Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 23, 2138

Leona started shaking Mateo, but he did not stir. He wasn’t dead, though, that much was for sure. Nerakali evidently sensed that something had happened, and teleported in to investigate. “What was he doing just before he fell unconscious?”
“We were just standing here, talking,” Jeremy explained. “It looked like his neck hurt.”
“Yeah,” Angela corroborated. “Those alien bugs stuck something in the back of his neck to stop him from jumping to the future. They got it out in the other universe, but who knows what kind of lingering effect it might have on him?”
“Nerakali,” Leona began. “You can tell when someone has a consciousness, right? I mean, if their mind was transferred to another body, and there was just nothing there, you would know.”
“I would. It’s necessary for my brain blending power to work.” She knelt down and placed her hands on either side of his head. She stopped, and pulled back, not frightened or surprised, just curious.
“What is it?”
Nerakali placed her hands back on Mateo’s head to get another reading. “It’s...very similar to how people feel when they’re asleep. Not just asleep, but dreaming. You’re not always dreaming when you’re asleep, but he definitely is, and...”
“And what!” Leona was growing impatient and nervous. Being asleep didn’t sound so bad, but it was troubling that they couldn’t wake him up.
“Oh, I remember. He’s lucid. Lucid dreaming. It reads a little bit differently, and I don’t blend people who aren’t awake, so I had to remind myself what it felt like. Yeah, so he’s fine.”
“Why won’t he wake up?” Obvious question, Leona figured.
“I have no idea,” Nerakali answered apologetically. “But he is neither dead, nor dying. Nor is he in a coma, or some kind of fugue state. He’s just...dreamin’. I hope it’s a good one. Perhaps the jump to 2139 will wake him up. Until then, I can stay and monitor him if it’ll make you feel better.”
“It would,” Leona said. She was sick of shit happening to her and her family.
Mateo could feel himself coming together, like a billion beams of light converging on a single point, and building upon one another to form a solid object. He found himself standing-floating in a technicolor void, like something out of a Dr. Strange movie. The lights spread out from him, and wrapped themselves around his body, and danced in the distance. He was alone for an eternal second, and then more figures came into view. Dozens of people were float-standing around him, enjoying their own personal color show, until the beams let them go. They all drifted in one direction, but it wasn’t down, because down didn’t exist in this crazy world-between-worlds. They smiled and waved at each other, like they were all arriving at a family reunion. It was then that Mateo noticed one man was separated from the others, shrouded in a haze. He was crouched, and probably would have been up in a corner if corners existed here.
The reunion continued without this mysterious other man. They were doing their best to ignore him, but would every once in a while look over and scowl. It took them a surprisingly long time to notice Mateo, but once they did, they realized that he too did not belong. One of them came over and scrutinized his face. “Who are you?” He looked back to the crowd. “Who is this guy? He’s not part of the family.”
A woman came up, and Mateo realized he knew her. He just couldn’t remember her name. “It’s cool, Tiago. He’ exception.”
Mateo finally remembered. “Sandy Clausen.”
She smiled. “That’s right.”
“What is this place?” he asked. “This is your family?”
She smiled wider. “When we met, I told you that I come from a bloodline of dreamwalkers. Once in a generation, a child will be born with the ability to transmit thoughts to other universes.” She breathed in deeply, and gazed upon her domain. “A friend built us this place so we could all be together in the same moment. We’ll be here once, and then never again. We’re calling it The Last Dream.”
“How did I get here?” Mateo questioned.
“I’m not sure,” Sandy replied, unperturbed. “You were possessed by him once, but that can’t be it. He possessed a lot of people.” She gestured towards the lonely man.
“Wait, him? That’s the guy who possessed me, and had sex with someone using my body?”
“Well, we don’t know the details, but...yeah. He don’t need to know his name. He’s just the...bad egg, I guess. To be honest, I’m surprised there is but one. Look at this crowd. Fifty-six of us, and only one black sheep.”
“There are only fifty-six people in your bloodline? The power disappears?”
We disappear,” she answered. “Bloodline ends. It’s fine. Most of us aren’t there to see it, and it’s not like this big battle, or anything. We just stop makin’ babies.”
Mateo nodded, and watched the other family members enjoying getting to know each other. “I won’t keep you.”
“I’m all right,” Sandy assured him sincerely. “I’ve actually met most of them. We’re all dreamwalkers, but they’re more into creating new worlds, and I like to travel to  the ones others created.”
He nodded, and waited a moment. “Have you ever heard of the Ochivari?”
“I didn’t technically fight in the Darning Wars, but my team and I worked against them in our own way.”
Mateo reached to the back of his neck, even though he was pretty sure he wasn’t in his body anymore anyway, and this was about as real as any dream. The patch was gone, as was the pain, but he still felt some connection to it. Perhaps he always would. “Two of them put this implant thing in my neck. It suppressed my time-jumping pattern. A surgeon got it out pretty quickly, but could that have something to do with how I’m here?”
Sandy thought about it. “Hm. I suppose they could have given you some of their blood, be it by accident, or on purpose. With your history of brane possession, it’s the start of an explanation at least.”
“If this has given me some kind of universe-hopping ability, I don’t want it.”
She laughed. “I doubt it’s that powerful. I mean, there’s not enough Ochivari blood in the bulkverse to give someone the power to travel on their own. It takes one of them to open a portal long enough for just two others to pass.”
He understood what she was talking about as much as his little baby brain could.
“That wasn’t very nice, Superintendent,” Sandy scolded.
“It’s fine,” Mateo said honestly. “That asshole can say whatever he wants about me. What other god lets you get away with calling him an asshole?”
“That’s an enlightened way of looking at it.”
“I’m quite used to other people being in control of my life.” He decided that he wanted to change the subject. “How long does the reunion last?”
“Forever.” She waited a good moment before shaking her head. “No, people will start fading away pretty soon. It lasts as long as we stay alive.”
“Wait, you’re all dying?”
“Yeah, I called it the Last Dream, remember? These are our collective dying moments. We wanted to be together once, more than that. We led our own lives, across centuries, and throughout the bulkverse. Most bloodlines don’t even get this.”
She was right. They started disappearing little by little. Those remaining did not frown, but let tears roll down to their smiles. And then they too disappeared, along with all the rest, until Sandy was the only one left. Oh, and that other guy.
“I hope you find your way out of here,” she said. “If you’re not dying, I really don’t know.” She did kind of frown, and then she disappeared.
Only now did the possessor stand up. He looked around, and while Mateo could still not see a face, he was somehow exuding a deep sadness. Mateo approached cautiously, growing worried he would recognize the guy from somewhere else, and it would shake him to his core. Or maybe the darkness in his soul was hiding everything about him except for the sadness, and the form of his face didn’t really matter. Mateo took a calculated breath, and let some time pass. They just stared at each other for another eternal second. “I forgive you.” The man said nothing, and then he died.

