AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written as a short story for a literary magazine at school, but as it turns out it was too long...which is kind of sad, because personally I think it might be a bit too compressed.
Yeah, I also wound up with this becoming an intro for an epic saga about the big bag thing of this story and Setsu and Collin, but don't expect much of anything else to be posted here about it. I probably won't start typing it unless I manage to work out all the plot things for it, which will probably take a while, and I might lose steam and forget about it, and...yeah.
This is also my first time writing in first-person.
This all began, as many things began, with school letting out for the day.
The schoolkids surged out of the building like a tidal wave, spreading out onto the streets in every direction. Bidding farewell to my friend Collin, I strolled down the steps, pushed through the crowd, and headed off on my way.
Most people didn't understand why the hell we were friends. To be honest,I'm not really sure either. After all, he was the shrimpy rich-kid genius and I was, well, Setsu. The problem child. The delinquent. The douchebag with the tanktop. But whatever maintained our friendship, it worked; he was like the little brother I never had. Thankfully, our friendship was one of the few things that wouldn't change.
I don't really remember how it happened. Maybe I'm not supposed to. All I can recall before it was wandering mindlessly towards my apartment; then I dazed out. Maybe I had taken a wrong turn. Maybe it was just fate.
Whatever it was, I soon found myself where no one should ever be.
The edge of our reality.
It wasn't anything-not specifically, anyway. It was like watching nothing and everything at the same time, an incomprehensible THING-gradually, it shifted-turned into a form more comprehensible to the human mind-but in an instant, it changed again. As I stared, struggling futilely to understand what I was looking at, alien voices began to buzz through the air, gradually shifting into English.
"....not right...something's wrong..."
"...a being?...head explode...."
"Away.....before IT notices..."
Before I knew it, I was back in the city.
I wavered, in complete shock as my mind raced furiously to try and figure out just what the hell had just happened. I don't know how long I just stood there.
It was a pretty long time, apparently.
"WHERE THE HELL'VE YOU BEEN?" my old man roared as I absentmindedly pushed the door open and stumbled in.
"I...dunno..." I responded blankly. That's the most honest I've ever been when saying that.
"It's fuckin' nine o' clock! How can you not know where you've been for the past six hours?!" he shouted, infuriated.
I blinked. Clearly he was expecting me to have been kicking some chump unconscious again. All I could muster was another stupid "I...dunno..." and go upstairs to my room.
The next few days passed almost as though they were a dream. Dad noticed how weird I was acting and got me some days off of school, but I was too busy attempting to comprehend my experience to appreciate it. The best solution my mind could come up with, after several days, was to bullshit myself into thinking it had never happened. Just a dream.
This became impossible to do later.
Having successfully bullshitted myself back into a state of consciousness, I finally left my room a few days later, much to my dad's delight. Despite what his earlier dialogue would suggest, dad was an intelligent, if aloof, scientist trying to find a decent job as we lived out our days in a crappy apartment. Some considered him "mad", but at most he was simply "vaguely unethical".
"Heya, kid," he said, looking over the back of the couch at me as I came down the stairs. "Feeling better, eh?"
"Pretty much," I mumbled. I thought about the huge wad of make-up work I'd probably be given, and quickly dismissed it into the "don't give a shit" pile. He wished me a good day as I walked out the door.
School progressed more or less how it usually did. Dad's always been bummed that I don't really understand or care about chemistry beyond the fact that Collin was in it with me.
"And so..." as the chemsistry teacher blathered on about valence decepticons or whatever, I entertained myself by telling Collin various stories that usually ended with violence. He was busy taking notes at approximately the speed of light, but I could tell he was clearly entertained from his hushed giggling.
"...and the outermost electrons HWARGH"
Everything in the room stopped, and all eyes turned to the teacher, who was standing stiff and unnaturally as he shivered uncontrollably, his eyes rapidly dilating. Manic gibbering quickly gave way to convulsions and a throat-ripping screech as he clawed frantically at the air, as if something was being torn from him. Then there was silence. The teacher stopped moving, and stood silently, eyes glazed over.
Then another screech sounded from down the hall.
Soon, the students were filtering out of the school, silent mumbling passing between them. Three of the teachers had suffered what they had labeled "extreme panic attacks" and the disruption was great enough to end school for the day. An imperceptible dread was building in the back of my throat; which might be why I wasn't as upset when Collin, depressed, told me that his family was moving away. I could feel that something seriously bad was going to go down here, and didn't want him to get caught up in it. All I gave was a few stifled swear words and a promise to see him again soon.
