First off, this story is meant to be very sad, so if you're looking for a happy story about Disney kids running around with magical keys, look elsewhere. It's rated T just in case it gets a little intense later on (nothing too overly graphic and hardly any romance, so don't worry about suggestive content). This work is separated into 6 parts, with untitled chapters to split up the parts into readable chunks.

Each part will tell the story of a different one of Ansem's apprentices, starting some time before they become Nobodies and ending at varying times after they become Nobodies. I'll begin with Ienzo and work backwards to Xehanort. The parts are also meant to flow together and, if read in order, they should tell a complete story. I really felt compelled to do this because I couldn't stand that Nomura never gave the Org. XIII members better back-stories. And darn it, if he won't, I will! Oh, also, There are very minor spoilers for Birth by Sleep in the first four parts (like why Ienzo is an apprentice), and crazy-heavy spoilers in the last two. (Heh, good ol' Xehanort and Braig)

The 13th Anthology

Part 1: The Illusionist

Chapter 1:1

It was time. That single thought ran again and again through Ienzo's mind as he strode through the wide corridor towards his master's study in the back of the castle. His uncharacteristic eagerness shone through his usually grim expression in the form of a small grin under his short nose and bright blue eyes. As he rounded a corner and approached a tall door, the thirteen-year-old boy quickly brushed aside the long, blue-gray bangs on the right side of his face and adjusted the collar of his small lab coat.

It had been more than two months since he had kindly 'suggested' to his master, Ansem, that they build a newer, larger, laboratory to facilitate Ansem's research into the darkness of the heart. For months Ienzo had sat in anticipation; waiting, watching, and preparing for when the real experiments would begin. His fellow apprentice, Even, had recently told him that once the laboratory was finished they could examine the practicality of using the power of darkness as an energy source for the world. Not exactly what Ansem expected the lab to be used for, no doubt, but it intrigued Ienzo greatly.

Of course, simple energy was useless, Ienzo knew. As the ruler of the world of Radiant Garden, Ansem had already seen to it that there was enough energy to go around. Even the power of light was sufficient for that. But Ienzo hypothesized that there were other, more unorthodox, uses for darkness. One use in particular fascinated him.

Ienzo reached out and rapped his hand on the cold, metal office door. Almost immediately the door swung open, revealing a tall man in a blue and red guard uniform. The man adjusted the eye-patch over his right eye and gestured for Ienzo to enter the room. As Ienzo walked in, the man reached out and ruffled the boy's hair, messing up his bangs again.

"Good luck, kiddo," the man said with a smirk.

"I will be fine, Braig," Ienzo retorted coldly. "And you are not to refer to me as 'kiddo'." Behind his emotionless demeanor, Ienzo was fuming. It irritated him to no end that Braig had the audacity to call him 'kiddo' just because of his age and height. They were both apprentices, even colleagues, and yet Braig thought he could say whatever he pleased about Ienzo. Age was nothing! Ienzo's mind was leagues beyond anyone else's, except maybe Xehanort's.

Ienzo bit his lip and glared at Braig, who was looking down at Ienzo with mild interest. That was the one practical use of the darkness, Ienzo thought bitterly: to silence all the criticisms of his fellow apprentices. With the power of darkness, he knew he could build himself a better body and become so powerful that the others would have no choice but to respect him. With darkness at his side, his age would no longer matter. And now, it was finally time. This was the beginning.

Braig nodded at Ienzo, grinned mischievously, and slid a hand over his slicked-back, greasy black hair. Without another word, the man exited the room and silently shut the door behind him. Ienzo shook his head and approached the large desk in the middle of the small, circular room. Behind the desk sat his master, Ansem, looking quite sagely with his light hair, pristine lab coat, and red scarf.

Ansem stood slowly from his tall chair and said, "Ah, Ienzo, are you ready for the procedure?"

Ienzo nodded dutifully.

"Good, then follow me," Ansem said kindly. The man walked over to the left side of the room and placed his palm against the wall. There was a flash, and a small portion of the wall under Ansem's hand glowed green. The room shook slightly and the entire wall disappeared with another flash. Ansem walked quickly into the newly appeared hallway, with Ienzo close behind. They emerged on a glass walkway over a massive room filled with hundreds of research pods protruding from the wall. The walkway, which sat along the wall hundreds of feet above the ground, led to a small room with nothing but a large computer inside. Ienzo sat in anticipation as Ansem pressed several buttons on the computer to activate an elevator just outside the room. The apprentice quickly followed his master into the elevator, which took them to the ground floor of the chamber.

