The 1st Day
There was a young boy of the age of 14, sleeping in his own bed, in his own room, in his own apartment. This boy's name was Alexander, called simply Alex by his friends. By all appearances, he wasn't anything special. He had short, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and looks that could generally be considered "good" if he bothered to keep up his appearance from day to day. But he was not the quickest of risers in the morning.
When the boy realized that he was conscious and awake, he let out a groan. "Ugh..." He was still somewhat half-asleep. Without opening his eyes, he sat up in his bed and flipped the covers off of himself. After giving his eyes a quick rub, he opened them.
And then quickly shut them again with a cry of "Ugh!" There was an alarming amount of light shining into his room through the window! And since his bed was right next to that wide window, he'd gotten the full force of the golden shine. It occurred to him that it was probably sunrise (or sunset, if he'd somehow slept in that long). Groaning, the boy grabbed the covers and quickly buried himself under them as he laid back down. "That's weird..." he mumbled, still half-asleep.
Then a loud sound blared into his room, startling him to full wakefulness. Alex's head jerked back up from his pillow, his eyes beginning to adjust to the light. He sat still for a moment, wondering what the strange sound was. He didn't wait long, because the sound blared again after a few seconds.
Finally, it was recognizable. It was the sound of a train. Rails, horn and all, creating the unmistakable sound of a locomotive. "Now wait a minute!" Alex exclaimed to himself. There were no trains that he knew of that were that close to his apartment...
His curiosity piqued, the boy quickly got onto his knees on the bed, grabbed the window's sash cord, and lifted up the blinds. Alex blinked a little, shielding his eyes as more light flooded in. But what he saw outside was definitely not what he saw from day to day. Not the small parking lot of his apartment complex. Now he was overlooking long stone streets and a large array of buildings, all cast gold by the rays of the sun on the horizon. It painted a very familiar picture.
Too familiar, in fact. Alex did a couple of takes, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. "You're... kidding me," he gasped. What he was seeing was unmistakably part of Twilight Town from the video game Kingdom Hearts II...
Quickly, Alex jumped off his bed and ran out his bedroom door. "Hello!" he called out, looking around the small apartment. "Anyone awake yet?" He checked the living room and dining room, the kitchen, and even his sister's bedroom. But there was no one around. He was all by himself. Utterly alone.
With a scowl, Alexander walked back into the living room, and noticed something that sparked a memory. His family had set up a fairly large entertainment center next to the living room balcony. He could see more buildings in the Twilight Town style out that way. But what drew Alex's eyes, strangely enough, was what wasn't in the room.
In the shelf space under the TV was where he usually put his PlayStation 2. But here, it wasn't around anymore. It had completely disappeared, along with all of his games. Everything else was there, but not the game console. His apartment was now surrounded by a video game environment, but the video game and console it came from were mysteriously absent.
Then he remembered. He had been in the living room earlier that morning, before the sun had come up. On a whim based on mostly boredom, he'd inserted the game Kingdom Hearts II into the console. He'd already beaten the game twice, but he was pretty bored with his other games. Kingdom Hearts never failed to entertain with its gameplay and characters. Alex had started a new game on Standard mode, and then there was a bright flash of light...
Strange thoughts clicked firmly into place. "And this happened!" he declared to himself, surprised. It wasn't the most intuitive leap of logic in the world, but it was also hard to avoid jumping to the conclusion. He shook his head and looked through the wide glass door in the living room, out toward the balcony of the second-story apartment. More of Twilight Town was there. It was real - he could see the contours of the brick and stone. He could see the golden light shining in from outside his windows.
"So... I'm a resident of Twilight Town now?" he asked aloud. "In the Kingdom Hearts universe?"
As ridiculously outrageous this idea was, Alex didn't find it all that hard to grasp. In fact, he rather liked the idea. The Kingdom Hearts series was one of his favorite sets of games. It was more than once he'd imagined being a part of its universe. Being a resident in one of its worlds didn't seem like such a bad thing after all.
