Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 13, 2128

Mateo and Juan did not immediately go to Florida. They first traveled back through the teleporter pool, and onto the Tribulation Island. There, the both of them spent the day with the whole group, and then Juan and Leona spent the following year talking a great deal. He was one of her birth parents’ favorite historical figures, and subsequently the inspiration for her first name. He was not surprisingly experienced in history and the future He was famous in the salmon world for carrying around something called the Compass of Disturbance, which was capable of locating and harnessing natural temporal anomalies. He used these fractures to explore all of time and space, and learn about various cultures. By the time Mateo returned to the timeline the next year, the two of them were the best of friends, even though they had never even shaken hands, or given each other a hug due to the merge barrier. They all had their annual breakfast together, and then Mateo and Juan set off on their mission.
Juan took his compass out and moved it around in the air to get a good reading. “We’re not headed directly towards Florida, but we are on the right right path.”
“That thing can tell you how to get somewhere that’s going to get you somewhere else?”
“I have been using this thing for many years. I have learned to interpret it better than anyone else.”
“How did you encounter it? How did you make your way into our world?”
Juan tried to tell his story. “I first traveled to the peninsula of Florida in search of—”
“The Fountain of Youth,” Mateo jumped in. “Yes.”
“No. That’s a myth. Though, looking back, I imagine my search for immortality after my original mortal voyages will ultimately go on and inspire the rumors. But no, I first went to Florida for this type of plant I had heard of with fascinating, but still nonmagical, properties. I had encountered people who brewed a special vine into a tea that made them feel youthful. It made them lively, and happy, and it lowered their inhibitions. It basically just made them drunk, but without the alcohol, which meant it lacked its deleterious effects. If I had found it, I’d have been rich, selling a social and euphoric drink with no hangover. Could you imagine? Well, this is the future, people here don’t have to imagine, but back then, it would have been amazing. Anyway, I actually did find what I was looking for, but it wasn’t what I had hoped. Its effects had been greatly enhanced by the other drugs people were taking alongside it. So that was a bust, but the trip did end up leading me to this pit. It was the dryest place I’d ever seen. Water literally flowed away from it. When I opened my canteen for a drink, it was completely empty. I knew then that I was somewhere unusual, but I didn’t know exactly what.
“I began to dig. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that something was in the ground. Something was making the water disappear. And that’s when I found it.” Juan held up his precious compass. “This compass. Despite having been buried naked in the ground for God knows how long, it was perfectly clean and brand new, with not a scratch on it. When I opened it, it started spinning around furiously. I thought it was going to burst. Then a light appeared before me. I walked through it, and found myself in the exact same place I already was, but at a different time. Ya see, I actually had discovered the Fountain of Youth. I had just gotten there too late. It’s a spring that runs more than sixteen hundred years ago, before naturally drying up, as springs do. Obviously, you have to go back in time and get to the water before that happens. I was there back then, but of course, I didn’t know that it had anything to do with immortality. And even if I did, I wouldn’t know I needed to drink Catalyst first. I just used it to fill my canteen, and then moved on. I’ve been running around with this thing ever since. It’s only recently that I was told what I was missing.”
“Wow. You must have seen so much. You’re going to see so much more once we find these waters.”
“That’s the plan.”
“It’s not a bad plan,” Arcadia said. She had been waiting for them at the lake where Mateo and Leona completed the Six Days, Seven Nights tribulation.
“You must be a waypoint,” Juan said.
“Are you calling me fat?” she asked with what was hopefully feigned disgust.
“Are you calling me a person who calls people fat?” Juan threw back with excellent precision.
She lifted her chin at a slant and studied his face. “I like you. I probably should have introduced myself earlier.”
Juan bowed, and kissed a hand that she presented him. “I greet you as the inhabitants of Kentavro in the 24th century.”
“I am pleased,” Arcadia says to him formally and gracefully, with a gentle curtsy.
“What’s a waypoint?”
The other two looked at him like he was a mountain man at a cotillion, Juan reluctantly so. He wanted to respect Mateo more, but there was just no getting around the fact that Mateo. Was. Kind of. Dumb.
