Friday, October 28, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 25, 2398

By the time Mateo, Winona, Tarboda, and the cartographer, Oreata Kask, arrived at Stonehenge, it was full of people. In the main sequence, there could be billions of tourists who never had the pleasure of visiting the place, but most people on the islands in what is apparently the Fourth Quadrant have seen it by now. It’s often used for music festivals, food festivals, and all kinds of other festivals. For Sunday and Monday, and into this morning, it was booked for an exhibition dance party. Most of the fun took place a ways away from the stones, but party-goers were close enough that Mateo didn’t want to try anything there. He doesn’t want witnesses. While they were waiting, they helped Oreata in her office, organizing maps, and performing simple clerical duties. It was weird, seeing the world as almost all water. They had dinner both nights with the first friendly stranger they met, but slept in Oreata’s guest room.
Now that it’s midafternoon, they’re walking back to the prehistoric monument that spans realities. On the way, Mateo starts to think about what that means. Maybe they’re truly the same stones, which exist in multiple realities at once. Then again, much of Kansas City is the same here for no logical reason. This was all probably done on purpose by choosing ones. They seem to be responsible for everything.
“What are you thinking about?” Winona asks him.
“It’s hard to articulate,” Mateo replies. “My mind is a jumble of thoughts. I try to come up with explanations for the world around me, basing my presumptions on my exposure to more intelligent people, such as my wife. I fail a lot at that, and it takes me longer than a normal person to purge my system of all the nonsense.”
“That is a shockingly thoughtful answer, coming from someone who obviously understands himself well.”
“It’s harder for smart people to admit their faults. I’m more used to them.”
The conversation ends once they realize that they’ve made it to the henge. No one else is in sight, so this is a good time for them to conduct their experiments, whatever those may be. They don’t have immortality water full of temporal energy—and wouldn’t be able to find any without the planet’s normal geographical boundaries for reference—so there is only so much they can do. They can try to walk through a portal, and see if something happens. If nothing does, then that’s probably the end of the story.
The closer they get to the stones, the more the other three fall behind. They listened to Mateo’s stories, and it has them worried. Time travel sounds quite dangerous, and a portal can just as easily trap you on one side as the other. Sure, it might work, but if they don’t like what’s over there, what if they can’t cross back? Mateo nods softheartedly. “I’ll go on my own, assuming there is anywhere to go at all.”
Winona composes herself. “I’ll go with you. My training didn’t prepare me for this specifically, but I know how to survive.”
“Someone should stay behind either way,” Tarboda suggests. “If you never come back, we’re the only two people here who know what happened.”
“Unless you can get through to Kansas City,” Mateo begins. “If we don’t come back, tell whoever needs to hear that I have an idea. The people in the bubble might not be able to see through the barrier, but sunlight gets through somehow, so blot it out. If you can, tell them that Mateo Matic sent you. They all know me there.” He turns to Oreata. “Pick a number between one and eleven.”
Oreata shrugs. “Eleven.”
In his head, Mateo decided that the lone archway on one side of the circle is number one, and the rest go clockwise. “Number eleven it is. Follow me, Winnie.” He approaches the opening, and begins to feel different. The air is a little warmer around it. The differences only feel stronger the more he steps over the threshold. This is definitely something. It may not be what they want, but these are not just stones on stones on stones. There’s more resistance as he continues. It’s not impossible to walk through. It’s not even like something is trying to stop him. It feels like a protective membrane that needs a little bit more effort to breach. Breach he does. The pillars on either side of him start to move farther from each other, and change shape. He steps all the way through, and in a blink, he’s somewhere else, standing under a beautifully designed wooden archway. He only has to look around a little to know that this is Japan, or at least somewhere in Asia. It’s probably Kure, like Tarboda explained.
Winona comes in right behind him. “Whoa, you weren’t kidding.”
No one noticed their arrival, but there are plenty of people bustling about. He reaches out towards a man who looks less in a hurry than most. “Excuse me. English? You speak English?”
The man shakes his head.
Kind of a dumb question, but, “Japan?” He indicates the world around them.
“Japan,” he echoes. “Hai.” He’s confused, but humoring him.
“Uhh...China?” he asks, as he’s scanning the environment with his hand over his eyes, like he’s searching for it. “China?”
“China?” The man shakes his head like he’s never heard of it. He probably hasn’t.
“Arigato,” Mateo butchers the only word he knows, thanks to a certain pop song.
They walk back through the Japanese archway, and return to Stonehenge. As much time has passed for Tarboda and Oreata as for them, so no apparent time travel has occurred. They take turns, and try to walk through the other portals. Confident now in the dependability of the process, Tarboda accompanies him to Panama and El-Sheikh Zayed, and Oreata goes with to Easter Island and Muskoka District. Tarboda and Winona try to cross over to Machu Picchu on their own, but nothing happens. Upon trying it himself, Mateo learns that he has to be there, presumably because he’s time traveled so much more than all of them combined. One of the archways is blocked by a wall of glass, and some of them don’t go anywhere, even for Mateo. This is great, but they don’t really need to get to the rest of the Fourth Quadrant. They need to get back to the Third Rail, or ideally, the main sequence. Four of the openings feel like they should work, but do not, plus the one that’s probably KC.
“This changes everything,” Oreata says, awe-inspired, and hopeful for the future. “Thank you so much for helping us make these connections.”
“It may be a start, but I’m afraid I can’t spend the rest of my life ferrying people back and forth. What we need is a permanent solution from someone smarter.”
That was a cue to the universe. A shimmering portal opens in the sky, over the grassy area on the other side of the trees, where they first woke up in this reality. A helicopter descends from it, and lands before them. The door opens, and Leona hops out to meet the other four halfway. “Guys...where are we?”

No comments :

Post a Comment