Everyone knows that their world will one day end. Most people secretly believe it will happen in their lifetime. Many even think they know how it will end.
But almost nobody expects it to happen while they're at the bus stop.
My first sign that something was unusual was the earthquakes. We don't get them in this region. Of course, even if I had missed that, I wouldn't have missed the sundering of the earth and the encroaching flow of darkness.
After a few terrifying minutes (during which I clung to the bus shelter for dear life), all that was left was a little chunk of land, floating in the void. I took some deep breaths to calm myself, and tried to think rationally.
The first thing I wanted to do was contact... anyone, really, and make sure they were okay. Unfortunately, my phone had zero signal. Though, oddly, it did have a full charge, despite having been at 80% before the world ended.
That having failed, then, I wanted to take stock of the situation.
Question one: what did I have? I had the clothes on my back. In my pockets I had a wallet containing some cash and various cards (all of which were probably worthless), a phone with zero signal but an inexplicably replenished battery, and my keys. I had a backpack, containing my umbrella, some headache medicine (which would last about two weeks if I got a headache every day, and expire in a year and a half if I didn't), and, due to a lucky spontaneous decision to stop by the library and grocery store on the way home, a book and some junk food.
Question two, what did I want? Well, number one, I wanted to not die. I wanted to avoid dying of starvation trapped on a tiny island floating in darkness, and if the darkness could harm me directly I wanted to avoid that as well. Thinking about it, this pretty much meant I wanted to get off this rock and back to civilization of some kind, if not necessarily the one I had left behind. Which might not even exist anymore.
...On further thought, pretty much every meaningful goal at this point began with getting off this floating chunk. To save time I decided to call that my goal and think about further steps later.
Question three, how do I use what I have to get what I want? On this, I was completely stumped. There didn't seem to be any meaningful connection. I couldn't even find a place to get to with the miscellaneous crap I happened to be carrying around.
I shook my head. But what I had didn't end at what I was carrying. I had the floating chunk itself. I picked up a chunk of broken concrete and tossed it into the void. It flew normally, until it touched the surrounding void with a ripple, at which point it ceased obeying gravity and started drifting backward.
This confirmed several things I hadn't even realized I had noticed til just then. Most importantly, it confirmed that this floating chunk was accelerating. In fact, the rate of acceleration seemed to be gradually increasing.
Where it was accelerating to, I didn't know. I couldn't see anything in that direction. Well, I couldn't see anything in any direction. The tossed rock had faded from my sight fairly swiftly, so it looked like my visual range was pretty limited.
... All I could figure was that space rocks don't accelerate on their own. Something must be causing this. Since the rate of acceleration was increasing, it was more likely I was moving closer to the source. It seemed the best option was to wait and see.
I sighed. I had no clue how long I would have to wait before anything happened. Or what I would do then. All I know was that it had already been a long day before the world had blown up, and I desperately needed a rest.
I realized it was a bad idea, but neither that knowledge nor the cold hard ground could stop me from falling asleep then.
A different island. The void was blacker and the floor was made of stained glass.
There is power within you.
Of course there was. There's power in everyone, if only they know...
... to use it.
Step into the light.
A patch of floor in front was indeed noticeably brighter than the rest of it. I obligingly stepped forward.
The light in the rest of the floor seemed to be gathering into the bright spot, causing it to glow ever brighter, and at the same time leaving darkness behind.
You must draw out your power. Holding it inside you forever won't do any good.
I had always hated feeling helpless. Even though I was just one person, I always felt like I should be doing more. I touched my hand to my chest and felt something.
Right now your power is without form. Give it shape, and you can use it.
A shape... but what was I using it for? I didn't know. For the moment I figured any shape would do. A sword. I felt it, solid in my hands.
Good. But beware. There will always be those who seek to take it.
The darkness took form. Little shadowy creatures with glowing yellow eyes. One lunged, and I blocked it with the blade.
I blinked. Since I woke up in this place, I had been in a sort of dream state, but the impact of the attack had brought me to my senses.
"Am I... in a Dive to the Heart?"
Yes - but don't drop your guard!
I whirled around and sliced at a Shadow that had almost snuck up on me. Clearly, I needed to focus on defeating these things before I interrogated the scenario.
Luckily, Shadows in real life are apparently just as dumb as in the games. I backed away to avoid being surrounded, blocked their overly slow and telegraphed scratches, and cut them down while they staggered.
When they stopped spawning and I destroyed the last one, the platform shined brightly.
Good. Now -
"Hold up. Before we continue." I took a moment to look at the weapon I had summoned. It was, unmistakably, a Kingdom Key. "This is a Keyblade."
