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The Impassive God [REWRITE - PG-15]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Samayouru, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    This is pretty much gonna be a psychological/survival horror story so of course there's gonna be some violence, death, dark/disturbing imagery and of course swearing. If you're not up for that then yeah this story isn't going to be for you. Sorry.
    It's been a while. Sorry I sort of just disappeared for a bit - I had to go away and think about life for a while. Decided to reboot one of the older fanfics I wrote (but never got past the first chapter) because the idea was solid but my writing at the time wasn't, it should be somewhere in the forum's archive if you want to go and compare the original to this one. Enjoy (or not, I don't mind either way).

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    01: COGNISANCE (Right here!)

    -------------------------------

    The Impassive God

    01
    COGNISANCE

    Phillip Heath was late.

    Or at least he assumed that he was late. It was hard to tell when the smartphone that he’d sworn he’d placed on the rickety bedside table last night had apparently vanished into thin air. The same could be said for his briefcase which, unlike the phone, Phil knew one-hundred percent that he’d placed it against the only chair in his cramped hotel room with the sole purpose of being in his line of sight when he had to get up. Then to add insult to injury, the map of Hearthome he’d purchased from the tourist bureau had been put in that same briefcase, just so he wouldn’t lose it.

    His eyes darted frantically around as he pulled his socks up then proceeded to turn the room upside-down for the fourth time that morning, muttering and cussing all the way. Had the briefcase fallen off the chair? Nope. Had he put it under the bed? Nope. Had he even been stupid enough to put it in the drawers or the wardrobe? Nope and nope. Phil pinched the bridge of his nose and slid his scuffed shoes on. ‘Damn it,’ he said under his breath. He was going to have to go to this meeting without his notes – and there was a good chance that if he fucked up this meeting then VeilTech would have his ass out on the streets faster than a rapidash that had been doped up on caffeine.

    He barged through the door to his hotel room and the musty air in the corridor hit him like a tidal wave, making him grit his teeth and press his lips together. VeilTech wasn’t exactly the best when it came to the treatment of their staff (despite what their ads on TV told everyone), but Phil didn’t think they’d pick out a crappy hotel like this for an employee to stay in. He scowled. If it wasn’t for the fact that he could possibly lose his job after today he would’ve made a complaint to the management about how shoddy the Moonstone Inn turned out to be.

    He finally reached the elevator and jammed his thumb against the button to call it up, then folded his arms. He didn’t even try to stop his right leg from twitching impatiently as he waited, but as his emotions began to subside Phil’s attention was drawn to something he hadn’t really noticed before. When he had finally gotten off the coach that had taken him to the east side of Hearthome the streets had been buzzing with activity, which had seeped into the corridors when Phil had been given the key to his room on the third floor. But now? It was quiet – too quiet, in fact. He knitted his eyebrows together. Hell, the walls had been thin enough for him to just make out the muffled voices of other people in their rooms, or the creaking of floorboards pressed against feet.

    Phil swallowed, his lips becoming dry.

    The elevator was taking too long.

    He looked at the dented elevator doors, then to the stairs and huffed – running his hands through his thinning hair. He probably needed to get some exercise anyway.

    The thumps of his shoes felt a lot louder than they did last night, partially thanks to the aforementioned silence and partially because Phil was powerwalking his way to the ground floor now. His brow still felt tight and he could just begin to feel the faint trickle of sweat dampen his neck. He tugged at the collar of his office shirt as he passed the first floor corridor, shaking his head in an attempt to clear the chill of worry pricking at the base of his spine.

    He had to focus. He had a meeting to get to.

    Finally the double doors leading to the reception room met his line of sight. Phil drew a long breath as he completed the last flight of stairs. The corridor felt like it was closing in on him and the stillness wasn’t helping a single bit. He took no time pushing the doors and they flung open with a sharp creak, suggesting that they were in dire need of oiling. But what met Phil was the same as it had been on the floors above. Devoid of people and pokemon, the lobby looked as welcome as a graveyard with patchy, leather chairs serving as the tombstones. Phil cast his line of sight around the room and licked his parched lips. ‘Hello?’ he said. ‘Is anybody here?’

