What Now Chapter 1
What now? We've rested, we've discussed, we've squeezed all the life out of our story to the point where we bore ourselves with it. Lavos was a great conversation piece, I admit-- but he's worn out his welcome. So I ask, what now? Me, Crono, and Marle can't think of a thing to talk about anymore. We just sit and stare at each other, wishing we were doing something. We could play a board game, I suppose-- but those just turn to *bored* games after three minutes. No activity can compare to travelling through time, saving past, present, and future from evil. We could talk about the old days, but the memories of our adventure have overwritten our childhoods, so all we remember are vague details... What now?
Crono and Marle were the perfect couple for a while, until they got bored--relationships born of adventure never work out, they say--so they resorted to bickering and finally broke up. I've tried to find adventure in my inventions, but I keep thinking about all the advances that 2300AD had and get depressed. Marle has redoubled her efforts to be a good princess, so she's been traveling to other cities as a diplomat. It would have worked out, had she not been to all those places before, during our adventure--then *she* reminisces and gets depressed. Crono, poor Crono... He's been practicing his swordplay, but there's only so many trees you can attack before the police get on your case-- he's resorted to needlepoint, which, needless to say, depresses him. It depresses me, and I'm not even the one doing it.
We've tried to seek out new company. Marle found a nice prince to woo, Rupert, I think his name was-- but whenever we talked to her, she referred to him as "Prince Lethargy". I don't know if she's seeing him anymore. Crono keeps pictures of Marle around his room, lusting after the old days. His mom's getting concerned, since he spends all his time by himself; she hooked him up with a cute girl named Susan. I guess he liked her alright, but she thought he was a little scary and never called back. His mom even tried to pair him with me... We went out shopping and ended up sitting on a bench in the park, in uncomfortable silence. As for me, I'm getting awfully lonely by myself-- where I used to find solace in science, I just don't anymore. Nothing excites me. I'm only 20, and the rest of my life will be one big anticlimax, until I die a senile old crone in a mental house sputtering about Lavos and spitting up my strained spinach!
"Dammit..." Lucca growled. She tossed her pen on the floor and buried her face in her hands. "What now?..." With a sigh, she stood up. Her chair squeaked on the floor. She felt a flush of anger--why? Because the chair squeaked? She got mad at everything now, and half the noises out of her mouth could be classified as sighs. "I guess I could go downstairs and eat some chocolate..." she muttered to herself. "For the twelfth time today..." she added as she neared the kitchen.
The flavor of chocolate and its smooth texture was usually enough to placate her whenever she got upset. She had been eating so much of it lately, though, that she was constantly hyper, and had a nagging stomachache, as well. She could almost feel her teeth rotting out of her skull. There's nothing worse than being bored and hyper. "Gads, I'm turning into a freak..."
She popped a chocolate block into her mouth and sucked. In a few minutes it was gone. She ate another. And another. She proceeded to empty the box that way.
"Over, and under, pull, and twist. Over, and under, pull, and twist. Back-- do it again." Crono pulled the thread through the cloth, finishing his twelfth bunny rabbit pillow. He tossed it into the corner. It bounced off a stuffed bear, a blue sweater, some socks, and thirty potholders. He reached to his left and fished out another two lengths of cloth, rethreaded his needle, and began to chant to himself again. "Over, and under, pull, and twist. Over, and under, pull, and twist."
He continued like that for three hours straight. At that point, the rumbling in his belly was too annoying to ignore, so he donned his freshly knitted apron and cooked himself a grilled cheese sandwich. "Ummy, nummy, grilled cheesy for my tumm-eee....." He failed to notice his mother, who was peering around the door, concern written all over her face.
"Crono, dear? Don't you think you should be outside? It's a beautiful day..."
He turned to look at her, then out the window. It was pouring. "Mom, water is falling from the sky today. It would be better for me to sit here and enjoy my cheesy grilled treat."
"Why don't you call it 'rain' anymore?" she asked, gripping the door so hard her knuckles were turning white. She suddenly realized this, and let go abruptly. Why was I doing that? she asked herself. Am I afraid of my own son?
Crono was silent for a moment. He seemed to be pondering the question. "Ummm, I guess because...mmmm, this sandwich is good. Did you make this?" he asked her.
