Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 28, 2143

While most people left on the island had had an entire year to recover from the craziness that was their pre-wedding celebration, Mateo, Leona, and Serif had none. They were still feeling a little hungover, and Serif’s body had not yet completely healed. The three of them were slow in the morning, stumbling over the uneven surface of the beach, and struggling to perform simple tasks, like drinking water. Mateo was no lightweight, but he also hadn’t had much alcohol since this all started. He was holding a beer with lime at the very moment of his first time jump. Evidently citrus explodes when exposed to the timestream, or something, so that was a traumatic experience that might have contributed to his later abstention. It was probably a good rule to live by, and he would likely be practicing it from now on.
After breakfast, Arcadia teleported herself in. She was wearing a pantsuit, and a microphone headset, and she was holding a binder, which was very obviously empty.
“Are you our wedding planner?” Leona asked.
“I’m playing your wedding planner, but you’ll be planning the wedding. I’ve just always wanted to wear these things.” She tapped her headset with a pen. “I did, however, take the liberty of jotting down a short list of things you’ll need, and where you’ll be able to find them.”
Mateo took the list she pulled out of her binder. “Let’s see, we need a photographer. Wait, it says Paige here. Are you letting her come?”
“Her and Horace, of course. You’re welcome.”
“Thank you. A band and a DJ? Who are the Codas?”
“Don’t worry about it. They’ll show up and do whatever.”
“Are these the Horticulturalists? The ones you spoke of who keep plants from other realities?”
He went back to the list. “Why do we need a hotel?”
“For the guests, obviously.”
He scanned the beach. “Everybody already has somewhere to sleep. I mean, we would love better accommodations, but we would rather they be more permanent. A one-night hotel room just seems cruel.”
She scoffed. “Mateo, this is just the wedding party. The hotel is for your guests, of which there are thousands. Tens of thousands.”
“Why is it going to be that big?” Leona questioned.
“Because I want it to be.”
“This is our wedding,” Leona argued.
“You don’t even wanna get married.”
“Well, if I have to, then at least let it be on our terms.”
“No,” Arcadia said plainly. “This is still an expiation, and these are my terms. You get married in the Colosseum replica, and you do it in front of e’erbody.”
“Son of a bitch!” Leona yelled out of character, then stormed off.
“You seem rather cool about all this,” Arcadia pointed out.
“Ya know what they say.”
Screw it,” Mateo finished. He scanned the list again. They needed a caterer and a videographer, a tailor and hair & makeup, and transportation. The latter would apparently be handled by none other than The Chauffeur, Dave. But he was still hung up on the hotel thing. “What hotel is big enough to hold everyone that can fit in the Colosseum?”
Arcadia reached into her bag of holding and retrieved a bell. Upon ringing it, a door magically appeared on the beach.
“Is that The Crossover?”
“Part of it,” she answered.
A man wearing a bellhop uniform slipped out of the door and rush towards them. “Yes, hello, can I help you?” he asked in an overly-polite tone.
“What are some good restaurants around here.”
He was shocked and uncomfortable, and he looked around for answers. “There’s, uhh...Beachfire Grill.” He was just looking at the firepit they had built. “Umm...Alien Coconut Grove. Algae Caves.”
“I’m messing with you, Bell.” She looked back to Mateo. “This is Bell. I mean, I think he has a real name, but I don’t care what it is. He can help you with anything that pertains to the rooms.”
Bell tipped his head down. “ Kingdom Hotel. You may call me Bell, or whatever you would like.”
“The Kingdom Hotel is part of the Crossover? How big is that thing?”
Bell smiled. “Every big. All the bigs.”
“Thank you,” Arcadia said somewhat dismissively. “Please prepare the rooms. We’ll need them all in a year.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Oh, please. Ma’am is my mother. Call me Mistress Queen.”
“Very well, Mistress Queen,” Bell said, either not recognizing it as a joke, or believing his role as merely the help meant it didn’t matter.”
“Are you okay with this?” Mateo asked of Bell.
Bell started to leave for his door. “It’s a living.”
“Accommodations rely heavily on invitations,” Arcadia explained. “Otherwise, people won’t know where to go. That’s what you’ll be working on today.”
She escorted him down the beach where an office support station had been installed that he hadn’t noticed before. There were computers, printers, and machines that he didn’t recognize. “Do you have a fitness band? You’re going to be getting a lot of steps in today. You won’t really have any time to sit, so just ignore the chairs.”
“Can’t we just send an email?”
“Not everyone has access to email, Mateo,” she said. “Let me show you how this works.” She leaned over and opened a program on the computer. Up popped an invitation template. “You can write whatever you would like, but I recommend you personalize them to the individual.”
“How would I do that if there are tens of thousands of them? I don’t even know most of them.”
She opened another program, and snapped each window to opposite edges of the screen so they could see them both at once. “Here’s a list of variables. Anything that begins with a dollar sign is going to be referring specifically the person, or their location, or whatnot. It’s going to be drawing from a database of the guests.” She opened a third program with a table of names. “Don’t alter the guestlist itself, though. This is very important, because not everyone can fit at the reception tables. Only the elite three-thousand will be staying for that. I’ve already decided who those are, so I’m just gonna close this back up. Once you’re happy with the finished product, print it off.” She acted like she was going to print it, so he could see what the screen would look like. “In this box here, you’re going to type in the number four-eight-three-nine-two.”