    His voice was swallowed up by the silence and was given nothing in return.

    The front door beckoned to him urgently but by now unease had turned to concern. Phil approached the front desk, fidgeting with his fingers. He was acting paranoid – it was probably just a slow day for the hotel, that was all. But he still wanted to just confirm that he wasn’t the only one there before he left. Besides, the hotel staff wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave their lobby unattended, right?

    He tapped the desk bell which produced an invasive tinging noise and clenched his hands into fists. Ten seconds of waiting became twenty, then thirty, then forty and Phil still found himself standing alone, waiting for someone to come and assure him that his common sense had been correct.

    And then something caught Phil’s attention – something that made him take several slow steps until he was staring at Hearthome’s roads and buildings, his palms pressing against the icy glass windows. The streets were just as empty as the hotel appeared to be, even to the point where there wasn’t a single parked car to be seen. But that wasn’t what made Phil blink and rub his eyes. No, what drew his attention was something far more concerning.

    There, running across the sky like veins in a body, were thick, black lines – thousands of them. Every so often a vein would swell as if it had become clogged and was about to burst, then shrink back down to the size it had been before. Surges of white electricity danced across the lines, relaying out of his view as quickly as they had entered, and the colour of the sky itself made Phil’s heart drop down into his stomach. It was if someone had taken someone’s muscle tissue and had stretched it out as far as it could go without being torn apart in a gory display of pinks and reds.

    At this point Phil’s mind had gone completely blank. In fact he was so stunned that he had to force himself to close his mouth before his tongue started to dry out. He felt a fat bead of sweat trail down from his brow, moistening his skin. He was dreaming – he had to be dreaming – either that or he was ill and this was all some terrible illusion conjured up by his subconscious, having been cramped full of medicine or something like that. These were the only thoughts he could use to justify whatever was going on. But he knew what being in a dream was like – it was like walking through melted caramel – and if he had been dreaming then looking up and seeing whatever the hell was going on up in the sky would be more than enough to wake him.

    And so, with common sense finally ebbing away, the only words Phil could think of to sum up his feelings about the predicament he now found himself in slipped past his lips, simple and to the point: ‘What the fuck?

    WHANG!

    Phil yelped and jumped, his blood thundering thanks to the sudden burst of adrenaline caused by the sudden noise behind him. He felt the floor shudder underneath his feet and instinctively dug his heels into the carpet to steady himself. To him it had sounded like someone had just dropped a large crate down the stairs which had slammed into the corridor to the lobby at full force.

    Attention torn away from the sky, he turned to face the double doors just as something passed by – silhouetted by the thicker, hazier glass. His heart shot out from his stomach for a brief, fleeting moment and he took a couple of steps towards them. Maybe he wasn’t alone in this hotel after all – maybe someone else or their pokemon had woken up like he had and was searching for any form of life like him.

    But just like the air, the silhouette felt… wrong. It was in the movements – twitchy and jerky – and the lumpy shape of the body pretty much ruled out the thought that it was another human being. And if it was a pokemon, then it was probably a pokemon that Phil had never heard of before – there wasn’t a single pokemon he was aware of that spasmed like that.

    He barely got any time to react to what happened next. There was gut-wrenching crack and before he knew what was happening one of the foggy windows exploded into a thousand gleaming pieces. Something lunged through the opening and yanked Phil off his feet, cutting his scream off before it even had the chance to escape his windpipe. Pain shot through the back of his head as he hit the carpet and his chest tightened, his vision blurring ever so slightly. He wheezed and forced his arms to shift, propping his chest and shoulders up. What the hell had attacked him?!?

    The answer was as clear as day. There, wrapped around his right ankle like a pale worm, was what Phil could only describe as a tentacle. Even with his blurred vision he could make out how smooth the skin of this thing was and how the light reflected off of it made it appear as if it were glistening. Not only that but this tentacle had to be long – very long, in fact – for it had managed to reach him even though the door had to be twenty feet away from him at most. There was a splintering creak as the door buckled inwards, sending chunks of wood flying across the room. One of them was flung so hard that it ended up lodged in the body of the front door just two feet from where Phil now lay.

