Dejana's Writing

My Playground
a Sailormoon fanfiction by Dejana Talis
-not to be used without permission-

This used to be my playground
This used to be my childhood dream
This used to be the place I ran to
Whenever I was in need of a friend
Why did it have to end?

Lyrics by Madonna

I never remember my dreams anymore.

It's been months now since I woke up in the delightful haze of a fading dream. Ami-chan says everyone dreams, they just don't remember it, but I'm not sure I believe her. After all, it's not like I have anything left to dream about. I'm Chiba Usagi. I'm twenty-two years old. And the rest of my life is as planned as a romance novel.

I open my bleary eyes and blink in the sunshine streaming through the window. Mamo-chan's left the curtains open, again, hoping to encourage me not to sleep in too much. As always, it didn't work; it's nearly noon. I'm alone in the king-size bed that was our wedding present from my parents. Dad, of course, wanted to buy us a set of china instead, but Mom talked him out of it.

I stretch out on the soft mattress and throw the heavy blankets aside. I'm so warm lately, even though spring still keeps a chill in the air. As usual, Mamo-chan's left for the university and won't be back until evening. I debate for a moment whether to doze off some more or get up, but my bladder makes the decision for me.

Groaning, I roll out of bed, one hand pressed against my rounded stomach. Being pregnant sure is a pain sometimes. At seven months, I'm not huge yet, but I still waddle a bit as I shuffle down the hallway of the apartment to the bathroom. Absently I pull my long hair into pigtails as I walk, tying it into its usual knots. I've done it so often now that I know it'll be perfect, with no tangles or loose strands. A typical start to another relaxing day.

Later I'm leaning over the sink, washing dishes. The floor's been vacumned, the laundry's done, and even the pillows on the couch have been fluffed. Mako-chan never imagined I could keep such a clean house, but being alone all day with nothing to do definately motivates a person. The apartment is meager, but comfortable, all the furnishings either secondhand or wedding presents. Mamo-chan's part-time job as departmental assistant barely brings in enough to buy food, but I don't mind. We won't be living here much longer anyway.

A brief flutter rolls through my swollen belly and I rub the taut skin absently, taking a moment's rest from the pots and pans. Chibi-Usa's certainly an active child, even in the womb. I look down at the rounded flesh that hides my feet from my view. She doesn't feel like a Princess, although everyone knows she will be one. For now, she's just a baby, like any other. Maybe I won't name her Usagi after all. What would destiny make of that?

Bending over the sink again, I pick up a piece of steel wool and begin scrubbing away at a stubborn stain. I don't even have the pleasure of wondering when my child will finally be born. We've all known her birthday for years. My birthday. Less than three months away. I'll be a mother, and a Queen. Scouring a stained copper pot with a grubby old piece of rough metal, I don't even feel like a Sailor Senshi, let alone a Queen. Not even Rei can figure out what's going to happen during the next three months to trigger that transformation.

Finally the stain breaks loose, and I wash the rest of the pan with a sponge. I move like a robot, staring blankly into space while I run water over the pot to rinse it. At one time I fought youma to protect the people of the world; now my life centers around dishes and dusting. When Mamo-chan and I were first married, this peaceful housewife's life was refreshing, a welcome break from the pressures of being a soldier. I didn't think the mundane solitude would get so old so quickly.

I look up, and my eyes fall upon a framed photograph hanging above the sink, its colors bold against the faded yellow wallpaper. The smiling youthful faces of my four closest friends beam at me from the picture, clustered around my own face. We're all dressed in our high school uniforms, huddled together in a big group hug in the park. It was only a few years ago that we spent our daily lives together, but it feels like ages away now. I am lonely, although I will never let Mamo-chan discover that fact, and my active life has settled into monotony.

I set the clean pan on the drying rack and wipe my hands with a nearby towel before crossing the tiled kitchen floor. My hand reaches out for the phone hanging on the wall, and my eyes scan the list of phone numbers hanging beside it as my heart hungers for the company of a friend.

At the top of the list is Ami-chan. I sigh deeply as I read her name; it's been quite a while since I've spoken with my blue-haired friend. After graduating medical school in record time, Ami-chan started working double shifts at the hospital and hasn't relaxed since. I know this is what makes her happy, but I miss her.

