1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. We're currently having an issue where e-mails sent to gmail accounts are not going through and are bouncing back. We're currently working to resolve this matter and apologise for any inconvenience
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

Hunter, Haunted

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by canisaries, Sep 16, 2018.

  1. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    One full year after uploading the prologue of Hunter, Haunted to Bulbagarden Forums, the story is making its debut here on Serebii. I am beyond excited to finally bring over my biggest and most beloved project yet to a new audience while revising it to bring out more of its potential. Thanks to everyone who gave me critique on the first version of HH, and I hope you Serebii folks will like this second one.

    So, what is this story? This is another chapter fic in the same series as Seiren, Vivarium and a few oneshots not posted on Serebii. And yes, this does mean it's another Twitch Plays Pokémon fanfic, but knowledge of that is not necessary or expected - just like Seiren, I'm trying to make this accessible to all, and really all the TPP in this fic is limited to a few characters and concepts. Not that the characters themselves are too much like one would expect. In summary, blah blah blah pls no go away jus becaus tpp.

    With that boring stuff out of the way, let's get to what this is all about. Hunter, Haunted is a story about a young cultist murderer whose latest victim happens to come back as a Yamask. Thus, he must find a way to capture and destroy her before she can expose him for his crimes - but as you can imagine, dealing with ghosts isn't quite so straightforward.

    Now a word or two about the content. Let me be clear, this is a darkfic. And when I say darkfic, I mean this is gonna get gruesome and do so right from the prologue on without hesitation. In more detail:

    CONTENT WARNING!
    The following story contains:
    - extremely detailed depictions of violence and gore
    - disturbing/disgusting concepts and imagery such as intense body horror, cultism, torture and cannibalism, as well as depictions of vomiting
    - psychological (and perhaps in places existential) horror
    - themes of mental illness and suicide, especially towards the end
    - strong language
    - no explicit and rather little implicit sexual content, but some non-sexual scenes can be vaguely reminiscent of sexually charged ones.
    - also there are spiders

    So all of that pretty much makes this story rated mature and me posting this near Halloween very fitting. (Note: at least prologue has been looked at by a mod and approved, and the prologue's gore is likely the most detailed.)

    Alright! If you're still with me by now, thank you, and I hope you enjoy Hunter, Haunted. Feedback is welcome and much appreciated, as I am in the process of revising the story, anyway. Read on, my edgy children, and prepare for a surreal adventure through the eyes of one evil bastard.

    PROLOGUE
    (you're here)

    CHAPTER 1
    A Normal Day


    CHAPTER 2
    The Forest


    CHAPTER 3
    Analysis


    CHAPTER 4

    (coming soon)

    Related art:

    [​IMG]
    These banners each correspond to a third of the story.

    Chapters 1-4:
    [​IMG]

    Chapters 4-?:
    [​IMG]

    Chapters ?-??
    [​IMG]

    ---

    [​IMG]

    H U N T E R , H A U N T E D

    Synopsis:
    Red, after a successful sacrifice, is shocked to find his victim reincarnated as a ghost. He must kill her again before she can expose him - but can ghosts even be killed?

    Genre:
    Drama, Horror

    Started:
    18 Sep 2017

    Status:
    Finished (17 April 2018)
    Being revised as of 16 Sep 2018

    Length:
    72 000~ words
    (measured 17 April 2018)

    ---

    PROLOGUE

    ---
    Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out…

    My lungs drag the soft air in, squeeze it out. Repeat. Repeat. The air tastes so good. I switch to breathing through my nose. An explosion of sweet aromas hits my nasal cavity, yes, it’s wonderful, wonderful… but I have to switch back. I need more air.

    I’m so warm. My skin is hot, throbbing to the rhythm of my rapid heartbeat. Beneath the heart, a full, heavy stomach. Satisfied.

    Blur… black at the top, brown in the middle, orange at the bottom… all I see. These colors, they pulse with every contraction of the pump at my core… or… do they flicker on their own, too? They do.

    Popping, crackling. It’s not quiet here, there’s something beside my own heart and breathing. It’s like fire. Is it fire? Yeah, it is. Something’s hissing, too. I can’t tell what it is.

    The heat is stronger at my left leg. It’s so hot it almost burns. Whatever the reason, it should stop. I try to draw the leg away, but a swarm of aches pull on it with more force. The leg is tired. I force it to move. It hurts. Why does it?

    My back isn’t the best, either. The higher part of it, along with my head, is leaning onto something uncomfortable, strangely shaped, hard-edged. The lower part is supported by ceramic tiles. I can recognize the texture by the way my sweat glues me to it. Ugh… sweat. Sweat, everywhere on my body. I’m not clothed. Am I safe?

    With shaking eyelids, I blink. The sweat gets in my eyes. I blink to squeeze it out. Doesn’t get it all. I need my hand.

    I try to curl my fingers. Twitching, they obey. I contract my arm. It aches, but it works. I raise it to my face. Something red enters my vision. My fingers. Too much blood on them. I wipe them on my cheek, on the other, then they can be used.

    Rubbing the irritation away from my eyes, I bend forwards to sit upright. I take the hand away and see that my sight has improved. Still simply colors, but now they have shape. Oh, oh, I feel gravity. It’s strong. I have to support my head with my arms, bury my face in my palms. Eyes closed, I wait for my thoughts to clear, senses to sharpen.

    At some point, I become a person. A man. A being interacting with his surroundings, not a mere slave to them. I finally dare to remove my hands, open my eyes, enter reality.

    It’s a room. My room, my secret room. To my right, a fire has been lit, a bowl of water placed upon it. It’s boiling. There are also candles, a whole lot of candles around the space. Their orange glow illuminates the gray walls, the taupe bookcases, the floor… the floor has many colors, strange colors.

    Wait! What's that? Beige-red shadow, human-shaped figure, doesn't move, over there. The feet don't touch the ground, something keeps her up. Her?

    Her, yeah. I know her.

    I jumped on her, drugged her, transported her here, came home and stripped her, washed her, fastened her to the board. I set up the candles, the bowl, the knife, everything, everything was ready. I waited for her to wake up, and she did, and then… then I looked at HIM.

    HE came and showed HIS acceptance and I felt… so happy. HE liked what I'd brought HIM. HE liked me. I was warm and at peace and I thanked HIM so much. Everything was good, everything was right. Then I… I… can't remember.

    From that moment to this wake-up… everything is blank. I couldn't have fallen asleep, I couldn't have fainted, those things just don't happen to me. So maybe HE…

    ...yes. Yes, yes HE did! HE finally did it!

    The corners of my mouth, in spite of how exhausted they feel, drag themselves towards my ears. I’ve never had a grin this wide on my face before.

    HE took over me! HE can do it, HE is now strong enough to do it! And -- and HE chose to do it! With me! My body! HE accepts it, which means, it means I am the Bringer! It's official now!

    I laugh, despite the action hurting. I have to laugh, I'm so happy. If I don't let it out, I'm gonna burst.

    I'm gonna merge with a god! I'm gonna live forever, doing whatever I want! Feeling how I want! This is… great doesn't even begin to describe it!

    I spend ten breaths in and out just letting the fact sink in. On the eleventh, I remember my job isn't quite done yet.

    Right. HE still needs time. I have to keep living a mortal's life until HE is fully ready.

    I look at the stone above the altar. The spiral on the triangular rock base remains just a spiral, a mere shape. HE has left for now, as I pretty much expected.

    Okay. Back to real life. Ascension's not here yet, so I should act like it. Be an organism in an environment. So let's see what we have here…

    I turn my attention to the human figure from before. She's...

    ...absolutely ripped up. Thoroughly ravaged. I still can't see quite right, but those big, shiny blotches of color don't lie. Red, pink, yellow, gray, purple, dark green. Only her feet, hands and the upper half of her face still seem to be intact. Pretty pale, though… for understandable reasons.

    That is magnificent. I have to take a closer look.

    My joints bend sluggishly as I wriggle to a position from which it’s easier to get up. As I rise, knees trembling under my weight, I catch glimpses of my naked body. Covered in blood. Just like my fingers. HE certainly wasn't shy.

    With every step I take, a loud slap rings out from the foot hitting the floor. I survey the ground, wary of anything to trip on, and notice it’s rather crowded. On the white tiles, there lie large lumps and shreds of various tissue types from muscle to fat to even bone. It’s almost as colorful as the corpse. Hell of a mess to clean up, but I can’t lie, most rituals do end up requiring a session with the mop afterwards.

    By the time I reach the body, I’m ready to collapse - whatever HE did, it really took the juice out of me - but my curiosity overpowers it. I grab the board for support and finally survey the woman fastened to it up close.

    She’s dead, alright. The entire front of her torso, neck and lower face is basically torn off, showcasing the organs, muscles and fat that didn’t end up on the floor or... inside me, I guess. The anterior side of the ribcage is absent. Big chunks of the lungs and heart are missing, and what remains looks deflated. It still leaks blood and other fluids. It looks sad, in a way.

    The abdomen is in a slightly better shape, if you’re even able to say that in this context. The greater omentum and liver may be completely gone, but the digestive tract is intact, even if it has a few scratches here and there. Maybe HE avoided it because of the smell. For that, I thank HIM, as I can’t say I’m a fan, either.

    There seems to be something odd in between the pink, glassy loops of the small intestine, though. It’s dripping, viscous, lemme get a better look… oh.

    Okay, moving on.

    On proceeding to the limbs, I unfortunately have to acknowledge that the straps normally holding down the arms and legs by their bases have been broken, as well as the strap for the neck. I’ll have to replace them. It’s not the only damage done to the board, but the rest is luckily restricted to superficial scratches on the wood. The straps for the ankles and wrists are perfectly fine. That’s good.

    The damage to the actual limbs lessens the farther down it goes. The wounds go as deep as the bone at the shoulder, but by the elbow, only a few tiny, red crescents can be seen. I check my fingers. Bloody gunk is situated beneath the nails. Matches up. Not sure why HE would use the pitiful natural weapons of the human body for even a moment, but maybe HE liked the primal feel of it.

    Speaking of weapons, where’s my knife? It’s not on the floor. Is it on the… yep, it’s on the table. Just where I left it. Clean. What?

    But that can’t be right. Did HE use some other weapon? I glance over the board, but nothing looks out of place. I really doubt HE would be the type to clean all equipment and put it neatly back where it came. Did HE only use…

    I lick my teeth. There are fibers of flesh stuck between them. I glance at the bowl on the fire further away. Just like the knife’s blade, it’s spotless. The boiling water within is colorless.

    HE ate the flesh raw.

    The realization disturbs my previously peaceful gut. I hope HIS powers protect against disease as well. Or should I just try to vomit? I think that’s my best bet. I can’t risk harm to this body if I want to keep being the Bringer.

    Ughh, it still hurts to move… but I have to. I guess I should start wrapping this whole thing up, anyway. After I get my stomach emptied, I’ll take a shower and put some clothes on. The blood on my skin’s starting to dry up and get kinda itchy.

    As I stumble to the door, I scan the floor with a sorrowful eye. There were probably some organs there I still could’ve sold if I was fast to freeze them and offered a discount. Gods, they’re not gonna be happy that I gave them that blood to test but no organs in return. I’ll deal with that then, though - for now I have my health to worry about.

    ---

    Oh Gods, did it smell this bad in this room the whole time? It's like something died in here. Oh, right.

    Now with shoes covering my feet and rubber gloves on my hands, I bring the garbage bag to the mess on the floor. My raincoat crinkles as I crouch to pick up the clumps of flesh and stray organs. I hum a quiet, directionless tune to ease the monotony.

    I still taste a bit of acid at the back of my mouth, regardless of drinking water and eating a sandwich to fill up the upset stomach even a little. Can't wait until raw flesh becomes as safe as cooked when I reach godhood.

    With the floor cleared of tissue chunks, I pick up the small bowl normally meant to be eaten out of and scoop a bit of the boiling water out of the far larger bowl. I chuck the liquid at the fire and repeat the process a few times until all the flames have been eradicated. Sorry, fellas, you didn’t get to cook anything this time. Much like I didn't get to do the killing. Of course I'm way gladder about the advancement of my life plan than I'm sad about missing out, but… I was looking forward to performing the ritual. All of it, not just the start and the cleanup after.

    No, it's fine, it's fine. Like I've said, all that matters is the ascension.

    I decide to leave the emptying of the water bowl for later, when it will have cooled down, and move on to the body. While I was showering, I had time to ponder the lack of instruments used. Looking at the ribs now, I’d call my hypothesis confirmed - by the ends of their remnants, it seems they've simply been bent off.

    HE didn't only take over my body. HE brought some of HIS own strength with HIM. That explains how HE managed to do so much damage with my nails and teeth alone. A god is a terrifying thing.

    Oh, right, I should…

    I separate the corpse's jaws. The tongue, too, has been ripped away. I sigh. Well, I guess it fits - HE is the one who killed her, not me. HE gets the trophy. Even if HE probably just threw it on the floor or ate it.

    I still want to keep count, though, so I'll just put an empty jar in with the rest. I think this one’s the eighth. Eighth sacrifice I've hunted down, and I still haven't been caught. Is it merely because of the spells and tutoring HE has provided me, or am I a natural? It can't be said.

    Occasionally I wonder what my life would’ve been like if the Twitch never came. I wouldn't have met Him and, by extension, HIM. Would I still be free and killing? Caught? Dead? Happy? Psh, good one.

