Reality's Cross

[02.08.01] » by Benjamin S. Avner


-Written on a set of gates near Seattle Center


"I can still relive the memories of those days long past… just by closing my eyes, like such, and whispering your name into the desolate night… "

-Serge, Radical Dreamers intro





            As always, I feel the loss as I'm pulled awake by the usual summons.  "Serge…"  Consciousness comes pouring in, but I try to fight it off for a second.  It's a losing battle.  "Get up, Serge!"  My mother's voice pierces through any last fog of dreams - "come on, sleepy head!  Get up!"  I force myself to sit up in bed, but after that, I wait for about ten minutes, listlessly waiting for my thoughts to order themselves.

            When I started sleeping until noon every day, those who cared just chalked it up to general exhaustion, or the aftereffects of my collapse at the beach a month and a half ago.  I've always slept late, but I used to get up earlier in the summer to enjoy the bright days.  Not now.  I sleep later and later every day, and my mother sometimes resorts to waking me up.  Now it's… well, I don't bother to move my head to check the clock, but it must be 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon.

            I eventually get moving.  Once I get outside, I find I have to squint from the glare of the light.  The day seems particularly warm and bright.  So much so that anything in Arni other than the bright blue expanse of the sky seems dark and colorless by comparison.  I used to love summer days like this, and I guess part of me still does.  But I've lost something.  Now I only feel really alive at night.  Fantasies that are so painfully far away in daylight seem almost ready to come alive in the dark.

            I'm almost at the docks, where I can usually expect to find Leena this time of afternoon.  Like always.  Leena runs over to hug me as soon as I approach, being used to my late "mornings."  Now Leena starts pulling at my shirt and rubbing her hands over my lower back.  It's an effort to keeps holding her, and not to flinch away. 

We spend a few hours baby-sitting a few kids, and then go for a walk to Opassa Beach.  I'm glad to be near the sea; it seems to be calling to me in an odd way.  The rolling of the waves, the gentle, repetitious lapping of the surf seems to calm Leena, but it stirs something in me.  Something connected to whatever I've lost.  I want to go somewhere, do something great.  Explore.  Escape, I guess. 

Instead, we gather shells for Leena's latest art project, and then she sets me to doing pushups followed by running, saying that I need to maintain my oh-so-wonderful physique.  I used to live to jog on the beach, with Leena as my surrogate aerobics coach.  But now I feel like I'm not going anywhere, no matter how fast I move.  I try to enjoy myself anyway, but it's kinda hard when every step brings the temptation to stop and let the sea tell me what it has to say.  Afterwards, we sit on the beach for a few more hours, Leena occasionally giving me massages and me returning the favor… lifelessly, I think, but she doesn't seem to notice.

Every moment seems like forever and I count the minutes until it'll be time to do something else, but when sunset approaches, I find it hard to believe the whole day is over.  A day just like any other.  As usual, I've tried to ignore my misgivings, but haven't been able to.  I feel almost an obligation to be happy, for Leena's sake, for my mother's, for everyone's.  But at moments like these, I can't fight the simple fact that I'm not happy.  It's ridiculous to pretend everything's right when you're constantly fighting back these stirrings to somehow escape.  I guess I've become a dreamer, and there's nothing to satisfy my dreams. 

Why can't I enjoy myself?  I think it's because reality is so pale compared to fantasy.

As night falls, Leena and I fall to our several-times-a-week-random-philosophy-discussion.  Yet another routine.  "Now, they're exploring their spirits, not just the physical world.  That's why I say they're living their lives to the fullest," she's saying of the old couple from Arni's pub.

"How do you know that?  You assume that everything in their daily lives is deep and meaningful, but they're not exploring a damn thing," I retort.  "They're doing nothing.  These are two old people living out the last days of their lives in mundane-ness because they don't want to put forth the effort to live to the fullest.  Now, take someone like Rachel.  For the first time in her life, she just might be really living."  Leena tries to interrupt but I talk over her.  "Hang on, let me finish here.  Her one real dream is to be a traveling poet, right?  One day, she finally gets up the courage to just leave here.  And she doesn't have a clue whether she'll make it or not." 

