“So it starts out… normal, I guess.”
It’s a quiet afternoon on the beach, and Sora is lying back, not bothered by all the sand getting into his hair and itching his skin. Riku and Kairi flank his body, the coolheaded athlete to his left, and the giggly tomboy to his right.
“Like, we were just doing stuff here. Racing each other. You know, stuff like that.”
“Any sandcastles?” asks Kairi. “The best beach dreams have sandcastles.”
“Nah. You were too busy jumping up and down to build sandcastles. I think you were referee.”
“Aww,” replies Kairi, and starts digging in the sand.
“So anyway, we were just playing around–”
Riku interrupts. “Dude, I don’t play around.”
“It’s just a dream, man. Don’t take it so seriously.”
“Sora, we’re talking about this because you wanted us to take this seriously. I’m gonna take it seriously.”
“So anyway–” Sora says a little louder than he intends, “–there we are on the beach, just doing stuff—when all of a sudden, the sky just turns jet black. Or purple. Or both. I’m not sure anymore. But it’s dark, and then it goes all stormy—there’s lightning, and the ocean just starts freaking out. And everything turns darker, and darker, until it’s just nothing but the beach, and then the beach just sort of—peels away, and I’m just standing there, in pitch–black nothing, and then…”
Riku pushes himself further upright, one toned arm keeping him from dropping back into the sand. “And then?”
“Uh… it’s kinda hard to describe. Kind of like… this voice is talking to me, out of nowhere, but there’s no sound. So I’m not even hearing this voice, but I’m still, uh, hearing it, you know?”
“I have no idea.”
“Good,” says Sora, “because all I was thinking was, I can’t believe God is talking to me, and if you don’t know anything then that sounds less stupid.”
“It still sounds stupid.”
“What did the voice say?” asks Kairi, who’s accumulated a fair pile of sand during the few minutes of conversation past. Both boys look at her for a second, then Sora continues.
“I don’t remember the exact words. It was something like… uh… Don’t be afraid? You’re the chosen one? Maybe? And then I had a sword.”
“Was it a good sword?” Riku asks casually. “Katanas are cool swords.”
“Nah. Some dumb video–game thing. I don’t even think it looked all that much like an actual sword. Maybe it was actually an axe or something, I dunno. But, you know, it was a sword. I had a sword. God gave me a sword. Whatever.”
“And then, obviously, I was inside some kind of giant glowing summoning circle and demons rose from the ground and I had to fight them with my sword.”
“So there’s this whole bunch of demon things coming at me. Maybe demons. I dunno. They kinda looked like bugs a little. And I fight these monsters, and I fight them across a whole bunch of those summoning circles. And I realise after a while that all these circles are actually, like, giant stained–glass windows, like I’m running around on a church roof or something. And all these stained–glass windows have girls on them.”
“So… hold on, let me get this straight.” Riku fixes Sora with a very serious look. “You had a dream last night in which God destroyed the world, gave you a video–game sword, and then sent you to fight demons on top of church window summoning circles to save human sacrifices?”
“…No, I mean, the girls were pictures on the windows, not–”
“Okay, that sucks.” Riku sits back. “I thought you meant there were girls on top of the windows.”
“No, they were pictures on the windows.”
“That sucks,” Riku repeats.
“I mean they could’ve been, you know, symbolic of human sacrifices. But anyway—I got to the last window, and the picture on the window was me, not a random girl, and then the whole window turned into sand and I was back on the beach again. Except it wasn’t the beach, but like this tiny floating island in the middle of a tornado.
“And then, that’s when the biggest demon showed up. And by big, I mean big. As big as my house, that kinda big. And it had huge, beefy arms, and a giant hole in its chest–”
Riku cuts in again. “What kind of demon has a huge hole in its chest?”
“Do I look like a demonologist to you?”
“You’re the one calling it a demon.”
“Do you know what demons look like?”
“Sure. Demons have horns and wings. Did this thing have horns and wings?”
“Uh, no… The other ones had horns, though. Or… maybe they were antennae, I’m not sure–”
“Did you beat it?”