“Waypoints come in many forms,” Arcadia started to explain. “They can be people, or geographical obstacles, or temporal illnesses. The one thing they have in common is that they make you wait before you can move on with your journey. They’re not designed for that purpose, necessarily. It’s really just a general term used to describe anything that gets in a true traveler’s way. It is interesting, Mateo, that in all your time as a salmon, you have met only two true travelers.”
“At the risk of making myself look even stupider, what is the definition of a true traveler?”
“You know choosing ones who use their temporal powers for some kind of gain. The Chauffeur takes payments for fares. Glaston just likes pissing people off. He can often be found literally kidnapping people by spiriting them away to other spacetime points. He puts them back when he gets bored. True travelers, on the other hand, simply want to experience life from other perspectives.” She pointed to Juan. “The Navigator does this with his device. The Warrior through death. Mateo, you would be a true traveler if you had been born a chooser, rather than a salmon.” She started to speak her sentences slowly, like she was trying to convey a message of importance, the same way that Barack Obama or Christopher Walken did. She also temporarily adopted a vague transatlantic accent. “This is the life you should be living. This is the life you’re looking for. You should be going on adventures, and quests, for nothing more than the sake of doing them. You should be collecting stories to tell vikings in a bar, smiling knowingly as they laugh, for they do not realize you are telling the God’s honest truth.”
“What are you saying, Arcadia?”
“I have another proposition for you.”
“Oh no, here we go.”
“I can release you from the powers that be. I can get you the immortality waters that you’re missing. I can give you the life you deserve; that you’re built for.”
“Let me guess, you won’t bring my friends back into the timestream, and I have to leave Leona behind.”
“No, I’ll bring them back, and I’ll let you stay with her.” She said the last word with such disdain.
“But,” she echoed. “Your memories will be erased. You’ve heard of blending brains, but my sister could do more than that.”
“That’s an arbitrary price. You don’t have to erase my memories. You just want me to have to make a choice.”
“Actually that’s not true. You would have to lose your memories in order to survive the transition.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Where you’re living right now is but one universe of many. I’m not talking many worlds theory, that’s bogus. These universes can be created by people in other universes, just by the strength of their convictions.”
Mateo wasn’t impressed. “You mean Imaginationland?”
“Not unlike that story. Which is a story...originating from another universe, and taking yet another universe.”
“So it’s not real?”
“Time and perception are all that matter when it comes to what’s real. It is not a simulation. It cannot be turned off, or reprogrammed, or hacked; it can only be accessed. It is real.”
“It would never really be real, because it is not this universe.”
“Well let me ask you this,” Arcadia said. “What makes you think that the universe you’re in right the real one?” She gave him a second to think about this. “You could have asked Vearden about this.”
“Don’t you say his name,” Mateo snapped.
She nodded calmly. “I will do as you ask. Will you?”
Mateo looked at Juan, and then back the way they had come, in the general direction of Leona.
“You can have your Leona, and your time with her too,” Arcadia said as her final selling point.
Mateo then just looked back at Juan again. “Is this waypoint going to take much longer. We’re gonna be late for our flight to Florida.”
Arcadia brought in and released a deep breath. “Very well.” She moved aside and let them pass. “Two more legs. Hurry back, though. I believe it’s Taco Tuesday. There may be ice cream too.”
Mateo and Juan walked a few more miles along the bank of the lake, and then on to the Golf Plains. Just as the top of the replica of The Colosseum was appearing in view, Juan informed him that they were near the breach. They walked through it and landed in what was present-day Florida. They were standing in a lush forest, but could hear the buzz of a drone not too far from them. Juan recalibrated his compass, and passed them into another breach a few meters away. Together, they filled nearly a dozen water bottles of Youth. The extra might come in handy one day.
They couldn’t just retrace their steps in order to get back to the island. They had to go through an entirely new pathway, one that was much longer than the first. They walked through many points in time and space, occasionally on alien planets. They actually saw a young Vearden talking with a young Lincoln. Mateo didn’t even know that they knew each other before the island. When finally they returned home, it was dinner time, and decidedly not Taco Tuesday. They just ate their regular boar and bananas, had some interesting, but sad, conversations, and then went to bed. Tomorrow would be all about Longevity water, which Mateo assumed meant it would take a long time.

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