    Phil grunted and attempted to turn, but the tentacle around his leg only tightened until it felt like his foot was going to explode from the pressure. There was a crunch as the hinges finally gave in and the door broke in two, giving him the chance to finally get a good look at his attacker. What little colour remaining in his face finally drained away as he looked up at the monster squeezing through the ruined doorway. The only way he could think of describing it would be that it was essentially a writing ball of what he assumed to be tentacles, and from where it was standing it had to be at least six feet tall. There was also a slit going vertically across where Phil assumed its abdomen would be, and this slit kind of looked like lips – the kind of lips that had been so crammed full of Botox that it was almost comical.

    There was nothing funny about this thing, however. It took a lumbering step with its obese, stretchmark-ridden legs and in doing so caused the floor to shudder again. Phil’s heart hitched, his fingers clinging to the carpet, and a sliding sensation rubbed at his neck. He looked up again to his captor. The slit on the monster’s stomach began to quiver, accompanied by a guttural gargling sound, and the tentacle began to shift, dragging Phil across the floor like something tied to a piece of rope. He pawed at the carpet with trembling hands, mind racing. He was going to die – this thing was going to eat him alive if he didn’t do something.

    The creature tugged once more, dragging Phil closer and closer. The lips were starting to splutter with a thick, greenish liquid.

    Then, after what felt like an eternity, his fingers fell onto something that didn’t feel like carpet. He grabbed at it hungrily and found himself clutching a reasonably long and jagged bit of wood – one of the many pieces of the now ruined door. He clenched his teeth and without hesitating reached up and plunged the splinter into the tentacle with a grunt. A high-pitched screech erupted from the creature and its lips opened, spewing a torrent of the green, viscous liquid onto the floor. Steam arose from the spot and Phil gagged, his nose assaulted by the acrid stench coming from the ruined carpet. His stomach heaved and he covered his mouth and nose, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from tugging his leg with all of his might.

    His right foot slipped out from the tentacle’s slackened grip much easier than he thought it would, and with his leg free Phil scrambled to his feet and bolted towards the front door as fast as he could. He had to get away – get as far as fucking possible from whatever the hell this thing was.

    He didn’t get very far. The wounded tentacle shrank back into the writhing nest that made up the monster’s body and it almost immediately lashed out with another. The new tentacle struck Phil’s wrist, sending a jolt of stinging pain up his arm and making him scream. The shard of wood he’d been gripping dropped to the floor and before he had any time to pick it up yet another tentacle lunged forth, this one wrapping around his torso. Phil gagged and coughed – it felt like his abdomen was being crushed underneath the foot of a rhydon – and he found himself on the floor once again. He wheezed and grabbed at the carpet again, but with most of his strength spent wrenching himself free the first time, all he could really do was paw at the ground as helpless as a baby.

    The monster’s mouth began to splutter, the green liquid it had spewed onto the floor dribbling from its lips. Phil’s heart throbbed in his ears as the tentacle tugged and tugged.

    The monster gargled, its mouth starting to bulge.

    It wasn’t going to miss again.

    At that moment the door to the hotel flung open, bouncing against the wall of the lobby, and the scent of sulphur filled the air. Phil looked up to find that a hulking dog now loomed over him, its black pelt completely covered in scars – a houndoom – the ram horns growing from the back of its head gave it away. Phil had seen them in Veilstone before – they were a popular choice for trainers taking the league circuit. It glanced at him briefly with its piercing eyes, dipped its head and roared at the monster, a jet of licking, orange flames erupting from its maw. Phil yelped and covered his head in an attempt to protect his neck from getting singed, cringing as the uncomfortable warmth from the fire passed over his body. An unholy screech erupted from behind him and out of the corner of his eye Phil could just make out the struggling, slithering body of the monster – having been turned into a living torch by the hissing flames.

    He cringed and shut his eyes. God, he hoped the hotel had been made flameproof (and if not then the owner was extremely lucky that it hadn’t been burnt down by some kid’s charizard or a magmortar yet).