    Knowing the smell will only get worse if I keep waiting, I open the straps holding down the body’s ankles, then the left wrist. She begins slipping, and upon freeing the right wrist, collapses onto the floor tiles. I dodge back before the impact, not wanting blood on top of my shoes.

    Alright. Think I’ll cut off the head first. Won’t have to bear her staring at me for too long that way.

    I fetch the bone saw and a wooden plank from their wall. I grab the woman’s hair to lift up her head and place the plank beneath her half-eaten neck to guard the tiles. The hair’s black and bristly, like mine, but a bit longer. Not unusual for a Tohjoan, and neither are her dark eyes.

    As I saw away at her neck, hand on her forehead to keep the head still, my gaze lingers on her face. Aside from the missing flesh of the lower half, it’s rather pretty. Symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing proportions... smoothly curved bridge of nose, almond-shaped eyes, widow’s peak. Pure, healthy skin, although without the majority of its original beige color as a result of fear and blood loss. Stylized dark eyebrows, but not too stylized - she knew what qualities of her natural state worked and preserved them, but fixed the imperfections. I stroke the eyebrows. Silky. As much as I can tell with gloves on, anyway.

    Weird how she lived alone and seemed to have no friends. No one would assume that based on her beautiful face and energetic walk. Well, it was all the better for me - smaller chance of getting caught, bigger chance of HIM finding her pleasing.

    What was her name again? It was on the tip of my tongue. If I couldn’t have her tongue or be the one to kill her, I should at least have a name to go with her face. Was it… no, it wasn’t Maria, that was the one before her. It was… ah, now I remember.

    Joanna.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  2. bobandbill

    bobandbill Winning Smile Staff Member Super Mod

    Yeah, you weren't kidding about the story being dark, haha. Certainly fits that bill. Nice piece of art btw.

    Intriguing start, although I feel the brief sypnosis author notes may have given away a bit too much on what I can expect in the next chapter or so. Nonetheless it'll be interesting to see how you take on the Yanmask idea. I wonder what HE is as well.

    Description is fairly solid, and I have no real qualms there. On the one hand I liked that the demeanour of the narrator changed when he realised the success of the rite or whatnot, but then seemed somewhat detached, or altogether too successful in calming down and going "back to real life". This isn't necessarily a complaint as it may be just a reflection of the deranged character we have here, more an observation to maybe consider. I may have expected a bit more glee in the latter half of the prologue about the prospect at hand, is all.
    This sentence felt a little bit awkward to me - it's understandable but it just feels a touch... off. It may be better just split into two sentences to aid the flow.
    Maybe even more nitpicky - 'It can't be said' also sounds a slightly odd way to put such a statement. Something like "I cannot say" sounds better to me.

    I'd say good luck but you've already finished this fic, haha. Be sure to include warnings before each chapter given the direction the story has like you did in the prologue. The rules do mention that some content should be approved by a mod before and perhaps you had asked another fic mod (saw no mention of it in author notes however) - if you hadn't then just keep that in mind in future, please.
     
    canisaries likes this.
  3. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Thanks! It's one of my favorite banners I've done - represents the fic well and even foreshadows a few events.

    This is partly intentional, though this makes me wonder if I didn't get it quite right for what I want to do. Thanks for the heads up.

    Oh, I did mention that the prologue was looked at by a mod in the notes, but I didn't give the name, I suppose. It was Dragonfree.

    Thanks for giving HH a look! I can say that the whole fic won't just be grim on top grim, and that can be seen when I've revised the first real chapter and posted it.
     
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Welp, guess I’ll see myself out…



    Ha, hey there, canisaries! I’m typically not a reader of darkfics, but I wanted to at least take a look at the beginning of this if only for the sake of mechanics and seeing if it could grab my interest if I was someone interested in darkfics, y’know? I may as well expand my horizons a tiny bit, maybe revisit this in tiny doses as time goes on or something. Based on your premise, this is the exact sort of story that I’d typically not read—it’s extremely graphic and dark and follows a villain for a protagonist. Two things that are fine to others, but just aren’t my taste. Let’s see how much you can get me interested despite this.

    Wow, okay, actually, I’m not sure if it’s because I read the premise, or because of the way this sentence flows, but I can already tell that I’m in the perspective of the villain, and he’s suuuper on the crazy side. I already get the feeling that what he’s smelling isn’t actually sweet, not in the literal sense…

    I know nothing about this PERSON, but I get the feeling this is the “possessor” of the TPP lore, or something along those lines? Either way, seems pretty obvious that it’s some kind of demonic entity.


    This is another odd phrase that fits really well for the perspective that you’re going for. Putting such an attribute in such a casual tone definitely sets the mode. In terms of depicting someone demented in this way, I think you do a really good job with the narration. Has there even been a line of dialogue yet? I don’t think so. Yet I already have a feel for what this guy is like.


    ___


    I didn’t really have much more to say beyond that! I’ll be honest, I was somewhat enchanted in a grotesque sort of way, like watching a train wreck as it happened. It’s a weird little fascination, though I won’t deny that it’s not something, genre wise, that I’d want to continue reading, heh.

    However, I do want to emphasize that, for what it intends to be, you’re doing a very effective job. You depicted the main character in such a way that I already have a feel for who he is and what sort of person he is, and not just, “he’s crazy,” but some small nuances as well. And you did it without a single line of dialogue. I could learn a thing or two from that… kudos!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  5. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    For some reason this made me snort out loud lol ;D

    Well, not quite right, but it's a reasonable guess with what's been given so far.

    Thanks for giving this fic a look! Especially if it's so out of your usual range. It's very flattering to hear I was able to keep you till the end despite it with my writing. I do hope you'll pop in to give one of the true chapters a read once I post them, as they have a lot more going for them than the narration-only grim and gruesome prologue, and I can definitely use all the readers I can get with such a niche fic. Thanks again!
     
  6. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    bruuuhhhh finally got this revised, get ready for actual background on the protagonist and to see what a loser he really is. rated mature for strong language, violence (less detailed than in the prologue, though), mass murder and sPoOkY eXisTeNtiALiSm ooOOoOoOOOooo

    anyway thanks for reading, replies are super appreciated. enjoy!

    ---

    CHAPTER 1
    A Normal Day


    ---​

    Oh, great. I get to wake up to another miserable day.

    I drag myself to an upright sitting position. The blanket slides off me, exposing my bare, scarred chest to the cooler air of the room. With sleepy eyes, through the black strands of my hair, I watch the airborne dust of the room dance. The light exposing them, the sun, shines in from the bottom edge of the window, the sliver not covered by the white roll-down curtain.

    Maybe if I let the sun in, this room wouldn’t feel so cold in the morning. But now that I’ve tasted the joy of sleeping in, there’s no celestial body in existence that would make me give this new habit up.

    And look at that light. It’s not even the good sunlight. I can tell from the color that it’s another one of those days with a cloudy kind-of-translucent blanket between me and the sun. All the warmth the sun could offer is soaked up by that grayish rag, all the colors are muted. What a sad excuse for a late spring day.

    At least it’s late spring, I guess. Temperatures have risen, the birches’ leaves darkened, even the least cold-tolerant bird mon migrated back. Summer will be here soon. Maybe that's something to look forward to. Probably not.

    I look at my hands. Good, strong hands, those of a young man in his prime. Unbeknownst to the public, also those of a killer. They've knocked out targets with the help of a spore-soaked rag, they've cut into skin pale from terror with knives carefully sharpened, they've felt the fiery embrace of fresh crimson blood… but lately, they've done a whole lot of nothing.

    The sacrifice was a few weeks ago. I haven't been to that hidden room since then. Maybe HE would want me to get another sacrifice for HIM, but I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of stalking, testing and capturing a new victim only for her to be killed by someone else, leaving me to vomit my guts out and clean up afterwards.

    I know, I know, I’m HIS servant, HIS high priest, and I shouldn't be avoiding HIM. But I do need a break for another reason as well - lying low. If I kill too many too fast, someone might find a pattern and, by extension, me. So I'm only playing it safe. I'm not doing anything wrong. Got that? I'm not doubting HIM, I'm doubting my own ability to be stealthy enough. I'm being rational.

    Okay, with that out of the way, I suppose it's time for me to get up. I need to at least get my daily exercises done. This body has to be maintained.

    ---

    Exercises done, showering done. Now to get breakfast to complete the trifecta, and then that's really all I have to do for the day. Then it's just waiting for time to pass, occasionally eating, until I go to sleep and wake up to do it all over again.

    Pathetic. Waste of time. But there's nothing else I can do. I can't go crawling back to high school, I'd just have to leave again in a matter of weeks when the classmates prove unbearable and my temper uncontrollable. I can't get a job. No one will hire a guy who hasn't finished high school - no job that won't pose a risk to my body, require social interaction or use of technology, at least. My fear of tech would prevent returning to school, too, if I miraculously learned to withstand the human garbage that walks the halls of Pallet Town High School for Humans. So, thanks for fucking me up, Twitch.

    Hair dried, clothes on and knife in the scabbard on my belt, I climb up the stairs to the ground floor. As I’m about to touch the handle of the door at the end, I hear noises from the other side. The reaching hand curls up into a fist.

    Yes. It wasn’t enough to render me unable to use computers due to painful flashbacks. It had to give me something impossible for me to have with any other living being - an attachment.

    I can hear Fonz roaming around, getting things ready for Him. It. I can’t think of Him that way anymore. It. The omanyte.

    The omanyte has been doing well lately. In school, in general. The mortal vessel my lord’s spirit happens to be bound to is alive and healthy. That’s all it needs to be for HIM. It shouldn’t be any more, but it is, as much as I hate it.

    Should I even come out? Should I just wait until they’ve left for school? No, I shouldn’t. If I can’t trust myself to stay cold near the omanyte, I’m only accepting the problem, not working to solve it.

    I force myself to open the door and step out.

    The view I’m met with is familiar. A nidoking with trimmed quills and a black leather jacket on carries a backpack over his armored shoulder. He turns around, and in his claws is... the omanyte.

    “Hi, Red!” it greets, waving its tiny tentacle. Don’t talk to me!

    I nail my gaze to the floorboards. My heart bounces around my ribcage like an out of control igglybuff. Dammit! This shouldn’t happen.

    “Morning,” I manage to say, blocking out all images of the mon in my mind. I still need to be polite. I can’t show too drastic of a change, that would attract suspicion.

    “Hi,” says not only Fonz but also Abe, who’s in the kitchen. Short, glasses, shaggy brown hair, olive skin… a phenotype so different from mine that I can barely believe we share a mother. The boy’s in the middle of constructing a sandwich to eat before school, backpack already on his back and packed to the brim. He looks like a bipedal bulbasaur with that thing.

    “Oh, right,” Abe says, looking up from the counter again, eyes on me. “We need groceries. List’s on the table.”

    Groceries? Sure. Something to actually do. I give a ‘mhm’ as a sign of agreement.

    The front door opens. Fonz squeezes out of it sideways with the omanyte and backpack.

    “Bye,” the nidoking shouts with his baritone yet friendly voice, prompting a much higher-pitched “bye” as a response from Abe. The big-eared mon closes the door behind him, and the room falls silent, save for the fumblings of my brother in the kitchen.

    The omanyte will be done with His -- its school soon, meaning it’ll spend its days home again. Just a few months ago, I couldn’t wait for that day… but I was an idiot. Since then, I’ve managed to realize that what I felt was wrong and incompatible with my future plans. And now the day the omanyte will complete its basic required education as a free mon terrifies me.

    Long gone are the days of admiration. I now know what I had was only insanity. Remnants of a broken mind. The Twitch. It was the voices that made this connection, forced it deep in my mind, and from that I learned to cling to a mon with minimal importance to my true lord. The need to keep it around is practically a technicality.

    “Oh, also,” Abe begins, interrupting my thoughts. “I’ll come pick you up with a taxi at ten to two.”

    “...Why?”

    “The psychologist’s appointment. Remember?” he says, in a tone almost authoritative.

    Ughhhh. That appointment.

    “You have to go this time,” Abe continues. “I have to see personally that you do. Otherwise the Foundation guys are gonna come and drag you there, kicking and screaming.”

    I open my mouth to protest, but he’s anticipated it.

    “No, you can’t talk me out of this,” he says. “You've skipped it too many times. I'm gonna come home at ten to three, so you better be there.”

    He picks up his sandwich and scuttles to the door. “And don't forget the groceries,” he adds right before exiting. “Bye!” The door closes.

    Right. The groceries. I'd already forgotten about them.

    I sigh through my nose and look up at the ceiling. Boring, plain white stares back.

    Some seconds - maybe minutes, I don’t know - later, I pull myself together. I fetch my backpack, my wallet and the grocery list on the table, put on my jacket and head out.

    The weather is still dull, gray, lifeless. It’s kind of chilly, too. The pathetic sunlight isn’t strong enough to combat the gusts of cool wind with its warmth. My sneakers tap against the old asphalt of the sidewalk as I make my way towards the town’s center. By foot. At the sluggish pace of a human.

    The wind dashes down my collar, splatting its cold air onto my chest. Shuddering, I pull the zipper of my jacket the remaining few centimeters up and shove my hands back in my pockets.

    Familiar sights scroll by. High school, library, hospital, graveyard. Watching them inch along makes my speed feel even more glacial. I'm starting to wish I'd stayed home. At least it's warm there, and… I don’t know. Something about that colorless, featureless sky just really pisses me off.

