As evening fell one Friday night, Carrie was in crisis mode. Frantically scrolling through her email, she jumped when there was a knock at the door, even though she had been expecting it.
She sighed as she got up to answer; she knew she wasn’t going to make great company. Her close friend, Angel, was there for their weekly movie night.
“I come bearing gifts,” Angel said, holding three wine bottles.
“Well, I’m definitely going to need that,” Carrie said.
“What’s going on?” Angel asked, coming in and setting her things down, colorful as ever with her fuchsia curls, orange top, and bright green bag.
“My next artist cancelled. She was starting next week, for a three-month exhibit, and now I have no one. I don’t know what to do. I might actually have to close the gallery until I can get someone.”
Carrie felt bad for dumping the problem on Angel, but it was all she could think about. She sunk back into the couch and her friend joined her with two glasses and a bottle.
“And future artists can’t start early?” Angel asked, uncorking the wine.
“I asked them, but they’re both out of the country,” Carrie said, shaking her head. “What are the chances?”
Angel handed her a glass of shiraz and she happily accepted, sipping and feeling defeated.
“Wait a minute,” Angel said, standing and grabbing her messenger bag. “I just heard about an artist recently—a painter. Julie wanted to profile him on the art blog.”
She came back to the couch and plopped down with her laptop. She’d been a photographer for The Daily Sentinel as long as Carrie had known her, and she almost always had her arsenal with her.
“This is him!” she said, setting her laptop on the coffee table so Carrie could see. “It might be a long shot. But he’s local... Have you heard of him? T. Anderson?”
Carrie shook her head. “That doesn’t sound familiar.”
She started to scroll through the site galleries—abstract works with hints of modern surrealism, different from her usual repertoire. Fantastical cities that stopped short of the canvas edge, portraits with letters and equations incorporated into the faces, a bizarre series of glowing doors—T. Anderson was clearly talented, but she might’ve passed if she weren’t in a bind. But then, one gallery made her sit up and take notice: ethereal trees growing from dreamy yet barren landscapes. The next series was intriguing, too: city skylines emerging on the horizon as bright nuclei on the canvas, surrounded by aggressive bursts of color.
“Okay, I really like this. I think I’ll bite.”
“Yay!” Angel celebrated.
“Of course, with my luck, he won’t even reply to my email.”
“That’s where stalking comes in handy,” Angel half-joked.
“Sorry, I’m just going to send this and then we can talk about something else.”
“It’s fine! Glad I could save the day…possibly.”
The next day, Carrie found herself at the coffee shop just down the street from her gallery, waiting for T. Anderson himself. He had replied to her email promptly, and by some miracle, was open to the exhibit idea. She always met with prospective artists before officially signing them, but this time she was anxious. She really needed him to be a good fit.
Some faint alarm bells went off when she saw him. There were no photos of him on his website, so she’d had no idea what to expect. As a general rule, she didn’t like to mix business with pleasure. She didn’t date clients. But here he was in front of her with his pretty eyes and stubble. Goddamn it, what is your face?
“Are you Ms. Turner?”
“Yes,” she said, standing. “You’re T. Anderson?”
“Thomas,” he said as they shook hands.
“Carrie,” she replied, sinking back to her chair.
He took the seat across from her.
“Thanks for meeting me on short notice.”
“Happy to,” he nodded.
“So, as I explained, I’m kind of in a bind because one of my spring artists dropped out, so I need someone prepared to exhibit next week.”
He nodded again.
“I’m interested in possibly featuring your Cityscapes and Dreamers series," she went on. "Is that something you’d consider?”
“Sure,” he said.
She fought a smirk; he was clearly a man of few words.
“Well, I’m really glad to hear that,” she said. “Do you have any questions for me?”
“I haven’t done many shows recently,” he said. “How did you hear of me?”
“I have a friend at the Sentinel who came across your website.”
He nodded. “They also contacted me, not long before you. I was thinking maybe I ended up on Instagram or something.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “Well, I don’t know how they found you.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, why those two particular series?”
“Not at all. I like to showcase works that celebrate what I call ‘the pulse of life’ in some way,” she said, reeling off her usual spiel. “Works that speak to our inner sense of being and existing within a world that we seek to define and understand. I was particularly drawn to those two series, and I’d be open to adding a third, if you like.”