Rei-chan's got her family shrine hopping lately with all sorts of festivals and activities, and she fills her days with scheduling and planning. Amazingly, her nights are filled too, with dating the man of the week. She says it's all just for business reasons, but I doubt that. We've all gotten used to waiting for Rei-chan to call US when she has time, it's much easier than trying to pull her away from her work.

Out of all the girls, Mako-chan has the most free time, and we've spent a lot of pleasant evenings together over the past few months. She's the sous-chef at a local four-star restaurant, honing her cooking skills under the direction of one of Tokyo's most famous chefs. Mako-chan had hoped to work there only briefly before opening her own restaurant, but finally gave up on that dream and faced the truth: There just isn't enough time.

Time, our eternal enemy. Even Mamo-chan knows he will never be director of a hospital. We have only a few months left before whatever will happen erases our normal lives. My husband contents himself with taking endless courses at the university and doing a secretary's work to tide us over until then. He could be so much more. He WILL be so much more, of course, but not along the path he wanted. Mamo-chan and the girls aren't letting destiny get them down, though, they're simply trying to pack as many of their dreams as possible into what time we have left, before the storm hits.

Unfortunately, Mako-chan's been working the day shifts lately, and won't be free now. My eyes fall on the last name on the list. Minako-chan, unlike our brunette friend, has never abandoned her dream of becoming an idol, no matter how close my twenty-third birthday looms. She books her schedule as full as she can, mainly performing in nightclubs and at weddings, filling in the cracks by plugging her demo tape at any studio she can find. She might be free now, but talking to Minako these days is like listening to a Hollywood gossip report. I'm not in the mood today to hear about the glamorous lifestyles of the rich and famous.

My hand falls to my side and I stare at the list of phone numbers sadly. We used to be one another's entire world. After all we've been through together, who would've thought I would end up a lonely housewife, cooped up in her immaculate little home?

For a moment I consider going back to the dishes, but as I turn around and stare at the sink again in the little yellow kitchen I spend so much time in, I decide that is not an option. Even if I have to go alone, I'm getting out of this apartment. Determination tenses my muscles as I pull off my apron, tug my coat from the hall closet and head out the door.

As I wait for the bus, I pull my coat tighter around me, trying in vain to cover the bulge at my midsection. The weather's warming up slowly, but there's still a bite in the air. A brisk wind blows through the trees, scattering sakura everywhere. The world is almost completely pink with the sweet-smelling blossoms. I close my eyes and lean my head back, taking a deep breath of the fresh fragrant air. Spring; the season of rebirth. This moment is so average, so everyday, and I can almost forget who I really am and just be here in this minute like any other person. Sakura is in the air and all is right with the world. The wind tugs at my blonde pigtails, sweeping them around my legs as the delicate petals pile up around my shoes. The kiss of the wind tickles my cheeks and I absorb the sounds of the city.

"All you all right, ma'am?"

My eyes burst open and I yank my head downward to face forward again. The bus has stopped in front of me, and the driver is staring out of the open door with an expression more of impatience than worry. A blush rushes to my face as I realize I didn't even hear the bus approach.

"Yes, I'm fine," I mutter, hastily climbing the steps onto the bus and paying my fare. The driver doesn't reply, simply closing the door and turning back to his work. The bus begins to move with a slight lurch, and I reach out hastily to grab the rail that lines the ceiling.

The bus is crowded today, and several riders are standing. A middle-aged man offers me his seat. For a moment I wonder at this surprising act of chivalry, and then I remember. I'm pregnant, and showing now. With a polite mumble of gratitude I sink into the offered chair, trying not to notice the indulgent smiles and nods of the three elderly women sitting across the aisle. The baby's foot presses firmly against my bladder, but I manage to hide my grimace. The last thing I want right now is to hear the happy baby stories of every woman on this bus.

I don't even know where I'm going at first, content simply to be out of the house and moving around. When I reach my destination, however, somehow I know I've arrived. I get off the bus and find myself standing in front of a building I haven't laid eyes on in years: The Crown Arcade.

Just seeing the placard over the door brings back memories. The vertical sign climbing the edge of the building needs a fresh coat of paint, however. For a moment I pause, just standing there in front of the arcade like a statue. I've been here so many times, and yet it feels so different. For starters, it looks smaller than I remember, more old and tired, with a coat of dust over the very atmosphere. It's the same Crown, and yet it's so different, diminished, somehow.

