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The Glitch in Number 104
Author's note: I have to give all the thanks in the world to the people who read my snippets as the story came together. Without you I would have lost motivation after the third sentence. I want to also thank the artist arvalis, on for being the inspiration to my hopefully realistic fictional world. (His work, it's really cool)
Dispatch said that there was a possible two killed in the slums near Blackthorn City. Killer is still at large and either under the influence of every steroid known to man or another monster who didn't want to be someone else's dinner. I hate Blackthorn city, hate everything about it; I hate the people, I hate the fact that they have a ration on alcohol, and I hate every memory I have of the place. I guess retracing my own steps along with another killer is a nice enough metaphor, but I just want to get this over with.
The seat next to me is empty save for the moon light flashing through pillars, each one a monument to every different Pokémon species that gave -- or were forced -- to serve their region for the greater good of their captors. I can't look at those red and white capsules the same anymore, even though I rarely even get to see them these days. I guess only a war survivor would be happy that the government would restrict its use. I guess someone too tired to fight another war would submit to another backstab. I've lost count of how many pillars I've past at this point but they blink for me. I feel in sync with the road, the flashes of light like the explosions of my past, and like the so many lives that ended.
The gravel crunches submissively as I drive to the house. I see two camera lights flash through a window. I guess I'm late. I close my car door and pocket the keys, walking blind but with a complete memory of this place. The door is already open and the corpses are crumpled on the wooden floor near the kitchen. The white contrasted by the maroon blood, dried and absent of the life it once possessed.
"Sir, this is a police area. Please leave unless you have permission to enter the house"
Some rookie with glasses too big for his face looks up to me timidly, his skin so pale I could print an obituary on it. I keep walking and flash him my badge, and to make sure he pisses off for the rest of my visit I show him the other seven. The kid beats it to some dark corner, making no contact with anyone else as we collectively hover above the bodies.
Ah yes, the bodies, two of them. One male, one female. Both around early forties, no ID on the bodies but unless this was a failed breaking and entering there's got to be a nametag somewhere. I examine the woman's body first. She had on a cashmere sweater, and three fourths of a pair of jeans. Her left leg had been yanked from its socket and hurled at what I will assume to be her husband. I looked over at the husband and then did a double take, my mind suddenly blank. The man's head was about three feet in the opposite direction of where the body was, and his eyes weren't closed.
I look around and find that rookie, I point to him, "Hey you, has anybody figured out how these two actually died yet? Or are we looking at some f*ed up foreplay?". The Rookie looks at me in disgust and spits out, "They had a kid, he's also missing. Show some respect you ass hole! First responders said it may have been a kitchen knife or a really, REALLY blunt machete, either way the murder weapon left the crime scene along with the perp".
Nausea takes over my body and I grab for the table top, barely escaping a tumble between the male's head and his respective body. Almost mechanically my hands fish for a cigarette, and almost within a blink I feel the smoke hitting my lungs. It took me five hits before I finally calmed down, and by then the photographers were yelling at me to put that out so that they could do their jobs. I started to feel myself drift to that awful place deep inside of me so I quickly and silently extinguish the butt with my thumb, the pain was red hot and blinding.
I was totally stumped by this. The place did look like there was an obvious scuffle, but this didn't match the MO of Team Rocket, and there was no looting. I leave the living room and explore the rest of the house, hoping to find more clues as to why this family's life was cut short.
There was a long, dark hallway past the living room, one of which was colorfully decorated by glow in the dark Voltorbs and Blazikens. This must have been the kids room, I think while checking my belt for my flashlight. My flash light illuminates the room and I see three things that cause me to become uncomfortable again. There was a blood trail, two bloody foot prints and a streak of maroon that stretched from the left side of the bed and continued to the open window. There was also a splintered bookshelf, seemingly smashed in two, with piles of books and posters gently rustling as the continuous breeze rolled in through the window. And finally, I heard a whimper from under the kid's bed.
All of a sudden I hear from behind me, "HE'S FOUND THE KID!" and I can only step aside before the entire police force stampedes in with blankets and bed time stories. The kid was more than startled by the sudden entourage, he almost broke down twice in a row. Everyone was trying to stop this kid from crying, trying to squeeze out something other than tears from this kid's head, hoping that they could figure out which crazy ex wife or ex boy friend payed the family a visit. He only said one word the entire time, repeated over and over again, "toothless". I shake my head and make my way out of the death house, past the two bodies and out the front door. The neighbors were all outside, all of them probably trying to make up a story that would end in them receiving money from the government. Selfish, all of them. In my time in this city I learned one thing, everyone here was a venomous leech who would rather suck the blood out of their first born child than barter for a penny less. I see a nearby market place with a neon sign that said, "Dodrio sandwiches half off with any cocktail". I guess I know where I'll be conducting the interviews.
The place was called the trucker's inn, or at least that what the sign said after you recovered from the blinding purple lights. It was creaking back and forth, in rhythm to the rocking chairs set up, each one supporting the weight of some eighty year old vegetable. Damn place was sweltering too, they couldn't even be bothered to open a window. No matter, according to some rusted sign the beer is cold, so at least they have their priorities straight.
I couldn't even sit down however without people coming up to me asking me if I knew what happened to the family. I did get their names, Angela and Jake Monroe, been in the city for twenty years and had their kid around ten years back. I peered through the spaces of the bobbing crowd and found a man standing near the entrance, I think he had been waiting for me. A waiter comes up to me and I order the hardest thing they've got, a Bacardi one-five-one, and ask for them to leave the bottle. She, the waitress, looks at me suspiciously and I tell her I saw the bodies, she leaves for a moment and comes back with the bottle and a regular glass.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
The man from the corner has gotten around to sitting down, but he's already fidgeting, and he's already getting on my nerves. I stay quiet for a moment longer, I want him to feel as uncomfortable as possible, so that he'll preferably spill the beans a lot faster; I down a shot and mid throat burn croak out,
"I'm assuming you’re a grieving neighbor?"
"Yes sir, that's right. I knew Angela since grade school, hell I baby sat her first kid before the war"
"First kid? I'm assuming you aren't talking about the kid we found hiding under his bed at the crime scene…the ten year old"
The man gasps, taking in what I threw at him, "Oh god, he was there?" tears start flowing from his eyes for some reason, I didn't see any blood on him so I doubt he was confessing. I down another shot, the burning sensation feels like someone burrowed into my throat and put out a lit cigarette where they saw red.
"Yeah, like I said I found him under his bed. Blood stains were close by and the window was open. We couldn't get anything other than 'toothless' out of him. Did they have a pet?"
It felt weird saying pet, it felt out of place. Those "Pokémon" were outlawed around here, being in possession of one without the proper paper work would guarantee a fine worth more than what they made in a year.
"Gosh I don't know", said the man, "They started to keep to themselves a few weeks ago". The man pauses and adds, "about a week after the raid".
Of course, the raid, it all made sense now. Smugglers had a site nearby where they would bring Pokémon, selling them to the highest bidder -- normally upper class business men who would put the Pokémon to work in factories as manual labor. Occasionally they would bribe the locals to keep quiet by giving them the less desirable ones, and so the tell tale sign of a smuggler zone was seeing Pokémon like Bidoof or Nidorino. Of course the locals themselves were the biggest problem, having a Pokémon was a symbol of pride, and so it was unheard of for a Pokémon owner to go a week without flaunting their living bribe. In this case the smuggling checkpoint was located near a mountain that had been bombed to smithereens during the war. The Pokémon that used to inhabit it had all been captured and put to work in factories or simply slaughtered, sold as a delicacy. Of course, ask a local and they'd still be convinced that the mountain was haunted -- even I used to believe it; the noises and moans that used to come from that hole were just sound effects, as I recently found out.
