Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 15, 2130

The first thing that Mateo did when he woke up in 2130 was take inventory. He didn’t need to know how much fish they had in their tarp aquarium, or how long their alien coconuts would last before they climb for more. No, he needed to know who was left on the island. The last several years had come with so much drama, and time away from the group, that he hadn’t really gotten a chance to see what things looked like. Mario was the worst off. He mourned for his daughter, who was still alive, but not for his wife, who had been ripped from time. He couldn’t remember her, but deep love seemed to do something for people that not even time could break. He was feeling an emptiness that he couldn’t explain, even after being told of Angelita.
Darko was still there, working his ass off to provide for the group, something that Vearden did in bulk before he died. Other choosing ones acted like they would be lost without their time powers, but not Darko. Mateo never once heard him complain, or accidentally try to thread an object before realizing he could no longer do it. Apparently, he was good either way. Mateo still didn’t understand what Lincoln’s power was, how he could see time from an outside perspective. It sounded like something no one could understand if they couldn’t see it for themselves. He especially didn’t know how much of that power Lincoln retained on the island. Whenever they crossed paths, they would give each other this look, like they were trying to communicate telepathically. At first, Mateo assumed it was hard for him to pretend to be as oblivious as everyone else, but now he was thinking that Lincoln had been dealing with that his whole life. The woman he had known as his mother in another timeline was still alive too. They never spoke to one another, and she seemed to have lost interest in learning about in getting to know him better. She knew an alternate version of her had given birth to him, but also that he was raised primarily by other people. Loving him was a level of social connection that she was incapable of feeling. If she didn’t outright hate him for being ultimately at fault for her life on this island, she was at least indifferent to him as a stranger.
It was Horace who Mateo felt worst for right now. He was looking around camp, sifting through other people’s bags, and even digging holes in the sand. He walked back and forth, sometimes checking somewhere he had already checked. He was growing more and more frustrated, stopping periodically to determine whether this was even real life. One time, Randall and Carol took Mateo to a nursing home to visit his third cousin something-something-something removed. He was so young that he now couldn’t even remember the man’s name, but this image of him in his room has never gone. The cousin never quite understood who the three of them were, or how Mateo was related to him. He just stood in the middle of the floor, staring at his surroundings. What Mateo didn’t realize at the time was that he had a form of neurological damage, coupled with age-related dementia. Everything around him was unrecognizable, like it not only didn’t belong to him, but that he couldn’t even figure out what they were in the first place. What do beds do? How do you open a dresser? What are mirrors for? The look of fear in this man’s eyes as he placed as much distance between him and the unknown had haunted Mateo ever since. Horace was acting like that right now, and it was because his daughter, Paige had been torn out of time.
“What are you looking for, hun?” Aura asked tenderly.
Horace just grunted.
“If you tell us what it is, we can help you.”
Horace grunted again, but also lunged in her direction, letting her know that she needed to back off.
Aura wasn’t letting up, though. She tried to reach for him, even seeing that he was not in the mood. Mateo stepped in instead, before it could escalate to violence, taking Horace by the arms.
Her name was Paige Turner Reaver-Demir. You and Serkan raised her after accidentally bringing her through time. Arcadia has removed her from the timestream, and has erased your memories, but...”
“She can’t erase my soul,” Horace finished. “What’s happening to me, Mateo? Surely I wasn’t in her presence every second of her life. What about when she went to college, or backpacking in Europe? If she’s only been gone for a couple hours, why do I feel like my organs were replaced with rocks? Why does it hurt so much?”
“She hasn’t just been gone for a couple hours, Horace. She’s been gone forever. The lost of a child can’t—” He stopped mid-sentence to switch gears, “it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last saw her; the void consumed you immediately.”
Horace still had no memory of Paige, but knew on an unspeakable level that he was supposed to. His eyes teared up slowly, but then fell out of his eyes like a bursting dam. His knees buckled and he fell to the ground so hard that Mateo couldn’t hold the weight. The crowd gathered around him, to form a protective shell that no threat could break, sending him as much positive energy as they had themselves.
Horace stopped crying, but didn’t raise his head. He went back to the face that was reminiscent of Mateo’s brain-damaged relative. What is a dad? His mind corrected itself quickly, though, and he was able to look up and into his daughter’s eyes. “Paige?”
She was holding Arcadia’s hand, like a child who was too young to fly alone, and was assigned one of the flight attendants to supervise her. She removed her grasp and dove down to hug Horace’s neck, and together they cried.
Mateo stood up and stepped over to Arcadia. “Why did you bring her back? Not that I’m complaining.”
“I couldn’t do it,” she said. It’s easy when you can erase their memories, because...” She could barely speak; distracted by the expression of devotion between a father and daughter. “Because then it’s like it’s not even real. But with two people like them, my power can only do so much. Seeing him break down like just didn’t feel right.”
“None of this is right, Arcadia.”
“I know.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“I was literally born for this. Altering the continuum is all I know. Take that away from me, and what am I?”
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist?”
“No jokes.”
“I’m sorry.” He took a few beats so they could continue watching the sudden reunion, then he turned towards Arcadia. “I don’t know who you are. You’ve never given me the chance. But no one has to be like this. No one has to do this to people. It’s a choice.”
You’re not given a choice,” she said to him. “You’re a salmon. Everything you do is at the mercy of someone else.”
“So what’s your excuse?”
“Centuries of being just like you. They didn’t call us salmon, but that’s what we were. We were slaves to our nature, as well as to them.”
“Well they no longer control you, so you don’t have to be like them anymore.”
“I’m not like I was. Now I make the decisions. You’re right, I have a choice...and I still choose this. For now.” Her whole body faded to black, and then faded away. Her voice remained in the air for a few seconds, though. “Paige and Horace will never again be separated by my hands.”
Horace broke free from his little girl, and approached Mateo. “Is this over? Is she really back?”
She’s back,” Mateo assured him. “I can’t tell you what happens tomorrow, but Paige is safe.”
“Is there anything we can do?” Darko asked. “Can we fight back?”
Mateo and Lincoln exchanged that look again.
“No,” Mateo said. “We just have to get through it, and we can’t let it break us.”
“Well, what are we doing today?” Mario asked.
Mateo had no answer for this, but Horace did. “We cherish every moment.”
That night, they had a feast, provided for them by Arcadia, who never appeared herself, but apported any food to them upon request. As they were joking and laughing during desert, a one-armed man walked through a door that was hovering just over the table. He was followed by another man who held his own arm at his back, presumably holding the door open.
“Keanu,” Horace said, angrily and under his breath.
“Tauno,” said Paige in the same way.
“I am not so generous,” the one Mateo guessed was Keanu said.
Horace knocked his chair behind him as he was standing up to reach for Keanu’s legs. Tauno raised his free hand to him, sending Horace falling through a hole that wasn’t there before. They then heard the same yelling from a football field away where he was falling out of the exit portal. The rest of them tried to stop the two intruders as well, but were met by the same fate. They all began running back towards the table, but none of them was able to make it there before Keanu had pulled Paige into their main portal door, and closed it permanently.
“Arcadia!” Mateo screamed.
As if on cue, Arcadia teleported in herself and said, “looks like you’ll get a Paige expiation after all.
“Where are they?” Mateo asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered. “That’s what’s gonna make this one so difficult.”

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