Rachel had been a fixture waitressing at the shack we called a pub, but one day, the morning after my collapse at the beach, she'd just been gone, leaving only a short note behind.  A note written in verse, naturally.  We in Arni will probably never know whether she'll move millions' hearts with her words, or end up dead in a ditch.

"Yeah, Serge, I agree with that.  But you assume everyone's dream is to travel or something.  What about people who dream of settling down in a quiet village?"

"You think there're that many?  I don't."

Leena smiles slightly, challengingly.  "How do you figure that?  There's really no logical way to conclude that."

A wave of frustration hits me.  What's the point?  "I can't prove what I'm saying logically.  But it's the truth.  Why should logic dictate the truth?  I can tell you right now that damn near everyone in Arni is not 'living their life to the fullest.'  Everyone… well, except maybe you, Chief Radius, and that old fisherman… everyone else living here dreams of being somewhere else.  They're just afraid of change."

"Why do you keep coming back to that?  Why is change inherently bad?"  She goes on for awhile.  Debating abstract things with Leena is another former highlight of my life that had all meaning abruptly sucked out of it six weeks ago.  We go back and forth, but none of it means anything.  The truth won't change no matter how skillfully we reason out the same arguments over and over.  Finally, Leena throws her arm around my shoulders.  "Well, whatever.  It's getting late, I'll see you tomorrow."

"So long, Leena."  She leaves and I'm finally alone.  Alone with the sea, the night, and my loss.  The loss again. 

I'm trying not to let my bitterness extend towards Leena.  She's actually been considerate of how I've changed, and knows when I want to be alone, like now.  I really should let her know exactly what I'm going through.  I guess I'm afraid of change too.  But it's unfair to Leena, and to everyone in Arni, for that matter, to keep carrying on like I'm whole.  They'll have to know sooner or later how, well, deeply unhappy I am; breaking the news now could spare some people a lot of pain.

Leena.  "Serge and Leena forever."  It really seemed that way, once.  But since the loss, everything about her is so hollow.  All the time I spend with her seems like more of myself that I'm giving away.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  I've been trying, but there's nothing I can do about it.

Hell, my whole life up until now has meant nothing, and it doesn't look like it'll change anytime soon.  I've accomplished nothing and benefited no one.  The world hasn't changed at all as a result of my existence.  I think I'd go insane if I were to stay in Arni and become a fisherman.  Maybe I'd still be haunted by my loss, too.

This "loss" has to somehow explain why I've become so self-centered where I used to be a nice guy, and so unhappy with everything in my life I once loved.  Why I've been drawn to fantasy, darkness, and the sea, and why I'm suddenly obsessed with the unknown.

Basically, I lost something, six weeks ago, when I collapsed for no apparent reason on Opassa Beach.  I'm sure of it.  My life since then is empty.  I don't know what it is that's missing – a dream? a memory? – actually, it's like the memory of a dream.   I know I've forgotten something, and the vaguest hints of it that I get sometimes are enough to stir my soul. 

What I've lost was important to me, precious to the point that living without it seems pointless.  It's totally removed from my life, yet the brief almost-tastes of it I get are more real than reality.  At night, by the sea, and in my dreams… whatever it is keeps calling to me, with its little tantalizing hints.  But I've never quite been able to reach it, or even figure out what it is, since the incident on the beach.

Maybe it makes me a bad person, or maybe it's the logical extension of my desire, but I know with sudden clarity that I would give anything in my power to find out what I've lost.  I'd give my life if, before I died, I could get back what's been taken from me.

Then it's like I'm in another world.




            The sea seems different now.  Actually, on closer inspection, it's the rest of the world that seems different.  The sea's gentle roll is the one thing that seems exactly the same, but there's a subtly different feel to everything else.  More unreal.  The sand seems less solid, the cloudless summer sky less dark, a clearer, less-tangible black.  It's enough to make me a little dizzy, so I turn around, trying to clear my head.  The dizziness gradually subsides, but the weird feel of the world does not. 

