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Crack'd, or How the Love of Seafood Saved Unova

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Cutlerine, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Ave, all! It is I, Leclerc the Cutlerine! And, returning to my habitual silliness because I'm terminally silly and can no longer deny it, I bring you all another offering of words and points, an unlikely collocation of letters, the fifth of my adaptations of the main series games and another story that I rate 15 for swearing and potential darkness:

    Damn right. It's better than yours.

    Missingno. Master
    Luphinid Silnaek

    How the Love of Seafood Saved Unova​

    Chapter One: Shopping with the Reaper

    When I found an Unovan wildcat sitting by the bins outside the Rochehilde Centre, I wasn't particularly surprised. Black City had been built abruptly right in the middle of the Grimveldt Forest, and the local wildlife had quickly discovered that trash was a lot easier to come by than prey. Consequently, there must have been hundreds of wildcats all over the city, seeking out scraps of meat wherever they could find them – I saw them every day, sleek ripples of black and grey, a little larger than normal cats and much, much fiercer. They were nothing special, and like I said, I wasn't surprised to see one.

    But I was surprised when it started talking.

    “Hi,” said the wildcat, springing fluidly to its feet and pacing over to me. “Do you have a minute?”

    I stopped. I stared. I gaped.

    “Thanks,” the cat went on. “Um, quick question: do you know anything about people transforming randomly into cats?”

    “You're a talking cat,” I said.

    “Uh, yeah,” agreed the cat. “That's good. Stay with me. You're doing better than the last man I talked to – he ran away.”

    “A talking cat.”

    “Uh huh. We've established that. Do you know why I might be a talking cat? I mean, I'm sure I wasn't a cat before I fell unconscious, but I don't remember what I actually was. In fact, I don't remember very much at all from before this morning.”

    “A talking cat.”

    “Oh, you're one of those ones,” sighed the cat, arching its – or rather her, since its voice was unmistakably female – back. “So boring and close-minded. You see one talking cat and you go mental.” She turned and started to stalk back over to the bins. “Never mind. I'll wait for the next guy.”

    I watched her for a moment, then blinked hard. Nope. Still there.

    And yet she couldn't be real. There was no such thing as a talking wildcat.

    “OK,” I muttered, walking on by. “You're just going a little bit crazy, Jared. Nothing to worry about. Just keep walking and hope for the best.


    I didn't stop. I didn't want to acknowledge the existence of the person talking.

    “Hey, I'm real, just so you know! At least as real as you are!”

    “I can't hear you,” I muttered, and thought hard about the weather, trying to crush strangeness with banality. The street was deserted; no one wanted to be out and about on a day like this, when the clouds glowered darkly overhead and the wind cut through you like an icy knife. Right now it wasn't raining, but I was willing to bet it was only a lull between two showers—

    “Maybe even more real than you!”

    I stopped and ground my teeth.

    “Leave me alone!” I snapped, without turning around. “You said you'd wait for someone else!”

    “There isn't anyone else,” replied the cat pragmatically. “And I'm cold and I want to use your house to sleep in.”

    At this juncture, I felt it prudent to plead with the gods. It wasn't that I believed in them, more that I was getting increasingly desperate for a way out of this insanity to present itself.

    “Please,” I begged the sky, “please end this madness!”

    “Madness? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Let me come with you and we'll talk!”

    I reached for my earphones, stuck them firmly in my ears and turned the volume on my iPod all the way up. I was not going to listen to a talking cat. I had a mammoth task ahead of me and not much time to do it, and there was no way that I was going to let some damn hallucination distract me.

    I stalked down the road, blocking out all noise but the music; I didn't know if the cat was still following me, but I sincerely hoped it wasn't.
    Something sharp pricked my calf, and I looked down, yelping in pain.

    The wildcat looked back. It did say something, but it was lost in the blare of the music. Shaking the cat off, I continued on my way. There was only an hour and a half until Regenschein's closed, and it was still twenty minutes away.

    So the walk continued: me steadfastly ignoring her; she keeping up with equal determination. It started raining again, and I thought she might leave to seek shelter – but no. She stayed, the rain matting her fur and plastering it across her body, turning her into the very image of abandonment and sadness.

    I stopped at the corner of the next street, beneath a shopfront canopy, and sighed. Taking out my earphones, I asked:

    “Are you trying to look as pathetic as possible to gain my sympathy?”

    “That was the idea, yeah. Is it working?”

    “No,” I said shortly. “It isn't.”

    I shoved my earphones back in, and kept walking. I mean, the very fact that the wildcat was trying such a trick was proof of its untrustworthy nature, and living in the city you tend to suspect the worst of strangers – especially if they're talking cats, and possibly hallucinations to boot.

    Actually, I wasn't so sure about that last bit now. She was getting drenched and leaving pawprints on the wet pavement, and unless my imagination was paying incredible attention to detail, that was probably a sign that she was in some way real. But I wasn't ready to accept that yet; after all, she was a talking cat. That's not exactly the sort of thing that's... well, that's possible.

    As I drew nearer to Regenschein's, I saw a few more people on the streets; some limped or held arms at odd angles, and those I knew were the ones on their way back. I scanned their bags carefully: bulky, most of them – they’d managed to get stuff then. Others weren't so lucky – they were just as battered, but had come away empty-handed. It was going to be a bleak day for them tomorrow.

    There were a few people on their way there, too, and that was about it: the day before Eostre was traditionally a holiday, and only those who needed to went out today. Even Black City stopped for Eostre, despite it all; everyone liked an excuse to shelter from the harsh weather and get drunk by the fire. It was a timeless joy that transcended even the rapid modernisation of the last century.

    Then at last the great marble façade appeared, complete with an elegant tower that bore its own clock: Regenschein's, Black City's premier department store, and the last place to sell out in the Eostre present shopping frenzy owing to its vast quantity of stock and high prices. Here came the desperate folk who had left it too late to buy presents elsewhere, those who suddenly remembered a person they'd forgotten to buy for before, the people who, in spite of all the warnings that places were selling out, continued to blithely tell themselves that they'd be able to get something nearer the time – in short, people like me, Jared Black, who were universally regarded as terminally disorganised.

    “Ooh, you're going shopping?” asked the cat as I pulled out my earphones and wound them around my iPod. “I love that sh*t! Can I come with you?”

    I started. A talking cat was one thing – a swearing talking cat was quite another. It gave her a kind of earthy reality, a concrete solidity, that placed her firmly in the real world. Only that, of course, wasn't possible.

    “No,” I said at last. “I don't think they let cats inside.”

    “Huh. That's pretty racist of them.”

    “No, it's just that it's a classy place.”

    “That's pretty racist of you.” The cat twitched her nose. “What're you buying, then?”

    “Presents. Now go and bother someone else – look, there're loads of people around here.”

    There were as well. I was getting a bit worried that someone would see me talking to a cat and decide I was a lunatic.

    “Oh no. I've decided on you now, and you don't get a say in it. I'm a very determined girl.”

    “You're not a girl. You're a cat.”

    “Well. I was a girl. Before I was a cat. I think.” The wildcat paused. “I could've been a boy that both changed species and sex, I guess, but that'd be weird.”

    I did not dignify that with an answer. A talking cat was already pretty bloody weird, thank you very much, and I saw no reason to waste my breath pointing it out.

    “I'm going to wait here, if I can't come in,” said the cat, sitting down in the shelter of a doorway. “See you when you get back!”

    “Not if I can help it,” I muttered under my breath. I'd leave from one of the other entrances, and go home and away from this madness as quickly as possible.

    I narrowed my eyes, thrust my iPod deep into my pocket, where it probably wouldn't break, and tightened my grip on the metal pipe I'd brought with me. Five years of shopping for gifts far too late had taught me a thing or two about late buying tactics.

