Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 30, 2398

It’s been three weeks. They’ve been in this reality for three straight weeks. In that time, Heath and Angela went to jail, Leona and Ramses got jobs; the former nailed down two. Meanwhile, Mateo has read a few books, and meditated in a graveyard in the company of someone who he at best believes to be another lost time traveler, and at worst, their next antagonist. Even though a lot of technology in this reality resembles the kind he grew up with, there are some modern conveniences that make their lives easier. The Waltons own this little robot that cleans the whole condo, floor to ceiling. It roams around the condo, seeking dirt and grime, and destroying it without being told. It can even disinfect a room with ultraviolet light, run laundry and dish cycles, and answer basic questions from the internet.
There’s really nothing for Mateo to do to make up for everything these people are doing for him, and it’s starting to really get to him. Marie and Heath have done so much in such a short time, and he needs to figure out how to repay them, even only fractionally. Yes, they’re rich, but it feels weird, taking and never giving. Then again, he’s always done that. He still lived with his parents at 28. He didn’t even own the car he used for work. Hell, even Ramses built their ship for them. Mateo doesn’t contribute. That has to change, and since he can’t come up with an answer on his own, he’s going to have to seek help from someone else. Unfortunately, he can’t speak to the only five people he knows here. “What if...hypothetically, someone on this planet needed to seek guidance from a therapist?”
Leona sets her fork down on her plate. “Are you okay?”
“It’s a hypothetical. I’m fine.”
“What do you wanna know?” Heath asks.
“What’s privacy like here? I just...I mean—I’m not saying if a murderer confesses to his doctor, but just anything weird or crazy-sounding?”
“There are different classes of mental health professionals,” Heath explains. “Some of them are required to act upon what they learn of their clients. Others are required to not act upon it. You could confess to that murder, and they wouldn’t be able to say anything. But they’re less educated in psychology, so they might not be as helpful.”
“Is there something you would like to talk about?” Leona presses.
“Of course not. Just curious,” Mateo insists, quite unbelievably.
“I can get you the name of someone I used to talk to about being a time traveler,” Marie explains. “Like the forger, she never divulged anything to anyone, and she listened with an open mind. Or rather, she was good at pretending to believe me. Hypothetically speaking, I never actually talked to her.”
“Honey, you never told me about that,” Heath says.
Marie doesn’t look him in the eye. “I never had to work late. Or rather, I was always working late, I never sought professional help.”
He runs his fingers through his own hair, but doesn’t say anything else.
“Okay, I would appreciate that,” Mateo tells her, “hypothetically.”
Leona places a comforting hand on his arm.
“Do you remember—none of you was with us at the time—Leona, do you remember when Nerakali shared her ability with us, and I was able to manipulate people’s memories?”
She nods. “I do. Or...maybe I don’t.”
He waves his hands at all of his friends. “This conversation never happened. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
Humoring him, the rest of the team move the conversation along, and don’t talk about this again. Marie writes down the name and number of a therapist, and passes it to Mateo like a grade school love note.

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