When I turn back to my original position, I see a boy standing in front of me.  Was he there before?  A child, maybe six years old, with a broad face and spiky red hair.  The kid is dressed in blue, and seems like a ghost in appearance – the air around him seems to shimmer.  He stands staring at me dispassionately, small arms dangling by his sides.  He seems to solidify partially as everything else fades, leaving a sort of balance between the ghostly world and the ghostly child. 

My mind tells me I shouldn't know him, but somehow I do.  He is called Crono.

            -Why have you come here?  This place is not your.  Return-  The words clearly come from Crono, but he doesn't speak aloud or move his mouth.  I can only stare at him, totally confused.  -Return to your home.  Return- he repeats, again without actually talking.  The voice is quiet and aetherial, seeming like several voices at once. 

            I try to talk a few times.  What I finally come up with is something like "Return?  What?  What are you talking… uh, what is this?"

            There's a long pause, while Crono just stares at me.  It makes me a bit nervous, though that might be just the normal discomfort that comes from being stared at, strangely familiar ghost-child or not.  -It is understood now.  This was not conscious will.  Still, you have played a part in bringing yourself to this place-  I wait for an explanation and get one, sort of.  -Your will  caused you to be drawn back here, to the center of space-time.  A strong desire, combined with your integral part in the space-time continuum.  This was unexpected, but will be remedied in due course.  For now, welcome, Serge, Chrono Trigger-  He vanishes.

            Chrono Trigger?  Suddenly, I remember.  I saw this boy in a dead world, again in Terra Tower, and spoke with him on Opassa Beach.  I soon realize that none of what I can remember really makes any kind of sense within any context I can think of.  More images flash through my mind, images out of a buried memory, but I can't resolve them into anything coherent.  It's like a floodgate that's been pried just slightly open – I'm suddenly in contact with memories I never knew I had, but after a promising start, there's not enough water pressure in the reservoir to send more than a few trickles out.  Incoherent images keep coming.  I'm a fighter.  I'm unconscious.  I'm awake.  I'm mortally wounded.  I'm myself.  I'm someone else.  I'm with…

"KID!"  I actually do yell the name out loud, and stagger backwards, holding my head.  I remember Kid, but more than that, the idea of not remembering Kid seems inconceivable.  That's the trigger for a deluge of images.  Now it's like the floodgate has suddenly vanished completely, and the memories pour out of it in a deluge.  I slump onto the "ground" and desperately try to sort out what I'm remembering before it drives me to insanity.  I meet Kid, and see her die and live again.  I fight alongside her, against Lynx, FATE, and the Dragon God's shade.  I see Karsh and Zoah and Marcy, Norris and Fargo, Viper and Riddel and Glenn and all the others.  I remember a Radius stirred into action by a desire to fix the mistakes he'd made years earlier.  I see a young woman named Leena who fights by my side, filled with a strange mix of curiosity and sadness so absent in the Leena I grew up with.  And so on.  I wait for what seems like an eternity while the memories wash over me, filling me.

I have no clue exactly how long it's been, if time even has meaning here, when Crono appears before me again.  -The timestream remains unstable with regards to you.  The resdual effect of the use of Time Eggs appears to have solidified your control over the space-time continuum.  But this is only an anomaly, easily reversed.  You will now be returned you to your former state.  All will be taken care of for you-

"Wait!" I yell, struggling to my feet and holding up my hands.  "Hang on a second!"  The world starts to distort, and abruptly stops again.  He's trying to send me back, but it's not working.

-What are you doing?- demands the not-quite-voice of Crono.  -You cannot defy the will of space-time itself-  Something continues trying to send me back, but I don't want to go back.  I'm fighting it off.  I have no clue how, but it seems that defying the will of space-time itself is exactly what I'm doing.