"No, dear, you made the sandwich..."
"Really? I'm a good cook." He nodded. "Thank you, me! I'll cook for you again soon." He finished the last of his sandwich, and cleared the table. His mother just stared at him as he walked back to his room.
Marle managed a half-hearted smile as Prince Rupert offered her a dozen long stemmed red roses. "Why thank you, Prince Le-uhh, Rupert. They're... beautiful." She tossed them onto her table after he had left the room. "What's wrong with me? I've got a semi-handsome, intelligent man who's devoted to me and is willing to spend all his money to please me, and I couldn't care less." She clenched the locket around her neck. "God...."
The locket opened by pushing a little button on the side. Inside was a picture of Crono. "Oh, Crono, I miss you... I miss everything..." A knock on her door shattered her melancholy. Actually it wasn't shattered-- it had become a permanent feature-- but it was at least pushed back so it didn't show on her face. "Come in."
Her prince opened the door and peeked in. "Marle dear, supper's ready..." His voice was very deep, soft, and monotone. He grinned. The gesture made him look like he had swallowed something unpleasant.
"I'll be there in a minute." Her voice had about as much feeling as a dead mackerel. Prince Rupert nodded and shut her door. "God... look at me... I hate this life. I hate being a princess. I hate being engaged to that Prince Rupert... he looks like a monkey, acts like a puppy, and dresses like a circus horse. I'm engaged to a zoo." She donned her fancy gown in a huff, but took some deep breaths to regain her composure before stepping out into the hall.
As she walked to her seat of honor at the table, she grimaced at the horde of finely-dressed and powdered nobles straining to catch her eye. "I feel like a freak... these people are insane... I'm insane for staying here..." She smirked at the man who pulled out her chair. He ran off, giggling like a schoolgirl.
She barely touched the fine food brought out for her. "One more pheasant and I think I'll be sick..." Finally, the dinner was done and she was free to return to the sanctity of her room. It was as fancy as the rest of the palace, but it was decorated her way, in rich greens and silver instead of red and gold. Red and gold, for some reason, made her angry.
Another fine feature of her room was the secret stash of food under her bed. She was starving, so she grabbed a hunk of bread, a wedge of cheese, and gorged herself.
After that, she extinguished all the candles lighting her room and crawled under her silk and down comforter. She peered out at the full moon and the ocean until she dropped off to sleep.
Lucca realized with a snort that she had fallen asleep. The side of her face was wet with her own drool, and she was surrounded by silver chocolate wrappings. Her stomach did a backflip, and she doubled over in pain. "Oh, God I'm an idiot..."
She staggered up to her room and collapsed on her bed. What time is it? One-thirty pm the clock said. "Dammit, Lucca, you idiot... You've eaten nothing but chocolate for a week... You're probably an addict or malnourished or something..." she often talked to herself. Probably because every other human bores me... I bore myself...
Her stomach wrenched again. "Hurrgh..." She clenched it and curled up into a ball. "Now I'm bored, hyper, *and* sick... Dammit..."
"Over, and under, pull, and twist." Crono looked out the window. The rain had stopped, and it actually looked like the sun was about to burn through the cloud cover. He took a deep breath. "Over, and under, pull, and twist." Another stitch. Another. A-no-ther. Stitchie, stitchety, stitch stitch. Dumdee doo dooo ba ba ba... He jerked out of his trance for a moment. "Huh? Oh man, what am I..." He dropped the half-finished bonnet onto the floor. "Shit, what is this?" He realized he was sitting in a rocking chair and buried under several skeins of yarn and bolts of cloth. He rocketed across the room, panting. "What am I doing? What happened? Mooooooooommmmmm!!!!"
She heard his cry and immediately ran to his room. "I'm coming Crono!! Hold on!" She jerked open his door and saw him staring oddly at the pile of crafts in the corner.
"Mom, what is all this?"
"Oh, Crono, you're back! Oh..." She grabbed him in a bone-crunching hug.
Crono could hear something snap in his head. "Mom, I... I... I need another spool of yellow thread... and some yummy crunchy cookies for munchies..."