The raid was coordinated by the Johto region's government, in response to recent reports than several other regions had experienced serious smuggling rate increases. Ten men were sent in with a squad of Lucarios and Onyxs. This was essentially a blow through op, send in the Pokémon to kick the hornets' nest, "disable" a few smugglers and hopefully not kill anyone or anything. In this case there were six smugglers and about three hundred eggs being transported. Another thing I learned that day was that Onyxs and fragile eggs in a dark room mix like a running blender and a porcelain plate. The Onyxs had gone in without waiting for the Lucarios to use flash, so for the first few minutes all we could hear was the sound of eggs getting squashed and smugglers finding out what a four hundred and sixty pounds of unforgiving rock moving at forty miles an hour felt like. We didn't even have to use our guns.
We calculated that around two hundred and eighty four eggs were destroyed, many of them worth upwards to three thousand dollars. It was a waste, especially from the industries perspective, but if they want Pokémon they should have caught them fairly like everyone else had to…before the war. Regardless, ten eggs had gone missing, and one of my squad mates pointed out that around thirty eggs had been hatched prior to us raiding the place. It could have been a big deal, with a lot of black tape involved, if we couldn't recall all the Pokémon so we scrambled to find all thirty.
We found twenty six, mostly Squirtles and Charmanders -- a factory owners favorite two Pokémon, and a few undesirables. Two were found dead, both were Pikachus. I remember jokingly saying that Johto Power would be mad that they couldn't kill these two themselves, I also remember not hearing any laughter. There were two missing, possibly alive, and with no index or catalogue we had to tell our superiors that the two that got away were killed and eaten by the villagers. It helps when the city you raid is the ass end of the entire region. That was how my life used to be after the war, stop smuggling rings, shoot a few people, shoot a few of those monsters and drink a lot. It wasn't perfect but it helped me settle back into civilian life, and now it seems my past has come back to haunt me. Perfect.
The man had been kind enough to wait for me to come back from memory lane. I think he tried to look at the half empty bottle next to me, or maybe my badges, regardless he went back to being finicky soon after I regained my composure.
"You were saying?"
Squints, that's his name now until he tells me different, jolts back in his seat. Dear god this guy startles easier than a baby playing peek-a-boo. He blushes and sheepishly continues,
"Anyway, I was actually the one who reported the incident. I was at home…alone, and I heard screams coming from their house"
"Now when you say alone, I'm assuming you weren't being a peeping tom"
"Of course sir, I'm a law abiding citizen in every sense of the word. Now as I was saying, once the commotion ended I ran to their front door and…"
"So you were the only one who reported it in?"
"No, me and another neighbor called"
"All right, I'll talk to him slash her next. Were they close with the victims?"
"She was inseparable with the child. I think she also lost her children during the war"
"Well, if war is good for anything, it's for making bastards out of kids or widowers out of women."
I take another shot of the Bacardi, pause, and continue, "Can I ask you one last thing mister…"
"Vinny, Vinny Cera"
"Cera with a 'C'?"
"No, Zera, with a Z"
I take out a small note pad in my right pocket and write it down, I underline the 'Z' a couple times and get the rest of his information. Vinny gave me the information also for where I might find a Ms. Summer. Odds are she was at the precinct nearby crying into one of those federal tissues, I should be able to hear her from the entrance. Begrudgingly I thank Mr. Zera and tip the waitress a few dollars. As she turns to put the money near the register I grab the Bacardi and wade through the gossiping people.
The music on the radio was some pop song, it was too happy. And to make it worse it was about love. I listen to it however because I know my partner used to love those songs, they'd always make his ears perk up and he'd always be in a good mood afterwards. And now it's just an empty seat listening to this garbage. I place the bottle of Bacardi in his seat, being careful now when I make a turn to not roll the bottle onto the floor and into oblivion. The police head quarters shouldn't be that far away now.
Going over the information once more I know a couple of things for sure, and I can speculate a hell of a lot more now. One of the two Pokémon that hatched didn't get eaten by the locals, it was instead kept by the only smart family here -- or at least smart until the topic of decapitation shows up. I also know that either way the family dying was my fault, one way or another. I made another son a bastard today it seems. I'd feel sorry for him, and part of my rusted heart tries to pull a few heart strings for the boy, but I know I'm all out of f*s to give at this point. And that's where the final fact comes in, once I solve this case -- or it is solved for me -- I'll take a one way trip to the cemetery. I'll take a one way trip back to my friends, back to him, back to when life wasn't about fighting for an extra bean or counterfeit rare candy. I wish I had died that day.
Police vans drive past me with their sirens blaring, out of habit I say, "it's all right boy, they aren't looking for us just yet". The Bacardi bottle rolls back and forth in the seat complacently. I see the headquarters nearby, so I stop the car and turn the lights out. In one smooth motion I toss the Bacardi bottle out the window and reach for the breathalyzer. I'm just below the legal limit, so I guess that the Truckers Inn also sells cheap booze. Typical. I turn the lights back on and drive to the entrance. Like clockwork Ms. Summers' cries of anguish can be heard, with brief pauses in between each sniffle into those ugly blue tissues. On the bright side this will be the first time I enter this place without either someone or myself to be booked for some illegal activity.
An officer who was obviously tired of hearing a distraught woman crying grabs me by the shoulder,
"State your official business and identification"
"You got it backwards there buddy. Name is Charles Dillinger by the way and I'm a detective investigating the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Monroe"
I "politely" shrug his hand off my shoulder and head towards Ms. Summer, who was as inconsolable as the kid was. She turns to me and amidst the mascara tears and ripped hair I caught a glimpse of a total beauty. Doing my best to maintain my chivalrous nature -- I assure you -- I pull up a chair right next to her, cross my legs, and wait for her to calm down long enough to hear me over the beating of her own heart.
"Ms. Summer, yes. I'm sorry for all the commotion, it's just so horrible"
God damnit you KNEW it was miss why the hell did you say misses? Hopefully I can play it off like it's no big deal, after all more lives are supposedly at stake,
"It's understandable, I hear that you were close with the Monroe family" I pause, watching her slow down her sobs, "that you were close with their kid"
She looks at me for a moment before looking back down at her stockings, torn from agony no doubt, "Yes, I love little Gary so much. He was always such a sweet heart, like his --" she pauses and tears form, hovering for a moment before taking the familiar trails down to her chin. I watch them drop for a moment before continuing,
"A Mr. Zera said that the family had been keeping to themselves a little while after the raid, did you contact them at all during this period?"
"I babysat Alex the day after the raid. Normally they just let me in, with the door unlocked, but this time when I tried to open the door I found it was locked"
"Mhm, so soon after the raid they did start keeping to themselves"
"Well, after I knocked they explained that they were just changing and didn't want to let the cold air in. It did seem suspicious though because I noticed after they left that they had locked their bedroom door also"
"Did you hear anything unusual coming from their room?"
"I thought I hear footsteps, but it just as easily could have been Alex. It couldn't have been a mugger then, because they didn't report anything stolen, even after I told them"
"So you confronted them?"
"I guess I did, they reassured me it was nothing to worry about though. I left it be, what else could I do?"