    Eventually, the yellow corner of the supermarket’s tall sign peeks over the dull green pines. I sprint a bit to ease the irritation of not already being there, and I’m rewarded by reaching the edge of the parking lot. Not much more now. Then it’s over. Until I have to come outside again. Ughh.

    I’m simply a ray of sunshine today, aren’t I? I’d say I woke up on the wrong foot, but I’m rather convinced that I have no correct one to begin with.

    The main entrance approaches, little by little. Just meters away, the automatic doors open for a leaving father, his small child and their half-full cart. They’re talking about something - the man with a mature yet bright voice, the child with its rhotacistic squeaks. After they’ve stepped out, I slip in, my upper arm brushing the white frame of the door.

    A rainbow of artificial color awaits me on the other side. Rows and rows of shelves stand behind the frontline of crowded checkouts. Every notch of the shelves is packed to the brim with cans, cartons, packages and various other products. Dozens of voices, beeps, shuffles and taps echo around the spacious white hall. The air is warm and still. Finally. Let’s get this over with.

    As usual, I move through the gates into the labyrinth of aisles, grab a plastic basket and begin to hunt down the items of the grocery list. By now I know where to find them all, but the sections I don’t visit are still a mystery to me. They can remain as such. I don’t really care.

    The basket slowly fills up, becoming heavier with every addition, until there’s only one item left. It’s written in a much shakier, scrawlier way. Given that and what it says, I know who wrote it.

    It’s a request from m- the omanyte. He -- it would like some shrimp. I walk to the aquatic aisle, the shelf stacked with cans of the product in question. There’s the brand He -- it, it likes. Then there’s the brand it hates.

    Should… should I pick the bad brand? Would that be a good way to show I don’t care about the mon? No, wouldn’t that mean I do care, if I care enough to pick the wrong one on purpose? But if I pick the good brand, I’d feel like I did it because I didn’t have the heart to pick the bad one, that I was weak.

    But is it really weakness? It’s what you’re used to doing, it’s normal. And it’s not like the good brand even costs any more than the bad one.

    It is weakness. If I make the omanyte happy, I’ll just want to make it happy again and again. And then when at some point it disagrees with HIS will, I’ll end up choosing nearsightedly, angering HIM and ruining my future.

    But imagine it. Imagine His disappointment, heartbreak, when the can’s pulled out of the bag and He --

    It. It. It!

    How many times do you need to be reminded? When will you understand it?

    The Bringer cannot love.

    Shut up! I’ve had enough of this. I don’t want to waste time thinking about anything related to that mon anymore. I’ll take a third, new brand. It costs more, but fuck it. It’s only money. I grab the can, shove it into the basket and head for the checkouts.

    I review all the available lines of other customers I could join. As they all seem to be just as long with about four or five people, I settle for the closest one. The person in front of me, a tired, graying woman, seems to have a full cart. Great.

    At a snorlax’s pace, the line slouches onward. Various objects are dumped on the conveyor belt, picked up by the cashier, passed to the bar code reader, it beeps, she places the item on the other side, grabs the next, so on, yawn…

    A wailing noise pierces the air. What? What is that, a siren? No - a few checkouts over, there’s a baby. And it is loud. Gods, my ears!

    I glance at the other people around me. They, too, wince every time the screaming surges in volume. But nothing more. They merely stand and take it. And it just keeps going! I really can’t stress enough how horrible this is. This screech is something straight out of a victreebel’s gullet, one that’s being electrocuted and simultaneously stung by a horde of beedrill.

    Isn’t the mother doing anything? No, she isn’t. How can she bear this? If this was my kid, I’d have chucked it out the window long ago.

    No, it’s okay. My turn is coming up. I can already start placing my items onto the conveyor. Look, I’m doing so right now. I have to wait a few seconds every now and then so that there’s enough room to fit my items in, but I’m advancing. Time is passing. And now the woman in front of me is already paying. She leaves to pack, it’s my turn. See, everything’s okay. All I have to do now is to wait for my items to scroll past…

    But how could I? How could I let this go? This baby, these people, these humans and mon… wastes of space, wastes of life. Here they stand, in their shelter, safe and squeaky clean, so far from the unforgiving wilderness they once dwelled in. They used to struggle for survival, now it’s being handed to them on a silver platter. They feel entitled to it. They’re domesticated! Inbred by good times to be harmless, lazy and stupid. They should be taught to fear again. And I should be the one to teach them. I should be the predator to rid the ecosystem of these pathetic slobs. The fearow to dive into this swarm of fat rattata and impale them with its beak and talons.

    Oh, my fingers already dance on the smooth, wooden hilt of my excellent knife. They might all think it’s just for self-defense against wild mon and muggers, but oh, no, no, no. This is my fang, my claw, and it’s itching for flesh to wrap around its blade.

    This is what I’ll do - I’ll pluck out my knife in the blink of an eye, and before the others can even react, I’ve already slit several peoples’ throats. A few drops of hot blood have hit my face, marked me as the danger. And from danger they run. They’ll scream. Some, in blind panic, will flee deeper into the store and doom themselves merely by shortsightedness. Those will become my prey. Prey I’ll chase into the aisles, catch and consume. Inhale their fear, taste their agony as my claw makes outsides of their insides. Their blood will soak me, splash onto the shelves. Paint the rainbow red. Brilliant, authentic red to break up the phony, lifeless hues of the labels. Warmth for this cold day.

    I have to do it. I have to do it. It’s what I was meant do. I was meant to cease these maggots’ lives, turn their mundane into massacre, strike when they thought they were safe. I’ll kill and keep killing until only two remain. That accursed infant and its mother. I’ll trap them into a corner. The woman will cry, scream, clutch her child and beg for mercy. ‘Please! At least spare my baby!’ She’ll pray for me to feel pity. I’ll only smile, approaching. Tears and snot will stream down her distorted, bawling face. Oh, Gods, why? she thinks. Why did it have to be me, today, in a supermarket, in such a gruesome, terrifying way? Why did my child have to be with me? How does something as awful as this happen? The only thing I’ll be wondering is if an infant’s viscera will differ from those of an adult in any other way than size.

    “Sir?”

    The cashier, blonde, in greenish teal. Looking at me. How will I kill her? I don’t have the element of surprise anymore. Will I just go for it with my knife? Pull it out in a flash, stab her in the throat?

    “Is there a problem?”



    “No. How much was it?”

    “$117.49.”

    I draw out my wallet and give her enough bills to cover the price. In a while, she hands me the change and a receipt. I nod and move on to load the items in my backpack one by one.

    The baby's wailing is gone. It probably stopped a while ago. All that remains is the normal background noise of the store. It's like nothing had ever happened.

    Items packed, I zip the bag and turn my back to the checkout. I finally allow my brain to process what just happened.

    That was way, way too close. I was millimeters away from making that fantasy real. Had it not been for that miraculous moment of sensibility, I would've thrown away my entire future, just to satisfy my bloodlust and transmute my anger into joy. Both of those fleeting, temporary. If it wasn't theologically incorrect, I'd say HE was looking out for me...

    Not only would my future have been ruined, my life would've likely been over very fast. People would’ve called the cops, who would've put me down like the rabid animal I was. And then I would've been dead. And after that…

    Nothing. Existence over. No joy, no pain, no gods. Just the book’s back cover - the story has ended, there’s nothing more to see.

    And what a shitty story at that. Every arc, every theme, every emotion wiped away by a single bad decision. No happy ending, no tragic ending. Only an ending, and that's that.

    I sigh, trying to force the stress out of my body along with the air. I don't find much success.

    I begin to walk off, but halt as I notice how crowded the main entrance seems to have become. The people are running around with pieces of paper… no, only three are, the rest are only looking at the pictures with none of their own. The three are showing the papers to passersby, only to receive shakes of heads.

    Ugh, I bet they're activists or something. I don't want to risk snapping again, so I guess I should take the secondary exit. It looks empty enough. Can’t see any people with papers over there, at least.

    I walk across the store to the exit and slide out. A quick analysis of my surroundings confirms what I had hoped - no activists in sight. No one looks like they'd want to engage me in something. Neat. I can just be on my w-

    “Excuse me, sir!”

    Fuck! He came out of nowhere - or, well, from behind the pillar of the overhead shelter, to be exact. Still, I didn't see a glimpse of him before, it's like he was teleported in by an abra. Maybe he was?

    Either way, it's a young man with short black hair, a long face, a trench coat and overall a dopey feel to him. In his hand is a piece of paper. He's with the others, it seems. Great.

    “Hm?” I respond, trying to fake hurry. Or I suppose it's real. I’m in a hurry to get away from people.

    “Have you seen this woman?” he asks, raising the piece of paper and revealing it to be a photograph.

    I’m about to say no - because what woman would a shut-in like me recognize - but my lips quickly seal themselves shut. This I did not expect.

    I have, indeed, seen that woman. In fact, I was the very last person to see her, not to mention the last person she saw. Who else could it be but Joanna?

    “What's her story?” I ask.

    “O-oh, she --”

    He clearly didn't expect that. But I need to know.

    The man soon pulls himself together. “She’s my sister. She’s been missing for a f-few months now.” His voice breaks, just a little. “She moved to Pewter some time ago, for her studies, but… we already looked there, so…”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” I say. I mean it in the way that I’m peeved that the investigation will partly take place in my hometown, but he doesn't know that.

    “Yeah… we thought she might have come back, and… yeah,” he mumbles. “S-so have you seen her?”

    “No.”

    Something breaks deep in the man's eyes. I'd say he looked miserable, but that sort of appears to be the default for his face.

    “Contact us if you do,” he says, all soul now gone.

    I nod, smiling reassuringly, and walk off.

    Man… I can’t lie, that was kinda funny. Does thinking that make me a bad person? Oh, yeah, I guess it definitely does.

    Any amusement gained melts away soon, however, as another breeze of chilly air causes me to shiver. The weather is still awful, I see. And I have to walk home in it, with a heavy backpack to carry, no less.

    The winds only strengthen from that moment on. So much so that, when I reach the spruce-encircled graveyard, the warmer shelter causes my feet to stop all on their own. I take the moment to bathe in the gentle air. I know my home is even warmer and that getting there is only going to take longer if I start loitering, but I feel like a break is what I need right now. I sit down on the old dark bench beside the graveyard’s spiky metal fence.

    Graveyards are nice. They’re quiet and beautiful, and this one is no different. Gray, black and brown stone slabs stand in rows and columns - some worn and rough, some shiny enough to be mirrors. Soft moss and short, prickly grass surround the tombs and cobblestone paths. A few flowers here and there add spots of bright white, yellow, red and purple to the primarily earthy tones around them. Yet, underneath the serene surface, there lie dozens of boxes with rotting cadavers.

    This is where they all end up. Well, not in this particular graveyard, but dead nonetheless. They'll all perish - maybe of old age, maybe of disease, maybe in an accident, maybe in the hands of someone like me.

    They won't make a difference, and even if they do, they'll still die. And what matters to the person after that? Nothing. They're dead, like everyone else will end up being.

    Everyone except me.

    I have a reason to keep going. I can reach immortality, eternal bliss. They can’t - or they could, but they’re not aware of that option.

    Either way, they’re still okay with it. How? Is it ignorance? Apathy? Surely they can’t have actually realized it? I know them, they wouldn't be strong enough to feign peace of mind in face of inevitable doom. Yet I’ve never seen anyone on the street break down into tears, cry at the heavens, curse their gods for creating this stage of never-ending anguish.

    If life is such pain… why are they happy?

    Some leaves rustle behind me. A wild mon? I turn around, but all I get is a mere glimpse of the creature before it disappears into a bush at the edge of the graveyard. What I saw looked… golden?

    Maybe it's a meowth? But the golden part looked pretty big… wait, maybe it's a shiny magnemite! That I have to see.

    I make sure no one's around, then get up and hop over the graveyard fence. I creep closer to the bush where I last saw the creature. My steps become slower the closer I get, stopping entirely one meter away.

    Meowth or magnemite, it may attack if I startle it. Given that, I should be careful and prepared to defend myself.

    I unsheathe my knife and hold it horizontally before myself. I breathe deeply and circle around the bush…

    Oh. There's nothing here. That's anticlimactic. None of the branches are even bent. It's like nothing had been there at all… but that can't have been so. If there hadn't been anything, I wouldn't have come here.

    There! No, it's gone again… but it was there, by that pine tree in the woods beyond, before it hid behind it.

    I do know now that it can't be a meowth. Sneaky as they are, even meowth make noise when they move, and that amount of gold was definitely too much for just a coin.

    As silently as I can, I cross the border of the yard and the forest and sneak behind a tree. After a few eventless seconds have passed, I switch to another tree closer to the creature's presumed hiding spot. Motionless, I wait, eyeing the area for anything golden. Or really anything moving independent of the wind.

    Something. Something's emerging.

    A golden edge peeks out from behind the pine’s trunk. Come on, come out. More floats out. Wait… that's not a sphere. That's more like an oval. A concave one. A mask from behind?

    It floats in midair, supported by no limbs or wings. Its motions appear conscious, but also directionless. I'm getting the feeling that it's confused. That makes two of us.

    Just what is it? It looks surreal. Ghost types must be involved somehow… but where does a mask like that come from? What kind of face does it have? I can't see from this angle. It's not turning around on its own, so maybe it needs some encouragement...

