Prologue I

The time of death is a clear one.

The heart stops, the lungs cease expanding, and the electricity inside of the brain slowly declines into nothing. This electricity fuels a person, makes their body move, and lets them be a human being.

The cold water on the boy's face is sweet and gentle, despite the salt that stung his eyes. He could only feel the warmth of the sun above him, feel himself drift beneath the waves, and the ice-cold scattering throughout his body.

He doesn't want to die.

He feels the aching cold spreading through his body from the bloody bite on his shoulder and he simply lets go.

As he closes his eyes, the dying teenager briefly sees the image of a girl reaching out toward him and the boy holding her inside of their boat. He sees them and he closes eyes, letting the cold spread through him and take him away. Tears trickle down his cheeks only to mix with the salt of the ocean.

Sora doesn't want to die, but he has no choice but to let go.

Prologue II

Soft cries echo in the distance, a harsh contrast against the screams that had filled the night air only a few hours before.

The boy, one of three hiding safely in a neighbor's basement, wonders just how long it would take before a rescue team could come in and help them. Sora rubs his tiring eyes, wondering just how long it would take before the resurrected came in and ate them all.

He turns away from the small window, taking a peek at the pair sleeping beneath a tarp behind him. Riku and Kairi are sleeping peacefully, barely even stirring at the noises from outside. As he expected, Riku's arm is draped protectively over his friend's body, as if the older teenager was trying – even in his sleep – to protect the girl.

Sora has to turn away quickly and rub his eyes hard. The tears trickle down slowly, the warmth feeling like hot blood on his cold cheeks. It reminds him that it was very likely that the three of them were probably the last living people on the island. His tears also remind him that he had lost his mother.

"Mom..." He whispers softly to the darkness, still feeling the hard push that she had given him in order to get him out the door and into the neighbor's house. Sora closes his eyes and hears her last words again, having heard them on loop throughout the day. His own name, asked questioningly as she was hauled away from him and into the horde.

As for his dad, his dad had been out at sea when everything had happened on the main island. Maybe he was still alive. Maybe the monsters were able to pull him off of his fishing boat and devour him.

"Can't sleep?" A voice asks him quietly, making the fourteen year old flinch and turn around. His friend Kairi smiles at him sleepily, rubbing her eyes as she carefully removes Riku's arm from her shoulder and gets up. "Hey, you don't have-" Sora starts to say, but the girl is already moving and heading toward him.

"I want to, silly." Kairi informs him with that same smile, a ghost of her usual mischievous one. With that, she sits down next to him on the bench beneath the window. Sora keeps looking out the window, watching for any sign of the resurrected shambling toward them. They had already eliminated all of the ones in the house, so unless any new ones walked in, they should be safe...

Kairi's fingers are cold, but a soothing kind of cold, as they slip into his. A deep, dark blush emerges on his face but instead of turning around to look at her, he keeps guarding. Sora had always had a crush on Kairi, one that had driven him crazy for years. But shyness and the fear of ruining their friendship had kept him mute for years. But he had dreamed of, wanted a moment like this between them for so long...

Still, the zombies were a surprise.

He leans his head against hers as she snuggles into him and places her head just on his chest. He blushes that much harder, making her laugh softly as his heart rate speeds up. She could hear it, did she know what she was doing to him? "Sora?" Kairi asks again, her voice muffled slightly from leaning on him.

"Yeah, Kairi?" He asks before he feels her lean up and her lips on his cheek. They brush softly against his cheek, soft enough that he would have thought he was hallucinating if not for the soft noise she makes when she kisses him. If he had thought he was blushing hard before, he was on fire now. Kairi smiles shyly before cuddling back into him. "Maybe we should run away. Just the two of us." She jokes solemnly, shaking her head the moment that Sora opens his mouth to protest Riku's absence in her scenario.

Of course she wouldn't leave him behind. The words are left unsaid, but the sentiment was still there.

She smiles at him and nuzzles into him, though it wasn't for warmth. "I don't think I'm so scared anymore." Kairi says in a soft, wistful voice. She flashes a big grin, one that almost rivaled his usual one but instead of cheering him up, it makes his heart melt into a little puddle of Sora-y goo. "Maybe... You know, I was a little afraid at first, but now I'm ready. No matter where I go or what I see, I know I can always come back here. I'll always be here. Right?"

It's clear from the way Kairi is smiling that she doesn't mean back to Destiny Islands.

When he hears those words, Sora wraps his hand around Kairi's and holds it tightly. For the first time, he wishes that he didn't wear gloves everywhere. Though they had saved his life throughout the night by keeping the bites away from his hands but it would have been so nice to feel just a little more of her-

A sharp and very loud moan suddenly sounds out near the house, startling the two kids into standing up and peeking through the window. A shuffling noise confirms their suspicions; one of the resurrected ones was standing right by them.

