Hello, all you lovers of stories! After being a fan of this site for some time, I have finally decided to make some contributions of my own. This is my first story, a Kingdom Hearts AU that I've been working on for a bit. Hope you enjoy!

Obligatory disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, characters, storyline, or any of its other elements.

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I stared in horror at the scene before me. A pile of corpses lay at my feet, pale and completely drained of blood. Expressions of terror adorned their faces, forever frozen in time. Standing over them, back to me, was a figure, wrapped in a dark cloak, with a hood covering the head, so I could make out nothing. Even the cloak was too flowing for me to get a good sense of the body shape. All I could tell was that the figure was of fairly average height, perhaps a little shorter than normal. Heavy, ragged breathing emitted from the figure, and drops of blood fell onto the floor.

I felt cold, and not just because of the setting—I was standing in a cold stone dungeon, with a very Gothic feel to it, dark and foreboding. But this figure—whoever it was—was the true cause of my unease. It had killed, and it would kill again, and I was unarmed.

It sensed my presence. Slowly, it turned around, head bent and hood up so that I couldn't see its face. Get out of here! my brain screamed, but my body was paralyzed, unable to follow any mental commands.

The figure stood still, facing me. Then, it lifted its head, and I looked into its eyes and—


I jerked upright, panting. My breathing slowed as I came to the realization that I was lying in bed, in my apartment, eight stories above the ground, not below it. Sweat adorned by face and shirtless torso. Just a nightmare…

I sank back down onto the mattress and glanced at my bedside clock. 1:39 a.m. Too early to get up; I needed more sleep. That is, so long as I could get it.

I rolled onto my side, but my mind, having been woken by my nightmare, would not let me rest. This was not the first such dream I had had recently. They weren't exactly the same, but there were many common themes—bloodless corpses, a figure cloaked in black whose face I never saw, and the feeling of pure, unbridled terror. It unsettled me; in my line of work, fear, though healthy in small doses, was not something that I could afford to yield to.

What were these dreams? Premonitions? Of what? Impending disaster? It was possible… I had come near death many times, and often in circumstances not too unlike those in my dream. Yet I had never experienced dreams like this before. Would this situation be different from the others? Would it…be my last?

I tried to shut these thoughts out; every time could be my last. I knew that. But I still couldn't shake the feeling of unease that these dreams had given me.

It was another two hours, at least, before I managed to drop back into unconsciousness.


My alarm woke me up at seven o'clock, as usual. Blinking, I rolled out of bed and turned off the irritating buzzer, then stretched. My sleep last night had been a little less than adequate, but duty still called.

Morning routine went as usual—I took a ten-minute shower, with a blast of cold water at the end to wake me up; ignored my brush and mousse, as my hair had long since given up trying to cooperate and lie flat; quickly picked out a shirt and tie to wear, along with my usual khaki pants; spread peanut butter on a bagel and washed it down with orange juice; and grabbed my suitcase and left my apartment, a little after seven-thirty.

It was about a fifteen-minute walk to my office, and I joined the large crowd of commuters making their way to their respective places of work. I couldn't help but smile to myself as I thought, Most likely, no one here knows what I do, but they'd freak out if they did.

I reached the building where my office was located at about a quarter to eight, entered the lobby, and pressed the button for the elevator. A couple of minutes later, the pair of steel double doors opened, and I stepped inside, along with an assortment of others who had joined me, most of which I knew by face but not by name. We nodded cordially to each other, and went to our respective floors. I got out at thirteen, and was the only one—despite the high degree of achievement and intelligence distributed among those who worked here, very few wanted to work on the thirteenth floor. Superstition and all that. Though I supposed I shouldn't judge; my experiences had taught me that things that were assumed to be false could be true, and vice versa. Superstition could very well turn out to be fact. But, as far as I knew, no threat posed itself to me simply because of what floor I worked on.

I made my way down the hall, and came to my office door: a simple wooden door with "Parker and Co. Investigative Services" printed on the glass. Taking a key from my pocket, I inserted it into the keyhole, unlocked the door, and went in.

Everything just like always. Except that this time, there was my underlying anxiety about my dream that I had to bug me. Did it mean anything?

