The alarm clock sounded that morning, signaling another day at school. I rolled out of the bed, landing flat on my face and lying there for a bit before shuffling my way to the bathroom to take my shower and get ready. I combed my short, red hair and brushed my teeth. I sighed as I said my final goodbyes to that comfortable bed. I dressed and hurried downstairs.
"John, breakfast is ready," mom said as I walked through the kitchen. All my life, it had just been us. Sure, she'd had boyfriends, but my father left when I was just a kid. "Hey, after school today, can you run to the store and pick up a few groceries? I'm going to be really late."
"Sure thing, mom," I said.
I finished my breakfast and gathered the last of my supplies for my classes. I grabbed my keys and drove to the school. The classes came and went before I knew it and it was time to head home.
On the way, I had this uneasy feeling. I didn't know what it was, but I could feel two sets of eyes drilling down the back of my neck. I tried to write it off as nothing, but I couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. I didn't like it, so I drove a little faster than usual. I darted from my car as soon as I reached my driveway and crashed on the couch, where I laid for a few hours.
"Crap, I was supposed to go to the store," I said to myself. Mom wouldn't have liked it if I forgot, so I grabbed my keys and drove back to the store.
I pulled up to a stop sign and there was a man next to it, illuminated by the streetlight. He was wearing a long, black trenchcoat, a ponytail extending from the hood and he was smirking at me. I darted off as soon as I could. I dismissed him as just some creeper.
The parking lot of the grocery store was empty all except for the cars of the employees. I parked my car and entered the store, grabbing my items and trying to be as quick about it as possible. It had already gotten dark, and I didn't want to be out with all the creepers stalking. I paid for the food and walked back to my car. I saw something dart in the corner of my eye, but I dismissed it as a cat. If only it had been a cat.
I saw it again and this time it was bigger. I picked up the pace, seeing my car just a few meters away from me. But it was too late. The creature seemingly jumped from a shadow on the ground and pounced on me. It dug its razor sharp claws into my legs and arms, causing me to bleed and cry out in pain. It took one of its claws and dug it straight into my chest. I'd never experienced worse pain in my life.
I felt a contraction in my chest. It was grabbing my heart, but then it screamed in rage. It pulled out its hand to show that it was covered in a pink dust. I had no idea where that could have come from, but I knew I was dying fast. I took a few more painful breaths before I completely blacked out.
I woke up in a very dark place. I just knew I was dead, but I felt so alive. I felt better than I ever had in life. I felt all over my body. My clothes were torn, but my wounds had been healed. I also noticed my hair was longer. It was all so strange to me, but I wasn't scared. At least, I wasn't scared until I felt dozens of presences around me. Only one word repeated in my mind. Darkness. For some reason, I felt as if Darkness were a tangible force wherever I was. I knew it, despite having never thought of it before. One more dark presence appeared before me. This one was more human than monster, but still Dark. "Bravo, my friend. You survived the Dark Thorn's attack," he said.
"Who are you?" I asked. "Where am I and what am I doing here?"
"Let's just say I'm a new friend," he said. He was wearing the same hooded coat the creeper man was wearing, but he had a different build. He took off his hood to reveal a young face. His skin was a golden tan and his eyes were another shade of gold. His skin tone contrasted his spikey, gray hair and he seemed to radiate evil. I knew he wasn't anyone I'd want to associate with, but I didn't feel threatened. "I'm here to grant you a version of my power. I cannot interfere with this timeline directly, so I thought I'd have a little fun with the first person to lose their heart."
"What's the catch?" I asked, knowing something must be up for someone to just offer me power.
"There is no catch," he said. "I'm just curious. It's something that I've always been, really. Curious. I want to see how you handle so much Darkness in your body." With that, he extended his arm and black tendrils that looked kind of like living smoke extended from his hand. They darted toward me and encased me. For a moment, everything was black, but the smoke slowly faded and I could feel myself become something beyond human. My arm instinctively extended and a blue sword, white hot from energy, appeared. The handle was shaped like the hour hand of an old-fashioned clock. "Impressive. You have another one, as well. You are free to use this power as you please." The man opened a portal and started to leave.
"Wait, where are you going?" I asked.
"I have business in another time," he said. He gave a quick smirk and stepped through the portal. It closed behind him as soon as his foot passed through.