“I’ll leave that up to you,” he said. “I was just curious. I haven’t been approached directly before... I just hope I can bring in the same traffic you’re used to.”
He didn’t comment on whether or not he thought her description was an accurate reflection of his works, but she didn’t mind.
“I hope this will be mutually beneficial,” she said. “I have a great marketing team. I’m optimistic.”
He smiled, and something stirred in her. She couldn’t be sure if she was imagining it, but she got the impression that her attraction to him was mutual, as well.
That evening, after he’d emailed her the signed exhibitor's agreement, Carrie texted Angel.
Looks like this is going to work out! Thanks for being a lifesaver!! :)
Her phone promptly buzzed with a response.
Oh yay! Anytime! What’s he like?
Carrie smiled to herself.
Super nice... And stupid gorgeous.
NICE. Curator and matchmaker → on my resume :P
Carrie saw Thomas again the following week, when it was time to set up the gallery. They didn’t have much time for conversation until later that evening, when nearly everyone else had left for the night and she started testing out lighting levels for the gallery. The overhead lights and art lamps could be separately managed to get the right balance for each exhibit.
“This one feels right to me,” he called to her on about the fourth tweak.
She stepped into the middle of the room with him. “Oh yes, I agree! They’re inviting me in.”
He nodded. Out of the corner of her eye, she could tell he was looking at her.
“I appreciate all your help today,” she said, turning to him.
“Of course,” he said. “I really appreciate you featuring me.”
Gazing up at him in the ambient lighting, she said something against her better judgement.
“I might stop next door for some tea, if you want to join me.”
“Sure,” he said, without hesitation. “That sounds great.”
They sat at a corner table and talked over hot drinks and pumpkin bread about where they’d grown up, life in the city, and their careers. He’d been painting since college; she’d owned her gallery for seven years. He had a way of looking at her as she was speaking that made her feel he was truly listening to her and interested in getting to know her. And he hadn’t mentioned a partner. It was so rare to meet someone she liked as much as him.
“You ever have a conversation with someone you just met and feel like you’ve known them so much longer?” he asked after a lull, finishing his coffee.
She nodded. “I know what you mean.”
He regarded her for a moment. “I hope this isn’t too forward, but I’m really glad you contacted me. I’m glad we met.”
“Me too,” she said, heart fluttering.
The polite professionalism that had shrouded their interactions evaporated, leaving their feelings in plain view. It was forward of him, but Carrie didn't mind.
As they stepped outside, they discovered it had started pouring. Carrie had the only umbrella between them.
“Want to share?” she asked. “Which way are you headed?”
“I guess I’ll just get a taxi,” he said.
“Well, I don’t mind waiting.”
“You’re sure? ...Thanks.”
They headed out to the curb. He put his arm around her waist beneath the small umbrella. The street was vacant at the late hour. After what he’d said inside, she felt her cheeks go warm to have him so close.
“Am I a terrible person if I’m kind of hoping this takes a while?” he asked after a moment.
She smirked and looked up at him. The way he met her gaze told her they both wanted the same thing. It was fast; too fast, but there they were, in a ridiculous romantic moment in the rain, close enough to feel each other’s breath, like something from a movie. Carrie decided the suspense had gone on long enough. Raising up on her toes, she pressed her lips to his, and he eagerly leaned into her.
For a moment his lips were on hers and she was all butterflies and victory, but then something happened. Something flashed into her mind—a memory? Somehow, kissing him was suddenly familiar.
He looked into her eyes for a moment. And then a scene slammed into her mind: the scent of burning metal, time running out, his face before her, and a name. Neo.
“Oh my god,” she gasped.
Alarmed by her expression, he eased away. “Are you alright?”
More memories came crashing into her. Neo. Trinity. The Matrix. She touched his face. He looked confused and vaguely concerned. She swiftly pulled him back to her lips and really kissed him. Remember me, goddamn it!
But when she looked at him again, he was still Thomas, giving her a surprised smile. Her heart sank. Up ahead, she saw headlights coming around the corner.
“Oh, there’s a taxi,” she said.