The two then proceeded down a short staircase to a large platform at the foot of the many columns of glass pods. Ansem stopped before a light on the floor, and the ground before them opened up, revealing a tall spiral staircase stretching deep underground. Ansem immediately walked down the newly revealed staircase, but Ienzo lingered for a few seconds, glancing up to the glass window on the front of the computer room far above. In the window he could see Braig peering down from above the computer. Braig glanced at Ienzo and nodded curtly. Ienzo grinned and headed down the staircase after Ansem.

Everything was going according to plan.


Usually, being unable to move worried Ienzo. After he had barely escaped the fire that he was told killed both of his parents, he had a hard time sitting still unless he knew at least one fast way out of any given room. Typically, being strapped down to a lab table was enough to send him into a small panic attack, but it didn't seem to phase him at all when Ansem pulled the leather strap over his bare chest and latched it to the other side of the large, cushioned table. The prospect of gaining the power of darkness had him completely absorbed.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Ansem asked one last time, looking both concerned and extremely eager. Ienzo couldn't help but notice that Ansem was almost as excited as he was.

"Yes, master," he said, unable to hide his enthusiasm.

Ansem nodded and attached two cold, metal sensors to Ienzo's chest. He walked over to the large computer monitor in the corner of the small lab room and keyed in several short commands.

Holding his hand over a steel lever he said, "This first test should bring forth some of the darkness in you heart and quantify it's overall energy. I've already performed this test on Xehanort in the old lab, so I would like to compare your results with his.' After pausing for one final second, he pulled the lever down, causing the equipment around the room to clunk and beep and whir.

Ienzo quickly saw the lights around the room dim and felt a strange sensation in his chest. All the sudden, without warning, he was laughing. Not an amused laugh, but a wild, uncontrollable laughter that wracked his entire body. The computer screens around the room began to blur and shatter as a dark aura rose up from Ienzo, who was still thrashing about in hysterics.

From the corner of his eye, Ienzo saw Ansem quickly throw down three levers, shutting down the main computer. But the dark aura remained hovering around Ienzo. The frantic old man dashed across the room and pressed three buttons on a small computer screen by the door, which was flickering on and off rapidly. Immediately, all the computers became silent, and all the lights in the room shut off.

Ienzo sat gasping on the table, desperately in need of air. Ansem ran over and released the strap that kept him lying on the table, as the lights above blinked back on. Ienzo remained flat on his back, his breathing slowly becoming less ragged.

It had felt so good, being filled with darkness. The power that had surged through him, it was so much! He hadn't meant to laugh like that, but he couldn't help it. He wanted the power so badly. Finally feeling it run through him was almost unbearable.

Ansem left Ienzo for a moment and went back to turning on the computers with a stern look on his face. As Ienzo waited for him to finish, he tried to imagine what Ansem was thinking. By the worried look on his face, the boy could tell that Ansem was concerned that he had been harmed. But then again, Ansem was also most likely suspicious of Ienzo's eager reaction to the darkness.

As Ansem finished turning on the computers he panted, "Ienzo, are you hurt?"

"No, of course not, Master Ansem."

"Good... I was worried that something serious happened to you after that spasm," he said calmly. "Since the computers seem to have malfunctioned and they weren't able to observe any data, I'd like to perform a quick psychological test. Now, first, do you feel at all different from before the experiment?"

"Like...?" Ienzo started, wondering what Ansem was hinting at.

"Do you feel angry? Or depressed? Or do you feel jealous? Any emotions that you would not normally feel at a time like this."

Ienzo thought for a moment and said truthfully, "I feel... exhilarated. Like I just won a marathon, or discovered a new scientific formula."

Ansem's brow furrowed, and he moved to the computer again. As he typed, he mumbled, "No... it's not right... not what I predicted... it can't be..."

Ienzo sat anxiously, worried that he had said something wrong. Obviously, Ansem expected him to feel more gloomy after the test, not more excited. What was his master thinking about him now? Did Ansem suspect that he longed for the darkness? What would he say if he found that Ienzo had used the experiment as a way to channel his own darkness. Ienzo just wished he could hide; that he could disappear.