    There was the soft thud of footsteps as the heat above Phil’s head simmered down and he felt the tight grasp of a hand clamp his shoulder, shaking it. ‘Come on,’ a gruff voice barked, not unlike that of a policeman or a soldier. ‘Get up.’

    Phil didn’t have to be told twice. He struggled his knees, then to his trembling feet and found that standing next to the houndoom was a man dressed head to toe in camo gear. The man had to be in his late sixties at the very most, yet dwarfed him with his broad, well-built figure. He stared at Phil with eyes so dark that they could’ve been made of stone and tightened his brow, beckoning to the door. ‘Move.

    Another shot of adrenaline ran through Phil’s legs and he finally began to run, the houndoom flanking his side. He passed a glance over his shoulder to look at the monster one last time as it staggered back into the corridor, now a blackened mass of charred flesh, and followed his rescuer out into the streets of Hearthome, a thousand questions buzzing around his head.

    It looked like he wasn’t going to be able to make the meeting after all.
     
  2. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Well... this is pretty darn weird and unsettling and kinda fun in its own way :D I'm liking this opening you got here, though I wonder if this guy will continue to be the MC or if we'll have a switch in perspective of some kind.

    I like your narration so far, its simple and to the point but it's got its own unique charm, I think. I also like the way you described those... things in the sky; the veins metaphor worked really well to unnerve and make me go Ugh. Though not as much as those things that came down to attack him. I have a visceral reaction to anything that moves... like that. Twitchy and erratically and kind of like a character in a videogame glitching. I hate hate hate it and it works well here to give them a sense of horror.

    I'm interested in where this is going, so I'll be following this.
     
  3. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hiya Sam! I’m really glad to see you back! :D

    I quite enjoyed the unsettling air that you managed to set up before anything even happened. You’ve really been polishing up your narration lately, and it shows, because you had me hanging on every word. And hooooooly crap that bit where the monster appeared was just wrong in all the right ways. At first I thought it could maybe be a Nihilego or something, but then that description. It makes the reader feel every bit as disoriented as Phillip did, in that we don’t even get a chance to process what’s happening or why the world has changed or what the heck is this thing before we’re just thrown into the thick of all that deliciously gruesome description.

    Overall this is a damn strong opening (and this is also the perfect month to post it in) and a damn good note to make your return. Looking forward to seeing more from you. (Also, is Balance on the backburner for now?)

    ~Chibi~
     
  4. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Nice to see that you’re interested in this! It’s always good to see someone new following my work and I’m glad that it spooped you!

    It’s very good to see you again too, Chibi! It’s been a long time since we last spoke. It’s really encouraging to know that I’ve improved since I last posted anything here too, so if that isn’t a good omen then I don’t know what is! And it is quite fitting that I bring this out during the month of Halloween, isn’t it? It wasn’t intentional though. :p

    As for Balance? Yes, I’m putting it on the backburner for now. It’s become my version of Dragonfree’s Quest for the Legends fanfic it seems, and there are a lot of flaws and problems that I’m going to have to iron out when I eventually get back to it.

    So as a side note both chapters 1 and 2 already had rough outlines all ready to be turned into first drafts when I started writing, so from this moment on chapters will probably take a bit more time – but will most likely be more thoroughly polished!

    --------------------------------------------------------

    02
    CONCORD

    For a while the only thing that Phil could hear was the sound of his shoes striking the pavement and his harsh, ragged breaths. His chest felt like it was about to explode, but he kept going. He had to get away. Had to put as much distance between himself and that thing in the hotel. He didn’t even care if the guy and his fire-breathing mutt had in fact saved him just so that they could mug him later – it was a thousand times better than whatever that monster had intended to do.

    They finally slowed down when they reached the intersection and by then Phil’s clothes were soaked from the sweat coating his skin. The old man reached out for his shoulder again, breathing as if he had just done a light jog rather than a full-blown sprint. ‘Are you all right?’