I took a deep breath and let it out. Whatever will happen will happen, and all you can do is be prepared when it does, I told myself. I had dealt with anxiety before; I would do it again.

I went over to my desk, opened my briefcase, and took out my laptop and papers; even though I had drawers in my desk, there was some information that I didn't want to leave lying around in an abandoned office. I opened the laptop, booted it up, and opened the case file. I scanned over the information, to refresh it in my mind and prepare myself for the day's work:

Report

Woman worried about her boyfriend: strange behavior, pale complexion, seems to keep secrets from her.

Client's name: Jane Porter

Boyfriend's name: Robert Clayton

Findings

Porter seems to be paranoid, but her descriptions do paint a suspicious picture.

Clayton pale, looked at Goofy in strange way, almost longingly, when he went to his door.

Porter reported that Clayton often seems to want to avoid her, does not let her in certain parts of his house, rarely eats except for meat.

Watched Clayton from afar, house has blinds drawn nearly 24-7, except when Porter is over.

Possible ∞ or † case?

I opened another file, one that I used frequently, and one that I made sure to keep secret. It outlined the large majority of my work. After double-clicking, it came up: "Supernatural Beings of the Natural World."

That was what I did. I was a private investigator, with a particular focus on the supernatural. Such creatures were everywhere, hiding in plain sight. My best friend, another detective named Riku Taiko, was aware of my occupation. He had nicknamed me "The Darkness Hunter," and even though I thought it was a little dramatic, I kind of liked it. Whenever he got a case that suggested supernatural activity, he recommended the case to me. I would look into it, and often take it; instances of supernatural beings were actually fairly common. And the case that we were looking into carried a strong flavor of supernaturalism. A pale, mysterious person, who kept secrets and seemed to have a fondness for meat? The first case that came to mind was classic: a vampire, an undead creature that fed on the blood of others, represented by the "†". But that seemed unlikely in this case. If Clayton were a vampire, the sunlight would make him seem less pale, yet the lack of color in his face was noticeable even when the sun was bearing full down on him. Plus, when he was alone at his house, the lights were on, and a vampire would be much more keen to reside in the dark. And Clayton seemed to have no preference between raw and cooked meat; a vampire would much prefer raw. Therefore, I had a different theory, and it was why I had added the "∞" to the document. The infinity symbol represented a wendigo, a creature similar to a vampire, but with key differences. For one, while a vampire merely drank the blood of its victims, a wendigo ate them. Yeah, it took humans, killed them, and ate them. Originally a subject of Algonquian stories, portrayed as a cannibalistic spirit, its existence had been verified by numerous reports, and was now a fully accepted member of "Supernatural Beings of the Natural World."

I selected the "Find" option, typed in "wendigo," scrolled through a couple of mentions in earlier entries, and eventually came to the main entry, describing the fiendish beast. I read through what was written, and nodded grimly as descriptions of the wendigo matched up to descriptions of Clayton and his behavior.

Then, I heard a knock on the door, and it opened, admitting Donald Duke, one of my investigation partners. He was in his early thirties, slightly older than I was, but stood only at 5'4'', a good five inches below me. Early signs of aging had started to show; his blond hair had some (albeit not very noticeable) streaks of white in it. He was short-tempered, and sometimes reluctant to do things, but, when it came down to it, had a good heart and was loyal when it counted. "Sora," he said, in his higher-than-normal voice. "Early again."

"Getting a head start on the day."

He peered at me. "You seem kinda tired. Did you get enough sleep last night?"

I blinked as the memory of my dream came back to me. "I, uh, had a bit of trouble sleeping," I admitted, "but I'm feeling fine now."

"Well, make sure you stay well-rested. Something could come up at any moment." He crossed over to his desk and set his stuff down. "Speaking of which, you looking at the Clayton case?"

I nodded and turned back to the screen. "It's looking more and more like a case of a wendigo."

"You sure?"

"I can't be certain of anything yet, but the details line up. Secret life, pale complexion, fondness for meat…it's adding up."

"But you haven't ruled out that it may be a vampire, right?"

I grinned. "Eager to see one? Want to see if it sparkles?"

Donald flipped me off. "You know I know that's merely a fictional representation. And quit making fun of me; I have interests, and you have yours."