"It is as we feared...."
That night, I was visited by one of the Overseers. Lying in bed, I stared blankly as everything around me suddenly went grey and a floating ball of light appeared before me.
"Setsu. Your reality is in grave peril, and we feel as though you should know what is going on." The ball of light spoke in an echoing, masculine voice. I pulled up the covers and tried to come up with an appropriate response, but all I could come up with was "WHAT THE HELL".
"setsu, please listen. I am one of the many who watch the balance of reality, and there is something very important occurring within the balance. Your role in this is vital. Do you recall the strange space you found yourself in?"
I paused. Let out a nervous "Yes."
"That was the edge of your reality. Normally, no one should be able to enter there, not even one as detached as yourself. But something is wrong. This may challenge everything you know, but you must is a very bizarre thing. There are personal realities, objective realities, world realities...Personal realities are a person's own reality, built by their thoughts and beliefs. Objective realities are facts that are true for everyone-a rock, for example, is a rock to everyone. And a world reality is the world-your world, for instance, formed by all of these other realities. Do you understand this?"
I nodded. This made as much sense as anything I've learned in my life.
"Good. Now, personal realities are very complex, and different from the others in a very big way-they end. When a person dies, their reality ends. But that is not something we do. It is the responsibility of the Great Nothingness, locked in the center of all realities, slumbering eternal-the Void. though it sleeps, at the same time the Void is aware, and it hungers for realities. This is the balance that maintains existence. But something has gone wrong. The void is awakening, and it hungers more and more. It is taking personal realities before the time is right."
"Wait, is that what happened to the teachers today?" I asked, now fearful.
"Yes. Though they are biologically alive, without their realities they cannot do anything-they are as good as dead. Soon it may hunger more and more until it starts eating objective, and possibly, world realities," the Overseer stated gravely.
"what the hell do I have to do with any of this, though?" I asked, feeling a touch exasperated with the long-winded thing. The Overseer paused, and I suddenly felt very afraid again. Eventually, it spoke.
"By entering the fringe, you captured the Void's attention. It is now focused on your world's reality."
A wave of complete horror shot through me as the implications of this occurred to me. A long pause followed.
Eventually, I spoke, asking the inevitable question.
"Wh-what can I do?..."
The Overseer paused, then responded.
"There is one possibility. As I mentioned earlier, you are oddly detached from reality. I do not know how or why you are like this, but in a situation like this, it can be a very powerful ability. If you develop it, you may be able to beat back the Void; however, you have to discover how to use it yourself."
"How the hell am I supposed to do that?!" I wailed, feeling extremely flustered. I never had patience for riddles.
"Use your mind."
With those three words, the Overseer vanished, and everything returned to normal. I stared blankly at the spot where it had been.
"Fuck," I muttered, then went back to sleep.
School was out again the next day, as more of the teachers (and some of the students, as I later found out) had fallen victim to the Void's hunger.
I spent my time wandering the streets, wondering how I could possibly harness a quality I didn't even know I had and use it to prevent an all-powerful abomination from erasing the world from existance. The sky was a dreary gray, possibly an omen of what was to come.
"Well, well, if it isn't Mr. Douche himself," a voice came from behind me. It was the kind of a deep, stupid voice you'd expect a bumbling underling in a cartoon to have, and, unfortunately, quite familiar. I groaned.
Turning, I found myself face to face with Clayton Ashford, our school's resident stereotype big guy. Though I was fairly athletic, I looked like a string bean compared to him. Whilst I was known for being a complete prick, Clayton was known for basically being Captain Justice all the time-and boy, was he easily-provoked.
Naturally, I found myself berating him at every turn. I couldn't help it. Snarkiness flows from me like water flows from a faucet.
"Hello, Captain Huge," I sighed. "Worried I've been tying pretty damsels to the train tracks again?"
"That's funny. You're a very witty guy," he laughed cockily. "I'm here to settle my score with you."
I raised an eyebrow. We'd fought before, but it was in school-it'd always been interrupted or broken up by the teachers. But here, there weren't any interruptions. I looked around, and realized that without noticing I had wandered into an abandoned alleyway. Then I noticed Clayton had decided to start things off by football-tackling me.