Alex grinned, and walked back into his room to start getting dressed for going outside. He had decided to take a walk around the town and look around. Perhaps he could see if there was something he recognized. Also, if this really was part of the game, he needed to see when he was in the game's events - was he starting at the beginning, like the new game he'd started on his PS2?
He was eager to get outside and see the sights, but more real concerns troubled him suddenly. What about food? What about really living here, on his own?
Fortunately, the kitchen had plenty of food Alexander knew how to cook and prepare. Plenty enough to survive for two or three weeks, if he was reasonable about his eating. And he found that his wallet was now holding about 200 munny, the currency of Kingdom Hearts, rather than the 20 US dollars or so that had been in there last night. In fact, it was almost like a cartoon Hammerspace (or as Alex liked to call it, Etherspace, the video game equivalent) in how it held the money - the little golden baubles were almost invisible until Alex went to pull them out. The phenomenon simultaneously boggled and fascinated Alex. But he didn't dwell on it - there was a whole world out there to explore!
Whatever situation Alex had landed in, he was apparently prepared for it on the most basic level. Pocketing the wallet, he made sure he was all ready to go. He had dressed in a simple dark green tee-shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers. Taking the house keys with him, he opened up the door and walked out into Twilight Town proper.
Alexander got to the bottom of the steps leading down from his front door, and looked around at where he was. It seemed that he was in the middle of the Tram Common area. That meant that he knew his way around really well from here - after playing it twice over, exploring every inch of the game on two separate occasions, his memory of the game was nearly encyclopedic.
Still, it felt like an adventure to him, being in such a world. And if there was one adventuring rule he'd learned, it was to talk to as many people as possible. Lucky for him, because an opportunity came up straight away.
An old man came walking down the alley, carrying out a garbage can. Alex, looking around intently at his surroundings, hadn't been looking where he was going. The two bumped into each other, and the lid of the garbage can fell down to the ground with a clang.
"Ah, sorry!" Alex said quickly, looking toward the old man with a slightly panicked expression.
But the stranger simply smiled and said, "Don't worry. My mistake." The man knelt down and placed the can on the ground to pick up the lid. As he did so, he looked up at Alexander. A look of recognition seemed to cross his face. "Hey, wait..."
Alex gulped. "Yeah?"
The stranger studied Alex's face for a moment, and then said, "You're that new kid that just moved in, right?"
The boy made a sound something like, "Uh?" That had been the last thing he'd been expecting to hear. Just moved in? More like appeared out of nowhere.
Still, he listened as the old man looked up at the apartment and went on: "That apartment hasn't had someone in it for a while. Heard you were the guy to finally move into it. Well, anyway, lemme be the first to welcome you to Twilight Town."
The man extended his hand, and Alex silently grasped and shook it. This was a strange predicament indeed. He definitely knew that he hadn't really moved in, but it seemed that circumstances had been... set up for him so that his presence wouldn't be suspicious. Between the food, the munny, and some stranger in town "recognizing" him... If that was the case, then it seemed to Alex that there was no point in acting otherwise. No point in proving anybody wrong, no point in trying to explain that he was living inside a video game to the game's characters. On that note, this confirmed that these people in this universe had no idea about their existence as game characters. Best not to mention it, then. "Thanks. Uh, nice meeting you."
"Yes, well," the old man said, picking up the garbage can and walking past the boy, "I'd better be on my way. See you later!"
Alex sighed when the old man was out of earshot. Weird was the only word to describe this.
He walked on, reaching the center of the Common. There weren't many people around, but there was one man hanging up posters on a wall to the side. Alex approached the man, and noticed that the posters were advertising the infamous Struggle tournament. Apparently, this was one of the Struggle coordinators.
Noticing his presence, the man turned around and looked at Alexander. "Hello there... Oh, you're the kid that moved in, right?"
Alex sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. What an alibi he'd been forced into! "Uh, yeah. I've been getting quite a bit of that."