She released him instantly. "Of course, dear... I had hoped..."
He smiled like a two-year-old. "Mommy, I love you."
"I love you, too, dear." She retreated into the hall, closing his door behind her. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as she heard him chanting, muffled, through the door...
"Over, and under, pull, and twist..."
Marle avoided Rupert's eyes. He was trying to further what little romance they had, trying to kiss her, hug her, get her to touch him--anything to get her to acknowlege he was there--but she did not want to acknowlege he was there. He wasn't there, for all she cared. Finally, he gave up, and left her to herself.
"Why can't I be happy?" She threw her shoe across the room. "Why can't I enjoy my life?" She threw her other shoe out the window. A distant "Ouch" could be heard. "This is everything every girl dreams of!!" Her crown sailed through the air, hitting and cracking the mirror mounted over the fireplace.
"I want to live again!!" She hopped up from her seat and turned, facing the wall. With a scream, she punched it, and smashed right through the wood. She withdrew her hand, and looked at it. It was broken and bloody. "Aww, God..." Sobbing, she collapsed onto her knees and cradled her aching fist.
Her guard, hearing her scream, rushed over. "I'll fetch the doctor at once."
True to his word, the royal doctor was bandaging her hand within five minutes. "Princess, you must be more careful... You must calm yourself. Rupert will not want to marry you if you're going to act like that."
She glared at the old man. "I don't want to marry your precious Rupert... I want to get out of this palace and live my life!!"
Lucca did not feel better, even after a whole day of rest, water, and crackers. All the chocolate had long since left her body, through one end or the other-- but she was still ill. Any movement threatened to make her pass out.
She sighed. "No more chocolate... no more sweets... how I'd love to eat some bread, or fruit, or meat, if I could keep it down... Dammit, Lucca..." The sun was shining brightly outside, and the light poured into her room like the songs of the birds in the tree by her window. Sunlight always made her feel better, happier, more relaxed... she took a deep breath and smelled the smells of the falling leaves. "I need to get out more."
"I think I'll go outside right now." Steeling herself, she rolled out of bed very, very slowly. She felt weak and lightheaded, but her stomach had not begun to protest yet. She actually had made it out the door before nausea struck, but by then she could lay on the grass and recover. She felt better immediately.
Crono's mom had taken to standing outside of his door at all hours, waiting, hoping, listening for any sign of her old son. But all she ever heard was the droning of his voice as he chanted that stupid mantra.
"Mommy..." Her ears perked up when she heard him call her. But she waited for a minute. "Mommy..." Something didn't sound right. She didn't know what was right anymore. "Mommy..."
She opened the door cautiously and peeked in. "Yes, dear?"
"Mommy, what's happening to me?" Crono looked miserable. His fingers were red and swollen from countless needle pricks. His clothing consisted of a knitted skirt, some booties and a sweat-stained undershirt. His hair was drooping in his eyes, and his usually clean-shaven face was covered in stubble.
"Come on. I'm cleaning you up and getting you outside." She grabbed some clean clothes from his bureau, and rushed him off to the shower. She ordered him in and waited outside until he had finished. When he finally did emerge, he looked ten times better. He actually looked normal. "Crono?" she asked, checking to see if he had reverted to his insane self.
"Mom? Tell me what's happening to me."
"I don't know, Crono. But I'm getting you out of your room, and you are not to go in there. We are going to sit outside and enjoy the sun and a nice glass of fresh lemonade."
"Why can't I go in my room?"
"Because you might have a relapse." She gazed into his eyes. "I love you, Crono, and I can't stand to see you like that. If your room has anything to do with it, I will weld the door shut before I allow you in there. I'll get your blankets and pillow and clothes, and you can set up camp in the living room." She took his hand. "But for now, we're going to go outside and talk about nothing at all."
Marle and Rupert were, as was usual at noon, eating lunch in front of the herd of nobles. Lunchtime was always simple, only five courses compared to the twelve at supper. Marle sighed and stabbed her fork into the swordfish steak. Rupert glanced at her. "Something wrong with your fish, dear?"
"Nothing's wrong with the fish, Rupert." She snapped.
The assembled nobles let out a collective gasp.