    Regenschein's was ordinarily an elegant place, Black City's Harrods; it rose like a slim pillar of pale ice from the surrounding area, setting itself apart with a small, tasteful sign that gave its name, and with the burly doorman who scowled at those who looked poor when they went in, and smiled at those who looked rich.

    Now, though, it was a war zone.

    I'm not normally a violent guy – and neither are any of the other people who shop at Regenschein's the day before Eostre. But when you're in a situation like that, you have to do whatever you can to survive. The usual rules of human decency went out of the window at times like this; there was an unspoken agreement that no one was to blame for what went on during the brawl, and that the police were never to be involved.

    I passed the doorman, who had donned his riot helmet and shield for the occasion; he nodded at the length of pipe I was carrying and said:

    “You might want something a bit more threatening than that.”

    “Bad year?” I asked.

    He sucked in a long breath through his teeth.

    “Worst I've seen for a while.”

    “I was here in '08.”

    The 2008 Eostre sale at Regenschein's had been the bloodiest in recent history; it had been a miracle that the store had been repairable, let alone that I'd managed to escape unscathed. The doorman, suitably impressed, said no more, and opened the doors for me. Immediately, a shoe that may or may not have still had a foot in it sailed out, heading directly for my head, and he blocked it expertly with his riot shield.

    “Careful in there,” he said grimly, and after exchanging with me the nod of old soldiers, he shut the door after me.

    As soon as I entered, I was sucked into a massive storm of sound and fury; knowing that it signified nothing, I didn't allow myself to be distracted by it, and instead took in my immediate surroundings at a glance. Someone fell over heavily right behind me, and a display case toppled over a little way ahead; immediately, it was covered with scavenging shoppers, like piranhas converging on a corpse in the water. To my left, two old ladies were duelling with walking sticks over a silver candelabrum; to my right, a man hung from a light fixture, desperately clutching his hard-won remote-controlled aeroplane as competitors leaped and swung at his heels. All around them were more fights, and around them were even more, and around them were still more; without stopping to think about the danger of everything, I plunged straight into the fray and headed towards the main display rooms.

    Mum, Harlow, Cordelia, Anastasia, I thought, deflecting the first blow – a porcelain table-lamp swung by a middle-aged woman – with the haft of the pipe. Four people, four presents. Go! The lamp shattered, and the woman, vaguely surprised, followed it up with a baseball bat; I had experience of people who used these, and, knowing that she had no room to swing it properly, ducked under it and rammed her aside with the side of the pipe. She disappeared into the crowd with a despairing wail, and I forced my way past a man defending a ten-kilo sack of pet food to get to the fallen display-case.

    Unfortunately, there was nothing left on it except a china shepherdess of such exquisite ugliness that even now no one wanted it, so I jumped over the wreckage and headed for the lifts. The fifth floor would have toys, if any were still left – so maybe I could find something there for Harlow.

    The twenty feet to the lift was a difficult journey; at least three people lunged for me through the hubbub, thinking that maybe I had something on me. I beat two of them back with the pipe, and the last one, seeing that I had no items yet, gibbered at me like a savage in an old movie before retreating into the mob.

    There was one final knot of four people at the lift doors, each intent on getting in as soon as it arrived; knowing what was to happen, I stepped back as the doors opened, and watched as about nine people flooded out, sweeping my four competitors away with them. Somewhat smugly, I slid alone into the lift and slammed my hand down on the button to close the doors. Someone darted in after me, and then suddenly the noise and confusion was cut off and replaced with mild music as the lift began to rise.

    I leaned back against the wall, breathing heavily, and looked left at the other person who'd got in. He was tall and gaunt, and his clothes ripped and bloody in places; he looked like he'd been living rough in the jungle for about five years. The way he leaned on the handrail suggested that something had happened to his leg – but he was clutching a 1000-piece jigsaw victoriously to his chest. Those were a favourite of the elderly – he was lucky to have got away with both it and his life. Most people would only have managed one or the other.

    “Been here half an hour,” he wheezed, seeing me looking. “Like a madhouse here, it really is.” His breath came in ragged gasps; if it hadn't been for the fact that he was wearing a suit, however rumpled it might be, I might have mistaken him for a soldier halfway through dying on the battlefield. “It's killing me.”

    “You did well to get a jigsaw,” I observed. “The elderly usually grab those.”

    “Don't I know it,” he replied, wiping a curious mixture of blood and sweat from his eyes. “Let me tell you, a Zimmer frame makes a surprisingly effective close-quarters weapon.” He paused. “Going to the toy floor?”

    “Yeah, I need something for my little brother.”

    “I'm going there too, for my niece.” He looked at me. “Alliance?”

    I agreed; two people stood a far better chance of surviving the chaos than one alone, and of getting hold of what they wanted. We shook on it, just as the lift pinged to a halt, and the doors slid open.

    Immediately, we both leaped into action; I went first, knocking two warring parents out of the way so my injured compatriot could get past.

    “Over there!” he cried, pointing. “Lego!”

    I looked, and saw them too: two or three large, flat boxes on a shelf three aisles away. It was a miracle no one had taken them already – Lego was about as popular an Eostre gift as you could find – and so we threw ourselves towards them at once, driving like icebreakers through a sea of bodies. Someone punched me in the eye; another trod heavily on my foot. A third person made a grab at the thin man's jigsaw, but I fended her off with the end of the pipe and sent her crashing through a fight over a cuddly Blitzle.

    I flung myself through a gap, and hauled my friend after me; now, there were just a couple of people between us and the Lego...


    I reeled back a step, head spinning; out of the corner of my eye, I saw something blurry heading straight for my face, and ducked instinctively. I heard someone squeal and saw my attacker overbalance and tumble over me; recovering my senses, I jumped back up just in time to see the aggressor was a little grey-haired lady who was even now in the process of stuffing the bricks back into her handbag.

    As soon as she saw I was moving again, she took another swing at me. Desperately trying not to kill her – she was quite old and looked a bit fragile – I prodded her gently with the pole. This proved to be a mistake: the brick-bag connected squarely with my chest and, if the arm whirling it had been twenty years younger, I'd probably have snapped a rib. As it was, it just hurt. A lot.

    I fell to the floor, winded, and looked up to see the old lady readying herself for the final blow—

    —only for the thin man to tackle her, catching her full in the side and throwing her back into the crowd.

    “Get up!” he cried. “Come on!”

    “Yuh,” I gasped in response, and struggled upright. We had just got moving again when the old lady, with a bruise on her forehead and fire in her eyes, sprang up before us and whacked me with her bag again.

    I saw it first!” she screeched, her voice resounding like the cry of some avenging harpy. From nowhere, a group of elderly people materialised around her, each brandishing their own weapons and looking as if they were about to murder us.

    Move!” yelled the thin man, shoving me past. The next thing I knew, I'd turned and saw him at the centre of a ring of old folks, their eyes all fixed hungrily on his jigsaw.

    “Come on!” I cried back. “Push on!”

    One of the old people lashed out at him with a walking stick; he ducked it, put the jigsaw inside his coat and drew out what appeared to be a rapier from his pocket.

    “Go on without me!” he replied, parrying a second blow and slashing at an old woman's snatching hand. “I'll keep them busy!”

    “But your niece—!”

    “She has parents – they can buy her presents.” His blade was a blur, flickering from point to point around the circle as the encircling elderly attacked. “Go!”



    He turned to look at me, and it was that momentary lapse of concentration that was his undoing. Someone released a Jack-in-the-box from a shelf into his hand; the Jack's pointy hat jabbed his thumb and he dropped his sword with a yelp. A moment later, he was just a face between the clawing hands of the old people, screaming wildly; a few seconds later, he had vanished entirely in a swell of cardigans and wrinkled skin.


