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The Wysteria Files

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheAlpar, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    The Wysteria Files


    Warnings/Author Notes:

    This is a rather odd project I've been working on recently. It's mainly a sort of documentary-styled horror fic inspired by works such as Marble Hornets and The Black Tapes. I began posting it already in other sites such as FFN and AO3, but I wanted to share it over here as well.

    Here below is the summary of the fic I've written:

    In the road connecting Vermillion and Fuchsia there's a small, abandoned town called Wysteria, from where multiple rumors and urban legends have emerged. My alias is Tulip Glasslip, and this online journal is my attempt to document these strange occurrences, years after the townfolk's mysterious disappearance.

    Welcome to the Wysteria Files; I hope you enjoy your read.


    I hope that might pique someone's interest. With that said... the warnings. There will be mentions of violence, blood and disturbing themes, so be mindful of that.

    Alright, let's start.



    Entry #1: Floribunda

    [Monika Sarajevo opens the door to her three storey house, letting me in after a short moment of consideration. She is the first person so far to agree to an interview for the Wysteria Files.

    She makes tea while I sit behind the ornate mahogany table in the living room, clicking my pen frantically on top of my notebook. When she comes back with the silver platter I finally get a good look at her: Tall and proud, with a firm posture not common to someone as old as her. After placing it on the middle of the table she sits gracefully across me, taking a sip of her lemon scented tea.

    She begins the interview before I even get a chance to ask her a question.]


    Have you ever had trouble recalling your own past? They say it's quite uncommon; most people have the ability to remember key moments of their life from after they're four or five years old.

    For me… well, everything before I turned nine is a blur. I never had a chance to discover why, considering what happened, but I have my theories and suspicions. None of them are happy, in fact I'd say each one is more depressing than the next, but I doubt someone like you would have a problem with that, considering your line of work.

    "Would you like to expand on these theories?"

    I admit they're not as painful now as they once were, and I'd gladly talk to you about them were it not for the fact that they're quite irrelevant. I doubt your readers would be interested in something so mundane; they're here for what happened after, aren't they?

    "You mean the Harvest of 76'?"

    You know, it's actually been a really long time since I've heard that. After the government gave me a new name and a new family I suppose I didn't have much reason to remember it, so I didn't. But now, with my skin sagging and the reaper practically giving me a shoulder massage, I suppose there can't be much harm in re-opening an old wound, can there?

    That's why I agreed to this, after all. I found the e-mail you sent me quite adorable, and said to myself 'Oh, what the hell. It couldn't be so bad,' so here we are. Ah, I'm sorry, I really should get to the point. Alright then…

    I guess it all began with an allergy. Okay, it began long after that, but I assume that's not a start many readers are accustomed to, and as a writer myself I always enjoy throwing them for a loop.

    I was allergic to eggs, you see. It wasn't as common back then as it is now, so I didn't get a diagnosis until I was ten, when I had a bad case of an anaphylactic shock. Even then neither me nor my parents made a big deal about it; they were just eggs after all.

    I was an only child, which might explain the aspects of my personality some of my critics love to harp about. The less we talk about my father the better. My mother… well, she was everything you could ask if you were a kid, even if you didn't know it back then. She was fierce and strict, yes, but also compassionate and caring. She did her best to straighten me up as a person, for most of her life anyway.

    She worked as a nurse for a Pokemon Center. This might not seem prestigious to you or any of your readers, but back then it was quite the honor. Agatha had founded the Indigo League only a year prior, and Professor Oak hadn't even graduated yet. Trainers weren't nearly as common as they are now, and there were only three facilities in all of Kanto who exclusively healed Pokemon. My mother was one of the first, and certainly one of the best nurses of her time.

    As for the star of this story… I met her a few months before turning eleven. The League Committee had decided that all head nurses needed to have at least one Chansey, due to their recently discovered healing properties and the special attributes of the… eggs, they produced.

    You see, Chansey is quite strange as far as mammal-type Pokemon go. They lay eggs like most, only… theirs aren't meant for reproduction, and they are not formed inside their bodies, but in the pouches in their outer stomach. But I digress, we'll come back to this later.

    Most nurses chose to buy a Chansey from the safari in Fuchsia, but we didn't have enough money to afford something like that. And considering what a talented trainer mother was… well, it only seemed appropriate that she'd go looking for her own to catch.

    "Isn't there only one place in Kanto where one could find them in the wild?"

    I see you've done your homework. Indeed, the only place you can find a wild Chansey is inside of Cerulean Cave, however very few are brave enough to attempt such a thing. I suppose you've heard the rumors; that only incredibly powerful Pokemon live inside, and that it would take someone on par with an Elite Four member or a Champion to enter and survive.

    [Her lips curve upward, and a powerful gleam of pride appears behind her eyes, making the woman look decades younger]

    She came out with a few scratches, one or two fainted members of her team and a shining Pokeball containing her capture. After that… well, it took some time for things to turn strange, and by then I was too distracted by my new fortune to care.

    She came to live with us after that. My mother said it was because she liked the extra company and she'd grown to care for her, but I suppose she simply didn't want to tell me the truth, either as to not hurt my pride or her own.

    I don't think I need to explain it now, but back then most people didn't know that Chansey's eggs not only were full of nutrients but they were, according to most, the most incredible thing they've ever tasted. If you consider that, plus the fact she just kept making them without stopping… well, let's just say my mother added a lot of white and yellow to our diet for the upcoming years.

    The change was slow, which is why I never suspected something was wrong until it happened.

    At first it was similar to… have you ever gotten out of a rough bout of depression or dedicated yourself to changing your life for the better? Fixing your sleep schedule, learning to eat better, doing a bit of exercise, I suppose it was a bit like that. My parents became more pleasant to talk to; their skin seemed cleared and the bags under their eyes all but banished. My father was still not a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but at least he didn't yell at me or my mother so often.

    Funny how something so small can snowball in such a way, don't you think? Whatever dark thing ate at my father from the inside slowly mitigated, and two months after Chansey came to live with us he finally got his act together and found a job. After that money started flowing in, for the first time in our lives, and we were able to afford commodities that seemed unattainable before. They bought me two dresses, a small bundle of toys and a pair of bright red shoes that I still have with me. They… they are the only object I was able to recover from the house.

    [She pauses for the first time, taking in a deep breath. The green of her eyes seem faded for a moment.]

    I was happy. Happy for the first time since I could remember, and it had nothing to do with the gifts. And still…

    Can you believe I never suspected the reason for my parents' change in attitude? Perhaps I was too young to connect the dots, or maybe I just believed that as long as I didn't question my fortune then it would never go away. Besides, thanks to my allergies I never was able to see for myself just how powerful and addicting Chansey eggs were. What reason did I have to distrust my mother's dear Pokemon? Absolutely none.

    "I'm guessing things took a turn for the worse once she evolved."

    Absolutely, though in a way I didn't perceive at first.

    You see, back then almost no one knew that Chansey could evolve. I'm sure it must've happened at some point, and the government did have files and pictures of it, but they were unable to discover just what triggered it. After all, most Pokemon evolve once they get strong enough, once they become proficient enough at combat.

    But Chansey was different. They weren't made for fighting, at least not in the traditional way. Still, the species must've known that they could achieve yet another form, and did everything in their power to make that happen. Why do you think they developed a way to create those eggs? What evolutionary advantage would they have other than to feed their young?

    My mother might've not been the first to discover how Chansey evolved, but she was one of the first to make it public. It happened not long after I turned twelve; I came down from my room for dinner and saw as she stepped in through the door. She'd been gone for about a week or so due to her work, and my father's attitude had slowly changed for the worse. Luckily she came back before things got too bad, and next to her…

    «Everyone, say hello to Blissey!» I remember she said, smiling from ear to ear. «You will not believe what happened.»

    Turns out she just… evolved out of nowhere. After a long shift of work my mother simply hugged Chansey and thanked her for her hard work and it happened. I'm sure she must've gotten a pretty big scare out of it.

    It wasn't treated as much of a big deal, like most events in our lives. We baked a cake, threw a little party and congratulated her. That should've been it, a meaningless event lost to the tides of my memory, something not even worth remembering. Were it not for what happened after, of course.

    Things changed once more, only this time it was much more noticeable. I saw the first Blissey egg the next morning when we all sat down for lunch, and I remember being surprised that it wasn't much bigger than the ones she produced as a Chansey. The shell was shinier, I suppose, and back then I liked to think that the odd feeling it exuded was simply my imagination.

    What wasn't my imagination was what happened during the next weeks. My parent's change in attitude before was nothing compared to their transformation once they began to eat those new eggs. I remember being scared, actually terrified at my own mother's smile, something I never considered possible. It was so… unnatural, especially for a woman as serious as she was.

    Bubbly is the best word I can think of to describe their behavior. Every little thing made them laugh and giggle as if they were kids. They raised their voice constantly, as if they couldn't control it, and mother kept cracking jokes and making strangely positive comments about the horrible things that happened in her work.

    I was… worried, to say the least, but years of being taught not to question my parents left me unable to voice my concerns. I could do nothing but spectate as they became grotesque caricatures of themselves, adults filled with so much happiness and energy that it became apparent it was destroying them from the inside.

    I really should've known by them. I was old enough, smart enough to put two and two together, and yet I didn't. I supposed I was still afraid; as much as I abhorred this new life it was still marginally better than before Chansey showed up.

    And so I held my tongue and kept on with my life, trying my best to drown out any uneasiness by spending an unreasonably long time wandering around the city and the surrounding forest. I didn't have many friends, unless you count Mary Svek, so I had to find a way to distract myself, I suppose.

    "Were your parents not worried about that?"

    They weren't worried about anything anymore. There was literally no room in their brains for that.

    "There have been many studies about the effect of Blissey's eggs on…"

    [She raises her left hand in an authoritative manner, interrupting me.]

    Come on now, you agreed to let me tell my story without interruptions. Don't go spoiling our readers just yet.

    "I'm sorry, I just thought that since it was something so known…"

    I'm afraid that's not up for you to decide, miss Tulip. I believe this is my story to tell, if our previous agreement is anything to go by.

    "Y-yes, you're right. I just felt we weren't quite getting to the point…"

    I'll stop you right there, if you don't mind.

    This story I'm telling is a gift to you and your readers, not something for you to pick apart as you please. These are painful memories, and the least you could do in retribution is humor me and allow me to weave this narrative the way I see fit. It's one of the few pleasures I have left.

    I hope you understand.

    "I apologize. Please continue."

    [She clears her throat, fixing her posture before speaking once more]

    So to summarize: my parents killed each other a few days before Harvest.

    [She must notice how my pen freezes over the paper and my eyes go wide, because she places her palm over her mouth and giggles softly. She doesn't say anything for a few seconds, perhaps waiting for me to complain. I don't.]

    I apologize for pulling your leg, but I simply couldn't waste such an opportunity. I enjoy leading my readers by the leash and then yanking at it violently once in a while. Keeps them on their toes.

    But yes, you are correct, I suppose there's not much point in delaying it any longer.

    Two days before the Harvest festival there was a small military struggle in the bays of Vermillion between the forces of Kanto and Sinnoh. A pointless escalation, just the thing you'd expect from before the official peace treaty. The battle spread further than it was intended to, and the result was a few deaths and hundreds of wounded, civilians and Pokemon alike.

    The letter arrived at morning, and it was the first time in weeks I'd seen my mother frown. The League Committee was summoning Blissey for service, and she was to present herself in the city docks in two hours for deployment. To this day I still don't know why they didn't ask for my mother as well; perhaps they already had enough nurses and they desperately needed Blissey's incredible regenerative powers.

    Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if my mother had gone with her. I suppose I wouldn't be here speaking with you, though then again neither would she considering her age. It's not… productive, to think about what ifs, and yet…

    Ah, I apologize. As I was saying, Blissey departed that day, and all hell broke loose soon after. It wasn't as fast as you're probably imagining, though also not as slow as I would've liked.

    The first sign that something was wrong came to me at lunch, when we had to make do with an old pack of noodles and artificial flavorings. I didn't notice the difference in the food since I never ate the eggs anyway, but my parents certainly did. I saw as their smiles slowly curved downwards, and before I knew it a strange shadow set over their eyes. They treated me and each other with the usual respect and levity for a short time, at least while we ate.

    A couple hours later my father accidentally let a teacup fall into the ground, and it shattered into small porcelain pieces. He cursed under his breath and next to him my mother shot him a look of disappointment that she tried to hide quickly.

    During the afternoon they started a discussion about the armed forces of Kanto and their quarrels with the surrounding regions. It began civilized, but by the end it was clear they were bothering each other immensely just by voicing their own opinions.

    The next morning my mother failed to wake up at nine, as she'd done so ever since I remembered. She came down from her room at around twelve with enormous bags under her eyes and went to the kitchen, where she made herself a cup of black coffee. Even before she took it to her lips I could see as her fingers twitched and her free hand fidgeted over the faded blue of her nightgown. I tried to tell myself that the sound of her teeth clattering was simply the Spearows outside, pecking at the trees.

    Their first big fight happened at night. My father complained that the food wasn't as good as he was used to, and my mother did not let that comment pass. They kept shouting at each other for the entirety of dinner while I tried my best to dissolve into my own chair.

    "It must've been terrifying to see them go back to that."

    Oh, you have no idea. I wanted to believe I was in some sort of warped nightmare, I couldn't accept the fact that our lives would go back to what they were before. But there was nothing I could do, so I looked down at the table, ate my food and prayed that this would pass.

    It did not. As the days went by the disputes got even worse and they turned into… well, I hesitate to insult addicts by comparing them to my parents, but that's what they reminded me of. I would find them with their heads against the wall, faintly whispering to themselves for minutes. They would crash against everything as if they couldn't see what was in front of them. Wall scratching, vomiting, spouts of fury and violence, it simply got worse as time went by.

    What woke me up that night was the sound of my father's hammer hitting my mother's nose. I didn't know that at the time, of course, but I realized it as soon as I came down, still rubbing the sleepy out of my eyes. I saw as her body was thrown backwards into the wall, I heard the animalistic screams of wrath they threw at each other, and I noticed how my mother's hand went to the compartment of the furniture behind her, fingers closing around the handle of the kitchen knife.

    [Her hands noticeably shake around her cup of tea, and she tries to hide it by taking it to her lips.]

    My father bled to death from eight stab wounds to the chest and my mother fell to the internal bleeding of multiple hammer hits to the head. I would rather not go into more detail than that, if it's no trouble for you and your readers.

    "I understand. What happened after that?"

    Can you believe I didn't call the police or the neighbors? I didn't come out of the house either, I just sat in those stairs looking directly at the corpses of my parents. I must've stayed there for at least five hours until the sun came up. With every muscle of my body as sore as it could be I got up, walked down the stairs and made breakfast for myself.

    Shock is a strange thing. There I was, eating toast with butter while my toes curled on the bloodstained floor beneath my feet. I don't think my mind was able to react at all, so my body picked up the slack and turned me into something like a machine.

    "No one came to knock on your door?"

    Who would have? Our house was far away from the main street and my parents had taken a few days off their jobs. I wasn't exactly the most popular girl in school either, so I doubt anyone cared that I skipped class a few times.

    The day after I heard as the door opened, and the sunlight hit Blissey in the back as her shadowy figure entered the house. She chirped happily as she was used to and approached me, staring at me with those small, black eyes and her ever present smile. She must've realized there was something wrong with me, because she approached and put both hands on top of my head, humming as she released a strange energy into my body. I hadn't realized just how tight the knot in my throat was until it was dissolved.

    I fell to my knees and broke into tears, my entire body shaking. Through the edge of my vision I saw as Blissey walked past me and into the living room, where the dead bodies of my parents still were.

    The scream I was expecting never came. I just kept wailing into the floor for what felt like an eternity, and once I was all out of tears to cry Blissey came back through the sill of the door.

    Her smile was still there, though for the first time it didn't extend to her eyes. I noticed the egg in her pouch shimmer with a strange, dark glow, but I was still in shock and didn't pick up on what that could mean. She grabbed me by the arms and legs and carried me towards my room gently. As we passed through the living room I saw that my parent's bodies weren't there anymore.

    "She got rid of them?"

    As if taking out the trash. A few days after the police found them buried a few miles from our house, in front of a big tree in the forest. But I digress.

    Blissey took care of me as best she could. I still don't know whether she felt guilty about what had happened, though I suspect she literally wasn't able to, at least at first.

    She woke me up, cooked for me three times a day and helped me every time I would break down and start crying. She would urge me to read or watch television with her, and every night she took me into her arms and tucked me into bed.

    "She didn't alert anyone else of your parent's deaths?"

    I don't think she thought it necessary, and I wasn't in the right mental place to consider that strange. We just kept living like that for a few days. Trying to survive, trying to forget.

    Though of course there was something strange about the whole situation. Every time we sat down to eat Blissey would offer me one of her eggs, even though she'd known her whole life I was allergic to them. As I said; I was still very much in shock and didn't realize just how odd this was. I simply refused, and every consequent time I did I noticed the slightest furrow of her brows.

    As time passed I noticed that her eggs started to… change. At first they lost the distinctive white glow I was accustomed to, and then the warm, pulsing feeling they gave out. After that I noticed small brown patches begin to appear in the shells, and just before the Harvest day I could swear the one she presented to me smelled… rotten.

    I didn't think much of it, and kept living my life as best I could, slowly and carefully putting back together the pieces of myself. They didn't fit very well, but I've never been good at fixing my own mind.

    Harvest… that was the first time I somewhat came to my senses. I sat on a wooden chair too big for me, eyes fixated on the tablecloth beneath me, when I heard them. The distant sounds of small explosions, followed by the distinct glow of bright lights. I approached the windows and pressed my thin fingers on the glass, looking out.

    Fireworks painted the sky a dozen different colors, bright reds and yellow and green fighting back against the oppressive darkness above. Beneath it I noticed people walking through the streets of the town, most of them children wearing some sort of costume. They travelled in groups, holding round objects shaped like Pumpkaboos and asking their neighbors for candy and treats.

    I must've stared for a long time, because when I felt Blissey's hand on my shoulder and I closed my eyes they stung badly, echoes of fireworks turning my vision a bunch of different colors. I looked up at her and saw her smile grow ever so slightly, beneath the heavy bags under her eyes.

    As it was customary she grabbed me and took me to my room so I could sleep. For the first time I didn't want to, I wanted to keep watching the festivities through my window, but I was too weak to protest. So, I did what I was told and closed my eyes. The last thing I heard before falling asleep was the sound of the front door closing behind someone.

    [She pauses for a few seconds as she drinks the last of her tea. Her sight falls someplace at her side as she hovers one finger over the rim of the teacup.]

    This time the screams I woke up to were muffled. That, unfortunately, didn't stop me from getting out of the bed and walking down the stairs.

    Can you believe I wasn't afraid? I'd been relieving my parent's deaths in my sleep so often that I simply assumed this was just another nightmare. That changed when I reached the living room.

    Six chairs, with six children roped into them. Gagged too, by whatever their kidnapper could find in the house; dishcloths, paper, socks… the look of horror they all had contrasted strangely with the colorful disguises they were wearing.

    Their eyes turned towards me with an unspoken plea, and I felt as if someone had dropped a bucket of water on me. They struggled against their ropes and screamed through their gags, trying to tell me something. Perhaps to help them, or to run away. Maybe both.

    I barely took one step towards them when I felt something squeeze my heart. It was as if invisible walls had suddenly closed against every part of my body; I struggled to breath as a pink-ish purple glow surrounded me and I saw my feet leave the ground. As I began to float my eyes went to the sill of the door leading towards the kitchen, and that's where she was.

    Blissey had her arm raised at me, glowing with the same psychic energy she was using to restrain me. She didn't look angry or hostile, as evidenced by that ever present smile, but I could tell by the slight crinkles between her eyes that she did not wish for me to interfere.

    I'm sure she didn't intend to hurt me, and I am aware that her inexperience with combat meant she wasn't used to her own power, but I can't say having someone use their psychic powers on you for so long didn't hurt terribly. Then again, not as much as what she forced me to see.

    She came back from the kitchen with a huge silver platter, letting it fall gently on the middle of the table. The smell hit me then, and I struggled immensely not to throw up. It seemed to travel past my skin and settle just below my throat, making it difficult for me to breathe.

    Six eggs, one for each kid, and all of them bent and covered in wide brown and black patches. She grabbed one of them and broke the shell, revealing the noxious, rotten stench it held inside. The yolk was a strong maroon, and it was completely dry. I tried to convince myself the things I saw moving inside of it were just a trick of my imagination.

    For the sake of your readers I will spare the… grisly details of what happened for the next hours of the night. I'm merciful that way.

    [She laughs knowingly, and I suppress my urge to mention that she has said much worse already.]

    Two of the kids died of food poisoning, and the rest were... changed. The eggs already had a tremendously powerful effect on adults, so you can only imagine what they would do to children. I remember clearly that, less than a minute after they'd taken a bite, they stopped struggling. All signs of pain or distress evaporated from their faces, and were soon replaced with the sounds of forced, uncontrollable laughter and joy. Their addiction was... immediate, as it became clear once the police arrived.

    First a small gathering appeared outside our house, followed by the sounds of sirens soon after. They broke down the door and tried to rescue us, but there were some complications. For starters, the moment one of the officers tried to untie a kid and take him away from the egg, the little bugger stabbed him in the face with a fork. They didn't want to leave, you see, and why would they? Nothing, absolutely nothing in the outside world could compare to the bliss they were feeling in that moment. To be separated from it... well, one can understand why they'd react so violently.

    They were able to restrain the four that survived, though if my sources are anything to go by, they were never able to make a full mental recovery. But again, I digress.

    I was rescued as well, and the Pokemon responsible was immobilized. And yet... all throughout Blissey never complained or fought back, nor did she lose that wide smile of hers. I suppose she'd already gotten what she wanted, because that almost invisible frown had disappeared the moment the kids ate the eggs.

    And to think something as natural as evolution would lead a Pokemon towards such a horrifying dead end. It's tragic... but also funny, I suppose. I consider that fact to be a little, personal revenge of mine. It's the only kind of revenge I'll ever get, after all.

    [She breathes in deep, closing her eyes for a moment. She's been speaking for a long time, and I don't know whether the sudden roughness in her voice is because of that or something else.]

    I'm not used to being indulged this way, nor speaking for so long, so I apologize for the sloppy way in which I've presented my past. Then again, I doubt you or your readers have any right to complain. This is my life, after all.

    [Another short silence, though this time her eyes fall on me. They stare knowingly for a few seconds, and I imagine Monika would be smiling if she possessed the energy to do it.]

    With that said, I have a feeling you didn't come here just for a story. The way you're looking at me tells me there's something else you want to know.

    "I was hoping you'd know that… well, no other Blissey has ever shown tendencies as strong as the one you're describing."

    You're right about that.

    "And that, considering the rumors about the town you grew up in…"

    You want to know about them.

    [She places a strong emphasis on the last word, curling her lips into an amused smile. I try my best to hide my nervousness.]

    "I would like to know what happened with Blissey after that."

    She wasn't put down, though I'm sure you already know that.

    A few minutes after the police arrived I heard the sounds of multiple heavy vehicles around the house. A tall woman wearing a dark purple suit entered, and after a talk with some of the officers she convinced them to exit the house. She then called in some of her… I assume subordinates, and carried Blissey inside their vehicle. That's the last time I ever saw her.

    "Did they have some sort of insignia or…"

    A badge. In the left side of their chest; two black wisteria leaf vines, forming a circle, if I'm not mistaken.

    [The way she taps her chin with one finger makes it clear that she remembers it perfectly. I try to contain my excitement and frustration, and after a few seconds of writing her words down I look up at her.]

    "Is there anything more you can tell me about them?"

    Nothing too useful, at least not for you. I hope that's not a disappointment.

    "It's… fine. Thanks a lot for your time, and for agreeing to tell this story."

    [She doesn't reply, instead looking down at her empty teacup with something akin to sadness. I rise up from my chair and save my notebook and pen inside my purse, eyes going to the door.]

    "I'll be going now. And again… thank you."

    [I barely make it to the sill of the door before I hear her voice again. It lacks all the energy and mischief characteristic of it, and I see that she doesn't look up as she speaks.]

    I would advise you to be careful, miss Tulip. For your own sake, I hope you know what you're getting into.

    "…I'll be careful. Goodbye, Monika."


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

    [Disclaimer: Monika Sarajevo died a week after this interview. Forensics say she suffocated in her sleep.

    They have already discarded all possibilities of foul play.

    I haven't.

    I'll be moving out of the hotel I'm in as soon as I can post this entry. I might have to lay low for a while, so I'll only update once I can gather new information.

    Tulip Glasslip .]
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    This is an interesting one, huh. There are probably lots of online stories using their onlineness as part of how they create their own narrative, but I've never actually read any before, although I've listened to quite a few audio dramas that use the fact that they are radio shows or podcasts to build up a narrative about being a different, in-universe radio show or podcast. Yours is certainly a neat introduction to their textual equivalent, and this chapter in particular is a strong start: it's built up around this one interesting lore question, “what do blissey get out of being what they are?”, and in playing out the discovery of an answer to that, in a context where nobody has the necessary information to deal with it in a safe way, you create a pretty solid horror story and slot it into a conspiracy theory framework. Horror usually isn't my thing, but I quite like Monika's voice, dry and knowing and just a little bit cantankerous, and I found myself pretty happy to be swept along through the story by that voice alone.