"I can't just have a Keyblade. There needs to be a Bequeathing. Sora got hers - I mean, his from Ventus, and also accidentally stole Riku's. Riku got his from Terra, and maybe partly 'Ansem'? Kairi borrowed Riku's, and also accidentally got one from Aqua. Terra, Ventus, Aqua all got theirs from Eraqus... though Ventus might have gotten his from Xehanort instead, or additionally? ... This whole thing is weird, now that I think about it. But one constant is that nobody ever just had one ex nihilo."
Oh? No one?
"... Well, I can't account for Eraqus, Yen Sid, Xehanort, or Lea. But Lea's probably came from Yen Sid, and the other three are old masters and probably got theirs from previous old masters that just never appeared on screen."
Oh? And where did these 'previous old masters' get their Keyblades? That can't just go back forever.
"... You are not telling me I'm the progenitor of a new line of Keyblades. No way. I'm not."
You could be.
"Yeah, but I'm not."
... Okay, fine, you're not. But you could have been. There's no rule against it.
"Sure there isn't. ... Probably I shouldn't just hang around here forever. Better move on."
Indeed. But before we do... 'hers'?
"Huh? Oh, that. Forget that, it's just a headcanon, no way it's true in... reality, I guess."
All right. Let's continue, then.
A path of light appeared, leading up to another platform. On the way up, I glanced back at the first platform.
With an elevated view I could now see the full pattern. It seemed pretty standard - an image of myself in that weird floating-sleeping position, holding the Kingdom Key.
... Really, I'm not sure what I had expected. I moved on to the next platform, wondering what exactly I was accomplishing at this point.
A glowing orb appeared several feet above the center of the platform.
You'll need to reach out with your power.
"Magic, right? ... Don't people normally learn this in the waking world?"
Normally. Sometimes it's necessary to do things differently, to ensure they get done at all.
"... I don't like what that seems to imply."
This is a dream. You're not supposed to be lucid enough to infer things like that right now.
"We've... kinda already established that I am. If you don't want me inferring things, be more careful about what you imply."
Sure. In the meantime, why don't you try magicking the orb already?
"Hmm." Unsurprisingly, I did not, in fact, know how to use magic, on account of being native to a world where it did not exist. But this world seemed to operate on a looser sort of metaphysics, the kind woo-woo snake oil salesmen claimed powered their products, except here it actually did work that way. Given that, I thought I might be able to improvise.
I closed my eyes
and then immediately reopened them. Blinding myself willingly in a combat situation seemed like the kind of habit I would want to avoid forming.
I tried again. This time, keeping my eyes firmly open (a surprisingly difficult task), I took a breath and tried to feel the magical energy in my body. I gathered a portion of it, compressed it into a dense pebble, and flung it down my left arm, thrusting my hand at the orb.
"...Stonja? Interesting. I wasn't even trying to do that."
You are inside your own heart right now. Right next to the source of your power, it will be easier to use than normally.
"So you're saying that when I wake up, I'll be casting regular Stone for a few levels?"
It's time to move on.
Another path appeared. Again I ascended, pausing only to look back at the design on the second station.
"A bit predictable, this one."
The images on the stations come from your heart.
"Well, that explains the lack of subtlety."
This station was decorated with only three colors: blue, pink, and white. The foreground was a trans pride symbol, overlaid over a trans pride flag background.
"If this was my intro in a video game, this would be the part where players shriek 'we get it, she's transgender'. And then that crowd would make videos gratuitously killing me off."
Well... then it's a good thing this isn't a video game?
I snrk'd at that. Apparently, the voice had no idea. "Technically, I guess that's true."
Uhh... let's move on.
"Yes, let's do that."
I ascended to the third station. This had another odd glowing bit, which I approached.
Just remember, the closer you get to the light...
I whirled around, knowing exactly where this was going - my shadow was stretching out behind me, growing into a Darkside.
... the greater your shadow becomes.
"Is this necessary?!"
The Darkside swung at me and I jumped back as its fist plunged into the ground.
"I guess, since this is a metaphor for my own darkness or whatever, it wouldn't be meet to skip it just because I already know how it works..."
Shadows started emerging from the pool of darkness.
"I mean, that might be misconstrued as implying I'm some kind of incorruptibly-pure person with no inner darkness at all. And in a world where Sora exists, and even he has inner darkness, that would be suspiciously unlikely..."
The Darkside pulled its fist out of the ground and began charging an attack.
"All the same, though..."
Orbs of darkness blasted into the sky, and the Shadows prepared to rush me.
"I'm not really up for a boss fight right now!"
I hurled my Keyblade, and it pinballed between the Heartless, unleashing bursts of magic in random elements.
Hey, be careful!
This defeated the enemy remarkably quickly, and the Keyblade returned to my hand, but something felt wrong. I coughed, hard. Was that blood?
"Oh... I think I overexerted m..."
I couldn't even finish the word as the world faded with a distinct body-hitting-the-ground-with-a-thuddish sort of sound.