    I lashed out at the nearest old person with my pipe, but I was shoved aside; I was no match for five of them at once. There was nothing more I could do, and if I stood still I would be crushed – so I left the thin man and ran for the Lego.

    As I got close, I noticed a man on his hands and knees, searching for something on the bottom shelf; I stepped onto his back and jumped off without breaking stride, crashing into the top of the shelves where the Lego was and snatching up the boxes mid-leap. Toys, pieces of wood and one teenager with an armful of Lego rained down on the unfortunates on the other side of the shelf; thankfully, I landed on a fat man's belly, bounced off and kept running. One woman watched me open-mouthed, and shouted in a high, keening wail:

    “He's got Lego!”

    Immediately, every eye locked onto me; I swore under my breath and shoulder-barged another shelf, knocking it over and clearing a path for the next five yards. Then it was back into the fray, only this time everyone was focusing their efforts specifically against me. I gave as good as I got, and when I decided I could take no more I started throwing Lego sets behind me. Each one would distract my pursuers for just long enough for me to get another foot ahead, and soon I could see the little brown door that meant salvation; I fought as close to it as I could, dumped all but one of the Lego sets and flung myself through just as the entire crowd piled onto the heap of Danish construction toys, crushing them entirely. If I'd been caught up in it, I would almost certainly have broken something, or possibly everything.

    Here on the other side of the door, though, all was quiet. The shelves were perfectly straight and ordered; there were a few people wandering around and browsing, apparently completely unaware of the chaos reigning outside. This was the book department, and since very few people read books in Black City, very few people gave them as Eostre gifts – hence the calm and peace.

    I leaned against the wall for a few moments, breathing hard and trying not to think about what fate might have befallen the thin man, and then set off in search of Cordelia's present.

    “What did she want?” I muttered, settling the pipe in a comfortable position over one shoulder and tucking the Lego set more securely under my arm. “Time something?”

    I looked up and down the fiction aisles, hoping to jog my memory; I found nothing, so repeated it, and then saw something that I recognised as being one of the books Cordelia had said she'd like for Eostre.

    My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon,” I read from the cover. “Non-fiction? I thought she didn't read that stuff.” It didn't matter; I had two out of four presents, and I headed towards the back stairs, thinking things over. Dad's present was a collective gift from the family, so I only had Mum and Anastasia to provide for now. One of those would be easily placated with a photograph album or a nice picture frame or something – anything vaguely tasteful, really. The other would be harder to please; I knew exactly what she wanted, and it was going to be almost impossible to get.

    I hacked and bashed my way downstairs to the third floor, where I stalked and hunted a man in his thirties who I'd seen picking up some scented candles; I ran him to ground in the luxury soft furnishings aisle, wrapped him tightly in an exotic rug and ran off with the candles while he was struggling to get free. On the way, I saw an abandoned shopping basket, and availed myself of it; my hands were getting full, and it was becoming trickier and trickier to effectively wield the pipe.

    The next and final stop was the sixth floor, and the prospect of going there made even me, the hardened last-minute shopper, stop and shudder. If all I had been through so far today was a battle, then what lay up there was the apocalypse; the people up there were more fiercely dedicated to what they had come to seek than any others. Their fight began weeks before any others, and ended long after they did. For the sixth floor was where the video games were sold, and so it was where the hardcore gamers congregated, exchanging for a short while Xbox controllers for knives, and computer mice for makeshift maces. In short, I really didn't want to go there – but I had to get Anastasia what she wanted, and so I had no choice.

    The stairs leading up there were ominously deserted; from above, I heard a sudden burst of machine-gun fire. I gulped. This wasn't going to be a pretty sight.

    I paused at the top of the stairs and peered around the corner. Hell stared back at me: hundreds and hundreds of people, fighting with more fury and less honour than I'd ever seen human beings display before. In the corner, I could see a sort of fortress of broken TVs and games consoles; all around it were nooses of looped extension cable – evidently traps of some kind, because some people were dangling from them by their legs, thrashing and cursing, while others stole their hard-won electronics. This was a whole different situation to the fight downstairs. Those were brawls – this was all-out war.

    “OK,” I told myself, trying to stop myself hyperventilating. “It's not so bad.”

    At this point, I saw someone drop silently from the ceiling onto the back of someone picking up a dropped game; they bore them away through a trapdoor and vanished from sight.

    “OK, it is that bad,” I admitted. “But it won't be too hard. Just one game, yeah? One game... that every other gamer in Black City wants to get their hands on.” I drew in a deep breath, told myself that I would be richly rewarded for doing this, and, filled with a sort of mad desperation, stepped out into the room.

    Almost immediately, people began to notice me: who was I? I didn't look like a gamer. What was I doing here?

    “Annie, you had better be really f*cking grateful for this,” I muttered, as a group of wild-eyed guys waving razor blades around began to walk towards me.

    “What,” began one, bringing his razor rather too close to my face for comfort – but he never finished, owing to the pole I swung into his arm. His friends lunged for me instantly, but I swung the pole left – thwack – and right – crack – and they fell to either side of me like a pair of ragdolls. I rammed the first guy in the chest with my shoulder and knocked him down, then ran past them, heading for the PC section. I snatched my foot away from a trap, ducked a brace of DVDs that sailed overhead like razor discs, and rolled behind the cover of a nearby rack of WiiU controllers; not daring to stop, I jumped up again immediately and ran forwards just as a spear thudded into the floor where I'd been a moment before.

    “Jesus!” I cried, glimpsing it out of the corner of my eye. “Who the hell has f*cking spears?”

    “You shall not pass!” screamed a nerd who popped up in front of me; I batted him aside and he crashed through a veil of gaming magazines.
    “Is everyone here going to make stupid references like – sh*t!”

    Another spear passed through the rack of controllers and vanished, right next to my head; I doubled my pace, rounded a corner and cut down the pepper-spray-wielding girl who tried to ambush me there. For a moment, I thought I'd hit Anastasia – but thankfully, it was some random stranger, and I leaped over her as she fell without a second thought.

    “Spears!” I yelled again, as another pair of them shot out from behind a rack of Blu-rays and passed either side of me. “Again with the spears!” I ducked under the one in front of me and straightened up to see the counter at the end of the aisle, the clerk protected by toughened glass. He was the one I was after; video games weren't actually kept on display, after all, only their cases. I'd get the game directly from him—

    A tall man with bronzed limbs and a bare chest stepped out in front of me. His hair hung around his head like a white curtain, and on his back was a ridiculous quantity of spears.

    “Turn back,” he told me.

    “What the hell is this?” I asked, not unreasonably.

    “If you go on, you will perish.”

    I sighed. I guessed there never really was much hope that I'd reach the counter without encountering at least one supreme lunatic.

    “Come on, then,” I said resignedly. “Give it—”

    A spear hurtled towards my head at alarming speed, and I threw myself flat on my front to dodge it; in a trice, the man had another weapon in hand, and was about to pin me to the floor like a butterfly when I knocked his feet out from under him with a sweeping blow from the pipe. I might have stayed to make a pithy remark, but I wasn't willing to take the risk, so I scrambled to my feet, pushed a rack of PS3 games over onto him to make sure he stayed down, and headed for the counter.

    “Hello,” said the clerk brightly. “What can I do for you?”

    “Do you have any copies of Bjørn?” I asked.

    “Sure,” he replied, and fed one through the slot in the glass. I paid, and left.

    “That was easy,” I said to myself, and was immediately set upon by a seriously pissed-off spearman.


    Two and a half hours later, there was a heap of untidily-wrapped presents under my bed and a load of tiny pieces of tape stuck under my fingernails and on the carpet; I slumped in my chair, exhausted, and flung the roll of tape at the wall. It bounced off and landed with a soft whumph on top of my duvet.