    Tulip is a particularly unobtrusive narrator, I have to say. Other than very brief intrusions into Monika's story, and that one touch with the nervous clicking of the pen, there's not much character on display just yet. With a story like this, following an investigator on their journey into strange territory, I feel like it's often helpful to have an idea of who it is we're following, whether or not they're someone we actually trust to guide us through all of this. It's pretty early on, so maybe there's more characterisation to come there – and I don't feel anything needs to be changed in that regard in this chapter, particularly – but it might be something to bear in mind in future, especially as these individual stories start to mount up and point towards a bigger conspiracy as I suspect they might do. Not that we need lots of personal data on Tulip or anything, just an idea of what kind of person we're dealing with.

    Finally, the typo round-up:

    You're missing the Y on the end of “storey” there.

    That should be “know” rather than “knew”.

    Normally, Tulip's interjections are italicised, but this one isn't.

    I feel like that might be meant to be “treaty”.

    That's the wrong sort of “grizzly” – you want “grisly”, rather than “grizzly”.

    And that's about it from me. I'll be looking forward to whatever mystery Tulip decides to tackle next time!
     
  3. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Ahh thank you so much!! Your comments are so nice and comprehensive!!

    I'm glad you like the concept of the story so far. As for your comment about Tulip not sharing much about herself, I meant that to be mostly intentional. She is a very reserved person and wouldn't want to intentionally reveal anything important about herself for... reasons. Reasons which will become clear later in the story ;)

    Ah, those typos <_< they are rather embarassing now that I take a look at them. I'm not a native english speaker so sometimes I mix up my words and that kinda stuff, but you pointing them out is so helpful!! Thank you so much; I already fixed them.
     
  4. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    I am... admittedly not a horror guy. Never read a Stephen King novel in my life. And certainly tend to stay away from the horror flicks at the movies even if everyone kept nagging me to see Get Out and It 2017. But I do have a soft spot for these sort of "investigative journalistic film" type things. I'm a much bigger fan of things like CNN's "Race for the White House," American Crime Story, and ESPN's 30 for 30 series than I would care to admit, aha ha...

    So, the style is certainly interesting. And minimalistic with this opening chapter. Though you said you had a reason for that. I kind of liked the bits of lampshading that Monika intersperses into her interview. Like the part about yanking everyone forward suddenly. I mean, that just about describes how I had felt when you just bluntly have her saying that her parents killed one another. The interview itself is also engaging. You put in just enough bit of Monika's very dry "I've seen things" wit to spice the whole interview up without having it grow stale on me. And I do think the way you had Monika describe some of this stuff — namely, how disturbing and unsettling her parents became under the psychotropic(?) effects of the eggs — would not have been as strong if you didn't use the style that you picked. So, consider the documentary format put to good use, at least in my opinion. Oddly enough, the way you talked about her parents actually made me think of Angelman Syndrome, in the absence of whatever horror-based medium is actually serving as the inspiration here. ^^;

    If I had to offer any sort of criticism, it's that there were a few instances with Tulip where you were just straight up telling me stuff (namely, that she was nervous) instead of showing me something. Part of that may just be the format you're using for this, so I'll have to see what future chapters hold. If that makes any sense. I'm pretty nonsensical at times. @.@
     
  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Huh. I'm kind of floored by this one actually. It took me a while to get invested in it as it starts right in the middle and doesn't spend much time establishing character or setting up what's to come, but as the story unfolded, it really took a turn for the unexpected, which I liked. I really didn't expect the Chansey story to turn out the way it did, and it adds a lot of intrigue to the world. I'm already brimming with questions such as 'what other types of Pokemon would use their powers for such villainous ends?' and 'how are the rest of the Pokemon used in such a realistic setting?'

    Despite being a lot more graphic than your typical Pokemon story, it works well here because of how the pacing builds. It isn't done for a cheap scare or just for the sake of gore, it's done in a way that creates an unnerving atmosphere. It was already shocking seeing how Tulip's parents died, but even before the revelation of Blissey's kidnapping of the six kids, the interactions it has with Tulip added a really uncomfortable atmosphere to the scenes, even though we know Tulip's going to survive by the end of it.

    My only concern is where the story is headed afterwards, since it seems like you're going the episodic route where each entry chronicles Tulip's unfortunate past in certain situations. It's fine, but I hope each story will build off on one another and eventually lead to a much bigger arc with Tulip in the present day, otherwise the ending might be a little disappointing.

    But aside from that, I'm really liking this so far. I wouldn't mind reading more of it in the future.
     
  6. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    To Ambyssin: Don't worry, your thoughts make complete sense and I'm really glad you brought up your points. I'm glad you liked what I had to offer so far and I'll work hard to improve the parts that could be better. Thanks so much!!

    To NebulaDreams: Thank you for your kind words! Though... I think you're a bit mistaken :p Tulip is just the interviewer; the story being told isn't about her but about Monika, the person being interviewed.

    With that said, here's the new chapter:



    Entry #2: Macrostachya

    Tulip Glasslip here. Small update before I get to the interview.

    I have good news: I don't think I've been followed. I should be happy about that, though 'Not being found and murdered' being the highlight of these past couple of weeks can tell you how rough things have been.

    I've received several e-mails from readers and strangers, as well as comments on the website I'm uploading the entries to. Most are normal, though I've spotted a few oddballs wanting to get in on the action by leaving cryptic messages and riddles that, honestly, I don't have the time to check or care about. If they wanted to convey important information I doubt they'd put it in the open for everyone to see.

    I might change my e-mail address soon, though. I'll think on that.

    Anyway, I was able to locate a few ex citizens of Wysteria. The first two were reluctant about the idea of an interview, though they agreed after I explained that it was for a documentary. I would've felt bad about lying like that, were it not for the fact that they both canceled the interview less than a day after and told me not to call them again. They must've searched online and read what happened to Monika. I can't blame them for wanting to stay away from that.

    Luckily, the third person agreed to an interview and didn't cancel it afterwards. Whether this is because he didn't look online for my previous interview like the others or because he did and didn't care… well, whatever the reason I didn't have the benefit of looking this gift Ponyta on the mouth.

    I leave the interview below. I'll probably be moving into another hotel as soon as it's uploaded.


    [Horace is an old, chubby man with a Pyroar's mane of white hair and an easy smile. He lets me into his apartment with the polite enthusiasm of someone used to entertaining guests. While he fumbles around trying to find something for the both of us to drink, I look around a bit.

    A few crosses hang from the wall, and on top of a nearby piece of furniture I spot several old pictures. Most depict Horace with his family, though a few are of him in his late twenties, wearing black garb with the traditional purple scarf of the church.

    He finally finds some lemonade and serves a glass for each of us. We sit on opposite sides of his old, dusty table while I brandish my notebook and pen.]


    Am… am I supposed to start the interview? Or do you ask me questions first? I'm sorry, it's just… I don't think I've ever been interviewed before. Well, at least not since we won the junior soccer tournament when I was fifteen.

    "All you need to do is talk about the event you mentioned to me over the phone. I'll ask questions whenever I feel it necessary."

    Oh… alright then. I apologize in advance if I get lost or can't remember things correctly; you know how age is.

    Anyway, the story. I believe I moved to Wysteria when I was twenty five. After I became independent I was searching the region for jobs, and it just happened that the town was in desperate need of a minister of music for their local church.

    Being both religious –thanks to my parents' influence– and having studied music theory in college, I saw this as an opportunity given to me by the heavens. I talked with the executive pastor over the phone and, after he looked over my credentials, he hired me on the spot.

    "This did not seem strange to you?"

    Not at all, not at all. It was different back then; anyone with at least a high school diploma could find a decent job to support their family. And if you happened to have a college degree? That's a whole 'nother story; employers would practically fight over the right to have you. I was a lucky man, I was. My parents had given me the education and morals to make it in the world, and I chose to use that to the best of my abilities.

    I arrived a few days later with the few possessions I had. Since I didn't have any Pokemon I was able to find a pretty cheap apartment close to the center of town. I settled in, and the place began to feel like home immediately. Neighbors came to visit and I had my first taste of homemade apple pie in years. Made with apples from Johto and picked by Ledyba, if you can believe it.

    Very nice people, all of them. Whenever any of us had any trouble we could rely on each other's help, not like now where neighbors avoid each other and want to keep to themselves. Not that I'm complaining about the current youth, I'd hate to become that kind of old man. It's just that… ah, sorry. I'm getting out of topic.

    Yes, the church. It wasn't anything breathtaking, certainly not one of those Sinnoh chapels that make your wish you had enough money to travel abroad. It was a simple tall building with two marble pillars at the sides of the entrance, a couple rows of wooden pews and the altar. There was also an elevated, rugged square at the right where the kids and teens were supposed to sing, and where I was supposed to direct them.

    I only signed a few papers that day and met with the man whom I've spoken to on the phone. Pastor McMillian, the greatest man you could ever meet who still wore the robes.

    His voice was gentle and he smiled easily, for you see he wasn't like the typical pastor most people imagine when the word comes to mind. He knew how to make his voice heard, as any orator should, but he was not strict or unkind. In fact, he invited me to a cup of brandy that very day, and we had a lovely chat about the town and our respective faiths. He was part of a small sub-branch of the church, one that wasn't quite significant to completely split off from it but still quite rare, and one that I didn't adhere to. Still, it didn't bother me at all, in fact he taught me many things about the faith an orthodox man wouldn't have been able to.

    "Did you two become friends?"

    In a way. We mostly treated each other with respect and only occasionally shared a cup of liquor after a hard day's work. I believe we were both too busy with our respective jobs for anything else.

    Speaking of jobs, I began mine the next week. Summer was about to end, and the kids and teens that had made up the bulk of the choir had dwindled. Some boys were too old now, some had found an activity they enjoyed more or they simply got the opportunity to quit something their parents had forced on them. Whatever the case, we were left with only eight members from the year before. We needed to find volunteers, and that's where the pastor came in.

    He must've had a few connections around town, because the next day he told me I'd be doing an assessment of the twenty eight people he managed to recruit.

    "I was under the assumption that the town was relatively small in population."

    Oh it was. Barely above two thousand citizens, if my memory hasn't begun failing me yet. Still, being in the crossroads between Fucshia and Vermillion meant that some folk from those towns came to Wysteria to work or study there. We got a few foreigners too, though those were rare.

    In any case, I was tasked with assessing these volunteers. Nothing too serious, far away from a job or sport interview, but I still needed to check whether they had what it takes to be part of the choir. Of course I wasn't going to turn any of them down, but I had to separate the youngsters into two groups. The first would be the main choir, which would be the ones performing each Sunday for the rest of the town. The second were the ones in training, those who were either too young or not used to singing, but wanted to learn nonetheless. They would be tutored by me, along with the rest of their classmates, until they became good enough to be part of the official choir.

    A few weren't satisfied with this and left before I could even offer them a spot on the secondary team. I don't blame them, for I know how hard it is to receive criticism, especially when one is young.

    Luckily this was a rare occurrence, and at the end of the day we had a nice group of thirty youngsters ready to begin their classes.

    [He momentarily looks down at his hands. His fingers are interlaced tightly with each other, and I can see them slightly shaking under the wrinkles and calluses. He smiles sadly.]

    They were good kids, they were. Sally always tried hard to be the best, an attitude that doesn't surprise me since she was a trainer on the side. I advised her that hubris was dangerous but I couldn't say I was dissatisfied with her talent. Poor Ronald did his best too, but age is a traitorous thing and his voice was breaking all over the place. Avery was a bit of a bully, but we managed to straighten him up after a few weeks. Claire was the oldest and sweetest out of all of them, though she was quite shy…

    Ah, sorry, I didn't mean to reminisce like that. You probably don't care about little details like that.

    "This is your story, Horace. You're entitled to tell it however you want."

    T-thank you. I'll try to keep interruptions like that to a minimum.

    The kids were improving day by day, and the church had never been so full, or at least that's what the pastor told me after every sermon. We got a few more volunteers for the choir in the following months, though I was sad to inform them that they would have to wait until solstice for there to be more openings for the choir. I don't remember why; something to do with an old ordinance set up by the town.

    [He catches himself before continuing, his thick eyebrows forming a line over the bridge of his nose.]

    Strange, now that I think about it. Pastor McMillian was known for changing laws and rules to better suit the people of the town and to facilitate the spreading of the faith. I guess he never got around to changing this particular one, for some reason.

    Anyway, I digress.

    Things were going well for all of us. After three months we finally incorporated all those in training to the main choir, and their talents began to bloom rapidly. I was –and pardon my lack of humility here– a rather excellent teacher, but even I couldn't have hoped for such a change.

    They became closer, too. I would see most of them walking home in groups, talking excitedly about whatever kids loved to ramble on about back then, and while there was a bit of strife here and there they were easily resolved. Some of them became more than friends; not that it surprised me, they were teens after all, and they were forced to spend four hours a week together.

    "I thought members of the church weren't allowed to…?"

    That only applies to those working under the church, and the choir program was labeled under the school group denomination, it was not a job.

    Besides, we were looser than most when it came to things like that. Due to our increasing workload we didn't have much time to fall in love, but I assure you that if any of us found a significant other we wouldn't have judged each other in the slightest.

    The pastor liked to believe we were the fun and cool kind of church, as he loved to promote in the pamphlets he made himself. Can't say I didn't laugh when I read it, and it was clear the poor man wasn't quite knowledgeable about the current youth, but you couldn't deny that he worked hard nonetheless.

    A good man, the pastor was. It's a shame…

    [The fingers of his right hand unconsciously start hitting the table in a rhythmic manner, while he looks to the side for a moment. I can see his eyes catching a glimpse of the picture of him as a young man.

    He looks around for a moment, and finally sets his eyes on me. Or more specifically, on my notebook. He smiles nervously.]

    H-huh… I gotta say, never seen someone write so fast on a piece o' paper before. Did you study to become a scribe before you switched to journalism? I know a few people who…

    "I would rather not talk about my past or education, as to keep anonymity. I hope you understand."

    Right! Right… I'm sorry if I… uh…

    "It's fine if you need some time, Horace. I know this must be a difficult story to tell."

    Hah… I would love to tell you not to treat me like an old, withering Ekans but I can't deny your accusation. I guess age really is softening up my heart a bit. Still, I promised you this interview and I won't back away in the middle of it.

    "Thank you. Please proceed."

    Yes, of course.

    Anyway… we were about six months in when it all started.

    The pastor came in at seven in the morning as usual, but he looked agitated by something. He told me he'd received a letter from our superiors and he'd be leaving in a couple hours to Lavender town. It wasn't permanent, he assured me, but he was needed for an important matter that might take a couple of days to resolve. He appointed brother Adam to replace him and asked me to take care of the ministerial duties concerning the choir; organization, paperwork, etcetera. I told him he could count on me while we shook hands, and after that he hurried upstairs to pack for the travel.

    I suppose I was taken aback by the suddenness of the whole thing, because it didn't even occur me to ask who our superiors were. A deacon? The diocese? With a church as humble as ours it could've even been the government or League Association, I have no idea.

    And I didn't get enough time to think about it either, because the following days were a nightmare. I had my eyes practically glued to papers and reports, my fingers were stained blue from having to hold pens all day and every half an hour I would have to make one or two calls. It didn't help either that it was flu season and a few kids couldn't come the next Sunday. And of course Avery had gotten detention and would be absent too, the little rascal.

    It's just one of those things, you know. Sometimes the people around you do such a great job that you don't realize how hard it must be, and that applied to the pastor better than anyone. Adam was having trouble keeping up as well, though at least he didn't have to deal with about thirty youngsters and their family.

    "How long did it take for the pastor to come back?"

    A week and a half, or so. He arrived Thursday morning, I remember, with his briefcase in one hand and a Pokeball on the other.

    That gave me pause, I admit. I had never heard the pastor mention anything about having Pokemon, and it was strange for someone of the faith to have one anyway. Me personally, the only Pokemon I ever had was this cute little Growlithe when I still lived with my parents.

    He didn't explain it right away, he just told us to help him take his bags upstairs with a big smile on his face. Adam and I looked at each other, and we could both tell we were thinking the same thing. The pastor was acting strange.

    "Did he not smile often?"

    He did, he loved to smile. But his were… well, just a curl of the lips, the kind of smile that lasts a second but has more gentleness in it than any showing of teeth could. But the one he had then… it was too big, too wide and it barely extended to his eyes.

    I told myself he must've been tired from traveling, so I just nodded and did as I was told. Once I finished I went back to the meeting room, and to my surprise the pastor was already there. He was sitting on one end of the table, looking intensely at that Pokeball he had with him, spinning it on his fingers as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. I noticed he had some bags under his eyes, and he seemed pale too.

    I coughed to announce myself. He turned to me and urged me to sit down. When I asked him what that Pokeball was he smiled like that again, in that way that made me shiver, and told me.

    «Horace! Just the man I wanted to talk to!» He patted me on the shoulder and leaned back into his chair. «This… is something I brought for you. Something they gave me.»

    Before I could ask who they were, he opened the thing. The light blinded me for a few seconds, and when it went away I looked up to see what came out of it. It was… well, I'll be honest with you I wouldn't have known it was a Pokemon if I'd seen it in the wild, it looked like someone's house decoration.

    Most of it was a small, round head like a porcelain teapot, though smaller. From under it moved a thin banner of cloth that was red at the tip, like a flag or something. It… had a mouth, I think, and if I had to guess I'd say that its two yellow eyes were painted on, since they never blinked.

    It just floated in place for a few seconds while I stared at it, and every time the banner moved I heard something like the chime of a bell. It was distant, just at the edge of my hearing.

    "Was the Pokemon, by any chance, a Chimecho?"

    Y-yes! That's the name, I think. Apparently they were from Hoenn, though most migrated to Johto and were pretty good at camouflaging, since they looked just like the wind chimes they used there.

    I asked the pastor what this was about, and he told me the Chimecho had been a gift from our superiors in Lavender. With another one of his wide smiles he declared this was just what the choir needed, as if that was enough explanation. Apparently I was supposed to have that… thing around while we practiced and performed, and it would in some way help.

    I admit, I was skeptical. I didn't like at all the way it just floated there, without looking anywhere or making a noise. I was also suspicious of the way the pastor was behaving, but I couldn't just bring it up right there, could I? For all I knew the man was tired and genuinely happy to have something to offer to the choir. So as I had done plenty of times before I thanked him and followed his advice. He had never disappointed me so far, so what reason did I have to say no?

    «This little fellow will turn the choir into the perfect, well oiled music machine,» I remember he said, eyes slightly out of focus. «He'll show you the meaning of Resonance.»

    [For the first time I spot something like anger flash across Horace's eyes. He rolls back his shoulders and his fingers curl into each other strongly.]

    Resonance… I should've known back then. Should've grabbed that ugly Pokemon by the head and smashed it with a hammer. That night I lay on my bed hesitantly, I could feel the down pull of dread tugging at something inside me. The last thing I heard before falling asleep was, again, the chime of that bell, so distant I wasn't even sure if it was real.

    The next day I woke up like usual, had my cereal and milk like usual and walked to the church where I saw my students waiting in front of the gates, like usual. I had almost forgotten about that blasted Pokemon until we went in.

    None of my students noticed it, since it hung above the square where we practiced, next to the other small bells adorning the ceiling. Again it didn't blink once, and the only time the banner under it moved was when wind entered through the doors and windows. I looked at it for a moment, feeling a pit on my stomach, but decided to ignore it for now. I told everyone to walk to their spot and we began to practice.

    [He raises one of his hands to the side of his head, thumb pressed against his middle finger.]

    The change was impossible not to notice. Their voices and cadence remained the same, but the timing of their singing –something we've been meaning to put more practice into since it was their biggest weakness– couldn't have been more perfect at that moment.

    [He starts snapping his fingers, once per second. His timing is nothing short of impeccable.]

    This isn't something you're born with, and it has nothing to do with talent. You need to practice it every single day. It's one of the hardest things to learn for any musician and here these kids were, putting even their teacher to shame with their sudden perfection. I was baffled, to put it lightly.

    I asked if they'd been practicing, to which most replied with a smile that they had been. They didn't seem to notice the change as well as I had, just like they hadn't noticed the Pokemon hanging above them. At this point I was hesitant to bring up both those topics, so once again I didn't. I simply complimented them and continued with the rehearsal.

    "You believe the Chimecho was responsible for their improvement?"

    It's the only explanation that made sense. I didn't know what the thing was capable of back then, I just thought… well, maybe the bell it had for a head and the sound it made had something to do with it.

    The next Sunday we performed the usual songs during and after the sermon. The kids were as perfect then as they had been during practice, though I suspected few people would notice, tempo is not something non-musical folk tend to pick up on, after all. Still, I seem to remember we received more praise than usual, and some of the parents were beaming as they picked their children up, they even congratulated me for my excellent teaching. It was the first time in my life a compliment had embarrassed me.

    "Did the children continue to improve after that day?"

    Yes and no. As I said before their tempo had become perfect, and you can't really improve perfection. But there were… other changes. Subtler ones, so much that at some point I had completely forgotten the Pokemon now hanging on the ceiling of our church, always immobile.

    The kids became friendlier with one another. I know I said they liked each other before, but even then it's impossible to have such a large group of young people in one room and not have them argue or snicker a few times, right? Well… not anymore. Marceline, bless her heart, always complained that the boys couldn't reach a pitch as high as hers, but now she didn't say anything about it. Avery didn't clown around anymore, and even Sally stopped being so competitive.

    It was like… they understood each other. Like they were in sync in more than just music and tempo, outside of their practice and into their own lives.

    "Did this concern you?"

    Not as much as it should have. However that wasn't the only change, it was the more obvious one.

    That sound I spoke of earlier… like the wind slightly rustling a wind chime, almost too far away to pick up. I didn't always hear it, only when my mind was clear or I closed my eyes to concentrate. It was faint enough that, for a long time, I thought it an auditory hallucination. Whenever I pressed one ear against the softness of my pillow, every time my heart beat… it was somewhat maddening.

    After a few weeks I started to seriously consider that something was wrong and I mentioned it to the pastor. I wasn't happy bringing such baseless rubbish to the man who'd taught me so, but he didn't seem bothered in the slightest. I told him of the sound of chimes and the children's sudden improvement, and that I suspected that may be linked to the appearance of the Pokemon he'd gifted me.

    He laughed, as he tended to do, and patted me in the shoulder. He then offered me a cup of brandy and told me that there was nothing to worry about, that the Chimecho simply wished to help us grow and evolve, musically speaking, and that I was over-thinking this whole thing. His eyes were pale and cloudy, and he seemed somewhat out of it. I didn't bring this up, fearful that I might be imagining that as well.

    I thanked him for listening and tried to leave, and that's when he said something that gave me pause:

    «The Resonance of your students is advancing wonderfully. I trust that they will serve as examples, as the first step of many, many more.»

    That spooked me, not gonna lie. Having the man I looked up to so much show that horrible smile while he said those words… I mean, I couldn't have know, could I? How do you figure from a few weeks of acting oddly and a strange Pokemon that… that he was being influenced by…

    [He moves his hand around, as if trying to swat an annoying fly. His forehead and cheeks turn almost scarlet.]

    Excuses, excuses. I was scared, and that's the end of the story. Just wanted to pretend that nothing was wrong, I s'pose.

    "What happened wasn't your fault, Horace. You're not the first to have been fooled by… them."

    That's a real nice thing of you to say, miss Tulip. Sorry I'm bogging the interview like this.

    "No problem. Take all the time you need."

    Well... not much time now, and not much time back then. I would like to say I got enough to ease back into normalcy before the situation got odder but… I didn't. It happened three days later, in the next practice.

    We were just about to wrap up when one of the kids accidentally toppled one of those long, marble and gold candlesticks that were littered all over the place. It swiveled back and forth a couple times and then it fell forward, hitting Ronald on the back of the head. It wasn't too heavy or anything, but I'm sure it must've stung a bit.

    And that's exactly what happened, thirty fold.

    Ronald flinched and pressed one hand against the back of the head, and then… the rest of the kids followed. They didn't all move their hands, some shivered and others let out growls of discomfort. I… felt it too, though it was very faint, as if a small gust of wind had hit me in the nape.

    Most shrugged it off and others turned around to their friends and accused them of hitting them in the back of the head, to their total confusion. Still, they'd been packing their things and looking in different directions when it had happened, and as such didn't notice the mass reaction. However I, standing behind my podium and staring at all of them, did.

    I froze, and I felt something heavy and spiky in my chest. Slowly I looked up at the Pokemon above us, and I could swear I caught the slightest glimpse of a purple glow around its body, along with that chime sound I'd heard so many times. Not as distant now, and for the first time I was absolutely certain that I had heard it.