    I crouch to pick up a piece of gravel and chuck it away, behind the mask. The tiny rock collides with a few more of its kind on the forest floor, causing a small click. The mask quickly rotates, and…

    ...no.

    There's no way.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    yoooo, I told you people like darkfics so I should probably put my money where my mouth is and actually review, huh? Plus it's been a while since I’ve read/watched any villain protagonist media, so let’s do this:

    So I think you did a pretty good job of showing just how much Red lives to please Helix (that’s HIM, right?) Just... the sheer joy he feels at having been a vessel for his god is strong stuff. I do think the investigation of the corpse felt a bit strangely methodical and rote, but I suppose that does show the emotional distance there. It’s not as though Red was emotionally invested in the act itself (heck, he even regarded the need to vomit afterward as annoying and the cleanup as tedious.) It’s more what it symbolizes. It’s a means to an end.

    I was intrigued and slightly confused that the fic treats Omanyte and Lord Helix as separate entities. Is that unique to your headcanon or is that a common thing in TPP lore? I always understood them to be one and the same.

    The grocery store painted a pretty damn disturbing image, heh. You’ve set up Red as completely twisted and and I totally wanna see him go down. :P So of course I’m interested to see his psyche start to unravel when the haunting actually begins (hey, what fun is a villain protagonist without a downfall, am I right?)

    ~Chibi~
     
    canisaries likes this.
  8. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me Staff Member Moderator

    Hey! I was interested in where this was headed after reading the prologue. Reading chapter one, I'm guessing actually I should have read more Seiren first - I assume the reason Red's so firmly rejecting Omanyte is the events of that fic. I've got to admit it feels like a bit of a hole here not knowing exactly what happened with Omanyte, although explaining it and spoiling Seiren as a result may not be the best way to resolve that.

    This gives a better feel for what you're doing with Red than either Seiren's prologue or Vivarium did, and I dig it. I think you're doing a very nice job of getting into his head as a (twisted, awful) human being, making his warped way of thinking seem coherent and showing it resulting in its own emotions and struggles and inner conflict. Red's not just flat bloodlust and devotion to Helix, he's also unable to appreciate any of the things normal human beings take joy in, spending his days just waiting for time to pass, puzzling over how anyone can stand their short flawed mortal lives; he struggles with his own barely-contained impulses threatening his future plans; his delusions of grandeur result in this way of thinking about the possibility of failure and death as a narratively disappointing ending, and little moments like when he thinks it's impossible there wasn't actually anything in the bushes, because he wouldn't have come here if there hadn't been - as if he's incapable of simple, mundane error. You've made him feel pretty interesting to read about, and it'll be fun seeing where this goes from here.

    In the middle of this morbid awfulness, you've then also got some nice bits of very dark comedy - Red's dead-serious internal dialogue with himself about something as ludicrously petty as the possibility of intentionally buying shrimp that Omanyte doesn't like, the cashier ringing up Red in the most mundane possible way as he's fantasizing about murdering her. I'm a fan of black comedy and I hope the fic continues to have these moments.

    I was a bit surprised after the prologue, where Red only seemed mildly inconvenienced and disappointed by the fact he couldn't perform the ritual himself but also elated at the fact Lord Helix managed to take over him at all, to find him so actively reluctant to find more sacrifices in chapter one. I'd almost be assuming he doesn't actually enjoy kidnapping and murdering people at all, but that's obviously not the impression the rest of the story gives off. I guess it seems like a reaction that'd be more congruous if there were another sacrifice in between that we didn't see, one that was ultimately an actively unpleasant experience on the whole, where the one in the prologue really didn't seem that way? But storywise I'm not sure that'd quite work. I guess mostly I just didn't get the impression from the prologue, despite his detached dismay at the cleanup and his sick stomach, that he was all that bothered by it, even deep down.

    I'm curious about how Red managed to build this elaborate ritual chamber presumably without the knowledge of his brother who seems to live with him (at least he gives off the impression of being a basically normally-adjusted human being). Also about how he's getting rid of the remains without anyone knowing.

    In any case, it'll be fun to see how this plays out with the Yamask! I hope to read a bit more Seiren before chapter two comes out and have some more context on what went on with Omanyte.
     
  9. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    It's unique to my headcanon, I'd say, so your original impression is correct for the majority of the lore. There may be others with similar concepts, but I haven't heard of them or interacted with them, so from a community standpoint my take is unique.

    Oh you bet it'll unravel ;p hope you enjoy what's to come!

    Ooh, yeah, this is actually one rather big flaw in HH's setup... it sort of completes an arc that was already in progress and started by a oneshot (Metanoia, which hasn't been uploaded here but can be found in the misc. fic thread on Bulba, which is linked in my sig). I've wondered if it could be possible to fit the start of the arc in HH, but it'd mess with the pace of the rest of the story a lot and seem really detached to the main plot and concept, that being the ghost thing. I'm going to revise and very likely upload the oneshot and its two predecessors once I've gone through HH and finished Seiren, as the trilogy connects the two stories together.

    In the meantime, I'm going to attempt to work with what I have now, which is HH taking place after the "breakup". I will need to clarify what the thing was about during this fic, and I'm trying to keep it in mind - I think it's one of the things the original version of HH was lacking, and Red's relationship with Omanyte-Helix will get somewhat important later on.

    It's only natural for me to be unable to go too long with a straight face. ;p Glad you like the humor.

    Hrm. I was trying to convey that Red does enjoy the rituals a lot, and that is the reason he isn't willing to rush to a new one. In the previous rituals, he was conscious and present during the murder, but this time his mind was taken over and he essentially missed the action while he still had to go to the trouble of setting the whole thing up - stalking, testing, kidnapping and so on... while Red may find pleasure in parts of it, a good heap of time and work goes in. It's a bit like baking a cake for you and your friend only to have them eat all of it while you're gone. Said friend is going to grant you immortality and godlike power later, yeah, but you really wanted that cake, dammit.

    Anyway, your reaction is telling me that I didn't really manage to explain that through the story properly, so I'll need to look through it.

    Well, it's addressed in Seiren and the oneshot trilogy I mentioned before, but you're right in that I should explain it quickly somewhere here, too. Can't off the top of my head remember if it's already in a later chapter, but I'll check.

    Thank you both very much for the replies! Stay tuned for Chapter Two - it introduces a character I like quite a lot, and so have a good bunch of my readers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
    pikalax likes this.
  10. The Walrein

    The Walrein Well-Known Member

    Here from the review game with a review of Chapter 1! I guess I'll just give my thoughts going through the chapter and then give my summary at the end:

    Hmm, interesting how defensive Red sounds in this passage here. These moments of self-doubt help to make him feel more human.

    I like how you turned the thing about Red releasing Pokemon at the PC in TPP into a meaningful character trait - a general aversion to technology, which I think really goes well with the whole religiously motivated serial killer vibe - as opposed to just having it be a reference for the sake of reference.

    Hmm, so what I understand from skimming the first chapter of Seiren is that Red previously considered the omanyte to be the direct reincarnation of LORD HELIX. I'm not entirely sure what the difference between that and being the 'vessel my lord's spirit happens to be bound to' is, though. Later on Red describes the omanyte as being of 'minimal importance' to HIM, but I'd assume that the omanyte must have quite a bit of importance if HIS spirit is bound to the omanyte's body. Like, what does Red believe would happen to HIM if the omanyte died?

    Anyways, there is some nice pathos here what with how Red feels like he has to suppress his feelings for (as far as I can tell) the one tangible being he actually ever cared about.

    This bit makes me wonder if Red would've been completely normal if the Twitch hadn't happened to him. Or maybe Abe is also secretly a serial killer worshiping his own dark god (the dome fossil, maybe)? Also, I guess this is a good time to mention how Red's unusual word choices like 'phenotype' are effective at making him seem cold and detached.

    The use of military time feels a bit odd here, given Abe's previous use of 'ten to two'.

    Well, rhotacistic sure isn't a word you see every day! I have to question where Red gets his vocabulary from, given that he doesn't go to school, doesn't use computers, seems to despise social interaction, and never mentions 'reading' as one of the things he does while passing time between sacrifices.

    Thought this scene was an effective (and amusing, even) way of showing Red's ongoing uncertainty about his relationship with the omanyte.

    I guess Red just refers to 'Gods' reflexively, here? Or are there actually gods he respects besides LORD HELIX?

    Huh, I wouldn't think of a victreebel as being the sort of creature to 'screech'.

    I guess it never occurs to Red that he also relies on civilization for his food and shelter?

    This section with the knife-murder fantasy felt just a bit too 'edgy' to me. I guess the bit about saving the baby and mother to kill last in particular is what pushed it over the top for me, and also the fact that it just seems kind of stereotypical for a serial killer to fantasize about. I think this scene might've been more effective if it felt more like it was tailored to Red in particular - like, if instead of a baby's screaming setting him off, it could've been something that reminded of him of what he went through during the Twitch, or he might specifically fantasize about his victims praying to their lesser gods to save them so he has a chance to prove HIS superiority by striking them down, or something. I dunno.

    This is probably just a personal preference, but seeing asterisks instead of actual swears takes me out of the story a bit.


    Even Red's ennui is no match for the allure of a shiny!

    I felt like just leaving the implication hanging was an effective ending to the chapter. Adds in a bit of suspense.

    ---

    So, I think this chapter is pretty effective at communicating the sheer boredom and pointlessness Red feels about day-to-day life. What really sold it was all the text you devoted to describing things that would normally just be glossed over in fiction, like Red waiting for someone to exit the grocery store before he enters, or all the specific details of paying for groceries like having to wait to put items on the conveyor belt, taking bills out of the wallet, getting the receipt and change, putting items away in the backpack instead of just saying 'Red paid for the groceries'.

    This is kind of a double-edged sword, though - it makes the prose dull to read at times. This is partly alleviated by how good the scenery description is - lines like 'The wind dashes down my collar, splatting its cold air onto my chest. ' and 'A rainbow of artificial color awaits me on the other side.' are really evocative. The only thing I felt was overwritten was the simile with the electrocuted, beedrill-stung victreebel.

    The narration is well written and I got a good sense of Red's voice. However, I'm not sure if I'm going to be reading the rest of this story. Part of it is that I'm just not big on villain protagonists (except I guess when I'm writing them, 'cause I'm a hypocrite), but part of it is that Red just feels slightly bland as serial killers go. His relationship with the omanyte is unique, but other than that he's mostly lacking in the idiosyncratic mannerisms, strict personal rules, bizarre theories about society, and other miscellaneous weirdness which makes reading about fictional serial killers interesting to me (although admittedly my experience with this genre is pretty minimal). I never really got a sense that Red had a unique philosophy beyond his somewhat-standard 'life is meaningless because we'll all eventually die' existentialism. Also, I was kind of disappointed that the details of 'Helixism' as a religion aren't really developed.

    Anyways, don't let me give you the impression that I thought this was a bad chapter! It's definitely good at what it's going for - I just don't think my tastes align very well with what that is.

    EDIT: One thing I forgot to add is that I do like the novelty of the idea of a murderer fighting against the ghost they created. Maybe that'll make the future chapters more enjoyable for me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2018
  11. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Yeah, it's actually kind of necessary for some things to happen later on - his inability to use technology and therefore the internet makes him have to visit a library for information, for example. I'm glad this made sense to you, I was a bit worried it might seem out of place.

    Welllll, it's complicated and I will admit probably the most convoluted thing in this universe's lore so far. The short explanation is that the big HELIX needs the small Helix to stay alive as much of the time as possible as it helps HIM gather power. Meanwhile, little Helix doesn't know (slash remember) anything about what kind of god HELIX truly is. When "spirit" is mentioned, it's meant as a separate concept from a soul or consciousness and those are stored in the fossil in Red's room. I hope that sort of clears it up? At least a little? But yeah, little Helix isn't a direct reincarnation of HELIX but only spiritually linked to HIM, but still should be kept alive and cared for. The little Helix can be reincarnated by restoring Him from the previously mentioned fossil.

    Okay, maybe that explanation wasn't so short after all. ;p

    Right, I should probably establish somewhere that he's kind of a biology nerd and enjoys reading factual material about anatomy and medicine. It's what explains his knowledge of structures such as the greater omentum in the prologue, too.

    Ah, my bad. I probably wrote it like that to make it easier for myself to keep track of the in-universe time.

    Mostly so, yeah, like an atheist saying "oh my god". It is true, though, that there are more gods beside HELIX Red knows of but doesn't worship. Specifically two.

    Ah, you must not have watched the anime, because good lord does it screech there. (Here's an example scene - sorry about the poor quality, but it was the best example I could find.)

    He's proud enough to think he could manage it all by himself if he had to. ;p

    Whoa, good thing you didn't read the prologue lol

    Red has a bit of a melodramatic streak to him at times. I attribute it to him reading a lot of religious material and having his ego inflated by being the current sole worshipper of a powerful god and now being chosen by it to bring about the end of the world as people know it. I think I was planning to have him be a bit self-aware afterwards of how ridiculous that fantasy got but forgot it somewhere along the line... I'll look into it.

    Ah, sorry. The other places I post don't have an automatic swear filter, and it wasn't until a day ago I found out it could be circumvented. I agree it's annoying.

    Yeah, this is something I'm trying to work on. It's mostly due to one person giving me very poor writing advice before and me taking that without a grain of salt because I looked up to them at the time.