"Well, we don't get many outsiders often," the coordinator pointed out, turning back toward the poster he was working on. Then, after a moment, he looked back and said, "That's right! You'd want to meet people your own age, wouldn't you?"
Alexander thought this was rather short-notice, but it worked out. "Yeah, that would be nice," he replied, even though he already knew where such people were. It was best to keep up an act.
The man thought for a while. "Well, there's Seif– No, no, no, you shouldn't go there." Then, his face lighting up with an idea, he continued, "You may want to meet Hayner's gang. They're pretty decent kids. They usually hang out in their usual spot in the back alley. Past a gate and through the rags, it's hard to miss.
"The back alley?" Alexander repeated, starting off toward the Station Heights. That had been exactly what he'd wanted to hear. "Thanks."
Hayner, Pence, and Olette, Alexander thought to himself as he walked toward the back alley. And Roxas, if you want to get technical. But only in the alternate Twilight Town... Of course, that line of thought brought up some more questions. Was he in the alternate Twilight Town, or the real one? Maybe he would find out what was really going on when he got to his destination.
It took a while, mainly because he'd avoided the Sandlot – and Seifer's gang – to get to the back alley. He didn't want to mess with them, or more accurately get messed with by them, just yet. But after a bit of walking, he finally reached the unmistakable Usual Spot and, without thinking, pushed through the red curtain covering up the entrance.
His greeting was immediate. "Hey, what are you doing here?" a gruff young man's voice asked. Alexander looked up to see Hayner himself glaring at him.
The young man was more than a little surprised to see a game character in reality. It was stunning, really. But he managed to keep his cool, backing off by a couple of steps. "Ah, err, nothing," Alex replied, desperately trying to come up with an excuse. "Just seeing what was back here."
"Well, now you know," Hayner shot back, using a tone that made Alex's spine shiver. "This is our spot."
"Hey, you're the kid that moved onto Market Street, right?" a girl's voice asked in a much friendlier tone. Alexander looked toward the source of the voice, and found himself fairly relieved to see that it was obviously Olette.
On the other side of the room, the last of the trio, Pence, got up and looked at Hayner. "Calm down, Hayner, I think he's just looking around." Then he asked Alex, "So, are you the new guy?"
Alex sighed in relief. He wasn't going to get beaten up today. "Yeah."
Olette introduced herself immediately. "I'm Olette. Nice to meet you."
Hayner stepped forward. "I'm Hayner," he said, his tone lighter now. "Sorry for being snappy at you before. I had a bit of stuff on my mind."
"Hey there," Pence greeted Alex, giving him an affirmative nod. "I'm Pence."
"Hayner, Pence, and Olette," Alexander repeated, trying to sound like he was hearing this for the first time. It was difficult; he was really, really excited to be making a positive acquaintance with these three that he recognized from the game. Finally, he got around to introducing himself. "Alright. I'm Alexander. Alex for short."
"Alright, Alex," Hayner said, quick to use the name, "what brings you to our usual spot?"
Alexander shrugged and gave them a sheepish grin. "Ah, nothing really. I'm new in town, so I don't know my way around." A big fat lie. "And beyond that... back in my old neighborhood, there weren't too many people my age living nearby." That was the truth. He met his friends mainly at school, and rarely saw them outside of that.
"So you just wanted to hang out with us?" Hayner concluded. When Alex gave him a hesitant nod, he simply grinned and said, "Well... I suppose we could give you a quick tour of the town."
Alex immediately brightened up at this. "Thanks!"
As the four teens walked out of the back alley and into the Station Heights, Pence gestured at all of the street. "Well, this is Market Street," he started, leading the way and showing Alex around. "There's an item shop up in this section of the street, along with a weapons shop."
Hayner walked toward a bulletin board posted just a little bit further up the hill. "And this is the bulletin board where people announce positions for odd jobs that they need help with. We come here often when we're strapped for cash."
Olette looked down the hill toward the Tram Common, but simply said, "You already know about the southern end of Market Street, right? You moved into that area, after all."