    Phil wheezed and pressed his hands on his buckled kneecaps, nodding rapidly. ‘I’ll be fine,’ he said hoarsely. ‘Just… just give me a moment.’

    The houndoom snorted and slowly scanned the pavements, tail swishing left and right like a whip. Phil’s grip on his knees tightened. It was keeping watch – waiting for any sign of movement from the leering shadows and alleyways – and the very thought of encountering another writhing mass of tentacles made his abdomen clench.

    ‘We’re heading towards the pokemon centre,’ the old man continued, taking his hand away from Phil’s shoulder. ‘It’ll be safer in there than wandering the streets.’ He patted his chest. ‘The name’s Angus, by the way.’

    Phil sucked in a breath to ask exactly how a centre would be any less dangerous than the hotel, but his lungs burnt too much for him to say anything else beyond a weak grunt.

    * * *​

    The familiar sight of the centre’s red roof was hard to miss – though that had been intentional on the League’s part when they’d decided that they wanted to upgrade Sinnoh’s pokemon health services. They’d opted for a more modern design too, most likely to rival the state of the art buildings Unova had been boasting about for months – with larger windows and the symbol of a pokeball affixed to the roof to replace the iconic P.C logo that had been a staple of Sinnoh’s centres for years.

    Phil swallowed. Just how much had things changed since he was a kid?

    Angus approached the sliding glass doors – one of which had been left ajar – and pushed them aside as if he was effortlessly shoving his way through a crowd of people. His houndoom sat by Phil’s side and yawned, drawing back his mouth so that he could see the dog’s dagger-like teeth. Phil’s skin tightened as he watched them. God, how little would it take for that mutt to bite down on his arm and tear it clean off? He tore his eyes away from the houndoom and cleared his throat. No, it wasn’t worth thinking about right now.

    Angus stopped pushing and nodded to Phil over his shoulder. ‘After you.’

    The first thing that Phil became acutely aware of inside the centre was a person sitting on the set of couches to his left, holding her knees up to her chest and staring down at the tiled floor. He frowned. The girl had to be no older than fifteen at the very most – and her silky jammies only helped to emphasise her frail, trembling figure. Beside her was a small, white pokemon with its green hair (or at least Phil assumed it was hair) done up to resemble ponytails. It was wearing a vest – one of those reflective ones that guide dog pokemon usually wore. A kirlia, if Phil wasn’t mistaken.

    On the other side of the room was another kid – this one no older than eleven or twelve – who was standing with his back pressed against the vacant counter. Phil tilted his head. There were a couple of glittering objects pinned to his red baseball cap, one of which he recognised. It was the silver and black one that caught his eye – wasn’t that the badge the gym leader in Oreburgh gave to trainers? He pressed his lips together. This kid had to be on the Sinnoh League circuit. He looked the right age for it, at least.

    The kid jumped to his feet when Angus finished closing the doors behind them. ‘You’re back!’

    ‘As promised,’ Angus replied, stepping back with his hands on his hips. ‘Sorry I took a little longer than I said I would.’

    His houndoom trotted over to one of the other couches and climbed onto it, curling its tail around its body as the couch whined from the sudden amount of pressure.

    Angus tutted and rolled his eyes. ‘Typical dog,’ he said under his breath and pointed to his pokemon. ‘Zach, get down.’

    The houndoom – no, Zach – quietly growled and got up, jumping down from the couch and lying down on the floor with his head on his paws.

    ‘You okay there, mister?’

    Phil turned. The boy was taking to him now. ‘Y-Yeah,’ he said. His legs felt like jelly and he staggered over to the couch that Zach had been sitting on. He sank down and rubbed his face with his hands, the adrenaline finally subsiding. ‘Oh my god.’

    ‘Give him a minute, Leo,’ Angus said, walking over to sit beside him. ‘He’s had a bit of a rough morning.’

    Phil took his trembling hands away from his face. ‘What the hell was that thing?’

    Leo blinked. ‘You saw one of those things too, mister?’

    Phil’s shoulders rose. ‘Saw?’ he said. ‘More like almost got killed by.’

