I opened my eyes from this weird dream I had, that ended in me fighting my own giant shadow. I don’t know what was going on, really. Maybe it wasn’t a dream. It felt very real. But it seemed like I had just woken up, so I wasn’t sure about what to do. I yawned broadly and lay back down and saw a red-haired girl smiling down at me. I was laying on the beach of Destiny Islands.
“Whoa!” I yell, springing up into a sitting position. It’s just my friend Kami. She’s so cute. I mean, I like her...not like she knows that. I get up on my knees and she laughs.
“Gimme a break, Kami!” I say.
“Lazy ass.” she says, and I grin sheepishly. “I knew you’d be sleeping down here again.”
“This huge black thing swallowed me up! I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t-” I exclaim, but she whacks me on the head.
“Yeah, right. We call those things dreams, Kotsu.” she says.
“It wasn’t a dream!” I insist. “Or maybe...I dunno...”
“Suuuure. Sounds like one of Blaze’s stories to me.” she says doubtfully. She begins walking away.
“Say Kami-chan...what was your hometown like? Like, where you grew up?” I ask.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve told you before. I don’t remember.” she says.
“Nothing?” I ask.
“Nothing.” she confirms.
“You ever...wanna go back there?” I ask.
“Well...I like it here.” she says.
“I wouldn’t mind going to see it either.”
“I’d like to see it too,” I chirp, “Along with any other worlds out there. I wanna see ‘em all!”
“What are we waiting for?” she asks, turning to smile at me.
“You two should get a room!” a voice calls from across the beach. It’s my best friend, LT. He stands taller than me, with red hair. He’s carrying a log in one arm.
“Man, I thought this raft was supposed to be a team effort. And I’m the only one doing any work.” he laughs. He tosses me the log suddenly, and I barely manage to prevent it from hitting me in the face.
“You’re just as lazy as Kotsu.” LT says to Kami, smirking.
“So you noticed.” she says. “We’ll finish it together. In fact, let’s make it a race. Last one over there is marrying Michael Iron.” she adds, pointing.
“...But...” I start.
“Are you kidding me?” LT groans.
“GO!” she yells.
LT and I both get up at once and start running. She runs along behind us, but the real competition doesn’t involve her. In my mind’s eye, it is just LT and I. We’ve been best friends and practically rivals since birth. Before we could even walk, our parents swore we used to race each other by crawling along. It was how LT and I bettered ourselves; competing with one another. Our competing made a slow life on Destiny Islands even funner.
I met Kami by the door to the other side of the island after our race. LT must have slipped off somehow. As I approach, she talks to me.
“So, can you get the rest of the supplies?” she asks me.
“Yeah.” I say.
“We still need two logs, one cloth, and one rope. Bring everything back here.” she says.
“Gotcha.” I say, grinning. I dart off first to the other side of the beach, where I had dropped the log LT tossed me. The warm sun hits my face, and I can see Blaze relaxing on the beach too. I then run up off the beach and run up a set of stairs and clamber up a ladder into a treehouse. The treehouse is mostly empty except for a cloth that Miri had left there before. She won’t miss it, I think, snatching the white cloth up. I leap off of the treehouse and climb up another nearby ladder. I find a rope up there, and our arrogant friend DJ, swinging a red stick thing around like a sword.
“I could kick your ass easy with all this practice.” DJ says, grinning and swinging his makeshift sword.
“Yeah right.” I laugh.
We go down to the beach and stand on opposite ends of it. DJ grins across the beach at me.
“You’re goin’ down!” he taunts, and he lunges. I dodge the lunge running a circle around him and pulling my wooden sword on him. I whack his legs with it, and he catches me with his makeshift sword across the arm. I wince at the stinging pain received from it, and dodge his swings or block them. He glares at me, and tries swinging at my head. I dodge it easily and pummel him with swings from my sword until he falls over onto the sand. He throws his sword angrily.
“You mad, DJ?” Blaze taunts from nearby. He had seen it all.
“Shut up, brit.” DJ snarls, picking his sword back up. “I was just having an off day...I have a cold.” he says. Blaze and I share a look that says “We know he’s lying, because no one gets colds around here” and DJ storms off. I find my final log laying near Blaze and I run to take it to Kami-chan.
That afternoon, I’m sitting on the Paopu tree with LT and Kami. We’re gazing out at the sunset.
“So Kami’s home is out there somewhere?” I ask.
“Could be. We’ll never know if we stay here.” LT insists.
“But...could a raft actually get us anywhere?” Kami asks.
“OF COURSE!” LT and I insist vehemently.
“But...it’s just a piece of wood...” Kami begins.
“Just a piece of wood?” LT asks in disbelief. “HELL NO it’s not just a piece of wood!”
“Wow Kami-chan.” I say, shaking my head.
“Idiots.” she says, rolling her eyes. We all laugh then.