"Wait!" I yell a second time.  "Stop!  You can't take my memories away again!"

I feel a renewed sense of struggle, and again I somehow win this struggle.  The world tries to fade back into focus, but I fiercely keep my thoughts on Kid and the others.  I'll die before I let them disappear from my mind again.  All I have are memories, thoughts, but as I'd thought they would, they seem more real to me than my life in Arni.  -It was agreed upon long ago.  Do not presume to defy the will of the timestream.  You must be returned to your former state-

"No."  I'm aware of the absurdity of the entire situation, but force myself to ignore it as I step forward.  "I won't let you.  It seems I can stop you, so I'll make the decisions about my own mind."

Yet another eternity seems to pass.  The pressure builds and dies in cycles, as my antagonist tries to find its way through my defenses.  It pounces whenever I let my guard down at all.  I focus on Kid, but I start to fear that I can't hang on. 

Once it almost wins.  Kid literally seems to disappear from my head, bit by bit, but an overwhelming fear strengthens me enough to survive this assault.  I'm scared to death of losing my memory of her and that dreamlike time.  Our bizzare journey stirred feelings in me that I've never experienced before or since in my short life.  I barely survived forgetting the first time, and I couldn't deal with it if it happened again.

Abruptly the struggle ceases.  Whatever consciousness is behind this seems to have realized it can't win.  I'm amazed, but grit my teeth and try not to let my guard down for an instant.  The sea continues to crash against the unreal beach, heedless of everything.  Somehow, it's unchanged even here. 

Crono speaks again.  -Why do you defy the will of time itself?  Your sacrifice was for the good of all-

I hesitate for a moment; how does one respond to something like that?  "Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm not convinced that I'm doing anyone any favors by becoming a shell of myself.  I mean, if I was strong enough to draw myself here just by wishing for my mind back, I think there's a reason.  My memories and thoughts belong to me."

-Irrelevant.  Perhaps true, but irrelevant.  Would you truly defy all creation?- Crono raises his head to look me straight in the eye.  Based on the voice, I don't expect to see anything but emptiness in his eyes.  To my surprise, his eyes seem to have a  tinge of something human.

"I guess so.  Is that my only choice?"

-It may be-    




            Crono and I continue to stare at each other, unspeaking.  Finally, acting on a hunch, I call out to him.  "Hey.  You act like there's something conscious controlling space-time.  Your boss, I guess.  Can I speak to it?"

            I'm rewarded with, surprisingly, a dry chuckle.  Crono's expression, of course, doesn't change.  -You are.  Time has its own will, it's own consciousness.  Space-time is shaped by those who touch it most closely.  They leave a little bit of themselves behind.  The one called Crono was the most influential being to live on this planet, from time's perspective, so the space-time continuum has molded itself partially after him.  This includes sentience and even some of what you would call 'humanity'- 

            "Yeah?  Well, uh..."

-You wish to appeal your case to the human side of space-time?-

            "Yeah.  I do.  If you'll listen."  Silence.  "What, so you're the guy to talk to?"

            -'I' am all-  Abruptly, the image of Crono is replaced by another child, a little girl with thick glasses, wearing a brown outfit and a bizarre helmet.  I've seen her too – Crono's companion, Lucca.  Like the Crono-image, she "speaks" without her face moving, and the voice is the same.  -All who have shaped time have left their mark.  Lucca and Janus-  The image abruptly becomes a small boy with blue hair.  -Schala-  Before I can make out any details about Janus, the image startles me by resolving into a faithful reproduction of a child Kid.    -Those few outside of time as well, such as Spekkio-  Abruptly, it's a creature I can't even hope to identify.  It's a big heavyset being, standing on two legs, with short, thin arms by its side and an enormous mouth.  It resembles a red Beach Bum, actually, but it looks to be able to move much more quickly.  Seems powerful, too.