    I didn't sleep well that night. Every gust of wind outside seemed to carry that sound, and the thought of what had happened kept me turning under my blankets. Had it been a coincidence? Was I imagining all of this, was the stress of work getting to me? Or was there something sinister with that strange Pokemon? It never moved, never talked, never blinked, it only… chimed.

    "Did you address your concerns with the pastor or the kids?"

    I was wary of speaking to McMillian, in fear that he might consider there was something wrong with me. But I did resolve to ask my students a few questions, as subtly as possible as to not raise suspicion. Or… well, I would have, if the next class had been like the others.

    Claire didn't come to practice. That alone made me momentarily forget about what I intended to do. She was my most dedicated student, and we weren't quite in flu season so it wasn't likely she'd fallen ill. We waited for her for ten minutes and then I rushed back to my office and called her parents, just to be sure.

    Panic was the only thing clear in their voices when they told me she'd left the house for practice more than half an hour ago. I felt my blood run cold and, in the distance, once again, I heard that sound. It seemed linked to my heartbeat, which I could hear perfectly with my ear pressed against the phone receiver.

    I walked back and even before I spoke I saw that most of the kids mirrored perfectly my panicked expression. They were all pale, eyes opened wide in terror as if they'd seen a ghost. I told them to wait inside the church until the police came back and escorted them back to their homes, while I went with some of the officers to look for Claire.

    It's like we all knew deep down, even if realistically there could've been hundreds of explanations as to why she hadn't arrived to practice yet. There was an invisible, burning certainty that spread through the kids and me without us noticing. Maybe that's why I sprang into action so quickly when I'd never been that kind of man, I could feel something horrible brewing.

    We searched until sunset, and then we searched some more. Practically our entire side of the town was out looking for her, each person armed with nothing more than a small flashlight.

    "Were the townsfolk close to one another like that?"

    Yes, though probably not in the way you think. Most were polite and courteous, though they lived their own lives and let others do the same without interfering too much. Still, when one of their neighbors needed help they wouldn't hesitate to act, and this was clear evidence of that.

    It was two in the morning when officer Mald told me to go back and get some sleep, that she would take it from there. I tried to argue, but I don't think she heard what I said past all the huffing and puffing and exhaustion coming out of my mouth; we'd been walking and running around the city for hours non-stop, and as I'm sure you've noticed I'm not nor I was ever an athletic man.

    I agreed to go back home begrudgingly, assuring the officer that I'd be back after a few hours of sleep. However, as I walked down the hill path towards my home a thought appeared in my mind. I hadn't seen pastor McMillian all day.

    I froze in place. How hadn't I noticed that before? If there was anyone who would rush out to look for Claire and do everything in his power to find her, that was the pastor. So why hadn't he been with us? Why hadn't he appeared all day? Deeply troubled, I headed directly for the church. It was impossible to see anything since all the candles were extinguished, but I knew my way through the place well enough that I could traverse it in the darkness. I reached the door to the pastor's quarters and knocked hesitantly. When he failed to answer I simply let myself in.

    I don't know what I expected. Maybe to find him there, or something even more sinister? Well, the room was empty. Tidy too, as if it had never been touched before. And in the middle of the table at the other extreme of the room was a white envelope, looking quite out of place inside that room. The seal melted into the middle of the flap was that of the pastor, I recognized it instantly.

    I rushed to pick it up without even considering it might've not been put there for me. And to be honest, I really hoped it hadn't.

    The letter inside left me speechless. The pastor wrote about how happy he was that everything we'd been working towards was finally blooming. He spoke wonders of that blasted Pokemon, of how much it had helped us improve and evolve, and then…

    «I am so proud that you and your students have finally reached true Resonance with one another,» I remember it said. «It pleases me more than I can describe that I've helped plant the First Seed.»

    I had no idea back then what that meant, and I have no idea today either. Whatever happened to the pastor, whatever… they did to him, it's clear that it changed him completely. At the end of the letter he wrote that his task was complete, and he would return to his friends in Lavender tower.

    [He frowns and looks down at his hands. I wait expectantly, my own heartbeat resounding in my ears.]

    They never found him after that. As if he'd vanished into thin air. Worst of all was that when I came back down and I lit one of the candles I saw that the Pokemon had gone away too. I guess they had both completed their tasks.

    "Did the townsfolk caught wind of what happened to the pastor?"

    There was no time. They were too worried with Claire's disappearance, and shortly after something even worse happened: All the kids from the choir fell ill.

    "Ill in what way?"

    There was no real rhyme or reason to it, and it wasn't a normal sickness. I heard it from their parents; one minute they would have a pounding headache and the next they would be vomiting all over the place with their insides feeling like they were made of fire. I felt it too, though as you probably guessed not as strongly. A bit of a migraine in the morning, intestinal problems in the evening… I s'pose it was the age, the kids must've been more vulnerable to it.

    "Vulnerable to what?"

    The Resonance. I could feel that too, it was different from any kind of physical pain, it was something that was etched into my mind and I heard it every time I closed my eyes. It wasn't a chime anymore, but a choir of meaningless whispers. And whenever I heard them I would feel… things. Hopelessness, rage, envy, things that didn't line up at all with what I should've been feeling.

    I couldn't sleep right, I couldn't eat right, I couldn't do anything without that horrible dread choking me from the inside. It became worse as the hours and days went by, until I got sick of it and decided that I needed to get to the bottom of this. I briefly considered fleeing the town, but I knew I'd never forgive myself if I walked out on my students when they needed me.

    Problem was, I had no idea where to begin. The pastor had left no traces, and neither had Claire. I could've talked to the students one by one, see if they knew anything… in fact I was considered doing just that when it hit me.

    It was a fleeting, extremely faint urge, one that I knew didn't come from me. At first I was alarmed, but after gathering my wits I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate in that feeling. What did I want? I wanted… I wanted to go out, even if it was the dead of night, and I wanted to leave an excuse for my parents, which was strange since they didn't live with me. And after that… well, it wasn't quite clear. It was like there was an invisible breadcrumb trail guiding me towards my destination. I didn't know where exactly it would lead me, I just knew I should follow it.

    And so I did. I left a note should something happen to me and I went out into the coldest night I could remember since I had moved to Wysteria. For a while I walked, and once I went over the hill and into the northeast corner of the town, I saw them.

    One by one my students walked the same path as me, trying as subtly as possible to sneak through the cracks of the night. I approached Sally, who was the closest one, and asked her what was happening, if she was feeling okay. But she didn't answer me; her eyes were faded and out of focus, as if she were sleepwalking. No matter what I did to try and wake her up she just kept going northeast, and so I had to follow her.

    The place they were heading to was one of those rusty metal hangars close to the docks, the ones where they stored boat parts and equipment. I stayed a little behind and saw as they all converged in front of the entrance and proceeded to go in.

    I hesitated, and that alone might've cost everything. I kept my distance from the place and debated whether to go back and warn the authorities or keep going, and all this arguing with myself took almost five blasted minutes. If I'd been more decisive, then perhaps… but I guess there's no point in thinking of what ifs.

    I decided to follow, though I didn't go all the way in. There were no guards outside, possibly because they didn't want to alert anyone of what was happening, and so I sneaked towards one of the smaller side doors and slowly opened it, peeking in.

    From that angle it wasn't easy to understand what was happening. All I saw were my students standing in rows in that empty hangar, illuminated by two strong lights in the ceiling. They didn't move. They were staring at something on the other side.

    Someone had erected a kind of wooden podium or platform, and there seemed to be four people standing on it. Three adults, two of them wearing black camo and holding guns, and the third was a woman in a purple suit and dark glasses.

    "Did you get a good look at them? Was there an insignia in the woman's suit?"

    [My voice must've betrayed me, because Horace is taken aback by the intensity behind it.]

    I… don't know. It was hard to see in there, and I was distracted by something else I saw. I'm sorry.

    "That's… fine. Please, continue."

    [He smiles and looks down, and I can tell right away that he doesn't want to. Still, he must summon courage from somewhere because after a few seconds of doubt he speaks again.]

    I… saw her last, since she wasn't as tall as the people around her. I'm sure I must've let out some kind of shriek or wail, and it was a miracle no one inside was able to hear me.

    Claire was in that platform, and the state she was in almost brought me to tears. Her clothes were worn and dirty as if she hadn't changed since she disappeared. Her thin legs were wobbling and her knobby knees were bruised and bloodied. There was a cut on her lower lip and her cheeks were stained with dry tears.

    She looked empty, miserable. Whatever had happened to her, whatever these people were doing, it had clearly cracked her will. She didn't seem to notice anything around her, as if staying conscious alone took effort she was barely capable of.

    I felt my stomach burn with fury, but I was too shocked to react, which is probably what saved my life. Had I gone in at that moment I would've been shot by the two guards. Then again… perhaps that would've given the kids the opportunity they needed to escape.

    In any case, I was taken out of my stupor by the woman's voice. She looked down at a strange watch in her wrist and cleared her throat before speaking:

    «We don't have much time. We need to get through the tests before their parents notice they're missing,» she said. «First test: check if their Resonance has reached its peak potential.»

    And just like that, like it was the normal thing to do, the woman walked towards Claire and slapped her in the face.

    It was the most aloof and business-like slap I'd ever seen. Claire took it and moved her head to the side, threatening to fall over. And then, only a second after, every single one of the kids flinched and took their hands to the cheek where she'd been struck. I felt it too, though it was nothing more than a light discomfort.

    The kids seemed to be in the same daze as her, because they didn't react much other than that. I reckon they must've given the poor girl some kind of drug and the Resonance passed that onto the others but… I'd rather not think about that.

    The woman nodded and typed something into her little watch, looking as if this was just another day in the job for her. She then approached one of her buddies and stretched her hand towards him like she was expecting something. I could see the man hesitate for a moment before he took out a small knife from his pocket and gave it to her.

    «Next we'll test a deeper injury,» she said. «Let's see how the receivers' nervous system reacts to it.»

    That's when I felt that awful chill down my spine, and I knew what was coming next. The woman raised the knife and pointed it at Claire like she was debating internally which part to poke first. The anger inside me must've overpowered my fear, because next thing I know I'm kicking the door and entering the place like I have any damned idea what I'm doing.

    The guards reacted first; they saw me and raised their weapons, though they didn't shoot. The woman blinked a few times and turned towards me, I remember her face like it was yesterday. Those awful blue eyes of hers, those thin lips and eyebrows that formed an expression of surprise and rage…

    As I said, I didn't have a plan or anything of the like, and when I realized that I just froze. I knew I was seconds away from getting shot, the moment that woman's surprise faded and she ordered her guards to attack it would be over.

    Or it would've been, if it weren't for Claire.

    [I try not to bring up the sudden wetness in Horace's eyes.]

    I used to think it was all my fault. Now I don't know… maybe if I would've acted differently… but I honestly have no idea. I was never decisive or brave, I was never like my students. And after all Claire had surely suffered…

    She must've gotten out of her daze just enough to realize what was happening. The guard next to her was distracted and didn't notice when she grabbed the gun hanging from a holster in his hip. I saw her raise the weapon, and those people turned towards her and… they didn't have time, and I thought she was going to shoot them…

    I… I still don't know why she did it. Maybe she really was in that much pain? Did she understand the consequences of her actions? I doubt it, and still I wonder…

    Claire turned the barrel of the gun towards her forehead and pulled the trigger. There was a single second after the bang when I didn't feel anything at all, I just saw her body fall backwards like I was inside some sort of nightmare. What I was seeing couldn't be real, and that comforted me in some way. At least until the pain came.

    It felt like my forehead had burst open. I fell to my knees, screaming and wailing like a Spoink being slaughtered. Nothing existed but that agony, that burning, searing wound in my head that wasn't really there, that I didn't know whether it would ever go away. I wanted to die, I wanted one of the men to shoot me and take me out of my misery, and then everything would be well again. In the furthest corner of my mind I thought… if this is what I was feeling, what of the other children?

    What of my students?

    I didn't need to wait long to figure it out. The pain subsided after a few seconds, though I could still feel the aftermath in my nerves, like the image stuck behind your eyes when you close them after staring at a source of light for a while.

    I struggled to get to my feet, realizing that they weren't bothering to shoot me, or say anything for that matter. The woman and her two guards were running towards the exit, and once I was well enough to see again I realized why.

    My students had fallen to the ground like ragdolls. They were immobile and with their eyes wide open, staring into nothingness. They still breathed, fortunately, but the same couldn't be said for the body laying on that wooden platform, covered in blood.

    [I can hear his heavy breathing once he stops talking. His face has gone extremely pale, only disturbed by the occasional tears.

    I wait almost an entire minute before speaking.]

    "What happened after?"

    I ran. I went back to my house, packed my most essential possessions and got everything into my car, and then I drove away from that town, never to come back.

    "Just like that?"

    Just… just like that. I was too overwhelmed, too scared and I could still feel the pain throbbing inside my head, though it'd been dulled. A part of me knew there was a chance I'd be blamed for what had happened but I wasn't in the right mental place to be logical, and my reason for running away was driven entirely by those horrible and selfish human instincts. I became the coward my species has indoctrinated me into being, and I tried to save my own skin.

    I drove until I ran out of gas, and I kept going from there. I never went back, and I only got the nerve to investigate a few years later. What… what had happened to the kids…

    [Horace is unable to keep speaking, though I know what he means.

    Out of the group of youngsters found the day after in that hangar, only five managed to achieve a partial recovery many years later. Most weren't able to, and a few of the youngest ones were known to suffer brain damage too severe to even attempt fixing.]

    "I'm sorry for what happened, Horace. If it's any consolation, I don't fault you for running. You would've most likely been killed, had you not."

    Th-that might even be preferable… I try to forget, every single day. I haven't worked in a church since, because I know I'm not worthy. There is nothing… nothing I can do now. I should've acted back then. I used to think what I felt in that hangar was the worst thing a human being could experience, but I was wrong. There's nothing more painful than regret.

    [It takes Horace a few minutes to regain his composure. He apologizes for acting like this and says that's all he can tell me.

    I thank him multiple times for blessing me with this interview and I do my best to convince him that doing so will make a difference.

    I try to hide the fact that I don't know whether that's true or not.]
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  7. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Entry #3: Brevidentata

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

    Tulip Glasslip here.

    Last entry I proudly declared I was not being followed. Situation has changed since then.

    I discovered something strange while reading the comments on my website. As I mentioned before, most are either from fans or idiots trying to scare me by writing cryptic bullshit and riddles. Normally I wouldn't mind, but…

    There's a special plugin installed in my laptop that allows me to track the IP of anyone who comments on my page. Not the exact location or anything of the like, which would be illegal, but it gives me a rough estimate of where the user is. I mention this because the other day I noticed a particularly strange comment by a user nicknamed Pruner. It read as such:

    Where does thunder go after a storm?

    Look outside when the lightning flashes.

    It caught my attention, though not as much as what I discovered when I looked at the IP. I will not reveal the exact location for personal reasons, but it was the same city I'd been staying in less than two weeks ago.

    It was surely a coincidence, but just in case I searched for any other comments made by that user. I found two more:

    Can you hear the ground rumbling?

    Can you hear the voices beneath the earth?

    And:

    You're pointing that pen the wrong way.

    Tell us more about yourself.

    Each one was written from a different IP and they corresponded with other two places I'd been staying in previously. Needless to say, I moved again as soon as I learned this information.

    I'm still not convinced I'm safe, or whether this was a coincidence or not. Whatever the case I will further limit my interactions online and I'll be watching over my shoulder twice as much from now on. I can't be too careful.

    In other news, I managed to find another person to interview. I will put the result of our meeting here below:

    -------------------------------------------------
    [Kate's apartment is uncomfortably familiar, for an ex-college student such as myself. The walls are grey, the painting starting to fall apart, and there are few pieces of furniture to be seen other than the computer stand and the dingy table in what we could call the living room. Water is the only thing she can offer me, which I graciously accept.

    As she sits in front of me I get a better look at her. Hollow cheeks, hollow eyes. Hollow voice too, if that makes any sense. I struggle to listen to what she's saying; her tone has an almost soporific effect on me.

    There's an oddity about her, compared to the other people I've interviewed: she was not a citizen of Wysteria, which explains her young age. Still, the story she wants to tell me is tangentially related to the city, so here I am.]

    I'm not gonna make you console me like those other two you interviewed. I don't care if anyone reads this; I just wanna get it out of my chest because no one else believed me so far. Except for... ah, it doesn't matter.

    It happened four years ago, right after I turned eighteen. I was lucky to finish high school; my grades have always been **** because I'd have trouble concentrating or I'd fall asleep in the middle of class. Not entirely my fault, but you go explain to my parents what mental disorders are and if they listen for more than a few minutes without calling you a liar then I'll give you all the money I have. Not much, but I figure you could use it.

    [If she notices the way I glare at her, she doesn't let it show.]

    I never knew if it was narcolepsy or something to do with dreams, and I don't have the money to find out now. The gist of it is; I was tired all the time, and at night I wouldn't be able to fall asleep for long because I got some pretty ugly nightmares. The vivid ones, where you can't move and… ah, I'm sure your readers can look that stuff up. Suffice to say, I fell asleep at random times during the day and I had constant bags under my eyes.

    So summer came, and I was ready for my last three months of freedom playing games and being a social Slaking before I had to head for college and have my life ruined. Problem was, a friend of mine had another idea; you see, she'd recently gotten a summer job in the woods near Wysteria.

    Apparently the Ditto around the area became kinda crazy that time of year and people didn't want them to reproduce too fast. It would throw off the ecological balance or something. So they sent a random teen with free time there, gave them anti-pheromone spray to use on the vicinities once a day and paid them a lot better than anyone would've expected. They also gave them the keys for a shitty cabin that used to belong to some ranger.

    You can see where this is going; she invited me and Denna to go with her and have a pleasant camping week since it'd be the last chance we'd get before heading to college.

    Oh right, I should've probably mentioned: I used to have friends. You probably wouldn't know by looking at me. Anyway, there were was Merry which was the one who got the job, she was the kind you look at and think 'Damn, that girl must've been raised by lumberjacks or Ursaring'. I was absolutely crazy for her, not that I ever got to tell her. Anyway, Denna was the one I got along better with since we were both geeks and spent pretty much all our free time playing games and watching T.V shows.

    We weren't exactly the camping type, which is why it took a while for us to be convinced by Merry's insistence. In the end, after a couple weeks of battering us over the head with the idea, we had no choice but to accept.

    I'll spare you the details nobody gives a **** about, like the preparations and all that. We bought what we needed, loaded the trunk with more canned beer than a group of frat boys would've known what to do with, and three days later we were on the road at first hour of the morning. Merry was the only one with a car, and most importantly the only one who could drive, so we let her do her thing while the road blurred around us.

    Her car was a red convertible, really old but looking as if it'd been made less than a year ago. Not that I know **** about cars, I mention it because I remember how much of a pain in the ass the wind was while we traveled. We could barely hear each other talk and the radio was turned on just because, we couldn't hear it much either. And we weren't exactly close to our destination; it'd be at least ten more hours until we got there.

    Still, we made conversation here and there and stopped occasionally to have some snacks at the side of the road. I was in the back seat; on the outside I claimed that it was because it would help me sleep easier if the narcolepsy kicked in, but to be honest I was nervous of sitting next to Merry for the whole trip. I wasn't sure I could hold a conversation with her for so long and I've always been an anxious wreck. Denna called me a dumbass for that, and she might've been a bit more than right. But hey, at least I got to actually lay down to sleep during the night.

    Yeah… the night, that's when it started to happen. Everything was pitch black except the cones of light in front of the car, and we'd stopped talking about an hour ago, when Denna fell asleep. I asked Merry if she wanted us to stop for now and keep driving in the morning, but she just smiled and said she would've preferred to get there as soon as possible. I didn't complain, since I've never been one to snooze at night anyway.

    I got comfortable against the seat and just listened to the radio for a few hours, while I looked out at the sides of the road. There wasn't much there, but I dare you to find a time and place more beautiful to just… be silent and do nothing. Folk underestimate how nice silence can be. Merry had always been the loud and extroverted one out of our group, but even she understood.

    I couldn't tell you when I fell asleep. I'm not even sure I did, really, since I didn't dream and I could still hear the sound of the radio. It felt really far away, like I was listening to it at the other side of a tunnel or while wearing a helmet or something.

    Who knows what the program was about. All I remember is that there was a woman talking about… something related to celebrities, I think. The kind of thing old people listen to because they wanna live through a famous person's life and get mad or happy in their behalf.

    Anyway, I kept listening to that woman's voice while I snoozed off, but at one point it changed. That's the part I remember clearly; first the background noise disappeared and it sounded like she was talking someplace outside, I could hear the wind and the rain. Then her voice changed… I didn't notice at first but after a while she started to sound like… Denna.

    When I had that thought the program stopped being that, and it was like I was hearing something completely different. Denna was talking really fast, high pitched and all that. Like she was running out of breath, or she was really desperate, I don't know. Then I heard her gasp, and the sound of the rain morphed into… the steps of something. They were heavy and wet, like when you get your shoe out of a puddle of fresh mud.

    I could hear us running and those steps were chasing behind us. Merry was saying something but I couldn't pay attention because Denna started screaming.

    Then I heard… I can't properly describe it. Like the sound of steam blowing out of a kettle but… more musical I guess? Next thing I know I was screaming bloody murder in the car and Denna and Merry were staring at me like they'd seen a ghost.

    Merry had stopped the car on the side of the road. Both of them were so worried I… I didn't know what to say. I just told them it was a bad nightmare and that I'd drink some water and I'd be fine. I sure as hell wasn't gonna go to sleep again after that. I'm sure they didn't believe me, but they pretended to because they were better friends than I deserved and they didn't wanna push the issue.

    "You've mentioned before that you occasionally suffered from sleep paralysis. Is that what happened in the car?"

    Yeah, I recognized it as soon as I woke up. That's the worst part, you know. I couldn't do anything but be frozen while all the horrible **** happened around me, I just prayed that I'd wake up soon. Though to be honest I never had a nightmare as bad as that one before. I chalked it up to the stress of the trip and of the exams for finishing high school.

    We got to the base of the camping grounds at noon. The cabin wasn't on the side of a mountain per se, but the ground did go up at enough of an angle that we couldn't drive there. We walked up the predetermined path with our bags and whatever else we needed. Merry carried the beer exclusively; we told her we could come back later for it but she was having none of it. God forbid the drinks became hot because of the sun; I'm pretty sure she would've killed us all if that happened.

    [An actual, non forced smile appears on Kate's face, relaxing her expression. Until now I hadn't noticed the constant frown she had before.]

    The place we'd be staying in was as shitty as it could be before it stopped reaching the minimum requirements of being a cabin. Still, there was electricity and hot water. And the beds were bug-free, so at least it was slightly civilized.

    We spent the first few hours unpacking and getting to know the place. Merry told us to make something for lunch while she went ahead to the place where she was supposed to do her work. According to her there was a small valley in between two of the… god, I don't wanna call them mountains because I know they're not that, but I also don't know the real name. That's gonna drive me crazy.

    "A hill, perhaps?"

    It was a bit bigger, but let's go with that.

    Anyway, the valley. It wasn't big, maybe the size of a football field, and there was a small lake in the middle of it. The people that hired Merry told her that's where all the Ditto gathered at night and it was where they mostly got their water to drink from. So all she needed to do was go there once a day for a week, sprinkle some of that chemical **** they gave her and it'd spread all over. I think it was supposed to make the Ditto infertile without harming them. Who ****ing knows if it was true; we weren't there for long enough to find out.

    She came back at around two, when the sun was starting to get really bad. I'm not gonna say I didn't kinda choke on the sandwich I was eating when I saw her walk through the door. Her hair was messy, she was covered in dirt and dust from all the walking and… well let's just say I was thinking of what every teenage girl thinks at that age when they see someone that attractive and leave it at that.

    She grabbed a few cans from the freezer and sat down to eat with us. We talked about menial things, asked her about the job and all that. Then after a while she said something that gave me pause.

    «I think I saw another cabin at the other side of the hills. It's weird, I didn't think there'd be anything past there until the ocean.»

    It was an off-comment, and we just shrugged and thought it was weird before moving on. She was right, though, there shouldn't have been any other kind of building past the valley. Not only was it not in the map but it was in a place surrounded by trees and it was almost impossible to see unless you were close to that lake.

    "How did you know this if you hadn't seen it?"

    Because we went there, obviously. We were eighteen, drunk and ****ing dumb at the time, what did you expect?

    Anyway, we spent most of the day setting up and exploring the perimeter of the place. I'm not gonna bog this down by telling you every type of tree or rock or the species of Pokemon that lived there. Just imagine your nearest patch of woods, add a **** ton of heat and Beedrill and you get the gist of it. The only important thing is that autumn wasn't far away, so the floor was covered in dried, crunchy leaves. It made an awful sound every time you stepped on it.

    Merry was determined to make us work so we wouldn't sit on our asses all day, which we probably would have without her. She told Denna to spray Repel all around the cabin and the nearby area just in case, and told me to go find some wood for the bonfire we'd be making outside.