They hailed the cab as it came by. Her heart was pounding; why didn’t he remember, too? She was suddenly mortified by how passionately she’d just kissed him, out of the blue, on their second meeting.
“So, I’ll um, see you...tomorrow night?” she muttered.
“Are you sure you don’t want to share the cab? It’s so late.”
“Oh... I’m actually really close by, so it’s fine.”
She couldn’t sit next to him in a cab. She could not.
“Alright,” he said. “Well, have a nice night.”
“You too,” she said.
He smiled at her and disappeared into the taxi. She stood in the rain in stunned silence after he’d gone, watching the rippling reflection of street light in a puddle.
“This isn’t real,” she said out loud before she had fully realized it.
Back in her apartment, Carrie—now Trinity—dropped her umbrella, ran her hands through her hair and blinked tears from her eyes.
“How is this possible?” she muttered, looking around, and finally sinking into the couch.
A chill shot down her spine as the gravity of the memories weighed on her. She had been dreaming and was now awake.
This is the Matrix. We’re back inside. But how?
That night was restless; she tossed in bed as still more memories came back to her. Tears soaked her pillow as she recalled their time together and felt the glow of her love for him. She’d never known anything so beautiful. She ached to have him lying next to her again.
Just before she drifted into sleep, she whispered into the darkness.
“Come back to me.”
Thomas smiled on the ride home, a little confused about her reaction to the kiss, but glad still that it happened. Carrie was a remarkable person, and he was drawn to her in a way he couldn’t fully explain.
Gazing out the window into the rain, a strange feeling came over him as he passed under a bridge—an odd sense of deja vu. But just as quickly as he felt it, it was gone.
The next morning, he awoke from a dream of a woman falling—a dream he’d had before, but this time, she had Carrie’s face. Each time the dream came to him, he felt like there was more to the story, but he woke up too soon to see it. As he stretched and yawned, the details grew fuzzy again. He smiled. He was looking forward to the gallery opening that evening, and he was so preoccupied with wanting to see her again, his art being on display almost seemed like an afterthought.
It dawned on Trinity the next morning that she had one possible resource for answers: the Oracle. If she existed in this version of the Matrix, she might be the only person she could turn to.
She skipped rooftop yoga that morning, but she did make her usual coffee and bagel stop. As she bit into the soft bread, she had to marvel at how real it was. In fact, nothing about her life as she walked down the street felt like a dream, even with memories of her true self now intact. Without ever attempting it, she knew there was no way she could “bend” reality the way she used to; running up a wall or jumping from roof to roof would surely not end well.
She realized, too, that this version of the Matrix wasn’t the same one she was freed from—that much was perfectly clear. Technology was advanced. She was happier. The dissonance she’d felt for so much of her life was nonexistent here… It stood to reason that this was the content life she might’ve lived had she not been drawn to discover the truth, which meant that Neo was likely also living out a more content version of his life as Thomas.
This was a more peaceful world, as well. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d heard about a war or natural disaster; those were distant memories of a past life. Grabbing a copy of The Daily Sentinel, she confirmed her observation: mostly good news. The front page story was about a local lottery winner, and inside there was a report about an increased number of rainbow mornings— a mysterious, sporadic phenomenon that filled the sky with color, Angel’s feature story on a woman who had been reunited with her brother after 12 years, and more. Of course, it wasn’t all good; there were still the crime reports and an article about a car accident, but if there were a more stark contrast between the world of the Matrix she remembered and this new one, she couldn’t think of it.
She found the old apartment building easily enough, but that looked different, too, as though it had been renovated. Taking the elevator, it seemed insane to think she’d find the Oracle in her old residence—she prepared herself for the likelihood that she’d have to say “sorry, wrong door” and go back to square one.
But after a knock, there came the sound of approaching footsteps, and the door opened.
“It’s you,” came Trinity’s disbelief at seeing the Oracle before her.
“Ah, a familiar face,” she replied with a warm smile. “Please come in.”
Trinity followed her inside, grappling with the surreal familiarity of the living room she’d seen many times before. The kitchen even smelled like cookies.
The Oracle took a seat on the sofa and Trinity tentatively sat in a chair across from her. It was odd to be sitting there in jeans and sandals...not that she really missed the pleather.