"Go wake Riku," Sora mouths to Kairi as the stench of rotting flesh wafts into the house. Despite the intensity of the odor, they only look at each other and start working to get the thing away from them. After all they had been through, it no longer makes them gag. She nods and quietly walks to the tarp, grabbing the first body part that was sticking out and yanks. Riku jolts up, rubbing his head in mild pain from her grabbing his hair.

After only briefly glancing at the serious expression on his best friend's face, Riku immediately snatches up a sword-like weapon from the folds of his tarp.

Sora and Riku nod to each other before the older boy pulls Kairi behind him and troops silently to the window. He quietly opens the latch of the window, pulling it down just far enough to stick his arm and his Way to Dawn Keyblade out of it.

For a sickening moment, Riku stays completely still as he waits for the zombie to shamble towards him.

If he makes a single noise, the monster would let out a series of low moans that would bring another dozen corpses toward them. And they would all make the moans, calling even more of their undead relatives and friends to devour them.

Riku rapidly slashes the Achilles tendon of the corpse, sending it toppling down to the ground. As it landed with a heavy thud by the window, Sora sees its gray eyes widen when it saw them and its mouth beginning to open up to scream. Kairi's hand tightens hard on his wrist as Riku stands back and thrusts the blade into the creature's mouth. With a matter of seconds, the screech that had been building in the dead throat cuts off to a soft gurgling death rattle.

"We can't stay here forever," Riku said softly, turning back to the room to look at his friends. His blue green eyes are full of pain, and Sora knows that he had recognized the body before killing it. A neighbor or maybe a family member. It is hard to tell anymore, since they were the only ones left on the island that were still alive. Riku runs his hands through his long silver hair and sighs. "We're going... we're going to run out of... water... soon enough." He stammers weakly.

All three kids know that he had just lied but neither Sora nor Kairi call him out on it.

But Sora nods instead, reaches out to touch Riku on the shoulder, and smile. "Alright, then let's get out of here. How about we go to the play island?" He asks curiously. His two friends give him a bizarre look, no doubt wondering what the heck Sora was thinking.

He laughs quietly, amused by their reactions. "Well, think about it. There's water there in the springs, we can catch fish, and it's separated from this island by at least three or four miles, right? So it should be a good place to hide for a bit!" Sora explains cheerfully.

In reality, he wants to check if the three kids that normally hung out at the islands Tidus, Selphie, and Wakka were still alright. They had been having a sleepover there on the island, one where they would spend days of camping and roasting marshmallows in order to play together and strengthen their bonds for blitzball. Or at least the boys had that in mind; Selphie just loved marshmallows. If it had spread that far to that little island and those three kids were gone... then there was no way that the trio would be able to get off the islands at all.

They would be trapped there on the main island, simply because there were no other supplies in the area. There would also be no way to get them, not unless they could build a raft and head out to sea. Either way, they would starve to death.

Riku claps his hand onto Sora's shoulder and nods. "For once, I agree with your plans," He tells his friend with a slight hint of a smile. Then his face turns serious as he thinks of something. "Let's get to the docks and head off. … We're going to have to hurry though." He looks back out the window, a strange anger appearing on his face.

"Huh?" Sora asks in confusion. "Why?"

Kairi shakes her head and slips her hand back around Sora's. The movement is not unnoticed by Riku, who immediately blinks and stares hard at their intertwined hands. "Riku means," Kairi scolds patiently, ignoring the looks from the boys. "-is that these things see better in the daylight, just like we do. And there's tons of them by the docks. We... might not make it." She added with a worried quiver to her voice, making both boys want to comfort her.

Both Riku and Sora want to be comforted as well, though both of their parents are long gone.

Sora grins, though he feels like he should break down and start bawling on the floor for seeing his family being torn away from him. "Then we head out at dawn. Get everything ready and set for the boat," He says calmly, though he's shaking slightly.

Riku nods. "We're leaving this place." He repeats calmly before obediently dropping down to the floor and wrapping their few belongings in plastic to protect them. Sora helps wraps their food and the limited bottles of water into the tarp before tying it up into a tight bundle that he handed it over to Riku. He sets apart three small bundles of food to eat for dinner and passes two of them out to Kairi and Riku.

None of them speak of the danger that they might face in a few hours as they eat. None of them question whether or not they would survive their escape attempt. Sora's eyes constantly watch his friends, and his hand slips into his pocket to pull out a small pen. He doodles something on the wrapper of his dinner as they eat.

They speak quietly about what they were going to do when they got to the island. Riku comments that he was going to set up a few lines to catch fish, Kairi says something about getting some mushrooms. Sora only smiles and laughs at their comments as he writes, though he doesn't let them see what he was doing. His friends do not question it but only try to cling to the hope that they all would make it out alive.

A few hours later, two of the three are sitting the boat as it is being carried off in the current.