“Is that how many people are coming?”
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
“You may want to print a sample copy first, though, because you probably screwed it up.”
She walked over to the printers. “They’ll spit the invitations out here. It doesn’t matter the order, so it’s programmed to use all three printers at once. She pointed to some shelving behind the printers. “I got a hundred reams for you, and that should be enough, assuming you don’t ruin the entire job.” She reached over and took one ream, tearing it open on top of the printer. “The delivery machine can only take about a ream at once. Well...three, because there are three slots. When they come out of the printer, they’re not going to be even, so put the stack in the jogger.” She set the stack of example sheets in another machine, and flipped it on. The machine jiggled, which helped the stack straighten out. Then up in the delivery slot. Pull this level down gently. And press the green Start button on the side of that slot. You can monitor its progress on this screen. Just keep doing that ad nauseam. Think you can handle that?”
“Where do the invitations go?”
“All these machine were invented by humans, except that the delivery machine has been adapted to send it across time. Again, it’s already been programmed. The guestlist contains codes for each individual, so it knows where to send them.”
“Is all this really necessary?” Mateo asked, already exhausted only from hearing the instructions.
“People like to be entertained, Mateo. You gave them that with your Uluru battle, but this is better, because no one dies...theoretically. They have really hard lives, and sometimes they just wanna sit down and watch people promise to love each other for the rest of their lives.”
“Very well, Mistress Queen,” he echoed Bell.
She smirked. “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to not ask them. I ain’t here to hold your hand. It’s still possible to fail this, just like the other expiations.”
Once she turned around, Mateo said genuinely, “thank you, Arcadia.” He imagined her smiling sadly, secretly yearning for a reality where she didn’t feel she needed to do this. But she never turned back, instead opting for merely teleporting away.
Mateo got to work, running into problem after problem. He had trouble finding the right words for the invitations. The variables would never seem to line up correctly. The printers always seemed to require paper refill at the same time the delivery machine was finished with a stack, and needed to be filled up too. Every time something went wrong; like a paper jam, or processor overheating, a red light would come on, paired with an incessant alarm. Arcadia had been right about how many steps he would get in. He was constantly hopping between the machines, fixing problems, and adding paper. In all his life, he never dreamed of being responsible for the death of so many trees. It was rather sickening to him, actually, and he doubted whether this was truly the best way to contact all the guests, even assuming it was the best course of action to invite so many people in the first place.
He knew that his friends were all working on their own things, but didn’t have the energy to worry about it. He could see Darko and Marcy designing table centerpieces, for a reception he hadn’t even begun to think about. Little Dar’cy was running in her bear costume, as apparently a pun on her role as ring bearer. She was also the flower girl. Leona was in a little hut with someone who once worked with Téa at her clothing shop, before Arcadia tore both it, and her, out of time. He was fitting her for a dress. Lincoln and Mario were building a table out of wood from scratch. Horace came over to visit, but per Arcadia’s orders, couldn’t help. He said that they were only building one table, then it was going to be replicated three hundred times; stolen from three hundred temporary microrealities. The same would be done for all the chairs, and what little food someone named The Culinarian would be cooking a year from now. Mateo literally thanked God for that, because it was technically possible to do all that manually over the course of this next year, and he was grateful it wouldn’t be necessary.
“Where’s Paige?” Mateo asked as he was tearing open several reams of paper in preparation for later. He was really getting a good rhythm going, and was better at predicting each machine’s needs.
“She’s taking photos of the venue.”
Mateo just nodded and kept working.
“Listen, I wanted to talk with you about something.”
“What is it?”
“Well, Leona isn’t particularly close to the other Tribulation Island residents.”
“Uhuh,” Mateo agreed. She didn’t dislike them, but she only existed one day out of the year, so socializing wasn’t top priority.
“I know her best. Afterall, I was married to her.”
“And you killed her. A few times, if I’m to understand your history correctly.”
“Yes.” He paused awkwardly, stopping himself at the last second from instinctually helping Mateo open a new case of paper. “Still...she’s offered me a role in the wedding party.”
“As what?”
“Her Chief Attendant.”
Mateo stopped working, letting the delivery machine run out of invitations to send out. “I suppose it’s only natural. I don’t have much room to complain since she doesn’t know Serif, who is likely going to be my Chief Attendant. and I are cool in this reality.”
Horace stopped Mateo as he was trying to get back to the task at hand. “Are we?”
Mateo knew that no words would sufficiently convey his message, so he dropped what he was doing, and pulled Horace into an embrace. Seeing this, Dar’cy ran over and joined in, hugging them both at their legs. Now it truly was a bear hug.
Once he was finally finished with the time invitations, Mateo helped carry the table, chairs, and centerpieces, to the Colosseum grounds. He was then fitted for a tuxedo, which he kept on for family photos. That night, they had an engagement party, just for the islanders, plus Horace and Paige. Arcadia showed up for dessert. Tomorrow was the big day. He was nervous, but secretly happy that it was being forced upon them. He was dreading having to find the right way to convince Leona to set the date. A July wedding, just as he always wanted it.

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