The Crossing

If you had the power to change your past - to fix every mistake you've ever made, to live the perfect life - would you do it?

Alice Carlton, the sixteen-year-old good girl, is dying because of a single mistake.
Charon is trapped in a living death because he dared fight his fate.
Two wrongs never make a right. Or do they?

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6. Punishment

            The wrenching feeling of being jerked out of the memory was stunning. “What the hell were you thinking? I thought we had agreed, no altering your fate!”

            Alice pulled away from Charon and glared at him. “No, we agreed that I wouldn’t change my death. You never said anything about giving myself a little more time, though.” Alice had the almost irresistible urge to stick her tongue out at him, for some reason.

            Charon looked genuinely upset. “Listen to me, Alice. You can’t do that, alright. It’s dangerous, and it brings a kind of attention you don’t want. Trust me.” Charon glanced up at the white ceiling and gulped in a huge breath, then let it out in a long sigh. Then he nodded, as if listening to instructions he was none too pleased about.

            “Next step time, Alice. Give me your hand.”

            Alice didn’t want to, but Charon didn’t give her the time to resist. He just lunged, and suddenly he was holding onto her. He bent over her palm for a moment, and a scorching pain traveled up Alice’s arm. She shrieked as the agony swelled, and then it was gone without a trace.

            “What was that for?” She screamed at him, striking out. Her hand met only empty air as Charon danced out of the way.

            “You called attention to yourself. Technically, that’s the first thing I should have done as soon as you came here, but I don’t like doing it first. Gives the wrong impression.”

            “Oh, yeah. So why don’t you just kill my friend first, torture me second. ‘Cause that gives the right impression.” The sarcasm was like a sweet release to Alice’s pent up nerves and energy.

            “Look, just check it out before you flip, ok?” Alice looked down at her left palm, where a single black streak the color of charcoal extended away from her vein. “That’s your timer. The longer and thinker it gets, the closer you are to dying. When the mark is done, you’re out of time. But there’s no going back. It’s set for three weeks, because that’s how long your mother’s waiting now. You can’t change it anymore, even if you try. The point is supposed to be to stop what you just did from happening.”

            “Why? Who cares if I have a little longer to mess with the past?”

            Charon looked at Alice, his expression indecipherable. “Someone did what you did, but they did it smart. Gave themself eternity to live through their life over and over again. Not the same thing as dying, true, but forbidden all the same. So the boss,” Charon paused and pointed at the ceiling. Alice understood that this “boss” must be God, then. So he did exist. “The boss has us mark the new arrivals now with a timer set specifically to their circumstance.”

            “So what happened to the kid? The one who gave himself eternal life or whatever? Did he die?”

            Charon laughed, then was suddenly grim again. “No, he didn’t die, but I bet he wishes he had. Let’s just say that some punishments – which he now has the pleasure of experiencing for the rest of eternity – are worse than death.”

            “Alright, so let me get this straight. No un-dying. No preserving my non-life. That all? Sweet, so I’ve got three weeks to fix everything I’ve done wrong then?”

            “Pretty much.” Alice turned away and tried to concentrate. Three weeks seemed like a long time, but at the same time, not nearly long enough. After all, she should have had years, decades even, to get used to the idea of her death.

            “You chew on your lip when you think.”

            Alice spun around to glare at Charon. How dare he think he knew her! “I do not! Now leave me alone, jerk-face. I’ve got stuff to do.”

            She closed her eyes and focused on the memory that was stirring in her mind.

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