    The girl in the corner moaned, her arms twitching as they tightened around her knees. The kirlia beside her reached out with a doll-like hand and placed it on her fingers, nodding like a reassuring parent, its horns beginning to glow.

    ‘It was huge,’ Phil continued. ‘Covered in tentacles – broke through the doors of the hotel I was staying at and tried to eat me, or something like that.’ He glanced at Angus. ‘I could’ve died if Angus and his pokemon hadn’t showed up.’

    ‘Yikes,’ Leo said, rubbing his arm. ‘Do you have any idea what’s going on out there?’

    Phil shook his head. ‘I’m just as confused as you are, kid.’

    ‘I was supposed to be at the gym today,’ Leo said, pointing to the badges on his hat. ‘Was really excited about it too, but…’ His eyes darted around the centre for a moment. ‘When I woke up this morning, everyone in the pokemon centre had disappeared into thin air.’

    The girl suddenly buried her head in her hands, sobbing under her breath, and the glow around the kirlia’s horns intensified, distorting the air around them. After about a minute or so the girl’s cries ebbed away, turning into quietness.

    Phil’s forehead scrunched as he watched them. ‘Is she going to be okay?’

    The kirlia turned to look at them with gleaming eyes and got down from its seat, prancing over to them like a ballet dancer. It curtsied in front of them and dug into one of the pockets on its vest, bringing out a small piece of paper that had been folded in half, and held it up to Phil with a waving motion. Phil reached out to take the paper, but paused when he caught sight of his hand. The tentacle that had smacked the piece of wood from his hand had done more damage than he’d initially thought, it seemed. It had turned bright red, and while there was no sign of blood or broken skin he could just make out the murky ghost of a bruise welling up above his thumb. He slowly huffed.

    Jesus Christ, he really had been lucky that Angus had rescued him, hadn’t he?

    The kirlia tapped its foot impatiently, snapping Phil back to reality. He shook his head and forced a smile. ‘Sorry,’ he said, taking the paper and unfolding it. ‘Didn’t mean to space out there.’

    The kirlia tilted its head and blinked softly, looking at him like an expectant child.

    Hello there, the letter began, written in neat, cursive handwriting. My name is Kate, and my kirlia here is called Jade.

    Jade curtsied again as Phil finished reading this particular sentence, to which he offered a polite nod in return. A small smirk crossed Leo’s face as he watched the two of them.

    I happen to suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, which makes interacting with others on a daily basis very difficult, the letter continued. Jade has been issued to me as a helper pokemon, so if you have any questions or concerns please tell her rather than asking me. Thank you for your time.

    Phil folded the piece of paper back up and handed it back to the kirlia. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘Thanks for letting me know.’

    The kirlia’s cheeks rose into a smile and she ambled back to her owner’s side, pocketing the piece of paper as she went.

    Angus pushed back against the couch and stood up. ‘I’m going up top to keep watch for a while,’ he said, eyes fixing on Phil. ‘I could use some help if you think you’re up to it.’

    * * *​

    Phil climbed a set of stairs for the second time that day and this time around things didn’t feel quite as eerie. Maybe it was because there were two sets of footsteps echoing against the walls this time instead of one, despite the stairway leading to the roof of the centre being a lot darker. As for the rooftop itself? Not quite as welcoming, though that was mostly because of how much things had changed outside. Phil paused to look up at the lines marring the sky, gripping his arm and rubbing it, and the familiar feeling of his heart slipping into his stomach made him purse his lips.

    Angus sailed across the rooftop. ‘Come and look at this.’

    Phil shuffled over, instinctively reaching out to grab the handrail preventing them from taking a step off the roof and plunging to their deaths, and froze. ‘Oh my god,’ he whispered, eyes growing as he looked out upon the forlorn streets of Hearthome.

    There – coagulating on the tarmac at least half an avenue apart from the centre – was a swarm of fleshy, writhing shapes. Phil’s knuckles whitened and his shoulders rose. All of a sudden he felt a lot more exposed standing out in the open as he was now.

    ‘That’s not all,’ Angus said, pointing to a small building just north of the pokemon centre. ‘Look down there.’