Kairi screams out to the boy standing on the dock even as Riku holds her back, preventing her from getting out. Sora watches as the boat drifts away and the rope that had been tying it to the dock is still tightly clenched in his hand. Tears trickle down his cheeks as he hears movement behind him on the wooden docks. He had made his choice, he had made it as soon as he realized that the monsters were about to move for them.

It had been easy to throw them both into the boat and shove it from the dock, even though Sora knows that it meant he was about to die. Sora drops the rope and looks at his best friends, knowing that this is the very last time he was ever going to see them.

"Kairi!" Sora shouts as the first rotting hand grips his shoulder. He jerks it off and runs along the edge of the dock, trying to give himself just that much more time to talk to her. She had to know, she had to know what he felt... if he died for her and for Riku, they had to know how much he loved them both...

"Kairi! Remember what you said before? I'm always with you, too. I'll come back to you. I promise!" He yells out as the first set of teeth pierces through his skin, leaving him free to scream and be yanked into the crowd. His body is temporarily invisible in the crowd of monsters, though they soon part just enough to let the two kids see what they were doing to Sora.

"Sora...!" Riku shouts as the first of the monsters tears into his friend's throat and infects him with the virus. Blood spurts out of the vein it had punctured but the boy immediately rips himself free from the creatures and runs toward the end of the dock. As he runs, he lifts his hands and starts to wave at the boat.

Even from this distance, the two kids could see the tears pouring down his face. They all knew he had a limited time before he died.

Kairi stands up in the boat, forcing herself to wave just as hard back at Sora as he ran from the monsters. "I know you will!" She screams back to him, though she doesn't hear herself say it. She could not hear herself say anything from the shock. Sora watches her for a few more minutes as she reaches out towards him, begging him to come join her in the boat. There is a satisfied look on his face as he smiles and cries a few more tears.

A few seconds later, Sora jumps into the sea and vanishes from sight.

Riku hauls Kairi back into a sitting position and he jumps into her lap and pins her down when the girl tries to jump out of the boat to join Sora in the sea. Riku rocks her gently in his arms and strokes her hair, soothing her as she sobs into his shoulder and whispers the same words over and over like a broken record.

"I know you will, I know you will..."

The older boy doesn't let his own tears fall, he only pins the grieving girl down with a hand and removes their food from the tarp. When he opens up the package, he notices one of them was completely unopened, though they had all eaten most of it last night. Riku opens it up to see a rapidly written note from the boy who had refused to eat in order to give them that much more of a chance.

'Take care of her for me, will you?'

Prologue III

Blue eyes flicker closed, open, and then closed again.

"Is he dead?" A voice asked curiously.

"Looks like it. He's bit... he's probably been in the water for weeks now before it got him. We should drop him back in the water as soon as possible... or find somewhere to bury him." This voice is deep and solemn, as if the sight of whatever he was seeing makes him sad. The boy opens his eyes just as the first voice continues to speak.

"Poor little thing..." it says in a breathless sigh.

He doesn't know but the voice is soft and sweet, almost like it was... "K... Kai...ri...?" The boy murmurs as the girl's hand brushes against his cheek. Her hand is cold, though he knows it should be warm. It should be warm but for some reason, so he can only feel cold. He leans into the touch anyway.

"Kairi?" The first voice demands in startled confusion.

The blue eyes open again, and for the first time, the boy is able to concentrate on the people before him. The man stares at him for a moment before placing a hand to the blade on his back. "What's your name?" He asks cautiously, taking a step back as if to provide himself with enough room to attack if necessary.

For a moment, the kid honestly couldn't remember. It was just too cold and he was too weak for him to remember. He shivers hard, even though he knows he's actually burning hot from the fever. "S..." He knows his name, he just knows he has a name...! The boy manages to move just enough to force himself to sit up and to stick his hand into his pocket.

"M... my name..." He stutters out weakly before flopping back onto the hard wooden surface he was lying on. The girl crouches down next to him and puts her hand into his pocket.

"Yuffie! What are you doing?" The man demands angrily. His blue eyes narrow on the girl's hand as she gently removes the boy's hands from his pocket and with it, a small object. The star charm glitters with the salt water that they had pulled him from and the young ninja shows it to her friend.

"He survived, Squall," Yuffie says quietly as the boy's eyes close for a second time. "This thing… there's nothing like this for miles… maybe even a week's distance. He's survived a bite for more than a week... doesn't that mean...?" The voice slowly fades away, but the image of the star remains in his eyes long after he falls unconscious.

There is something familiar about it, something sad... something... he had to do... It is a simple little charm made out of seashells that had been sewn together with large, white stitches. There is a face drawn on the charm, from the little he could actually see of it. His eyesight isn't very clear and he hadn't gotten a very good look at the charm he had tried to touch, but there is something familiar... something so familiar... and so very sad...

"...His name... So...ra...?"

As he falls asleep, the boy remembers the promise he had given the little girl with the star in her hands. He remembers the boy that had held her back against the waves that had taken them both away and in his sleep, he cries for the friends he had lost.