Rupert sat up straighter and stopped eating. "You dare talk that way to me, princess?"
Marle sat up just as straight. "Yes, I do dare, Prince Lethargy... I don't want to marry you. I hate this place. I hate being cooped up like a canary for people to stare at!"
"You seem to feel very strongly about that."
"I've heard that psychology trick before, Rupert. I'm not going to fall for it."
"I've been nothing but nice to you, you realize."
"Yeah, I know, but this life is boring, I hate it..." Her voice was beginning to get weaker, doubting herself.
"Then I will let you go. You have not been very receptive as a princess anyways--there are hundreds of others who would fall all over themselves to be in your now vacant shoes..." He pointed to her. "Guards! See that she gets food, clothes, and some money, then send her away."
Marle was jostled from the table, doubt at her decision aching almost as much as her hand.
The guards were generous, they gave her food enough for a week, several changes of clothes including a fancy dress, five hundred dollars, and even a horse. And then she was free. She galloped away from the castle, and only looked back once.
Lucca felt a lot better. She had eaten a ham and cheese sandwich, and it felt so good sitting in her stomach. She was content. "Hummm... what a beautiful day. I feel like... like starting over... like finding my own adventure. My life here is boring, not to mention pointless... I may as well find some way to make the world a better place..."
She giggled. "Now I'm getting all righteous! I think I'll try for philosophical now. Let's see... These leaves are like humans." She held a leaf up to her face and inspected it. "They are born of the tree-- they grow up with the other leaves, live with the other leaves, work with the other leaves, until comes the time when they shrivel up and die, fluttering to the ground utterly alone." She frowned. "I wonder why philosophical stuff is always depressing?" She tossed the leaf aside. "Ah, well. I've no intention of shriveling up and dying quite yet..."
At that, she stood up and brushed the dirt off her pants, and went inside to pack the essentials. The essentials included her journals, some vital inventions like a set of walkie-talkies and a time gate key--just in case--plus some clothes, food, and money. She stepped outside as the sun was setting, locked the door behind herself, and left her life behind.
Crono and his mother had a long, meaningless talk. Even though what they said added up to nothing, It still meant a lot to both parties involved-- it helped bring Crono further into the realm of sanity and it helped his mom realize he wasn't insane anymore.
"Mom--promise me you'll burn all the stuff I knitted--" he said, sipping his lemonade.
"Of course, dear. Oh, except for that nice potholder. I like that one." she replied.
Crono laughed. "Yeah. You can keep that one, Mom."
"So, dear, when are you going to leave home?"
"I dunno. Why?"
"You're 21 years old. You should be out, living your life, meeting girls... what happened to that Marle girl anyway? She was very nice."
"Me and Marle broke up... I didn't want to, but all we did was argue. And are you sure you want to let me go? I mean, just this morning I was knitting socks and singing 'Baa baa black sheep.'"
"I believe the reason you were a little tipsy was because you're bored with life... all that adventure had the effect of making you dissatisfied with anything else. I want you to get out and find yourself."
"You sound like a self-help book." Crono laughed.
His mother smiled. "Maybe, but I'm serious."
"I'll think about it. Actually, you're right. I'll leave tomorrow." he decided.
"Good." his mother began to pick up their glasses and head back inside. "Don't go in your room... tell me what you need from it and I'll get it for you."
And so, after a good night's sleep and his mother's help, Crono went to find himself-- his inner child, his primal wolf, or his spiritual popcorn shrimp platter, however you wish to look at it.
Marle galloped down the long cobblestone road leading away from the palace. She figured she could catch a boat in Choras and return to Guardia castle and her one true love, Crono. "Five-hundred gold peices and that fancy dress should buy me passage on a comfortable merchant ship..." With that thought firmly in mind, the three-day trip to the port city went by quickly. The first thing she saw was the masts of the ships in harbor, and second the impressive red-striped lighthouse. The road led straight to the water's edge, and she dismounted, tethered the horse, and went off to find a decent boat.
One problem arose... the combination of being attractive and being around men who've spent the last month at sea. She had to fight off several would-be customers before reaching the first large ship. She waved to get the attention of those on board, and was answered with a barrage of catcalls.