    “Take that, presents,” I said. “Defeated for another year.”

    The whole lot was done now: gifts, cards, labels – all wrapped, named and hidden from prying eyes. That was one of the advantages of buying them all so late; both of my siblings were adept at finding hidden presents if they had enough time. Harlow was the worst – you can't reason with an eight-year-old if they're stubborn enough, and he was – but Cordelia was pretty bad as well. I think it's because our parents called her Cordelia; if there's any name guaranteed to turn a girl weird, it's Cordelia. I'm ninety per cent sure that there hasn't been a normal Cordelia in the whole history of Western civilisation.

    I closed my eyes and leaned back. My whole body ached; I was so bruised that I'd gone the same colour as a Smurf, and my arms and legs stung from a thousand cuts of all sizes from paper cut to sword wound.

    “I am never doing that again,” I muttered. I'd said the same thing last year, so I didn't really believe myself – but it had to be said. Regenschein's on the day before Eostre was just too much for mere mortals such as I.

    There came a cheeping noise from the shelf, and I opened one eye a crack.

    “Oh, you're finally awake, are you?” I asked. “Took you long enough.”

    Candy squawked at me and hopped down from the shelf to the bed to investigate the tape and see if it was killable. It wasn't, so she pushed it aside with her beak and turned to look at me.

    “What do you want?”

    She jumped onto my lap and stared deep into my eyes in that unnerving, unblinking way that only she could manage.

    “Food? Didn't I feed you this morning?”

    “Skeep,” she chirped, and I sighed.

    Fine,” I said, patting my shoulder. “Up.”

    Candy climbed up my sleeve and gnawed my ear affectionately; I winced and pushed her heavy beak away.

    “I told you not to do that,” I said, getting up and opening the door. “It really, really hurts. Last time I had to have stitches, remember?”

    She stared at me innocently. I knew she did remember – whatever my uncle said, she was damn clever – but she'd never let on unless it suited her.

    I went downstairs and was just entering the kitchen when the phone rang; I put Candy down on the counter, where she engaged a stray fork in a duel to the death, and answered it.



    My blood ran cold. In all the confusion, I'd completely forgotten about her.

    “How did you get this number?” I asked in a dry whisper.

    “Oh, that's simple,” said the wildcat, laughing. “I stole your phone and searched your contacts.”

    “You what?” My hand flew to my pocket, but it was empty; the phone really was gone.

    “Call me paranoid, but I had a feeling you were going to try and ditch me.” There was a certain veiled menace in her voice, I thought; I had underestimated her, and I really hoped it didn't end with my throat clawed out. “So I thought I'd have a back-up plan.”

    “What – what do you want?”

    “Tell me where you live and I'll come and bring your phone back,” she said. “It's starting to get dark and I want to come indoors.”

    “Can't we just meet somewhere and—”

    “No. I won't give it back unless we meet at your house. And I'll know if it isn't, because your house will smell of you, and cats have a pretty good sense of smell. As I discovered earlier by falling into a dumpster.”

    “Fine.” I gave her my address and she hung up. I leaned back against the wall, suddenly feeling even more exhausted than before. “God damn it,” I muttered. “Thieving little...”

    There was a sudden squawk from my side, and I looked up to see that Candy had tripped over the fork and fallen over. Now she was grovelling before it and occasionally looking at me to see if I would come and convince it to spare its life.

    “You're so damn defeatist,” I told her, taking the fork away and noting with regret that she had put it completely beyond use in the course of the fight. “Here, let's get you something to eat.”

    I sighed, and started rummaging in the cupboard for a tin of dog food. It almost definitely wasn't what she would have eaten back when her kind weren't extinct, but it didn't seem to do her any harm – and given that she wouldn't eat anything else except the very largest insects and any confectionery she could get her claws on, it was pretty much all we fed her. If we gave her the choice, she'd probably live exclusively off chocolate and Skittles – hence her name.

    I found a tin, opened it and set it on the counter for her. Then I closed my eyes and thought. I might have survived the battle at Regenschein's and got the presents, but I had a literal cat burglar to deal with now – and I had a feeling that things were about to get a whole lot worse.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
    Silent_Vibrava likes this.
  2. ninjanerd

    ninjanerd Well-Known Member

    First response!

    Is Candy an Archen?

    This seems like an interesting beginning. Being English but in the States, your description of shopping before Eoster seems like the Black Friday sales; only more civilised. Seems interesting, can't wait for the rest!
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  3. Rotomknight


    Great! Red trip to the end of time! Please put me on the pm list!
    Please tell me we will see pigzie soon, Bond, as always, and jormund/ the deal with that cat!
  4. Azurus

    Azurus The Ancient Absol

    Wow, you captured the essence of Black City very nicely, even when they aren't last minute shoppers the people are still crazy.

    Talking cat huh? Well then, at least we have something uncommon to hold our interest in this crazy world of yours, after al, it does no good to have something fun to read but entirely possible to have happen in real life, so the appearance of this cat makes this great.

    I think it's wierd that if they have such a large stock, why would they fight over it? Oh well, to each their own.

    Definitely looking forward to the next installment, you never disappoint.
  5. greatguy

    greatguy Back.

    Black City was excellently portrayed-those people are maniacs.

    Anyway, is White Forest going to make an appearance, or is this stuck in the Black version (Drayden being Gym leader, etc.)?

    Oh yes, and is the Entralink going to appear? That place is just...odd.

    I laughed.

    So I take it this is another comedy? I preferred My Trip to the End of Time over Guide, comedy-wise, but that's just me :p

    Could you put me on your PM list please?
  6. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Yes, she is. We'll find out more about her soon enough - and about Unova, since its history is integral to the plot of its story.

    Added! And soon enough, we'll be seeing a few old faces, and an explanation for that bizarre wildcat.

    Yeah, a talking cat - though as we'll see, she can do quite a lot more than talk. We'll find out more about her later, but for now all we need to know is that something very weird has happened there.

    Black City is mental. It's like if you stuffed a lion into a biscuit tin, that's how mental it is. Unova (at least in Black Version) seems to me to be a dominant world power, and certainly has a rather scary consumer culture. (Seriously, talking to all those people in the Black City houses is really disturbing.)

    Anyway, they fight because there's very little left. By the day before Eostre, almost everything's been bought, and Regenschein's is the only place with anything left - which is not to say that it has very much.

    How perceptive. I have certain ideas about Unova that mean that both Black City and White Forest will be appearing, and the Entralink is very, very important indeed.

    Now, as to genre: this is a comedy, because I felt like writing one. However, I'm going to do my best to keep it somewhere between Trip and Guide; a certain character will pull it towards Guide, but I'm hoping that Jared, Lauren and Cheren will all pull it back towards Trip and prevent the story slipping out of control.

    And I'll add you to the PM list.

    Well, this was a good start; I was kind of uncertain about how a talking cat would go down, but I think it went well. Thanks for reading, and I hope I can continue to entertain you all.

  7. Jadgirl04

    Jadgirl04 Pretty Deadly

    Yay, a new story!!! :D First things first, can I be put on the PM list please? I'm not on very often, but it tells me what chapter I've read up to instead of wasting about five minutes time looking for it XD
    On with the review!

    And so the madness begins...



    NEVER underestimate old people. They can get away with blue murder if you let them.

    Is he meant to be from a game or something? (Hardly knows of any)

    An Archen? Called Candy?
    ...Thats officially the best idea ever.

    Crafty Kit. Nuf' said.