"I understand. Now, I'm going to ask you a question that may seem absurd but I'll explain my reasoning after you answer it"
"Do you think the Monroe family was working for a Pokémon smuggling group? Possibly Team Rocket or Team Magma?"
She looked stunned, almost like a Pompeii corpse, I could tell she had never even considered that this harmless family could be part of something so bleak. But then again, money is money no matter how much blood follows suit.
"N-No, I never even considered that. I know that some other families did accept bribes to hide Pokémon, but they never really hid them you know? They would flaunt it like they were all of a sudden from Kalos."
"All right, one last question. Then I'll see if these guys can let you go…do you know if the Monroe family was in any kind of debt?"
This definitely flustered her, her already raw cheeks got red to such an extent I thought she had third degree burns. Still, I guess she figured finding the killer was worth giving me the latest gossip,
"Well, not that it was ever any of my business but I heard that Jake has been unemployed for quite some time and lost most of his money in a bad investment. Rumor had it that Angela had to sell their wedding bands to make rent. Of course little Alex never knew any of it, and the only reason the rumor started was because Jake got drunk one night and was inconsolable for about an hour."
I write down as much of what she said as I can, thank her for her time, and make plans to head over to the nearest Pokémon Center. Hopefully there I will be able to put all the pieces together, figure out what killed the Monroe couple, and hell maybe I'll even pay a visit to my old friends. I'll be seeing them soon after this is finished anyway, it would be rude of me not to.
I get back in my car and press down on the pedal, for a brief exhilarating moment I feel my foot hit the floor as the car roars to life like an arcanine. Arcanines, I remember those, they were real life savers during the winter. Of course, there was nothing more obvious to a sniper than melted snow or a black cloud of smoke, but we took our chances with that like we took our chances with booze and cigarettes. I figure smoking a cigarette at night was more deadly than huddling near one of those things during the day, and of course every few months the geeks would give us new gadgets to keep us safe. Everything from a black light protector for a charmander's tail to rubber suited vaporeons were field tested on the front lines. But in the end we were just as useful for experimentation as the Pokémon. They tried to poke you with a needle every time you'd even set foot in a rec hall, it got to the point that to earn your pay you had to consent to "vaccinations". I don't know what the effects were, I never felt different, but I heard the side effects were as grisly as stepping on a land mine. Maybe they were trying to breed a super soldier, or a super Pokémon? It was never important to me and my squad, we just wanted to survive. And sadly only I was able to crawl out of that fox hole. Here we go, the Pokémon center, hopefully they have an index inside.
As I entered the building, I couldn't help but think that despite the assured esteem the center had it was as much a pile of crap as everything else in this city. But right next to the nurse department I saw the sign saying "functional Pokémon identification system" so I simply strolled through. Usually using the machine costs five dollars, but here it cost ten, I can't even say I'm surprised at how desperate these people are for money. I have just enough money to pay for three uses and a bottle of beer, so I had better use my three wishes wisely.
I look back at my notes from the crime scene and the interview: there was a flash of light before the cameras even got there, there was a thigh bone missing, separated upper head with lower neck, possibly a Pokémon from another area since it was smuggled in. Probably feral. All right, now assuming that the officers have yet to find the victim's thigh bone, the killer probably has a use for it. So maybe the Pokémon evolved, and his instincts kicked in? I don't think it could be a canine Pokémon though, the head was ripped, not bitten off. No, this Pokémon evolved and immediately became either aggressive or incredibly frightened, killed the Monroes but spared the kid's life. Oh wait, the kid said toothless, that's probably the Pokémon's nickname, in which case it can't be a Mightyena or a biting Pokémon in general. Well that rules out a bunch of suspects but makes it even more confusing. All right let's see what we get.
I sort through the identification tabs, marking down the region of interest, evolution patterns, and resting position. In the kids room there were two sets of foot prints and a third one down the middle, so it could have a tail or just dragged the thigh bone behind him. I put down mountainous terrain, since Blackthorn city is right next to one, and hit show results.
Six Pokémon show up, and already I can eliminate a few of them. Obviously the Pokémon evolved but doing so without making it too obvious to people nearby. Knowing this, the killer couldn't have been a Charizard of Tyranitar, because they'd have broken through the house and destroyed everything else in their path. Like they did during the war. I doubt it's A Primape, unless they can punch someone's head off. They do have a habit of getting angrier and angrier, but if that's the case someone would have heard it going ape s***. Only one Pokémon is left that could be the killer. Pokémon number one hundred and five, Marowak. The tab on the Marowak species describes them as a savage Pokémon that has gotten over its mother's death. But if that was the case, why kill the Monroes? Maybe the Marowak was originally a Cubone that imprinted after being rescued? Not to mention, they do carry big bones with them as a weapon. Maybe a thigh bone would suffice? I remember learning that the human thigh bone is stronger than concrete, I guess that's why bases of operation during the war were hidden under grave yards. Extra protection is a bonus no matter what. Still, the Marowak is my best lead, it uses a bone as a weapon, it's aggressive, small enough and quiet enough to have not raised suspicion, hell it doesn't even look like it has teeth. All right then, I'll talk to the kid, show him a picture and ask if the killer looked like that. Open and shut…hopefully.
I check one last thing before I make my way outside, where I could find Marowaks in the wild. Only one possible choice was left, the old Safari zone. I heard it got bombed soon after the war started, and that most of the captive Pokémon escaped. Maybe the smuggled Pokémon were their kids? But it makes no difference really, a bullet travels as it pleases, and so does destiny.
There's just one more thing I need to do before I call it a night, head over to the memorial. I haven't made the trip since I got out of the army, I've made so many excuses for not going I started running into repeats. But better late than never. The potholes were still there, and no grass has grown since the shelling, even after all these years. But that didn't matter, what mattered was how vandalized the hollow slab was.
The first thing I thought when I parked my car was how unlikely it was that no one had vandalized the memorial since the war, after all people rightfully hated the war and what the memorial stood for. The slab was so dark that it almost blended into the night sky, but I remembered every second of my first time up here so I knew where to find the match box. In one swift motion I swipe the match and watch as the names come back to life. They shimmer and flicker, a ghostly marker of the corpse immortalized in writing. Immortalized on an erodible rock. I drop the match down the tiny slot on the top and watch as the oil inside ignites.
My eyes are already where their names are, and as the inscription lights up I read their names under my breath, "John Dwayne, Max Phelps, Larry Giovanni". They were my best friends during the war, a mismatched, rag tag group sent to the front lines to dwindle the enemies' ammo supply. Cannon Fodder. We weren't supposed to live long enough to even get to know each other. We weren't supposed to care about anyone but ourselves. But I guess we weren't the machines our government wanted us to be, and their compassion led to their death. And mine as well.
They left me to grieve, and in the chaos they themselves left me. As I dug the grave of my friend, five corpses fell in. And amidst the bodies that day I saw my own lifeless eyes, my own tattered clothes, my rage cremating the corpses strewn around me. I heard the shots as they rang out, saw the flashes of yellow light as the night sky erupted into day light, and then nothingness seeped through. Without even seeing them, I knew. I knew what had happened. And sweet vengeance was in the air, with the smell of blood and beautiful roses.