    I asked her why we needed a bonfire if we had a cabin, and then I asked her why hadn't she brought some wood before coming. To both those things she replied that it was a lot more fun if we did the work ourselves. I tried to hide a smile and told her she was a dick for making me do the hardest work, and she smiled back and said I know.

    She… probably knew about how awful my condition was, and she must've figured that the more tired I was before falling asleep the lesser the chance of nightmares happening. Always looking out for me, like good friends are supposed to do.

    I went looking in a circle around our camp, and by the time I'd gathered enough wood to make a fire the sun was already going down. There wasn't much trouble, aside from a few Rattatas that ambushed me and tried to eat the candy bar in my pockets. Bastards got a face full of Repel.

    The only weird thing I noticed was that the more uphill I walked the less I'd hear Pokemon cries or the leaves of the trees rustling. That wasn't how it was supposed to work; the more I went up the more things should've been living there, right? And… now that I thought about it, I didn't remember Merry mentioning running into any of the Ditto she was supposed to stop from mating. It'd been the middle of the day and in their favorite hiding place, how were there not any there?

    Just as I thought that I almost ****ing fell into the entrance of the valley. I took a step back, sweating bullets, and I looked down at the lake. I couldn't see a single Pokemon there, not even a Rattata nibbling on the fruit thrown in the ground.

    Then I looked up, towards the other side of the hills. Just like Merry said, there was a house there. It didn't look fancy, but it was well built. The walls must've been made of solid concrete and the roof was metal. It was painted black, so it would've been impossible to see it at night, and even now I was having trouble focusing on it. I swore I could see… mist? It was rolling downhill from the top towards the house, and advancing in all directions. It was almost transparent and… pearly white, I think is the best way I could describe it, almost enough to be pink.

    I stared at it wondering why the hell was there mist in the middle of the day when it wasn't even cold, until I remembered I had to go back to the camp. So that I did, and I tried to forget all about the house, even if it gave me the all overs.

    They were worried I came back a little late, and by the way they were looking at me I knew it wasn't just because of that. I told them everything was fine and tried to put on my best smile. That seemed to relax their nerves a bit.

    The fire we made was amazing, and the satisfaction of seeing the flames almost as tall as us made searching for the wood worth it. Not that I would've admitted it to my friends, I still had a grumpy reputation to maintain. We basked in the heat as the sun went down and the temperature dropped. We got some chairs from inside the cabin and sat around it while we ate and drank far more than our bodies were used to processing.

    The least I speak of that night the better. Not because anything bad happened, far from it. It was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done, and it was all thanks to Merry and Denna. They were the best kinds of friends.

    I'd like to keep the memory of that night to myself, if that's okay.

    "Absolutely."

    The only important thing is that, at some point, my inebriated self suggested going to that strange house over the hill. I'd been curious about it all night, and I thought it'd be a cool way to pass the time, since we were stuck in that damned place for an entire week. I don't know if my friends were drunker than me or were just surprised because I never was the one to make the plans, but they accepted.

    Then we passed out, I think. I don't remember it very well, all I recall is one of us throwing up on a tree that ended up being a Trevenant. That caused some problems, but other than that it was an enjoyable night. I fell asleep before I even hit the bed.

    I didn't dream that night. Wait, that's not right. I… felt like I did, but I couldn't remember a single thing about it. I woke up feeling like I was missing a part of my mind, but I thought it must've been the drink and the awful hangover.

    As you can probably guess from the previous night, we didn't do much until way past 2 PM. I was the first to wake up, though I stayed in my bed for almost an hour growling to myself. Denna was next; she made the effort to go to the kitchen and brewed some coffee for all of us, bless her soul. Strangely, Merry was the last to get up but the one who looked the least affected by the alcohol. I guess being both more sturdy than us and accustomed to drinking anyone under the table helped her with that.

    "Did you bring up again the plans to go to that house?"

    I didn't, because I didn't remember proposing that the night before. Denna mentioned it a few hours later when we were feeling a little better, and we had a short discussion about it.

    I was apprehensive, even thought I'd been the one to propose the idea. Denna looked really excited; she'd always loved the idea of discovering new things in the woods, especially if they were grim and creepy. Merry thought it over for a few minutes; she looked worried. I wondered if she'd seen that mist too, but I didn't ask out loud.

    She told us she'd take a good look at the house next time she went to the valley. Check if the hills were too steep or if there was a river blocking the path. If not, we could go take a look later during the night.

    "I don't mean to… be rude, but could you explain why you three thought this was a good idea? None of you had Pokemon to protect yourselves, did you?"

    Of course not, do you know how expensive that would be? We'd either have to be trainers, which was a spending our families couldn't afford, or we'd have to bring in a Pokemon that was considered by the state to be just a pet, which was illegal. Still, Merry had a good knife and knew how to defend herself. We thought that's all we'd ever need.

    As for why we decided to go… well, we were young, stupid and susceptible to peer pressure. Denna was excited, I just shrugged and said why not because hey, it was something to do. I didn't want to admit it, but I was also terribly curious about the place. As for Merry… she'd been the one to invite us here, and I'm sure she just wanted us to have a good time. If that meant going to a creepy abandoned house at night then it would be so.

    And finally… well, people in horror stories don't usually know they're in one until something bad happens, do they?

    "So you ended up going that night?"

    Yeah, but like I said before, Merry had to check the perimeter first. That afternoon Denna and I didn't have much to do; it would be a waste of time if we went looking for wood and then it turned out the path to the house was clear. So we just sat around the corpse of the previous bonfire and… talked.

    I won't repeat what we talked about. I'll just say that it was one of those rare moments when two friends get a bit more honest and serious than usual, and both end up learning a few things. You know the ones; they usually happen at late hours of the night or in places completely unfamiliar to both of you.

    It was the last one of those conversations I ever had, so I'd rather keep it to myself as well.

    Merry came back an hour later, looking as exhausted and sweaty as the last time. However I didn't have much time to admire that since she also had a pretty noticeable frown on.

    We asked her what was wrong, and she told us that not only were there no Ditto around, but no one had drank the water from the lake since yesterday. She could tell because the chemical she'd sprayed still sat in the top layer of it, and it should've dissolved if a big group of Pokemon drank from it.

    She theorized it might be because of the change in climate; this summer hadn't been quite as hot as the previous ones. We decided to go with that and told her not to worry; she was gonna get paid either way. We then asked her about the house and she nodded; she hadn't seen anything blocking the path towards it, and it wasn't as steep as it appeared at first sight. We could get there in forty minutes, no problem.

    Then her frown came back for a single second, and she said something that put my hair on end:

    «I also saw a weird mist, it almost looked pink. I guess it's something with the sun heating up the ground after a cold night or something. Maybe there are some weird plants there that make that happen.»

    She was like that; you couldn't get a word in before she told you what she thought almost too fast to understand.

    I told her I'd seen the same thing, but we acted like it wasn't a big deal. At worst it was some weird kind of gas and we did bring gas masks just in case we ran into a pest of Koffing. I personally was beginning to have second thoughts, and I suspect Merry did as well, but we tried our best to ignore it. We packed all the food and beer we'd need for our even more than usual outdoors camping, grabbed a flashlight each and left the cabin as soon as the sun went down.

    Question, do you know the difference between an empty, lit room and one that's completely in the dark? How would you feel if you were in either of them?

    "I… don't think I'd feel any different. I'm used to being alone in the dark. I like it."

    Alright… not gonna read into that as much as I should, but here's another comparison. How about a big room full of people you don't know, and the same thing but all the lights are off? What's the difference there.

    "I'd want to be more careful."

    Of course. And if the idea just happens to pop into your head that maybe, just maybe, there's a reason the lights are off and one of those people might be dangerous, who can blame you for freaking out? Who can blame you for jumping at every little sound and wanting to find a source of light as quick as you could?

    That's how the trek was, at least for me. The distant cries of Pokemon and the sounds of crunching leaves weren't charming or distracting anymore. Every pair of eyes I saw atop the trees gave me a mini heart attack. I was as tense and jumpy as a first time whore and unlike them I wasn't getting paid.

    Merry walked in front of me, pointing her flashlight forward with clear experience. She stomped the ground like she owned the place and her face was remarkably blank. I could see her shoulders tense, but that was about as much as her nervousness showed. Denna was another story, her eyes were as wide as a Hoothoot's. I'd never seen someone so excited and anxious at the same time.

    In the intersection between two small hills we saw the small riverbed that told us we were close to the valley. It wasn't very wide, as much as a truck you could say. We had to cross it; normally I'd have no problem with getting my feet wet but…

    I stomped through the shallow, running water, and the sound my shoe made when I lifted it was terribly familiar. The nightmare; the screams and the rain and the growling stomp against mud. It wasn't exactly the same; just close enough that I stood there frozen for a moment. I could feel the cold of the riverbed climbing through my entire body.

    I forced myself to keep walking. I didn't want to bother my friends again with my dream nonsense and we were close already. There was nothing to worry about.

    Merry stopped a few steps after clearing the riverbed. She frowned, looked up and breathed in deeply. As if she were sniffing for a familiar scent. Then she turned towards us and spoke:

    «Rain's coming. Let's hurry.»

    There was an edge to her voice that would've normally worried me, but considering what I was just thinking about it ****ing terrified me. I wasn't in any place to argue; if anyone could sense a coming storm then that was definitely her. Still, I chastised myself for being superstitious and stupid and told my legs to keep walking.

    We crossed through the valley, circling the lake until we got to the other side. I tried my best to contain my curiosity, but before we left I shone the flashlight at the surface. Pale yellow. The color of the chemical Merry sprayed earlier that afternoon. Untouched, just like the day before.

    [Her hands are so strongly wringed together that her knuckles have turned white. She's not as above this as she think she is.]

    "Did it take you a long time to find the cabin?"

    Not as much as we thought. You'd expect a black building to be harder to find at night, but once you shine a light at it you can see it from pretty far away. It freaked me out at first; I thought it was a solid shadow or something, then I told myself I was stupid and alerted the rest.

    It wasn't easy to get there, which should've raised a few flags on its own. No path leading to the place, no sign of any human presence that we could see. That might've calmed my nerves if it weren't for that ****ing mist all around us. It was so faint that I barely noticed I was walking through it until I saw it turn thicker in the distance. I shook my head and concentrated on the building.

    Now that we were closer I noticed you couldn't peek into the place from outside; no windows nor peephole. It wasn't a house, I realized, but some kind of weird shelter, like a miniature hangar. Who the hell would build something like that in the middle of a forest?

    "Was there any kind of identifiable mark on the outside?"

    Yeah, a weird symbol on the left side of the wall. It was like… a circle, with two vines interlacing inside. It was painted white and pretty much the only thing you could see without shining a flashlight at it.

    [I inhale sharply, and try my best to disguise it as a cough. Kate stares weirdly at me for a moment, but continues with the story shortly after.]

    Anyway, when Merry went to open the door I noticed it was twice as wide as a normal one and made of metal. There was a big handle that connected with a similar one on the side of the entrance, where a lock would normally be. But there wasn't anything like that and with a bit of force she managed to open it. It slid to the side with an awful whirr, like the sound a Magneton makes. Made my damn teeth hurt.

    The inside was the maw of a ****ing Arcanine. None of us wanted to be the first to raise the flashlight, and I could feel a clear tension in the air that was definitely not my imagination that time. Finally Merry raised her hand and the cone of light showed us about five percent of what was inside.

    I'm not proud to admit that I was a bit disappointed, even if that makes me an idiot. The place was maybe twice as big as the living room of our cabin, and at first sight there wasn't anything odd lying around. A couple metal tables, a thrown chair close to us, a bed on the far side of the room and a wardrobe that doubled as a place to put books in.

    «Someone's been living here.»

    We'd been in silence for so long that Merry's voice scared the soul out of me. She spoke with authority, as if she couldn't possibly be wrong, and then stepped inside. Denna followed excitedly. Me, not so much.

    Three cones of light moved all around, revealing the rest of the room. I noticed a small pile of canned food and water bottles on the left corner of the room, and I almost tripped on one of them as I walked. The top of the nearest table was covered in something like… white goo, lots of droplets. It took me a few seconds to realize they were melted candles.

    At my right hung a metal box the size of a T.V, formed of about twenty filing cabinets. Against my better judgment I opened a few, but there didn't seem to be anything inside. I pointed the light at the ground again; there was some sort of book in the ground. A short tome, leather bound and with a small lock like that of a diary. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what it was; in the cover there was something written with sharpie:

    Property of Mark Reagan.

    "Interesting. What was written inside? Did the diary belong to the owner of that building?"

    I just told you it was locked, didn't I? I didn't get to read it.

    "Couldn't you have opened it with a knife or some tool at your disposal?"

    [I realize a little too late just how irritated I sound. I try my best to control the volume of my voice, though Kate is already staring strangely at me.]

    I had no reason to waste time on that, and I've never been good with tools anyway. I just picked it up and left it on top of the table.

    I heard Denna speak from in front of the bed:

    «There's a light switch here, but it ain't working. Bulbs must be busted.»

    So that's what those clicking sounds were. I kept walking towards the other side, and if it weren't for Merry catching me I would've broken my ****ing head open when I fell.

    There were stairs, and I took the first step into them without realizing. Once I gathered my wits and told her and Denna that I was okay, we all shone the light in front of me. They didn't lead into any kind of basement; in fact they stopped after going down no more than seven feet. The only thing at the end of it was… another door.

    "Like the one at the entrance?"

    Not even close, even if both were made of metal. This one was… ****, I don't even know, out of a movie or something. You know when they go into some top secret facility and the door is super thick and locked and the edges are marked with yellow and black tape? Kind of like that, it even had a panel and a keyboard to input a password on the side.

    It began to rain then, and the sound of water against the sheet roof startled all of us. In less than a minute it went from a light drizzle to an all out storm, lightning and thunder and all the ****ing charade. It started to pour a bit on the sides and through a few holes, though not enough to be a problem.

    «I guess we're staying here for the night.»

    I tried to make it sound like a joke, but my voice betrayed me. Merry and Denna did not fail to pick that up, and at least the first mirrored the discomfort in my expression.

    «This is a good refuge, even if we can't light a fire inside. Let's look for candles and start drinking, I guess.»

    I did not protest to that, anything to get my mind off this creepy place. We unpacked in the middle of the room and sat on the floor, since there weren't enough chairs anyway.

    "You did not investigate the door further?"

    We gave it one try, but the thing wouldn't budge. And, as far as we knew, there wasn't anything else around to entertain another triple flashlight search. If anything of interest was there, we would find out in the morning.

    Or would have, anyway. Never made it to that point.

    [Kate noticeably fidgets. Even though she tries to hide it I notice her breathing getting shallower.]

    Can we… move this along a bit? I'm sorry if I kinda distort the feel of the story or whatever, but I'd really like to get this over with. I think I'm starting to get a headache. S'been a while since I talked so much.

    "Of course. Did you all spend the night in there?"

    Tried to, anyway. Conversation didn't get far that night. We speculated for a while about what the hangar might be, but it was clear Denna was the only one really eager to talk about it. I was nervous; anxious. For the first time in my life I actually welcomed the chance to go to sleep, even if it had to be on a concrete floor.

    We extinguished the candles a few minutes after and lied down in a triangle, just in case. Merry tried to be subtle, but I saw her grab the knife from her pocket and put it under her pillow. Denna moved nervously, but she was the first one to fall asleep. I was the last.

    The pitter patter of the rain made a little rhythm when it fell on the metal roof, and it was a sound so consistent it actually helped me relax. As I sunk into unconsciousness I started to wonder things my mind didn't have the energy to solve. What was this place? What use did it have? Why was it so warm and cozy if there was a rainstorm and it was the middle of the night?

    The last thing I remember before falling asleep was the smell of something sweet and sharp, like a sitrus berry.

    "Did the nightmares come that night as well?"

    I… am not sure. I still don't know if my dreams were what caused it or if that thing was already outside, waiting for us.

    "What thing?"

    The creature… from my nightmares. I can't describe it, not because I'm scared but because I wouldn't know where to begin. It never had a real shape, it always hid in the shadows and let me fill the gaps with my imagination. Sometimes it would change from dream to dream but it was always there, at the foot of my bed. Staring with empty eyes. Waiting.

    The next thing I remember is Merry kicking me awake. I know she meant to just move me over a bit with her feet, but I fell to the side on my face and woke up tasting dust and dirt. I got to my feet like a spring, the memory of my dreams still fresh in my mind.

    «There is no way it could've opened by accident, Denna!»

    Merry was arguing, pointing at the door leading outside. Her eyebrows were so knitted they looked like it was just one, and I recognized that as a sign of danger.

    I asked them what was going on, and they told me that Merry had woken up and saw that the door had been opened. Just a few inches, but it still alarmed her enough to wake everyone up. She told us the door was too heavy for the wind to have slid it open, and that it had to be either a person or a Pokemon capable of opening doors.

    "What did you think?"

    I was not in the proper mental state to do much thinking, half terrified and half asleep, but I tried my best to come up with a logical explanation. Maybe someone did live in this place, and when they came back at night and found three teenagers sleeping in the floor... well, what would you do? Stay outside and wait? Wake them up and chance getting murdered? Or perhaps walk to the nearest town and ask the authorities for help? Fuchsia wasn't more than a couple miles away.

    Denna said it was probably just an ax murderer, and I noticed she was only half joking. Merry glared her down and said that we would go with my theory. I asked what were we supposed to do now, since I sure as **** was not going to go back to sleep.

    After a bit of arguing we decided to head back to our cabin, for safety's sake. It would take at least twice as much to get there with all the mud and rain, and we'd have to be careful not to tumble and accidentally break our necks. Still, we felt it was better than waiting in a cold hangar for some guy to come and slit all our throats in the middle of the night.

    "Were you not worried about hypothermia?"

    It wasn't that cold, and we had heaters in the cabin. Pokemon would also be more wary of attacking anyone, so as long as we walked slowly and carefully the worst that'd happen is we'd get our clothes soaked. We would also lose the beer, unfortunately, but there were plenty more where those came from.

    Finding the valley wasn't difficult from that side, though we had to go slowly since it was downhill and there was mud all around us. Even though we were surrounded by tress the rain just wouldn't let on. It made it impossible to see anything more than a few feet ahead with the flashlight.

    The only exception was the mist; it was all around, thicker as we went ahead and thinner behind us. I'm an idiot for not realizing back then what that meant, hell it even smelled citric like before. We kept walking, and even through the sound of the rain I heard the breathing of my friends next to me. They were stiff and their arms were shaking, and not because of the cold.

    We saw it for the first time when we went over the hill and into the valley. I didn't notice it at first, and I might've walked right past it if Denna hadn't shone a flashlight at it. She did it unconsciously, moving it away for a second before her brain registered what her eyes had seen. Then, with a yelp, she pointed at it again. We all turned towards it.

    There was a dead man laying on his back, close to the edge of the lake. His eyes were closed and his face looked so peaceful one could think he was asleep, were it not for the fact that his ribcage was torn apart. There was something on top of him, burying its snout on his insides.

    "Was it a Pokemon?"

    No, at least the one we saw right there at the lake. At first I didn't even realize there was a creature, until it noticed us and raised its snout. Our lights seemed to bounce off its body, just like with the hangar, and to this day I'm still not sure of its exact shape.

    All I know is that it had four limbs, and they were folded like those of a Spinarak. Unlike them, however, they were as thick as human limbs and similarly fleshy. Its body was thin and suspended under its knees. There was a crack where its stomach should've been, and inside there was nothing but shadows.

    I recognized it. It was the creature from my nightmares.

    "You said you'd never seen it, and that it sometimes changed shape. How can you be sure?"

    The eyes. They were the same ones I saw every time I went to sleep. The hollowness, the depth, the fact that they seemed punctured in with burning coals almost too deep to see. I remember them so well I can picture them right now without even closing my eyes.

    It saw us. The body lowered a bit, like those of some Pokemon do when they notice a presence. For a moment it looked stunned, as if it couldn't decide whether to run away or attack us. I could swear the silence of that moment lasted for like an hour, until Denna let out a scream.

    It wasn't the kind of scream you hear in horror movies, all high pitched and fake. This one was… potent. Her body shook as it went from her lungs to her lips, and it was like no sound I'd ever heard before. I guess I wasn't too accustomed to the sound of people screaming for their lives.

    [A faint, dry smile flashes across her lips. Her eyes are faded and hollow; I've never seen someone look so tired.]

    It ran towards us. The way it moved… it was as fast and swift as an Ariados, but every time one of its feet stomped and left the ground it would make this wet, suction-cup noise that I recognized from my dream in the car. That was the second thing now; though I wasn't in the right mental state to even consider that. Horror hadn't even crept in yet; I was still simply in shock.

    That changed when I saw it head towards me, as if it knew who had created it. I simply shook and let out a noise that I'm not proud of, and would've surely died if it weren't for Merry.

    She jerked me from the arm to the side with so much strength she dislocated my arm. Not that I'm complaining; it was enough to get me out of the way so that thing would trip and crash into the ground. Pain flared up in my shoulder, and between that and the sudden horror, not to mention the constant noise of the rain, I became so dizzy that I almost fell right on top of that thing.

    Merry screamed something into my ear, and next thing I know we were running. I couldn't even see from the pain, I had no idea what direction we were headed. I could've very well tripped on any small rock or root or even mud, but I guess I'd already used all my bad luck for the day so I was miraculously free from that.

    After almost a minute of running my vision became less blurry, and I saw that we were headed downhill towards what I prayed might be our own camp. Couldn't be sure, since the mist was so thick I could barely see a few feet ahead of me. I still wasn't quite myself, but I recognized my friends' voices next to me; Denna was crying and yelling desperately while Merry told us to keep quiet.

    It wouldn't have helped anyway. As soon as she said that we heard a growl coming from not too far behind us. No wait, a growl wouldn't be the right way to describe it. Imagine the sound of someone throwing fresh meat, glass and wood into a shredder, and you'd have something remotely close to what that thing sounded like. It turned my veins to ****ing ice.

    We unconsciously stopped when we heard that, and the two seconds gave it enough time to reach us. It jumped from the mist behind one of the trees, landed with a yelp of pain and extended one of its long, spear-like arms towards me.

    Something crashed against it before it could pierce me, and not a second after that thing shrieked in pain. Looking down to what might've been its wrist I saw smoke coming of the cut, and next to me Merry stood with her knife held tightly with both hands. She was covered in dirt and soaked to the bones, and her face was a terrible mask of rage.

    I saw hope flash in her eyes for a moment, but then it happened. The wound in that thing's arm closed in a matter of seconds, leaving it good as new and able to stand up again. That was the first time I ever saw Merry take a step back out of fear.

    Denna was, unfortunately, the closest one to it. In the time it took us to recover from the shock it lunged forward again, and this time its limb connected with its target. It… it went straight through, about as smoothly as knife on a paper napkin. I didn't hear the sound thanks to the rain. My mind didn't even register what had happened until I heard Merry scream so loudly she must've surely hurt her throat.

    Denna didn't scream, though. She just looked down at the sharp limb through her stomach and opened her mouth to say something. All that came out was a choking sound, and then her body went limp.

    Merry was on top of the creature a second after. It must've took it by surprise because it didn't react at first. She buried the knife right between the eyes and the thing's head just… dissipated, like ****ing smoke. Then it reformed again a couple of seconds later and Merry did it again. She kept stabbing and stabbing with all the strength in her body, yelling at the top of her lungs. Next to her and in front of me Denna laid face down. The puddle of blood under her was being washed away by the rain.

    I don't know when I did it, or what willed my body to move, but I grabbed Merry by the collar of the shirt and I pulled her back. At first she looked like she was going to stab me too, but something in my expression must've calmed her down a bit. I was crying, I was yelling that we needed to get away, that I didn't want to die. I was still in shock, and I hadn't yet fully internalized the fact that my best friend was dead next to me. My mind refused to accept it, so it tucked that fact as deep as it could and put me into auto-pilot. The only thing I wanted was to survie.

    It wasn't easy to drag Merry away, but she must've noticed the creature's body would keep reforming. Eventually I managed to get her up and we began to run downhill again.

    Logically speaking, we must've spent at least fifteen minutes running, but I remember next to nothing of them. The only thing that existed were the growls of the creature behind us, the ever-present mist and the vague hope of making it out alive.

    The mist was as thick as smoke now, and part of me realized we were moving towards its center, to whatever was spewing it out. Whatever it was, it couldn't be worse than what we were dealing with right now. Or so I would've liked to think.

    We were less than two hundred yards from our cabin when we saw the Pokemon; a few feet at our right, in between two trees. I only noticed it because it was glowing pink and floating in the middle of the air. I didn't stop to stare at it, and I'd say I barely caught a glimpse of it, but I still remember it clearly to this day.

    At first it reminded me of a sleeping Phanpy, though the skin of those Pokemon wasn't purple and pink and they didn't levitate. It was curled into itself almost… almost like a fetus. Hell, that's exactly what it looked like, down to the pulsing flesh and small size. It had a small hole above its eyes and trunk, from where the mist was being expelled. Every time it did I would hear that musical sound, like steam coming out of a teapot.