“Well, go ahead. You have questions for me, don’t you?”
“How can any of this be happening?” she started. “What is this place?”
“When Neo defeated Smith and restored peace, it wasn’t just restored to your world,” the Oracle explained. “This is the world many of us wanted all along. A peaceful coexistence.”
“But how can I be here? I died. In the real world. I remember.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers. This isn’t me not telling you; it’s me not knowing. But you being here in front of me tells me that someone chose to put you here. To rescue your consciousness and upload it. I can’t tell you how they did it or who it was. But somewhere out there, someone was watching over you.”
“That means… I’m a program?”
She barely believed the word even as she spoke it.
“The simple answer is yes. You’re a consciousness with no physical body. But unlike most programs, you were uploaded, not written.”
Trinity took a moment to process. “Are there others like me?”
“Of course. Most of the people you know in this world are programs—and we’re grateful to be here. And there were those humans who chose to stay behind rather than accepting freedom. More than you might expect.” She smiled. “But the difference is inconsequential. We’re all just people living our lives. Candy?”
Trinity accepted the treat and sighed.
“I don’t need to be an oracle to see that you have something else to ask me.”
“I didn’t remember any of this until yesterday. I met him. I met Neo in this world, but we were strangers. And then we… It all came back. But only for me. He doesn’t remember.”
Before the Oracle could respond, a girl appeared in the threshold of the kitchen, silently staring at Trinity. She smiled, and Trinity smiled back.
“Sati, are those cookies cooled enough now?” the Oracle asked, turning to her.
The girl nodded.
“Let’s share them with our guest.”
The girl disappeared and returned carrying a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. Trinity took one and thanked her.
“Don’t give up,” Sati whispered before hurrying away again.
Trinity blinked, puzzled, and looked back to the Oracle.
“I wish I had an answer for you. I really do. But you found each other again; that’s no coincidence.”
Trinity left in a daze. She walked aimlessly over to the river, where she leaned against a railing and watched a group of children feeding turtles. She felt the way the sunlight warmed her skin, breathed the scent of the water, and listened to the gabble of the city.
An old, unpleasant memory bubbled to the surface:I disagree, Trinity. I think that the Matrix can be more real than this world.
A chill shot down her spine.
That evening, as she put on her makeup before the opening reception at the gallery, she thought about how ridiculous it was that she was dressing to impress Neo...but he wasn’t Neo. Not yet. Still, she was looking forward to seeing him again.
She arrived a few hours early, as usual, to make sure the caterers were getting set up. Angel arrived shortly with her coworker and camera in tow.
“Holy shit,” Angel said as she caught sight of her. “You look fancy!”
“Oh… Is this too much?”
“What? No, you look great. This is Julie Holst, who does the art blog. They said I could shoot this one and she could do a write-up, if that’s okay?”
“Yes! Of course!” Trinity responded. “Nice to meet you, Julie. You know, we really have you to thank for this.”
The news of a Sentinel feature lifted her spirits, even if it was just for the art blog.
Not long after, the doors were open and guests started to arrive. Trinity checked her phone to see if she had any missed texts from Thomas, but nothing. She resumed greeting people and directing guests to the refreshments.
When he appeared, she almost went weak at the knees. He was in a suit, dressed nicer than she’d ever seen him, and she was instantly glad she’d decided on such a nice dress. He smiled when he saw her and she managed a professional greeting.
“Sorry, I ran a bit late,” he said as he stepped inside.
“Oh, that’s fine, that’s….we’re just getting started.”
What are words?
“This looks great,” he said, glancing around the room, and then back to her. “You look great.”
“Thanks,” she nodded. “You, too.”
The evening went on smoothly, with Thomas talking to the Sentinel blogger for a while and answering people’s questions about his work. Trinity kept catching herself watching him from afar and then snapping out of it. She started browsing his paintings. They took on a whole new light given her newfound memories. His cities of light twisted her heart. She paused at one for a while, a large work called Within that showed more contrast than many of the others. A dreamy city-shape of bright light emerged from a murky canvas. Neo’s voice came back to her as she looked at it. It's unbelievable, Trin. Light everywhere. Like the whole thing was built of light. I wish you could see what I see.