    It's totally fine! You're far from the first person to not have the story as their cup of tea. It's pretty much expected with a heartless jackass protagonist - Red has a history of being divisive.

    Thanks for giving HH a look!
     
    pikalax likes this.
  12. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    hi gamers it's another chapter of hunter, haunted and this time we are walking in a forest and arguing with a child. it doesn't get much spookier than this folks

    the biggest twist here however is that this chapter is only rated like teen or so as nothing that violent happens. we got some language though and this time i know how to bypass the swear filter. fear me. okay enjoy

    ---

    CHAPTER 2
    The Forest


    ---​

    Smoothly curved bridge of nose, almond-shaped eyes and everything else. It’s Joanna. That’s Joanna’s face on that golden mask.

    Why? How? Of all the people in the world, why her? There wasn’t anything that special about her. This mask wasn’t specifically luring me, it would’ve had way better and surer ways to do it if that was its intent. Maybe the face comes from my side? Maybe it’s a mask that shows a different face to different people? Their worst fear? I’m not exactly afraid of Joanna, but seeing her again in an unclear context like this is unsettling, at least. And if it actually is Joanna’s face to everyone, it must have some connection to her, and that might make its existence a danger to me and my secrets…

    Or is this even real? Did I just fall asleep at some point? Happen to get drugged by someone without noticing? I don’t know, this feels real… but dreams and hallucinations often do at the time, don’t they?

    Well, whatever the case may be, one thing’s for certain. I should keep an eye on it to learn more, preferably staying hidden while doing so - and if I get the chance, I’ll destroy it just to be sure.

    The mask is making its way to where I threw the little rock, wary of its surroundings. Its way of moving is fascinating - gracefully yet uncannily, it bobs forward, stops, then repeats. It's like dancing.

    Steps. I can hear steps among the wind, light thumps against the forest floor. It seems like the mask heard them too, as it quickly zooms behind another tree.

    Accompanying the noise, glimpses of a brown-toned figure begin to flash between the trunks in the distance. Now and then, a sliver of pale pink slips in. The figure moves like a human, but it’s considerably shorter.

    “Hello?” it asks, the word slightly echoing. Young, feeble… it’s a child’s voice. Of course, explains the height.

    Finally, the child steps into a clearing, allowing me to see it in more detail. It’s a girl, and she looks around... twelve years of age? I’m not great at estimating that stuff, usually I just avoid kids as much as I can.

    Hoodie, loose jeans, beanie, all in shades of gray and brown and made even browner by the dirt on them. This kid’s no princess, but I wouldn’t call her a street rattata, either. Her jeans have no holes in the fabric, even if the dye’s dimmed around the knees from long-term use. In contrast to her dull attire, her chin-length hair is a soft pink and eyes a lively blue.

    Yeah, that’s nice and all, but who are you, exactly? Why are you in the woods by yourself, and why near a graveyard of all places? Most importantly, who are you helloing to?

    “Hello?” she repeats, approaching the trees the mask and I are hiding behind. “It’s okay, you can come out.”

    The mask moves slightly, but doesn’t yet leave the safety of its hiding spot. Is the mask who she wants? What does she know about it?

    The girl jerks her head in my direction, freezing all my movement down to breathing. She doesn’t see me, does she? I may have distance and a few fuzzy spruce branches on my side, but I’m not invisible. As much as I’d like to crouch further down, I can’t risk her catching the motion. I just have to stay perfectly still and wait for her to look away. Okay. Come on. Do it. Now, please. Starting to run out of oxygen here.

    She turns her head. I exhale, though still in a controlled motion. It doesn’t make much sense for an adult man to be hiding from a little girl, but I’d like to keep the element of surprise for any possible need for it. That, and I don’t know what the mask-thing seeing me might cause.

    “I can tell you’re there behind that tree,” she says. “Just come on out. I’m not going to hurt you.”

    The creature begins to wobble, pondering whether to expose itself or not. Eventually, it gathers its courage and flings itself into view, emitting a very faint, strange whimper upon doing so.

    “Hi,” says the girl, smiling sweetly. “You're new here, aren't you?”

    The mask bobs up and down, imitating a nod.

    “You can turn yourself visible now,” the girl encourages. “Just… imagine your body becoming stone, that's how the others tell me you should do it.”

    The mask freezes in concentration. Moments later, something begins to form over it. The air darkens, becoming murky and less see-through. It materializes into an odd body - a disc-like head with two protruding arms and a tail, the curling end of which is holding on to the mask. Two red eyes, wide like plates, light up at the sides of its head. They look like they're dripping something. It’s maroon and viscous. All its drops evaporate into nothing midway through their fall to the ground. Yep, that’s definitely a ghost type.

    The girl lets out a brief, excited laugh, her pearly teeth exposed. “This is cool. I’ve never met a real yamask before.”

    She attempts to approach the creature - yamask, as she called it - but stops as it jerks back, startled, becoming a bit see-through again.

    “No, no, it's okay. I couldn't even hurt you if I wanted to. Anything I tried would just go right through.”

    The yamask looks down at its mask and grabs it with its shadowy hands. “Maaaa…” it wails quietly as it raises the golden object.

    “Well... yeah, I guess that part I could touch,” the girl admits, “but, I don’t want to?” She laughs. “I mean, I wouldn’t wanna harm it. I… guess you can only take my word for that. Sorry.” She smiles, though now with less confidence.

    “Ma...” The ghost becomes a bit more solid again.

    “So, my name’s Michi,” the girl says with cheer. Michi, huh. “What’s yours?”

    The ghost hugs its mask and stares at the ground.

    “...That’s okay. Not everybody has one.”

    It seems like the ghost doesn’t know that much, either. That’s a relief.

    “Say, it’s kind of cold out here,” Michi starts, grasping her arms as a means of emphasis. “I know a cabin close by. It’s not the best, but it’s shelter. Do you wanna come?”

    Hesitantly, the nameless yamask floats towards the girl.

    “Okay, cool! Let’s go!”

    Michi takes some steps back towards where she came from, then glances behind to see if the ghost is following, which it is. They continue on, soon disappearing from sight. I should get a move on, too.

    I zigzag between the orange-brown pine trunks and short spruces and arrive at a small, slithering forest path - formed from years of treading, I assume. Further ahead, I can still hear the girl’s steps. This is the right way to go. I begin my trailing.

    So, yamask. I’ll take a wild guess and assume the latter part of the name means that this individual isn’t unique in carrying a mask around. Never heard of this mon, though. Must be from outside the Tohjo area. I hope that girl - Michi - spills some more information for me to overhear… the ghost didn’t know how to solidify, so it’ll likely receive some more briefing.

    For now, I can only speculate. It’s a ghost, no mystery there, but is it dual-typed? Steel? Dark? Something less obvious, like poison? Those red tears didn’t look like something I’d want to go ahead and touch.

    “So, I didn't bump into you on total accident,” starts Michi further ahead, snapping me out of my speculation. “My friends actually told me they'd seen someone new floating around lately.”

    Friends? Are they ghosts too? Will they be a problem?

    “Maa, aaa…”

    “Oh, that must've been Gabby! She's a gastly. She can be a bit mean and creepy to new people… but she's a good girl once you get to know her.”

    “M-mmaa…?”

    “No, no, you don't have to meet them all right off the bat. They're used to leaving the new ones alone with me until they're comfortable.”

    Phew, that's good to hear.

    “...Ma.”

    “That's the spirit,” Michi says, then snorts. “Heh, spirit. So anyway --”

    A knock and a thump ring out, followed by a startled wail. I stop.

    “I'm okay!” says Michi, clambering back up and brushing dirt and needles off her clothes. “Sorry, I'm with ghosts so much that I sometimes forget to watch my feet.”

    I glance down. A few small roots wedge into the path. I should be careful too.

    Oh, hey, there’s rawstberry growing under these path-framing bushes. An invasive species, but a pretty and tasty one. Would've expected it to bloom by now, though… I guess the weather has been cold.

    Can't hear any pidgey chirping, either. Really a depressing day. Sky's still colorless, the trees look droopy, some branches dead and wrapped in spiderweb… ugh. Glad I'm trailing, means all possible threads are caught by the people ahead. Except not all, as the girl’s clearly shorter than me. Nghh.

    Shit, right, the girl. I can't fall too far behind. I jog a bit forward and resume my previous pace, always staying at least one curve behind the two. The girl's voice fades back in. Damn, I didn't miss anything important, did I?

    “...all the way in Pewter, but I used to live in Viridian. I liked it cause it was closer to this place and the air was fresh, but then they moved me to Pewter cause the orphanage was getting full and they wanted to make room for the younger ones… I get it, but I wish I could've stayed…”

    Okay, good, she seems to just be talking about herself for now. So she's an orphan? She does fit the look, I guess.

    “Anyway, I come back here a lot and stay at the cabin if the nights are warm enough. My friends would probably understand if I didn't come here anymore, but I couldn't leave them. They’re kinda like orphans in their own way… no parents, lonely and scared, people usually don't want much to do with them…”

    “M-ma…?”

    “Oh, no, sorry, I mean… you're gonna be fine, that's what we're here for.”

    “Ma…”

    The two fall silent. I get somewhat nervous about whether it makes my steps more likely to be heard. I try my best to sync them up with the girl's, but the plan falls apart pretty quickly due to the difference in our height.

    The light pouring in through the trunks ahead seems to brighten. Is there a clearing ahead?

    “We're here,” says the girl. Ah, good.

    I creep closer and cautiously peek behind the curve in the path. I can see the girl and the ghost, their backs to me, staring at something beyond the vegetation. I squint my eyes and piece together the small glimpses I see.

    It's an abandoned wooden shack, its once-red paint mostly peeled off. Splotches of mint-green lichen cover the dull, dark planks. Miraculously, though, its windows still seem to be intact.

    “Come on, let's go in.”

    The two cross the opening and enter the cabin. The front door squeaks as it’s opened and closed. I walk the rest of the path and circle behind the shack, keeping an eye out for any movement in the dusty, dark blue windows pointed my way.

    “Yeah, as I said, it’s not much,” says Michi - stretching, based on the strain in her voice. “Still, it’s cozy when you get used to it. Those blankets in the corner help.”

    “...Mma?”

    “I -- well, places. People throw old stuff out. Even though it’s good. Like this cabin. Whoever lived in it has left it long ago, but I still think it’s neat.”

    Huh. I can’t lie, resourcefulness like that is something I respect. Being able to do so much yourself… she’s more capable than most of the humans around here, already at… whatever age she is.

    Too bad she’s standing in my way, though. That loses her way more points than she’s gained.

    “This mirror, too”, Michi continues. “Just because it’s cracked doesn’t mean it’s worthless. You can still see yourself just fine.”

    “Haah...”

    “...Do you know her?”

    I lean forwards. What’s she implying?

    “...Maa.”

    “Oh... well, maybe with time.”

    Time… time is of the essence, then, if the ghost’s supposed to remember something Joanna-related.

    “Anyway, I’m gonna go gather some firewood. I’m gonna be back soon, just stay here. And make yourself at home.”

    The front door creaks open again. I draw myself deeper into hiding.

    I still don’t know much about the creature, but it doesn’t know much, either. My best bet is probably to head for the library to get some more info on these ‘yamask’. I should also look through the scriptures for anything on ghosts in case there’s some knowledge there lost to time.

    Sticking around here won’t really accomplish anything - I can’t understand a word the ghost says… or wails, and even with the girl around it’s unlikely that the way to get rid of the creature will just happen to be mentioned.

    Library it is, then. Oh, but first I should drop off the groceries. The straps of the backpack are starting to chafe, and the milk and such are probably getting warm. So home first. And I better keep the pace quick - those two might find out something new while I’m gone.

    Oh, dammit, the girl’s heading this way. I better hurry.

    I waddle backwards until I figure it’s safe enough to stand up and start making my way back to the original path. A lot of off-roading is required. I watch my feet carefully in fear of tripping or twisting my ankles on the little mossy hills and valleys. Eyes so occupied with the ground, I fail to notice a loose spiderweb and stumble right in. I claw at my face like a bad-tempered meowth. Get off, get off. Ugh. I hate spiders.

    After a bit of wobbly walking, I reach the familiar path and trail it back. I spot a bright blue crack in the cloud layer above. Oh, neat! Maybe this day won’t be the worst after a-

    “Who are you?”

    Shit. Well, there goes that.

    I turn around. Michi is standing on the path. I didn’t hear her. Or did I just not pay attention?

    “Who are you?” she repeats with a slightly sterner tone. Her icy stare mirrors her voice, but her posture shows a hint of hesitation.

    “I’m just passing by,” I mumble, turn my head and continue walking - but she follows me.

    “No you’re not,” she says. “You’ve been following us for a while now.”

    “How do you figure that?” No, you spoke without thinking first! You don't know who ‘they’ are.

    “Your aura.”

    “Aura?”

    Hm. I guess if she can communicate with ghosts, being able to see auras isn't too surprising.

    Well, good thing I have a means of hiding my own. And I can prepare it when I get home. Might as well check the scriptures there too, then, if I’m going to have a longer stay anyway.

    “I thought that maybe some ursaring had gotten a thorn stuck in its paw,” Michi says, still trailing behind, forced to take steps much faster to keep up. “But you definitely weren’t there to get help. So, what do you want?”

    “Well, you know, yamask are rare. Wanted to look at it.”

    “Why’d you keep out of sight for most of the time, then?”