    It looked… peaceful. I didn't get much chance to appreciate that, because Merry dragged me along and we kept running until we reached the cabin and then the car.

    "Do you think this Pokemon was responsible for what happened? For bringing that creature into reality?"

    **** if I know, go ask the ones who investigated our case if you want to know. Oh wait… you can't! Those ****ing assholes never finished it!

    Merry and I made it out, miraculously, and you know what happened when we got to the car and drove off? You wanna take one ****ing bet as to what the authorities did when we explained what had happened? When we were forced to describe in detail how we'd seen our friend get skewered in front of us!?

    "According to my research the investigation was closed due to…"

    They ****ing ignored it! Oh sure, they went to take a look and promised us they'd find Denna's body. Never brought it back, nor found any other corpse or bloodstain or anything. They didn't bother with the weird cabin or the lake or that pink Pokemon either.

    And why the **** would they? Everyone knew summers were dangerous in the woods near Fucshia and Wysteria; it wasn't uncommon for people to die up there, eaten by wild Pokemon. Sure they'd act surprised and caring, but why would they bother looking through that enormous place for evidence? It wasn't like a human had killed us, and they assured us that the thing we saw was nothing more than a local Pokemon, and that our scared minds turned it into something it wasn't.

    There was nothing we could do, so we had to accept that. Had to go to Denna's funeral while knowing everyone thought us responsible for her fate, and after a while even Merry got that idea.

    I haven't seen her in two years. At first she tried to act like nothing had happened but… we were in different cities now that we were in college, and she must've put two and two together. It was my fault Denna was killed; that monster was my monster. If it weren't for my nightmares she might still be alive today, sitting in front of me instead of… you.

    [I'm about to assure her that it wasn't her fault when I notice the anger behind her eyes. I'm sure that if I were to do that she'd throw her glass of water to my face.]

    Wanna know what's funny? Wanna know the reason Merry's job hadn't been done by anyone the year before? Apparently there had been some construction in that part of the mountains during the previous summer. No information online about what was being built, or who'd paid the workers to build it. All I could find out was that the zone had been restricted, and no one with less authority than a Gym Leader could enter.

    Makes you think, doesn't it?

    [She glares at me, and I nod weakly. The cabin, the wisteria logo on the side of it and the mysterious door inside. I have the clues I came here for.]

    "Is there anything more you'd like to mention?"

    I think I'm starting to get migraines, and my throat hurts from speaking so much. The only thing I want right now is for you to leave so I can get some food and sleep.

    "I… understand. Thank you so much for the interview, and I am terribly sorry for what happened to you and your friends."

    [She eyes me up for a few seconds, probably trying to determine whether I'm sincere. She seems to realize I am, and a flash of anger gleams behind her eyes.]

    Go **** yourself.

    -------------------------------------------------
    Tulip Glasslip here.

    I believe I know exactly what my next step is. I'm not looking forward to it, but if there's even the smallest chance that the diary Kate mentioned is still there …

    Of course, I'll head there during the day just to be safe, and I'll take preemptive steps so that no one can follow me. Kate's story, unlike that of many, happened after the Wysteria incident, so the place might not be guarded in any way.

    Just to make sure, I'll program this entry to be posted two days after I presume I'll be back from that journey. If I've made it safely to my hotel by then, I will write so here below before the entry goes up:
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  8. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Something I didn't think of after reading that first chapter is that this fic is a really good exercise in creating a whole bunch of different characters and voices. Every chapter is a different person, and as soon as you start reading chapter two you're hit with a strong sense of a very different personality to what we got from Monika. Which should have been obvious if I'd thought about what this story really means, as a series of interviews, I guess. Either way, you do as good a job with Horace and Kate as you did with Monika; Horace's hesitant way with words, his digressions and his anxieties about the way he's coming across, are really effectively conveyed, as is Kate's particular on-edge, worn-out-young-person brand of tired aggression.

    Little thing, but I really like the touch about Sinnoh having a history of great religious architecture – that huge multi-faith church/culture exchange thing in Hearthome is something I think is really interesting, and it rarely seems to come up in fic, so it's cool to see that recognised here. Actually, while we're on setting details, I like the way that we're slowly learning more about this particular incarnation of the pokémon world as we go on; that partnership with pokémon is much more restricted in this world, for instance, makes the fact that there are so many pokémon whose potential effects on humans are poorly understood much more intelligible.

    One thing that does strike me as strange is that if so many of these incidents take place in a town of just two thousand – within the professional lifespan of this one woman in the purple suit, no less – it feels like they could quite easily have quite a big impact on its ability to sustain its population in the long term, especially if they did all hit a bunch of kids and basically knocked out most of a generation. Maybe they're not all as large-scale as the thing with the choir? I guess that's probably it.

    As with the first chapter, the central conceit of each little story is a neat one; dream mist can obviously be a very powerful force for both good and bad, depending on whose dream is being conjured, and while I guess there's no canonical evidence for chingling and chimecho having any particular effect on people other than startling them, but it's certainly a cool and interesting interpretation.

    And then the ending! Something hasn't gone right, for sure, and while I'm obviously still unclear about Tulip as an individual, the motivation for this investigation and all of that, I have to admit that you've got my interest anyway. Definitely looking forward to the next chapter!

    Finally, as ever, here's a bunch of little things I noted as I read through:

    The idiom goes “never look a gift horse in the mouth”, so in the context of this sentence, it'd be “looking this gift Ponyta in the mouth”. It's kind of an old-fashioned phrasing – sometimes in idioms you get older ways of speaking preserved like flies in amber – which is maybe why it threw you off a bit.

    “Garb” is a weird word that can be both a countable and an uncountable noun. When you use it to mean “a way of dressing oneself”, as you do here, then it's uncountable, which means you never need to pluralise it.

    There's a word missing there, I think; it should be “tasked with assessing”.

    I think you mean that they'd have to wait for there to be more openings to join the choir, but that's not what “inscriptions” means – an inscription is the text on a plaque, rather than anything else.

    The kind of lying that you do to other people becomes “lied” in the past tense; the kind of lying that you do on top of things becomes “lay” in the past tense.

    For people, you use “who” rather than “which”, so it'd be “who was the closest one” here.

    The expression is “to chalk it up to”, rather than “chuck”.

    Just a typo here – that should be “thought” rather than “through”.

    There's a word missing here – “in” or “through” after “stomped”.
     
  9. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Cutlerine: I'm really glad you've enjoyed the two previous chapters! As you said I tried hard to give each of them a distinct personality. I also had a lot of fun with trying to display these places as... well, cultures, and I'm happy you picked up on it.
    As for the town thing, these events have ocurred in different periods of time and not many people know the truth behind it, not to mention the town is now abandoned :p
    Thank you so much for your grammar help as always!!

    ----------------------------------------------------
    Author Notes: This chapter was originally posted two weeks after the last one. Keep that in mind while reading, since it's relevant.

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

    Entry #4: Ventusa

    Tulip Glasslip here.

    I woke up in my car less than three hours ago. I have absolutely no memory of the past ten days.

    The car is parked on the side of Route 14 and judging by the mild heat inside it hasn't been here for long. I had absolutely no idea where I was or how much time had passed when I woke up, the only thing I remembered was going to the forest and searching for that bunker. Good thing I paid my hotel beforehand, otherwise I might have the local authorities searching for me on top of everything else.

    I drove towards Fuchsia and tried to get my bearings. I still had my laptop with me, along with the camera I took when I headed to the forest. I remember thinking I should record my expedition just in case I ran across any important findings. Unfortunately, there was no video files inside the camera, as if they'd been deleted. Inside the computer however I found a folder that I do not remember creating before, modified only a hours ago.

    There were three image files inside. The first was a photo of the forest, with the time-stamp of my camera in the bottom right. It looks to be in the middle of the day, judging by the sunlight filtering through the leaves and branches above.

    The second… gave me the all overs, I'll admit. It's taken in the middle of the night, a few hours after the first one. This is strange, as I remember adamantly thinking that I was not going to be inside that forest when the sun went down. The photo is of the side of the black bunker, but there's a person in front of that white logo. It's impossible to see their face or determine their gender since there's poor lighting and they're wearing an oversized hoodie. The only thing I can tell is that their skin is extremely pale and they're as skinny as a twig. The corners of the image look blurry, as if this happened just before I turned my camera away; a sign that this is a screenshot of the video that was deleted from it.

    The third is from last night. It's taken from outside my car; facing the window. I can see myself sleeping, along with the shadow of the person holding the camera against the window.

    Terrified doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling. It took me a while to recover from seeing that, but here I am still writing, I suppose. These three photos are clearly meant to intimidate me, but it will not be that easy. If this person wants me to stop investigating Wysteria then they'll have to try harder than this.

    Coincidentally, I logged into my website to see if Pruner had written any more comments. Indeed, from the place I last stayed at, it reads as such:

    See a figure pale as snow?

    Night around him black as crow?

    Trees are silent, cold is here.

    The flower man is coming near.

    I've seldom wanted to punch someone in the face as much as whoever this person is. Not only is that terrible poetry, but it gives me no useful information. Why the need to be so cryptic? Just come here and stab me in the neck, it'll be way quicker.

    …In any case, it seems my journey was not entirely fruitless. Inside my bag was a small, leather-bound journal, the one I'd set out to find. In the front is written Property of Mark Reagan.

    It took me about forty minutes to get through it, and about half an hour to transcribe the parts that are relevant for all of you to read. I cut out the first three quarters, since they're merely about the man's day to day life. At some point his entries stop for a couple months, and the next thing he writes is that he's in trial for murder. Revenge against someone who attacked his wife, apparently. I apologize for leaving something like that out, but I don't think displaying this man's grief for everyone to see would be a good thing to do.

    Here below are the relevant, remaining entries after that:

    ----------------------------------------------------
    May 18, 2014

    I fear for my fate. Earlier this morning I've been informed that I am to be processed for another jury meeting soon. My lawyer has been honest with me; she does not think I have a chance of coming out of this unscathed. She suggested the possibility of accepting the minimum mandatory sentence, which seems to be my best-case scenario at the moment.

    I told her I could consider it, and unfortunately I'm starting to think I should.

    There is only one thing that can clear my head in a situation like this. Tomorrow promises good weather, so I will head to the hills near Fuchsia for a bit of hiking and fresh air. That might help me come up with a solution, or at the very least form a decision.

    May 19, 2014

    I have made a curious discovery. While hiking around the west coast of Route 14 I've come across some sort of cabin, located no more than a mile away from the road and partially hidden by the thick foliage.

    It doesn't seem to be populated, as I didn't notice any car nearby nor footsteps near the doors. The windows look dusty and the inside is dark, yet intact. Judging by the pipe work running close to the ground it seems to have running water, and hopefully electricity as well. It doesn't look like it belongs to a family, perhaps an abandoned ranger's outpost?

    I admit, certain thoughts have been racing through my mind ever since my discovery. I wouldn't ever consider such a thing, were it not for the grim possibility of having to live behind bars for the years to come.

    I need to do some thinking. I'll come back as soon as I can with the excuse of hiking so I can explore the place further.

    May 20, 2014

    The jury meeting has not gone well. A decision will be made next week. I have until then to accept the minimum sentence.

    I've come to accept that justice was never in the jury's best interest. I am proud to have killed that man, and anyone with a lick of sense wouldn't dare to reprimand me for it. I know I am guilty, and so does the jury.

    Tomorrow, I go hiking.

    May 21, 2014

    The keys for the cabin were under the rug. The inside is cozy and the wood that makes up the walls seems to be sturdy enough. There's an unused fridge, proper plumbing and two beds along with one table and four chairs.

    Unfortunately, I've found evidence that the cabin is still in use, in a way. From a few papers and pamphlets littered around I've found out that, once a year, the government sends someone here for an entire week to do some sort of job related to Ditto.

    While this is a troubling development, it could be much worse. This cabin is still my best chance. I need to head back home as to not raise suspicion, but I will be back here again.

    May 22, 2014

    Five days until my sentence is decided. I'm already arranging for a way to transport food and other items to the cabin without anyone noticing.

    May 24, 2014

    Luck has shined on me today.

    While exploring the perimeter of the cabin I came across a beautiful valley with a lake of clear waters. I tested it with my kit and it seems to be drinkable, so I will not have to worry if the cabin's plumbing malfunctions. However, that is not all.

    I came across yet another construction in the hills, this one even more hidden and inaccessible. It looks like some sort of war-era bunker, made of thick stone and with a sturdy metal roof. There is some sort of insignia painted on the side, though I don't believe I recognize its meaning.

    Unfortunately, the steel door is shut by a lock. Tomorrow I will come back with my tools; I should be able to gain access.

    May 25, 2014

    It took an hour of hard work, but I was able to break the lock and take a look inside the bunker.

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were a multitude of old, dusty cans of food lying around, still edible from what I can tell. Enough to last me for at least a few months. However, that was not the most interesting part.

    Aside from a table and some filing cabinets, I found what looks like some sort of blast door, equipped with a password panel. I also discovered several papers lying around the floor, full of words and terms I can't possibly hope to understand. From what little I could gather from them, this might've been some sort of research facility in the past. I can only dream as to where that door might lead; it simply will not open for me.

    While the place doesn't have plumbing, there does seem to be electricity, enough to power the panel next to the door and the lamp hanging from the roof, at the very least. This should make a good secondary shelter. I might use it when the cabin is about to be occupied during that week.

    Curiously, when I walked out of the bunker I could've sworn I saw a strange, almost pink mist in the distance through the forest. I'm no stranger to something like that, but… in the middle of spring?

    May 27, 2014

    I have made my decision. Today I declined the minimum sentence, to the dismay and horror of my lawyer. This should give me enough time to stage my escape.

    I will only take with me what is essential. Inside the box I'll carry with me are my tools, a few change of clothes, plates, vases and utensils… and of course, a picture of my dear. I wouldn't dream leaving it back here, not after everything that's happened. Her memory is the only reason I haven't given up hope yet.

    I know you can't read this, darling. Still, know that you're the one who's keeping me going.

    Tomorrow, I leave.

    May 28, 2014

    It took all day and most of the night, but I believe I am safe.

    I drove towards the intersection between Lavender and the path heading to Fuchsia and left the car there. I then walked through the forest until I reached the cabin and settled myself. I hope they will think I ran out of gas and escaped north.

    I withdrew all the money I could from our bank account before fleeing, just in case. Should my temporary food run out I might be able to head to a nearby town and buy groceries in some shady part of town. However, that is a long time away.

    Finally, I am safe.

    June 2, 2014

    Getting used to my new life is not as easy as I thought, but I suppose I should not complain. I'm lucky not to be trapped behind iron bars.

    I struggle to find good ways to pass the time, besides hiking. In a fit of forgetfulness I forgot to bring any books; perhaps I could buy some in the near future. Not yet; I need my trail to go somewhat cold before that.

    I have plenty of time to think. I might just make use of it.

    June 6, 2014

    I am starting to make peace with this forest, and in a slower pace with myself as well.

    Veronica, I always laughed at the idea of trying out yoga, no matter how much you pushed me to it. I've started practicing, and it works wonders for my sleep quality and schedule.

    I wish you could've gotten the last laugh on the subject.

    June 9, 2014

    I've made acquaintances with a small group of Bellsprout and Venonat. They enjoy the canned food leftovers, and in return they occasionally bring me berries. It's been so long since I've tasted something sweet, I almost cried the first time I took a bite out of one.

    It feels good to have something like friends again.

    June 10, 2014

    I've developed a good routine for most days, which might help in preventing me from going mad from boredom. Hiking is a top priority, and these days I do it until I can barely walk.

    I've never slept more soundly.

    June 12, 2014

    There isn't much spring left, and the nights are beginning to get windy. I don't wish to abuse the electricity in case I am found out, so I might start making small bonfires outside to warm me up. I'm not in any danger from the local Pokemon, after all.

    I'll see if I can find any Siffo trees. Their wood burns without much smoke or scent, which is just what I need. I'll follow a few Oddish around, since they're very attracted to the sap of those particular trees.

    June 14, 2014

    Today I managed to sneak into Fuchsia just before the stores closed. I bought a few books, a six-pack of beer, spices and a good flashlight. These will be invaluable.

    I was tempted to go someplace with internet and look my name up, see if they're still looking for me. However I considered it too risky to try. Maybe next time.

    June 18, 2014

    I've begun to move my hiking slightly west, towards the valley and the black bunker I took the canned goods from. I purified and re-filled all my water bottles in the lake, and I was pleasantly surprised that no Pokemon came to object, considering how eager some are about their drinking spots.

    Now that I mention it, I don't remember seeing any Pokemon near that area. Perhaps I was simply not paying attention.

    June 19, 2014

    I miss you so much, Veronica. When I dream, you are here with me.

    June 22, 2014

    The group of Venonat have guided me towards a hidden patch of forest with many berry bushes laying around. I promised not to take more than a couple a week, and in exchange I gave them two whole cans of food. Best deal I've ever made.

    Guess who's eating fancy tonight?

    June 23, 2014

    I've never been too much a fan of Shauntal's writing, but this particular book is pretty good. It's about a kid who wants to be a magician and, unlike a lot of fantasy, he ends up disappointed because magic is nothing like he thought. Also, he's up to his ass in student loans. Most relatable book I've ever read.

    June 24, 2014

    Another trip to the valley, and this time I am sure I neither saw nor heard any Pokemon the higher I went. This troubles me, for some reason.

    The bunker sits as immobile as ever. I believe I saw the mist again in the distance, though I'm not eager to investigate.

    June 28, 2014

    I could've sworn I heard some sort of growl coming from outside, but it didn't sound like any Pokemon I've come across in the forest before. It was deep, but not loud. I couldn't catch all of it since I was partly asleep.

    I hope it was simply a machination of my sleeping mind.

    July 1, 2014

    Summer has started unpacking its bags. I'm afraid I must leave the cabin momentarily.

    If those pamphlets are correct this place will be not only visited but inhabited by someone in a few days. I will move all my possessions to the black bunker and lay there in wait until they're gone. Worst case scenario: they find me and I claim to be a hermit.

    I will head there one week before the date that's printed here, just in case they come sooner.

    July 6, 2014

    I moved everything to the bunker and cleaned any trace of my presence in this cabin. Tonight is the last night I sleep on this bed for a while, so I better try to enjoy it.

    July 7, 2014

    I've grown accustomed to the windows and fresh air of the cabin. The bunker is certainly better than a cell, though if I leave the doors closed the heat is unbearable, and if I open it up all the southern wind enters and blows stuff away.

    I'm also not a fan of sleeping in a makeshift mattress on the floor, but I'll manage.

    July 8, 2014

    Second day in the bunker, no sight of anyone else around.

    I found that stack of illegible scientific papers again. Might as well give them a read, since I don't have much else to do here.

    July 10, 2014

    I was woken up in the middle of the night by a sound I cannot remember. I'm also struggling immensely to recall what I dreamt, which is unusual for me.

    In other news, I managed to find the panel's password amidst all the numbers and gibberish of these papers. I also saw mention of something called the Unovan Project, though who the hell knows what that's about. I can't begin to make sense of anything else here. I'll try out the password tomorrow.

    July 11, 2014

    They're here. I saw the smoke of their fire in the distance, and walking back to the valley I noticed not only footprints, but a strange powder floating in the surface of the lake. Must be the government workers; I was correct to leave the cabin a few days before the set date. I'll be careful and not go out much; hopefully they will not see this place.

    I tried the password on the panel today, and it opened with an awful whirr. Unfortunately the inside was what appeared to be a tunnel, heading downwards and carved straight out of the stone, with no lights or support. I am wary to explore further during the night.

    July 12, 2014

    I woke up in a cold sweat, hearing an inhuman screech in the back of my mind. It sounded like the grinding of metal and flesh together, but when I went out to check I found nothing but that strange mist all around me. I definitely haven't imagined it this time.

    July 12, 2014

    It's morning. I woke up and tried to open the blast door again, but the power has gone out. Worse yet, when I took a peek outside I noticed the silhouette of a person in the distance, near the valley. A young girl I believe, probably a teenager. She didn't notice me, but I fear she might've seen the bunker.

    Update: another, different girl came to the valley this afternoon and stared intently at the bunker. She even circled around the lake a bit to take a better look. My nerves and lack of sleep are getting the better of me, I don't know what I should do.

    I'll try my best to act casual, and if they approach me I'll go with my hermit story. Hopefully things will go well.

    July 12, 2014

    There is most certainly some sort of creature around this patch of forest. I heard that flesh grinding sound again, this time while I was completely awake.

    I can't take this anymore. If this is the result of my deteriorating psyche and prolonged isolation, I would at least like to make sure. The sun will go down soon, and I can smell the coming rain in the air. Still, I cannot bear to wait any longer.

    I'll grab my flashlight and head out. Hopefully I'll get back before nightfall.

    [That is the last entry posted. Judging from the date and the mention of a coming rainstorm, this must've been written the night of Denna's death.

    The pieces of this story have fallen into place. Mark must've been the dead man Kate and her friends found that night.

    I don't know how to feel knowing I just read someone's last words.]

    ----------------------------------------------------
    While the diary might not be as revealing as I hoped, it still gave me some important information. The blast door opens to an underground tunnel, and judging by the trajectory and Mark's guess of its length, I might be able to plot a map of where it leads… somewhat. I have much investigating to do.

    Additionally, the incident with the Musharna is confirmed to be their fault. I suspected as much, but it is nice to have solid information on the subject.

    The events of these past days have proved… emotionally taxing, in a way. I'll try to pilot my next course of action, though I might need a couple days to recover from the shock and try to remember what happened. I will talk to you all next time I have some sort of lead.

    Tulip Glasslip.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
  10. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    I was wondering whether you were going to find a way of getting a new narrator into this chapter! And it looks like you did: Mark Reagan is an interesting guy. An unapologetic murderer trying to find a way out, stumbling his way into what's almost certainly going to be a much worse experience than prison. I wonder why Tulip was allowed to get away with the diary? Presumably as some kind of warning. It doesn't give much useful information, just confirmation that the last person who tried what Tulip's trying, without even the same intent, ended up dead. Somehow, I doubt that that's going to be much of a deterrent.
    I wholeheartedly approve of Tulip wanting to call this person out on their cryptic nonsense. So often fictional conspiracy theorists seem very eager to enter into this kind of dialogue on its own terms, riddling poetry and all, but this is a nice change of pace. Details like this are starting to build up very nicely to give us an impression of Tulip's character, which is excellent.
    Nor have I, Mark. :p Based on the snippets that Shauntal gives us in-game, I've always had a suspicion that she's a total hack who either has an exceptionally good editor or just abuses her League position to get her books published.

    Way fewer grammar corrections and typos than usual! Excellent job there. Here are the only two that I noticed:
    You'd normally say “In the front is written”.
    That would normally be “from the local Pokémon”.

    So, overall – great work! This story is really getting going at this point. Definitely looking forward to the next update!
     
  11. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Author notes: Cutlerine thanks so much as usual for your wonderful comments!!! I'm glad you liked this one; I personally feel like it was the weakest one of the bunch. And as always thanks a lot for the corrections, you're the best :D anyway, here's a new chapter.
    ------------------------------------------

    Entry #5: Brachybotrys


    Tulip Glasslip here.

    I need to make this brief; I should've been gone from this hotel half an hour ago and I'm sure the cleaning lady will come check any minute now.

    No one has followed me, as far as I know. Pruner hasn't made any further comments, which I find strange considering their apparent obsession with my work. I've been trying to remember the missing ten days, but absolutely nothing comes to mind. I can only hope that it will not happen again.

    I found a file inside my computer, one that wasn't there before and I failed to notice last time due to how well hidden it was. It appears to be some sort of audio file, though I believe it's corrupted and no software I have was able to play it. I have an… acquaintance that knows about this sort of stuff, I'll ask them for help with the matter as soon as I can.

    Finally, I've been able to secure an interview with yet another Wysteria ex-citizen. The transcript is here below:

    ------------------------------------------
    [Maes is a big, burly man with short hair and a jaw like a shovel. I assume he's in his fifties, though he doesn't look the part. Despite his intimidating appearance he has an easy smile and bright, honey eyes.

    He agreed to meet for the interview, though his house is currently going through renovations. As such we're sharing a table in a nearby café, as far away from the rest of the customers as possible. I asked for a small frappuccino and a glass of water, while he got himself a big mug of black coffee with some brandy in it.

    He empties half of it before we begin the interview:]

    Back then we were just kids, even if by all legal means the world considered us adults.

    Small town folk didn't care about that, y'see. You were called boy regardless of age, until you either got a job or managed to grow a respectable beard, and I've never been one for facial hair. I won't say I took the job to get respect or anything like that, but the idea was in the back of my mind.

    Luckily, at the docks people didn't care whether you were a minor or not. If you could lift up boxes and move them from boats to the hangars you'd get hired. I could do both things no problem since I grew up on my papa's farm and there was always something to do in there.

    Problem is, lately I'd been staying with my mother, and she was starting to get sick. She didn't want me to, said she'd rather see me keep up with my studies, but someone had to bring money to the house. Pay wasn't the best, but we got plenty of rest in between shipment arrivals and they gave us lunch and dinner, latter of which I always brought home and shared with mom.