    Aww... is that all? Can't wait for the next chapter now! :D
  8. Rotomknight


    Hey, I wish you would put the swearing in Nadsat (?)
    Still thinking kitty is jorland in accident!
    What is Eoster?
  9. Knightfall

    Knightfall Blazing Wordsmith

    Why hello, I do believe that it's that time again.

    Anyways, I'd like to apologize for leaving the final chapter(s) of Trip without any imput in my part, though I can simply say that I love how you ended the story. You manage to wrap up everything and then you spite Pearl out of her story's happy ending. Iago, I hope you're happy-- strike that, you probably are.
    Ummm, may misfourtune of the most foul kind be forever heaped upon you, your stolen wealth, and your island castle/TV series!

    Moving on, I love how not even two paragraphs into the story, the most basic laws of nature are already broken with this cat.

    Another point you seemed to make was that this "girl" was a wildcat, not a Pokemon. A regular animal, in a world of superpowered monsters. The odds are not in her favor at all.

    Well, at least she was able to find our male protagonist's cell phone. Cat burgler indeed.

    My grandmother was constantly asking why I was laughing to myself yesterday. I couldn't tell her it was because I was reading a scene where the elderly were ripping apart a man for a jigsaw puzzle. I am never going to forget that entire scene.

    Ah, Legos, how my childhood revolved around thy. How thy plastic blocks kept my younger self occupied for hours upon end. How I love you.

    Nice bit inserting your previous story into the book store scene. I expected nothing less.

    Well, I for one, am absolutely enthralled about the prospect of another amazing story. Please put me on the PM list.

    Knightfall signing off... ;005;
  10. Missingno. Master

    Missingno. Master Poison-type Trainer

    I only have one thing to say.

    The PM list.

    Add me to it.
  11. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    It isn't from a game. It was going to be, which is why I mention he has white hair, but then I decided it was too long and the joke didn't sustain itself, so I took it out.

    Sorry, but no. I have good reasons for keeping the swearing as it is in this story; we'll find out more later.

    As for Eostre, it's the festival that gives its name to Easter: an ancient celebration prevalent throughout a lot of pre-Christian Europe. Don't worry, I'm going to explain more about that later.

    Yes, I'm sure he's very, very happy.

    Well, I always felt that regular animals had to have something going for them if they coexist with Pokémon - so I wouldn't be surprised if you see some creative rethinking of the way nature works in the next few chapters.

    Added! And that's not all our wildcat can do. She's quite a.... colourful character.

    The PM list.

    You're added to it.

  12. greatguy

    greatguy Back.

    Well, regular animals don't necessarily need to be overpowered-look at grass in areas where wild buffalo live. The buffalo eat some grass, but they don't eat too much because they are in turn eaten by predators. Also, if they eat too much they woukd die of starvation. Regular animals would only need their own predators to have predators, and the ecosystem would be balanced.

    Also, it's strange that White Forest isn't exactly a Ranger utopia. People there, at least, seem to be sane.
  13. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Well, yeah, but since many Pokémon can take lightning bolts or blasts of fire to the face, and are capable of retaliating in kind, you have to admit that they'd do a pretty good job of outcompeting normal animals. I'm not overpowering regular animals to compensate, I'm just assuming that wild Pokémon don't know their own capabilities - a wild Charizard, for instance, will attack with tooth, claw and fire, but won't realise it could cut the air with its wing to create an Air Slash - and that normal animals tend to be wilier and partially resistant to some common Pokémon attacks that they would encounter in the wild, like fire-breathing and psychic suggestion.

    Exactly. People in White Forest are sane. There is a response to this I'd really like to make, but I can't without ruining my first major plot point, so I'll leave it for now.

  14. Ga'Hooleone

    Ga'Hooleone Who's laughing now?

    Crazy as always. Cutlerine!

    PM List like always please, after that ending to Trip I can't wait to see how this one will turn out! The department store situation already got me interested.
  15. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    OK. Listed!

  16. Rotomknight


    Master culterine,
    i looked at the pm list and you did not add me.
    This shall be epic

    Rank UP! PLZ ADD ME TO THE PM LIST!!!!1!!!!!

    that was intentional
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012
  17. LadyLady

    LadyLady Well-Known Member

    This is so crazy! Well done the whole shopping scene was brilliant, I love how you over exaggerated the last minute shipping thing, very comedic. But at some points in that scene I was getting abit lost, it might just be me though, well done though! :)
  18. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    All right. Added.

    Thanks. I'll look into clarifying things, though I think that a little bit of a sense of confusion adds to the effect by simulating Jared's thoughts.

  19. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    There is a certain Trainer in Pokémon Black and White who is named Jared, and who has an Archen. I didn't realise this until after I created Jared, but feel free to imagine they're the same person if you like.

    Chapter Two: Magpies

    “...And so, sir, in conclusion, we haven't found him or it yet,” finished the underling.

    There was a pause, and it was not a pause in which nothing needed to be said; nor was it a pause in which he and the man he was talking to shared a companionable moment of peace. This was the kind of pause that happens the second before the clouds burst and the volcano explodes. This was the kind of pause that actively hunted down and killed noises that tried to break it.

    In short, this was a very, very bad pause.

    The underling waited. All sounds seemed to have ceased, strangled by the silence; he could no longer hear the cars outside, or the movement of feet in the halls. He couldn't even hear the sound of his own breath – though that might have been because he was holding it.

    Then at last, at long, long last, his boss spoke.

    “It's been forty-eight hours,” he said. “Don't you agree that in that amount of time he could have taken it anywhere at all?”

    “He hasn't left the country,” said the underling in a voice that had more than a little of the mouse about it. “We are a trace—”

    “In that case, you must find yourself asking yourself something,” the boss said softly, rising from behind his desk. His gaze remained on the window; he had not looked at the underling since he had entered the room. “That question being, of course, why have you not found him already if he is still in the country?”

    His voice was quiet – calm, even – and yet it pierced the underling to the core, sliding deep into his breast and sinking icy claws into his heart.

    “Zuh,” he replied, his larynx having apparently been replaced with a mango.

    “You don't have long,” the boss continued, looking out of the window as if nothing much was happening. “You must find him and get that artefact back at once. Do you understand?”

    The underling nodded furiously.

    “Good. Now go on and get looking.”

    The underling turned to go, legs turning to water in his relief – only to freeze as that calm voice called out:

    “Oh, and Smythe?”

    The underling turned, and saw that the boss was now looking right at him, his synthetic eye gleaming like blood in the sunlight.

    “Failure will of course count as treachery to the Party,” he said lightly. “With all the attendant issues that implies.” He smiled warmly. “Now, hurry along. We'd all sleep easier with that artefact back in our hands, don't you think?”

    “Y-yes, sir.”

    The underling's voice was thin and weak; he sounded on the verge of collapse. He wasted no time in hurrying out of the room and away down the corridor, the memory of that voice, that eye, that horrible smile, resounding in his head like the echo of a thunderclap.

    “Right,” he muttered to himself, watching his fingers shake. “I think I need a drink.”



    The doorbell. Immediately, I sprang into action: Harlow was at his piano lesson, Mum was out at Granny's, and Dad was observing his Eostre's Eve ritual of getting hammered with his best friend Steve, but Cordelia was still here and I didn't want her answering the door. The talking cat was my problem and I was going to deal with it before anyone else found out and complicated matters.

    “I've got it!” called Cordelia from the hall. Damn, I thought, I probably should have been answering the door instead of thinking back then.

    “No!” I cried, lunging for the door – but it was too late. I burst into the hall to see her pull open the door and stare out at the apparently empty space beyond.

    “Down here,” said the wildcat, and Cordelia's gaze travelled downwards.
    There was a long, long pause.

    “So, uh, is Jared in?” asked the cat.

    Cordelia nodded mutely, and turned to look at me. I could see a fear that the laws of reality had suddenly collapsed burning in her eyes, and shrugged helplessly. It wasn't as if I had any answers.