"Now, I have a few more questions." Turning to check on his apprentice Ansem suddenly cried, "Ienzo!? Ienzo, where are you? Ienzo, can you hear me?"

The apprentice sat, bewildered, at the edge of the table, looking directly at Ansem. The man ran over to the table, and waved his arms through the air as if he couldn't see the startled boy. Ienzo looked down, but saw nothing unusual about himself. With a smack, Ansem's hand ran right into Ienzo's face, causing the man to jump in surprise.

As if prompted by their contact, Ansem suddenly seemed able to see Ienzo again. His startled expression slowly relaxed, and his shoulders slumped slightly.

"Master, are you all right?" Ienzo asked with genuine concern, looking at the man's still frightened face. What had just happened?

"Y-Yes, of course. I just... you...never mind. I think we're finished for today. You may return to the library with Even if you'd like."

"But what about the other questions?"

"We're finished for today," Ansem repeated.

"...Yes, master, of course." Ienzo quickly hopped off the lab table, pulled on his shirt and lab coat, and jogged out into the long hallway that led to the spiral staircase. He ran up the staircase, rode up the elevator beyond it, and was about to leave Ansem's computer room when Braig stepped around the corner from the balcony.

"Well, kid?" the grinning man asked curiously, "What happened?"

"Nothing," Ienzo replied, trying to push past Braig.

"Well it didn't sound like nothing to me," Braig said, his grin widening.

"I could hear you laughing all the way up on the balcony over there. It sounded like you were having a pretty good time."

"It was nothing," Ienzo said again, his temper rising. "What about you? Did you do it?"

"What, hack the comput-"

"Hey!" Ienzo interrupted angrily nodding his head slightly in the direction of a security camera in the corner of the room. "You can explain the details later. Just did you, or didn't you do it?"

"Don't worry, kiddo," Braig said lazily. "I hacked the camera too. It's showing a still image of an empty room with no sound for the next five minutes. As for the computer..." He pulled out a small computer disk from his pocket and waved it in the air. "This will let us run whatever programs we want on it. No records are left on the computer, and there's no way to view our experiments without this disk and a password. We're untraceable."

"And we can access the secret passageway?"

"Yeah, I reprogrammed the pad in Ansem's study to recognize any of our palms. We're set."

"That's all well and good," Ienzo said, slightly sarcastically, "but won't it look suspicious that there will be no video footage of me leaving the lab right now?"

"Fine," Braig said in exasperation. "If it will make your paranoid little brain happy, go stand around the corner by the elevator."

Ienzo walked irritably around the corner and heard Braig clicking away on the computer. The man's voice came quickly from around the corner. "Walk through the room in three...two...one." Ienzo entered the computer room again and walked quickly to Ansem's study. There he met up with Braig again, who led him out the door and into the hall. But they weren't heading for the library like Ansem thought. There were too many cameras in the library. No, they were headed for the one secret place in the castle: the basements.

Xehanort would want to know what had happened.


It took nearly a half an hour for all of Ansem's apprentices to arrive in the basement, which left Ienzo sitting awkwardly on a small wooden bench with Braig and Even, both of whom were always lurking about the castle during the day. Even was a tall, thin man with long blonde hair and large green eyes. He typically wore a long lab coat, but was only wearing a dress shirt at the moment. All the other apprentices considered Even to be the most scientifically accomplished of the group, but Ienzo saw him for what he really was. The man was a pompous fool who cared more for his test tubes than his colleagues, and wasn't actually a good enough researcher to make up for it. And the fact that Even claimed he was 'raising' Ienzo didn't help matters.

Dilan and Aeleus finally entered the basements and broke the nervous silence ten minutes later, when they were able to leave their guard posts. They were both tall and muscular, with blue and red uniforms that matched Braig's.

The final apprentice arrived a full fifteen minutes after the two guards. The tall, thin man clad in a white lab coat briskly strode down the steps onto the large platform occupied by the other five apprentices without pausing for a second to address any of them. With a single fluid motion of his hand, he straightened his purple tie and combed through his long, white hair. Two of his long bangs fell back into place in front of his face as his arm returned to his side.

"Glad you could make it, Xehanort," Braig said sarcastically, bowing slightly.

Xehanort ignored him and asked, "Did you all accomplish your objectives?"