            -Even yourself, Serge-  I find that I'm looking myself in the eye.  The child Serge haunts me a little.  It's myself, but without any of the love for life I had at that age… actually, without any emotion.  It's me drained of all humanity, all that makes me an individual.  But I do seem to sense that this Serge-image has just a trace of me in it, as if my mind has also become a small part of the space-time continuum.  I get a sense of standing naked before the god I once prayed to.  But then I figure that, if this Serge really comes from me, then time will already know and understand what I'm trying to say. 

More silence.  I assume I'm the one who has to speak, but I have a bit of trouble beginning.  "Uh, well, I… you know why… I mean, I've made my request.  I don't want to be returned to my old life with my memories erased again."  Once I start talking, the ground, sky, and other surroundings disappear.  The remaining world is totally colorless and featureless.  Void except for us Serges.  Even the Sea Of Eden, present in all places with any connection to reality, doesn't exist here.  I think I hear a ticking sound too, like a pendulum's swing.

The timestream speaks through the other me, in its usual dispassionate voice.  -Your return and loss of memory has been agreed upon.  It is the will of all of space-time, for the common good-

I don't know how serious this is.  Am I being tested?  And what's with the ticking?  I decide to treat the whole thing like a debate.  "Now, I don't really understand," I answer.  "How is it for the common good?  I was working for the common good before, back when I was fighting for the future.  What benefit does the world get from me being miserable, and doing nothing to help anyone else?"

-You are a fundamental part of the chain of all living creatures, as are all lives.  Each being is essential in the ongoing quest of a planet to evolve to its next stage.  That is the meaning of your existence –  to live your life to its fullest.  Your ally Schala knew this to be true.  All who try to live their own lives contribute to the eventual evolution of the planet to its next stage.  This is your duty-

"But why do I have to live without my memories?  Why can't I "live my life to its fullest" by searching for the ones I traveled with back, well, when my life had greater meaning?  Kid promised she'd be searching too."  I deliberately avoid using the name "Schala."   I remember Kid's assertion that she was herself, an individual, not just Schala's clone.  And I remember that the "Lucca" portion of the timestream approved.

-During the time of which you speak, you were controlled.  FATE and the Dragon God and Lucca and Belthasar.  You followed paths set by them.  A mere tool.  What "greater meaning" can arise from such a life?-

It's getting harder to think; I know I'm not imagining that ticking pendulum sound.  "Yeah, I know all that.  But, the people, I mean, uh, yeah, the connection I had with those lives, that was all real.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that the friendships we formed, our interactions, that stuff wasn't set for us, it was reality.  Kid was, well, the best friend I've ever had.  That wasn't part of someone else's plan for us."

-Personal sentiments.  Irrelevant compared to the greater issue-

"What do you mean?  Why are-"

The other Serge actually has the gall to interrupt me.  -The greater issue is your life in freedom- he says, answering one of my unasked questions.  -You now can live the life of a free being, totally uncontrolled by fates and gods.  Yet you would spurn this true free will that has finally been granted to you.  You long only for your days as a slave.  Are you truly one who would fight for freedom, then run from its benefits?-

"Okay.  Now you're contradicting yourself!"  Training from all those discussions with Leena.  I think I must've been waiting for a chance like this, and I immediately pounce on it.  "Listen, I just want to find Kid and the others, or at the very least, hold on to my memories of them.  Those memories are all I have left of the most important experience of my life, and I don't want to lose them again.  You can't offer me the life of a free being, and then start telling me how it's my duty to spend it."  That damn ticking almost makes me lose track of my point, but I press on.  "I mean, I can't live life to the fullest or whatever if those choices are taken away from me.  That's not freedom.  If I'm really free, I'd like to choose to keep my memories."

-It is not a true option.  From the standpoint of your world, your journey never happened.  The friendships and dreams you speak of do not exist-

"It was real!  I was there!" I immediately insist.  I'm sick of this game.  How can these idiotic semantics about space-time and timestreams change what happened?  I then figure that losing my temper isn't a smart idea if I'm being tested, and try to calm down.

