Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 3, 2149

Mateo National Park wasn’t the only thing named after him, but it was the largest, and it alone was too much. He didn’t love that they had done that, but he could see why they would feel the need to. After all, he was in the general vicinity when Leona saved the Petrovichi children’s lives. She had it best—or worst—here, depending on who you asked. Leonte was an entire continent, of which there were many regions, each with some other variation of Leona’s names. He learned that even his once-mother, Aura had somewhere named for her. Lorania was the island he and Xearea were stranded on for awhile with violent immortal, Ambrosios, and Marcy’s mother, Aldona.
He woke up alone the next year in the penthouse of LIR Towers, which no one in the history of this civilization had ever utilized. It was designated exclusively for Mateo, and any of his compatriots. After some time admiring the beautiful view of the city, he put on his clothes and opened the door to the common area. Lincoln was eating his breakfast, and staring out the window as well. Everyone else had apparently begun their day.
“What’s out there?” Mateo asked.
“You can see the sign for this place in the reflection of the building across from it,” Lincoln began to explain.
“I’m honored they named it after me,” he said, pointing to said reflection with the end of his spoon. “It’s just made me realize that my initials could be pronounced as the word liar.”
Mateo tried to stifle a laugh.
“It’s not funny.”
“Well, you are a liar.”
Lincoln smiled, and had to agree. There was a huge secret between them, which they weren’t even allowed to discuss amongst themselves. Who knows what else Lincoln knew that he could tell no one about? He was probably fully aware how this whole expiation mess would turn out. “They tell me you met Catalina.”

“We did. You remember her?”