"Of course," Braig responded immediately, patting his chest. "When haven't we?"

Xehanort's piercing amber eyes narrowed. "Were there any complications?"

"Besides this cheery little chap over here having a laugh attack, no," Braig replied again, pointing his gloved finger at Ienzo's quite un-cheery expression. The boy's soft cheeks were slowly turning a bright red.

"A laugh attack?" Xehanort asked, obviously becoming irritated with Braig's informal speech.

"It was a reaction to the darkness," Ienzo explained quickly, eager to cut off Braig from saying anything else stupid. He could never trust Braig to tell the whole truth. Braig told whatever truth was most convenient for him, or whichever one got him the biggest laugh.

"A reaction to darkness? What exactly happened?"

"Excuse me," Aeleus interrupted sternly, "but aren't we supposed to be preparing for the next phase of our plan?"

Xehanort smiled and said calmly, "Any reactions to experiments with darkness are important to us." His soft, but commanding voice immediately silenced Aeleus, and made the burly, brown-haired man blush slightly in embarrassment.

Ienzo recognized Xehanort's tone immediately. It was probably his greatest weapon: his harsh, yet compassionate voice. That voice could both pierce like daggers or heal like medicine; and sometimes, it could do both at the same time. His voice was the main reason that, within less than a year, he had risen through the ranks and ascended from the newest of Ansem's six apprentices to the most respected and valued of their number.

Xehanort returned his attention to Ienzo. "Now, as I was asking, what exactly happened?"

"Well... after Ansem attached the probes and started up the darkness amplifier, I started laughing. Really, really hard. I couldn't stop, no matter what I did. So Ansem shut down the computer and told me to leave. That was it. I came here with Braig immediately after, like you ordered."

"Are you sure that was it?" Xehanort asked, staring Ienzo directly in the eyes.

"Um... yes... yeah, mostly," Ienzo said, thinking briefly about how Ansem had acted after the experiment. He wanted to tell Xehanort about how Ansem couldn't see him for a few seconds, but he figured that now wasn't the time. After all, how was he supposed to explain it? Should he say that Ansem was going blind? Or should he say that he had... had turned invisible? No matter how much Ienzo tried to convince himself otherwise, the thought kept creeping back into his mind. One minute he had been wishing that he could disappear, and the next minute he actually had disappeared. And right after an experiment with darkness no less! It could have very well been a side effect. But no, he couldn't explain everything now. Xehanort would understand; he would listen to Ienzo, but the others wouldn't, especially not Aeleus or Dilan.

Xehanort watched Ienzo for a second in silence, as if giving him the chance to add anything else. As the second began to drag on, he finally said, "Well then, on to our next plan. I actually think we should keep our intentions hidden for a few more days. Ansem will more than likely allow us to perform several common tests on the darkness of the heart in the new lab, so we shouldn't attempt anything perilous until he inevitably cuts off the experiments."

Dilan slowly shifted his weight and said uneasily, "Xehanort... we need to make haste with our projects. I know the rest of you are content to dally along and wait for the perfect moment to begin, but I am not. You know my predicament, and you know full well that I cannot wait any longer."

Xehanort smiled warmly at Dilan, a tall and bulky man with long, black dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail. "Worry not, my friend," Xehanort said, "it will not be much longer. If anything distressing occurs while we wait, inform me and we will change our plans to accommodate for you."

Dilan's expression grew slightly less tense. "...You have my gratitude."

"Good. Now, I think we should adjourn for today. You will each be contacted when it is time for us to move to the next phase."

The others nodded and slowly turned to walk up the steps and out of the chamber. Less than a minute later, Xehanort and Ienzo were the only two left on the large, circular platform.

"So what is it you want to tell me?" Xehanort asked.

Ienzo sighed. Of course, Xehanort knew all along what he was thinking. The man never missed a trick. And he read Ienzo as easily as Dilan read poetry.

"There was something else that occurred in the test," Ienzo said quickly. "After Ansem shut the computer down, for a second, he acted like he was unable to see me. And right before that... I had wished I could disappear. I know it sounds ridiculous, but-"

"You think that you became invisible?" Xehanort interrupted softly.

"Yes. It may not be the most believable hypothesis, and there aren't any precedences that I can recall, but I... it seems like it-" Ienzo stopped as he watched Xehanort's mouth twitch into a grin.