-True in a way.  But irrelevant.  In the new, restored timeline, your journey is but fantasy, not reality-

"I don't see… well, I guess I'm living in fantasy, then.  Isn't that my right as a free being too?"

-You would turn away from reality?-  By this point, I'm sure the other Serge is gently leading me towards a decision.  Being partially me, he must understand my train of thought.

"Okay.  You want something more dramatic.  I'll play.  How about this – this 'fantasy' of mine is deeper and more real than real life could ever be.  So I reject reality.  I choose fantasy."

There's a shimmer, and the "human side of the timestream" changes its appearance back to Crono.  -You have made an important choice.  It is within the power of space-time to grant your peculiar wish.  But are you certain, Serge?-

I suddenly notice the absence of that annoying pendulum sound.  It may have stopped awhile ago, for all I know.  I start to think it over. 

There is a decision to make, but it doesn't take very long.  I think of Leena with her boyfriend gone.  My widowed mother, her only child taken away.  The thoughts hurt quite a bit, but I realize I'll abandon them anyway if I go back, which would hurt more.  Maybe they deserve better; I really hope they'll both be okay.  But I honestly believe it's better this way.  So I speak up.  "Yes.  I'm certain."

-The world is yours to shape-  Suddenly, everything seems to be spinning.  All goes black.




            I don't actually lose consciousness.  It's just all black.  But at least it's some semblance of color.  I remember how darkness makes fantasies come to life, and I think of my particular "fantasy."  As I blink, wherever this place is starts to come into focus, like it's forming around me.  Light starts to appear, slowly.  Naturally, the Sea Of Eden is the first thing to form  Then it stops getting brighter.  The rest of the place seems reluctant to appear.  It's all formless.

            "So this is my fantasy world for me to shape?" I murmer.

            "Not quite, Serge.  We fight over it."  A whispered voice startles me.  I spin around, but can't see anyone.  I hear laughter.

            "Who is it?" I call.

            "Ah, over there.  Thanks."  The whisper comes right by my ear now, causing me to flinch back.  It comes again, but now it's much farther away.  "I doubt you'll win, Serge.  You had your chance, and you've squandered it."

            The Mastermune is in my hand now, summoned from nothing.  But I can't even see my opponent.  Then I feel breath on the back of my neck.  Desperately, I spin around, knowing I won't get my weapon there in time.  But my foe is gone.  Amazingly, I've just escaped by actually manipulating the space-time of this strange world to put some room between us. 

But my opponent can do it too.  A figure suddenly appears to my side as it compresses space, and I again extend space to get myself far enough away to avoid the attack.

            "C'mon, enough of this!  Show yourself!  Stand and fight!" I order.  Hey, maybe it'll work.

            "Not a chance," replies the whisperer.  The sudden attack comes from behind and to my left, but by sheer luck, I was prepared to turn that way already, and my Mastermune is there to meet it.  This time my opponent is the one who has to bend space to escape me.  But I quickly catch a glimpse of a black cloak…


            "In the flesh... or what passes for flesh here," he says, finally speaking out loud.  Picking up on his voice, I bend space to launch an attack of my own, but he's prepared, and long gone by the time my weapon hits where he was.  "Lynx's shade, actually, but it's really the same thing.  You see, FATE has made its own impact on the timestream, and become a part of it.  So in your little fantasy world where anything is possible, so is the living incarnation of FATE – me."  I try to attack again, and he blocks with his scythe, and then reverses space to end up behind me, catching me off-guard.  I manipulate the world yet again to escape, but I can't do it as effortlessly as he seems to.  I know I'm starting to tire physically and mentally; this is unlike any other fight I've had. 

            I suddenly remember that he's my father, as I learned in the end.  I found out after I'd already killed him, so I've never thought of him as such, but Lynx was born from the body of my father Wazuki.  I speak, hoping that my voice doesn't betray my exhaustion.  "So what do you have to gain from fighting me, father?"