Again, they look at Kairi, whose castle is starting to take on a grander shape. There’s now a little moat around the building, presumably from digging out all the extra sand, and she’s busy (or half–busy) adding it on top of the mound she’s already got.
“Uh, I tried,” Sora replies. “I ran up its arm and I hit it in the face with my sword.”
“You don’t just hit things in the face with a sword, Sora,” Riku complains. “That’s not how swords work either.”
“It was a dumb video–game sword. And anyway, I didn’t win or anything. It punched the ground and then everything kinda turned into mush. And then I woke up.”
“So, uh, guys–” Sora sits up, stretches, and then immediately drops back into the sand, “–what do you think all that stuff meant?”
Everybody is silent for a second, then Riku pipes up. “Obviously, it means you’ve been playing too many video–games.”
“Maybe? I mean, it did have a final boss.”
“And you died to it. Game over. You failed the game, Sora. You failed God, Sora.”
“Ouch.” Sora puts a hand to his chest. “That hurts me in the feelings, Riku.”
“Thanks. I try.”
“Well, maybe it actually means something?” says Kairi. “I used to get these dreams about things happening, and then a few days later they’d actually happen. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah… You used to freak out about it,” Sora recalls.
“It’s a dream, Kairi,” Riku says. “What, are you saying demons are gonna destroy the world or something?”
“Not like that. I mean more like Sora mentioned earlier, like symbolic dreams. Maybe it’s all just symbolic of something that’s going to happen.”
“Well, symbolic or not, at least it makes sense. There’s no way Sora would ever win in a fight.”
Kairi’s sandcastle now has a tower. She’s also pressed seashells into the sides of the bottom floor, like banners. It’s not perfect—the base is lopsided, and the tower crooked—but for a bare–handed sculpt, it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Especially considering she’d been paying way more attention to the conversation.
“Looks nice,” Riku says, disinterested.
“Looks pretty good,” Sora says, more enthusiastically.
Kairi frowns. “Well, actually, it might still need a little something… Hold on a second.” She scrambles to her feet and pads back up the beach, leaving very faint tracks in the sand. Sora watches her go in vague interest.
Riku, on the other hand, pulls out his phone, and sighs. “It’s getting late,” he says loud enough for Kairi to hear, getting up. “Let’s get going!”
“Aw. Already?” Sora whines.
“Yeah. Come on. Our moms’d be mad if we were late for dinner anyway.”
Groaning, Sora rolls over to push himself up. It’s much harder than it should be, but he never likes leaving the beach behind. There’s something innately bittersweet in it.
The next two seconds happen without much idea of what’s going on. Later they’ll figure out that Riku turned around and tripped over Sora as he was still on his hands and knees; but for now it’s just a sudden pressure on Sora’s back that forces him face–first into the sand, and then a sudden bitty crunch, and Kairi gasping from the back of the beach.
“Are you guys okay?” he hears her say, accompanied by subtle footsteps.
Sora crawls out from underneath Riku, eyes near–welded shut. “No! I got sand in my eyes!”
Riku, meanwhile, has much less in the way of pain to worry about. Instead, he remarks, “Oh, no—Kairi, I’m sorry…”
Curious, Sora risks the stinging to open one eye for half a second. Riku’s staring down at the ground, and it isn’t until his eyes are closed again to realise what’s wrong with it—namely, that the sandcastle is gone, crushed by Riku’s now sand–covered hand.
“Honestly, I’m sorry. It was really nice, way better than I let on, really–”
“It’s okay…” Kairi sounds a little distant. “It’s just a sandcastle. It was only going to get washed away at high tide anyway.”
Riku heaves a sigh. “Yeah…”
Sora stands uneasily, eyes still shut tight. “…Alright, let’s go… I need to wash out my eyes.”
“Oh, geez, what did I do…”
Riku gathers Sora up and carries him to the dock. Kairi, on the other hand, stops back for a second, and looks down at the place where her sandcastle had been standing, clutching the paopu leaf she had been going to use as a flag.