Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 1, 2398

The night nurse comes into the hospital room to check Alt!Mateo’s vitals. At first, he doesn’t notice the other Mateo in the chair next to him. He managed to get some sleep last night, but only a few hours, and now he’s probably awake for the rest of the day. “Oh, I didn’t see you there,” the nurse whispers. He looks over at the one in the bed, and then back to Mateo. “Twins?”
Mateo rolls his eyes as if he’s heard it a million times before. He hasn’t, but if they really were twins, this is likely how he would react to such a dumb question with such an obvious answer. “All my life. Sometimes I feel like we’re the same person, but other times, I look at him, and I don’t know who he is.”
The nurse nods, and takes a look at Alt!Mateo’s chart. “He got hit by a car?”
Mateo nods. “It was his fault. He’s an idiot.”
“All the smart genes went to you in the womb, huh?”
“No,” Mateo replies. “I’m an idiot too.”
This gets a chuckle out of him. “Can I get you anything? Some water, a soda?”
“I’m all right, thanks.” Mateo waits until the nurse is finished with his work before saying, “he’s gone.”
“How did you know that I was awake?” Alt!Mateo asks, turning over to face his other self.
“Because I know you.”
Alt!Mateo turns back away. “No, you don’t.”
“Do you remember what happened to you?”
“It’s like ya said, I was hit by a car...because I’m an idiot.”
“You ran into traffic, because you desperately wanted to get away from me and Delaney,” Mateo clarifies for him.
“Delaney?” Alt!Mateo echoes.
“That’s what we call her, to distinguish her from Leona Matic and Leona Reaver.”
“Would you like to be called something else too?”
“Don’t matter to me. Call me Alligator Pimpleface, for all I give a shit. Just get out of my room, and out of my state.”
“How much did it cost?”
“How much did what cost, New Jersey?” It’s surreal, talking to an alternate version of himself with the same sense of humor. It’s hard to trip him up when he sees every punchline coming a mile away.
“One dollar, Bob,” they say simultaneously like creepy twinspeak in a horror film.
Alt!Mateo can’t help but laugh at this, causing Mateo to hope that he might be opening up. “Look, I don’t know what you’ve been through, but...you’re not alone anymore. We can help you. All you have to do is let us. Come back.”
“Who told you that I was ever alone?” Alt!Mateo question.
“I don’t see anyone else in the room,” Mateo points out.
“They’re probably just getting tea.”
“What’s got you so upset? So sour?”
Alt!Mateo sighs, and sits up quickly, immediately regretting straining his still healing body, but pushing through it. “What has me upset? I killed someone, Matt!” He realizes that he doesn’t want to be so loud in public, but no one seems to have heard. “I killed an innocent woman. And to make matters worse, it hasn’t even technically happened yet. But that doesn’t mean I can stop it, so now she dreads every second she spends above ground, because she knows it’s coming, she just doesn’t know when.”
“Most everyone lives their life like that,” Mateo points out. “Most people don’t know the date of their own deaths.”
“Yes, because that’s what God decided. It’s not like that for her. I’m the one who put her in that position. No wonder God doesn’t come down and help us. He’s probably paralyzed with guilt!”
Mateo waits a beat. “You know that no one ever really dies, right?”
“What, like, we all go back to the earth, and it’s the cycle of life?”
“No, I mean that literally. It’s called the afterlife simulation. There are tiny little tube things in your brain, which are actually organic computers. They convert all of your thoughts to digital format, and when you die, your consciousness is uploaded to a server in the center of the galaxy, on a giant space statue called the Matrioshka Body.”
Alt!Mateo peers at him. “That sounds insane, Matt, and that is saying a lot, given what we both know about how the world works.”
Worlds,” Mateo corrects. “There are countless others, and I know a lot more than you. I don’t remember how many times I’ve died. What I’m trying to tell you is that Leona is going to be fine. She’ll just go up to the big video game in the sky. So shall you.”
Alt!Mateo considers the possibility for a moment. “Even if that’s true, it doesn’t matter. It won’t last.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re from an old timeline,” Alt!Mateo reasons. “It’s gonna collapse, whether we’re in this so-called simulation, or not. Everybody dies.”
Mateo closes his eyes, embarrassed at the terrible logical mistake he made. “You’re right. Reality One doesn’t count. Neither does mine. We keep changing the timeline, so what does that mean for me, and my past?”
Alt!Mateo struggles to lean towards his alternate, almost menacingly. “It means nothing. Life doesn’t matter. Everything you try will be erased...and you too shall be replaced. No rhyming intended.”
Mateo leans back, letting the words sink in. “You’re right again.” He doesn’t let Alt!Mateo be pleased with himself for long, though. “Which begs the question, why are you so butthurt about all of this? Leona Reaver will die no matter what you did.” He shrugs coolly. “She’s even already met her replacements. That’s pretty rare, even in our world...or worlds, rather.”
Alt!Mateo reaches out for the remote, and lowers the head of his bed down until it’s fully flat. “I need to get some real sleep now. Leave me be, please.”
Mateo stands up, and grabs his tea from the table. “Come back to KC, and not for me, but because my guess is that you owe her. She deserves some level of closure before fate intervenes, and spirits her away to her inevitable death. Goodnight, sir.”

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