I’m not sure if I’m writing this for the fandom or for posterity. I guess it could be a bit of both, right? I mean, when you’ve got a story this unusual to tell, nearly everyone is interested at first.
It’s not every day you meet people from other realities, after all.
Allow me to clarify, since that may not be the best explanation. I, alias Melody Constance, have been hearing things all my life. That’s right, the voices talk to me. I could be your aunt, your friend, your sister, your daughter. That girl sitting across from you on the bus. I could be standing next to you right now holding a private conversation in my head with people you’ve only imagined and you wouldn’t even know it.
Right now, I’m in the Happy Valley of Utah. Mormon Central. It’s a long way from where I started mentally, but the exact same place I started this whole journey physically. Eight years ago, I sat down with a councillor at my local university to discuss why I was failing my classes. She came up with one word that redefined my existence: Psychosis.
See, up until then, I hadn’t considered that my “imaginary friends” were all that unusual. Different maybe, but they certainly didn’t qualify me as a mental case. Did they?
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The psychosis affected me so badly that I had to quit BYU, take “incompletes” for all my classes, and kiss any dreams I had of becoming a P.H.D. like my parents goodbye.
It wasn’t until I was 22 that I decided to take another crack at the college thing, but this time in a vocational school. The Utah College of Massage Therapy to be exact. It didn’t surprise me when a new presence in my mind began taking notes in my classes, too. However, massage techniques and chi meridians didn’t seem to interest it. It was MY thought processes that interested this being. The mundane, daily facets of my life. I had become a specimen of life in another dimension. A guinea pig. Or, most appropriately, a science project. Lucca Ashtear was, after all, a scientist.
I remember first looking up her character profile before I launched into Chrono Trigger. I took one look at the official artwork, cocked my head for a few seconds, then laughed out loud. Laughed because she was- there was no other word for it- dorky. Cute, yes, but dorky. That helmet! And those glasses! Neither of them did anything for her. I shook my head, grinning, and went back to my e-mail. Nerd.
Little did I know that I would start using that word as a term of endearment and admiration instead of mockery and bewilderment.
Soon I was caught up in the Chrono Trigger game. I sat transfixed in front of my grandparents computer for hours on end, mesmerized by the music, savoring the storyline, captivated by the characters. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing for an aspiring LMT to do, but my grandparents never seemed to notice. However, there was someone else who did…
So, for the fun of it, I began throwing out tidbits of information she might find interesting. A remix of Pachelbel's Canon in D played by Bond. (“It’s TECHNO music, Lucca. Get it? TECHNO.” “Very funny. Give me a moment to record your transmission.”) A view of the valley as my bus pulled up a steep hill, including the major landmarks. The way the digestive system worked or neurons transmitted information. Random factoids. She ate it all up, but it was with more interest in the information than in myself. I was, after all, just the science project. It was the data that was important.
One day I had to ask the inevitable question, “How?”
“It was the helmet,” she answered.
“It was originally designed to pick up the basic thought patterns of monsters, so I would be able to predict when they were going to attack. I was tinkering with it and…”
“I see. So I’m under observation now.”
“Your science project.”
“…You don’t have to put it that way.”
“But that’s the way it is. You don’t care.”
“Yes I do. I’m just…busy.”
“Too busy to care.”
“Will you just…shut it?!”
But I didn’t shut it. This was a sore point for me. I hated this intrusion on my privacy, on my personal space. On my LIFE. I couldn’t even break wind without someone taking note of it, for Pete’s sake! It was humiliating!
I remember telling my best friend Rose around October that year, when we were making our first futile attempts at cosplay. I was perched in an old recliner in the basement, watching her as she hemmed her Cait Sith cape. “She treats me like a test subject,” I explained. “It just makes me so ANGRY!”
To which Rose replied, “Geez! Tell her to mind her own business,” and went back to hemming the cape.
Neither the cosplay nor the advice went very far, both of which seemed at the time to be unfortunate. But in the long run it turned out for the best. I could have ruined the start of one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had.