"Hey come back!" I shouted, but it was too late. The man was long gone and I was all alone with the dark presences from earlier. They seemed to slowly come closer until I was surrounded. I drew the other sword and used my instincts, slashing through them as if they were made of paper. They disappeared in clouds of purple and black smoke. I finished the last and grinned, excited and also frightened by my newfound power. "I could get used to this."
I wandered around the void I was trapped in, desperately looking for a way out. I'd just about given up hope when a bright light flashed in front of me. I was nearly blinded, but pressed on towards it. When I crossed over to the other side of the portal, I found myself face-down in soft, golden sand. "Ugh, a beach?" I moaned.
"Kairi, there's someone over here!" a voice called. I spit the sand out of my mouth and looked up to see a young, blonde haired girl running towards me. Following closely behind her was a girl with short, red hair and blue eyes that matched the blonde's. I assumed the girl behind her was the "Kairi" she was talking to. The two reached me and I tried to prop myself up. Somehow, I felt completely drained. "Hey, are you ok?"
"Y-yeah, I'm fine," I said. "Where am I?"
"The Destiny Islands," the redhead said. "I'm Kairi and this is Keiori. Come with us, we'll fix you up."
The girls offered their hands and I let them pull me up. I dusted myself off and followed them down the beach to a road. "What's your name, anyway?" Keiori asked.
"John," I said. "I bet I'm a long way from home right now. How far is this from the United States?" I never remembered any place called "Destiny Islands" anywhere on Earth before.
"This island chain is all that's here," Kairi said shortly. She looked at Keiori suspiciously. Did the two know something I didn't?
"Anyway," Kairi continued, "we have an extra room at our house and my friend Riku always left clothes. I'm sure we'll find something for you to wear. Your clothes are in horrible shape."
I looked down at my clothes and they were torn from the monster's attack. What did the man call it? Dark Thorn? I still had no idea what a Dark Thorn exactly was. Just big, ugly, and deadly. "That would be great, but I don't wanna be a burden."
"It's no trouble," Keiori said. "I was in the same boat you are a few days ago. Kairi found me washed up on the beach and I couldn't remember anything" Keiori looked down at the ground. "Kairi's family has been so good to me recently."
"Thanks," I said. Kairi and Keiori seemed to be people I could trust, which was something I desperately needed. "I really appreciate all you guys are willing to do for me."
"Like she said, it's no trouble," Kairi said. We walked about a mile until we stopped at the front door of a large house. "This is our house. Our adoptive father is the mayor of the islands."
"Amazing house," I said. We entered the house and were greeted by who I assumed was her father.
"Kairi, Keiori, there you are," he said. His brown hair was tied back into a small ponytail. "And who's your new friend?"
"Dad, this is John. Would you believe I found him washed up in the same place as Keiori?" she explained.
"So, you want to take him in too?" her dad asked.
"Just for a few days until he gets back on his feet," she said. "He's
a long way from home." Kairi had the same tone she used with Keiori earlier, showing she did in fact have something to hide.
"Alright, he can stay," he said. Kairi looked back at me and smiled. "John, the guest bedroom is upstairs, down the hall, and the third door on your right."
"Thank you, sir," I said.
Kairi and Keiori led me up to the room and helped me settle in, showing me where everything was. "Here, these were Riku's, but I think they'll fit." She handed me the clothes and I took them to the bathroom to change. It was a simple pair of jeans and a black tank top. I slid my old clothes off and threw them into the trash. Then I put on the new clothes. I left the bathroom. "Wow, looks good on you."
"Thanks Kairi," I said. "You too Keiori."
"No problem," they both said. "Dinner will be in about an hour so I hope you're hungry," Kairi said.
I killed about an hour getting used to the new room. It wasn't too different from my old room, just a little bigger. I laid there on the bed, the image of the dark-skinned boy wearing the black coat still in my mind. I had no idea what he meant by me being an experiment. I drew the energy sword in my left hand and looked at it. As much heat as the blades radiated, the handle was surprisingly cool. I had no problem holding it. At my command, it disappeared as quickly as it came. "Just who was that guy?" I asked myself. I was also taken back to the man in the similar cloak I saw standing under the streetlight. I wondered if they were the same person, but recalled the man under the light had a ponytail and his hair was black. But maybe they worked together? I didn't know and I knew I'd hurt my brain trying to make sense of it all.