“I’ve never seen you make it through multiple glasses of wine at one of these openings,” Angel teased, coming up next to her.
Trinity shrugged and sighed, not even attempting to deny it.
“Are you alright?” Angel asked more softly.
She wanted to tell her what happened the previous night, but explaining the kiss scenario would be...interesting.
“I was going to head out, unless you’d like me to stay?” Angel asked.
“Oh, no, that’s fine. Thanks for coming and shooting.”
Angel looked distracted, and then spoke again, this time through her teeth in a little whisper. “He’s on his way over here.”
And then she was gone. Trinity turned back to the painting and sipped her riesling.
“I almost didn’t include that one in the series,” came Thomas’s voice beside her.
“I’m glad you did,” she said. “Breathtaking.”
“I appreciate that.”
She turned to him. “I hope I didn’t make things too weird last night. Acting like a crazy person.”
He shook his head and smiled. “Not at all. And you weren’t. I had a nice time.”
He was so sweet. And so pretty. She wanted to drop her wine and throw herself on him.
He actually stayed after they closed and helped clean up—not many artists had done that. And as she watched him tying up some garbage bags, she realized something hilarious: she was actually falling for Thomas.
That night, lying in bed, she admitted to herself what she’d been feeling since the previous night: as long as there was some small fraction of Neo left in him, she’d never give up.
They dated in weeks that followed, getting to know each other as Carrie and Thomas. She was fascinated to learn about his past, since she’d known so little of Neo’s life before he was freed. Thomas smiled more than Neo did, and she found herself smiling with him, even as she ached for him to know her. Sometimes when he kissed her, she wanted to collapse into his arms and sob.
She’d catch herself fantasizing about him remembering—how he’d finally look at her and really see her, and they would hold each other again. She tried to push it away when she was with him, but then he’d look at her and smile and she’d have to look away. Sometimes it was too much.
Then one day, they were having gelato on the pier after spending the weekend apart. The ice cream dripped in the warm sun, and in the distance, a string quartet was playing.
“I feel a little pathetic admitting this, but I missed you this weekend,” he said after they’d been eating in silence.
She smiled at him. He had pink ice cream on his mouth.
“Don’t feel pathetic,” she said softly, leaning in to kiss him.
As she tasted the strawberry on his tongue, it hit her that she was genuinely enjoying being with him without constantly torturing herself by wondering when he’d remember. As much as she dearly missed Neo, she was having fun with Thomas. The thought was both comforting and terrifying.
They made love for the first time that night. It had occurred to her that it might take sex for him to remember, but she tried to clear her head and not get her hopes too high. Lying with him, though, brought a rush of emotions she hadn’t fully anticipated or prepared for. To feel his breath on her skin, to feel him moving in her, every trace of Carrie vanished and she was Trinity lying with Neo, and when she closed her eyes and gasped, a tear dripped toward her ear.
“It’s so real,” she breathed, without really meaning to say so.
He didn’t seem fazed, running a hand over her hair and kissing her again. “It is.”
When she was silent for a while afterward, he was suddenly concerned that she regretted sleeping with him, so she took his hand in hers. “Not for one second.”
But she wept again the next time she was alone, tears pouring from her eyes in an unceasing river. Her chest ached. She covered the floor next to her couch in tissues. Come back to me.
Trinity was in line for coffee one day, scrolling through Pinterest, when a quote caught her eye: I’m still in love with the person you used to be. She closed the app and sighed. It had been two months, which was as long as it was short.
When Angel joined her at the coffee shop, she could tell something was up.
“Are you okay? You seem quiet.”
Trinity slouched over her drink. “Not really.”
“What’s going on? Did something happen?”
“No, everything is great, actually. It’s just,” she sighed. “He doesn’t...see me the same way I see him.”
“Well, maybe it just takes time—oh my god, are you crying?”
Trinity wiped her eye. “I’m sorry, it’s been a rough morning.”
Angel was quiet for a moment. Trinity knew how bizarre the whole situation must seem to her.
“Well, as your friend, I’m supposed to tell you that men suck, and that if he doesn’t see the real you, he’s an idiot… But we both know you’re not going to listen to that, right?”
Trinity smirked and idly stirred her coffee.