"In actuality, I know of a similar case that occurred recently. I noticed certain... talents that I myself manifested after Ansem's and my tests with darkness a month or so ago."

"You mean, you can... turn invisible?"

Xehanort chuckled. "No, not that. But I have observed other, possibly related, anomalies. First, I recorded a significant increase in my physical strength. And not just in one area, but in my arms, legs, and back. Then, two days later, I started seeing things while I interacted with other people. At first, it seemed to be a glowing outline around people. Then, as the outline grew daily, I realized that I was visually observing the darkness in the hearts of those people as an aura surrounding them. I had never heard of such a thing happening before. But it seems now you are experiencing the same phenomena."

"So you think this is normal for people who have encountered darkness?" Ienzo was growing more and more excited by the second. He had a power, something no one else besides Xehanort had. The others thought they were so incredible, because they were older. But now Ienzo had real power. He'd show them what someone with darkness on their side was capable of.

"Yes, I do believe that it is a common reaction. In fact, that is one of the reasons I decided to postpone our next phase. I would like to see if we can achieve some control over my, and now your, power."

"How should I prepare?" Ienzo asked. Despite how excited he was, he managed to drag himself back into the realm of logic and reason. He didn't even know exactly what his power was, let alone how to control it.

"I would like us to start right now, if that is alright with you."

Ienzo agreed immediately, walking over to sit again on the wooden bench on the side of the platform.

"Now think back," Xehanort said eagerly, walking over to stand in front of Ienzo. "What were you feeling when you disappeared earlier?"

"I... I felt like I wanted to disappear. Ansem asked me how I felt after the test and I answered honestly; I felt exhilarated. He seemed incredibly suspicious about me afterward, so I felt very awkward."

"Try to replicate that feeling," Xehanort urged, smiling broadly now. "Remember what you were thinking. Image that you just said the same thing again."

Ienzo shut his eyes and furrowed his thin brow. How was he supposed to replicate his feeling from before? He had felt guilty and nervous then, but now he felt nothing. He hadn't said anything to make himself feel awkward now.

Ienzo opened his eyes slightly and peered at Xehanort, who was watching intently, with a blank expression. What would he say if Ienzo just sat there, doing nothing until they both gave up. The young apprentice shuddered slightly, closing his eyes again. He couldn't fail now, not after he'd already used darkness once.

Again, Ienzo peeled open his eyes slightly, glancing at Xehanort. The man was still maintaining his emotionless expression, but now he seemed to be much less interested in Ienzo. His pupils wandered around the massive chamber, returning to the younger apprentice only every few seconds. Ienzo growled, jammed his eyes shut again and opened them suddenly, yelling out in frustration.

As he looked down at his legs, he cried out in shock and leaped to his feet. Or rather, he tried to leap to his feet, but instead crashed to the ground after finding that he could no longer see his legs.

"What is it?" Xehanort asked, rushing over to Ienzo's sprawled body. The concerned man knelt down and prodded the young apprentice's chest, trying to elicit a response.

"I-I-I'm invisible!" Ienzo cried, looking over to where his legs should be.

"What?" Xehanort stood erect and backed away from Ienzo, obviously confused. "I can see you perfectly."

"But..." Ienzo stuttered. He was about to continue when he gasped in pain. His entire body suddenly felt numb and sore, like he had just run several miles in the last half a second. But all he had done was fall down. The apprentice grimaced and managed to choke out, "I... I can't see myself at all."

Xehanort scratched his head and looked Ienzo up and down. "It seems," he began, obviously taking note of Ienzo's sudden gasping breath, "that you can choose who can and cannot see you. When you disappeared in front of Ansem, you could see yourself, correct?"

"Yes," Ienzo answered quickly, trying laboriously to move into a sitting position. After several failed attempts, he managed to pull his sore legs in front of him, pointed towards Xehanort.

"Then perhaps you do not have the ability to alter your appearance after all, but rather have the ability to alter how others perceive you. This would explain how certain people are able to see you while others are not."

"You mean I'm..." Ienzo inhaled deeply, already out of breath, "...creating illusions?"

Xehanort smiled. "Yes. Ienzo, the Illusionist. It sounds quite fitting."