Alex gave her a nod. Down there was the armor, accessory, and candy shops.
Hayner folded his arms. "There's also the Sandlot, but that's more or less Seifer's territory."
"Seifer?" Alex echoed. He already knew who they were talking about, but he still felt it was necessary to put up an act. It would look suspicious if he knew some of the finer details in advance.
"He's the leader of a four-person group," Olette explained with a sigh, "called the 'Twilight Town Disciplinary Committee.' It sounds like an organization, but it's really just a gang."
"Seifer tries to keep the town up to his own rigorous standards," Pence noted. "He's a pretty tough guy."
Hayner simply looked angry at the mention of Seifer. Noticing this, Alex looked at the other two and replied, "Well, I guess I won't introduce myself to him just yet."
After a moment, Olette turned and started walking down the hill. "You guys go ahead and show him the station. I need to go get something." Without explaining the specifics of her task, she soon disappeared down the hill and went out of sight.
Meanwhile, Hayner and Pence took Alexander up the hill to the top, reaching the clearing just before the train station. A giant clock tower overlooking all of the town was affixed to the station. As Alex was looking up in fear, Hayner said, "Well, I don't think we need to explain this too much. It's a train station. Up there's the clock tower, where we like to hang out at the end of the day."
Pence was the first to notice Alex's uneasy expression. "What's wrong?" he asked, causing Hayner to look back and finally notice the look on Alex's face.
His nerves shot, Alexander replied, "Nothing, just... I've got a thing about heights." The clock tower had looked tall in the game, but in real life it looked absolutely gigantic.
Hayner grinned at him. "Aw, c'mon!" he said. "This is our tradition we're talking about. It's our thing. You asked for a tour of the town, and this is one of the stops!"
Alex sighed. There was no way he was getting out of this one.
After climbing up to the top of the clock tower, all Alexander could say was, "Good grief." It was a fantastic view, there was no doubt. But his activated acrophobia put a severe damper on his sense of wonderment. The other two boys, however, simply walked along the ledge like professionals, taking a seat on the edge above the station's entrance.
Hanging onto the wall of the clock as support, Alexander slowly and hesitantly made his way to the same edge, and took a seat with his feet dangling over the edge like the others. He leaned back a little to make himself a bit more secure, as well as to look more nonchalant like the other guys. But Alex was sure that this whole thing was pushing his luck.
"Hey, guys," Olette called out as she walked onto the ledge, joining the other three boys. "I thought you guys might end up here." Her hands were behind her back.
Looking toward Olette, Pence asked, "What did you get?"
"Oh, just these," Olette replied with mock casualness, bringing her hand out from behind her back. She was holding four bright blue ice creams.
Alexander was surprised. "What's that?" he asked, wanting to keep up appearances.
Everyone else broke out into laughter, amused by Alexander's question. "Geez, Alex," Hayner teased as Olette passed out an ice cream to each of the boys, "how far away did you come from!?" The teasing caused Alex to blush a bit from embarrassment.
"This is sea-salt ice cream," Pence answered after his fit of laughing had stopped. He took a lick of his own ice cream, and the others began eating away as well.
Alexander looked at the ice cream he was now suddenly holding. He wasn't sure what to expect. He took a reluctant taste... Very salty, but in a rather sweet-tasting combination. A strange but rewarding flavor. Actually, it was kind of addicting in a way; it made him want to taste it again. "That's pretty good!" he admitted, taking a small bite out of the bar. Looking toward the others, he decided to start up some conversation by asking, "So, uh... what's been happening lately?"
"Well," Olette replied, her expression thoughtful, "it's the last week of summer vacation."
Hayner groaned. "Aw, don't say that! You'll give me an ulcer."
Pence chuckled. "Not if you explode from all that ice cream first," he joked, and Olette and Alexander laughed at Hayner's expense.
Still, once the joke passed, Olette began giving the other two boys the evil eye. "Anyway, we still have to do our homework before school begins."