I had never loved anybody as much as my Blaziken. He was the first, the only friend I had to keep me company during the vicious cycle of divorce. I spent more time with him than I did with my own family. He was my family. The only family that mattered. So when the time came for me to go to war, to fight for my region, for the good of the people, the family enlisted. I was smiling when I signed, and I'm sure if Blaziken could have signed he'd have also felt the same patriotic glee a young nationalistic child could feel. We were shipped off together, and despite the rigorous trials of boot camp, us being together made the darkness around us seem a little less...well dark. Over time I gained rank, became proficient in slaying my fellow man in a number of different ways. I knew how to cut them, how to bleed them, how to make them cry out to their mother, and I slowly became more machine than human. Blaziken resisted at first, back home he was the most peaceful creature around, but the shouts and indignation finally got to him; by the time we were to see our first day of combat he had already become a blood thirsty monster. And so our childhood was taken willingly by our fickle humanity, fooling us into thinking country and state overruled the value of a life.
Our first battle was in a jungle. A forest fire had set in, and while several Pokémon on both sides played a tug of war with the flame, I fired into the fray wildly. Woeful abandon controlled my trigger finger, my whole body felt uneasy without the constant vibrations of a gun. I had run out of ammunition too quickly, and my body had started shaking violently to cope with the lack of metal I was pounding into enemy skulls. I saw three soldiers nearby running away from the fire, their eyes were so wide I was afraid they'd drop off. I called to them to take cover near me, they didn't even turn to look at me they just automatically shuffled to the sound of my shouting. Ammunition and pleasantries were exchanged, and soon the familiar explosion and rocking back of my shoulder was back. I felt complete once more. Blaziken had been burning everything within sight this entire time, it had gotten to the point that the only patch of green left was beneath his feet. I call to him and immediately he stop reigning hell fire, I could almost see the memory of home come back to his eyes for a moment. I shouted at him to use flamethrower, and the final enemy encampment was suddenly a light show amidst the dead leaves and bullet casings. Blaziken watched the bodies flail around, watched as two soldiers climbed out of the fox hole -- skin blistering off -- and did the dance of death. I could tell he felt an almost orgasmic sense of glee in his accomplishment, in taking the lives of his species' captors. I never once worried about my own safety until that day, counting on what was left of our humanity to keep us afloat in the blood of those we killed.
The three soldiers who were by my side were put into a squad with me -- my old squad reduced to ash before I had even gotten there. I learned their names on the ride back and a little bit about who they were in their past life. John Dwayne was a would be petty thief who shoplifted one too many stores, he assured me that he didn't steal from friends though; I tapped my pockets every time I left a room with him in it from then on. Max Phelps was a swimmer with a rare candy addiction, he had been nabbed after nearly overdosing on a mixture of rare candy powder and paint thinner. He had lost all the fingers necessary to perform self love on his left hand. He jokingly used to say that his left arm was a twig, while the other a log. He wasn't wrong. Larry Giovanni was the son of a smuggler and drug lord. Although he was the one who exposed his father's dirty dealings, the police sent him to the army because of a string of bullshit misdemeanors -- or at least that's what he told us. Why our government thought we would make a good squad was beyond me, we were all broken goods to a varying degree. Still, company was a rare form of comfort, and eventually my family of two gained three new members.
We fought together and ate together, we had each other's backs and helped each other grieve. They had all come with their own Pokémon too, but none had survived by the time they met me. I could still see the hurt in their eyes, even though they tried to not show it. They'd sometimes make small mistakes, calling out to their lost friend, preparing extra food or silverware. Everyone else would play it off, say it was no big deal, empathetically crying in the same boat. These mistakes happened so frequently I feared our tears would eventually sink our solitary ship. And for me, every night became a sleepless night, knowing full well the chances of both Blaziken and I surviving this war were next to none. We became distant because of this, preparing for the inevitable grieving, and so once again my family began to tear itself apart.
The last day we lived was a week before negotiations were going to take place. Fighting had boiled over and erupted as each region tried to win the war before admitting a shared failure. Flames rolled in through city slums, riots broke out, innocent people who wanted nothing to do with conflict were once again vacuumed into their graves. And on this day I lost my family, and myself.
We were fighting in Blackthorn city, the enemy region wanted control of the nearby mountain to set up an anti air operating system. We were firing down on them as wave upon wave of man and Pokémon ascended, bodies piling up at the bottom like drops of water. We eventually were overrun, and as the forces atop the hill ran down my squad and I took a separate route. We hid in a nearby canopy, waiting until it was dark out so we could run back to base. We hid until we couldn't see or feel ourselves or each other, evaporating. Everything was going perfectly, but Phelps accidentally sprung a friendly booby trap. I didn't realize it at first, even after his leg flew past my face and was once again enveloped by the pitch black. I didn't even realize what had been going on after Blaziken and the other dragged me into a nearby ditch. It was only after I saw Phelps's body in the tree above us did it finally click. He was still squirming, and even though we didn't dare move for fear of further giving away our position, we silently made plans to rescue him. Then we heard the branches begin to snap.
His body had gone into shock from the explosion, and from looking up between the blood spurts I could see that both his left and hand was obliterated. Whatever remained was curled outwards and blackened. He tried to call to us, but we only heard coughs as he struggled to spit out the blood filling up his lungs. I looked at Blaziken and we shared a mutual understanding that either one of us could have triggered the mine, and that our life's flame was still a short exhale away from being snuffed out. Our mortality was staring us down as we peered blankly into the void. I couldn't even see my hand, I couldn't even tell if my eyes were open or closed, but I knew it wasn't me up in the tree so I was going to be okay. Or so I thought.
Of course if an explosion goes off during the night a squad is dispatched to figure out what set it off. Normally a Dodrio or wandering Abra will set it off, but on the off chance that whatever was left of the soldier remained then we'd have to pick up any and all intelligence. We had all hoped our enemy had forgotten this, had overlooked protocol in favor of celebration, but the dominos had already been put into place.
Suddenly three cones of light lit up the area of the jungle we had been hiding in. Suddenly my world began to vibrate as bullets whizzed past us while we scrambled back towards the darkness. I felt something wet hit the back of my head as I continued running, and I thought for a moment that I had been shot through the head. I peered behind me and saw Blaziken hunched on the ground, clutching his gut, head scraping the foliage. Without thinking I backtracked to him and picked him up, I wasn't ready to say good bye. I somehow managed to dodge the incoming fire and find my remaining squad members, who had found cover behind a nearby tree. They helped take Blaziken off my shoulders and set him against the tree trunk. I didn't have to use a flashlight to see the wound was fatal. If I had poked my finger through the wound I would have felt wet bark. The moment we both knew would come had come, and no amount of preparation could have prepared me for our final moments together. He only had enough strength to lift one eye half open, and manage an awkward half smile through his beak. In that instant we were both transported back to when we first met, back to when life was a simple question of what was I going to do that day. Not who was I going to say goodbye to. I was a kid again hugging him for the first time, I was a teenager again watching him lose his feathers and evolve into a combustion, and I was an adult watching him become the Blaziken he is today. And now I am a casket waiting to be filled by his corpse.
No words were uttered. No one breathed. All eyes were on us. And yet I felt totally alone, already beginning to isolate myself from reality, my anchor cut. I hugged him until he went cold, hugging him as hard as I could as if doing so could reverse time. I would have sacrificed everything then to have one more day with him, I would have given my own life for him to live. And so the second domino fell.
I couldn't think clearly for a long time. I couldn't feel my body but I knew it was moving independent to my broken mind. I was standing up over his corpse, I was standing up and running. Where was I running to? Where is everybody? I see four silhouettes etched into a nearby tree and make a mad dash towards the light creeping between the scrambled branches. I come across the four with their backs turned, towards a pile of bodies. Between the arms of the soldiers I saw the faces of my squad, plastered onto the corpses on the ground. And that was it, I had truly lost everything then and there. And before my time was up I knew I would make them pay, make them suffer, send to a hell that would seem like heaven compared to what I'd do to them. I'd break their god damn necks at a snail's pace, tenderize their fingers with my teeth, draw blood from them like a bucket to a well. I would become the night that would cover their bodies for an eternity.