            "'Father?'  In name only.  Wazuki was no match for the goddess of FATE, and nothing remains of his mind."  Lynx is talking casually, giving no sense of shortness of breath.  "As for why we fight, well, we have to.  We're resolving a paradox.  Both of us have memories from after our battle-to-the-death in Chronopolis.  So the space-time continuum solves the paradox by throwing us together and seeing which of us survives.  En garde!"  The sudden exclamation makes me stiffen in anticipation of an attack that never comes.  He has me shaken, and he knows it.

            "Why not at least fight me face-to-face?" I demand.

            "Oh, I'm just more likely to win this way."

            We keep "fighting," yet rarely even making weapon contact.  The near-darkness is Lynx's friend; with his panther's eyes, he can actually see.  He's very patient as the fight drags on, launching endless probing and feinting attacks.  Sweat is pouring down my face, and I know I can't last much longer.  But I'll be damned if I lose to Lynx after all I've been through since the last time I killed him.

            The fight drags on, and a bit of fear is building in me, despite my best efforts.  Finally, I take a gamble.  I think I've picked up a pattern in what he's doing, and decide that next, after letting me sweat for a few moments, he'll attack from the right.  When Lynx bends space to launch an attack, I'll use my will to hold him there so he can't escape.  I'll blindly try to block with my left swallow blade, and then counterattack with an upward thrust to the throat with my right blade.  If it works, he'll have no way to avoid it.  Then again, if my timing is off, or if he attacks from another direction, I'll have to work hard to avoid getting mortally wounded myself.

            It almost works, as it turns out.  The attack does come, almost exactly as I'd predicted.  I am able to hold him in place, so that he can't warp away after I block.  However, my parry as his scythe comes down on me is just a little bit too hard.  The Mastermune blocks the attack just fine, but the force of it causes the blade of Lynx's scythe to be pushed away, and slide under my weapon. 

As a result, as my riposte lands – not quite dead-on to the throat, but still a deep hit to the upper chest – Lynx's scythe slides under my Mastermune to embed itself about three centimeters into my left side.  It then jerks diagonally upward, tearing through my chest. 

The pain is excruciating as I lose my grip on my weapon and fall to whatever passes for the ground here.  I can't move, not even to try to hold my wound closed to keep in the blood and entrails.  Lynx also stumbles, the Mastermune embedded in his own body, but only to his knees.  His panther's face a mask of pain, he rises with an effort and retrieves his scythe.

"As long as… you die first, it'll be okay," he manages, whispering again.  He raises the scythe slowly above his head, clearly struggling for ever millimeter.  "If you die… the paradox is solved," he wheezes.  "The Serge who… defeated the Goddess... of FATE… will be erased from pages of time.  Space-time is rewritten.  You never survived Chronopolis..."  Lynx has raised his scythe by now; it's directly over my head, glinting just a bit in the faint light, the blade already dripping blood.  "Just thought you should know," he murmurs, barely audible.  With no further comment, the scythe comes down…




            My life doesn't exactly flash before my eyes, but I have plenty of time to reflect on what's happened.  Does this have to be the result of my personal desires?  Maybe my choices were selfish; everything is self-motivated, really.  But I still can't feel that I've done anything wrong.  If it's my responsibility as a human being to eke out a decent existence for myself, I would choose my fantasy over any "reality," for the sake of myself, for those in reality who would only be hurt in the end by any emotional ties to dreamers like me, and for my fellow dreamers who need me.  But it seems making that choice has done more harm than I could have imagined.  So is my life denied to me?  Is that how it works?  Does it have to end like this?

            My answer comes as Lynx abruptly jerks back in mid-swing, as if struck.  The scythe clatters to the ground a meter away.  I stare, and, though it's pretty dark, I can make out the outline of a knife in Lynx's chest just over the heart, next to the Mastermune.  He was hit by a thrown dagger…

            Panic crosses his face as he reaches down, trying to retrieve his weapon.  Then Lynx simply crumples into a motionless heap.  With a quick distortion of space, a smallish red-clad figure is beside us now, surveying her handiwork.  "Iocane poison on the dagger," announces the one who threw it.  "Seemed appropriate." 

