Monday, June 27, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 24, 2398

Angela walks back into the library. She’s only been gone for the last sixteen hours, but it feels like too long. She could learn all she needs to know from the internet, from the comfort of her alternate self’s home, but there’s something about being able to literally walk through the data that makes this place feel like her home.
The head librarian smiles at her. “Back so soon?”
“Not soon enough,” Angela notes. “Why are you only open 10:00 to 18:00?”
Madam MacDougas frowns just a little. “Hm. Seems normal to me.”
Angela nods, but still doesn’t agree.
“What would you like to study today?” Madam MacDougas goes on.
“I’m still working on history.”
“Are you just going to go from the beginning of recorded history, and continue chronologically?”
“I imagine that’s going to make the most sense in context.”
“All right, dear.”
Angela walks past the counter, and into the stacks, heading for the history section. She passes by the sciences, where she notices someone she recognizes. “Mateo?”
“Oh, hey,” he responds, looking up from his book on quantum mechanics.
“How long have you been here?”
“Twelve years,” he answers. “I’m from the future.”
She chuckles.
“Thirty minutes,” he answers truthfully.
“It just opened,” she points out.
“I didn’t know that when I walked down here this morning. The librarian let me in early.”
“I see.” She drops her gaze down to his book. “Little...uh...little advanced, don’t you think?”
He tips the book towards him to check the title from above, even though he obviously already knows what he picked out. “Yeah, I’m starting to get that idea. I don’t understand most of these words, but I don’t know where to begin.” Or whether to begin.
Angela slips back into the stacks, and isn’t gone long before she returns with a thin white book with lots of pictures. “At the beginning. This is for children, but I assume you could use a refresher since it’s been so long since you were in school. Not judging, by the way.”
He’s embarrassed, but she’s right, and he sees that. “Thank you.” He sets the big book down, and cracks the new one open.
“Can I make another suggestion?” Angela asks after watching him for another few seconds.
“Don’t study that if you don’t care about it. Couples don’t have to be interested in the same things, or even be at the same level of intelligence.”
He sighs. “I know.”
“Does Leona ever make you feel dumb?”
“Sometimes,” he replies. “She doesn’t do it on purpose, but I see how annoyed you people are when I can’t follow what you’re talking about.”
“I can’t speak for the others, but for my part in that, I apologize.”
“It’s okay, Angela. I’ve been this way my entire life. It’s not like I thought I was a genius. I just assumed I would end up marrying a retail clerk, or maybe another driver.”
“Well, I didn’t know you back then, but I’ve already seen improvement. Honestly, it’s a lot faster than most people I watched develop in the afterlife simulation. Granted, most of them weren’t trying, because they saw it as their end state reward, but they had a lot more time than you, and essentially infinite resources. I saw the value in enriching myself while I was there, but that was a personal decision. I never considered it some kind of universal maxim. It’s okay that you can’t pilot a spaceship, or build a computer from scratch with a toothpick and some twine. You’re still part of the team, and no one thinks less of you. I can make sure they don’t make you feel like that again.”
“Please don’t say anything.”
“Okay, I won’t. But again, don’t study that if you don’t want to.” She looks around the library. “There’s a topic in here somewhere that you genuinely do want to learn more about. Let’s try to find that instead. Let’s find your niche. We already have a physicist.”
“I guess, maybe...
“Go on,” she encourages.
“I could look into philosophy?”
“Sounds perfect. I’ll go find you some starter books.”

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