    I speed up. “Sorry, but I’m not looking for constructive criticism on my ghostwatching. Now leave me alone. People are gonna get the wrong idea if they see an adult like me with a little girl.”

    “You will stop, or I’ll get my friends on you.”

    I stop and sigh. I glare the girl right in her big, blue eyes. I detect a hint of unease.

    “Shouldn’t you be at school or something?” I ask.

    “Shouldn’t you?”

    ...I didn’t think that one through.

    “Tell me what you want from us,” she demands.

    “I already told you. I just wanted to look at the yamask for a bit. Now I have. Can you just let me lea-”

    “Quit tellin’ me that bullshit!” She steps closer, dropping the distance between us down to a meter. Her eyebrows get angrier by the second.

    “Language,” I mutter.

    “You’re not my mom.”

    “Yeah, cause I’m alive.”

    Michi’s face turns pinker. I can’t help but smirk. Now we’re even.

    “Yeah, anyway, great talk,” I say, “but I gotta go. Tell your yamask friend it looks neat.”

    “She.”

    “She?”

    “She’s not an object. She’s a person. And again, stop lying.”

    I sigh. This conversation should just end already.

    “Listen, girl,” I start with an intimidating voice. “There doesn't need to be a problem here. Don't turn this into one.”

    “Or what?” snorts the girl. “You're not gonna do anything. You wouldn't hit a girl.”

    Before she can react, a palm collides with her cheek, leaving a faint red impression. She recoils some steps.

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” she yells, eyes furious and voice cracking.

    “Feminism, clearly.”

    “Ugh, forget it! Just stay away from us!”

    Fists clenched, the girl stomps back the way she came.

    Well, that happened, for better or for worse. I guess a bit better, as I now know the ghost is a she - that’s more information than what I had before this, even if it still doesn’t tell me anything about the mask’s nature for sure. Also worse, though, as now the girl knows to keep an eye out for me. I suppose I just have to count on her to rely on her aura sensing too much.

    Now, then… I hope I still remember the way back to the graveyard.

    ---

    I open the door leading out of the room. The groove running across the door loses its connection with the similar groove on the wall, breaking the silencer circuit. The buzzing of the basement hallway lamp returns to the soundscape.

    As fresher, cooler air pours into the room, I exit it and draw the key out of my pocket. I close the door, lock it and step back to push the bookcase back onto the wall. The door is hidden. Just as it needs to be.

    I return the key to its spot in the bookcase - inside a hollowed out blue book - and make my way back upstairs. I peek under the sleeve of my hoodie’s left arm. The bandage around my wrist stares back.

    Alright. Groceries: unpacked. Seal: created. Scriptures: gone though, nothing relevant found. I’m all set to leave for the library. I should hurry up with that, too, since these things ended up taking longer than I initially expected. The clock of the kitchen’s microwave tells me it’s ten to three already.

    Ten… to… three.

    Ah, shit!

    The front door opens, and in steps Abe. “Red! Are you ready to go?”

    ---
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  13. Bay

    Bay YEAHHHHHHH

    Hey, so I'm reviewing as part of the MMM prize! I'm going to mention a few thougths on the prologue and Chapter 1, then I'll get a bit more detail on Chapter 2. Okay, let's go!

    So I'm aware that this is like a totally dark version of TTP and a part of me is curious how you go by that even though darkfics aren't usually my cup of tea. The prologue sure sets up the tone and imagery you have going on well. Like for instance the description of the body parts being cut up made me squemish a bit (a good thing, lol).

    Chapter One meanwhile is more a bit of setup still some fun tibits there. Yeah this version of Red really seems detached to the real world there. I kinda agree with the Walrein about his fantasy while waiting in the supermarket was a bit much and the trigger might be more effective if it relates more to the themes of this story. The part where he meets with the brother's victim, oh boy that must set Red's alarm for a minute there.

    Now, Chapter Two. And well, looks like Joanna is back to hunt Red (if she can remember that is). Michi reminds me a bit more reserved Acerola from the gen 7 games with the both of them being orphans and able to talk to ghosts. Her reading auras is also interesting, and I do feel bad for her when she mentioned no one want to do anything with orphans.

    There were some dark humor with Red and Michi's interactions there. Red is certainly a jerk with him teasing his mother is alive and slapping Michi. Wonder if she'll make another appearance.

    All right, as I mentioned I usually don't go for darkfics but the premise is interesting to me so far and I'm curious where it goes next. I don't know how often I'll revisit, but I hope to drop by again soon!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  14. pikalax

    pikalax Back in the OLDEN days...

    Full disclosure: being a member of the TPP community and a friend of the author, I have read the entirety of the first version of Hunter, Haunted as it appeared on Bulbagarden and the TwitchPlaysPokemon subreddit. There are a few major plot points that I will try not to spoil in this brief reaction.

    Enter Michi, stage left.

    I honestly love Michi's character throughout the original fic, and this chapter captures a lot of those qualities: her kind nature, her resourcefulness, her quick wit. Also, just the idea of a child ghost-whisperer is super cute, a nice break in tone from the brooding edginess that is Red.

    I usually associate stone with something hard and tangible. So when a ghost is visible, does its body become corporeal?

    Oof. Red, always the harshest critic.

    *dab*
     
    canisaries likes this.
  15. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Thank you both for your replies! Lemme answer that one question real quick:

    At least for yamask, the answer is no. However, their mask is constantly both visible and tangible, behaving like a solid object.

    Chapter Three time! This one is different from the previous to in that it actually incorporates two of the old version's chapters into one (chapters 3 and 4). Due to this, it's a bit longer, though still within normal length fluctuation. The wordcount is at about 5k. This is without a doubt the chapter with the most exposition, but I've tried my best to keep it flowing and to the point - and cut out or repurposed a bunch of stuff from the old version. Possibly you'll find the exposition itself intriguing. And we do get to go different places this time!

    Without further ado, enjoy. Rating is teen for language and references to gruesome acts.

    ---

    CHAPTER 3
    Analysis


    ---​

    The mental health clinic towers over me.

    One would think that a place focused on aiding the mentally troubled would try to appear as welcoming and unintimidating as possible, but clearly the architect didn't agree. Instead, the building is a soulless, washed-beige block of concrete with featureless windows.

    However, that's nothing compared to the entrance, which has a low, protruding roof held up by cuboid pillars that seem far too few and slim to support the thick mass above. The comforting fact that it's a modern building keeping up to modern standards is hard to internalize with the red-green vines spiraling up the pillars and hanging from the ceiling. It almost looks overgrown, abandoned.

    I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm not crazy, I'm not insane. I shouldn't be here. This is a waste of time, and important time at that, given my current situation.

    Behind me, Abe pays the taxi driver - a thirty-plus bearded man who clearly smokes too much, given the suffocating air of his vehicle - who then drives off, leaving the two of us alone. Abe walks to my side and looks up at me, eyes like those of a growlithe pup as always.

    He smiles reassuringly. “Okay, let's go.”

    It’s difficult to feel assured, however, when you’ve been dragged to a foreign building in an unfamiliar part of town to be asked invasive questions about your life and thoughts - all while you’re very likely racing against the clock, trying to stop a ghost from spouting all your incriminating secrets. Now, I would have simply refused to come and fended off any pathetic attempts Abe could have tried to physically restrain me, but he’d thought ahead. Strong as I may be, I was no match for his little friend Alice’s much bigger friend, that being the two-meter-tall mass of muscle and fat known as Stalin the slaking. I would’ve loved to simply stab the musky giant, but that really would’ve only made things worse. In summary, I had no choice but to obey.

    I merely sigh and follow Abe through the front doors of the clinic.

    The hall of the building is tall and wide, a dramatic change from the crevice before. The ceiling and ground are off-white. The walls are viridian, as is the glass-encased reception desk right ahead. Save for the receptionist, me and Abe, the hall is void of people.

    Abe walks up to the desk and the man behind it, who has been eyeing me since I came in. I traipse after my brother, in no hurry to catch up.

    “Hi,” begins Abe quietly, resting his fingers on the counter. “My brother has an appointment.”

    “Name?” asks the receptionist, his eyes locked on mine as I stop in front of the desk. I can tell exactly what he’s thinking. What’s the matter with this one? Nothing. But I bet that’s what they all say.

    Abe saves me the trouble of answering. “Red Akai.”

    “Alright. Let me see...” The man swivels his chair to face his computer and begins to click and type. His eyes, however, flick back to me once amidst his search.

    “15.20, Dr Jordan Marsh?”

    “Yes.”

    “Third floor, hallway E. You can wait there.”

    “Thanks,” says Abe, nodding, and leaves. I begin to follow, but a comment from the man freezes me.

    “Sir, you’ll have to give up your knife.”

    I turn around slowly, glaring at him. I walk back to the desk. I unstrap the sheath from my belt and place it onto the counter, knife inside. The man drags the blade encased in decorated leather to himself through the small opening in the glass. My eyes pinned to his, moving only my lips, I utter three commanding words.

    “Don't lose it.”

    He glances away and puts the weapon in a drawer. The second the drawer is clamped shut, I turn and walk back to Abe, who silently watches me approach.

    “Third floor, hallway E?” I ask. Abe nods, and we head to the staircase.

    The staircase is wide and curves to hug an elevator shaft. After ascending the staircase to the third floor, we reach a room with four blue sofas encircling a clearing in the middle. Three people are seated. One is a young man with glasses fidgeting with his wristwatch, another a stout middle-aged man with heavy eyes and slouching posture, and lastly there’s a girl so motionless and inconspicuously dressed that her presence is barely distinguishable. Of them, only the older man reacts to our arrival, and merely with a brief glance.

    I can smell the crazy off them.

    Several white signs with black letters and arrows on them hang from the ceiling, each one pointing to their own hallway. I spot hallway E from across the room, as does Abe, and we proceed. After a quick turn, hallway E boasts a long wall full of doors. Some way ahead are five seats and a table against the opposing wall. Abe escorts me to sit down, then remains standing, looking unsure.

    “You can just leave,” I say, leaning back and crossing my legs. “I’m not going to run off without my knife.”

    Abe sighs, his expression becoming stronger.

    “Just go. Your job is done,” I say, this time with eye contact.

    “...Okay then,” he exhales and turns around to walk off. “Remember, bus 20,” he adds over his shoulder.

    “Yeah.”

    Bus 20, Abe told me, would bring me back to the high school. He handed me the necessary cash on the ride here. I could’ve told him I already had enough on me, but I’m not gonna say no to free money and exact change at that.

    I watch Abe disappear behind the corner, then sigh and take a lengthy blink. My arms cross themselves and my finger begins to tap.

    The shrink better call me in soon. Who knows what Michi and the mask are doing right now. Who knows what kind of conversation they’re having. Oh, what’s that, my yamask friend? You just remembered how the woman whose face you’re carrying died? Oh, she was murdered? Torn apart in an occult ritual? And it was done by that black-haired man that was following us earlier? Well, that’s not very nice! We should go and tell the nice men at the police station right away!

    Oh Gods, what if that’s actually what’s happening? What if they already told the police? What if they’re coming for me right now?

    No, no, think about this logically. Calm down your pounding heart. They don’t have any proof. And in this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty, right? They can’t get me arrested. They can only put me under suspicion. And the cops can’t just go ahead and ransack my place based on something a ghost and a little girl said, can they? As long as no one finds out about my secret room, I’m safe. And Joanna never even knew where the room was.

    The worst they can do right now is get the police to question me. And really, that’s not too different from what I’m about to go through here, anyway. So, with all that considered, I should just get this over with as quickly as possible and then rush for the library. Yeah. That’s the best solution. I’ll appear normal, which will undermine the credibility of any accusations Michi and the mask may throw. But I’ll still keep my schedule tight and eliminate the threat so that I can sleep my nights in peace.

    Alright, that’s settled. Now back to waiting impatiently. I let my eyes wander around my boring surroundings and what the hell is that?

    On the table. Black smudge with legs. That's a spider. Where did it come from? Are there others nearby? No, don't move!

    My body squeezes itself against the far armrest. Stop walking this way, you bastard! I don't want anything to do with you, you disgusting, unpredictable stain of a creature. You don't even look alive. You're a machine, created only to crawl into places you shouldn't be in and repulse anyone who spots your ugly silhouette.

    How does it do it? How does a tiny, harmless critter set off a blaring alarm in my brain, when its cousin ariados are perfectly fine for me to look at?

    That's it. I'm sick of this. I’m sounding like common prey here. I'm a predator, apex no less, and this spider will know it. No matter how repugnant you are, you're fifty steps below me in the food chain. Die.

    My hand is raised, ready to squish, but it only trembles in place. I really, really don't want to feel its shell or innards on my skin. Should I use my shoe instead? It'd be far easier on my heart…

    No, this is ridiculous. Red, aren't you the Bringer? Isn't it your fate to merge with the god of chaos and usher forth a new age?

    You've killed eight human beings in a slow and painful way. You've drunk their blood and eaten their flesh. And now suddenly killing a spider by hand is off limits because the touch of one is a bit icky?

    It's almost like you weren't suitable to be the Bringer after all…

    Slam!

    Th-there. It's done. It's dead. It's dead, right? I don't think it's moving. I just feel its broken body, its gross body. It's done, so now I can get it off. Quickly, in case it isn't dead after all.