    “Hi,” said the cat, slipping past Cordelia. “It's me!”

    “Yeah, I know. You're... hard to mistake.” I hesitated. “I, uh... I guess you learned my name from my phone?”

    It wasn't the right question. I hadn't meant to say something so pointless; I'd meant to say something like, “Give me the phone and get the hell out of here.”

    “Yeah,” replied the wildcat. “I also learned that Anastasia's going to kill you if you don't reply to her texts soon, but hey! Can't have everything. Oh, and that reminds me – my name's Halley.”

    I didn't ask how that reminded her.

    “Where's my phone?” I asked, not acknowledging the introduction.

    “Somewhere safe,” said Halley elusively.

    “You didn't bring it?”

    “I thought you'd throw me out as soon as you got it back,” she explained. “So I thought I'd keep—”


    Halley and I jumped and turned to look at Cordelia, who had just slammed the door. Hard.

    “OK,” she said, “will someone please tell me what's going on here?”

    “Easy,” said Halley. “I woke up today in the woods to find I had amnesia and had turned into a cat. I came into the city looking for help, found Jared here and stole his phone so he'd let me into the house and give me a place to stay for the night. As well as,” she added, turning back to me, “a base of operations while I try and discover exactly what happened to me.”

    “Wait, I didn't—”

    “A talking cat?” asked Cordelia faintly.

    “Yeah, Jared went through that stage earlier,” Halley told her. “You get over it pretty quickly. Anyway, Jared, you have no choice if you want your phone back.”

    I grimaced, but she was right: I had no choice. My phone had cost not much less than £300, and I couldn't afford to lose it.

    “Oh, fine,” I grumbled. “But stay out of sight, yeah? My mum hates cats, and I really don't want to have to explain to everyone why there's a talking cat in the house.”

    Halley purred.

    “Sure, I get it,” she said. “Stealthy as a f*cking ninja, that's me. I'm like – like Adam Jenson, that's how sneaky I am.”

    “A talking swearing cat,” muttered Cordelia, and I could tell she was going down the same path of thought as I had earlier.

    “Hang in there, Cords,” I said sympathetically. “You'll get there, just give it a moment.”

    “Hey!” cried Halley. “You're ignoring me!”

    “Shut up,” I replied. “My sister takes priority.”

    “Is that who she is?” asked Halley. “That makes sense.” She paused. “Any other brothers or sisters I need to know about?”

    “One. Harlow. He's eight, likes dinosaurs and isn't in right now.”

    With a sudden burst of mental exertion, I drew together the disparate threads of the current situation in my head and tried to make some coherent sense out of them.

    “OK,” I said, frowning. “Cords, she's not leaving until we help her. Any ideas?”

    “Uh... yeah,” she answered, pulling herself together with a visible effort. “She's English.”

    “That explains a lot,” I muttered, realising that Halley had indeed been speaking with a marked English accent all this time. “She's already taken over my life.”

    In 1702, the English had conquered Unova, sparking a chain of progression that had led to our humble nation rising to become a global superpower after the Second World War; unaffected by the battles raging in Europe, and full of formerly British money, Unova had quietly asked to leave the Empire in 1945, and Britain hadn't been in any position to refuse. Now we were up there with America on the world stage – and unlike them, our power still wasn't waning. Judging by the ease with which Halley had conquered my home, she could've been a pretty effective vanguard for some kind of revenge attack.

    Not that we had any problem with the English these days – in fact, we kind of liked them. We used their language, after all, and our pound was based on theirs; if we hadn't been annexed for the Empire, we'd still be a backwater island nation worshipping trees in the middle of nowhere.

    “Oh,” said Halley, sitting down and scratching her head with a rear paw. “Wow. Really should've realised that one myself.”

    “So... why were you in Unova?” asked Cordelia, beginning to get into the swing of things.

    “I don't f*cking know, do I?” replied Halley irritably. “That's why I'm here – so you can help me find out.”

    “You swear a lot—”

    “You don't swear enough,” countered Halley pettily.

    “Uh – shall we go in and sit down?” I suggested, both to avert the imminent cat fight and because I was acutely aware that if Mum, Dad or Harlow were to turn up now, I'd face the unenviable task of explaining why I was talking to a wildcat in the hallway.

    “OK,” said Halley. “Lead the way.”

    I did, and a moment later we were arranged on the sofas in the living-room – Halley, with the unerring instinct of a cat, had claimed the comfiest seat, and Cordelia and I sat opposite her, feeling like something had gone wrong with the seating process but uncertain what exactly it was.

    “So,” I began, but was interrupted by a mournful cheep; I looked over the arm of the sofa and saw Candy stalking in, looking vaguely indignant at being left behind in the kitchen.

    “Not now,” I told her. “Go and find something to bite.”

    She wasn't having it: she'd seen Halley now, and I could tell by the gleam in her eyes that she was wondering if she might be edible. I wasn't going to distract her; it'd probably deflate Halley's ego a bit to have her tail bitten.

    “That's not a normal bird,” she stated, catching sight of Candy. “Is that... is that a dinosaur?”

    “Sort of,” I replied. “She's an Archen. Like an Archaeopteryx, but a Pokémon.”
    “In that case, isn't she quite lively for something that's been dead a hundred and fifty million years?”

    “My uncle works at the fossil research lab in Nacrene. They re-sequenced her from fossils, but they didn't have all the DNA so some of the gaps are filled in with eagle. It made her a bit... feisty, so they were going to destroy her – but my uncle kind of liked her, so he stole her and gave her to us to look after last year.” I sighed. “It seemed cool at the time, but she's actually quite annoying.”

    Candy climbed up the side of the sofa, leaving a trail of ragged holes in the fabric, and hopped down to examine Halley more closely; sensing that something was up, the wildcat backed away, arching her back and fluffing her tail – but Candy was undeterred, and lunged clumsily for her nose.

    Sh*t!” squealed Halley, and swatted her on the side of the head with one paw; immediately, Candy flung herself flat on her belly and hid her wings under her head. “Huh? I thought you said she was feisty?”

    “She is,” I answered. “Until something hits her. Then she gives up and hides.”

    “Right. I'm going to ignore that.” Halley turned back to me and Cordelia, and, taking advantage of her diverted attention, Candy scrambled over to me, climbed up my leg and sat in my lap. “So. Can either of you think of anything else that might help me?”

    “Uh... no,” admitted Cordelia. “You really haven't given us much to go on.”


    I heard the front door swing open, and without even pausing to think I stood up, sending Candy flying, grabbed Halley and sprinted for the stairs.

    “Wow,” she muttered, dazed. “You have some serious reflexes there.”

    “I shop the day before Eostre,” I replied, launching myself into my bedroom and dropping her on the desk chair. “I need them.”

    “Yeah, I've been meaning to ask – what is this Eostre ****?”

    “Jared?” called Mum's voice from the hall. “Cordelia?”

    “Hello!” I called back. “I'm just – just finishing wrapping the presents!”

    A moment later, I heard Cordelia say something, and I breathed a sigh of relief. She was safely distracted.

    “What was that?” I asked Halley.

    “What's Eostre?”

    “Er – Easter,” I explained. “That's what you call it in England.”

    “Oh yeah,” she said. “You're pagan here in Unova, aren't you?”

    “Yeah. Our high priests are terrifying. They've been scaring people away from Christian missionaries for hundreds of years.”

    A combination of geographical isolation and rabid druids had kept Unova pagan for longer than the historical record had existed; our ancestors had been Anglo-Saxons, and we'd been worshipping the ése ever since our country had been founded. We didn't really believe in faeries or dragons any more, true, but Woden, Thunor, Frige and the rest certainly resonated more with us than any One God ever had. Why have a single god for everything when you could have a whole pantheon of them? If nothing else, it allowed for more festivals – like Eostre, the feast-day of the goddess of the dawn.