“I can tell you have something real with him. So, I’ll say this instead: don’t give up.”
Trinity looked up at her friend. “Thank you.”
Thomas invited her to visit his studio, where she watched him work, and they made love on the floor while paint still covered his hands. They watched movies and cooked together. Little by little, her hope diminished, lessening to a dull flame that still licked her heart on occasion. As long as he was still Thomas, she would go on being Carrie.
She was lying in bed looking at him one night and he turned and smiled at her, rubbing her back with his fingertips.
“You’re so beautiful,” he said.
She was quiet for a moment and then let the words fall out.
“I love you,” she said softly, unsure how he’d react. “Too soon?”
He laughed through his nose and kissed her again. “Carrie. I love you. I’m completely crazy about you. I’m glad you said it.”
He laughed and held her and she laughed, too. She fell asleep in his arms that night, exactly where she wanted to be.
The next morning, she got up early to make it to rooftop yoga and told him he could stay in her bed if he wanted. He made a strong case for her staying there with him, but she didn’t want to miss yoga, and she needed to clear her head.
He was lying idly in her bed after she’d gone, recalling her words from the previous night, a sleepy smile playing on his lips. And then something came into his mind, like an afterthought: I love you. You hear me? I love you.
Just as it flashed through, it was gone again, like some fleeting fragment of a memory he couldn’t catch hold of. He thought again of Carrie’s voice: I love you. He ran her words through his mind over and over. There was something there, beneath the surface; he could feel it. Am I going crazy?
He dozed off for a while and dreamed of her. When he awoke and put his feet on the floor, another memory suddenly shot through his mind:: Now get up. And then a name.
“Trinity?” he said aloud, and the name rang through him like a punch to the gut.
He saw her falling again, like the dream from months ago. But this time he saw himself catch her. And another name came to him: Neo.
It all started pouring in: Neo, the Matrix, Morpheus…Trinity. He remembered making love in Zion and saving her and her saving him and losing her and defeating Smith...everything. It all came crashing back so fast he felt like he’d been holding his breath.
And then something else hit him: she already knew.
Suddenly so many things that had previously confused him became perfectly clear: why she so often looked sad even when was telling him she loved him, while they made love. He’d seen the pain in her eyes and never understood why. His heart ached to think of how long she’d waited for him.
He couldn’t sit and wait for her to come home. He jumped out of bed and got dressed. Hurrying down the street, he understood what must have happened; his consciousness stayed behind somehow, after his death. He was jacked in when he died, so it wasn’t hard to imagine. But Trinity...how could she have stayed? And then the only logical answer was that someone must have saved her when he couldn’t.
He only had a vague idea of where the rooftop yoga happened, but a quick search on his phone narrowed it down. He weaved through a busy lobby and found the elevator, making it to the roof just as the class was ending—participants rolling up their mats and putting on their shoes. The large roof was fully furnished with a bar and lounge, so it was easy to hang back and blend in with the crowd. He spotted her in the corner talking to someone, her hair half-up and a water bottle in her hand. It was a rainbow morning and she was radiant against the painted sky. At once, tears dripped from his eyes as her final words came back to him. I wished I had one more chance to say what really mattered, to say how much I loved you...how grateful I was for every moment I was with you.
He smiled to see her laughing at something and wiped his face. Most of the others had gone, so he started over. She caught sight of him as he approached.
“What are you doing here?”
“Trinity,” he said, coming closer, “I remember.”
She practically had to catch her breath.
“Neo?” she managed, barely audible.
He pulled her into his arms. “It’s me, Trin.”
“Neo,” she breathed again, and then his arms were tightly around her, clutching her to his chest.
She returned his embrace and buried her face in his shirt. They stood still on the rooftop for a few moments.
He shifted, then, and pulled her into a long kiss, and she held onto him as she met his lips, her hands trembling.
“Sorry it took me so long,” he said, looking into her eyes again.
“I knew you’d come back to me.”
They both smiled through their tears and pressed their heads together, entwined silhouettes against the colorful sunrise.
Back at Trinity’s apartment, Neo pulled her into his arms again, like he didn’t want to let go. She didn’t want to let go, either.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked suddenly.
“Dying,” she said. “In the Logos.”