    I was teased by my coworkers for being the oldest since I'd just turned eighteen, and then teased some more by the sailors who liked to pick at me 'cause of my awful little mustache. It was all in good fun though, and I can think of only one time the thing escalated to punches. It was a good job, overall, or as good as a kid like me could get.

    "Did the Wysteria docks receive a lot of ships per day?"

    Not as much as Vermillion, but a fair amount I'd say. Most were from Olivine over there in Johto. A few were cruise ships from places like Hoenn or Alola, and once or twice we got run down boats full of supplies from Unova. We all knew what they really were, but kept quiet. No one liked a snitch, and I wasn't gonna lose my job over something stupid like that.

    "Earlier you said: We were just kids at the time. Who is we?"

    Oh, just Marty and a couple other friends from school. Me and him, we practically grew up together over there in the hills. You would've never guessed that peeps like us could've been friends, judging by where we came from. His parents had lots of money; worked in some kind of company or government agency, I wasn't sure at the time. Quiet, reserved folk. He couldn't have been less like them.

    Marty was the tall type, kinda skinny too. Messy hair and freckles, and eyes that spelled no end of trouble. Usually had a broken nose, 'cause he kept getting in fights with the bad kids when they picked up on the younger ones. I joined once or twice, though I wasn't quite as gung ho' as he was.

    He and the others from our group of friends sometimes came to hang out with me at the docks after school, though it was usually just Marty. We'd chill out and eat sandwiches, watching the waves and talking about menial things, like what kind of boat would prop up next. We always hoped it'd be a pirate ship, or one where all the people on board had been mysteriously killed. We made up stories about the people we saw, wondering what drove them to go out there to sea. We were dumb kids, y'see, and we never even considered the idea of getting out of town for any reason. It was our home, what would we do without it?

    Those were good times, they were. Sometimes I forget how simple things were back then. We had all the time in the world for ourselves, and we wasted the hell out of it like good kids are supposed to.

    "Did you ever see something strange while working at the docks? Any unusual ships?"

    [He blinks a few times, his smile going cold in his lips. It's as if he's forgotten for a moment that I am here.]

    Right, right. Sorry, kinda got caught up in reminiscing.

    Yeah… the whole thing was like a slide, things went progressively south, too fast to really understand. Though I guess that's just me and Marty getting into trouble like usual.

    The first time was a winter night. I remember it perfectly because we were freezing our asses off and I couldn't wait to get back home and bury myself in blankets. We were usually laid off before the sun went down, but that day a cargo ship accidentally bumped the edge of the docks and let one of the boxes fall to the floor. A box full of beer bottles, might I add. That day it was only me, Marty and some other younger kid, so we were the ones who had to clean the damn thing.

    We got finished with that when it started to get dark. The other boy went back to his house, but me and Marty stayed behind for half an hour more to close up the docks and make sure everything was in order before we left. By the time we were ready to leave, the lighthouse in the distance had already been turned on, and was pointing at some place east in the middle of the sea. Hard to say where, with all the mist.

    Had we left a couple minutes sooner we wouldn't have seen it. Just as I finished checking out everything Marty called me from the other side of the dock by whistling. He pointed at a spot in the sea where the lighthouse was illuminating, and after forcing my sight I noticed there was another ship coming.

    I'll never forget the look we gave each other when we saw it, nor the sparkle in Marty's eye. I'd seen it a million times before, it was the one he got just before coming up with stupid ideas.

    We didn't even need to talk it over; Marty crouched behind one of the metal cargo boxes and I followed. We sneaked in closer to the north side of the dock while trying to stay silent, and I daresay we did a pretty darn good job of it. The ship didn't look so big from up close; it reminded me of those cruise jets rich people threw parties in, though this one clearly wasn't built for that. It was painted all black and if I hadn't seen it approach I wouldn't have noticed it at a first glance.

    "Was anyone waiting for it on shore?"

    Not that we could see; it was starting to get real dark and all the lights had been turned off. We were one of the few towns that didn't have to worry about security on our docks. It would've been more common to meet one of the legendary birds than to see someone try to steal stuff.

    "Were they thieves?"

    No, as I said those were really rare. The first thought that came to our minds was that it had to be some sort of illegal shipment, and I mean more illegal than those who dropped in the middle of the day, which was saying something. We'd all been warned not to stick our noses in those kinda business; I remember one of the kids that worked with us accepted some extra payment to help unload the boxes of a certain drug shipment and keep it secret… let's just say it didn't end well.

    So yeah, I figured it had to be something a bit more illegal than drugs. Maybe weapons or some sort of human trafficking, though the last one would've been more fit for a city like Vermillion. We didn't do that sorta thing in Wysteria, as far as I know.

    The port was divided into several categories where ships could arrive; the spots closer to the city were reserved for emergency shipments and tourist boats, while the ones farther away were for drops of lesser importance. This one was in the furthermost spot, in between two stacks of metal boxes that made it impossible to see it from almost every angle.

    Four people disembarked, all wearing the same dark suits that made them just as hard to see as the boat. They stood around for a while, talking amongst themselves and fiddling with their cell phones. I could make out a couple of words but nothing substantial. Package, schedule, petal, lighthouse and something that sounded like a Pokemon's name. Never been a trainer myself and neither was anyone I knew, so no wonder I had no idea what species they'd just mentioned. If I had then things might've worked out a bit differently.

    "What happened after? Did you two get involved?"

    We might've been stupid and reckless, but not that much. We spied them from behind the metal box for a while. I was starting to get worried, though not enough to turn back, and Marty had plenty of excitement in him for the both of us. There was something special about sneaking up on things that are supposed to be secret… can't blame kids like us for wanting to know the truth.

    [I try my best to suppress the sad smile that forms on my lips.]

    In the end they did take something off the boat, though at first we didn't realize what they were. To us they just looked like barrels, the kind you put alcohol into, though they didn't make that typical sloush sound as if they were full of liquid. And whatever was inside must've been in one piece because the only thing we heard as those people moved the barrels were occasional thumps of something hitting against the wood. Judging by the way they were carrying them and the look of those strangers I guessed that what was inside the barrels couldn't have weighed more than a hundred pounds each.

    "How many where there?"

    Three; one for each person and the fourth guy told them where to go. At first I thought they were looking for one of the hangars; that's where all the fragile and important shipments were taken. But instead they took a sharp left and left the docks, walking uphill through the path that took you to the lighthouse.

    I saw the glint in Marty's eye, but I had to stop him before he took another step. We couldn't keep going, I told him, because in the path there wasn't anything for us to hide behind if they happened to hear us. Besides, I was getting a really bad vibe from those suited guys and it was getting pretty late. You haven't known fear if you haven't come home in the middle of the night and your mom was there, waiting for an explanation.

    [He begins to laugh, which then morphs into a fit of coughing. He takes another chug of the cup, clearing his throat.]

    Marty didn't move for a few seconds. At first I thought he was thinking of a way we could make it work, and if anyone could then that was surely him. But then I noticed that he… well, his expression was kinda scrunched up. He was staring at those people weird, and his smile wasn't there anymore. I asked what was wrong, but he told me not to worry about it.

    We agreed to go back for now, but it was already too late for two idiots like us. We were way too curious, and on the walk back home we couldn't stop talking about what we'd seen and wondering who those people could've been. Marty seemed strangely… obsessed with it, I'd never seen him frown so much. At one point he began mentioning how those suits looked familiar but… no, it was probably nothing, he said. A lot of people wore suits, after all. Even if they were weird and kinda purple and had some weird white insignia on them.

    Any smart kid would've left the matter alone, mind their own business and go do other kinds of stupid ****. Even smarter kids would've told the authorities what they'd seen or their parents or any other adult. Too bad we were… well, us.

    The next day we talked about what we'd seen with our friends at school, though we made sure no one outside our little circle could listen. We took pride in having found something akin to a big secret like that, and wanted to keep it to ourselves. Besides, we discussed the possibility of going to the lighthouse to see if we could find anything interesting, and didn't want any other kids from going there before we could. It was like a treasure hunt, albeit an odd and dangerous one.

    "Did all of you go together, the next night?"

    Are you insane? We weren't that thoughtless; if we were to do anything then it'd be at the crack of dawn, when there was no chance of people spotting us.

    We ran into a few scheduling problems; Carlos couldn't go the next day because his brother would take him fishing in the morning, and Marty had gotten into trouble with his parents over something he didn't want to share with us. I raised an eyebrow at that, since we'd never been ones to keep secrets from each other, but I let it pass.

    We decided to go not the next dawn, but the one after that. We discussed the exact place to meet, on the west-wing outside the docks which was hidden by a bunch of trees, and made plans on how to proceed from there and who should bring what. We agreed that Marty and I would stay a bit later that day to see if those people came back, and to make sure it really was the lighthouse they were headed to.

    "I'm guessing things didn't go according to plan, if the summary you gave me of the story is any indication of it."

    Heh, ya' think?

    The first sign of danger came that afternoon. I went to work like usual and had a pretty normal day, even if it was Saturday and we were getting more shipments than usual because it was the end of the week. I was pretty tired by the end of my shift but I was determined to say a couple hours more and check if they came back.

    I asked the boss to let me be the one to close up the docks since I had free time anyway. After I was finished with that I headed back behind the same metal box we hid in last night and waited for Marty to arrive. The sun was beginning to go down.

    He didn't come. I waited for a whole hour, getting progressively more worried as time went on. Maybe his parents had grounded him, or something had happened while he was on the way here. Still, I didn't have much choice but to stay and wait, even if doing it alone wasn't what I would've called a good time.

    I saw the black boat in the distance, about twenty minutes later. Last night I hadn't paid much attention, but now that I was alone I noticed that its engine didn't make any sound, which was a strange thing to invest in on a ship.

    It stopped on the same spot as last night, but this time only two people came out of it and began to unload the barrels. The ones missing were a man and a woman, the two that I remember were arguing with each other. This time they didn't waste any time, they only exchanged a few words and picked up the barrels afterwards. Since there were only two of them they had to go slower, which gave me a chance to try and listen in on their conversation.

    I couldn't hear much, only that they were complaining about having to transport everything themselves. I could've sworn I heard one of them mention the name Miller, which was Marty's last name but… no, it couldn't be. They were too far away and I had misunderstood.

    I didn't follow them, since without Marty I was even less enthusiastic about risking my life. However I'd brought my dad's binoculars with me and I followed them with my sight all the way until they went into the lighthouse. That confirmed it; that really was the place where they stored those barrels. With that out of the way I jumped the fence of the docks and ran back to my house.

    The next day Marty didn't come to school. I asked the teacher and she told me that Marty's parents had called ahead of time; they told her he'd caught a cold and was resting in bed. Still, it seemed strange that he wouldn't at least call to my house and let me know; we were best pals after all.

    The rest of the group was anxious to go to the lighthouse and it wouldn't have been cool of me to rely on Marty too much. I told them what I'd seen and reiterated what we'd agreed on the day before. What to bring, where to meet, etc. I told them I'd swing by Marty's house later and let him know, before I went to work.

    "Did you manage to contact him?"

    No. I knocked as hard as I could on his door but no one answered. I walked back to their garage and I noticed that his mom's car wasn't in there; maybe they'd taken him to the hospital? I began to worry, but not as much as I should have. I knew Marty was a tough nut, there was no way something like a cold would do him in.

    Still, this meant he probably wouldn't come with us to the lighthouse, which left me as the group leader. I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about that, what with my anxiety, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. What was the worst that could happen?

    Right… yeah. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and slap myself in the face.

    [I try to hide my sudden smile.]

    "I know the feeling. Did your trip turn unfruitful as quickly as I'm imagining?"

    That's putting it lightly.

    It was Sunday in the afternoon. It had been a slow day, which gave me enough time to sneak my backpack from the workers lounge to inside one of the metal boxes on the far east end of the docks. This time I would go back home early, since my mother had been pretty angry that I'd been coming home so late the past two nights. She kept asking me if I had a girlfriend or something like that… god bless her, that oblivious, wonderful woman. Wrong problem and wrong gender, for one thing, but she tried.

    That night I went to bed early. I put on the alarm for four in the morning, not too loud so that only I would hear it. I'd gone to sleep with my clothes on, so I was ready to hop off the window the moment I woke up.

    Coraline was there before me, and Carlos arrived a few minutes later. No sign whatsoever of Marty, though. I knew there wasn't much chance he'd come by with a cold.

    We retrieved the backpack from the container and I made sure the black boat wasn't there anymore; we'd agreed that if it was we would go back and try another day. Luckily that particular spot was empty. We began walking uphill towards the lighthouse; I was the only one carrying a flashlight. It was my dad's; military made and pretty powerful. I kept it off for now, it was only there for emergencies.

    We had about an hour or so before the sun came up and people started waking up, so we hurried along. The lighthouse had been built on a steep hill next to the shore, on the other side of the road and far away enough that it wasn't technically part of the city, even if people associated Wysteria with it.

    "Was anyone inside of it at the time?"

    Well… that's the thing, ain't it? In all our worry to see if those suited guys had their boat parked in the docks we never considered the fact that someone else might've been living inside. We hadn't exactly thought things through; after all, someone had to be up there to turn on and off the lights every day, right?

    I'd hesitate to call it lucky, but that wasn't the case, and that's where things started to not make sense. The door was unlocked for one thing, and it didn't seem like it'd been locked recently at all. I noticed the footsteps in the dirt leading in and out, though I couldn't tell which ones were more recent.

    Our original plan had Carlos staying outside to see if anyone came back, while the rest of us studied the inside. However without Marty we decided to scratch that and all three of us entered the lighthouse.

    I don't know what I expected. Maybe I'd read too many story books but I thought the main room would be some sort of house or quarters to live in; maybe with a table and some chairs. I couldn't have been more wrong; the only thing in sight were six of those barrels and the stone staircase leading up to the light room. It was painted white; not that you could tell with all the filth and humidity it had in it. The walls weren't even that; just a bunch of bricks stuck together and covered in cobwebs. The most bizarre thing however was a small, square indenture in the walls where it looked like a chimney would've been built. It even had a bunch of ash inside. If any of us had been smart we would've found it weird, considering there were no windows and there was no way to use it without suffocating due to the smoke, but we were too anxious and distracted for that.

    "Checking out the barrels, I presume?"

    There wasn't much to check out; they were empty.

    Well, mostly. The lids had been taken off, and the dust smears in the ground made it look like it had happened recently. The insides were surprisingly clean, so it probably wasn't alcohol or drugs what they were carrying. The floor of one of them was slightly wet and it smelled funny. Another one had what looked like scratch marks on the inside. Probably some sort of animal then, I thought.

    At the bottom of one of them there was a loose piece of green fabric that looked like a handkerchief, but bigger. It reminded me terribly of that awful bandana Marty liked to wear around his neck, but this one was too dirty and torn up, it couldn't possibly be it.

    I figured they had probably taken whatever was inside to the room at the top, so I told Carlos to wait down while Coraline and I went to check that out. We had to go slow and watch our step, since I still didn't want to use the flashlight just in case someone happened to be there. Had I been smart I would've turned the ****er on and then switch it to the highest setting, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.

    The only thing we found on the top room was the machine that gave off light. It looked like a glass disc divided into a bunch of sections, sitting on top of a machine that could rotate. A bunch of cables ran from the floor towards it, which I remember I found rather reckless. My mom had worked on a place full of dangerous machines and she constantly told me she never wanted to see a wire on the floor; those were dangerous.

    I stood there without moving while Coraline explored. There was something strange, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I'd seen those cables run down the walls of the staircase to the main room, but where did they go from there? I didn't remember there being any kind of generator. Maybe it went underground? But from where? There wasn't any…

    That's when it hit me, that chimney looking thing in the wall. It was wide enough that a trap door could be hidden under the ash.

    "And that would be where those suited men took the contents of the barrel to."

    My train of thought exactly. Too bad I didn't get much time to test that theory.

    We heard steps coming from the base floor, really hurried, pretty much stomping. Carlos appeared at the landing of the stairs, looking like he'd seen a ghost. His hair was all ruffled and his cheeks were red. He blurted out before we could ask him what was wrong:

    «I heard people talking under the floor! I think they're coming here!»

    I don't think Coraline understood why I freaked out so much at the sound of that. I immediately told them we needed to go and started walking, well, pretty much running down the stairs. I heard their steps behind me but I was too anxious to look back. If what Carlos had said was true then those guys could climb the trapdoor any minute and find us there.

    [He noticeably fidgets as he takes a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. I don't interrupt while he struggles to light it up with his slightly shaking fingers, nor do I point out that this is a no-smoke zone. I figure the man has earned this.]

    That's where it should've ended. We should've reached the base floor and escaped before anything could happen. It was the fair thing. We were just kids, dammit.

    It took me longer to notice than it should have, and when I did the panic started to bubble pretty badly. The fear snuck up on me. Didn't it take us less time to walk upstairs? Why were there so many steps? Was it just me or were the walls getting darker as we went down?

    The worst part wasn't realizing it, but hearing someone else say it out loud. Up to that point I could've pinned it all on my own imagination and the fear I was feeling, but the moment Coraline pointed out that we should've reached the bottom already… I really don't know how to explain it. Never in my life have I felt so much panic, and I doubt I ever will.

    I told her we were almost there and kept going down, pretty must jumping the steps as fast as I could. Still, there was no end to the spiral staircase, nor windows to look out from. It slowly began to dawn on me that we were trapped, and I did not take that well. I heard Carlos' sobbing behind me and tried to ignore it as hard as I could.

    That's when I heard that laugh, and I froze. My friends crashed into my back and almost sent us downstairs rolling, but I managed to stay up. For a few seconds we heard nothing, and then it happened again. The only reason I say it was a laugh is because it's the only thing I can think of. It didn't sound like one much, and just hearing it made my blood run cold.

    Since we were in a spiral staircase we couldn't see much further from where we were. Still, we noticed that the walls were getting unnaturally darker as we went down, and then… all black, completely. I could feel it, it was almost solid.

    "Was it a Pokemon?"

    Y-yeah… we saw its face then. It appeared in the shadows as if it were its body. The eyes were big and red, and it had a really wide grin of white teeth. Wide enough to fit a kid like me inside, was the first thing I thought.

    What happened after is kind of a blur. I remember lots of screaming and crying. We started running upstairs, hoping that we could at least get to the top floor and have a better chance at escaping whatever the hell that thing was. Hell, at that point I was willing to throw myself out of the damn window if that's what it took.

    But it was the same the other way around. We ran up for far longer than it should've taken for us to get there, and still there were only more stairs. My legs hurt so badly and I could feel my lungs burn, but I absolutely refused to stop. As we went we heard that… thing's laugh behind us, and the walls began to darken as if it were chasing us.

    "Did it ever attack you?"

    No, it didn't. I don't know why; maybe it'd been ordered to keep us there until one of them appeared, or maybe it liked toying with us. I almost prefer the first option, though I s'pose it doesn't matter much anymore.

    I was the one in the back, since I'd been leading them when we were trying to go downstairs. I felt something… cold, and soft curl around my leg, and the next thing I know I'm tripping into of my friends and we all fall into the steps. I remember hitting my arm badly against the edge, and for a moment everything went black. I heard them grumble in front of me, and that's when I turned around.

    It was on top of us. Literally, hanging from the ceiling or… floating or some ****. Its body was round and spiky, and it had short legs and arms. If you were to see a drawing of it it wouldn't look so scary, almost goofy really, but at that moment it was the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen. It cackled again, and the dark in the walls began to spread like tentacles. One of them grabbed my arm, the other one curled around Coraline's torso…

    It was the strangest feeling, I couldn't really describe it. It felt like those tendrils were made of ice; I began to panic as my muscles went cold. I heard my friends cry and yell in terror behind me. Somehow I knew I was gonna die.

    I can't honestly say I did what I did consciously. Dunno if it was a reflex or if Arceus saved me, but I grabbed the flashlight from my pocket and I pointed it at that Pokemon. Then I turned it on.

    The light hit it straight in the face, and it began to scream. High pitched, like the sound a knife would make against concrete but many times worse. Still, the flashlight seemed strong enough and it drove it back as it escaped into the walls once more. The darkness around us disappeared, and the staircase went back to normal.

    Well, almost. I could see the end of it a few steps down, but I could also hear voices. Muffled, screaming, angry. I tried to get up but my left arm started hurting badly; it'd probably been broken when I fell down. Besides, Carlos and Coraline were terrified out of their minds, they were still staring at the walls as if expecting that thing to come back.

    I yelled at them to move, and after a few seconds they listened, though by then it was too late. We ran down the staircase as fast as we could, but by the time we made it to the base floor we saw that the trap door had already been opened. One of the suited men had just climbed out of it, while the other one was in the process of doing the same.

    I remember them perfectly, as if it had happened yesterday. I hadn't noticed before but they wore masks up to their noses, latex gloves and thick, black glasses. The most distinct part of their outfit however was that insignia; the two leafy vines spinning into a circle and… uh…

    Tulip? You okay?

    [The sudden shift back to reality startles me. I realize I've been breathing too heavily for a while now. I try my best to compose myself, though it's unclear whether I manage it.]

    "Yes, I'm fine. Please, continue."

    Well… not much more to say. The moment one of them saw us he started running to us, and we did the same in the opposite direction. I didn't look back, I know that I should've but I didn't. I felt one hand on my shoulder but I shook it off by some miracle, and next thing I knew I was outside and the wind roared in my ears as I ran.

    I would've kept going, probably until I collapsed from exhaustion or lack of air, if it weren't for Coraline yelling. We'd made it to the first streets of Wysteria, next to the road leading to the shore, when I finally stopped. I turned around, struggling to breathe, and saw that there were tears in her eyes. I also saw that Carlos wasn't there behind us.

    [He shakes his head unconsciously, fingers gripping the cigarette so tightly it's a miracle he doesn't break it.]

    I'm sure you heard what happened after. A few hours later, when it was already morning, the police went to investigate the lighthouse and found that it'd been demolished. Boom, gone, all the bricks and stairs and everything fell down as if it were made of ****ing paper. They tried digging out the rubbish but it was too much, and they never found the secret trapdoor Caroline and I swore was there.

    They didn't find Carlos, nor Marty nor his parents. All of them gone, like they'd vanished into air. Or underground, I should say.

    I honestly don't know what to think. I'm sure it was our fault; if we'd realized that Carlos had been grabbed we would've turned around and helped him, maybe fight that suited bastard and give him what was coming to him. Or maybe he would've killed us and we would've ended up just like Carlos. Hard to say, which is a shame because it's something I think about pretty regularly.

    [He finishes his cigarette and slams it on the table, since there isn't any ashtray around. He sighs and leans back into his chair, eyes lost in the distance.]

    We were just kids, dammit. One would think that'd count for something, but it never does.

    ------------------------------------------
    Tulip Glasslip here.

    It's a few hours later, in my new hotel room. Definitely not as fancy, nor does it have a private bathroom, since money has been hard to come by recently.

    In any case, I've been investigating the lighthouse incident, along with Marty Miller's family and their disappearance. It appears his parents' car was found submerged at the bottom of the sea near the Wysteria shore, with no one inside. There seems to be no information online on who they were or what their line of work was, though after Maes' story I believe I'm starting to connect the dots.

    Their sudden disappearance, Marty's clear change in personality and his bandana found at the bottom of a barrel… it can't be a coincidence. I need to dig deeper into this family, see what I can find. They're one of the only leads I have left.

    In other news, I've sent the file to my friend, and they've assured me that they'll do everything they can to fix it. I can only hope, and wait.

    Unfortunately, so must you.

    Tulip Glasslip.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  12. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Oh man, I completely missed this! That's one issue with the new forum style and the uptick in activity here – now things keep vanishing off the front page before I get a chance to look at them. Looks like it's back to the usual business for Tulip now, with another interview, and another distinctive voice. Maes isn't quite as striking a character as some of the others we've met, but the more I read the more I got the impression of an understated man reflecting on a youth with which he has a kinda complex relationship, nostalgic for and yet a little frustrated with his past self. He isn't as immediately striking because that's not the kind of guy he is; it's cool to see you tackle a more subtle character like that, and I think you do a pretty good job of it.

    The actual twist of this thing is a bit less interesting than some of the others – like, we all know gengar like creeping around in the shadows and spooking people; it's kind of what you expect of them – but this chapter does start to develop the overarching narrative a little more, which is nice; I feel like we're deep enough into the story that it's about the right time for that to start happening. There's a clear sense of something slowly coming into focus in the background, with these last couple of chapters, although we can't really see what. Definitely looking forward to seeing what kind of mess Tulip manages to get into trying to drag all of this into the light!

    As usual, here are some nitpicks and blow-by-blow reactions:

    That should be “in” rather than “on”.

    I think you mean “gung ho” here.

    “Business” in this intangible sense is very rarely pluralised – it would be more natural for someone to say “in that kind of business”, treating it as a mass noun, and it would still mean exactly what you intend it to.

    “On” and “in” are the wrong way around in this sentence.