What I didn’t know at the time was that MiyaYoshi and all the other fan fiction authors I had yet to discover were right: Lucca was losing two of her closest friends…to the kingdom and to each other. What the rest of the kingdom saw as a new beginning and the birth of a new era, Lucca saw as the end of good times and the death of her childhood. No wonder Lucca was so prickly. No wonder she needed a diversion. No wonder she could have used a friend…
It all happened so suddenly. I had never been home sick from the Utah College of Massage Therapy before. I had been praying my mental health would never be an issue, like it had at BYU. But there I was in the shower, alone, naked and vulnerable when a malevolent presence approached me.
“Honestly, Lucca, I can understand being observed while I’m having a massage but while I’m the SHOWER?!” I complained.
“Ah, yes, your little friends. How they do bother you…” the being remarked. It’s voice was low, tinged with derisiveness, yet it spoke calmly and confidently.
“What business is it of yours? And who ARE you?” I hedged, getting nervous.
“I can solve your problems. I can make the voices all go away,” it offered.
“Hah. That makes a LOT of sense seeing as YOU’RE a voice!” I retorted.
“You don’t believe me? Perhaps a demonstration is in order.”
As if on cue, a shuriken sliced down from the heavens, piercing the dark being. Yuffie Kisaragi dropped to the ground beside me, my longtime companion and friend since I was sixteen. Lately I hadn’t seen much of her, but she always came when she sensed danger-- or it could be that she was just looking for a fight.
“Mel, are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah…but I told you to stay out of my head…!” I protested.
“I know, we agreed that was the best thing for both of us, but I also agreed I would protect you.” Then addressing the phantom before us, she demanded, “What do you want from her?!”
In answer, part of the darkness reached out and enclosed Yuffie within it, drawing her inside it and away from me. The shuriken clattered to the ground.
“Melody, help!” She writhed and struggled, arms pinned to her sides.
“Hahaha…if you won’t let me make them go away, I’ll simply TAKE them!” the dark voice declared.
It contracted and Yuffie gave a wordless wail of pain. I instinctively reached for her and was brushed away like a fly…but in that contact, that simple brush…
A cold black explosion blotting out my vision…
A roaring in my ears…
Like a knife to the chest, something was causing shooting, stabbing pain right through my heart. Never before had I experienced physical pain as part of a hallucination. I was terrified beyond words. Whatever this being was, it had powers I had never encountered.
Then it all disappeared and I was back in the shower, shivering violently despite the warm water pouring down my back, giving little, hiccupping, dry sobs as I realized…Yuffie was gone. I couldn’t contact her, couldn’t even sense her presence in my mind. It was as though she had been erased from existence. Wasn’t this what I wanted? part of me asked. NO! the rest of me responded with such vehemence that I actually burst into tears at the thought. “Forgive me, Father,” I cried , huddled in my little corner of the shower. “I don’t have the strength to let them go just yet…Please, just give me the strength to stand up and go on with my day…!”
Somehow I got toweled off, dressed, and managed to call in sick to the school before collapsing into bed again. I don’t remember clearly what happened during the rest of the day, except that I had to tell a very concerned grandmother that I wasn’t feeling well while giving the vaguest of explanations.
That night though, while curled up in in bed, dreading the next day (or more specifically, my next shower) and trying not to relive my previous one, I felt Lucca awkwardly approach me. Curled on her right side in bed, she refused to look me in the eyes as she said, “I’m sorry.”
“I was a coward back there.”
“I ran and hid while Yuffie stood and fought. And now she’s… she could have been killed! And I did nothing.” Suddenly she was sobbing.
Miss Battle-Hardened Yuffie had always termed me a “softie.” Truth was, I never could stand to see other people suffer. That’s part of the reason why I became a LMT. And a person in tears…well, I absolutely can’t tolerate that. I have to take action. And I did.
Before I knew what I was doing I had drawn her close and she was crying into my shoulder while I stroked her hair. “It’s okay.”
“No it’s not! I treat you like this and you forgive me?”
“Do you really mean that?”
I thought about it seriously. I had once heard the same words from a certain ninja. My answer had been the same then.
“Yes,” I repeated. “Yes I do."