"John come on down to dinner," Kairi's father said. I jumped off the bed and headed downstairs. "I wish you could have met my wife tonight, but she's with her sister, taking care of their mother tonight."
"Depending on how long you're here, you might get to meet mom," Kairi said.
"Yeah, she's great," Keiori said, taking a big bite out of the unfamiliar fish on her plate.
"Speaking of, where are you from John?" her father asked. "This may be one step closer to finding your way back home."
"I'm from Tennessee," I said.
"I'm sorry, where?" her father asked. "I've not heard of that place. Is it another island chain?"
"No, it's on main land. On North America in the United States," I said. "How far are we from North America?"
Kairi and Keiori exchanged that same strange look they gave on their way here when I
mentioned my home. "I
don't think I'm familiar with North America," Kairi's father said. "Maybe I just didn't pay attention in geography when I was in school."
The rest of dinner went by quickly. I kept quiet about the whole thing of my hometown because of the suspicious look they gave me. I planned to confront them about it as soon as we got upstairs, but the two of them grabbed me and pulled me into their room. "John, you're not from this world, are you?" Kairi said as Keiori locked the door.
"Huh?" I asked. "What are you even talking about?"
"There is no North America on this planet," she said. "You're from another world. And if that's the case, then you should keep your mouth shut about it around dad. He's not supposed to know about other worlds."
"Then how do you know?" I asked.
"I've been to a few of them," Kairi said. "A few weeks ago, some things happened. This island was destroyed by creatures called Heartless. I don't know if they affected your world or not, but it's most likely they have. Riku and my friend So
anyway, separated from me and tried to find me, but my heart was inside my other friend. Riku became possessed and long story short, he's gone, my friend is nowhere to be found, and the inhabitants of this world are none-the-wiser. We have to keep certain things a secret or it will cause a mass panic."
"You can't remember your friend's name?" I asked. "What is going on here?"
"I don't know why, but there's something keeping me from it. You and Keiori are the only ones who even believe me that he existed. His parents deny ever having a son, none of the other kids remember him either, it's like he never existed," Kairi said.
"If I'm from another world, then how do I get back home? How far am I away from Earth?" I asked.
"Today is the first I've heard of that planet, actually," Kairi said. "But then again, I'm not that familiar with all the worlds. All I know is this world and my homeworld of Hollow Bastion. I'm an alien just like you. And Keiori more than likely is, too."
I sat on one of the beds and put my head in my hands. "This is just so much to take in at once," I said. I took a lock of my hair in my hand and notice for the first time it was black. "Wait
my hair was red yesterday. Why is it black now?"
"Black hair might be the least of your worries," Keiori said. She held a mirror up to me and I saw my eyes had changed to a deep red.
"What happened to me?" I asked rhetorically. "I
I remember that big thing attacking me and
"Big thing?" Kairi asked. "Did it happen to have yellow eyes?"
"I think so," I said. "It shoved its claw into my chest and I felt something break. Then I fell into this black abyss."
"John, I think you lost your heart," Kairi said. "But
you're not a Heartless. At least, I don't think you are. That thing that attacked you was, though. But
your heart shouldn't have broken like that."
you have no idea how to get me back the way I was?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I'm sorry, but I don't know very much. Riku might know, but he was trapped behind the Door to Darkness the last time I saw him."
"If I can get off this world, I can go find him," I said. "I have these
powers. Some man with white hair gave them to me."
"White hair? Did he have green eyes? Maybe it was Riku," Kairi said with a glimmer of hope in her eyes. I hated to crush it.
"No, his eyes were golden," I said. "And he was dark-skinned. He also seemed
evil if that makes sense. Like he radiated evil."
"Oh no, it wasn't Ansem, was it?" Kairi gasped.
"Ansem, the person who controls the Heartless. But
he should be dead," Kairi said. "There's no way it could be him."
"Let's just figure the rest of this out in the morning," I said. "I'm not feeling too great and this is so much to take in all at once." Kairi and Keiori took that as a hint and I stood up from the bed. "Goodnight girls, and thank you for taking me in." I smiled and unlocked the door.
"Goodnight," they said together. I exited the room and went back to my new room. I closed the door behind me and crashed on the bed, still in my borrowed clothes. I didn't feel like changing that night. I just wanted to sleep for the first time in what felt like days. I closed my eyes as I turned off the light and faded into the sweet Darkness, a cool island breeze blowing through the window and lulling me to sleep.