"But vampire romance novels? Can you blame me?"

"Oh, shut up."

I chuckled, but then, my smile dropped as I thought of something. This couldn't be the case I had dreamed about, could it? …No, if Clayton was a wendigo, he wouldn't leave bloodless corpses on the floor, just bones. Besides, he was too big and broad of a man to be the figure I had seen in my dream. I relaxed, then chastised myself for doing so. Just because this case didn't match up with my dream didn't mean that it would be safe…or that I would get out alive.

Donald, meanwhile, had booted up his computer: a brand new MacBook Pro, to replace the old, slow one that he had, one day, in a fit of frustration, thrown across the room and broke. Fortunately, his new one gave him very little trouble, and remained intact. "Have you checked Clayton's past records, to see where he lived and if there have been any missing persons there? We're not even sure he's a supernatural creature at all."

"I know," I said. "I'll have to ask Lea to do a background search." I mentioned a good friend of mine, who worked in the police department and to whom I often turned if I needed to look something up in police records. "Might as well do it now." I opened my email, hit the "Compose" button, typed in Lea's email address, and wrote,

Dear Lea,

If you have the time, could I get you to do a favor for me? I'm looking into a guy by the name of Robert Clayton, and was wondering if he has ever lived in a place with reports of missing persons nearby. Would it be possible for you to look into the police records and find that out?

Thanks,

Sora

I hit the "send" button, just as the door opened again, and in walked my second partner: James "Goofy" Gorsch, a slender, fairly tall man who always seemed ready to brighten the mood with his silly antics (hence his nickname). "Hey, guys," he said cheerfully. "How are things?"

"Mysterious," I replied, grinning at him.

He chuckled. "I guess that's to be expected here, huh?"

His laughter was infectious, and soon had the three of us all had bright smiles on our faces. "Still working on the Clayton case?" asked Goofy, going over to his desk.

"Yeah, Sora's still convinced it's a wendigo," said Donald.

"Wendigo…" said Goofy. "That's that Native American spirit, right?"

"More or less," I said. "They start out as weak spirits, then possess a human that begins to show an inclination towards eating human flesh. Thank God they're not just disembodied spirits, though, or they'd be a bitch to take out."

Goofy made a face. "Do we have to kill them?"

I shook my head. "Not always, but there are sometimes when you've gotta, ya know? These creatures can be particularly aggressive."

"How do you kill a wendigo, again?" asked Donald, pulling up another copy of "Supernatural Beings of the Natural World."

"I think just like you'd kill a human," I said, turning to my computer. "Hang on a minute—"

"What's up?"

"Some more details about wendigos that I overlooked." I read out loud, "The wendigo may start out with the semblance of a gaunt, pale human, but after having fed on a few humans, it begins to become more savage, with an even more pale and gaunt look. Its lips become a deep blood red, and it may increase in size. Most importantly, however, its desire for human flesh grows, and it begins to feed more and more often. At this point, the human that has been possessed by the wendigo spirit is considered to be lost entirely to the influence of the spirit, and must be killed along with it."

"Wait, does that mean there's a way to release the human without killing them?" asked Goofy.

I scrolled through the document. "Depends on how many people they've eaten. If it's only one, it's possible to dispel the spirit through intensive therapy. If it's two or three, it's still possible, but much, much more difficult. If it's more than three, it's usually hopeless."

"Well, let's hope Clayton hasn't been too indulgent so far," said Goofy.

"Hopefully, we'll soon know," I said. "I emailed Lea asking him to do a background check on Clayton, and find out if there have been any missing persons where he's lived."

Goofy nodded. "Good thinking."

We spent the rest of the morning going over the details of wendigos, and what we would do if Clayton turned out to be one. A lot depended upon how many people he had killed, which I didn't think would be more than two or three, since he didn't seem too pale, big, and ravenous. Of course, the problem was proving anything; suspicion of being a wendigo would hardly hold up as a valid reason for interrogating him. "Maybe we could just ask him how he's doing?" suggested Goofy.

"How would that work?" I asked.

"Tell him that Jane's concerned about him, and ask how he's doing. Maybe throw in a few subtleties, like ask him how he's eating."

I thought. "That might work. Though we'd have to be careful about it."