    I yank the hand off the table and swipe the palm on the knee of my jeans. Spider corpse on jeans, okay, get off, I flick it off and it drops to the floor. I'm safe. Not that I wasn't ever safe. I can just be at ease now.

    “Red Akai?”

    I flinch. Who said that? Ah, yeah, must be the psych.

    “Yes,” I answer quickly, looking at the speaker. It's… a woman, huh. I expected a man, because of the name, I think. What was the name?

    “I'm Dr Jordan Marsh. Please, come in,” the woman says, gesturing to her open door. Jordan… well, it is a unisex name.

    I get up and walk to the door, then glance at the dead spider on the floor one more time. Still there. It really is dead.

    I enter the room and survey it. In the right corner, there's a pale wooden desk with a computer and orderly stacks of paper on it. To my left are two dark green, comfy looking leather armchairs with a white table in between. On the table, there's a clock, a vase of flowers - plastic - and… a tissue box. Seriously?

    The psychologist closes the door behind me. “Please, have a seat,” she says, and I choose the far chair. It's soft enough, living up to its looks. The woman sits down on the other chair.

    As she searches for a blank page in the notebook in her hands, I take in her look. Red thick-rimmed glasses, dark bowl cut, mascara, black-and-white clothing… is this one of those goths I've heard about? Is she gonna try to sell me Giratina? Sorry, lady. Already have a cult.

    “So,” she begins, finally forcing my eyes to her face, “how are you?”

    “...Right now?”

    “Right now.”

    “Fine, I guess.”

    “You guess?”

    “I know.” Look, can you hurry it up? I may have some time, but I don’t have forever.

    “Alright, then...” She scribbles something in her notebook. Was… was that important?

    “So, we are here today to evaluate you,” she continues. “Your brother tells me you’ve been skipping out on your previous evaluations. Is that correct?”

    “I just don’t think they're necessary.”

    “So you’d consider yourself a mentally healthy person?”

    “Yes.” Probably more than most.

    “Have you had any previous diagnoses?”

    “None besides the Twitch.”

    “Alright...” She writes more. “And speaking of, how would you say the Twitch has affected you?”

    Well, I get nightmares, can't use computers without terrifying flashbacks, and somehow gained an emotional connection to another person despite the fact that it should be impossible - and that connection is currently the number one obstacle between me and my ascension. But let’s go with the nightmares, they sound normal enough.

    “Well, I get some nightmares now and then, about my time on my journey… but otherwise, not really.”

    She writes something in her notebook again, then returns to her questions. She asks me about how well I've slept, if I'm on any medication, whether or not I use any substances… couldn't I just have filled out some form? This is taking annoyingly long. My finger starts to tap again, but I stop it.

    She also asks whether the merge affected my life. It did, I gained a brother and a secret room and lost a bunch of memories and possibly a father if he was there to begin with. Funny thing, that merge. Some people had their lives shuffled by the two timelines becoming one. Scientists were thrilled to have a whole new area to explore. Then there were the people who say the merge never happened - not surprising, given how little actually changed in the end.

    For me, there’s really no use in pondering it. There’s no way to affect phenomena like these, and HE tells me there won’t be another for at least a thousand years. Even if I was able to hop between timelines, it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m mortal and only a sad, powerless human.

    “Alright then, moving on. Tell me, how is school for you?” the psychologist asks, eyes on her notes.

    “It’s okay. I don’t get the highest grades, but I don’t need them.”

    “That’s funny...”

    Wait, what does that mean? “Why’s that?”

    Her eyes meet mine. “Because I know you quit high school two years ago.”

    My shoulders tense. Shit, I got caught lying. How does she know I quit?

    “Why did you quit?” she asks, leaning back in her chair. She has a more… relaxed air to her now. It’s like she was waiting for me to slip up.

    Okay, why did I quit, why did I quit. Quitting isn’t normal. What’s normal for quitters? What’s normal for a person in my situation? I quit because the people pissed me off way too much and I needed time to hunt down sacrifices for HIM. And take care of the omanyte, but... that’s history now. But could that work as a reason here? If I let her know I cared for someone - and from others’ perspective, still do - she’s less likely to consider me a potential danger to society.

    “I needed time off to care for my elderly mon… friend.” I guess that’s the best word to use here, since ‘master’ and ‘lord’ are definitely out of the question.

    “Helix, right?”

    The name sounds so wrong coming from her mouth. “How do you know all these things?”

    “Your brother told me, as background information,” she says. Of course. “And while we’re on the subject… he told me you were Helixian. That’s a pretty small religion, isn’t it?”

    I clench my teeth as stealthily as I can. Those ‘worshippers’ are a joke. They don’t know anything about HIM, they just saw a cool stone with a neat symbol and tacked some generic message of love and peace onto it. Disgusting. “Yes.”

    “How does this affect your life?”

    “It doesn’t that much. I simply take care of Him as best as I can.”

    “Him?”

    “My lord. The omanyte. Or omastar.” Don’t make me say the name. Just let some things stay sacred.

    “Alright… can you further describe your relationship with the omanyte?”

    Sensations spring to my mind. The timid eyes of a newly-hatched omanyte, the touch of its cautiously reaching arm. An older omanyte playfully swimming in loops and circles. The sound of its ‘good morning’ as my feet descend the stairs. The pattern of its shell, the hypnotic spiral. The slit pupils of perceptive, yellow eyes and the coiling of tentacles upon tentacles. The deep blue blood on Mt Silver’s snow. The pain in His voice. The pain in my chest. I feel the same pain now. My heart wrapped in coarse rope, the loops chafing the organ and getting tighter. I want it out. I want to rip it out and stomp on it for feeling this!

    “Are you alright?”

    I'm in the room again. It's weirdly quiet. Was it always this quiet?

    “Yeah, just got lost in thought,” I answer, fixing my sight on my hands to keep any more images from surfacing.

    Oh Gods, I just want to get out of here and get on with my plans. This isn’t worth it anymore. How could I cut this short, but do so politely and normally…? Ah, I've got it! Why didn't I think of this before?

    “Actually, though…” I interrupt the psych's writing. “I'm sorta getting a pretty bad headache right now.”

    “Oh.” She lowers her pen. “Can you not go on?”

    “I don't think I can, no… I'm sorry.” I rub my forehead, as if to alleviate a pain. “I get migraines from time to time, and this feels like one…”

    “How bad is it? Do you need help?”

    “Nah, no, I… I think I should just go home and sleep it off. That usually does it.”

    I get up and she makes no motions to stop me. I take that as a sign of success.

    “Shall we reschedule?” she asks. Ah, damn, she isn't done with me yet.

    “Yeah, we should… I don't have a phone right now, so please call my brother.” I wobble to the door. “Thanks… goodbye.”

    “Goodbye,” she replies, and I exit.

    Phew. Won't have to worry about that for a while. Hopefully not before I manage to get rid of the mask.

    I backtrack the route I walked with Abe, though nearly get lost in the way, as some hallways are pretty much identical. The blueprints of this place must have been just an elaborate squiggle. Nevertheless, I arrive at the main hall and resume feigning a headache, just in case. After waiting through a short line at the reception desk, I ask for my knife back and receive it. I swear I could’ve seen a hint of malicious joy in the receptionist’s eyes. Should that kind of person really be in such a social profession? I’d never put myself in a job like that.

    I exit the building and walk to the glass-walled bus stop, which turns out to be rather close to the clinic. I suppose that’s neat. The glass may be smeared and dirty, but it shields me from the cold wind sufficiently enough. I sit down on the bench, though not before making sure my seat is clean.

    Now to wait for bus 20. It’ll take me to the high school, and that's right next to the library. I'll be there before I know it.

    I watch the maples across the street nod in the wind and keep my ears perked for the sound of any oncoming vehicles. A few come, but all are either normal cars or buses of the wrong number. A few pedestrians have passed by as well, but no one has initiated conversation, only kept walking in silence. Just as they should.

    Here comes another one. A bit odd-looking. It's a tall, bulky guy of Unovan descent with blond hair and mostly white clothing. His posture and gait are valiant, yet somehow still… humble?

    In his hands, he carries some kinds of cards. Something sparkling hangs from his neck. Golden. Ring-like? Oh no, I think I know what he is. Yep, he's close enough for me to be sure now - he's an Arceist. Weirdly muscular for one… but either way, it's fine as long as he doesn't come here aaand he's coming here.

    “Good afternoon, young man!” he greets, smiling warmly. The guy's got a voice like a radio host. Up close, he looks at least a decade older than me. He's been doing this for a while, hasn't he?

    He continues with the famous line of his kind. “Have you heard the wonderful word of Arceus, our creator?”

    I'm feeling pretty tired of today's bullshit already, so I guess I'll just be an asshole to shoo him off. Could help me get out a bit of aggression. Maybe even a laugh, who knows.

    “Go back to Sinnoh, pony boy.”

    His widened eyes show that the intended offense was taken, but annoyingly enough, he doesn't leave.

    “Hey. Show a bit more respect,” he scolds, like a parent.

    “Fuck off,” I spit, chin raised. Take the hint!

    The Arceist steps forward with a threatening stance. What, what's he gonna do? Arceists’ whole thing is non-violence. His size and muscles mean nothing if they won't be utilized. I guess he doesn't realize that… fine, I'll spell it out for him, then.

    I grab the hilt of my knife and pull the blade out. The man recoils.

    “Off you go.” I waggle the knife.

    Indignant, the man moves on - but something about the man's sour face says that he'll remember this. He may as well. I've got nothing to fear about him.

    I sigh through my nose and slip the knife back in its scabbard. That wasn't as satisfying as I was hoping it to be. Maybe I'm just not feeling it today.

    Among the fading steps of the man, I hear a vehicle approach and look. It’s a bus, and it's bus 20. I jump off the bench to signal it to stop just in time. Whew, would've sucked to miss that.

    I climb aboard, pay for a ticket and take a seat. The bus nudges into motion, headed for the high school.

    ---

    The library is an octagonal building with white outer walls and a black roof. Small, wide windows form a dull band around the upper rim of the walls.

    From the outside, it may look desolate and soulless, but I know the inside is way different. It’s a wonderful, peaceful place. It smells like paper and wood and freshly baked buns thanks to the café inside, separated from the actual book section with glass walls to shield the library from noise. And that lack of noise, the silence - bar the occasional swish of a turned page - that’s the single greatest quality of the whole place.

    I have fond memories of this library. During the one year I spent in high school, it was my asylum. When the other kids simply got too much to bear, I could escape here and get the space and privacy I needed. I hid deep within the maze of shelves, and oh, what shelves they were - beneath their glossy layer of lacquer, there ran beautiful curves of dark and light, like waves on a beach. Their liveliness reached full bloom with the books they carried - vivid, colorful, like flowers. It was a garden without any of the bugs, thorns or neighbors loudly mowing their lawn just beyond the hedges.

    Even after quitting school, I came here from time to time to relax. But… I guess at some point, I started visiting less and less until I dropped the habit completely. I’ve forgotten the last time I was here. What’s up with that? Either I forgot this place, or I just didn’t feel like coming anymore. I have had lapses in motivation before. Especially as of late.

    Eh, never mind. I should go in already, both to hurry up and to experience the lovely atmosphere because Gods know I could use it with all that’s happened today.

    I step up to the doors and pull one open to slip inside. It’s warm like always, and… wait, what?

    Where are the wooden shelves? Where is the café? And what is that smell? It’s like if a feral rattata had skittered into a spice rack and knocked just about everything down into a boiling pot of soup. It seems to be coming from what’s replaced the café - some kind of exotic deli. But then there are also the stenches of new paint and rubber...

    Instead of comfy and welcoming furniture in warm hues, the book section looks colorless and cold, now matching the exterior. This is not the library I know. Is this really the right building?

    It must be. I can see shelves and shelves of books ahead. But the shelves are different. They’re all… modern. I think it’s metal painted with black and white? Whatever it is, it’s matte and lifeless, making the books lose their color as well. Underneath the bookshelves lie black carpets. Everything else is white, which it how it used to be, but… now it feels so cold.

    Who would do this? Why? What makes a person decide to do something like this? There’s nothing to gain. Everyone loses. There’s no way someone would find joy in taking a nice little place and just… vomiting grayscale all over it.

    I sigh. I guess everything dies eventually. Except me - and if I wanna keep it that way, I should get down to business.

    I navigate to the Fact section, then to Biology, Pokémon, Ghost. It all takes a while with the new layout and new types of signs. I remember reading so much about human anatomy in the old Biology section, learning what’s underneath my skin and how it all works… how it compares to what I’ve seen during the rituals.

    No, I've got to concentrate now. I look for a title with ‘yamask', and when one doesn't surface, pick out what looks like the next best thing - The Complete Guide to Ghost Pokémon - and haul myself over to a chair to read.

    A bunch of the book’s contents are already familiar to me, as I expected. Type effectiveness, ability to pass through walls and objects - save for the group of ghosts possessing or holding physical things, which I'm guessing yamask falls under due to the mask. Some ghosts can form illusions, some can possess other lifeforms. However, it doesn't seem like yamask are mentioned anywhere here… I check the glossary, and indeed, the Y block lacks a mention.

    To hell with this book, then. I return it to the shelf and pick out another.

    No yamask there, either. Huh. Guess they really are rare. Is there really no book specifically on yamask? I go through the spines of the books again, and… wait. There's one with its spine facing away from me. I drag it out. Black covers, golden letters, Yamask: Shadows from the Past. This has to be what I’m looking for.

