Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The page had been staring back at him for days now, the little cursor stripe blinking its patient interval. This did not even come close to reflecting Chris’ mood at the moment. For the first time in his glorious writing career he was struck with that agitating indecisiveness. The sixth (and final) volume of his best-selling fantasy series was coming to a close and the extremely popular lead character, a farmer’s son who had been set on a marvelous journey through time, was about to meet his demise. The previous sentences had prepared the reader for it. Everybody would know what was coming. All that remained was the sequence of words that would deliver the tragic news, most likely triggering tears amongst the more sensitive readers. This fate had been planned since the very start of the series, yet now that the moment had come, Chris could not follow through with it. Over the years, so much of his soul, of his experiences, had been poured into these pages. Killing his character felt not only like killing his loving child…it felt like killing a part of himself.
The plot outline demanded that Fabian — this was the hero’s name — followed his nemesis (and former best friend) Jonathan to the end of time. During a bitter struggle in this decaying world, his foe would turn out to be too strong, too terrible to defeat, leaving Fabian only one choice: to plunge himself into the endless depths of the abyss that bordered their little fighting ground and take his enemy with him. Both time travelers dead, or perhaps eternally trapped in darkness, time would be allowed to continue its regular course. No more tempering with past and future events that were slowly ripping apart the fabrics of time. It was the sad ending of an epic adventure. Bittersweet. The noble hero sacrificing himself for the survival of all. Chris’ girlfriend at the time had almost collapsed after listening to him telling about it. Tears had streamed from her eyes. It had been perfect.
Yet now, six years after writing about this outcome, it did not seem all that perfect anymore. Fabian just could not die. Chris would not allow it.
He shoved back his chair, in need of some fresh air. While he was on the porch, his mind once again wandered and went over all the alternative endings. None of them seemed powerful enough. Fabian could not defeat Jonathan and then travel back through the ages. The power would still be in his grasp, deep as he may bury it, calling out to him like heroin calls out to a needle junkie. He would again use it with the best of intentions in mind, but wiser men had said that the road to hell was paved with these. His character’s flaws were very clear to Chris in that respect. He would not go home, not to his family, not to his love.
Sabine had been Fabian’s woman a long time ago, a time when Jonathan was still sane. These events had taken place in the second installment of the series. She had shown Fabian the flaws of his power, convincing him to stop tempering with the course of time. She had caused the rift between him and Jonathan. And before he had turned to once again follow Jonathan through time, not as his friend, but as his enemy, she had told him that she would wait. Their child would wait as well. This one sentence had haunted Fabian ever since, and now it dawned on Chris that this child would grow up fatherless. His mind wandered further, this time to an event long ago, one that had actually taken place.
“I guess I always knew these things would get the better of me one day.”
Chris’ father, owner of the low, hoarse voice that had just spoken, studied the lit cigarette between his fingers with an odd mixture of love and contempt. On his lap sat Chris, only five years old. His eyes were wet, and not without reason.
“Where will you go?” he asked softly, “Heaven?”.
Dad laughed his heartwarming laugh at hearing this, then took his son in his big hands and turned him around with no effort whatsoever. They were now eye to eye.
“Chris, you know we’re no Christians!”
“I do, but my teacher told me…”
“Mrs Hawk can tell you anything about that matter, but I assure you that all will be nonsense. Do you really think I would leave you alone to live somewhere high up in the clouds? No, Chris, I won’t leave.”
“You won’t? You mean, you won’t die?” His eyes were now big, once again filled with the hope that had been there right after the cancer had been diagnosed.
Dad continued. “Chris, death can be viewed in many ways, hear me. It is true that my body, my shell, will cease to breathe soon. But my soul, my being…” he put one of his hands on the middle of his chest, “…will live on.” While saying this, he placed the same hand on Chris’ chest. No more words were needed. Chris understood.
As the memory ended, he went inside immediately. He had his ending. As he sat down in front of the screen his hands began to move on their own accord. He watched as his characters fell into the depths. He was struck by the smile on Fabian’s face as his last thought was of his child. And he wept as Sabine knelt down beside her son — in response to a certain question — and placed her hand on the middle of his chest.
Chris’ hero would live after all.