After kicking Lynx a few times to ensure that he's dead, my rescuer turns to me, quickly surveying my condition.  "Don't try ta talk or move, mate.  Lemme see what I can do for ya."

The hair, the paint on her face, the clothing (or lack thereof), and the mannerisms are all the same as I remember.  It's not just Schala, it's her.  The girl from that lost fantasy, the imaginary world so much more real than reality.  Yeah, it's Kid. 

Kid tries to heal me for a few frantic moments, but it seems all the Elements in the world can't get undo a death-wound.  So I finally find her at the moment of my death; maybe it would make for a good stage tragedy or something, but that doesn't do much to comfort me.  I won't last much longer, but I have to at least talk to her.  "Kid… I want you to know…"

"Hang on a sec!  Don't talk like yer dyin' or somethin'!  I know I didn't come all the way 'ere to have ya die in me arms.  That ain't gonna happen!"  Kid turns her head.  "Crono!  Can't ya do anythin'?"

I hadn't noticed Crono watching us, but there he is.  Only he's different.  Rather than being a child, this Crono is a muscular, medium-height young man, maybe sixteen years old.  He stands upright with one hand under his chin, in what can only be described as a pillar of pure light.  How long has he been watching?  At Kid's call, he hesitates just an instant, then nods and walks over to us.  He kneels down over me and raises his hands.

I'm healed.  There's no sense of healing, my wound is just totally gone.  I gasp with pleasure at the rush of air filling my lungs, and at the total lack of pain.  Kid and Crono watch me.  Then Crono slowly rises to his feet, managing to look both regal and casual at the same time.  Kid follows his lead, and, a bit gingerly, I do too. 

Is this real?  When I ask that question aloud, Kid's answer is "Ey, I should ask the same thing."  That leaves us both staring at Crono.

I'll never know if I'm imagining the tiny smile that I think crosses Crono's face as the voice of the timestream answers.  Schala and Serge.  For you, this is reality.  You have both made the same choice, as have all others who you may encounter here-  Crono raises his arms and begins to fade away.  -Live according to your choices-

Then it's bright, and the air is filled with the warm touch of summer.  Our arms are around each other, and we're grinning.  I'm the first one to speak, in what could generously be called a half-decent imitation.  "Oi, Kid!  It's bloody great to see ya again, mate!"

Kid's smile, impossibly, broadens even more .  "Speak for yerself, Serge.  Told ya I'd find ya… but I never thought it'd be here!"

Words pour out of both of our mouths – nothing meaningful, really, and we're both trying to talk at the same time anyway.  But this intense joy is real.  It's like coming back to life after a trip to one underworld or another.  Standing under this world with the best friend I've ever had.  I realize how excited I am to see the others again, too.  I hope all those who I grew close to during my journey have found their way here. 

"Ya think the others made it?" Kid asks, at just about the same time I think of them.

 "I say we find out!"  I point in a completely random direction.  "Let's try that way first."

"Oi!  Let's see what's out here!"

We're running.  This world of ours is finally beginning to take shape.  Outlines of what could be mountains, forests, lakes, and cities start to shimmer in the distance.  The sky is picking up color, and it doesn't take much thinking to see that it'll end up as rich cerulean blue.  And us?  We'll run like the wind, until the day we die.





 "Reality's Cross" was written during the months of December, 2000 and February, 2001, and belongs to me, Toma Levine.  Feel free to send it to anyone you want, post it on webpages, etc., as long as you don't change it or take my name off or anything.

"Chrono Cross" and all of its characters belong to Square, and were used without permission.


Well, thanks a lot for reading (um, that goes to those of you who actually read it, not those who just skimmed to the end).  Please drop me an e-mail if you have anything to say at all.  I'd really really appreciate it.  Please?


Take care,

-Benjamin S. Avner (AKA "Toma Levine")

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