After a moment I shake myself, steel my resolve, open the door and walk inside, feeling like a trespasser into someone else's world. Once I cross the threshold, I feel even more like a stranger. The arcade hasn't been remodeled, but it is as different as if it had been. I don't see a single game console I recognize. The latest virtual-reality games have been installed nearest the door, surrounded by driving games attached to real motorcycles and car dashboards. The shooting games are nearby as well, updated from old revolvers to laser rifles with aliens as the targets. It is as if I were walking into a futuristic realm of technological wonder.

The arcade is alive with lights and sounds, but it is nearly empty. There are only a few children hovering over certain choice consoles. After a moment of puzzlement I realize that school is still in session, and the arcade won't be busy for a few hours yet. Ah, yes, school. Back when I was a regular visitor here, I would be preparing for the spring transition to a new class. I never thought I would miss those endless hours of imprisonment at a cold hard desk, but after these months of inactivity I wish I had gone to college like Mamo-chan. As my eyes roam the interior of the arcade, my mind flies back to happier days spent here with my best friends by my side. I can almost see them waiting for me in the shadows, the best place for a private conversation; I can almost convince myself that I'm catching a glimpse of Minako-chan's blonde hair, that I'm hearing Rei-chan's voice calling out that I'm late again...

Out of the corner of my eye I spot a young blond man in an apron approaching me. For a moment my heart skips, anticipating a friendly face, but as I turn to face him I find a stranger. I scold myself inwardly; Motoki-onii-san married and moved out of Tokyo years ago. Of course he no longer works in a lowly arcade.

I am slightly startled by the fact that the young employee and I are of the same height; I always had to look up at the workers when I was a patron of the arcade. I blush a little as I realize I've been standing just inside the door for several minutes.

"Can I help you, ma'am?" The blond's voice is cheery and bright, with only a hint of confusion. "I'm afraid we don't have a public telephone here, but the restroom's in the back and to the right..."

"Oh, no, I'm just here to look around," I reply lamely. "I don't need anything. Thank you." The young man gives me a strange look, but turns away and heads for a broom leaning against the wall. After another awkward moment, I step forward and begin wandering around the arcade floor. The aisles seem a lot tighter than they used to be as I wriggle through, maneuvering my rounded belly around chairs and game consoles. I pass a few children clustered around a fight game, and realize they are the same age as I was when I used to come here after school. I certainly hadn't considered myself a child back then, but now these boys seem so young to me.

I really don't belong here. I'm a married, pregnant young woman, long since out of school, and I'm wandering about a children's playground. Why am I here? My steps take me to the back corners of the arcade, and there, crammed between two dusty old Mortal Kombat consoles, my eyes finally land upon an old queen now long past its prime.

The Sailor V game.

With trembling knees I lower myself into the seat that stands before what was once the hottest game in Tokyo. The colors on the console are faded now, but the bold letters are still clear across the top. This chair used to be roomy; now it feels a bit too snug. I reach out a hand and carefully wipe the dust off the screen. Despite the disuse, the machine has been left on. A chibi Sailor V shines on the console screen, flashing me her trademark victory sign, just begging me to save the world from the endless alien menace.

As if in a trance, I search the pockets of my jacket and come up with a few coins, enough for at least two games. With a faint smile I slide the first token into the slot, which accepts it with a grateful ping. The machine springs to life, the familiar Sailor V theme filling the air with fresh sound. Some patrons of a more typical age look my way with mocking laughter, but I don't care. Sailor V needs me to help her save the world.

The buttons and joystick feel strange beneath my fingers, and much too small for my hands. The little Sailor V gets clobbered by the first enemy to approach. On my second try, I do better. Very well, in fact. My memory of the game comes flooding back in a rush, rising up within my brain. As I punch the buttons to destroy Sailor V's enemies, I wonder absently if this is what it feels like when Ami-chan takes a test; when all the information rises up right when you need it, ready to be used.