    This is a bit awkwardly phrased – I had to read it twice to figure out what exactly it meant; I think cutting “in” from between “sneak” and “my” would make it clearer what you mean.

    Good choice of name! :p

    Given that there's a very direct relationship between the two linked halves of this sentence, I think you'd want a colon here rather than a semicolon – you're saying, “I realised a thing: this thing, in fact”.

    Super minor point, but when you contract “suppose” like that, the convention is to get rid of one of the P's too, like this: “s'pose”.
     
  13. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Ahh Cutlerine thanks so much for your help and constant support!! It's always lovely; I'm sorry I haven't been able to upload lately. It's been a mix of life stuff and me working on other fic projects. But now I can finally update Wysteria, and the new Reborn chapter will go up soon as well. Again, thanks!!

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

    Entry #6: Sinensis

    Tulip Glasslip here.

    If there's at least one thing I pride myself in, that's being honest with my audience.

    As a reassuring fact it's not much, but it's about the only thing I still have going for me. I would like to keep it up, even if…

    All right, let me try to explain the situation before I make an ass out of myself.

    My friend has fixed the file I sent them. Apparently it wasn't an audio file at all; well… it was, but it'd been turned into it from its original format as a video file. All it took was to transform it back, which according to them any tech-savvy person would've thought to do considering the damn name ended in .avi.

    Anyway, she sent it back and I decided to take a look at it.

    I… there is no way to explain what I saw in few words. I'm beside myself, I don't even know if I should write this or… I don't know. I'm not feeling terribly well at the moment.

    Still, what the **** else can I do? I'm tired of all this.

    Since I can't actually upload the video (showing my physical appearance to the entire world doesn't sound like the best of ideas), I've decided to narrate it for this entry. It'll be slightly different from my previous ones, mostly because I've downed half a bottle of vodka already and I have the remainder here with me as I type, and also because I've decided to have some fun with this. Better to laugh than to cry, am I right?

    …Right. As always, narration will be formatted normally while my own thoughts will be in bold and inside brackets. The video takes place the day I went to that bunker in the hills.

    Without further ado… here it is:

    ------------------------------------------
    The video starts inside the bunker.

    The camera moves around the room, momentarily stopping on things which might be of interest, even if most of the floor is covered in dried leaves and dirt. The red text on the bottom right corner of the recording announces that it's seven in the evening.

    [Strange, since I distinctly remember heading up the hills during the morning as to not be there when night fell.]

    Tulip takes careful steps from one corner to another, camera pointed at the ground. She stops in front of a table next to the wall and the sound of shuffling papers is heard before she remembers the purpose of having a recording device on her. She points the lens at the small bundle of papers as she picks one up and examines it. Glare makes it difficult to make out the words, though it seems as if the ink has mostly been washed away in the past months.

    "God dammit. Should've figured."

    She slams the papers on the table and turns the camera around in a sweeping motion, catching the rest of the room leading to the door with the electronic lock. It stops at the side for a moment, abruptly.

    There's a small gasp, more like a slightly sharp exhalation. Tulip hurries over to the left corner of the room, leaves crunching under her shoes. Judging by the jerky camera movement she probably kneels, filming what she's found a moment after: under a small bundle of leaves and dirt lays a leather-bound journal which she picks up and shakes to clean it off.

    The camera is placed on the ground for a moment while the sound of pages being quickly turned fills the room. Tulip whispers something to herself and lets out a hushed laugh, pushing herself to her feet along with the camera.

    Steps, heavier and more enthusiastic than before, are heard. She grabs the only nearby chair and places it in front of the table as she sits on it. She adjusts the camera in the corner facing her, so that most of her body can be seen with the exception of her feet and the top of her head. She's wearing a plain, white blouse and jean shorts. Her thin metal bracelets tinkle with a metallic sound as she opens the journal and begins to read.

    [This is the part where I stopped the video the first time I watched it.

    I assume some of you are wondering why I described my own outfit, thinking back to my statement about not wanting to reveal my appearance. Well, there's no danger in this specific instance. Why?

    Because I don't own any clothes that look like what I'm wearing in this video.

    I hate sleeveless shirts, I despise bracelets and I'm not a huge fan of shorts either. And yet here I am, wearing them in a video I don't remember filming, not looking uncomfortable at all.

    I went back to check whether I had anything like this in my drawers, but I only found my usual clothes.]

    Tulip reads through the pages for what should be five minutes, but isn't. At some point after reaching the mid-way point she lowers the journal down, yawns and rubs her eyelids. Then the video freezes.

    Only to un-freeze two seconds after. Tulip opens her eyes, shakes her head sheepishly and goes back to reading. However, the room has suddenly turned a lot darker and the clock of the camera indicates that it's now 9:13 PM. Two hours have passed, and yet Tulip doesn't seem to notice.

    She keeps reading for about ten minutes, until she turns one of the pages and her expression changes. She lowers one hand to the table and pulls the journal closer, eyebrows knit. She whispers something and stands up as if pushed by a spring, grabbing both the journal and the camera as she makes her way to the other side of the room.

    She stops in front of the door, her fingers tapping the side of the camera creating a pitter-patter of excitement and anxiety; a sound quite common to her. Before inputting the password she looks down at the open journal one last time; though she unfortunately doesn't film it. The panel lets out an electronic beep as the screen turns a bright green.

    A second after, the door opens.

    [I have the journal next to me. I looked through every page again and tried to find anything which could've looked like a password to past-me.

    Nothing.]

    The tunnel that it opens to is as dark as an Arcanine's maw. Tulip hesitates for about five seconds, only remembering then that the camera has a built-in flashlight and turns it on. It's a lot easier to see now, even if the cone of light doesn't reach to the part where the tunnel ends. The walls are made of excavated rock; not any kind of concrete or building material, which means it's probably an unfinished mining project of some sort.

    Either Tulip doesn't come to the same conclusion or she does and decides to go in anyway.

    [Knowing me it could very well be both, though I'd put my money on the more idiotic option.]

    Strangely, the door does not ominously close behind her as she keeps walking. The hallway is somewhat cramped; about the width of two average adults, but it seems competently dig out considering no part of it has caved in yet. It is awfully dark, however, and what little light the flashlight offers can only reveal a small cone in front of her.

    Judging by the delicate steps and heavy breathing coming from Tulip, one could arrive at the conclusion that she's regretting not buying the camera that came with night vision, even if it was only marginally more expensive than the one she has now. Then again, this is all wild speculation on anyone's part.

    It is hard to notice at first, but judging by the way the light hits part of the ceiling at the end of its trajectory it's safe to assume that the hallway is tilted down. Dirt and pebbles make a rough sound as they're unearthed by Tulip's steps, rolling down alongside her. The only color besides faded brown is the occasional green of the grass stubbles growing from the floor and walls. They become more prominent as time passes.

    "Come on, give me something."

    It's been a few minutes now and Tulip starts to sound exasperated. The tunnel has been nothing but a straight line of emptiness. It's clear from her low whines of discomfort that having to keep the camera up to use the flashlight is taking a toll on her arm. She changes it from one hand to the other a few times, until finally her patience reaches its limit and she simply lets the camera hang as she points it slightly up.

    The footage jumps. It's supposedly two hours later, though Tulip doesn't sound nearly as exhausted as if she had to walk for that long without stopping. At first it seems nothing has changed; the tunnel still points forward and nothing but darkness can be seen ahead. However, after almost a minute, Tulip stops.

    She swallows hard as she fumbles with the camera, raising it to chest level and pointing it forward. There is a wall of rocks a few feet ahead; probably the result of some kind of cave-in. As she steps closer two alternate paths can be seen at the left and right. Judging by the indentations on the ceiling, it seems like there used to be a third one forward as well.

    [I have no way of knowing, thanks to the footage skipping, but it is possible that the rockslide is the result of the destruction of the lighthouse outside of Wysteria. The direction of the tunnel makes it likely.]

    She shines the light at both paths, which stretch infinitely in a straight line. Tulip stands in the crossroads, breathing heavily for a few moments. Uncertainty pesters her every movement like a heavy cloud of smoke standing around her. One would think she should've learned how to deal with hard decisions by now.

    "Right or left…" she whispers. "Right or left, twain and cleft. Heaviest cuffs, bluest flames. Iron rots and fire fades, time to choose for this young maid ."

    It's only part of an old nursery rhyme, one which Tulip often chants to herself under her breath during stressful situations. It is unfortunate, then, that she does not possess her mother's singing voice. Coming from her, the verses are strained and only half-sung. The recording shakes slightly.

    "…you're no fun, mister tunnel," she sighs. "Fine, let's go freaking left I guess."

    [I want to physically enter the video and punch myself in the face.

    No, I didn't notice anything strange. That's it.]

    The results of her choice start to bloom a lot earlier than she probably expected. While the hallway is as dark as the one before, Tulip encounters a few odd things thrown on the floor here and there.

    First it's a torn piece of cloth, no bigger than the palm of her hand. She bends down to pick it up and films it, while rubbing the dirt off with her thumb. One side of it is white, while the other one is a soft, almost faded green. Other than that it would be difficult to determine what it belonged to. Tulip saves it in the pocket of her shorts before continuing forward.

    She finds a few more things thrown around. Part of a paper handkerchief, a piece of thin, red metal the size of her thumb, half a shoelace and what at first appears to be some kind of Pokemon bone, later identified as the rotten core of an apple. None of these she decides to take with her, only allowing the objects a glance with the camera before walking past them.

    The walls start to change. They widen up with every step Tulip takes, allowing for some breathing room that wasn't there before. All stubbles or roots disappear along with the small piles of dirt occasionally found at the sides. In some places the rock almost seems polished.

    Tulip stops for about five seconds. She holds her breath, then continues as if nothing had happened. This repeats a few times before she stops for good and stands still for almost a minute.

    "…Wind?"

    Indeed, the camera picks up the distant sound of a gust of wind. Extremely faint, but it's there.

    Tulip's pace quickens, her steps sounding rather hopeful against the hard surface of the floor. The light of the camera swivels from side to side and though she runs across a few more objects she doesn't pay much attention to them.

    [I do, since I have to do everything around here it seems.

    They are, in order: a round tuft of felt with cotton inside, a jagged piece of metal not much thicker than a needle, more rotten cores of fruits and a dark, reddish mark on the floor with a few similar dots coming out of it.

    At first I thought it was a blood splatter, though now I'm not sure. The red is a bit too bright.]

    The sound of the wind becomes more noticeable as Tulip keeps walking. The walls have stopped expanding and are now wide enough to accommodate at least five people. She tries to keep the camera steady as she goes, though either because of carelessness or excitement it continues to shake in a way which makes it impossible to discern what's ahead.

    A gasp is heard behind Tulip, so faint and thin she doesn't notice it.

    [I've rewound and listened to it at least fifty times.

    It's definitely not the wind, nor does it come from me. It's slightly higher pitched, probably belonging to a woman. It's there for about a second before it disappears.]

    Tulip reaches what appears to be the end of the path. Growing from one end of the wall to the other is a thick sheet of steel with a hole the size of a person torn in the middle. The metal is bent outwards, jagged tips almost looking like teeth. On the floor in front of it lies what probably used to be the door, made of the same material.

    Her hand reaches forward, placing its thumb against the jagged edges of the hole. They are terribly rusted, much more than the rest of the wall, and stuck to one of them is another piece of white and green fabric. It waves slightly with the wind. She picks it up and stares at it.

    She coughs twice. Then, breathing in deep, she walks towards the left wall and presses her palm strongly against it, as if leaning into it. Her fingers curl and uncurl, coating themselves with dust and dirt. The touch must feel reassuring, calming almost. Her breathing slowly goes back to normal. She saves the piece of fabric in her pocket once more, cleans her hand on her shirt and points the camera forward.

    "All right, c-come on," she whispers harshly. "You know where the exit is. Just go– just keep going."

    Judging from the movements of the camera she must crouch to enter. It's slow going and she probably rubs a limb against one of the sharp edges, judging by the volley of swear words she lets out at a certain point. When she comes out the other side, it takes her a few seconds to gather her wits and raise the camera.

    She's not in a cave anymore and, strangest of all, there is a source of light.

    It is a fully built room, about twice as wide as the cavern. The floor and walls are covered in square, used to be white tiles similar to those used in old communal bathrooms. The roof appears to be concrete. There is a caged light bulb stuck to the left wall, failing to illuminate much past a few feet around.

    "What the hell…"

    Tulip simply swings the camera around, not wanting to move yet. In front of her the hallway continues towards another, almost identical metal wall with its door similarly torn apart, leading towards a dark corridor. At her right is the rest of the room, every inch of it covered in dirt, filth and grime.

    At the right side of the furthermost wall there's what appears to be a row of showers, separated by squares of concrete that fail to reach the ceiling. The piping and shower-heads have been eaten away at, a few even decorating the floor. There are two sinks on the right wall, one of them broken into small, ceramic pieces. A puddle of water lays underneath.

    Tulip hesitates for a moment, moving the camera to point at the filthy tiles of the wall next to her. She stares, then lets out a laugh.

    "Not touching this one."

    The camera swerves right as she walks to the other side of the room. Every step makes a sticky, sloshing sound.

    There isn't much more to the room, until she points the camera at the only corner she hasn't looked at yet. A paper sign is stuck to a spot close to one of the sinks, its edges eaten away by some reddish-brown substance. The lower half of it is missing, though it seems possible to read the rest.

    Tulip stops in front of it and films the sign for almost an entire minute, slowly whispering to herself. It reads as such:

    Welcome to the F-Branch of the Underground Living Quarters.

    If you are coming in, simply walk through the hallway and approach the first agent you see. They will be able to take you to your new rooms and answer any question you might have. If you wish to clean yourself from the long trip through the hills then feel free to use one of the chemical showers as long as they're not currently in use.

    If you are leaving the quarters, carefully follow these instructions:

    1) For physical de-contamination: use one of the chemical showers and wash yourself thoroughly from tip to toe. If there is any red substance on you, please contact an agent immediately and try not to touch anything. If not, dry yourself off with the provided towels and change into the new clothes that will be given to you.

    2) For mental de-contamination: you don't need to do anything, simply let Subject #282 cleanse you out of your inner impurities. There is no need to search for her; she will find you no matter where you are. However, under no circumstance should you attempt to leave while t–

    That's where the text cuts off. Tulip is, understandably, not happy about it.

    "Oh give me a break."

    She sighs and turns the camera around, panning the entire room in its sweep. She stands still for almost a minute, breathing in and out as her free hand noticeably fidgets with the fabric of her blouse. She probably doesn't notice how obvious she outwardly shows her fear.

    "Living quarters. Living quarters…" she whispers, gulping. "Well, the bathroom's already better than the one in the hotel, so…"

    Her laugh feels weak against the overwhelming emptiness of everything around her. She fidgets more, takes one look back at the dirty sign and decides to continue further. The distant sound of rushing water and wind are heard as she makes her way towards the hole in the other metal wall; this one bigger and seemingly more violently ripped out. The cuts on the wall are surprisingly clean-made, if brutal.

    When she emerges on the other side, it's not to a cave. The floor, walls and ceiling form a perfect rectangle of concrete. Professionally built, from the looks of it.

    She takes one step forward, freezes, then gasps and turns around fast enough for the footage to turn into a blur.

    "W-who is there!?"

    Through the hole part of the previous room can be seen. Nothing answers her question. Tulip sounds as if she's struggling to breathe.

    [I've listened a few times and I can't make out any sound that would've made me react that way.]

    It takes her almost a minute to calm down. She must come to the conclusion that she's imagined whatever she heard, because she lowers the camera for a moment, moves it to her left hand, and turns around.

    There's someone in the hallway. The footage freezes, then repeats itself a few times from the moment she turns the camera until it lands on… it. This goes on for about four seconds.

    Then it resumes with the timer five seconds rewound. Tulip turns around as she did before, except this time the hallway is empty. She heads forward as if nothing had happened.

    [The light of the camera only hits up to the waist of whatever that was. At first I thought it looked like the hooded stranger on the picture documented in #Entry 4, but this looks more like some kind of creature or Pokemon, judging by the thin, white legs and delicate frame.]

    Darkness pools at the edges of the camera as the contents of the hallway are revealed. A row of fluorescent light bulbs hang from the ceiling, none of them in working conditions. After almost a minute of walking she finds two normal, wooden doors, facing each other. They are locked.

    Tulip points the light at the keyhole, which means the camera itself is left filming nothing. She struggles to line herself up to see through it, judging by the grunts and curses she lets out, and ultimately seems to come up with nothing.

    "All right, let's see here…"

    She holds the camera between her arm and ribs while her hands fumble with what sounds like her hair. As she moves back into place a white hairpin can be seen on her left hand. This time she puts it between her elbows, light pointing at the keyhole. A few seconds pass in silence.

    Except they don't, because it's the footage freezing again. It stays as such for twenty-three seconds, then resumes playing.

    Tulip lets out a sound like a choking Victreebel. The camera moves upwards, followed by a heavy thump as her head connects with a solid object –possibly the doorknob– and she falls backwards. The footage turns black as Tulip is heard gasping for air and trying to get to her feet.

    "Who are you!?"

    Silence. Everything is black.

    "What did you say!?"

    Tulip struggles to breathe in between coughs, and after a few moments bends down to pick up the camera. It's an incomprehensible blur of light and colors until she manages to keep it steady, pointing forward.

    It's hard to see, but there is someone at the end of the cone of light. Only its feet can be seen, as white and thin as the figure that previously appeared on the footage. It makes no movement. The camera shakes violently.

    "I d-don't understand…" Tulip says, barely above a whisper. "What are you saying?"

    From her frightened tone and the near sound of shuffling, it's easy to come to the conclusion that Tulip is buying time while looking for something on her pockets. Finally she finds it and lowers her free hand. The sound of steel sliding against steel is heard; her pocket knife.

    "Stop talking! I don't understand you!"

    She stabs the air with the knife as she yells, voice broken and high pitched. She takes a few steps back, tentatively.

    [I can't hear anything besides myself yelling. Whatever this Tulip is hearing, it's not in the video.]

    The figure approaches slowly. It wouldn't be right to say that it walks, as its stick-like feet never touch the ground and nor does its clothing. Its entire body comes into view. Tulip lets out a choked sob.

    The creature is humanoid-looking, skin as white as marble and its lower half almost entirely covered by what appears to be a flowing gown. Its legs and arms are as thin as sticks. Its green, disheveled and dirty hair curls down the middle of its face and down at the sides of its head, showing only its dark red eyes. They're at least twice as big as those of a human, with heavy shadows adorning their underside. There's a red, jagged protrusion coming out of its chest, making it look as if the creature has been stabbed in the heart.

    It continues to float towards Tulip, slowly enough that it becomes apparent the creature isn't quite right. What appears to be the fold of its gown is torn apart in various places, the tips of its feet are filthy with some kind of red substance and its ribs can be seen through the little flesh it has on its chest.

    "S-stop…" Tulip pleads, low enough that the microphone of the camera barely picks it up. "I don't… I don't want to hear you. Please…"

    She lets the knife drop to the ground and frantically starts looking for something else in her pocket. When she looks up again a round object can be seen on her left hand, its top half painted a bright red.

    "Go away! I'm gonna…"

    The creature raises its arm slowly, as if doing so took an incredible amount of effort. It points at Tulip with one of its thin, boney fingers and then opens all three, showing her its palm. The gesture almost seems desperate and pleading.

    "STOP SINGING!"

    The audio heavily distorts as Tulip screams at the top of her lungs. A moment after we see her hand flying forward as she throws the Pokeball at the creature. It hits it square in the chest, turning it into light and trapping it inside.

    Tulip doesn't wait to check if the creature is caught. She turns around and runs in the opposite direction, the pitter-patter of her feet against the ground almost covering the sound of her heavy breathing and coughing. The footage shakes uncontrollably and it's almost impossible to make out the Pokeball breaking behind her. Another gust of wind hits her back.

    The sound of cloth sliding against concrete crawls closer. It's delicate, almost like a whisper.

    The light briefly catches the torn metal hole in the distance, leading towards the de-contamination area. Tulip quickens her pace, almost panting now, but stops a few feet from reaching it.

    A pale, pink light explodes in front of her, blinding the camera from a moment. The creature now blocks the entrance, eyes still empty and arms resting at its side. It tilts its head to the side. Curious. Playful. Begging.

    Tulip bellows –whether in anger or horror is unclear– distorting the audio to a garbled mess. The footage jumps for a moment and next she is seen in front of the creature, both arms violently pushing it to the side. It crashes against the wall, possibly breaking a bone judging by the crack following the impact, along with the low yelp of pain. Tulip doesn't wait to jump inside the room.

    Her feet slide on the wet floor. She barely catches herself with her free hand against a wall, taking a single moment to breathe and compose herself. The sound of wind and cloth against stone comes back, this time more aggressive. There is an implicit warning in its humming tone, one that Tulip disregards completely.

    She has to go slowly, but she manages to reach the opposite side of the room without falling again. The sounds of the creature disappear as she stands in front of the makeshift hole. It waits for her to act, to make the right choice.

    She does not, unfortunately. With desperate hurry she passes through the hole, accidentally cutting herself on one of the jagged edges with her free hand. She makes it to the other side, breathes in for a moment, and breaks into a desperate run.

    There's a pause. Tulip stops completely, her limbs frozen. She is yanked back violently, what little can be seen of her surrounded by a pink-ish glow. Her body hits the ground with a loud thump, followed by the same happening to the camera. The footage shakes and darkens, only to come back a moment after.

    The camera lies on the floor, pointing backwards. Its light briefly hits Tulip's face along with one of her arms and part of her torso.

    Her chin rests on the ground, hair obstructing most of her face. Her entire body is surrounded by wisps of pink light. She has one hand forward, fingers desperately trying to grip the out of reach camera. Her eyes are wide open, wet with tears.

    The sound of cloth against stone is heard once more, but this time it's Tulip being dragged backwards by an invisible force. She screams at the top of her lungs, kicking and planting her fingers on the ground, to no avail. Slowly, she disappears from view. The light of the camera reaches nothing but the empty cavern.

    The sound is muted, cutting short Tulip's distant screams. The video freezes again, then everything goes black.

    The footage resumes ten seconds later.

    The camera is placed on top of a wooden table, overlooking the inside of a busy restaurant or café. The place is packed-full of people. The clock on the downright corner marks it as fifteen minutes after what has just happened.

    Whoever is filming lowers a cup of coffee to the ceramic plate. There's a pause. Tulip's voice is heard:

    "Oh ****, is this still recording?"

    She picks up the camera and points it at herself. She's wearing different clothes from the previous footage and her expression is nothing if not relaxed. She looks as if nothing had happened.

    Her eyes fall on the red light indicating that the camera is still recording. She smiles and shakes her head slightly, raising her other hand towards the device.

    The footage stops. End of video.

    [I don't really have anything else to say. I don't know what to say.

    The clothes I'm wearing, the footage skipping, that creature and then me acting as if it had never happened… I can't make sense of any of it. I'm more scared and confused as if I'd never learned what had happened. What of the tunnel? What of the remaining nine days after that?

    I don't think I can deal with this right now. I'm tired of all of it; I wish I could make sense of… anything, or just find some answers.

    I don't know what to do. I just don't know.

    I'm sorry.]

    ------------------------------------------
    Tulip Glasslip here.

    It's been a few days since my… transcript of that video. I apologize for my unprofessional behavior, I know most of you aren't interested in my wellbeing or what I think of all of this; you just want answers like me.

    Fortunately, I might have some to offer in the near future.

    I've received an email from Pruner. They've asked to meet in a nearby tea house which will be full of people so I won't have anything to fear. They say that they know where I am and it wouldn't make a difference if I decide to run. They say… that they just want to talk.

    They sounded a lot more rational than I expected. Almost desperate, even, which I found amusing after how much they've been leading me by the nose.

    I doubt I have anything left to lose, so I agreed to this meeting. I'm tired of running around; whatever happens, it will happen.

    Until then, I must say goodbye.

    Tulip Glasslip.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
  14. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Well, it looks like things are definitely getting serious now! Tulip is … not doing great, huh. That's a hell of a lot of vodka. Though, well, seeing yourself in clothes you don't own recording a video you don't remember will probably do that to a person, yes. Honestly, I'm not sure what she was expecting; what she was doing was always going to attract attention she could have done without. The real surprise is that it's taken so long to catch up with her.

    I do like what we see here of the gap between the face Tulip presents to the internet and her actual self; it's an obvious truism to say there's always some kind of space between appearance and fact, but it's nice to see that acknowledged. Although of course this might not be her actual self; I'm assuming that she isn't acting unusually, since her commentary doesn't suggest that she is, but I suppose she could just not be mentioning it.

    Obviously I expected her to have fallen foul of some sort of psychic-type, given her inability to recall what happened in the facility, so the gardevoir didn't come as a surprise (although the choice of species was interesting; judging by their pokédex entries, gardevoir are mostly empaths and manipulators of spacetime, so I've never really had them pegged as mind-readers before). What does surprise me is that they – whoever they really are – let her leave with this video recording intact. But given that it looks like a meeting is in the offing, I guess we'll be getting some kind of answers about their conduct in the not-too-distant future, though I suspect they might be the sort of answers that raise more questions. Definitely looking forward to that!