"Would you shut up?" She fumed. "Can't you men think of anything else?"
"No!!!" All the sailors yelled at once.
"Oh, forget it..." She turned on her heels and stalked off to the second boat in line. The response there wasn't any better than the first. After eleven boats and three hours, she was just about ready to give up. She figured she would try one last time.
"Hello!!!" She called, waving over the rail.
A man peeked down at her. "Yes?"
This is farther than I've gotten anywhere else... she thought. "Would you let me speak to the captain?"
"Justa' sec..." The man dissapeared, but returned a minute or so later with a tall, dark-skinned woman in tow. "The lady down there wants 'ta talk to you, miss..."
"Thank you, bo'sun..." She waved the first away, and leaned down to regard Marle. "Can I help you?"
"Yes... You wouldn't happen to be heading to Truce or Guardia, would you?"
Eventually... oh well. Better than staying here... She glanced around at the crowd of brawny sailors eyeing her hungrily.
The captain noticed her look, and the men edging closer to her. "Why don't you come aboard, and we'll discuss this further."
"Oh, thank you..." Marle's voice dripped with relief. The sailors, however, let out a groan that shook the dock.
The captain laughed. "I almost feel sorry for them. Men can't control their hormones as well as we women..." She held out her hand. "My name is Ezraela. How can I help you?"
Marle shook the woman's calloused hand. "My name is Marle, and I was wondering if I could buy passage on your boat to Truce."
"That isn't our destination this trip, but it is the trip after that... you're welcome to ride with us the whole way through however, for four hundred gold pieces."
"Just four hundred? What a deal!!!" Marle handed over the money immediately, and Ezraela led her to the room where she was to stay. It was about the size of a broom closet. The captain tossed in a few blankets and an oil lamp, making it look almost hospitable. "It's the only room on the ship where you'll get any privacy." Marle stepped into the room and cracked open the small window. Ezraela smiled. "We set sail in a half hour... you're lucky you caught us. If you need anything, just yell."
Marle sighed and laid down on the blankets, trying to find a comfortable position. It's not what I thought, but what can you expect for four hundred bucks? She was tired from the three days of travelling and her experiences trying to find a ship, so she fell asleep in a matter of minutes. Therefore, she wasn't there to watch as the ship left port, or as the black flag with its red skull and crossbones was hoisted to the top of the mast.
Lucca's travels soon brought her to the town close by her own house, Truce. Crono lives here, she remembered... maybe I should go visit him. She approached the familiar house and rapped on the door. After a moment, Crono's mother peeked out at her. "Oh, Lucca!!! Hello!"
"Hello, Crono's mom..." Why don't I know her name? How odd... "Is Crono home?"
"Oh... he just left this morning." She looked apologetic. Then, she looked as if she suddenly remembered something, and dashed off into the kitchen. She came back seconds later with a plateful of still warm chocolate-chip cookies. "Would you like a cookie, dear?"
Lucca, her recent illness far from forgotten, could feel herself turning green at the suggestion. "N-no, thanks..." She turned away from the offered sweets.
"Allright." She dashed off to put the cookies on the table. When she returned, she was wiping at her eyes as if she was crying. "Oh... now that dear Crono's gone, I have nobody to share my cookies... I miss him so much."
"He left just this morning, you said."
"Yes, but it seems like forever..."
"Can you tell me where he went?"
"I'm sorry, dear. I packed him up and saw him off, but I don't know where he's headed."
Lucca sighed. "Well, thanks anyways."
"Anytime. If you want any cookies, just drop on by."
At that, Crono's mom shut the door, leaving Lucca thinking on the doorstep. "So Crono's gone, is he? Well, I can find him. He can't have gotten far in half a day!"
Crono flopped his pack down onto the hard, dusty ground of the southern desert. "Amazing!! I traveled three hundred miles in just half a day. I wonder how I did that?"
"Hey mister!!! Get outta my sandbox!!!" A small child was waving a little shovel at him, threateningly.
"Huh?" Crono looked around. Sure enough, he was standing on the remains of a sand castle. "Oops... sorry kid." He hopped out of the sandbox and glanced back the way he had come. He could still see his house. He even thought he could see his mother and somebody else talking in the doorway. Crono shrugged. "It doesn't matter now... I'm on my own again!!"