As we walk home, LT tosses me something.
“A paopu fruit?”
“If two people share one, their destinies become intertwined. They will remain a part of each other’s lives...no matter what.” LT says. “You wanna try it, right?”
“With you?” I ask.
“Right now?” LT asks at the same time.
“Yes!” I cry out.
“Really?” he yells.
“What?!” I cry out.
“Okay!” he yells, biting off of the paopu fruit and handing it to me.
“No!” I yell.
“No?!” he repeats
“I didn’t mean...” I tried explaining
“BLARGHARGHARHGARGHARGH!” he yells
“WHAT?!” I ask. We both stare, wide-eyed at each other.
“...Well that got awkward fast.” LT said after a silent pause.
The next day, LT and I meet on the other side of the island.
“The raft still needs a name. What do you want to call it?” LT asks.
“How about...Pingas?” I suggest.
“...Nah Thornberry is a WAY cooler name.” he insists.
“How about we race for it?” I ask.
Kami sighs and stands at the ready, knowing how competitive we are.
“If I win...the ship is called Pingas and...I’m captain.” I say, “And if you win...”
“I get to share a Paopu with Kami.” LT says.
“W-what?!” I cry.
“Deal? Winner names the ship and gets to share a Paopu with Kami.” he says.
“W-wait a minute...” I begin.
“On my count. Three, two, one!” Kami yells.
LT and I dash forward, hopping our way across raised platforms of wood. I climb up to a zipline of sorts and swing across it, screaming the whole way before smashing into a tree.
“Nice job, George of the Jungle!” LT cries. I groan and get back up, only barely in the lead. As we run back towards Kami, I hear LT yell.
“BLARGHARGARGHARARGH!” he yells.
“WHAT?” I trip and fall, crawling in just behind LT when we crossed the finish line.
“All right. The raft’s name is Thornberry.” LT says to me.
We split up to look for supplies. Kami sticks around to watch the raft while LT and I go collecting provisions together. We first locate a tree and he gives me a boost up it so I can gather some ripe coconuts. We manage to get “enough” and find some mushrooms before heading to the other side of the island, where we locate some eggs for provisions.
LT stops at a small waterfall to fill our bottles while I check the nearby cave for mushrooms. I find some, but then notice a picture Kami and I drew of each other when we were little. I crawl towards the drawing and boldly draw my arm, outstretched towards her, a paopu fruit in hand. I heard a sound behind me then. I turn and look.
“I’ve come to see the door to this world.” a deep voice suddenly said.
“HOLY SHIT!” I yell, scooting back towards the wall.
“This world has been connected.” the voice said again.
“Wh-what are you talking about, man? Are the mushrooms over here bad or something?” I ask, examining one of the mushrooms.
“Tied to the darkness...soon to be completely eclipsed.” he said.
“Who the hell are you anyways?!” I asked.
“You do not yet know...what lies beyond the door.” the voice said.
“So...you’re from another world or somethin’?”
“There is so very much to learn. You understand so little.”
“What the fuck?!” I yell, then calm myself down a bit. “I’ll show you! I’m going to learn what’s out there!”
“A meaningless effort. One who knows nothing can understand nothing.”
“O-oh yeah...well...go fuck yourself!” I yell. I turn and dash out of the cave. Tourists these days...
Later on, I was sitting on the dock with Kami. The sun was setting. I liked moments like these. I was wondering when LT was going to show up and tell us to get a room, when Kami turns to me.
“You know, LT has changed.” she said.
“How?” I ask.
“Well...” she started, “Kotsu! Let’s take the raft and go! Just the two of us!”
“Wh-what?!” I exclaim, then, thinking this was some kind of girls’ way of expressing attraction, I sit up and ask
“Just kidding.” she laughs, and my heart sinks. Back to square one, I think to myself.
“What’s up with you? You’re the one that’s changed.” I laugh nervously, trying to hide my extreme disappointment. I would consider that reaction she had to my excitement the equivalent of being friendzoned. Fuck.
“Maybe.” she says, a little quieter. “I was a bit afraid at first. But I’m ready to go out there now. No matter what, I can always come back here, right?”
“Of course!” I automatically exclaim. Why not?
“That’s good.” she says, then turns to look at me. “Kotsu, don’t ever change.”
“U-uh...what d-d’you mean?” I ask, turning scarlet, thankful that the sunset turns everything a red-orange color in its light.
“I can’t wait until we set sail tomorrow. It’ll be great.” she says, standing up. I stand up with her and gaze out at the sunset, unaware of what lies ahead of me.
That night, I was chilling in my room, arms folded behind my head as I kicked back on my bed. I look up at a hanging boat in my room, a remnant of my infancy. The same boat had once hung over my crib, and then over my first tiny bed when I was a toddler, provoking dreams about adventures on the high seas. Three little figures I had made a week ago were inside, and each was a miniature of LT, Kami, and myself.