He shook his head and glanced around her living room. “I don’t know how this is possible, but I don’t think I care.”
He pulled her into a kiss and she instantly knew he wanted her. Carrie and Thomas all but vanished and they were themselves again, worshiping each other’s bodies, holding each other, making love in her soft nest of bed sheets.
“So real,” he breathed, echoing her from that first night.
“It is,” she replied.
“I love you, Trinity,” he breathed. “I should have said that more.”
“I knew,” she replied, kissing his shoulder. “I love you, Neo.”
As they lie in bed afterward, legs tangled, she spoke.
“I went to the Oracle after I remembered. She said this new Matrix is a result of the peace you created.”
“And we’re here...out of gratitude?” he asked, tracing the freckles on her arm.
“That’s the impression I got, but I’m not sure she knows. She’d want to see you.”
A little smirk crept up on him and he put his arm around her. “I’m not planning on getting out of bed for a while.”
She smiled and kissed him.
“What was it that made you remember?” she asked.
“You. After you told me you loved me.”
“I kept hoping for this,” she said, touching his cheek. “Now that it’s here I can hardly believe it.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t remember before now,” he said. “But you stayed with me…”
She took his hand in hers. “Always.”
They stayed together the rest of the day, ignoring the world, ordering delivery when they got hungry, and finally falling asleep in each other’s arms.
The next morning, when Neo awoke craving bagels and then found that that a full basket of them had appeared in the kitchen, fluffy and warm, they knew it was time to visit her.
“Well, it’s about time,” the Oracle said upon finding them at her door.
They followed her inside. Before Neo could speak, a child had embraced his leg.
“Sati?” he asked, looking down and seeing her familiar face.
“I knew you’d be back,” she beamed. “Have you seen my rainbows?”
“You make those?" Trinity chimed in, taking her meaning. “Beautiful.”
Sati nodded. “They mean thank you.”
Neo knelt to be on her level.
“They’re perfect,” he said.
She smiled, hugged him again, and then ran along. Neo straightened up and faced the Oracle.
“She’s older,” he observed.
“This is the Matrix, not Neverland,” the Oracle quipped, taking a drag of her cigarette.
Neo smirked. “It’s good to see you, too.”
The Oracle glanced down for a moment. “Sati isn’t the only one who is grateful.”
“I couldn’t have done it without your help,” he responded.
“No. But that’s not what you came here to say.”
“They didn’t want me to remember, did they?” he asked after a pause.
Trinity took his meaning. Manifesting food was surely only the beginning of what he could do. The Oracle regarded him for a moment.
“That depends on who or what you mean by they,” she said.
A woman with fuschia hair stepped into the room.
“Angel?” Trinity said in disbelief.
Her friend smiled. “Took long enough to get you two to meet, and then you were a piece of work, weren’t you?” she said, pointing at Neo.
“You...you knew?” Trinity asked, wide-eyed. “All this time, you were helping us find each other?”
Angel nodded. “It’s what I do. I’m really glad it worked out for the two of you.”
Trinity stood stunned for a moment and then stepped forward and embraced her friend—her closest friend, who had given her the greatest gift imaginable.
The Oracle addressed Neo again: “You have to be careful, here, kid. You’re right that there are those out there who are afraid of what you can do, and rightly so. You’re not confined by a physical body anymore. If you start drawing attention to yourself, they’ll take notice. And they’ll come for you.”
Neo nodded. Trinity had turned her attention back to the Oracle, too.
“Can we get a message to Zion?” he asked.
“Is there something they should know?” the Oracle asked skeptically.
Neo was quiet. Trinity didn’t have an answer, either. As wonderful as it would be to let their friends know they were okay, how could they explain it in a way that would reassure them? The Oracle was right; there was no need.
In the elevator afterward, Trinity took hold of Neo’s arm, and he surprised her by pulling her into an embrace and kissing her. He realized, then, that she looked somewhat sad.
“What is it?”
“It’s all still real for me,” she said, shaking her head.
“It is real,” he reassured her, kissing her temple. “It’s our real. I’m glad we’re here, Trin… I’m more than glad, I’m grateful.”
“So am I,” she said, kissing him. “So am I.”