"GAHFUCK," I sputtered as I staggered back. As I tried to regain my breath, Clayton ran up and sucker-punched me.
"Is that all you got?!" he shouted as I staggered back. Panting, I quickly realized that I probably couldn't beat him in a straight fight. Squinting at him, I tried to think of a plan.
It was then that things got...well, interesting.
I realized that I could see his reality-a swirling mass of his thoughts, emotions, and memories, surrounding him like an aura. Looking down, I noticed mine as well-but it was different, projecting from me slightly. Was this what the Overseer said when he meant I was detached?
An idea drifted into my mind. It sounded completely friggin' crazy, but....
I focused, he charged. For him, his fist collided with my face. For me, it didn't.
"...W-what?" Clayton sputtered, astonished as I didn't move or even flinch as his fist slammed into my cheek. Though he couldn't see it, my reality has shifted out of the way, extending from me and onto the wall like some bizarre shadow. Though he had hit my body, he had not hit my reality.
This is becoming the most batshit-crazy-sounding story I've ever told.
I gently pushed his fist off my face, then kicked him hard in his side. Taken off guard, he crashed heavily to the ground. I smirked. Waited for him to get up. Judging from the look on his face, he was clearly very unnerved. He slammed another fist into my face, but I did another one of those weirdass reality dodges and kicked him again, this time in the stomach, knocking him down once again.
"What's the matter, Mr. Hero?" I jeered, feelin g very supervillainous as I kicked him in the ribs while he was down.
"Dammit, what the hell's going on?" Clayton growled as he picked himself up yet again.
"What's going on is you SUCKING," I shot back, smirking the whole while despite honestly feeling kinda freaked out at my newly discovered reality-screwing prowess. "Run along, now. I believe the score has been settled."
Clayton paused, looking at me with a combination of fear and spite. Then he fled.
I didn't want him to leave so easily, though, so thinking quickly, I shot my reality up behind him, and, hilariously, managed to donkey punch him from nine feet away.
He shot a look back at me. I gave an innocent smile and shrug, and he wisely chose to drop it and fled around the corner, disappearing from sight.
"Very well done," the Overseer said as everything suddenly stopped and turned gray again.
"JESUS!" I shouted, jumping in surprise.
"You have done well to learn to harness your detachment so quickly," it continued, ignoring my reaction. "However, you can become more powerful than this. And you will need to, for in five days of your time, the Void will attempt to enter your world's reality. The results will be disastrous if you do not stop it."
"WHAT?!" I cried.
Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the Overseer vanished, leaving me with that haunting little fact. I've never been good with deadlines.
"Dad, is that abandoned gym still around?" were the first words out of my mouth when I got home, slamming the door open violently.
Dad peered over his newspaper, giving me an odd look. "Sure. Why do you ask?" But I had already dashed out the door again.
The next four days passed extremely slowly, despite how much they resembled a training montage. Every morning, I went to the abandoned gym and trained. And trained, and trained, and trained, in my desparate attempts to get tougher. In all honesty, it seemed impossible. My opponent was unimaginably powerful, and if I couldn't find a way to beat it back, everyone-and everything-I knew was dead. Every day, the Void's presence became more and more evident. The newspapers were reporting more and more "extreme panic attacks"-realities being eaten-occurring all over the city. It was growing to the point where it was an everyday thing you saw on the street. I felt horrible, because it was partially my fault, but I didn't let it keep me down.
The fear, the hope, the guilt, the anger...I put it all into my training.
At long last, the day arrived, and with it, the Void.
The city's atmosphere had changed entirely. Everyone spent all their time locked inside, and it was perpetually windy, with the sky covered in swirling gray clouds. It was as though the city knew its last days were approaching.
"Overseer, when will the void get here?" I asked with a feeling of grim determination.
"Very soon," the Overseer replied, a tinge of nervousness creeping into its normally stoic voice. "It will breach your reality at the location you know as Rising Sun Park."
I turned. The park was right behind me. I was in the perfect position to witness its breach.
"I and the other Overseers will try to hold it back as best we can, but we cannot keep it in on its own. You will have to push it back out of your reality." The Overseer said urgently.
The air in the park began to ripple like water. It was coming.
"I understand," I muttered. The Overseer disappeared.
