Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 25, 2202

The Book of Hogarth might have been the strangest thing Leona had encountered, and that was saying a lot. She wanted to get to researching it right away. It wasn’t just that she was eager to find answers on who this Mateo guy was, but the book was theoretically capable of teaching her oh so much more about temporal mechanics. Unfortunately, this seemed impossible. After uncovering it months ago from her perspective, Hogarth was physically unable to open the damn thing. There was no place for a key, and she had no clue what a secret code word might be, so her guess was that it was meant for someone else. Out of anyone, Leona was the most likely candidate to succeed, but it didn’t work for her either. They set it aside, and moved on with the rest of the day. The three who were going to actually be around for the following year intended to investigate the matter further.
When Leona woke up the next year, she walked out to find everyone else already sitting at the table. “What did I miss?”
“Oh, good morning,” Vitalie said. “Kivi, go ahead and make the call.”
“Make what call?” Leona questioned.
Kivi dialed her phone, and spoke into it. “She’s awake. Could you come by and do it for us one more time?” She waited for a moment. “That’s okay, we understand. Thanks.”
“Who was that?” Leona asked.
“Étude is about to step into an important evaluation for school. She’ll be here afterwards,” Kivi answered.
“That’s great,” Leona said, happy about getting to see her again. She was quite the busy bee. Along with studying her ass off at regular medical school, she was also receiving extra work from Doctor Mallory Hammer. The powers that be even let Doctor Baxter Sarka show up every once in a while to teach her some things about the future of medicine. It seemed like every salmon, chooser, or anyone else associated with the life had enemies. Even the perfectly pleasant Kivi had her share of people who didn’t like her. Étude, on the other hand, appeared to be universally loved. She hadn’t said more than one word her entire life, but everyone was very protective of her. Some of the more intimidating time travelers even formed a sort of personal security detail to make sure she was safe at all times. Not that she needed that. She was strong and independent, and maintained her ability to teleport herself to anywhere in the world, now with the added benefit of control. “Is there a particular reason she’s coming, though...?”
“She can open the book,” Hogarth explained.
“She can?” Leona rhetorically.
“I think it’s ‘cause of her pure heart,” Vitalie said.
“We don’t know the reason,” Hogarth countered. “We called a lot of people to try, and she was the only one.”
“It closes if you leave it open too long without reading from it,” Kivi added. “We’ve had her come back every couple months to see if anything’s changed.”
“The pages are blank,” Hogarth continued. “Étude can open it, and we think you can read it, since you’ve done it before. Ya know, before your memories were erased?”
Leona nodded. “I’ll certainly try.”
Shorty after breakfast, Étude teleported in. She was about to open the book, but Leona wanted to catch up with her first. Hogarth had learned signed language in her younger days, just because it was something she wanted to know. Vitalie learned it specifically so she could communicate with Étude. Kivi was currently learning it as well, and needed the practice, so she was their interpreter. Leona wanted to learn it for herself, but as smart as she was, that could still take decades. A half hour into the conversation, it was becoming clear that Étude was ready to get back to her own life, so Leona released her.
They were correct in that Leona was able to read the book. She could see words and diagrams on the pages even while everyone else around her still only saw blank paper. It was less a book that one could read, and more one that needed to be interpreted. There were symbols in it that Leona didn’t recognize, and even the Latin script was used to form words she didn’t know. Some characters were blurry or disjointed until she stared at them for long enough. Others became impossible to read after a couple seconds. Some pages gave her a sudden massive headache, others made her feel really hungry, and one even caused her to go blind for nearly twenty minutes. Just navigating to the pages she needed to so much as start the mission took almost the entire day, which meant she had to take the book with her to the bathroom—and anywhere else, for that matter—just to make sure it didn’t reclose on her. Once in the right section, she discovered the knowledge fleeing from her mind just as quickly as she had picked it up. If she wanted to get anything lasting out of it, she figured she had to start taking notes. But this didn’t work either, because the book turned out to be capable of erasing those notes just as easily as it could the text on its own pages. Man, this book did not want to be read. Finally, they realized the only way to keep the contents permanently was for Kivi and Hogarth to travel miles away, and transcribe Leona’s dictation through the phone.
“Okay,” Leona said at last.
Is that it?” Kivi asked through the phone.
“That’s all it’s giving me, as it pertains to this task,” Leona replied.
Are you sure?” Hogarth asked.
Vitalie slid the phone closer to her. “Uh, yeah. Come on back.”