Pence and Hayner did their best to avoid Olette's gaze. "Stupid independent study," Hayner grumbled, barely audible to Alexander. Then, looking back at them, he complained, "We've been too busy practicing for the Struggle!"
"The Struggle?" Alexander asked.
Everyone looked at him as if he were stupid. "What kind of question is that?!" Hayner demanded. "Haven't you seen the posters all around town?"
Alex grimaced. He hadn't been expecting that reaction. Maybe playing clueless had to be moderated to a degree. But for now he just had to roll with it. "Well... yeah, but..."
"It's a fighting tournament," Pence explained. "You fight with this special kind of club that they give you, and you battle against an opponent! The goal in each match is to fight for domination of orbs that you're given."
He already knew about this, but it was interesting to hear. Alexander looked at his half-eaten ice cream thoughtfully. He had actually never gotten into a fight before. He'd exchanged a few blows in a few years, but that was long ago - like, way back in middle school or something - and nowhere near something like a battle. Still... "Sounds interesting," Alex remarked. Being able to fight alongside Kingdom Hearts characters would be pretty cool, even if it sounded dangerous and risky.
"Well, it's three days away now," Hayner said.
Alex shrugged. "Maybe I could try, at least..." He looked down at the ground, feeling just a little more comfortable with the height. Then, suddenly, he saw something white move around along the ground below. "What the...!" he exclaimed, jumping a little in his place.
Worried, Pence quickly asked, "What is it?"
The young man looked at Pence, and then looked back down at where the strange thing had been. It was gone. It seemed to have disappeared. "I thought I saw something..." Alexander said, not really sure what to say about what he'd seen. "I guess... it was nothing."
That was another lie. He could've sworn that the strange creature he'd seen... was a Dusk.
The rest of the day was rather uneventful in comparison - the day went by in a blur. They hung out some more, went back to the Usual Spot to talk a little, and then it was the end of the day. All four teenagers split up, and Alex started heading back toward his apartment.
He climbed the stairs to his front door, fished out his key, and opened up his apartment. His normal instinct to call out crossed his mind, but he then remembered that he was alone in this. He simply sighed, made himself some mac-'n'-cheese for dinner, and got into his pajamas.
Lying down in his bed, Alexander began going over the day's events in his mind. It was really quite interesting, being part of the story here. Hayner, Pence, and Olette really did exist...
Or did they? Now that he was here, what did that mean about the Kingdom Hearts universe? Had the universe always existed, portrayed by the video game? Or had the video game been brought into reality by him, somehow? It was really hard to tell which was the case. This world felt visceral and real in a way the game never portrayed, like this world had been here all along... but he had clearly been brought into this universe by some kind of method. And before it became his reality, it had been part of a video game.
It was too early to say. He had to find an explanation somehow.
Then, of course, there was the Dusk he'd seen earlier. The most common form of the Nobody enemies in the game. It wasn't all that surprising that they would be in this world; Twilight Town was where they were "born," after all. If they were really here in the town, able to cause havoc... then Alex's life could end up in danger at one point or another.
The thought really scared him. Only the Keyblade Master, or those affiliated with the Keyblade Master, could even damage those enemies. Alexander didn't have anything or know anyone like that. And even if he did, his nonexistent battle experience made him an easy target. Unlike Roxas in the game...
"Oh yeah, Roxas," Alexander mumbled to himself as he turned off the light. Sora's Nobody. In the game, Roxas was living in DiZ's alternate Twilight Town, which had been created by copying the entire town into data. The fact that Roxas wasn't here meant that Alex definitely wasn't in that alternate reality. Roxas was having his own adventures with Hayner's gang at the same time Alexander was.
Alexander rolled onto his side. The information about the Struggle tournament had been vital. In the game, Roxas went into that tournament on the fourth day. If it was three days away, then that meant that Roxas had just gone through his first day. So that clearly meant that in five days... Sora, the Keyblade Master, would awaken.