    Finally, here are all the things I noticed as I read through:

    I think you'd normally say that seven was in the evening, rather than the afternoon.

    This is a weird way of phrasing it – I'd probably change that to “Tulip takes careful steps from one corner to another” or something like that.

    You could argue this either way here, but I'd say this is a plain white blouse rather than a plain, white one – “plain” seems to modify “white”, so you don't need the comma.

    This is an awkward place to have the adverb – I'd put it after “something”. In most cases, putting an adverb between the noun/pronoun and the verb reads weirdly, though there are definitely exceptions to that rule.

    That should be a comma rather than a semicolon.

    And here.

    That should be “at” rather than “to”.

    This is a strange way to put it – the normal phrasing would be “until finally her patience reaches its limit” or similar. I guess the key thing is that it would be “its limit” rather than “a limit”.

    “Bluest” doesn't need to be hyphenated.

    That should be “on” rather than “in”.

    That should be “rewound” rather than “re-winded”.

    The word “apart” shouldn't be in this sentence.

    That should be “On the floor”, and “lies” rather than “lays”.

    Again, that should be a comma rather than a semicolon.

    Again, that should be “rewound”.

    You don't need that comma; just the dash will be sufficient. Also, you need a space on both sides of a dash, not just one – that comes up in one or two other places as well.

    So yeah, overall, this is a pretty great chapter! The pace of the story's really picking up; there's a strong sense that you're building towards something, and I'm very interested to see what that something turns out to be.
     
  15. TheAlpar

    TheAlpar Journey Enthusiast

    Author Notes: Cutlerine once more thank you so much for your continued support and help! I like that you're grasping so much of this story and paying attention to the mysteries, you're the kind of reader mystery writers dream of :D And as usual thank you so much for your grammar corrections!! Hopefully you'll enjoy this chapter, the last of season 1.

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

    Entry #7: Frutescens


    Tulip Glasslip here.

    It's been a few days since my interview with Pruner. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to properly sit down and transcribe it due to… well, let's just say I've been rather busy.

    Before I get into it, a bit more background into what happened leading to the interview. I arrived at the tea house at the accorded time and sat down, waiting to be approached by someone. I was, after a couple minutes, though not exactly by a person.

    An Alakazam teleported into the seat in front of me, startling all the customers around us. I stared at him, too stunned to speak or do anything else. Then, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, he put a hand on my shoulder and teleported both of us out of the tea house.

    I'll spare you my rather over the top freak-out over the sudden thought that I was about to be murdered. Just know that we both appeared inside a normal looking house, if somewhat messy and dimly lit. We were in a living room, judging by the table in front of me with an empty chair, and the person sitting at the other side of it.

    Alakazam calmly walked towards her and stood at her side, taciturn. As my eyes adjusted to the weak light of the room, I could finally make out the woman's appearance. And most importantly, I realized I knew exactly who she was.

    She leaned forward to greet me, and I found myself staring at a dead woman.

    -----------------------------------
    [Marie Levy Corenthal could only be described as a sharp woman, in every sense of the word. She carries herself with an air of intensity and professionalism that speaks of her experience as a journalist. She wears a beautifully-tailored black suit which doesn't look like it's been used more than a few times before. Her black, square-shaped glasses frame the bright, green eyes of someone constantly looking for answers.

    She's one of the most renowned journalists Kanto has ever known, with three Kinsey prizes under her belt on the categories of Public Service, Commentary and General Non-Fiction. Her qualifications are no less impressive: she's obtained degrees on Pokemon General Studies, Anthropology and Psychology, with a doctorate on Professional Journalism.

    Many cover-ups and conspiracies have been brought to light by her, only to be stripped of any kind of embellishment and shown for what they truly are. The last project she ever tackled was that of the Wysteria incident, her biggest challenge so far. Unfortunately, that investigation came to a halt rather quickly.

    Five months ago her house was found deserted, with the front door open and its lock torn apart. Neither Marie nor her trusted Alakazam were found and the only thing out of the ordinary were a few splatters of blood on the floor. She's been declared as missing and possibly dead ever since.

    She offers me a glass of water, not saying a word. Her Alakazam stands next to her, eyes set on me.

    We sit in silence for almost a minute before she speaks.]

    I'm sure you must have a lot of questions, miss Tulip. I hope you can start asking them soon.

    "S-sorry. I'm not sure where to begin; I'm not usually the one in this position during my interviews."

    [Marie forms an actual smile, a gesture which looks strangely out of place on the sharpness of her face.]

    I understand; being out of one's element can be scary at first. Case in point; a world-renowned journalist like me being forced to go into hiding and work with what little I have to solve the biggest conspiracy Kanto has ever known. Finding a proper place to begin can be… tricky.

    That was a cue for you to pick a first question, by the way. I made sure to give you plenty of options.

    [The way she says it, it almost sounds like she's attempting to tell a joke. Unfortunately her grim expression doesn't reflect that well.]

    "You kinda answered one of them already. I guess I'm… mostly confused as to what happened, and why you chose me to come here and meet you."

    That's a rather jumbled way to ask a question. A journalist should always keep their head cool and tackle even the strangest of situations with poise and professionalism. I'm guessing you're somewhat of an amateur when it comes to this?

    [There's a noticeable pause in the conversation. I raise an eyebrow.]

    "I thought I was the one asking questions, miss Corenthal."

    Of course; and very smart of you not to reveal personal information to someone you've just met. At least you still have a good sense of self-preservation; an important tool for any journalist to have.

    "If that's so, then why are you urging me to pry into your personal life?"

    See? That's the kind of questions you should be asking.

    Fortunately, I don't have the need to be cautious when it comes to my life anymore, for various reasons. I am safe in here, or as safe as anyone can be from them. You, on the other hand, seem to be in something of a complicated situation. Jumping from hotel to hotel, constantly on the run and with money running low… I can't see you lasting much longer out there.

    But that's a matter for later. Now, I'm sure you'd be interested in a few answers, as stale and unrewarding as they might be.

    "I would appreciate that."

    Well, there isn't much to say, to be honest.

    I'm sure you're aware of the last investigation project I took before my supposed disappearance. The Wysteria incident… to be honest it was something I'd always meant to take a look at, ever since I graduated for the first time. Unfortunately, I'd never found the right time for it. It all seemed so daunting a task… I suppose it wasn't until I became the most renowned journalist in Kanto that I realized no one else would do the job for me.

    As such, I began investigating with a small team of associates working under me. I took a different route than yours, mostly because I counted with the money and resources not to have to depend on telltale stories whose veracity was flimsy at best. I studied every government record, gathered every drop of solid information about the town and even went as far as to explore the abandoned place myself in search of any solid clue that might point me in the right direction.

    "Hold on. You didn't interview any of the ex-citizens of Wysteria? Wouldn't that be the logical place to start?"

    That's what every other journalist would've done, yes. But I'm not just any journalist, am I?

    First rule of the job, miss Tulip: people lie. Accounts of previous events told by people simply from their memories… well, I count them as third-grade evidence at best. Everyone has an angle or an agenda which prevents the flow of the truth throughout their stories. And falling short of that, our memories of what happened in the past aren't always as accurate as we remember.

    I went searching for solid, unmistakable evidence. And in the meantime left my associates the job to contact these people and ask relevant questions whenever they could, though I didn't make it a priority.

    "Judging by your current living situation, I'm guessing you've already come to the conclusion that you chose wrongly?"

    [She looks startled for a moment, as if my question had more edge than she was expecting.

    She lets out a low heh and lowers her hands to the table, fingers interlacing with each other. Her expression softens.]

    Maybe you do have it in you, after all.

    In any case, I doubt changing my approach towards the case would've helped much. With the resources I had, plus the people working under me, I did manage to get some answers. Not enough to paint the whole picture, but enough to show me the path towards the truth I'd been looking for.

    Unfortunately, that's as good as it got. Soon my associates began to… leave, en masse.

    "They disappeared?"

    No, that would've been way too obvious and it would've alerted the authorities. They made excuses and claimed that they couldn't work anymore in the project for 'personal reasons'. They asked for a paid leave and refused to hear anything I had to say in the matter. Every single one of them abandoned the investigation.

    "Do you think they were threatened? Did they ever approach you for those reasons?"

    I'm sure they were and no, I was never contacted by anyone suspicious. They must've known how firm my convictions were and that no amount of bribing or threatening would get me to abandon the case.

    So, knowing that, they decided to take more drastic measures to ensure my silence.

    "You were attacked in your own house. I read the reports."

    They were waiting for me to come back from work. Were it not for Alakazam's Future Sight I'm sure my remains would still be under some unmarked grave.

    [Without looking at him she raises one hand and places it on Alakazam's shoulder. A smile briefly appears under his mustache.]

    I was able to escape, as you can tell, and I've been living like… this, ever since.

    [She makes a gesture to encompass the whole room, a sour look on her face.

    I find it difficult to feel bad for her, considering the place looks better than any hotel I've ever been in, though I can understand how huge a change it must be for someone as rich as her.]

    Thanks to my dear Alakazam and some savviness on my part I've been able to transform this place into the perfect hideout. It is completely un-traceable from any kind of external threat and, as long as I remain here, no one will ever be able to find us.

    "Sounds… awfully boring, to be honest."

    I still have cable and internet, not to mention the beautiful forest outside. But… yes, it can get rather dull at times. I reckon I would've probably gone mad were it not for Alakazam's company.

    Besides, I still have a job to do. I haven't given up on my investigations about Wysteria and its mysterious benefactors. Which, coincidentally, brings me to the topic I'd been meaning to discuss ever since you set foot on my home.

    "And that would be?"

    Your entries.

    I've had lots of free time to do my research, miss Tulip, and the last thing I ever expected was for someone else to start from scratch after everything that's happened. Imagine my surprise a couple months ago when I found your first entry. The shock that an absolute nobody was able to secure an interview with one of Wysteria's ex citizens about an event whose history has been muddy at best.

    I dismissed it as a hoax at first. Anyone could sew a tale both entertaining and truthful sounding enough. However, every single detail included in that interview matched perfectly with the scattered clues I had collected over the years regarding the Harvest of '76. Not to mention Monika's fate mere days after you contacted her. I had to accept the fact that you were… well, I hesitate to use the word genuine, but at least somewhat serious about your investigations.

    Then came Horace's interview, and with it I became aware of just how amateur this so-called journalist was. I could begrudgingly respect your work in your first entry, but the second? It was just to pointlessly terrible I couldn't help but feel offended.

    [She must notice my expression. Something like shame flashes across her eyes for a moment before she clears her throat.]

    Not that I mean to imply anything negative about you yourself, Tulip. It's just…

    "What was so amateur about my second entry?"

    [I try to keep my tone neutral, though it's not hard to notice the venom bubbling underneath my voice. Marie hesitates before answering.]

    Honestly… where do I start?

    How about beginning the entry with details about your personal life? I don't care what kind of narrative you're trying to construct; the investigation isn't about you. Why would you tell your readers your recent hardships when all you should do is post your findings and call it a day? Do you believe scientists begin their papers by talking about how hard the past week has been?

    "My readers deserved to know that…"

    After that you decide to put yet another person in danger by describing the entirety of the interview instead of just writing the relevant information down and cutting down all the fat.

    Then, after all that, I still can't understand why you'd decide to interview this person at all. It's not like the situation with Monika where she was the only one present during those events. The church chorus incident has been well researched and there are tons of papers and transcripts which describe in detail everything that happened. Absolutely no new information was gained by getting the story from that poor man instead of doing research on your own.

    From all this I was able to gather the truth behind your little writing project. What you were after wasn't the truth, but a story. You wished to tell a tale befitting of the horrors of Wysteria and those pulling the strings of the city, turning the truth into a pill easy enough to swallow for most people. After all; government transcripts, long documents, police reports, all those can be quite dull to read. But a story? Now that's a surefire way to get an audience quickly.

    The signs were all there. Why else would you present your investigation in such an obviously theatrical manner? Naming each entry after a different kind of wisteria flower, using fancy and mysterious language, creating a fake name for yourself such as Tulip Glasslip… it was so transparently obvious.

    You weren't a journalist. You were an entertainer who just happened to weave a bit more truth into her tales than most.

    "If you're trying to imply that I'm doing this for my own benefit…"

    I didn't say that. Who knows; maybe there is a noble cause behind your methods. Maybe you do care about the truth and you just happen to have a heart for theatrics on top of that. It doesn't matter, it's not relevant to my point.

    My point is that your methods are both unprofessional and disrespectful towards those who had to suffer the horrors of Wysteria. You're making light of events that took the lives and sanity of many, and that I find unacceptable.

    [I'm unable to respond for some time. Silence spreads through the room, making it appear emptier than it is.]

    "I just wanted to tell the stories behind the truth. I wanted to give a voice to those who suffered because of… them. An opportunity to get that awful truth out of their chests and… I don't know. Feel like they did something about it, even if it was just… talking to me. After I lost…"

    [I stop myself, knowing that I'm about to say far more than it is prudent. A few more seconds pass in silence, until Marie speaks once more.

    Her voice lacks the anger it previously held.]

    I believe that your intentions aren't wicked, and I apologize if I went a little too far just now. It's just that journalism and the search for the truth is a topic I'm extremely passionate about. A topic that, perhaps, tends to let out the worst of me when I see someone not uphold the same ideals I have.

    After I read that second entry of yours… I'm not proud to admit that I acted rather childish and gave in to my own pettiness. I created the account of Pruner and wrote a few mysterious messages in your website, using a program to make it look as if they'd been written from the same places you were staying in. As cautious as you may be, Tulip, you aren't that hard to find for someone who knows what they're doing.

    [A smile manages to find its way to my lips.]

    "Those messages were painful to sit through. You really need to work on your poetry."

    [She smiles as well, even going so far as to let out a short laugh.]

    That's never been my strong suit, though I did the best I could with the material I had. I took inspiration from many… let's say frauds like the ones I believed you were emulating, and left intentionally cryptic and nonsensical messages for you to scratch your head over. I was pleasantly surprised to read that you didn't waste your time with them, when doing so might've helped you grow your audience. That was my first clue that you might not be as much of a fraud as I thought.

    "…Thank you? Uh, don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying this talk, but if your whole reason to invite me over was to lecture me on journalism ethics…"

    As hilarious as that would be, I'm not finished yet.

    When you uploaded your third entry, I decided to take a look at it more out of boredom and wounded pride than anything else. I couldn't have been more shocked as I read the beginning of the interview.

    Kate… that insufferable little brat. I could not believe my eyes; someone had really gotten her to talk?

    "I'm assuming you two know each other?"

    In a way. Much like Monika, she was a sole survivor of one of the many tragedies that took place near the town. If I wanted to learn the truth, or the closest thing to it, I knew I'd have to schedule an interview with her. It… didn't go well.

    At first she refused to even talk to my colleagues. Something about being sick of questions and inquisitive people. Then, after I leveraged in a rather generous amount of money in exchange for her time, she agreed. However she set forth the condition that she'd only talk to the one in charge of the investigation. I've never the greatest of interviewers, but I didn't seem to have many other options, so I accepted.

    I don't think it'd be exaggeration to call it a disaster. From the moment I set foot on her home it became clear our personalities didn't mesh well. She was rather defensive toward every question I asked and interruption I made, and I might've been just a bit too tactless when it came to approaching her story.

    In the end she told me to go **** myself, threw the money in my face and yelled at me to get out of her house. I haven't tried to contact her since; I simply gave up on that particular story.

    [It takes a monumental effort not to start laughing. Still, I believe she notices the way my lips curl upwards slightly.]

    "So… you're saying that you missed out on possible evidence because of your bad attitude and lack of empathy? And that I, an amateur journalist as you just called me, managed to secure and document it because I treated my interviewees like human beings with emotions and struggles of their own? Is that what I'm hearing?"

    Don't stroke your ego that much; you might end up blind. Being able to empathize and deal with teenagers is a talent, but nothing to be proud of.

    Still, I couldn't help but be impressed. On top of getting what I assume is the whole story, this one just happened to have new details about a certain part of Wysteria I've pooled much of my investigation towards.

    "You mean the tunnels."

    Tunnel, singular, but yes. It's one of the first things I ever discovered that no one else had, and to this day it remains one of the biggest mysteries concerning the town. To think you'd stumble into information about one of its entrances on accident… well, you can understand how that would've made me slightly bitter.

    I didn't believe you would actually go through with your trek to those hills, especially after learning how dangerous they were. Still believing you to be a hack, I decided to have some fun and wrote a few more spooky comments for when you got back. Thing is… you didn't, not for a while at least.

    You won't hate me for admitting I didn't believe your story at first, will you? Localized amnesia… sure, there are certain Pokemon capable of such a thing, but I simply thought it a lie you constructed so you wouldn't have to put yourself in danger. Until I read your transcript of the diary, that is.

    [I sigh, closing my eyes for a moment. This is getting rather old.]

    "Not to derail the interview, but is this just going to be a transcript of your reactions to my work and how you went back and forth from hating me to loving me to hating me again?"

    [Again she reels back, seemingly shocked by my nerve. I smile; she's the one who asked for it.]

    I... that's not... it...

    [The smile drops.]

    "…Never mind. You were saying?"

    Right… I apologize if I've been rather longwinded with my explanation. I simply wanted to express my views on your style of journalism and how I went from thinking you were a fraud to… reluctantly respecting you, I suppose. Especially concerning your last entry; would it be stepping out of line to ask if I could take a look at that video sometime? I'm not very good at realizing when my questions or requests are insensitive, you see.

    "It's fine. I have the file in my computer; you can take a look at it later. I just want to know the reason why you called me here."

    Of course. As I was saying; with every entry I became more aware of something that piqued my interest regarding your talents. You were, to put it lightly, determined to the point of short-sightedness. Normally this would be a fatal flaw for someone on our line of work, but still you continued to get answers and results despite your apparent lack of experience.

    It became clear that, as much of an amateur as you might be, you were also potentially useful to me.

    "…Useful?"

    It's the real reason I arranged this meeting. There's one question I'd like to ask you, before you consider standing up from that chair and leaving.

    Tulip, would you like to work with me?

    [A few seconds pass in silence. It becomes rather hard to find my own voice for a while.]

    "You want me to… work for you? As a journalist?"

    With me, not for me. After my recent failures and your growing list of successes… I doubt I'm in the position to look down at you.

    But yes, I would like us to become partners. I could use someone with your charisma and apparent disregard for their own safety when in pursuit of the truth. I've… become rather ill recently, my lungs don't work as well as they once did and I'm in no state to roam the region looking for answers. With you at my side, I might be able to gather information previously unavailable for me.

    "You'd accept to be partners just to send me towards danger like some kind of errand girl?"

    I'd have you do the things you were already planning on doing. The key difference is that you'd be getting paid for it.

    "Just being here with you is already putting both of us in danger. To keep in contact with you… I don't think any amount of money is worth that much risk to myself."

    By pay I didn't mean just money, you know. You'd be more than welcome to call this place your home; I have way too many empty rooms anyway. You'd be safe and guarded whenever you're not out there looking for the truth. I could also teach you the things I discovered; all that precious information about them you've been looking for. All of that would be yours if you simply accept.

    We might be able to find the truth if we work together, Tulip. Don't you think that's worth it?

    [I tap my pencil against my notebook erratically, a strange heat rising from my chest.]

    "…Why me, though? Even if we're investigating the same thing, why couldn't you hire someone else, someone who didn't know about Wysteria and have them do your dirty work? It'd be a lot safer for both of us. You do know I'm uploading this interview as soon as we're done, right? How will the world react to knowing that you're still alive? How will… they, react?"

    [A satisfied smile stretches across Marie's lips.]

    Tell me, how many readers do you have?

    "…What?"

    Your audience. In average how many people would you say read every entry you post?

    "Around forty, I guess? And at least a few usual commenters."

    There you have it. Do you really think anyone outside your audience will believe what you're writing? That maybe the local news anchors will pay attention to an apparent conspiracy nutjob's blog and believe her word that she knows where the famous Marie Corenthal is hiding?

    The only ones who will buy this story are your readers and… well, them. But then again they are already aware of us, aren't they? Posting this little interview won't make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

    And to answer your remaining question, about your employment… I wouldn't be comfortable hiring anyone who is not ready to die for the truth, like I am. You're the only person I know who qualifies, so I will ask you this one more time.

    Do you want to work with me?

    [This time I don't need to think about it for long.]

    "Fine, but with one condition."

    [She raises an eyebrow, amused, and smiles as she lets her cheek rest on her palm. The gesture looks out of place coming from her.]

    Do tell.

    "I won't change the format of my investigation, nor the way I write my entries. I understand your point of view, but I disagree in that I'm being disrespectful towards those I interview. They deserve their voices to be heard, not just their stories."

    Well, if that's what it takes. In exchange for accepting that though, I'd like to ask you two questions.

    "What is it?"

    First; what is your history with Wysteria? I know someone determined when I see them, but I don't think what compels you to seek the truth is the truth itself, like with me.

    [I freeze for a moment, feeling as if the room has grown colder.]

    "They took something from me. That's all I can say; sorry."

    [She nods absentmindedly, as if she was already expecting that kind of answer.]

    My second question is… what should I call you? You don't need to use that ridiculous pen name anymore; you'll be safe here from now on. It won't matter if people know who you are.

    "I… think I'd rather stick with Tulip. I've grown to like it, and it's not like I have a use for my old name anymore."

    Well… if you insist.

    [She pushes herself of the table and extends an arm towards me, expecting me to shake her hand.

    I can't help but smile. Letting my pen and notebook rest on top of the table I stand up and shake her hand. It's firm and callused, as expected.]

    Welcome to the team, miss Tulip. It's a pleasure.

    "The pleasure is mine, miss Corenthal."

    -----------------------------------
    I've been living in Marie's home for a few days now.

    It's been… nice, so to speak, though not as relaxing as I expected. For a woman her age she has way more energy than I would've guessed, and as such we usually stay until late hours of the night exchanging the information we've been able to gather and discussing theories and what to do next. I've barely gotten a wink of sleep lately.

    Still, it's nice to feel like I'm making progress again. Marie might be able to open doors previously locked for me. The truth feels closer than ever, or so I think.

    I might go silent for a while. We need to be careful and plan the next steps of our investigation. Until then, I must say goodbye.

    I'll come back with a new entry whenever I can. Thank you all for sticking with me.

    Tulip Glasslip.

    -----------------------------------
    Author Notes: This is the end of Season 1 of The Wysteria Files. It's been a long and entertaining road, and I hoped everyone enjoyed it as much as me. Unfortunately the second season might come a little late, since I'm planning to take a break from this story for a while. I'll definitely come back to it, but I need to plan the second season and also just... rest. Two long fics at once can be rather tiring. Still, thanks to everyone who's been reading this story!
     
  16. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Well, this is certainly an interesting way to wrap up your first series. I can see influences, conscious or not, from a lot of serial media dealing with this kind of thing, where at a certain point at the end of a series a determined outsider ends up confronting some kind of larger entity – either another, more established investigator, or sometimes the object of their investigation itself – and accepts an offer to join it. That kind of thing can be spun several different ways; in this case, it looks like it's going to lead into a kind of ramping up of the story onto another level. Which is good! Because as much fun as this set of interviews has been, there comes a point in a story like this where the initial allure of the format starts to wear off a little, and from then onwards it's important that there be a sense that all this raking through mysteries actually achieved something, and that it's not just one long endless quest without any gains. It definitely feels like Tulip's achieved something here. Maybe it might have been nice to learn slightly more about her in this finale – and maybe have slightly more action; like, Marie's story focuses very much on things we already know about Tulip rather than, say, the looming threat of the agents putting pressure on her earlier investigation – but like, we do learn one very important thing about her motivation, and that's enough to whet my appetite for more next time.

    Which, you know, take your time with that; I usually write two projects at once myself, and it's tiring stuff. I'm sure I speak for all your readers when I say we'll be waiting patiently!

    Finally, as ever, here are a few last bits and pieces:

    Technically that's correct, but it's a bit of an odd usage of 'accord'. “Agreed-upon” or “specified” would be more natural, while still maintaining Tulip's usual detached tone.

    “Miss” ought to be capitalised here. That also happens when Tulip addresses Marie as “miss Corenthal”, too.

    Nice phrasing, but I think that should be a colon rather than a semicolon.

    “Speaks to” is the usual phrasing, though again I think “speaks of” is kinda technically correct as well.

    That should be “question”, singular.

    I'm not quite sure what “counted” is meant to mean here. I think you mean something along the lines of “I had the money and resources, etc”, but I don't see how “counted” fits into that.

    There should be a hyphen in there: “ex-citizens”.

    “On accident” makes sense as vernacular English, and if it were another character I wouldn't comment on it, but someone who speaks with Marie's level of elocution would probably go for the more grammatically correct “by accident”, I think.

    That should be “On average” there.

    I think that “of” might be meant to be “off”.

    So! Congratulations on bringing this to a conclusion, of sorts. I guess that gives me a chance to get caught up on some of your other stuff. :p
     

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