Chapter 0:


My other World

The last time I opened my eyes, I was nobody. I had a dream, but then it was gone. I didn’t think I could ever achieve it, the kind of dream that requires such a different version of yourself you doubt if people could even change that much. But that dream was all I had. I wanted to be the leader of a Marching Band, a Drum Major. It was nothing special, especially for a suburban kid in the middle of Nowhere, Florida. But it was my dream, and it was gone. And, in a fear that my life was worthless without that dream, I threw myself onto my bed and closed my eyes. I hoped and prayed to be taken somewhere else, even if just for the night. I wanted to escape, and there was only one place left in my life where I could.

And then I opened my eyes again.

After the last thrust of a rusty iron sword in my hand dashed through the air, three grotesque, gremlin-looking thieves fell to the ground. They were all dead in a pool of their own blood, the peasant mother and young child they were threatening looking onward with a sense of liberated freedom. As they got up from hiding behind their splintered and smashed market stall, a group of guards in protective metal armor smiled and waved at me, envious of my accomplishments lying motionless on the dirt pathway. Behind me, other peasants and low-class workers in the village cheered, being able to witness the whole event happen in real time.

“Jay! Jay! Jay the upcoming Hero!” They called out to me. They were celebrating the deaths of three low-lives, the worthless nothing’s of their village, for their attempts to rob an innocent woman and her children.

“Thank you so much…” The mother came up to me, carrying the child she had in her arms. “I thought I might lose my life to those petty thieves, or worse… my son might lose his life. There isn’t a thing I could do to express the gratitude I have in my heart.”

“It’s alright, ma’am… I just wanted to do what I could.”

“I saw him, miss! As soon as he heard the cry for help, he bolted through the town! I’d never seen someone run so fast!”

“I’m sure it wasn’t that fast-”

“He was like a bolt of lightning in the night sky!”

“He was a flicker of the burning wood in your furnace!”

“He was like the wind of a deadly tornado!”

“Alright!” I called out to them, causing the examples of my speed and stamina to end. “I just didn’t want to waste a second, you know? Every second matters in the heat of battle, and I didn’t want to worry it might be too late to help whomever called out for help.”

“Well, no one would worry if they knew the upcoming licensed Hero of Acacia was coming to rescue them!”

I heard a voice come up from the other side of me, and I turned to see one of the several guards of the city greeting me. His armor was thin and rusty, but he had a much better sword than mine in his sheath, and a helmet as well. All I had was a cheap metal breastplate and iron paddings for my knees and shoulders.

“And once again, thank you for helping out this small village while you don’t even have a license yet, you’ve been so great to us Young Hero.”

He extended his hand for a handshake, and I gladly took it. He looked about ten years older than me, getting ready to pass thirty in a few years, but his hands were much bulkier than mine as I took it, and he congratulated me. “You’re going to be taking the Hero License Test later, correct?”

“Yes… I am.”

“I know you’ll serve the kingdom of Somnium well, boy. You give me faith in the youth, you know? Seeing all you can do, I know I’m growing old with the right generation to support people like us.”

“Well, thanks for wishing me luck.” I tried to stay humble, knowing that a lot of people in the town had high expectations for me. This wasn’t the first time the villagers had expressed their gratitude for protecting their villagers, and knowing the crowd was still around watching me cool down after my fight with the three thieves, it wouldn’t be the last.

“Don’t be so modest!” A person from the crowd called out to me, that person being Tom the Baker. “I remember the day you took care of those lizard people, right in front of my shop! If it weren’t for you, I would’ve been the one skewered that day! Ahaha!”

“Yeah!” Another voice called out in the crowd, this one being Maria the Tailor. “When you fought with the village guard on the full moon, you helped protect everyone in this city! If you hadn’t shown up at our doorstep last month, we’d all be nothing but rubble and ash by this point!”

“Well, I’m very flattered-” I tried to cut everyone off, but this time a girl around my age appeared from the back of the crowd. I recognized her immediately, knowing those features for years; She had bold, blonde hair and was wearing a peasant’s three-piece, consisting of a white top, brown corset, and green dress. But, most importantly, she had crystal-blue eyes, the kind that reflected right back at you, just like your reflection in a crystal, or in the light blue sea.