In one smooth motion I pick up a nearby branch and slam it, pointed edge first, right through the back of one soldier's neck. It nudges to the side after hitting the spinal cord but lodges itself at a downward angle in his throat. Amid the chokes and sputters of blood, the cone of light violently shakes, the other soldiers look around but I am invisible yet in plain sight. Another soldier turns his back to me and between the trees where I was hiding I smash a pistol magazine through his teeth into his mouth, muffling his terrified screams. And with the care of a surgeon I make his neck turn to a ninety degree angle, I could almost make out the imprint on the magazine by the time I was done with him. Two were down, two to go.
I let the body drop to the ground and watched as the remaining two soldiers jump back in sheer terror. Their footsteps are soft on the grass, but I was running with them in their hysterical minds, and even a deaf man could hear their hearts beat. Suddenly the cone of light froze and shifted, and I knew where they were. They had found the catalyst of their demise. Soundlessly, without so much as a whisper from the trampled grass, I crept up on them. To them I must have seemed like some crazed beast, some wild animal in human form, but I was quite the opposite; I had been trained to be a killing machine at boot camp, and that was what I had been reduced to. I had descended from the path of humanity, unrecognizable even as the most horrendous beast. My sole purpose in this life now was to kill and take pleasure in doing so, my reward simply that of blood. So as I approached both of them, licking my lips with each snivel and sob, I thought about their families. I thought about how marvelous it would be when the ones who love them watch a closed casket make the six foot trip to hell. I thought about how delicious it would be that these people will be so far from recognizable when I'm through with them that even their own mothers won't know their corpses from blended pork.
I jumped up behind the soldier with the flash light and bashed it with my clenched fist. My prey was blind now, their eyes couldn't be more useless had they been removed. And that didn't seem like a bad idea. I picked up two random twigs beneath my feet and bite fiercely, ripping apart the soft ends to form spikes. And just like that, one soldier goes blind for a second time.
I felt warm blood spurt onto my hands as I stabbed him. It reminded me of when I had spilled maple syrup on my hand as a child. Growing up. Oh we all grow up so fast it seems. Don't you think so? All it takes is one blink and the threshold is crossed. One snap, one loss and any bad day can be the world's last. I still remember that syrup mishap, probably because as I was spilling my syrup my mother was wiping blood from her mouth in the room next door. I didn't find out until I saw my father leave with a bruised hand and a suit case. My mother didn't say anything until she saw I had spilled syrup all over myself and Torchic. It was all coming back to me, the suppressed rage of my youth. My childhood had been taken away by one man, my humanity by four. Would killing these soldiers reclaim my humanity? Would it redeem the lives of the one's I've killed and lost? Could I live with myself after the last body hits the ground?
No. Because the last body to fall will be mine.
There was only one soldier left now. He was sitting by a tree opposite of Blaziken, eyes crunched shut as if doing so could turn back time. By the time I came to I was too dazed to tell him I had already tried that. I pull out the knife from the beef beneath my feet, there was so little resistance from the flesh I almost lost grip of the knife. The soldier is beyond words, reason and our world now. He has accepted the fate and the grave he dug for himself. Now all I need to do is nudge him into it, as his entourage so kindly nudged me.
I skinned him for a bit. Then I grew bored. The blade had started to become dull by the time I lost interest in the cartilage of his nose. Or what was left of it. I finish the job by making him a wonderful and pretty unicorn. With a silver crown. He was so pretty for a moment, despite the darkness. Sunlight suddenly creeps into my vision. The rays had waited until all signs of life were gone, and to their credit they did show up right on time. It was time for a proper burial.
I dragged the two flayed bags of meat away from my dead friend, in the direction of the sunlight. Carelessly I dropped their legs and let the silence surround me, I felt calm once again, I felt complete. I ran through my demonic deeds while I collected the other soldiers I killed, largely I was just surprised I was able to pull some s*** like that off. Single handedly I managed to kill like five soldiers, pretty viciously too. I guess I owe my boot camp instructor a thank you note.
The bodies were all in a pile now. I wasn't actually sure what I was going to do with them now. I couldn't burn them because I was still too close to the mountain which by now was filled with more enemy troops. I couldn't carry them because I already had to carry back all my comrades. I figured leaving them to decompose was the best thing to do, let them think a little bit longer about why they were dead. They shot down my friends in cold blood. I'm sure of it. None of us wanted to fight after we lost both Phelps and Blaziken, we had lost too many too fast. But they just pushed it, and they pushed me. They pushed me, they made me kill them. I couldn't be at fault for this, I'm not the real murderer. I'm not a monster. Right?
I was still looking at the bodies when I made the biggest mistake of my life. I examined the bodies whose souls I had snatched mercilessly. The first thing I noticed was that the soldier with no face remaining, the last one I killed, was the youngest of the bunch. After I straightened them all out he was at least an inch smaller than the second shortest. Rooting through his pockets I came up with a wallet, tattered and almost held together by a single string. It felt so worn out I feared I'd destroy it like wet paper. Inside, I found nothing but pictures. I knew I was making a mistake even as I rooted through his most personal pictures. It's best to ignore the fact that the person you kill was a person at all, it's easier to think of them as candles you've blown out. And even then they still linger in the air.
It hit me like a cement block to the knee cap, like a small locomotive train engine rammed into my stomach. I killed his family. As I flipped through the pictures I saw the faces of the men laid face down in the muck. As I flipped through the pictures I saw them come to life with each snap of the Polaroid; I saw them as humans. I saw them as people I would have called my friends. The more and more I looked at the pictures I pieced together who this family that I erased used to be. They used to be happy, always in the sun and with every pearly white tooth showing in every picture. In every picture they were happy, and I bet, I bet, that they would look at these pictures and they would know what they were fighting for. Words couldn't describe the shame and anger I felt. And I knew I couldn't cope with what had happened. I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself without a prescribed bottle of alcohol to sleep in.
Suddenly I hear footsteps behind me, but I don't have the strength to turn around. They approach me softly and I hear the footsteps branch out into what sounded like three pairs of confident stomps. Suddenly the footsteps stop and I hear the sound of safety switches click clacking, I feel their crosshair's aim, the pressure of invisible lines jab at my back. It must have been more soldiers sent to investigate.
"There are more bodies, Phelps is in the tree over there. My friend Blaziken is next to that big tree over there"
I get on my knees and close my eyes, then remembering what I forgot to say I quickly add in,
"And then there are another three bodies back where you came from, they're my squad mates"
Were. It's all past tense now. My life was over the moment my mind lost its way to sanity. I look behind me to see if the soldiers had acknowledged my second remark,
"We're just here to locate our guys and any survivors. Your…friends, aren't our problem"
I dwelled on what he said all the way to the POW center at the top of the mountain. He was right, neither side gave a damn about the other sides' dead. They were just obstructions on a road that could be run over for fun or used as sandbags. Still, I'd have liked to have gotten some talisman from their bodies, so that I could have some way of always remembering them. But I knew deep down I'd never remember anything from that night. It would stay with me until my death, and be etched into my tombstone so that until the very stone is worn down by the wind I'll have to live with my actions.