Later that evening, Trinity came out of the shower to find Neo standing on her balcony, looking out at the city.
“What do you see?” she asked.
“Everything. Everyone,” he replied. “People just living their lives.”
He handed her his cell phone; on the screen, she saw that his bank balance had been increased by several million dollars.
“Small changes are easy,” he said. And then he turned to her.
“We could leave. I could make us a home somewhere,” he said, stroking her arm. “Or we could stay. We could be Thomas and Carrie.”
“I’d go anywhere with you,” she said.
She gazed out at the orange glow of the sunset. Carrie was still part of who she was and always would be. But getting away, at least for a while, sounded right.
“A beach house,” she said after a moment.
She kissed him and he held her against his body, running his hands over her towel. Glancing down, he noticed her foot was streaked with blood.
“Oh,” she said, following his gaze, “I must have cut myself shaving.”
He moved the towel above her knee and found a gash, which disappeared as he looked at it.
“Oh my god…” she mumbled, though she wasn’t sure why she was surprised.
He took her face in his hands as if nothing had happened. “I don’t want to be apart again.”
Trinity smiled and wrapped her arms around him again, breathing his scent in the breezy evening air. “Let’s not be.”
Neo needed time to explore the full extent of his abilities and sat for a while on the sofa, unmoving. In his mind, he could see and follow the constructs of the Matrix in any direction he chose. He could manipulate the data with ease; too much ease. He could remove buildings, create mountains, erase cities, if he wanted. He found a place where they could go—a vacant space that he could paint like a canvass. Then, when it was finished, he looked into his own mind, and rewrote it, placing certain blocks and allowances and exceptions on his abilities. He wanted to move through the world as a person, not as the One, not anymore. He’d be able to take care of both of them, to heal and create money and food, but nothing too disruptive. The blocks weren’t permanent, but he arranged them in such a network that they’d take great effort to undo.
Hours passed for Trinity, and she grew anxious. He hadn’t budged. She didn’t want to disturb him, but then she noticed that a trickle of blood had fallen from his nose. Just as she started to get a tissue, a crimson torrent soaked his shirt.
“Neo!” she cried, grabbing him by the shoulders.
He was instantly awake again, alarmed by her concern, and then he looked down and saw the blood.
“I’m sorry,” she said, sitting next to him. “I didn’t know what was happening.”
He shook his head. “I’m alright. How long was I—?”
“Almost nine hours,” she said.
He looked shocked. “I’m sorry, it felt like minutes.”
He surprised her by pulling her into his arms again, and she held him, relieved that he was okay.
“Did it work?”
“Yes,” he said. “I could see everything, Trin. All of it. I could break it apart and rebuild it if I tried.”
“Could you...create an entirely new Matrix?”
“I suppose,” he said plainly. “But I don’t want that. I placed a series of blocks in my mind, to limit what I can change.”
She looked surprised.
“I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want it to stop being real. You mean everything to me. You always have.”
She smiled and kissed his temple, running her hand through his dark locks, at a loss for words.
“We have a beach house,” he added.
A warm breeze rustled the tall palm trees as Trinity and Neo approached their new home on the Sicilian coast.
She was speechless at the sight of it: a towering white ocean villa surrounded by green grass with bright strokes of colorful wildflowers. Stepping inside, she found a palace with dark woods contrasting against plush, white furniture and soothing gray walls. Across the back wall, floor-to ceiling windows offered a panoramic view of the beach.
“This is breathtaking,” she said.
He simply smiled and watched her explore.
Stepping out the back door, she found herself on a grassy hill leading down to a private pier and their own stretch of beach, framed by a cove. Gusts of wind whipped her hair, carrying the delicate scent of the ocean waves. Overhead, distant gulls cawed. It was more beautiful than any home in her wildest dreams, as either Carrie or Trinity. The sun was just starting to sink into the ocean, and the refraction of the glowing horizon reminded her of Thomas’s paintings.
Neo joined her there and slid his arms around her waist.
“You made this for us?” she asked, leaning against him.
“For us,” he nodded. “What do you think?”
She looked up at him. “It’s gorgeous. Here’s my favorite part.”
Trinity pressed her lips to Neo’s once more, and the two embraced in the warm breeze as night fell across the sea.