Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 25, 2398

Marie and Heath don’t spend long in Gothenburg. It’s as boring as it looks when you search the web for it. They see no signs that there’s anything special about the area, or that a secret time travel pitstop facility has been buried underneath. They didn’t even erect a sign that designates it as the center of the country, like they did for Lebanon, Kansas in the main sequence.
They’re in Belle Fourche, South Dakota now, which doesn’t mean much in any reality, but especially not here, what with the different national borders. That’s fine, they heard that there were some lovely hiking trails around these parts, and being out in nature is precisely what they both need right now.  They’re not talking, though, which neither of them believes is healthy, but they don’t know what to say. Should they talk about the abortion? Should they pretend it didn’t happen? Should they fight? Should they reaffirm their love? It’s just so awkward that the moderately treacherous terrain is the only thing keeping their minds occupied.
She stops to catch her breath. “Okay, can you tell me what you’re feeling?”
“I’m a little tired, but I’m okay to keep going. Did you want to make camp right here?” Heath proposes.
“I don’t mean about the backpacking, I mean about what happened.”
“We’ve been talking,” he sincerely believes.
“Yeah, but...”
“Do you want to tell me what you’re feeling?”
“That’s all I’ve been doing, telling you about my mixed feelings. You haven’t been giving me your opinion.”
“It was your choice.”
“I didn’t ask you what I should do, it’s done. I’m asking how you feel about it now!”
“Why is this turning into a fight?”
She sighs. “I don’t know, I don’t want it to.”
He steps closer, but doesn’t touch her. She still doesn’t want to be touched yet. “I’m proud of you, Marie, for making that decision. I know it wasn’t easy. And I know how easy it is for me, never having to do the same. You want to know how I feel...I’m sad. I miss the baby that never was. You know how my mind wanders, it’s why I keep buying fancy things, like The Olimpia.”
“I knew what you were going to do, even while I was fighting against it. I knew you would go through with it, because you had to. My brain, however, was insistent that it go over a hypothetical life that I had with that child. It chose a boy for me, and named him Ferris, after my great grandmother. I taught him about the world, and you taught him about cyberspace. He became a teacher, like me, and lived only a few miles away from us with his family. I don’t resent you for preventing this fantasy, so I don’t want you to think that that’s what I’m saying. It’s just been—” He’s struggling to continue.
“It’s okay, you can say that this has been hard on you. You have a right to that.”
“It has been hard. I feel like I knew him, and lost him. And when I think about the fact that I didn’t lose anything, it just makes it worse.”
She takes his hand. “I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
Heath shakes his head, and looks away.
“I mean it. This did happen to you, in a different way, but you’re not this removed observer. I’m sorry you couldn’t be there too. That probably hasn’t made it any easier.”
He nods, but says nothing more.
“Let’s keep going,” Marie suggests.
She lets go of his hand, and begins to head farther up the hill, but she loses her footing, and slips off the edge. They’re not on a cliff, but she tumbles down pretty far, and she can’t stop herself. She only does stop when a partially buried rock gets in her way. It cuts open her hand, and breaks at least a few bones. She’s holding her now limp wrist with her other hand, and trying to breathe through the pain as Heath runs down as fast as he can. He’s aware that he could fall down too if he’s not careful. By the time he gets all the way down to her, the pain is still there, and so is the blood, but her hand is otherwise totally fine. She’s able to move it.
“What the...?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you, I can heal now. It’s a temporary consolation prize.”

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