"Hey mister!!! Get offa my dog!!!" The same kid was waving the same shovel at him. Crono looked down at his feet. A small dog was gnawing at his boot, probably because Crono was standing on the poor thing's tail.
"Oops... sorry again." He stepped off the dog and reached down to pet it in apology, but the little thing snapped at him and bit his finger. "Ouch!!!"
"Hey, mister!!! Get..."
A cat rushed off, nursing its paw.
An elephant bounded away.
"Where the hell are all these animals coming from!?!?!" Crono screamed, and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
The ship was rocking gently in the evening breeze. Marle awoke, refreshed but sore, and stretched her arms and legs as best she could in the cramped room. Her stomach grumbled, so she decided to wander the ship until she found the galley. She figured she could memorize the boat's layout while she was about.
Carrying the lantern with her, she turned to the left down the narrow hall. There were doors on either side of her, but most were locked tight. She finally found one that opened easily, and she peeked in. It was stocked with barrels, and the smell told her that they were filled with beer. "I'll have to go back there later. But for now, I'm still hungry..." A moment or two later she reached the last door in the hallway, which also opened easily. The chorus of snores that resonated through the room, plus the smell of sweat and seasickness, made it exceedingly easy to identify the room as the sailor's quarters. "This is definitely not where I want to go..."
She headed back the way she had come, passed her own room, and kept going. All these doors were locked too, except one, so she went in knowing it must be the kitchen. She was right. Unfortunately, the rats had found the place before she did and were swarming over and around the table and barrels of food. They dashed away in surprise when they saw the light cast by her lantern. Marle couldn't help but be amazed by the swiftness and completeness of the rat's retreat... not a squeak or beady eye could be detected within mere seconds.
Supressing a shiver, she opened the barrel that had the fewest rats near it. It was filled with hardtack-- a sailor's biscuit, hard and flavorless. Marle gingerly scooped up one of the peices near the middle and bit into it with the practiced daintiness of a princess. The bisciut refused to break. She bit harder, to no avail. Confused, she rapped the thing on the edge of the barrel. It sounded like two sticks being knocked together. She sighed and turned to another barrel. This one was nailed shut, so she had to locate a chisel to pry the lid off. It was filled with salted pork. She turned her lip up in disgust, but since she seemed to have no choice in the matter, cut a small peice and put it between two of the hard biscuits. She knew she could never gnaw through the food, so she decided to soften it up by soaking it in some of the beer from the storeroom. Grabbing a mug that looked moderately clean, she returned to the room and poured herself a small supply.
Marle retreated to her room then and made the best of her meager meal. With the impressively strong liquor to wash it down, she was nearly able to convince herself that she enjoyed it.
Lucca began her search with a quick visual scan of the surrounding area. She saw a flash of red that looked to be the exact hue of Crono's hair, but she ignored it since she knew Crono could get farther than a half mile in twelve hours.
Then, she got an idea. Rifling through her backpack, she managed to drag out a large magnefying glass. She quickly repacked her belongings, and stooped down to investigate the path leading from Crono's house.
"A-ha!!!" She bounded up in triumph, holding a strand of bright orange hair. "Crono did pass this way!!!"
"Of course he did, dear. That's our driveway... he passes there nearly every day." Crono's mom yelled from the upstairs window.
"Oh, yeah... sure..." Annoyed, she bent down to investigate again. After a minute or two, she sighed in frustration and tossed her magnifying glass to the ground. "Arrgh!! I never knew Crono was so good at hiding his trail!!!" She shook her fists at the heavens. "You are making this very difficult for me!!!"
Crono's mom, who had been watching at her window for some time, called down to the frazzled inventor. "Lucca, dear, why don't you follow his footprints?"
Lucca stopped ranting and looked down at the ground again, and sure enough, Crono had left a trail that a blind man could follow. Every footprint could have been seen from space. Now, why didn't I notice that? "Well whaddaya know."
She packed away the glass and headed off in the same direction as the prints. "You're welcome, dear." Crono's mom called one last time.
Lucca ignored her-- admitting her errors was something she had never been good at.