As I play, the screen seems to grow bigger and louder until I see and hear nothing but the game. My fingers move in harmony with what I see on the screen, and I almost become Sailor V, almost instinctively know what to do. In this moment, the years disappear, and I can nearly hear the excited murmurings of my friends behind me, nearly feel the presence of their bodies at my back. I'm doing well, better than what I remember as my average. I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from cheering aloud.

Finally I encounter a large alien that I can't seem to beat. I try every secret move I remember, but I just can't find the right combination. The little Sailor V tries one final kick, and then the enemy gets the best of her. Game over. I beat my palms against the console in frustration and glare at the red words on the screen proclaiming my demise.

Out of habit, I lean down and search the prize slot with my hand. It is empty, but I reach into all the corners anyway, just in case. It takes a moment before I realize what I am doing, and I slowly withdraw my hand. Of course no prizes came out. There is no one to send them. There is no longer an Artemis hiding in the underground control center; there is no Sailor V sending instructions through the animated representation of her likeness. This console is now nothing more than an old game.

My eyes lose their focus, and I sit motionless in front of the console, staring at the screen with its ominous red words. Game over. How true it is. So many things began right here in this room, so many adventures and happy days of fun. I sit in front of the Sailor V game and remember the countless days I spent here in the arcade, surrounded by my loved ones. Day after day I looked forward to getting out of school and heading to Crown, not really to play games but to see my friends, Motoki-onii-san and the girls. I knew that every day I would have at least some time with them, no matter how much detention or homework I had. Now, it seems we have drifted apart.

At the very moment I think these thoughts, I realize how silly they are. My friends are simply enjoying their last few months as normal young women. Soon, things will be different. We will be together again, as close as we ever were, spending every day together for centuries to come. Even so, it won't be like the old days here in the arcade. We will be different in the eyes of the world for the rest of our lives. One of my hands drifts to rest upon the curve of my stomach, wherein a child is growing. By the time this baby is born, everything will be different, forever.

I close my eyes, absorbing the sounds of the arcade, the blissful normality. Since the defeat of Chaos, Earth has been so beautifully peaceful, so blessedly normal. Sure, there are problems in the world, but at least they only concern our own planet. The governments of Earth have no idea what real conflict truly is. I pray that they will not have to learn too soon.

The cheers and curses of the children nearby reach my ears as they play their games. I realize with a shudder that when I was their age, I had already seen more than any child should ever have to. I was already a warrior for justice, Sailor Moon. I barely had a night of undisturbed sleep for three years. I shouldered the responsibility of protecting the entire world.

And yet, I was still so young. When Luna first came to me, I could not have imagined the magnitude of what was about to happen. I was only a child, an innocent girl whose only concern was having fun with her friends. Even when I first transformed into Sailor Moon, it felt like a game, a fantasy, a fairy tale. If I had known then what was to happen to me, that I would love and lose so many times, so many people, I can not imagine how I would have reacted. At this moment, I understand it was better that I did not know until I was too involved to object.

A sudden chill rolls through my body. I was so different then than I am now, an innocent child about to learn the mysteries of the universe. Now I stand on the threshold of another change, although this time I know about it in advance. I'm about to transform into a Queen, a monarch expected to save and protect all humanity. What further horrors lie ahead of me? What new challenges will I be forced to overcome? Ten years from now, will I even know myself? Will I look back on this day, this moment, and marvel at my innocence and naivete?

I focus on the screen again. Game over. The Sailor Senshi game is finished. A new game is about to begin. I didn't do as well at the first game as everyone hoped; will I perform better in this new role?

"If you like that game so much, it's yours for 5000 yen," a voice says in my ear.

I jump about a mile in the air, twisting around in my seat. The young blond employee is standing at my shoulder. "I'm sorry, ma'am," he says quickly upon seeing my surprised face, "I didn't mean to startle you."

"It's all right," I reassure him, as he truly seems sorry. Such a nice young man, friendly and helpful, like Motoki was. "I guess I just zoned out for a minute there. What was it you were saying?"

"It looked like you were really into that old game," the blond man says with a gentle smile. "I'm a sucker for the classics myself, so I wanted to offer you the chance to pick it up before it's too late."

A slight wave of ominous nausea rolls through my stomach. "What do you mean?" I ask, my eyes narrowing in concern.