I didn't talk for the next three months. I barely ate. Life as a POW wasn't the easiest thing in the world. Especially after they passed the Spiegelman bill, which legalized the torture of enemy troops to prevent possible terrorist attacks on the home front. I couldn't even look at pictures of electric Pokémon after that. They'd have you tied up in some heavy metal armor so that you couldn't move -- even side to side -- and then have a Voltorb give you electroshock therapy for an hour straight. My days were numbered by my heart beats, and there were times I would beg to die. I wanted to die sometimes so badly I started to think if I thought of three specific words I'd activate a kill switch in my brain and die.
I started to hallucinate after the second month. I started seeing Blaziken behind people, doors, reflections. And then I saw the rest of them. For a week before the war ended I was followed around by a parade of dead people, taking whatever sanity I had left and unceremoniously flushing bits of it down the toilet. I tried to pick up the pieces but then I wasn't allowed anywhere near the public bathrooms.
And now that's all in the past, just outside the corner of my eye. I know it's there, I still feel it behind me, but for the first time since then I've finally been able to look forward to something other than another guilt trip. After I solve this last case, as I planned, as I promised, I'll go back to the spot. I'll go back to my world's end, relive the memories of my loss and theft, and then I'll kill myself. One way or another, love always finds a way to reunite two people right? I'll just finish this last case, tie up my last loose end in my noose, and hope for an afterlife. Maybe they'll even etch my name on this monument, help other soldiers who still struggle with their PTSD, maybe my death could be of more use than my current life as a vodka bottle drainer. I guess there's only way for everyone but me to find out, let's hope I don't disappoint.
I stay at the monument until the light flickers and the names of my friends are forgotten by the flame. I make my way back to my car, peering back at the void of black behind me, hoping that my friends would pop out behind the monolith, hoping that I was never truly alone. But I eventually get to my car, feel the leather beneath me move under my weight, and head to the witness protection building. Their kid should be there, it's been mandatory since the mafia war for all affected family members to be taken there for safe keeping. It never could keep people safe from a fifty caliber bullet though, something that eventually made half the building look like Swiss cheese. The last time I investigated a case here, I remember now, I asked for a bullet proof vest and they told me, "if you get hit by a bullet, you want that s*** to kill you". I don't know why my death wish stopped so I could follow safety precautions then, but it always gave me a chuckle. The man who wants to die asks for a bullet proof vest. Classic Charles.
I make it to the center in ten minutes. The trip there was dull and bland, the same foliage and herds of Pokémon either rushing by in either window or getting flattened by the car. Good thing that like humans, Pokémon overpopulation is a problem. I open the door and am greeted by bored silence. There is a man behind a desk and bullet proof glass, the glass has three cracks in it. He's reading a playboy Pokémon magazine…I guess he hasn't noticed me yet. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and come back in, this time a bit louder. Softly I close the door, then after counting to twelve make as much noise as possible opening the door once again. Like clockwork the teller looks up, looks down, looks up again, realizes that I'm a second away from "realizing" he was looking at Pokémon porn, and in a fit of horror pirouettes to an area out of site. By the time I'm at his desk his cheeks were so red I could have cooked pasta with little to no waiting time.
He stammers quickly, "Visiting hours are between nine thirty in the morning and four thirty pm. I'm sorry but I HAVE to ask you to leave", he looks up at me through his glasses -- oh that's right, he has glasses don't forget that -- and I could almost see the shame trying to force its way out of his tear ducts.
"Yeah, no s*** I've been here before buddy. I'm here on official business, the kid whose parents were killed earlier today…the Monroes"
"I'll have to see some verification first before I get the paper work…buddy"
Irritably I flip through my wallet, "God are you always this pissy pre climax?" and whip out the badge card. I didn't think his cheeks could burn any brighter, they were almost blue. We look at the cards at the same time and I can't help but feel a bit awkward, the medals were rusty and unclean. I remember all the other recipients would treat each badge as a miniature holy grail, but considering what it cost me, VIP status and access to the upper class regions meant nothing to me. Hell, seeing all the rich people in their damn white polo t-shirts made me so furious I had to sit down in my hammock for a half hour. I almost got four assaults filed against me that day.
"They're in pretty bad shape. I guess you're the anti-government type? Sending a passive aggressive message that only your pants pocket will pick up on?"
He is so lucky I don't give his glass wall a fourth crack, I could hear the hammer clicking back with the same intensity as my teeth slamming shut. Let it go, let it go, you need to see the kid, "I'm assuming that even though they aren't up to your…clean standards, they're good enough for you to let me in?" I couldn't hold back the look of smug satisfaction I got from seeing his face get even redder, god damn if I keep this up we'll be dead from a super nova explosion. I had to look around the room for a solid five minutes before I could look at him again,
"The Monroe kid is in the first room on the right. Key code is one-two-one-two-ninety six. Do me a favor and knock first? Maybe not be such an asshole to him because I don't want to have to call the therapist -- again"
I grab my badge and walk through the door he motions to. The kid's room from the outside looked like a vault, only a cold metallic grey door with a dirty plastic key pad. It didn't even make a clear noise when I typed in the pass code, just some gurgled synthesized burp. I open the door slowly, knocking a few times quick enough to not make the kid think I was some other serial killer. Still, despite all my precautions, I hear the kid gasp and run to some invisible corner,
"Hey kid" I quickly take out my note pad to see if I wrote down his name, Gary, thank god I was sober earlier, "Gary right? I'm Mr. Dillinger, I think we met earlier?"
Oh no, why in the hell did you say that? You last saw him like four minutes after his family was shredded! Hey kid, let me remind you of the most traumatizing moment of your life so that we can build a stable emotional bond together. Second time man, what's next? Telling every kid that their Poochyena's never made it to the farm? I would do that too…
Little Gary was hiding behind a stuffed Nidorino doll, life size I guess because I could only see his head and bowler hair cut through the blue spikes. To him I must seem like the undertaker, how long until he tells me what I already know? Let's ask…
"Gary, I need to ask you some questions about your pet. The one that…you know"
I can tell this is he'd rather have a tooth pulled out than relive this, but I need to know where I can find this Marowak, if it is a Marowak, "It was a Marowak right? Or at least it became one".
Nothing, the kid is still breathing heavily in his corner, god damnit. He could at least tell me if I'm right or not, "Can you at least nod Gary? I know you don't want to go through this again but other people could get hurt if you don't help me out here". I'm standing within arms' reach of him and I can tell he doesn't like this, I guess after getting hassled by reporters for hours on end anybody would become antisocial. How in the hell to I get this kid out of his shell?
Exasperated, I sit down beside of him and pull up another chair for him to join me. Reluctantly the kid drops his stuffed toy and sits, head down and hands at either side. Despite the close quarters I could tell the kid was miles away from me, disconnected and unplugged. I was becoming frustrated at this point, I started to go through my notes again to try and find the connection without him, when suddenly I hear a little voice squeak through the air,
"Are those badges real?"
I look at him, and then down at my rusty badges and smile, his dad must have told him the stories about the good 'ol days. I take them out and hand them to him, he handles them as if they were made of ash, as if at any moment a sudden movement would destroy them. He inspects every badge, feels every groove, holding each one up to the light trying to see it's old shine.
"You like them?"
Gary looks at me for a moment and then goes back to looking at the badges, without taking his eyes off of them he whispers,
"Yes. Very much. My daddy told me that they were given to Pokémon trainers a long time ago. Is that true?"