    It didn’t take long to find what he was pointing at – it was waddling across the pavement on bony legs. The monster’s figure was quite lumpy – it was as if someone had taken several spheres and stuck them together to make a body, and then given the body sticks for limbs. Phil watched as this particular monster approached the window of what appeared to be a storefront, its shoulders twitching irregularly. It pressed one of its large, fan-like hands against the glass and grew still, apparently blown away by either the barrier stopping it from entering the shop, or its reflection. Either reason was completely feasible.

    Angus tilted his head down and moved his finger to the right. ‘There’s another one over there.’

    The next one was splayed out across the road just a couple of meters away from the monster looking at the shop. Phil gnawed at his lower lip. At first it looked like this creature was nothing more than a flattened piece of flesh, but as he narrowed his eyes he could just make out the twitch of muscles where the flaps of skin were at their thinnest. He watched it for a while as it pathetically inched across the street, the two bulbous bits of flesh adorning where he believed the head was located spasming in the same way the tentacle monster had back at the hotel.

    ‘Yeah,’ Phil said. ‘I can see them.’

    Angus’s brow tightened, his eyes digging into Phil’s. ‘Notice anything about them?’

    Phil turned his attention back to the two monsters below, frowning. ‘No,’ he said, scratching the back of his neck. ‘I don’t see anything…’ The words died in his throat as he stared at the monster near the shop, which by then had begun slapping its bulging fingers against the glass. Now that he mentioned it something did look rather familiar about them – the first monster especially. It was the pair of horns on either side of its head that made him think that. There was a pokemon that had those horns – and it had large hands that it used to create barriers, didn’t it?

    Angus nodded slowly, watching Phil’s eyes light up. ‘And the other one?’

    The other one was a little bit easier to match up. There was a Chinese restaurant back in Veilstone that Phil visited every week with a couple of his co-workers that had a giant fish tank at the very back of the room filled with fish pokemon. It was mostly magikarp they kept – it was a huge part of their culture after all – but the thing that drew in most of the crowds was the giant manta ray pokemon – a mantine, if Phil’s memory was correct – that used to twirl and glide around the tank, showing off for regulars and tourists alike.

    And now that he thought about it, there was a pokemon out there that kind of looked like the monster back at the hotel too. He’d been just a boy when he saw one – on a trip to the Kanto region with his family – but from what he recalled the memory of the ball of vines with feet looked uncannily similar to the thing that had tried to kill him.

    Phil took a deep breath, furrowing his brow. ‘I think I get it,’ he said, looking Angus directly in the eye. ‘You think they’re pokemon?’

    Angus cocked his head to the side. ‘Probably,’ he said. ‘Or if they were, then they sure as hell aren’t now.’ He scoured the concrete buildings, scratching his chin. ‘Check the other side of town for me, would you?’

    Phil let go of the rail and crossed the roof, stopping to watch the lines again for a second (god, he’s probably never going to get used to how it looks now).

    ‘See anything?’ Angus said over his shoulder.

    Phil shielded his eyes, following the roads beyond the centre. He caught the familiar blue rooftop of the pokemart peering out at him from behind what looked like a coffee shop or maybe a clothes store – and of course there was the unmistakeable, jagged peak of Mount Coronet, silhouetted against the reddened sky, watching from afar. But as far as he could tell there wasn’t a single twitching, shuddering creature to be found. He gulped, not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps it was best not to think about it like that for now.

    ‘Not from what I can tell,’ he said to Angus. ‘It looks pretty clear.’

    ‘Good,’ Angus said and headed for the stairs. ‘That’s all I needed to know.’

    * * *​

    ‘I’m going back out to look again,’ Angus said as he cleared the last flight of stairs, Phil barely keeping up behind him.

    Leo, who had been staring out of the windows, whipped around with his mouth agape. ‘Again?’

    ‘Yes,’ Angus said matter-of-factly. He whistled to Zach, who sprung to his paws and trotted to his owner’s side immediately. ‘I’ll be back in an hour – maybe two if I have to be careful.’