    By this point, you're probably wondering why I know so much about Unovan history and religion. The short answer is that I'm Unovan, and the long answer is that this stuff is drilled into our heads pretty comprehensively in school. I don't know whether there's some guilt about our former status as a British conquest, but people in Unova place a lot of importance on their heritage. I'm not that crazy about it myself – I mean, I live in Black City, where things that happened five minutes ago are generally considered ancient history – but I still know it. Everyone does.

    “Look,” I continued, “just stay here until later, OK? I'll – I'll come back and talk when I can.”

    “All right,” replied Halley, taking the command surprisingly well. “I could use a sleep anyway. Do you have anything to eat?”

    I seriously considered throwing her out of the window for a moment, then remembered that cats can survive that and also that she was my only hope of getting my phone back.

    “I'll see what I can do,” I told her through gritted teeth, and stalked out.


    Eostre's Eve was never quite as good as Eostre itself, and this one in particular wasn't great: I spent the whole evening in a state of heightened tension, waiting and wondering if anyone was going to walk in and ask why I had a wildcat in my room. I could tell Cordelia was feeling the same way; like me, she started whenever anyone said anything that sounded even remotely like 'cat', and slipped away with me after dinner to get back to Halley and make sure she hadn't got up to anything disastrous.

    Thankfully, she hadn't, and was asleep under my bed in a nest of spare wrapping paper.

    “Stop it,” she mumbled when I poked her. “You can't hurt me, I'm dead...”



    She blinked and opened her eyes.

    “What the – oh yeah, I'm in your house.” She cast an eye over herself. “Also still a cat. Huh. So that wasn't a dream, then.”

    “I wish it was,” I muttered. “We're just here to make sure you're all right.”

    “Yeah, I'm fine,” replied Halley lazily. “Just... y'know, whenever you have an idea, come tell me.”

    “That's why I came,” said Cordelia. “I was thinking – perhaps you should retrace your steps from yesterday. See if it triggers any memories.”

    “It's worth a try,” agreed Halley. “OK. We'll go tomorrow.”

    “Uh, tomorrow is Eostre,” I reminded her. “We're not going to be able to get away from the family. If you go tomorrow, you go on your own.”

    Immediately, I wished I hadn't mentioned it. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than sending her off on her own and out of my life – whereas now, she'd probably hang around all day tomorrow.

    “Right. Well, I guess I can do that,” she said. “It's not like I need you to come or anything.”

    “Yeah. Right,” I replied, relieved. “If you find something—”

    “I'll let you know.”

    “I was actually going to say that if you find something, you could bring my phone back,” I said, “but OK.”

    “Whatever,” responded Halley, rolling over and curling up again. “See you tomorrow, then.”

    A moment later her breathing slowed, and I realised she'd fallen asleep – just like that, as if there was some switch in her skull she could flick to change between consciousness and unconsciousness at will. It was probably a cat thing.

    I looked at Cordelia.

    “It's not just me, is it? She is really weird?”

    “Yeah,” she agreed. “She is.”

    I sighed.

    “I suppose I should be grateful that she's asleep and not terrorising everyone in the house,” I said. “Still... I wish she'd be slightly more helpful.”

    “Maybe she can't be,” suggested Cordelia. “If she doesn't remember anything.”

    “And what, she's covering it up by being a b*tch? Yeah, that really makes sense.”

    “It does, actually,” Cordelia said, raising a disapproving eyebrow as I swore. “It fits her personality.”

    I gave her a hard look.

    “Stop being clever,” I told her, and went back downstairs before anyone realised Cordelia and I were getting along unnaturally well.




    Eostre dawned, as ever, in a blaze of glory; it was as if Eostre herself had descended to Middangeard and set the skies afire to usher in her festival. Gone were the rain and wind of the last few months; Eostre stood for the dawn, and on her feast-day it was more spectacular than ever, a burning hole in a freezing sheet of azure.

    I stretched luxuriantly and lay in bed for a moment, feeling the sunlight on my closed eyelids, and smelled the scent of wet leaves and fresh air that wafted in through the window.

    “OK,” said Halley, sounding very scared indeed, “what the f*ck is going on?”

    I opened my eyes and looked down at her, sitting bolt upright at the end of the bed and staring around in agitation.

    “What?” I asked. “What is it?”

    “This,” she said. “Where am I? What happened? Who're you?”

    “What?” I sat up. “Halley, it's me. Lauren. We met yesterday, remember? I found you in the bushes.”

    “No, no, no,” snapped Halley, leaping onto the windowsill and pulling the curtain aside as best she could. “Yesterday, this” – she indicated the waving treetops of White Forest – “was a city. F*cking skyscrapers and everything. Yesterday, you were a boy named Jared, who found me on his way to a department store. At some point in the night, the world went batsh*t crazy, and I have to know what happened. Now.”

    “Wait,” I said, frowning. “A boy named Jared? Who found you on the way to a department store?”


    “I dreamed that,” I told her. “I dreamed I was in a city, walking through rainy streets, and you were there...”

    Halley stared at me. Her eyes had gone so wide they looked like they might fall out.

    “You dreamed that?”

    “Yeah.” I shrugged. “It's normal. Everyone in Unova dreams like that.”

    “So if I ask your... uh... your equivalent of Jared's sister, they'll have had dreams of being a girl named Cordelia who let me into the house yesterday?”

    “Yeah, that's right.” I paused. “Although that's less weird than mine, because she is a girl named Cordelia.”

    Halley groaned.

    “Just when I thought we were straightening this out! So she's the same in both... realities, whatever?”

    “Well – they're just dreams—”

    “No! Not just dreams! A hell of a lot f*cking more than dreams!” Halley jumped down from the windowsill onto the duvet, and stalked up to my lap to glare directly in my eyes. “Listen, whatever your name is. Yesterday I woke up in a forest, then walked into a city. I found a boy named Jared Black, and tricked him into letting me into the house by stealing his phone. That was not a dream. That happened.”

    “OK!” I cried, trying to shuffle back and failing owing to the wildcat on my legs. “I get it!”

    Halley stopped.

    “What? You give in so easily?”

    “Yes, just – stop staring like that.” I shivered. “It's creepy.”

    Halley stared.

    “I told you to stop!” I protested, but she didn't.

    “You're pathetic,” she told me. “You can't seriously believe me, can you? I wouldn't f*cking believe me.”

    “Can you not... not swear so much?” I asked tentatively, but she wasn't listening.

    “Go on, tell me,” she said. “Do you believe I can be telling the truth?”

    I paused. To be honest.... no. I didn't. It was weird that Halley knew the part of the dream where she stole the phone – but then, she'd probably dreamed that. Everyone's dream fitted together in Unova; scientists said that there was some kind of psychic field, some 'Dream World' as they called it, that lay over the country and synchronised our dreams so that they formed a coherent reality.

    Then again, shouldn't it be impossible for non-Unovans to participate in the Dream World? Only Unovans had the dreams, as far as I knew, and they stopped when we left Unova to resume when we returned. When you thought about it, the whole thing was a bit strange, but it was just the way things were; we'd all lived with the dreams since birth, so they'd never felt unusual at all.

    “I don't know,” I said helplessly. “I don't think so. Unless you can get into the Dream World.”

    “The what?”

    I told her about it.

    “How come I've never heard of any of this?” she asked. “I'm English. Our countries have a history. Surely someone English noticed this weird sh*t at one point?”

    “I don't know,” I repeated. “Look, it's probably nothing—”

    “No, it isn't!” snapped Halley. “Do I have to say it all again? Yesterday, I wo—”

    “Lauren? What's all that noise?”