    I part the covers. So tell me, book, what is a yamask?

    A shadow-like ghost type pokémon. Carries a mask of its former… se…

    Fuck. So it is Joanna herself, back from beyond the grave. Or no grave, as I just disintegrated her corpse and her family is still looking for her. Either way, this means it - she, as Michi said - may indeed know things about me that really shouldn’t see the light of day.

    Hmm… thinking back to the encounter, Joanna didn't remember her name, and Michi said the yamask had been around for a while… your own name feels like one of the first things you'd remember, given how important and prevalent it is during your life. With that in mind, I'd estimate her remembering rate to be pretty slow. That's a comforting fact.

    Reading on, the book tells me yamask are an Unovan species, most common in the Relic Castle buried in the Desert Resort. They can appear all over the world, but tend to be drawn to the castle, possibly in search of answers. Yamask can also evolve. They can, now?

    I flip the page. Grotesque red eyes stare back from the darkness lurking inside a blue-and-gold coffin in an illustration of what the evolved form, cofagrigus, looks like. Better not let Joanna evolve into that. Seems a lot harder to get rid of.

    Speaking of, let's get to the main reason we're here. With the help of the table of contents, I find the information on a yamask's death.

    Like most ghosts, yamask can't die of age, hunger, thirst or disease, or at least no cases have been observed. Also like most ghosts, exorcisms can be performed on them to either remove them from a host or from this world entirely depending on whether a fatal or non-fatal exorcism is used. Exorcisms tend to be pretty complicated, though…

    Oh, there appears to be another way. It involves taking the creature’s mask and wearing it, which will cause one to be possessed. This will make the ghost tangible within the host’s reality, allowing the human to land a deadly strike to destroy the yamask once and for all. However, this technique only tends to work with new ghosts and with the element of surprise at hand as the ghost can easily escape from reach soon after the possession's beginning.

    Well, aren't I lucky to be dealing with a first-time ghost, then! Sounds like all I have to do is be quick and cunning, and that's what HE has trained me to be. This'll be a piece of cake. Still, I should look into that exorcism business. It'd be foolish not to have a back-up plan. Back to the shelf it is…

    ---

    I fold the napkin and tuck it in my pocket. I really should’ve brought my notebook along.

    I stop to stare at the ballpoint pen I’d borrowed to scribble down the instructions to one exorcism I found. Should I return it, or accept it as compensation for the horrible renovation of this place? Eh, I guess I’ll return it. I have enough enemies as is.

    I walk up to the librarian and return the pen with a smile and a thank you - just to see if I was still capable of performing such actions, I suppose. I exit the library and squint my eyes. The sun is setting? How long was I in there? Well, at least the clouds have finally parted. Looks like it’ll be a starry night.

    I can’t help but crack a smile. What a lovely stage for the upcoming performance. Tragedy for them, comedy for me.

    What’s this feeling? I felt it back in the supermarket, too, now that I think about it. It’s a kind of… warmth, a sense of purpose, a sense of power. Is this… yes, this is the same feeling. The same feeling I get when I kill.

    It has been a while since I truly got to end something with my own hands. This must be what I’ve been missing, this has to be why I’ve felt so empty lately. I never received the satisfaction of cutting Joanna open. I was removed from that scene, and while the afterglow was still there for me to enjoy, it didn’t fully sate me. But, tonight - tonight, I’ll claim the reward I deserve.

    Tonight, the predator is on the hunt.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  16. pikalax

    pikalax Back in the OLDEN days...

    Hi all, just dumping my thoughts on this chapter.

    For the sake of context, Alice was the player character in TwitchPlaysPokemon's run through Pokemon FireRed Randomizer. I unironically ship her with Red.

    [​IMG]

    You know, I never did watch that particular battle all the way through.

    Exactly how I feel about random strangers in public transit systems.

    There's no way in Shengdu that Red can mess that up!

    * PikalaxALT slinks out through the window
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
    canisaries likes this.
  17. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    All right, Hunter, Haunted! I actually read some of Seiren before this story, so I'm not coming into this entirely blind. (And I read "Vivarium" earlier as well, of course.) It's funny, because this really does feel apiece with Seiren, although I believe you wrote this one first? As it is I think starting with Seiren worked better for me than going into this story cold would have; I think it offers a bit more context and gentle introduction to the characters.

    Regardless! We're a lot more focused on the grimmer realities of Red's service to LORD HELIX here, although there are still some of the humorous undertones that are more prominent in Seiren. I think you've set up a neat premise, with the serial killer having to kill one of his victims again to stop them from ratting him out from beyond the grave. To me, the fact that one of his victims has returned as a ghost (which I guess doesn't happen often?) kind of provides an interesting counterpoint to Red's conviction that everyone else is going to fade away and disappear. Obviously a ghost can be killed again, and there's nothing to indicate that they can return a second time, but death evidently isn't as clear-cut as Red's been going on about, even for ordinary humans. I also have to wonder just what guarantee LORD HELIX offered Red that he actually will get that eternal life he's been promised, or if Red's simply been so overwhelmed by HIS power that he simply takes it all on faith. I have a sense that someone's getting played here, personally.

    One of the questions that's been most interesting to me so far is how the whole TPP thing actually links up to the world we see here. The Twitch is something that the psychiatrist apparently recognizes and isn't, as far as I can tell, an indication of mental illness in and of itself. Is Red actually the Indigo League champion, or former champion? People don't particularly seem to recognize him, but on the other hand he appears to live comfortably with no apparent source of income or any inclination towards getting a job, and he has powerful pokémon, although he doesn't really seem to train or battle with them anymore. Everything kind of surrounding his mental illness is intriguing to me. Like, evidently people think there's something up with him, if he has some organization requiring that he attend therapy, but obviously they aren't aware of the whole serial killer thing. So what did he do to that was severe enough for some organization to require that he has therapy, but not severe enough that he has anybody monitoring his behavior outside of that?

    The therapy session was also kind of weird. The therapist was acting as though the two of them had never met, but Red's familiar with the place and everything else indicates that he has been to one or two sessions previously, even if he keeps skipping out on them. Obviously there are plenty of reasons he might get assigned to a new therapist if he hasn't been around in a while, but at the least I'd expect the new woman to have notes from previous sessions to draw on, which she didn't seem to here.

    In any case, there are plenty of mysteries surrounding Red and his past, which I'm personally interested in learning more about, although I get the sense that we won't be going too in depth with them in this story.

    Another highlight for me was Michi. She seems like a fun antagonist, and I imagine she's going to give Red a delightful amount of hell--she's already shown herself to be a lot more capable than he'd like, and in general I think Red's in for a rough time as long as Joanna has her on her side. Of course, I don't ultimately see things ending well for either Michi or Joanna, but I think they'll keep things lively. I've definitely enjoyed their scenes (scene?) thus far.

    On the other hand, I can sometimes get a little tired of Red's narration. He's a bit longwinded about things, and covers pretty mundane stuff in an unusual level of detail. I think that's definitely part of his character, and it's not like you should up and get rid of all that; it gives him a distinct voice, after all, and helps the reader understand his perspective. You also do a good job of bringing out some of the humor in how his grandiose view of himself and the world around him contrasts with how mundane most of his activities actually are, like when he's agonizing over squishing a spider or fuming over the torment of waiting in line at the grocery store. However, it does get to be a little dry for me at times. I think it must be pretty claustrophobic to be cooped up in Red's head, and the narrative reflects that, but it's not always the most fun as a reading experience, you know? In general, though, this is something I expect to be less of an issue in future chapters, where presumably things are going to pick up and Red's life is going to get a lot less mundane.

    You clearly like your descriptive passages, and overall I think that you do a good job of using them to give color and life to the story. Red also has a clearly idiosyncratic way of thinking that's a bit more verbose and grandiose than most people's. At times, however, I think your phrasing or wording is a bit off, or you're not quite using the right words for what you mean, which I don't think is supposed to be Red's mistake. Here are some examples, along with some typical typos and grammar things, etc.:

    * guy's

    "rhotacistic"?

    He's... stroking the doorframe as he goes in? I'm guessing either you meant "brushing" or you're getting at a gesture I'm not picking up on.

    Lifeless hues of the etiquettes?

    * cover the price, probably

    The end of this sentence is kind of jumbled. Just removing "too" would help.

    "The being" is a kind of a strange reach for an epithet here, I think. Why not just "the pokémon," since Red's already identified it as such?

    You want "peeks out from behind" or something similar. "Peeks behind" would be looking around the treetrunk, not emerging from behind it.

    I think you want "gracefully" rather than "graciously."

    *set my friends on you, maybe?

    Not sure why "nevertheless" is in here.

    You'd usually say locked "on," not "in."

    Cupboards usually have doors, not drawers.

    "Nudges into motion" or similar would sound a lot more natural.

    I think the passage that stuck out to me the most was the one at the very beginning of the fanfic, where Red's coming too and slowly figuring out what's going on. There you really sell the atmosphere of confusion and gradual realization of the situation, alongside the kind of languid, contented feeling he's coming out of. If anything it was a little jarring to go from that kind of intense descriptive mode, with a lot of figurative language, to the second half of that chapter, where Red's narration is a lot more matter-of-fact and casual. In any case, I think that sometimes when you go descriptive you stumble a bit, but when you succeed, you really knock it out of the park. So overall worth it, I think!

    My sense is that the chapters I've read are kind of introductory, setting the scene, and that the story picks up a bit from here. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Michi and Joanna, and how exactly Red's going to go about trying to eliminate the ghost for good. There are a lot of fresh ideas in this story, and the execution is solid; it's always nice to see something new and different pop up on the forums, and this definitely fits the bill. I suppose the writing on this went well enough, seeing as it's finished, but good luck with your revisions, I suppose!
     
    canisaries likes this.
  18. canisaries

    canisaries *blocks your path*

    Thank you so much for the review! I was only expecting Chapter One to be looked at, but this is a really nice to surprise.

    Ah, yeah, thinking about this more, I can see where the confusion comes. You see, Abe has also had the Twitch, and so have a couple others, and in some point in time one of the previous sufferers set up a Foundation (helps that her dad is loaded) to support and benefit the previous sufferers, as well as to spread awareness so new cases can be helped quickly. The Twitch is in reference to the on-stream events, that being the control of a human host by the chat (the Voices, as they're commonly referred to in the lore). In-universe, this manifests as strange, involuntary motions and behavior, which understandably is very stressful to the sufferers. Abe was the player character in one of the later playthroughs, a fact that most of the TPP fandom is aware of, but it's very possible I failed to actually establish that to outsiders.

    Red is a former champion in this canon. In this world, battling isn't that big of a deal and even kind of a dying art, as sentient mon are largely integrated into society as (mostly) equal citizens. Red gained the title of Champion at twelve years old while under the influence of the Twitch, six years prior to the events of this fic, so basically no one recognizes him. It doesn't help that he's a shut-in. As for income, he mostly leeches off his mother who owns the house but prefers not to stay there due to their relationship, as well as what the Foundation gives him, any part- or full-time work his mon friends do and the occasional black market organ trade. I'll admit it's a bit of a stretch, but I haven't come up with any other canon-compliant explanations.

    Lastly, a common mistake: Red is not going to therapy, but to psychological evaluation - the difference between the two is that the former is meant for treating known problems, while the latter is meant for spotting or verifying problems. These yearly checkups are to make sure no serious mental issues have developed due to the past trauma of going through the Twitch, and if they have, get them help. Red has been avoiding them to keep his less-than-ordinary urges and views under wraps. They're unrelated to the Twitch (well, in that they would exist without the Twitch, but it's not like the Twitch made them any better), but his history with the Twitch is what puts this magnifying glass on him and threatens his secrets. (The Twitch is also what introduced him to Helix and, by consequence, later on to HELIX.)

    This confused me a bit. Red is not meant to be familiar with the clinic, and it's not meant to be implied that he's shown up to previous checkups. However, Abe has, so he's familiar with the clinic and how it works. For Red, I was purposely describing the building and the psychologist as new experiences. Can you tell me which parts in particular gave you the impression he'd been there before?

    Oh, my bad, the error here is actually the lack of an "are". There are several guys.

    "Rhotacism: the inability to articulate the (r) sound as a rhotic consonant." Rhotacistic - the adjective form. Or as TV Tropes calls it, Elmuh Fudd Syndwome. Stereotypical for young children.

    Yup, that's probably what I wanted. This and the other odd phrasings you've pointed out are pretty much all due to English not being my first language, so I don't have the fullest context to the usages of each word. I appreciate you pointing these out, though! I always wanna get better.

    I was trying to get across a sort of matte, phony, unnatural feel in contrast to more organic materials, but upon further consideration, "hue" probably wasn't a fitting word for that. Whoops, sorry, checked "etiquette" in the dictionary and it does not have the secondary meaning I thought it had based on the loanword to my language. Will fix it.

    Makes sense, although I'm not sure how else I can try to distinguish between a drawer (the full piece of furniture) and a drawer (a single containment unit within that piece of furniture). Compartment?

    Your impression is correct - these first chapters are a bit on the slower side (I've tried to condense them compared to the previous version due to feedback), but in the next chapter, things are definitely going down. It's coming along a bit slowly due to me being so busy with studies and other projects, but it marks an important turning point in the story.

    Well, thanks for giving this a look! I hope you'll return to check out the new chapters sometime after they've come.
     
    pikalax likes this.

Share This Page