We also double-checked most of the entries in "Supernatural Beings of the Natural World," to be sure that a wendigo was the most likely possibility. Eventually, even Donald was convinced, and we returned to planning for a wendigo. I also got an email from Lea asking what Clayton's address was; there was more than one Robert Clayton in the area. I gave it to him, and he promised to call me back later with results.


We went out for lunch around noon, and, as we were in public, refrained from talking about business. Instead, we made casual conversation. "So, Donald, how's Daisy doing?" I asked, referring to Donald's girlfriend.

"Ah, Daisy," he said. "A wonderful girl, but boy, can she be a hassle."

"Seems kind of contradictory," I said.

"Not at all. You need a girlfriend, Sora. Then you'll know what I'm talking about."

I made a face. "Yeah, 'cause the last one worked out so well."

"Oh, get an open mind," my partner retorted. "You find the right woman, and it really changes your life."

I didn't like the way the conversation was going, but, mercifully, my phone chose that moment to ring, and I stepped away to excuse myself. I looked at the number, saw it was Lea, and answered. "Hey, Lea."

"Sora! How you doing?"

"I'm holding up. And you?"

"Fine, fine. Anyways, I did some work on Clayton; not a very busy day at the office."

"What'd you find out?"

"Well, he was born and grew up in Lake Ojibwe, Ohio."

"Lake Ojibwe? Is that Native American?"

"Yeah, the Ojibwe were a Native American tribe. Why does that matter?"

I hesitated. "No reason." Lea didn't know about my…peculiar occupation, and I figured that the fewer people knew, the better. "You were saying Clayton was born and raised there."

"Oh, yeah. Apparently, his family's been living there for a several generations, so it has a lot of value to them. But, one day, he put the house on the market and moved to New York."

"Any idea why?"

"It did happen soon after the disappearance of a young couple that lived in the area. Think Clayton could have had something to do with that?"

"Might've." I frowned. If Clayton had caused their disappearance, then he had most likely eaten them both, and would be harder to save from the wendigo spirit.

Lea spoke again. "Also, it seemed Clayton was having a bit of financial trouble at the time. Apparently, his family had been large promoters of Native American culture, and his contribution was to gamble money away at Indian casinos. The reason he gave for leaving Lake Ojibwe was that he needed to restart his life. His house got a fair amount of money, I heard."

Financial trouble… If Clayton had been low on funds, that also meant he might have been low on food. Could he have turned to cannibalism? It was starting to come together. "Thanks, Lea. Do you think you could get me images of Clayton, before and after the couple disappeared, and of the couple themselves?"

"Sure. Looking for signs of guilt, or satisfaction in his face?"

"Something like that."

"All right, well, that shouldn't be a problem. Anything else?"

I thought. "I think that's it for now. Thanks again."

"No problem, Sora. I needed something to do today. I'll send you the pictures as soon as I'm done with lunch."

"Sounds good. I'll get them as soon as I'm done with lunch."

Lea laughed. "Sounds like a plan. All right, see you later, Sora."

"Bye, Lea."

I hung up and returned to the table, where Donald and Goofy were looking at me. "That was Lea?" asked Donald. "What'd he say?"

I sat down and lowered my voice. "He said Clayton used to live in Lake Ojibwe, named after a Native American tribe, and that his family had lived there for generations."
"Native American?" said Goofy.

"Yep," I said. "But one day, he just sold his house and left. And, get this—it was right after the disappearance of a nearby couple."

Both my partners raised their eyebrows. "You think he killed them?" said Donald in an undertone.

"I think it's possible," I said. "Especially since he was apparently in a bad financial position at the time. If he had been unable to get food elsewhere, his thoughts might have turned to cannibalism."

"And the wendigo spirit would have possessed him," said Goofy.

"Right," I said. "I asked Lea to send me some pictures of Clayton, before and after the couple's disappearance, and the couple themselves."

"Think that'll help?" asked Donald.

"Let's hope so. Because if we don't act quickly, Jane Porter could be Clayton's next victim."

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So, there's Chapter 1. Review as you please. If you liked it, tell me what you liked. If you didn't, tell me what I could improve upon, so that I can take that into account for next time. I'm always looking to improve what I can.

Chapter 2 will be up soon.