"Used to be true, then as with everything else, the war came. In order to get more people to join the war effort each government offered different badges for different services. The first three badges are simple graduation badges, nothing important about those. The other five, I had specially made"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, even though I had the requirements for the other badges -- and I think I even have the original badges somewhere in my car -- I had these custom made so that I wouldn't forget"
"I had those other badges made so that I didn't forget my squad mates, the ones that didn't make it. They were my family during the war, so it's like I have them with me at all times now, always by my side"
Gary gets up and puts my badges on the table, he walks to a nearby poster for some video and tears it down, the wall had been riddled with bullets,
"Did this happen during the war?"
"Maybe, did your dad tell you about the fight we had over the hill up there?"
"No, he didn't want to talk much about the war. He didn't talk to me much after I found the egg either"
That's it, the story was coming closer together now, and to think all it took was a couple of rusty old badges and some attached memories, "So you found the Cubone egg?"
"Yes, I was playing with some friends. I was trying to find them and I almost stepped on the egg. I knew they would tell on me if they saw me with it so I hid it in my room"
"Did your parents tell you to get rid of it?"
"Daddy wanted to, he said that egg would have the authorities sniffing all over because they hate loose ends, but mommy said that I could use a new friend. I don't have a lot of friends, so when I got my Pokémon I was so happy"
"And you named him toothless right?"
"Yeah, we played together every day in my room, and at night he would sleep with me because I was afraid of the dark"
"All right, one last question then I'll let you get some sleep, I know you're tired…why did he come into your room after the…"
"He knew I was hiding. At first he came into my room and hopped on the bed, but when I wasn't there he started to look for me. When he found me he looked really sad for a moment, then he jumped out the window"
Gary suddenly froze, I turned to see him and he was trembling in fear, from what I had no idea. I look around the room, trying to find whatever it was that had suddenly traumatized him, then it hit me. He saw something through the holes in the wall. I nearly trip over my chair trying to squeeze my eye through the hole, and by the time I get there only the rustling of some bushes greets my ears. God damnit, it must have been the Marowak. Somehow, he followed either me or the paparazzi here, but what does he want with Gary? Pokémon don't care about loose ends, it makes no sense!
I'm pacing the room madly now, trying to figure out how this sudden reappearance fits into the puzzle. Why would a Pokémon that kills the people that took care of it want to find the boy it used to sleep with? Is it trying to return to a normal life? Is it trying to find a new normal now? One thing is for sure however, it's been found now, and I'll hunt it down and stop it from killing Gary if it's the last thing I do. I owe the kid that much.
Before I chased after the Marowak however, I knew I'd have to have some idea of where to look for him. I couldn't go chasing shadows in the dark. I remembered that the only place I could find Marowaks was at that old Pokémon safari zones, but I had no idea where it was. The door man guy must know, or at least have some way of finding out where the safari zone is. I ran so fast out of that room a passerby would have thought I had seen a Gastly or a mating ditto. I slam on the glass window a few times to get his attention and shout as slowly as I can how I could get to the safari zone, the man behind the desk just looks at me in a stupidly dazed way that made me almost want to punch out every member of his related family. I spot a computer, right next to his dirty magazine, and point at it violently with my finger,
"Use the damn computer, find me a map, I think I know where the Monroe killer is!"
That finally got his attention, and to my surprise the Safari zone was relatively close by, route 48. Mechanically I thank him and almost teleport into my car. As my car starts up I check to make sure my pistol is loaded, I may have to put this Pokémon down and I don't want to get caught at a disadvantage with someone capable of ripping me head off. I always saw my funeral as an open casket one where only my liver and my heart failed, not my body's ability to stay intact.
I race down the hill and through the city at a breakneck pace, people and lights whizzing by me so fast they were lines smearing across my line of vision. I couldn't call in for reinforcements because taking a finger off the wheel was an almost surefire way to end up as human paste.
Suddenly, despite the fact that I'm going over sixty miles an hour on a road that a toddler's tricycle could garner a speeding ticket, I saw a shadow across a field keeping pace with my vehicle. It had to be the Marowak, I don't know how in the hell it was able to sew rockets to its tail, but it's silhouette was all too obvious. It looked ugly even though I could only see it's outline, and I could only imagine what mangled and malformed face hid beneath that bony mask.
Winding down the road I continued losing sight of it and then seeing it erupt from patches of tall grass. I was nearing the monuments when the old safari zone came into view. Of course I couldn't have known it was a safari zone at first glance, but as I passed the blinking stone pillars the rusted poke ball sculpture was illuminated I knew I was at the right place.
I slam the car door shut and make a mad dash for the entrance, my mind racing. I had no idea what I was going to do if I caught up to it, was I going to kill it at first glance? Pokémon euthanizing had been outlawed soon after the Pikachu mistrials, I'd end up in more trouble than the Marowak if I let it live. If I did let it live, it'd just be sent to a work camp, and most likely be worked until it died. It was a lose-lose situation no matter which way you looked at it, but something had to be done. I swore justice to Gary but now my promise is an anvil tied to my leg, and I'm already in a pool of s***.
It wasn't hard to track the Marowak once I entered the zone, there were only so many fresh footprints in this place. As I followed the foot prints, I looked around at this land that time had forgotten. It was a symbol, in some ways, a symbol of absolutes. Despite all the human colonization and technological improvements and asphalt, nature will always strike back and bring things back to its chaotic neutral. And tonight, I was nature's catalyst.
I was near a steep hill, which was balancing the moon on a rock sculpted into a hand, when I heard it. He was at the top of the hill, near a patch of dirt that had recently been heavily upturned. had he buried something? No, it hits me, he was digging something up. His instincts had kicked in, he found his real mother.
That's what this had all been about, I realize, the Marowak evolved with his mother both living and dead. He had an existential crisis like no other and went into a blind fit of rage, effectively solving all his problems but causing more for me. If he couldn't have gotten over the grief of a dead mother, then he would have to make do and kill his own mother. Sorry Mrs. Monroe.
He was standing now at the top of the hill, looking down on me…waiting for me? I could feel the tension in the air, it was almost suffocating. My hand inches towards my weapon, the rest of my body is still.
Oh for god's sake I was in a Mexican standoff with a club wielding Pokémon.
Suddenly -- and I mean so suddenly that even though my eyes were open I didn't register it until a second too late -- he threw the bone at me. That thing hit me so hard in the chest I thought it was going to stay there for good, and that I'd be going around with a bone sticking out of my rib cage for the rest of my life. It knocked me to the floor and by the time I got up the Marowak was coming in for a second blow, the bone raised and poised for another strike. In one movement I roll to the side, hear the deafening thud of bone tougher than concrete hitting soft earth at forty miles an hour, and pull out my pistol,
"Hey Hey Hey! Stop! Just fucking stop right now or I will blow you away with this thing!"
I'm moving my pistol around rapidly I almost couldn't see my hands in front of me -- though that may have been a side effect from being hit in the chest by a thigh bone. The Marowak paused at the site of the pistol and lowered the thighbone.
"Listen, I don't know if you can understand me, but I'm not here to kill you…though you are putting up a good argument for why I should. I'm here to turn you into the Blackthorn police, where you will be charged with the murder of mister and misses Monroe. If you don't come quietly, I'll make sure Gary knows"
I should not have said Gary. I should not have said that. He stood still while I had talked to him, but as soon as I said Gary he lost it, like his sanity self destructed. A roar of anger so pure and so vicious I almost relieved myself pierced my ear drums. And he raises his bone a second time, I had only a second to react before he tenderized me. My hand slams the hammer back and I pull the trigger back, firing from the hip, with no idea where the bullet will go. If I miss, it will be the last shot -- vodka or otherwise -- that I'll ever take.
