hurt that badly. “What?”
Mateo tried to struggle away, but Ambrosios was too strong. “Get the hell off me!”
Ambrosios tried cutting into his neck a few more times, but nothing. It could not break the skin. “Oh, no!” He cried. Then he picked up a heavy stick and tried to bash it over Mateo’s head.
It felt like nothing too.
“No, you drank Catalyst water! When did you do that? What’s going on?”
Ambrosios finally relaxed, and Mateo took his chance to get free. “I have no idea, but I’m gonna go.”

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