This girl was Destiny, a girl from my old life… from Earth.

I hadn’t experienced the world of Somnium for long, but one thing I quickly caught up on was the kind of people that inhabited it. Many were people who’d I’d never seen before, the kind of people that were lost in the crowd in my real life on Earth. But, some of those people on Somnium ended up being what I can only call ‘copies’ of what I’d experienced on Earth. The only differences were their lives, and the lack of memories they possessed on Earth. They were, for the most part, just another resident of the fantasy kingdom that I’d gotten to know. And there she was, my middle school crush and fellow musician: Destiny Gravewater.

“And I’ll never forget what you did for me!” She called out, a thankful smile on her face going from end to end. I’ll never forget the day that you came into town a few months ago. You saw I was being attacked by a Goblin, and like a knight out of a fairy tale my mother would tell me, you swooped in and saved me… I could never forget how confident you were, and how skilled you seemed.”

“Yeah… thank you.” I responded, trying my best to not say anything about my memories with her.

“My respect was so high, I started practicing in magic, you know? Now I’m becoming great at it, and might even be able to defend myself one day, if need be!”

“Oh… that’s- that’s great.”

“So don’t worry, you’re a Hero to all of us, even if you don’t pass that Hero test!”

“Yeah!” The guard called out, getting the rest of the crowd’s attention. “Let’s give encouraging cheers for Jay, the newest Hero of Acacia!”

“Jay! Jay! Jay the upcoming Hero! Jay! Jay! Jay the upcoming Hero!” They cheered, more motivated than before. The guards raised their swords. The mother and child bowed in thanks, cheering along with the crowd. Three men lay dead on the ground. And Destiny’s eyes… pierced through my skin, her cheery glare was so intensely positive. This wasn’t her. This was… someone else.

But… It also felt good, in more ways than one. The support, the comforting presence… If they were all cheering for me, and supporting me, how bad could it all be? If I wasn’t the same Jay who was a loser, and who never failed in protecting others and my own dreams… How bad could I be?

I tried to speak again, just to calm down the crowd a bit and thank them for their support, but I could barely hear my voice. It wasn’t like my voice was being drowned out by the crowd though, but rather my ears were struggling to hear anything. I tried to speak again, but that time, no sound rang. I tried to rub my ears, but almost immediately, a wave of fatigue went over me, and I collapsed to the ground.

“Hero?!” I could hear several call out lightly, as the world began to become foggier and foggier. My whole body became numb, and I faded out of consciousness.

. . . . .

My eyes opened once more, and I was back.

I shot up with a wave of anxiety over me, before realizing I was in a bed, in the darkness. The blanket was thin but heavy, and the pillow was thin, just the way I liked it. Before, I felt the rough weight of the dirt pathways under my shoulders. Now, I felt the soft cushion of a bed, entirely my own. It had to be my bed.

Getting out of the bed, I shifted around in the darkness for a moment before hitting a light switch, revealing my whole room, just the way I remembered it. On a small desk in the back corner of the room, I had a small space with homework and a pencil in front of a keyboard and mouse. Beside it was a small mound of paper cups and trash that I’d left out from the night before. Next to the desk was a dresser, with several miscellaneous papers and a digital alarm clock, reading 2:42 on it. I looked out my window, covered in a light blue drapery, to see it was still dark outside.

I woke up really early…” I thought to myself, before remembering the dream I’d had last night. “I didn’t think I’d wake up so early, especially after yesterday. Why am I…” Before I could answer my question, a heavy feeling hit my stomach.

Oh… just the pizza from lunch not sitting right…” Not letting the feeling last, I shot up into a stretch, preparing my aching, tired body for a trip down the hall to the bathroom.

As I opened my bedroom door, the dim light of the hallway shone through. To the left of my door, the case for my Marching Band instrument lay. I stared at it for a few seconds, completely forgetting that I had it out in the first place. Not wanting to think about what happened, I picked up the small flute case, and quietly put it in the back of my closet, where I could stop thinking about it, and all that it was associated with.

“In that world, I was a Hero. But in this world… I’m just a nobody again.”
Joe Gold