Leona kept the book open, trying to randomly get more information out of it while they made sure bringing Kivi and Hogarth’s list closer wouldn’t cause it to burst into flames, or something. Eventually, they just had to surrender to the fact that maybe this wasn’t going to work at all, because Leona was exhausted, and she needed this to be over. She nudged the tome from her, almost letting it fall to the floor, and began to massage her eyes. “Are we good?”
“It’s still here,” Kivi confirmed, eyeing the list.
“Read it back to me,” Leona requested, like a boss to her assistant.
“One Incorruptible Astrolabe, one Rothko Torch, one—”
Leona sighed extremely loudly. “Just read them off, it’s not a slow cooker recipe.”
Kivi cleared her throat suggestively. “Rothko Torch, Jayde Spyglass, HG Googles, Muster Lighter, Leer Ma—”
LIR,” Leona corrected. “It sounds more like liar.”
“LIR Map, Escher Knob, and a Cosmic Sex Tent.”
Vitalie burst out laughing.
“I tried to tell her,” Hogarth said. “It’s not sex tent, it’s sextant. It’s an instrument for navigating on the ocean.”
“Well, how was I meant to know?” Kivi asked. “I grew up landlocked!”
“All right, well now that we have that cleared up, we can start on,” Leona said. She nodded off for a moment. “I’ve heard a few those things, and I once heard the name Jayde once. I don’t know about the others.”
“Leona, you need to go to bed.”
You’re a bed!” Leona fought back.
Vitalie stood up, and tried to put Leona over her shoulders. “Okay, sweetie, nite-nite time.”
“Can you get me my drink?” Leona asked her while trying to switch places with Vitalie, and carry her to the bedroom instead. “It’s..can you get my drink? It’s got electrolytes.”
“Sure, of course,” Vitalie agreed.
“No, wait,” Leona said, struggling to keep her eyelids open. “We forgot the insulator.”
“The building is insulated just fine. We’ll be just fine. Don’t you worry about that.”
“No,” Leona argued. “The insulator. Of life? You know what I’m talking about!” She insisted.
They didn’t seem to know, though. Before Vitalie made it all the way into the bedroom, the Book of Hogarth slammed shut defiantly. In response, Leona fell right to the floor, and could feel herself lose consciousness in that moment.
“Who are you?” Leona asked as the figure of a man slowly began to come into focus.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“Are you Mateo?”
“That sounds familiar,” the man said in a cracked voice that was trying to find its unique sound.
“I think I’m supposed to be looking for you.”
“Looks like you found me,” he said.
“I don’t think so. I think this is a dream.”
“Well, I’m sorry to invade your dreams.”
She laughed. “No, I think you’re supposed to be here.” She looked around at their surroundings, which were also gradually coming into focus. “I think this is our hill.”
“Can people own hills?”
“Of course they can. People own land.”
The man nodded as the last of his features were sharpening. It was almost certainly Mateo Matic.
“Mateo Matic. Why do we have the same name?”
“You’re also named Mateo Matic?” he asked her.
“No, I’m Leona Matic.”
“That sounds like a different name.”
“Why did I take your last name? They say we’re married, but...why would I take your name? This isn’t the 1930s.”
“I don’t know how it works. I feel like I don’t know anything. Maybe your first last name was bad?” he offered.
“It was Delaney. Then it was Gelen.”
“Like a felon,” Mateo said to his own surprise.
“You don’t know your own name, but you know ancient pop culture references.”
“I dunno.”
“I’m pregnant with your child,” Leona said to him.
“That’s all you have to say?”
“I don’t know what a child is.”
Leona sighed.
Mateo mimicked the sigh; not to mock her, but to learn.
“Where are you? Don’t say you’re right here, because this place isn’t real. Where are you actually?”
“My first memory is standing right here in front of you, Leona Matic.”
“You can’t give me a hint?”
“What is a hint? Is that a hint?” He pointed behind Leona.
She turned around to find a single morgue wall, full of freezer drawers. The rest of the morgue was nowhere to be seen. Like any good horror film that involves a morgue, there was a knock coming from one of the lockers. Remembering this to be nothing but a dream, Leona strode right over, and opened it up with no fear. Mateo was lying there, dead, and the one she had been talking to was now gone.
Then she woke up, and it was 2203.

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