January 7th, 2009

legend of hero

The Sunlit World: Act II

"Come on, Trent," Kevin protested. "That's not fair."

"How is it not fair?" Trent challenged.

"You're not the only one that got hurt in there. When the bull-fish boss thing threw me against the wall --"

Trent cut him off. "Kevin, you're not the one being an idiot."

"Excuse me?" Kevin said coldly, forgetting his earlier objection as he leapt to defend his friend. "I was the one who started us fighting him in the first place! That makes me the biggest idiot here. Why are you picking on David?"

"Because Dave's the one who wants to turn around and go through the portal again! Look, it's a completely legitimate question. Dave, are you willing to die for the sake of something make-believe?"

Both of them looked over at David, who shrank back uncomfortably, looked down, and slumped against the wall.

A look of realization spread across Trent's face. "And one more thing. Kevin, you told us that your broken Dragon Legend 3 cartridge was part of the story. What does that have to do with this?"

Kevin's face reddened. "Diune came out when I broke the cartridge," he said reluctantly.

"Ha!" Trent cried. "I rest my case. It's a game."

David exhaled heavily. Kevin flailed unsuccessfully for words.

Trent grabbed his backpack. "Kevin, you said at the beginning of this that we had to swear to keep this a secret if what you tried didn't work out -- we had to pretend like nothing ever happened. So here's what we need to do. Let's agree that this failed. Let's keep your pendant a secret, close up your closet until that door goes away, and get on with our lives. We have important things here, friends and family and school -- and actual magic, the sort that isn't fake like Dragon Legend 3, the sort that changes worlds and changes lives and puts dragons on the TV."

Kevin stared. "Trent ..."

"Just say yes. This isn't hard, Kevin."

"Yes it is!" Kevin shot back angrily. "Do you know what I've been living with for the last month? What it feels like to finally find something that matters, and now I'm supposed to just think it's a game again, it's not real, it's ... it's just another thing taunting me with magic I can't have? Is that what you want me to believe?"

"It doesn't matter what I want, Kevin!" Trent said. "Look at it rationally! Tell me that what happened to us made sense with real-world logic!"

"Maybe it doesn't make sense," Kevin said, "but I saw it with my own eyes -- we all did! Everything from falling through the portal up to the bull-fish dying! What, did the three of us have a group hallucination this time?"

Trent shrugged and turned away. "Maybe we did. If it was some sort of virtual reality thing, maybe it got inside our brains and made us think the whole thing."

"But then how would we have walked around that giant hall if we were inside my room the whole time?" Kevin protested. "We'd have been running into the real-world walls left and right!"

"Why didn't we get wet in the water?" Trent shot back. "And who the hell builds a giant hall like that with no entrance doors?"

"Just because the rules are different from Earth's doesn't make it fake," Kevin said. "Not unless everything that's happened since The Changes is fake too."

"Fine. You believe what you want. I'm going home." Trent put his hand on the door and paused. "At least will you promise not to tell anyone else about this? That should be a no-brainer. Things are bad enough with the Rosalind rumors already."

Kevin's face flushed. "Fine. That, I promise."

"I promise," David said in a small voice, looking like he was holding back tears.

"See you at school," Trent said. "I hope. For God's sake, don't go back in that damned thing." He walked out into the hallway.

Kevin waited until he heard the house's front door open and shut, then turned and slammed his fist into the wall. "Damn it!" he shouted.

"Kevin --" David said, standing up.

"Go home," Kevin said, tears in his eyes. "Just ... go home, David. I need some time alone."

"But ..." David began, then gulped. "You're not mad at me, are you?"

"I don't know," Kevin said faintly. "I don't even know if I should be mad or not. I need some time to sort all this out. By myself."

"Kevin," David pleaded, "please don't get rid of the pendant, or the portal. Please. Promise me. Not until we get a chance to talk about it again."

"What difference will talking make? I know what Trent's going to say."

David's face drained of color. "Just -- promise me. Please."

Kevin sighed. "I promise."

David stared at his backpack. "Th-thanks. ... I guess I'd better go."

Kevin sat down heavily on his bed. "See you tomorrow."

The door opened and closed.

Kevin slowly looked up at the shimmering wall of darkness. It would be so simple to go over and touch it again, wouldn't it? To go back in ... alone ...

... And probably die. Kevin sighed. Trent was wrong about the portal -- he had to be! It couldn't just be a game! -- but he was right about that. The world inside was dangerous.

He stood, walked over, and leaned against the closet doorway, staring. Inside the portal, there were answers. There was Rosalind and Yan-Li and ... well, not Diune, not any more. Kevin had waited too long and his best chance for help had been torn apart by one of Eversor's monsters.

The portal sat unmoving ... mocking him. Come on in, it seemed to say. This is your destiny, isn't it? You have questions, don't you? You're a hero, aren't you?

No, Kevin thought, I'm not.

Trent had saved him from the shadow monster that jumped on him. Trent had saved him from the bull-fish. And now Trent was gone -- and David had the last two healing potions. What could Kevin possibly do by himself that wouldn't end in quick and stupid death?

Kevin forced his hand toward the portal. Visions of monsters, memories of pain, screamed through his head. His muscles iced up and his hand started to tremble. He whirled around and slammed the door shut, shaking uncontrollably. He couldn't. Not by himself. Even if it meant more answers disappearing for good ... he just couldn't.

Kevin sprawled out on his bed, shivering, staring miserably at the ceiling. He didn't move until his mother came in an hour later to tell him dinner was ready.