Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 23, 2398

Neither Winona nor Tarboda have any clue what the United Kingdom is, or the North Atlantic Isles, or anything else that it might be called. If they ever called it something else, they don’t know that either, because it doesn’t even seem familiar when he tries to talk about a big land mass above France on the map. To them, there’s pretty much only ocean there. That’s when Mateo remembers that at least one little bit of England remained where it was meant to be, as its own tiny island. “Follow me.”
“Follow you where?” Tarboda questions, but he and Winona follow anyway.
“We’re gonna see if Bristol is here, or not. We’ll need to find some wheels, though, if they’re even a thing here.” They’re on a path, and that looks like a road in the middle distance, so vehicles existed here at some point. “We have yet to see a soul.”
“What are we expecting?” Winona asks.
“We’re expecting it to be missing,” Mateo answers. “We’re expecting nothing but water. That’s assuming I’m taking us in the right direction.”
They start walking northwest, which is about as accurate as Mateo can get with the orientation. They see the occasional farm building, and more roads, but no other signs of life. If the isles were sucked into a portal, the process may have been detrimental to complex life. If it happened a long enough time ago, maybe the plantlife came back on its own, Mateo doesn’t know how it works. Or maybe they’re just in a rural area, and nobody happens to be around. Finally, after a solid five-k, they find a small town, just waking up for the day.
“Morning!” a local calls out to them from across the street. He jogs over to them. “Are you nomads? I’ve already eaten, but my nanny will be making breakfast for my children soon. You’re welcome to join, and then stay with us for a night.”
“We’re not nomads,” Winona explains. “We’re just travelers. We’re looking for a town called Bristol.”
The stranger frowns, but not in a sad way. “Hmm. Never heard of it.” That’s a good sign. “The county cartographer would be able to help you. She’s heard of every street, every building, in the whole world.”
“Oh, wow. Tell me,” Mateo says, “how big is the world?”
He smiles. “Why, I’m not sure. She would know that too. If you’re asking how much land there is, though, I think it’s about 150 leagues wide, and 200 leagues long.”
“And there’s nothing beyond it?” Tarboda asks him.
“Beyond the ocean?” He laughs. “Not that I know of. Explorers used to search, but I think they gave up on it.” He narrows his eyes at them playfully. “Wait a second, you wouldn’t happen to be from beyond the ocean, would you?”
“What would happen to us if we were?” Winona asks.
“Well, we would celebrate, of course! New friends? We only ever get new friends when babies are born! They’re great, but they don’t say too much, and they’re always complaining.” He’s either talking in the more general sense of an isolated population, or there aren’t millions of people here, like there ought to be. “Anyway, I must get to work in Winterbourne Stoke in about an hour. The cartographer lives over there! Good luck!” He just heads down the street, not getting into a car, which suggests that he’s going to walk, and if he has to be there in an hour, it’s probably pretty far away. Hopefully they do have cars here somewhere. They would ask, but he’s busy, and he’s been so nice.
The cartographer’s house is across the street from a park, so that’s where they sit until a more appropriate hour. By the time they feel like it’s late enough, guessing by the sun, a fairly old woman comes out of the house. They approach her cautiously, but when she sees them, she smiles as joyfully as the man did. People are real friendly ‘round these here parts. She speaks before they can even explain why they’re there. “Nomads, no doubt! Please, accompany me to work. I would love to hear stories of your travels.”
Mateo decides to take a risk. “We’re from the world beyond the ocean.”
She frowns in a disbelieving way, and looks around for eavesdroppers. “Tell me where, and if you try to lie, I’ll know. I’m aware of all the islands.”
“We’re not from an island, we’re from Kansas City,” Mateo says.
She perks up. “Funny you don’t consider it an island. We’ve always suspected that the residents could not see outside the bubble. Tell me, how did you escape?”
“The bubble?” Mateo asks. While she’s not responding, he looks away to think. “You’ve seen this bubble? From the outside?”
“Not personally. I’ve seen video footage, taken from the scouting plane. How did you escape?” she repeats.
Mateo keeps thinking. “What other places have you seen? Easter Island, maybe?”
“Yes. That, plus Kure, Muskoka District, El-Sheikh Zayed, Panama, and Machu Picchu.”
“Have you heard of those places?” Mateo asks Winona.
“I’ve heard of Panama and Machu Picchu, of course, but that’s it,” she answers.
“Kure is in Japan,” Tarboda adds. “I flew missions there during World War VI.”
“And I’ve heard of Muskoka,” Mateo says. “It’s in Canada. Have you ever heard of Canada?” he asks the cartographer.
“Nope, are people nice there?” she asks.
“Very,” he replies. “Are all the others in bubbles?”
“None of the others is,” she says. “Only Kansas City, and we only called it that because we saw signs for Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. We figured Kansas and Missouri were the subdivisions, and their conventions reverse the order.”
Mateo gets back into his own head. He had always wondered why they called The Fourth Quadrant its own reality when it just seemed to be a pocket dimension. Based on his interactions with the people living there, they believe that their universe is as small as the metropolitan area. He wonders how they explained the sun, because it’s only now that he knows that the sun he’s looking up at right now is the same one. There’s a whole world out there, and the key to reaching the farthest corners of it lies in that circle of stones to the southeast. He’s sure of it. “We have to go back.”
“We have to go back where?” Winona questions.
“Stonehenge. Those stone archways aren’t just well-placed rocks. They’re doorways. They’re portals.”
“I don’t understand,” the cartographer admits.
“That’s okay,” Mateo says. “I don’t understand it either. We just have to go back where we came from. I really appreciate the information, and thank you to your people for being so pleasant and accommodating.”
“Wait,” she says. “Information should go both ways.”
“I’ll do you one better,” Mateo begins. “If I’m right, there’s a way back to your world of origin, so you’re about to meet billions of new friends.”

No comments :

Post a Comment