Ienzo grinned and lay back. New ideas were already shooting across his brain one after another, all begging for his attention. The things he could do with his new power! If he truly was an illusionist, then could he not, perhaps, affect people's vision of things other than himself? And if he could, could he make certain individuals able to see objects and certain individuals not able to see them? Could he make himself look older?

Ienzo laughed with glee and closed his eyes tightly again, relaxing his mind in an attempt to reappear. He opened his eyes and sat up painfully, glanced down at his legs. They were still invisible.

Slightly angered, Ienzo closed his eyes again. Again, nothing happened. How was he supposed to reverse his power?

"Has your vision returned to normal?" Xehanort asked.

"No," Ienzo said exasperatedly, folding his arms across his chest after trying twice more. "I'm trying as hard as I can to stop using the darkness, but it's not working. The illusion is holding up."

Xehanort frowned, obviously deeply in thought. After nearly a minute, he asked, "Are you... is maintaining the illusion using up your body's energy?"

"No...I don't think so," Ienzo said slowly, trying to judge whether or not he felt more tired than after he fell off the bench. "I felt like I used up a lot of energy when I turned invisible, but I haven't felt anything since then."

Xehanort paused again, muttering quietly to himself. Ienzo tried to guess what he was thinking about, but couldn't really understand what his question meant. What did his energy levels have to do with getting rid of the illusion? Did Xehanort really intend for him to wait until he passed out to become visible again?

"I have a hypothesis," Xehanort said suddenly, looking up at Ienzo and smiling. "I don't think your power works in the way we both assume it does. It seems that your illusions don't require any energy to be maintained. If what you said was correct, they maintain themselves. Because of this, I believe manipulating illusions is more like working a light switch than working a pulley.

"With the pulley, you must use up a relatively large amount of energy to pull down on the rope originally, and then you must constantly exert some energy to keep the rope from rising. To reverse the action of pulling down the rope, you simply stop using energy and let the rope rise on its own. But from what you have told me, it seems doing nothing does not reverse this reaction. Your power must be like a switch. You must use a relatively large amount of energy to turn the switch on, but you don't need to exert any energy to keep the switch on afterwards. To turn the switch off, you must use another large burst of energy and shut it off manually. If this is indeed true of your power, you must make yourself visible again by using darkness again, in the opposite way."

Ienzo stared for a moment, processing the information. As what Xehanort said sank in, Ienzo nodded. It made sense. "I'll try," Ienzo said, closing his eyes yet again. It wasn't hard to think the opposite of what he thought before. Earlier, he had to want to disappear, so this time all he had to do was want to reappear. He was already thinking that one on his own.

As if on cue, an incredible tiredness shot through Ienzo's body, causing him to moan quietly. Ienzo opened his eyes painfully, letting out a strangled sigh of relief as he spotted his legs lying awkwardly on the ground in front of him.

Xehanort patted the young apprentice's leg and stood up slowly. "Excellent. So you can see yourself now?

Ienzo nodded, lying back and trying to relax his aching muscles.

"Good. Now, if it is not too tiring for you, do you think you could try one more illusion?" Xehanort's eyes were wide and hungry as he scanned the boy. It was obvious that he wanted to do some more tests.

Ienzo panted while trying to judge how much energy he had left. "I-I can try. But I can't guarantee...I'll try."

"Fantastic!" Xehanort exclaimed, his eyes gleaming. "Now, I want you to try and change the color, not the visibility, of an object besides yourself. Try you lab coat. If you can, I want you to turn it black. For now, it doesn't matter who you make it black to, just that you make it black. We'll work on altering the vision of specific people some other time."

Ienzo slowly sat up off the floor and stared at his spotless white lab coat. How was he supposed to turn it a different color? To turn invisible, he had to want to disappear. What should he do now, want to change his coat's color? Pretend that he was the coat and that he wanted to turn black?

Taking his best guess, Ienzo closed his eyes again and tried to force himself to imagine that he needed the color of the coat to change; that his life was dependent on the color of his coat changing. For several seconds he sat in anticipation. His heavy breathing was the only thing breaking the silence of the basement.

The tiredness hit Ienzo more quickly this time. One second he was focusing on his coat, and the next he was pitching backwards onto the ground, every muscle in his body crying out in pain. Ienzo thought he could hear Xehanort's voice calling out to him, but before he could understand what he was saying, everything went black.