I want to discuss the only flaw in the story of Chrono Trigger–The Black Omen. It’s inevitable that every story which relies upon time travel is going to be littered with holes and paradoxes. What matters is if the ride is exciting enough that the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the experience. Chrono Trigger absolutely succeeds in this regard, but this one detail always bugged me nonetheless.
In the game, the Black Omen is a floating fortress that rises from the remains of the Ocean Palace after Queen Zeal summons Lavos. In the original timeline (that is to say, the one where our heroes did not intervene), the Queen merely created a time portal which sucked all the Gurus and Janus in and scattered them to various points in history. As a result, the Black Omen never rose from the sea in this universe. By interfering, our heroes unintentionally created a new timeline where the Black Omen has existed in the skies from 12,000 BCE through the rest of recorded history.
What bothers me about this plot development is that nothing else changes as a result. A very noticeable castle in the skies strangely doesn’t affect society at all. No NPCs in any time period acknowledge the Omen, and history remains as our characters knew it. The reason given for the lack of divergence is that the Omen has always existed as far as everyone in this new timeline is concerned. Society has collectively gotten used to the Omen, so they just see it as we would the clouds. But still, sticking to this analogy, people *do* acknowledge clouds. They inspire paintings and poems and scientific study. So isn’t it a given then, that even just one person in 13,999 years would make even an offhand mention of this very conspicuous object in the Sky? That it would encourage someone to try to examine it, or start a religion about it, or destroy it?
Think about how humans have been inspired by the sun, moon and stars…humans are curious creatures. We looked to the heavenly bodies and invented Gods, legends and fields of study (like astrology) around them. It stands to reason the developing cultures of the world would each come up with their own stories of what the Omen is, how it got there and what its purpose is. These stories would become part of those tribes/nations identities and fundamentally change their character and possibly their geopolitical priorities in this new timeline. Butterfly effect means this would change everything. Different wars being fought for different purposes. New leaders with ideologies unfathomable in the Old timeline now occupying positions of power. Alternate couples hooking up so people who never existed originally are born and change the course of history in unforeseen ways. Over the span of 13,000 years, the Present would be completely unrecognizable to Crono, Lucca, and Marle. There would likely be no Guardia Kingdom, their great great great great grandparents were probably never born, and the dominant religion is that of the “Omenists” who worship the Black Omen as a God, sacrificing virgins to fend off its wrath. Or something, I don’t know.
The interesting question to consider is this: how exactly would ancient humans interpret the Omen? Think about it, and leave your ideas in the comments, or write some fanfiction about the new world that would develop. It’s a great writing prompt in my opinion.
Would the Omen be given its own personified God as the Moon and Sun have in nearly every civilization ever? Would it be recognized as artificial, and if so, do you think humans be threatened or inspired by it? Would some megalomaniac king try to blast it out of the Sky, or maybe an inquisitive scientist could be inspired to invent air travel centuries earlier to examine it? Perhaps with a constant threat looming over them, these alternate-timeline civilizations would become more paranoid and warlike. Or perhaps having a perceived common enemy looming over them might inspire the early societies to come together as one for protection. Maybe having a physical reminder of the lost Kingdom of Zeal would keep its history alive through the Ages. There were survivors who could pass on the story of its rise and fall to their children. As the centuries wore on, facts would become myth and the individuals significant to Zeal’s story (like the Queen, Schala, Janus, Dalton and the Gurus) would be remembered as a Pantheon of Gods watching us mere mortals from on high in their floating palace of divinity.*
The enormous changes even a single difference could cause, especially compounded over many thousands of years, are truly staggering.
Cassandra, if there’s one area you’ve introduced me to that bears not the remotest connection to anything else in my life, it’s video games! But I would never ever have become acquainted with some truly amazing soundtracks if you hadn’t. And I would have missed out on some fascinating story lines, such as that of “Chrono Trigger”. So thank you for that. 🙂
As for the fanfiction you call for, if anyone has the talent and imagination to pull this off, it’s you! As you say, a great writing prompt. 😉