“I can’t wait until we set sail tomorrow. It’ll be great.” Kami’s voice echoes through my head, and I sigh and lay back. It was almost midnight. I was dressed in my clothes for tomorrow. On the coat hanger in my room hung my jacket and my bag of possessions and provisions. It was on the hanger closest to the door, ready for my quick departure in only a few hours’ time. We had agreed yesterday that the raft was to set sail at five thirty the following morning, so we could get a head start. A sudden thundering sound and an unusually cold breeze provokes me to look out my window, and I spy a storm in the distance.
“A storm?” I ask, mostly to myself. Then I recall how fragile our raft is.
“OH GOD! THE RAFT!” I yell, and I leap out the window carelessly, landing not far below. I have no time to inform LT or Kami and I dash to where our boats are. I enter mine and begin rowing it out to the island at once.
As my small boat touches the dock at the island and I pull myself up onto the wooden dock, I look up at the sky. A strange sphere of dark purple and orange and some other mess sits in the sky.
“What the fuck kind of storm is this?” I ask myself aloud. Then I notice LT and Kami’s boats. As I look and wonder where they could be, strange little black creatures come up out of the ground, black with glowing yellow eyes. Thankful that I’ve played football, I juke the creatures, spinning out of their reach and jumping over some, even. I first decide to head to the paopu tree. I see LT standing there, but not Kami.
“Where’s Kami, bro? I thought she was with you!” I yell over the roaring winds.
“The door...has opened...” LT said.
“What the fuck does that mean?!” I shout back.
“The door has opened, Kotsu! Now we can go to the outside world!” he yelled.
“And just leave Kami-chan here?” I ask, affronted.
“Kami’s coming with us!” he snaps back, then calms. “Once we step through, we might not be able to come back. We might never see our families again. But we can’t let fear stop us!”
I watch as darkness engulfs LT. He reaches out a hand for me. I hesitate. What if I actually go somewhere with him right now, and we get separated from Kami? Is it even safe to step into that ominous darkness rising around him? I tilt my head to the side for a moment, scrutinizing it. It certainly doesn’t look like what I was brought up to recognize as safe. But I decide that LT is my very best friend and my most steadfast male companion growing up. When guys like DJ and Blaze picked on my small stature for my age, LT defended me. So I reach out a hand and grasp his. The darkness surrounds me as I struggle to keep holding his hand. The darkness surges over us both, and I can no longer see. I can only feel the warmth of his hand as I clutch it. Quite suddenly, I can feel nothing at all, followed by a sinking, suffocating, drowning sensation.
I feel something else materializing in my hand, and it certainly isn’t LT’s hand. It’s a handle, and I grapple it tightly with the hand it materializes in. As I hold it, a tingling feeling spreads through me, followed by the sensation of pure, golden warmth and light, washing over me like the tide. I feel light and braver than I’ve ever been. When my vision returns, both LT and the darkness that engulfed us are gone and I am still in the midst of the bizarre storm, but this time with a blade shaped like a key in my hand instead of the cheap wooden sword I had tried to use earlier. The handle I grasp it by is black, the part around it, resembling the handle of a key, is gold. The word “keyblade” echoes around my head for some reason.
As a small black creature nears me, I swing with the key-sword and the creature disperses, defeated by my hand. This bizarre sword is a weapon for me to use against the creatures. I run to the secret place, instinctively knowing I might find Kami there. As I suspect, there she is! She turns and looks at me, but looks very ill...or certainly not well, at least.
“...Kotsu.” she says in a voice that has me convinced that something is wrong. The strange door in the cave opens then, and with it a fierce gust of wind comes that sends her flying towards me. I open my arms, ready to catch her, when she seems to fly right through me. As she does, I feel a strange warmth for the second time that night, and I am pulled backwards by the wind, flying through pitch darkness until I hit the ground, hard.
I find myself on a piece of ground in the midst of the storm, only a piece as my world is being ravaged right before my terrified eyes. Standing quite near me and towering above is the shadow of mine from the dream, Darkside. I scramble backwards, the Keyblade in my hand. As soon as I recall it is there, I stand up, prepared to fight.
Darkside shoves an arm to the ground, creating darkness where the hand rests. I leap up the arm, running and frantically trying not to lose my balance, and I take a swing at its face. I am knocked down, and I run, panting, dodging strange energy balls it shoots at me. My lungs are screaming from all the intense physical stuff I am doing, but I try not to let it slow me down as I leap aboard the thing’s arm again, taking further swings at the face. When I am knocked down again, a few stars pop into the back of my head, and I’m already dangerously on the verge of passing out from exhaustion alone, but I manage to feebly strike at the hand, and that does the trick. The darkside is defeated, but I am pulled into the midst of the storm...falling......falling...….falling.