“How could I forget? She’s my ex-girlfriend.”
“She didn’t describe it that way.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t know.” Upon seeing Mateo’s confusion, Lincoln realized he needed to clear things up. “We dated in the reality where Horace and Leona were married, and then also in the one where he goes back and changes things; the one you’re from.”
“We broke up just before my point of divergence. When you went back in time and killed Hitler, it created a reality where I decided to just never date her in the first place. In fact, I avoided her in high school. I ended up running into her when her brother was in some trouble, but only accidentally. I never meant to get involved.”
Mateo nodded politely.
“What is it, Matty?” Lincoln pushed knowingly.
“You remember her from a reality that you never experienced.”
“No, I didn’t technically experience it, but...we’ve been through this.”
“We have, but...” Mateo hesitated. “I’ve never really asked you anything. I don’t mean about how your power works, but for actual insight.”
“You wanna know the future,” he stated.
“I do, and I don’t. If knowing will make things worse, then I don’t. If I can’t prevent something bad from happening, then I don’t.”
“Sounds like you just don’t want the truth, full stop.”
“Did you know about the mainlands? Did you know this was a bustling planet?”
“I did, yes.”
“Do you know about the next car wreck that happens somewhere down there?” He gestured to the streets below them.
“I do.”
“How long?”
He simply placed his open hand up, then lowered the fingers one by one until they were gone, indicating a countdown.
“Does it hurt? Seeing all of that, all at once?”
“I don’t see it all at once. I can just see it. Imagine that the universe—all of time and space—is a giant cosmic painting. Most people can only see their tiny little section. I can step back and see the whole thing, or I can zoom in on some other section. Most of the time I just focus on my own brushstrokes, though. I’ve expanded my purview in recent years, for the sake of our friends, but I still don’t see that much. Not if I don’t want to.”
“What do you see right now?”
“Do you recognize this building?” he posed.
“No, should I?”
Lincoln moved his gaze around the room. “Of course it wasn’t this room, but it had similar design features.”
“What did?”
“Horace and Paige. They live here, a few stories below us. I believe they weren’t allowed to tell you at the wedding. You were probably meant to believe they were living on Earth.”
“Why would Arcadia want me to think that?”
“I dunno, she thinks your sensitive.”
Mateo inhaled and exhaled deeply. “She’s right.” After a pause, he continued, “does that mean she won’t let me see them?”
He started nodding; lightly, but unceasingly, like James Spader.
“Is that a yes?”
“Let’s just say...if you asked Darko whether he would want to see them too, he wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Well, why w—?” Oh, crap. “Are you telling me that she tore them out of time?”
He nodded again, this time more deliberately.
“She promised she wouldn’t. And she’s not much for lying.”
“She promised she wouldn’t tear them apart. They’re both gone, so neither one can miss the other.”
“When did she do this?”
“Yesterday midnight central,” Lincoln answered.
“She’s not letting me complete an expiation for them? That would be a lie.”
“I don’t claim to know her rationality, or her intentions.”
“But you know how this ends. You know whether I get them back or not.”
He sort of cringed, searching for the best response. “Let’s stick with the painting metaphor. What Arcadia does to the timestream is complicated. She paints over reality with something new. If you look real close, you can see that it’s changed. Rather, I can see, but that doesn’t mean I can see what’s behind it.”
“Arcadia, come here now,” Mateo prayed.
She appeared in kitchen, already in the middle of preparing a meal, as if she had been there the whole time. “You two broke the rules. You’re not supposed to be talkin’ about this stuff.”
Mateo got up and took her by the arm, ushering her away from the foodstuff. “I cannot deal..with another villain..peacocking their power over cooking or eating.”
“Fair enough.” She followed with zero resistance.
“What have you done to my friends?”
“I did what I do. I took them out of time.”
“Why? You’re not even giving me a chance to get them back. What’s the point?”
“There is no point. If I don’t take someone out of time at least ever few years, I will surely die.”
“Hell you tryna say to me?” he asked angrily.
“I’m kidding. They were bugging me, so I dismissed them. What’s the big deal?”
“Arcadia, you can’t just get rid of people you don’t like. That’s...cruel. It’s mean.”
“I look like an angel to you?”
“A little bit.”
“Well, that’s very kind, but I wasn’t raised by a lovely couple who don’t think twice about adopting a random little boy whose mother isn’t all there. I wasn’t raised by anyone, I was just created. So what do you want from me? What do you expect me to do, Mateo? Be a decent human being? Bitch, I don’t know what that looks like.”
“I think you do. I think you’ve seen enough of the goodness in others to at least emulate it. You’re just not trying hard enough.”
“If it makes you feel any better, you won’t be required to complete an expiation. Once these are done, whether you succeed in them all or not, I’ll bring ‘em back alive.”
“It doesn’t make me feel better.”
“Well, I can’t control everything. I’m trying to give you a nice honeymoon, and you’re wasting it by holding secret conversations with this guy. Where is your wife, do you even know?”
“She’s an independent woman who’s free to explore the world on her own.”
“How modern of you.”
“My relationship with my wife is none of your goddamn business. I appreciate  that you believe giving us this bastardization of a honeymoon is the right thing to do, but it’s just as much of a violation as it was to force us to get married. I don’t see why you’re so invested in us.”
“I wanted to give you a gift before I had to take it away.”
“What are you taking away?”
“Leona!” she screamed. “Leona and Serif. Did you think they were exempt from this? Out of everybody, Dar’cy is the only one I can’t corrupt, which makes Leona fair game. I hadn’t intended to remove Serif, but once she started existing...” she gave Lincoln the stink eye, “suddenly I could take her from you too.”
Of course she would do that. He didn’t really ever think Leona was exempt, but didn’t want to think about it. At the very least, he assumed she would be the last one, so he could get her back the fastest.
“I didn’t think I would have to actually tell you, because I figured you would enjoy your time with her while you still had it. But come 2151, she’s gone. They both are, and their expiation will be the worst. It will hurt the most, and you will be at risk of failure to a higher degree than you’ve known. I brought you to the Dardieti mainlands so you would have three final days with her. I suggest you don’t waste the two and a half you have left.”
Mateo moved closer so his face was right in hers, wanting to hit a woman for the first time in his life. Instead, he slammed his fist on the breakfast table hard enough to break at least a couple bones. In a chilling voice, he simply said, “fuck you.”

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