Mateo woke up in a bed, having spent an unknown amount of time in the void. The lights didn’t just blink away. They faded over time, as if also dying, until he was left alone in the remote darkness. His return to the world was a welcome relief.
Leona was beside him. It was nice to know that whatever his body looked like while he was gone, that it didn’t worry her. She sensed his alertness. “You’re back. Oh my God, what happened?”
He told her the story.
“But you’re okay?”
“I’m all right. It was hard, watching all those people die, but I’m fine. Let’s not tell anyone else about this. It was kind of a dark and personal experience. I’m not traumatized, but I need to carry it with me, and I don’t want help.”
“They’ll understand,” Leona agreed.
“These Ochivari,” Mateo began. “They’re going to become a problem in the future.”
“Angela said that our universe was safe, that we stop negatively impacting our environment, and they choose to leave us alone.”
“Yeah, but...”
“But what?”
“When I was in the void, I had a sort of special connection to the Superintendent. I couldn’t read his thoughts, or hear his narration, but I did kind of get a sense of the oncoming story. I can still kind of feel him. We have a lot of work to do in our universe, that much was clear, but...there was something else.”
“Something, like what?”
Mateo was trying to recall the feeling that the Superintendent was likely attempting to hide from him. “The Ochivari might not come back to destroy our universe, but I think we’re gonna fight in the war anyway. It won’t be tomorrow, but that train that keeps showing up and recruiting people? One day, I think we’re gonna get on that train. I think it’s just not our time yet. They conscript fighters, and we’re not that now, but we might become that over time. Hell, the Superintendent may even be preparing us for it.”
Leona nodded solemnly. “Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Little did they know how right she was about that bridge.
“What was that you said?”
Don’t worry about it.

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