    Damn – Mum had overheard Halley's shouting.

    “Nothing!” I called back. “Just – um – accidentally put the radio up too loud.”

    “Well, turn it back down,” she replied. “It's Eostre.”

    Silence; we were in the clear.

    “Look,” hissed Halley, “I can't give you any proof except that I know your dream as well as you do. But I'm telling you, girl who isn't Jared, things happened yesterday exactly as I said, at least to me. Maybe in this insane parallel world of yours, things happened like you said – but for me, things were different. They were modern and electric, not old and wooden. Got it?”

    She thrust her face close to mine, black lips pulled back over sharp, pearly teeth, and the moon's pale fire flickered in her eyes.

    “Yeah,” I said, nodding vigorously and praying to Frige she wouldn't bite my throat out. “Yeah, I get it.”

    “Good.” Halley returned to the windowsill, sat down and sighed. “I don't understand this... OK. Time to do some detective work. You don't seem like the kind of person who buys their presents late – so why were you out when you found me?”

    “Well, I'd forgotten something,” I admitted. “So I was just going to the forest to get some flowers.”

    “Oh my God,” said Halley. “Tell me you aren't the sort of person who buys flowers for people.”

    “What's wrong with that?”

    “Everything,” she replied forcefully. “God damn it, you are nothing like Jared. At least he wasn't afraid to beat people up if he needed to. But anyway. Go on.”

    “That's it. I was going to get flowers for Annie and I found you lying in a bush, wailing at the sky.”

    “That sounds like me. OK. I bet I didn't have to trick you to get you to take me home, right?”

    “No!” I cried. “I felt sorry for you, and—”

    “Of course you did.” Halley nodded grimly. “This is bad. I want to get back to the other world. Jared was cool.”

    “I'm cool,” I protested weakly, but didn't even succeed in convincing myself.

    “No, you're not,” she told me. “You're some kind of peace-loving hippy. Your idea of solving my problem is probably chanting and group therapy.” I crossed off 'talking about her problems' from the list of ideas in my head. “What I need is action. I need help from the kind of guy who's willing to hit people with a metal stick.”

    “Why?” I asked, which I felt was a perfectly reasonable question.

    “Because... because it's more exciting and probably more useful if I run into danger,” Halley told me, glancing out of the window.

    “Are you going to run into danger?”

    “Judging by the ominous black van pulling up outside, I might already be there.”


    I slid out of bed and scrambled to the window; peering out over the sill, I saw that there really was a black van pulling up outside, and that it really did look very, very ominous.

    “Motor vehicles aren't allowed in White Forest,” I said, a sick knot of anxiety rising within me. “This is a nature reserve...”

    “I suggest you get dressed and get ready to run,” said Halley quietly. “Sh*t's about to go down, Lauren, and I really don't want to end up in the middle of it.”

    The door of the van opened and a man in a dark suit climbed out.

    “All right,” I agreed, staring down at him fearfully. “I think you might be right.”

    I threw on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans and left the room; Halley suggested I speak to Cordelia, so I tapped on her bedroom door and crept in.

    “Dilly!” I hissed. “Are you awake?”

    “The man outside, yeah?” she asked. She was at the window, looking out under the edge of the curtain. “I don't like the look of this.”

    “She's exactly the same as yesterday,” muttered Halley, evidently confused. “So is it just you that's different or what?”

    Since she didn't mean to be talking to me, I didn't answer, and spoke to Cordelia instead:

    “Dilly, Halley thinks he might be after her.”

    “I guessed,” she replied. “He came in a van, as well – there are probably people waiting in the back to help him. Whoever Halley is, they really want her.”

    “F*cking fantastic,” sighed Halley. “Look, we can discuss this later – right now, I just think we should get out of here.”

    “But shouldn't we tell—”

    “You want to explain this to your parents? Good luck with that. You can do it after we get out of this mess, because I'm willing to bet that guy isn't going to stand around and let you talk.”

    “He's coming up to the door,” said Cordelia urgently. “Lauren, I think you and Halley ought to get out of here. Like, now.”

    “What about you?”

    “Plausible deniability,” she said, being irritatingly clever. “I could deny I ever saw her if I needed to; no one except you has seen me with her. You, on the other hand...”

    “All right, I get it,” I said. My hands were shaking, and I stuffed them into my pockets to try and hold them still. I didn't want to be chased out of the house by mysterious men in black. I didn't want to have to run away. I didn't want any of this; all I'd ever wanted to do was help a wildcat get her memory back and now—

    Then again, this was helping her. I had said I would help, and I meant to stand by that. Whatever had really happened yesterday, whatever this Jared guy was like, I was going to fulfil my promise. And if there were sinister forces after Halley – well, that just meant she needed my help even more. If we left the house, we'd also lure the men in the black van away from my family, and that could only be a good thing. Everyone would win, the bad guys would be thwarted, and all I had to do was go with Halley and make sure she got away safely.

    I took a deep breath.

    “OK,” I said. “I guess we should go.”

    The doorbell rang.

    Definitely time to leave,” agreed Halley. “Now come on, let's get out of here!”

    There was an aggrieved muttering from Mum and Dad's room; they didn't want to be up early on Eostre – no one really did, unless they were very traditional and went to the dawn services in the temples – and I knew we had to hurry. In a moment, they'd be up to answer the door.

    “This house is completely different to yesterday,” murmured Halley as we crept down the stairs, Cordelia close behind. “I mean, it's the same shape, but the decoration's completely different.”

    It made sense; like all the buildings in White Forest, our house was mostly made of timber and glass – it made them blend into the background, fade into the forest. They fitted around the trees rather than displacing them; they felt natura—


    “All right, all right, we're coming!” yelled Mum from upstairs, and Halley swore softly under her breath.

    “Hurry up,” she whispered. “Where's the back door?”

    “This way,” I replied quietly, and led her through the kitchen.

    “Wait!” hissed Cordelia. “You need these!”

    She tossed me the keys from the hall table, and naturally I failed to catch them; they sailed past my head and bounced off the door.

    “Sorry,” I said, abashed. “I'm not very good at—”

    “I don't care right now,” snapped Halley. “Just get the door open!”

    “Oh. Right.”

    Clumsily, I snatched up the keys and unlocked the door, then gave them back to Cordelia as she caught up. Overhead, I heard the stairs creaking.

    “Open up!” called an officious voice from the front, and followed that up with a series of equally officious raps on the door. “Government-sanctioned search!”

    “That does not sound good,” murmured Halley. “All right, let's go!”

    She bounded out into the broad square of forest that formed our garden; I was about to follow, but hesitated, struck by one last paroxysm of indecision.

    “Go, Lauren,” urged Cordelia. “For Woden's sake, you really are pathetic sometimes!”

    I smiled weakly, trying to quell the slimy knot of nerves in my stomach.

    “Bye,” I said, hugging her. “I – um – I don't know when I'll be back.”

    “Yeah, I'd noticed that,” she said. Mum's footsteps were heading across the hall. “Now go!”

    I turned and ran, and I just had time to hear an explosion of shouting voices from inside—

    —then Cordelia had thrust the door shut, and all I could hear were the birds in the trees and the wind in the grass.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012
  20. Azurus

    Azurus The Ancient Absol

    I thought I had it all straight but now I'm confused, would you mind filling in the blanks?

    Black City:
    Jared- Main Character
    Halley- Talking Cat
    Cordelia- Jared's Sister
    White Forest:
    ????- Main Character?
    Cordelia- ????
    Halley- Talking Cat

    Well that is certainly interesting, so the White Forest is the real place? Interesting...

    Looking forward to another chapter and the return of Jared.

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