The bullet exploded, erupted and disappeared through the muzzle's flash, my eyes blinded as nothing but white light filled my vision. My eyes closed, all I could do was hope I hit him, otherwise I wouldn't be opening them ever again.
Something had happened, that was for sure. It had felt like an hour but after a minute of fear induced shut eye, I cautiously looked through the darkness at the heaving body lying upright on the ground. My bullet had found it's mark, I could see the blood spurting out with each labored breath, he didn't have much longer to live.
"I'm sorry, I didn't want this to happen, I was just doing my job. I should have found you before you hatched, I should have found you before you hatched"
The Marowak tries to look at me, it's eyes clamped shut from the pain. I go over to it and hold its hand, I feel the hand relax somewhat.
"It's all my fault, you did nothing wrong, you had no way of controlling yourself. Listen, don't worry about Gary, I promise you he'll be taken care of, he'll be happy I promise"
He'll have a childhood again, someday. Someday.
The Marowak died as the first sirens came through. His eyes were closed but I could tell he was in a better place. In his last moments I had shown him forgiveness, I had offered him a scapegoat to escape the guilt thrust upon him by his own nature. At least someone gets a happy ending. More and more sirens wail through the tree tops, blue and red lights bathing the forest in neon light, they'll be here any minute. I may have to put off my own farewells now, courtrooms have a way of both prolonging and sucking the life out of people.
"DROP YOUR WEAPON"
I hadn't even realized I was still holding my pistol, but sure enough it was in my hand, almost absorbed and melded with my own skin. Somehow I drop it.
"ON YOUR KNEES, NOW"
"There's no need, I got him"
I feel a hand on my shoulder jerk me backwards, and to my surprise the scrub who asked for my badges at the crime scene was pointing a gun at me. At least there were witnesses if this went sideways.
"I found the killer" I point at the dead Marowak's corpse, "He killed the Monroes, that's Mrs. Monroe's thighbone over there"
"I. DON'T. CARE. YOU WILL GET ON YOUR KNEES WITH YOUR HANDS ON YOUR --"
"SHUT THE HELL UP HARVEY"
We both look in the direction of that last minute request and find ourselves looking at none other than an Officer Jenny. I wasn't sure whether I was in the clear or a step closer to a firing squad, but at the very least "Harvey" lowered his weapon and sulked all the way back to his car.
"Just what the hell were you thinking? First going sixty on a civilian road and then shooting an unregistered gun? Charles I don't know what to do with you"
Oh thank god, I was going to get off easy,
"Listen Diana, I can explain. I solved the case"
"Which case? The case of who the biggest idiot is?"
"No, the Monroe case, the decapitation and missing thigh bone?"
That seemed to connect with her, because she went real quiet before speaking again,
"Why'd it kill them? I doubt it told you before it died"
"It was found by Gary Monroe, their kid, when it was an egg. It hatched and imprinted, making Mrs. Monroe his mother -- in his mind. However, Cubones eventually all evolve or else none would survive, so without warning he turned into a Marowak"
"I don't get why he had to kill the family then? Did they piss it off?"
"No, it's the fact that they existed -- or more specifically the mother who existed -- that made him go haywire. Cubones evolve after they accept the death of their mother, so for a Marowak to still have a mother makes no sense from nature's perspective…so he went crazy and tried to set things straight"
"By killing her? Why?"
"So that he could properly grieve"
Relief rushed through me as I saw her head nod in acceptance of my explanation, I was in the clear. But I knew I hadn't gotten away with this scot-free, everyone around me ended up paying the price for my mistakes. As they always ended up doing. But this was it, the job was done. I should be happy, I shouldn't feel empty. But despite me living and not going to court for killing a Pokémon and breaking more laws than I have hairs on my head, I felt like my soul had been poured down the gutter. I had become something less than a man by killing that Marowak, I had become something worth less than a corpse. And as I made my way out of the safari zone, past the police and their cars, I knew the only way to fill this emptiness was to be six feet under.
The funerals for Mr. and Mrs. Monroe were held on a Sunday. Gary was strong, he didn't cry, he didn't show any emotion. He was just watching his old life, saying his final goodbyes. I couldn't believe how well he took it all in, especially considering the condition I found him in when we first met. It was a small gathering in the cities' church, the media had more important things to cover during my trials like celebrity bowel movements. Mrs. Summers was there, so was that Zera fellow. Mrs. Monroe wanted to be an actor when she was a child, but she settled for being a mother to a child and a Pokémon. Mr. Monroe wanted to be the very best, he held that universal childhood dream in the palm of his hand and didn't let go until he saw Angela for the first time. S*** while we're reminiscing, I think at some point I wanted to be a race car driver, make VROOM VROOM sounds and get paid for it.
The Marowak had no funeral, just a cheap plastic box to rest in.
I visited his grave after I patted my handful of dirt down at the human cemetery. Officer Jenny had stopped me just as I was about to leave and looked at me for a long time, I think she wanted to make sure she'd see me again. I still haven't decided if she will, but here is just as good a place as any. Gary will be fine, or at least I hear, Mrs. Summer is taking care of him until any and all surviving family members claim him. She may as well sign the adoption papers today, no relative wants damaged goods from Johto.
There wasn't even a tombstone, just some plastic letters pressed into the dirt. He'd be forgotten by everyone but the ones I destroyed by the time I finish thinking this sentence. But he'd linger, behind me silently watching. Like the family I killed and the family I destroyed, he will stay with me. I've been branded a third time, I'm expecting a consolation prize after the fourth. But here I am, here he lays, I am alive and he is dead but the opposite is just as true. The souls of my victims will live through me as I wander through this life. Our only means for respite is my own grave, I can see that clearly now. The only question is how much longer I want to pollute this world's surface. I think it's better for everybody if I just go, especially for the people I've never met. They always seem to be the ones who get hurt by my actions.
I left the Pokémon land fill late that night. My car was waiting for me, waiting to ferry me to my next destination. And possibly my final one. Out of habit I looked at the empty seat beside me and I looked down at my own seat, it didn't feel right. I drove through Blackthorn city until I reached the post office at the edge of the city limits. It was a sad and tired purgatory, and entering the place I thought I could see just coming off the doors as they creaked open. I pick up an envelope and write carefully the address of Mrs. Summers. Opening the envelope, I place my badges inside, one by one. Each clunk of metal rattling around in the paper coffin felt like a weight off my shoulders. Until it came to the last badge, the badge that was not on the card, the badge that I shined every night no matter what. The badge of the trainer, my anchor to the past, my anchor to Blaziken. All eight badges were in the envelope, but this was never a badge to me. It was the heaviest thing I've ever carried all my life, yet it's weight was so insignificant I was scared to breath. But in it goes all the same, I can remember my sins without anything tangible weighing me down. And just like that, it was over. The case, the pain, the guilt, the confusion. The ninth badge fell into the envelope, shuffled amongst it's metal brothers, and lay still. Like a corpse amongst corpses. But that was it, all over now. I lick the envelope and drop it into the mail box. And just like that it was over right? I let it all go, did everything I promised I would, hell I may even get a girl at the end of this for all I know.
But as I leave the post office and enter my car I know I made my decision long ago. And it was up to me to either stand by that decision, or keep them waiting for a few more years. I doubt I'll be missed, and even if I am I'll be forgotten like everything else.
Time for that reunion…