The aproned boy straightens up with a sigh. "The boss is planning to completely remodel this place," he explains, looking around the arcade with an almost wistful expression. "I think he's crazy, but he says there's no money in the arcade business anymore. He's going to turn the whole place into a karaoke bar. In a few months, all these games will be out of here."

My eyes widen and then my gaze roams around the arcade, taking in the familar walls, once so comforting to me. This place holds so many memories. It is my sanctuary, my place of happiness and friendship in the midst of more frightening enemies than most people can imagine. I glance back at the Sailor V game, my heart pounding in my chest. A fierce compulsion overtakes me. I don't want this game destroyed. I want to buy it. I want my parents to buy it for my birthday. I want to become Queen so I can forbid this arcade to be changed, ever.

"What do you say?" the young blond prompts me. "Should I tell the boss he has a buyer?"

My hands reach out and rest on the controls again, feeling the familiar smooth plastic. Then, the laughter and cheers of the arcade's other patrons reaches my ears again. They sound so young, so juvenile.

Now I think back and remember what I was really like at that age. I was a rash crybaby who burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I goofed off during the Sailor Senshi meetings and played the Sailor V game while my friends worked hard on our mission. I mooned over Tuxedo Kamen while innocent people were being attacked by youma. I had no real understanding of who I really was, and how important I was to the world. Do I really want to go back to those years, before I learned the true value of friends who would put their lives on the line for each other?

"No, thank you," I finally say, turning back to the Crown employee with a smile. "I do have a friend who might be interested, though; I'll tell Minako-chan about it."

"All right, ma'am, it's your decision." With a polite nod, the blond man disappears into the rows of beeping machines.

I lean sideways against the old Sailor V console and gaze around the arcade, filled with so many memories, memories that are now long gone. We have all grown and changed since then. We have all become stronger, better people; soldiers well-suited to leading the people of the world into a new era of peace. The troubled times of our childhood are over, soon to fade as Crystal Tokyo rises. The twentieth century, so normal to me, will become an alien world in such a short time, a world that no one will experience again.

Two little bumps strike the taut skin of my bulging stomach as the baby kicks against me, twice. I press my hand against my abdomen, feeling the firm taps as the infant within kicks again, reminding me that I am wrong. There will be one last visitor to the 20th century, one more person to experience the blissful innocence of humanity. I smile faintly, at last understanding why Neo-Queen Serenity was so willing to send Chibi-Usa back to us for "training."

This world belongs to Chibi-Usa now. The past is over, but my life is only beginning. It is time for me to take on new challenges and new missions. I am afraid, but I am ready to face the future that is coming to me, ready to allow destiny to take its course. Despite all the pain I've suffered, destiny's design has brought nothing but positive results in the end, and I trust that becoming Queen will be no different.

And if not, who is to say that destiny can not be changed? Maybe my child will not be born on my birthday after all. Maybe it will be a boy, with dark hair and gray eyes like his father. Maybe these peaceful years will continue undisturbed. Who really knows what destiny will bring? The only thing that is certain is that my friends, my husband, my child and I will face the future together, whatever it may be. As long as we have each other, I have nothing to fear. I have no need for the security of the past.

I push myself out of my chair and readjust my coat on my shoulders, shaking my twin pigtails free around my legs. Somehow I feel lighter, as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I stroll forward across the arcade floor through the world of children and flashing lights, where five young schoolgirls once became friends and planned to save the planet. Without looking back, I cross the threshold into the busy city outside, a adult world of rustling trees, rushing cars, and tumbling sakura blossoms. Perhaps this peaceful, mundane world will be the same in a few years and perhaps it won't. Either way, I am ready to accept its challenges and the changes they bring with open arms. My life, our lives, are far from over. We have plenty of new memories waiting to be created.

As I head for the bus stop, I am already making plans. When Mamo-chan comes home tonight, we'll schedule an evening to have dinner with my family. Then I'll get in touch with the girls, and set up some time for us to get together and catch up on one another's lives. Maybe I'll see if we have the money for some art supplies; it would be fun to try my hand at painting, or pottery. The sakura petals piled up around the base of the bench, the phone booth, the lamppost, are so average, so everyday, yet so elegantly beautiful. I will find a way to capture these simple pleasures before they are gone. Then I will be ready to say goodbye.

The End
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha.
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