The air began to ripple faster. Soon, a dark shape began pushing out of it-it was pushing a hole in our reality. It shifted, took a form our reality could understand. A massive, shadowy, centipede-like figure was emerging from the hole; millions of tiny legs scrabbling wildly, a gaping, jagged maw at the front repeatedly opening and closing to reveal a swirling abyss, a hundred staring, soulless eyes lining its sides.
As I watched, its emergence slowed, and the Void's legs seemed to start pulling harder; the Overseers were holding it back. Its mouth opened wide, and as I watched the air-no, the reality around it begin to ripple, I realized that it had already begun eating our reality.
I had to do this.
"Looking for me, asshole?!" I shouted, pointing an accusing finger at the monstrosity. The Void's million eyes fixed their endless gaze upon me with a look somewhat similar to curiosity, and a chill ran down my spine. Yeah, that was smooth.
A thousand orbs of energy arced out from its eyes and crashed into the spot where I had been a moment ago. That clearly got its attention, as it continued gazing at me.
"If you want me, you'll have to do better than that!" I taunted, the embodiment of nothingness showing no discernible response. I then did what was possibly the stupidest action in my entire life; I charged. I had no idea if I could actually harm it, but I charged.
The Void, realizing I was displaying hostility, let loose, firing an enormous storm of energy balls in my direction. Zipping through the storm of energy like a sugar-crazed mosquito, I managed to get right up next to the massive thing and lunged towards it. Altering the reality of my hand into the shape of a spike, I struck.
It worked. Feeling my spike-hand-reality-whatever sink into it, the Void let out an unearthly wail.
I blinked, and realized I had somehow, without moving, ended up all the way across the field again. Apparently, the Void's very presence was already altering our reality; it had somehow erased the reality of me being next to it.
But it couldn't change the fact that I had hurt it.
Mouth opened wide in its unearthly wail, the Void thrashed about, swinging the front half of its body about as part of it was pulled back out of our reality, the beast tearing up the ground with its flailing legs in the process. Before long, its eyes started glowing. I had damaged it, but more than anything else, I had enhanced its interest in our reality; or, in a more human view, pissed it off.
A massive beam of darkness erupted from its mouth, tearing apart everything in its path as the Void thrashed wildly about, swinging its head every which way. Buildings, trees, and even parts of the ground simply dissolved as the beam passed over them, absorbed by the Void's endless hunger. If I didn't stop it...
Frantically dodging as the beam swept about, I launched my reality across the park at it in a desperate move. Focusing, I shifted my personal reality again. It had to be fast, strong, unstoppable...
Swinging my arm, I felt as the massive, clublike arm of my altered reality slammed into the Void, knocking it off-kilter. My reality, now looking less like a shadow and more like some massive ogre, mirrored my every move as I frantically pounded away at the Void, the thing snapping and lunging like a serpent.
Pulling it back to myself as just as the Void made one last lunge at it, I reattached to my altered reality, felt its power become a part of me as I the Void focused its attention on me, dozens of shadowy tendrils erupting from its back and lunging towards me.
I launched across the field as the Void launched everything it had at me.
None of it could touch me. The tentacles stabbed into the ground futilely behind me, I darted through the storms of energy balls effortlessly, and the massive beam that once again erupted from its throat was useless as I dodged around it. I hurtled towards the Void with all my force, preparing my final attack...
There was a monumental impact as I slammed the full force of my reality into the Void's head. A pause.
Then, screeching horribly, it reared back, legs scrabbling wildly. A part of it was yanked back out of our reality, then the yank became a continuous pull as it thrashed about, legs scrabbling wildly as it was sucked out of our reality and disappeared. A faint ripple in the air was all that remained, spreading out and gradually disappearing. It was gone.
Though there was massive property damage, life, for the most part, went back to normal. Without the Void's presence altering things, my reality-shifting power practically disappeared. No one had seen the Void's emergence or my battle with it; the Overseer hadn't even come back to congratulate me. I was just Setsu again; though Clayton was now convinced I was some manner of psychic or mutant. All the effects of the Void's presence were explained away and quickly forgotten. Collin had yet to return, but said his parents were considering moving back; apparently, the town they moved to had turned out to be even sleazier than his parents had expected. Yeah, it seemed like a happy ending.
However, the Void's influence had still managed to reach our world. And within the space of a few short months, it would lead mine and Collin's lives in a direction we would never anticipate before our meeting again. This was only a beginning.
But those are stories for another time.