    Kate lifted her head, her cheeks creasing the edges of her watery eyes while her kirlia took her hand and squeezed it. ‘B-But…’ she began, barely raising her voice above what Phil thought was a mutter. ‘You only just got back.’

    Angus shook his head. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘But there’s still at least half of Hearthome I haven’t searched yet – and the more people I can find, the better chance we have of forming a proper plan to get out of here and find some help.’

    Kate moaned and tugged her ears, which prompted Jade to wrap her owner’s arm in an almost motherly embrace. Phil folded his arms together and took a slow breath. It was clear that she didn’t like this (and neither did he, if he was going to be honest with himself) – and while Angus certainly looked more than capable of defending himself, what would happen if his houndoom got knocked out or separated from him?

    He gritted his teeth at the mere thought of it.

    Phil let go of his arms and cleared his throat. ‘I could go with you,’ he said. ‘You know what they say – two heads are better than one, right?’

    Angus stopped pushing the doors and turned to him. ‘You got a pokemon?’

    Phil’s mouth twitched. Oh god, not this question again. ‘No, uh…’ He fidgeted with his fingers and coughed, his confidence dying away with every passing second. ‘I don’t.’

    He kneaded the back of his neck and waited – waited for the raised eyebrows, the snickers and – quite possibly the worst thing of all – the comments (‘But everybody has a pokemon!’).

    ‘Hold on,’ Leo said. He reached down, pulling up the hem of his shirt to reveal two spheres fastened to his belt. One of these was the standard red and white pokeball, while the blue one with red stripes looked to be a more improved model (they called it a great ball, didn’t they?). His hand passed by them and dug into a leather pouch. ‘Here,’ he said after a moment. ‘Take this.’

    It took Phil a moment to realise what he was being offered. He eyed the long, cylindrical device for a moment, his reflection caught in its lens. ‘A flashlight?’

    ‘Not quite,’ Leo said with a gleam in his eyes. ‘It’s actually a Taser that also doubles as a flashlight.’ He flashed a confident grin. ‘It was a gift from my dad when I started the league circuit, but I don’t really need it anymore.’

    Phil took the Taser, fingers clamped around it. ‘Are you sure you want to lend me this?’

    Leo paused and looked down to his belt for a moment. ‘Yeah,’ he finally said, raising his line of sight. ‘I have to help somehow – even if I’m not as strong as Angus is.’ His eyes twinkled. ‘And besides – I’ve got a luxio.’ He puffed out his chest, his head bobbing. ‘His attacks are much stronger than a Taser – in fact Lionheart won me my second badge back in Eterna.’

    Phil nodded, curving his mouth into a smile. ‘I’ll make sure to return it in one piece. You have my word, kid.’

    Leo returned the smile. ‘Be careful out there.’

    Kate had stopped tugging her ears by then but said nothing, and it was up to Jade to offer Phil a curt bow and a wave as a way of saying goodbye on her behalf.

    Angus pushed the doors apart just enough to let the both of them through and dragged them shut behind them while Zach reared his head up to the sky, small plumes of smoke billowing from his nostrils.

    Phil rolled the Taser in his palm, now warm from the heat in his body, looked in the direction where he’d seen the writhing mass of monsters and prayed he wouldn’t have to use it.
     
  5. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Okay, so those things are Pokemon! Good to know; I probably could've called that in the last chapter if I had been paying a bit more attention but it seemed too unsettling to be true. Still, that's... horrific. What the hell could've happened to turn a bunch of Pokemon into eldritch monstrosities? And why isn't the League coming to help them, and why do the streets look so empty?

    Lots of questions, but I'm fine with that as long as they're answered eventually. Mystery is the concept driving this story forward so far and I'm really excited to see where you'll take it.

    I love the detail of the girl with a kirlia helper, because you know that would totally be a thing in the Pokemon world. I'm a big fan of when writers think outside the box and use the concept of Pokemon to their full potential like this.

    Anyway, Angus is a pretty big badass and Phil isn't, but that's what makes them an interesting team. I'll be looking foward to whatever they get into next chapter.
     

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