Not a single Pokémon was in sight. They’d all been scared off by the impact—some killed most likely. Regardless, I still kept my knife out and hoped nothing came my way. Addison followed close behind, not daring to say a word. I didn’t have to look at him to know that he was shaking. He scared easily, and sometimes I wondered how we were even friends. I was the adventurous one who never gave a fuck, and he whined a lot about safety. Even still, he continued to follow me around. I didn’t mind.
“Watch your step,” I said, hopping over a raised tree root. It was almost too dark to see.
“Yeah…” Addison replied. He tripped anyway, falling flat on his face. I helped him to his feet, and we continued forward.
The forest was on fire. The further in we went, the worse the smell of burning wood and burning flesh. I held my shirt over my nose when it got hard to breathe. My eyes stung and the left side of my body reacted to the heat, feeling as if it was on fire all over again. I kept going, with Addison clinging to the back of my jacket, coughing and continually shouting that we should turn back. I kept on.
After a few moments of coughing and stumbling, we cleared the trees and wound up on the shore of a body of water. The air was still fairly heavy with smoke, but it was a lot clearer than it’d been between the trees. Addison and I dropped to our knees at the water’s edge and spat and coughed over the crystal clear water. The moon and the stars were caught behind a plume of smoke and ash, and the burning wreckage glimmered in the reflection on the water’s surface.
“Look,” I gasped, pointing a quivering finger, “There it is.”
Addison attempted to reply, but a cough escaped instead. I left him to sputter in the dirt as I got up to go examine the crash site. We’d gone a little off course in the confusion of the flaming forest. The burning wreckage was a good one hundred meters to our left around the water’s edge. I walked alongside the bank, coughing occasionally and beating my chest. My eyes were watering and my lungs felt like they were having the life squeezed out of them. But, this wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. Downtown was always in flames because of the rich kids, and I’d been caught in fires firsthand many times. The first time was the worst, of course. Just thinking about it made the left side of my body itch even worse.
“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself quietly, shielding myself from the heat with my arms.
You’re a scavenger and a thief. You need some fucking money.
But was going near more fire really worth it, though? I’d grown up with fire. I’d been burned by fire. I’d lost everything to fire. I was sick of fire. So sick…
And yet, somehow, I wasn’t afraid of it.
I stopped about fifteen yards away and marveled at the damage. There was a trench dug from the impact, going about half a kilometer back into the forest. Glass lined the trench, and trees were down going all the way back to where it’d hit. I needed a way to put the fire out and cool the thing off so that I could see what it was.
“What is it?” Addison asked from a few meters behind me. His voice was hoarse.
“Dunno,” I said, “But it looks like it’s made of metal.”
“Metal?” he was beside me now. I nodded.
“Yeah. Like, manmade.”
“Or alien made.”
I shot him a look of disbelief.
“…What?” he cleared his throat, “One of the theories of the origin of Pokémon is that they came from space.”
“It’s a stupid theory,” I said, “Not saying there isn’t other life out there, but it’s still a stupid fucking theory for a lot of reasons that I’m not going to get into right now.”
He frowned, “So, uh…we’re here. Now what?”
“…We gotta find a way to cool this thing off and crack it open before someone else comes along.”
“Someone else? Like who?”
“The government. This thing fell out of the fucking sky, Addison. I don’t know if it was an accident or not, but they’ll be here and they’ll be here soon.”
His eyes widened, “Oh.”
We heard a bark. Addison and I turned to see a group of Totodiles and Croconaws emerging from the water. A few Goldeens and Seakings were poking their heads out to see what was going on. Addison held his breath. I kept my knife tip pointed down, but still firmly grasped the hilt in my hand.
“…W-W-We should go,” Addison stammered, tugging at my sleeve.
“Nah, maybe they could help us,” I said.
“They look pissed.”
“I’d be pissed too if something fell out of the sky right next to my house. If I’m right, this is going to bring a lot of unwanted attention to this area for a while.”
The Croconaws all barked in unison, forming ranks with the Totodiles at water’s edge and standing at attention. My heart began to race as three Feraligatrs climbed out of the water, the biggest one old and scarred and missing an eye and the end of her tail. The two on either side were rather young, but still quite haggard looking and broken. The oldest one—the one with one eye and half a tail—looked around briefly.
“…We’re alone,” I assured her. She whipped her head around and glared at me, her red eye glowing in the darkness, “…Well, for now.”
The Feraligatr Triad began to come toward us. The Croconaws fell in line behind them in two columns, with the Totodiles bringing up the rear. They formed ranks so perfectly. They even stepped in time with one another.
“…I’m not here to hurt you.”
I suddenly remembered the knife in my hand. I thrust it back into my boot and put my hands up to show that I had no intention of hurting them. The Feraligatrs stopped within three meters of us, sniffing the air and looking back and forth between us and the wreckage. The oldest was nearly eight feet tall, taller than the average Feraligatr and broader too.
“Please, believe me. I don’t want to hurt you. I just came here to see.”
The oldest Feraligatr turned her head to look at me fully with her one good eye. She stared at me for a long time, reading my expression and my body language. Addison and I remained completely still, breathing shallowly and barely blinking. After a moment or so, the Feraligatr turned and barked some order to her pack. The two other Feraligatrs turned toward the water. The Croconaws and Totodiles fell in line behind them once again and followed them back into the lake.
The oldest Feraligatr remained. She pointed to the wreckage, opened her jaw, and spoke.
“Where did this come from?”
I was in too much shock to respond.
“You talk!” Addison gasped.
“Yes, I can talk too. I had a trainer once many years ago who taught me. But I’ve been away from humans for fifty years now. I didn’t want to speak human language in front of my pack for obvious reasons.”
“…I’ll repeat my question: where did this come from?”
I managed to find my voice again, “W-We don’t know any more than you do. We were out in the field looking up at the stars and saw it heading this way. I swear, that’s the truth. But you need to get out of here now because this thing looks manmade and I’m pretty sure the government is on its way here as we speak.”
“If that’s the case, why are you here?”
I scowled slightly, “Because I’ve already had everything taken from me. I’ve got nothing else to lose but my life.”
She continued to stare at me with her one eye.
“…The human world is in terrible shape, as you probably know. Shit only gets worse every day. The rich consume everything and the poor are left to die in the streets. They set our homes on fire. I’m here because I’m a scavenger and I’m sick of having nothing. I want something. And if wanting something means I have to crack open this hunk of metal and sell whatever’s inside, I’m going to do just that.”
Addison spoke up and added, “We’re fighting to survive just as much as you guys are. I know this doesn’t sound like much coming from us humans, but believe me.”
“Humans, huh?” the Feraligatr seemed amused.
“What?” Addison was just as confused as I was.
The Feraligatr was silent for a moment, looking back and forth between the two of us a few times.
“…Never mind,” she then said, “I’ll cool this down for you, but promise me something.”
“Anything,” I pressed my hands together as if in prayer.
“Whatever you find inside, use it toward the good of Pokémon. We’re dying out here in droves. There aren’t many of us left.”
“I promise,” I said with a nod, “You have my word.”
“…And to you,” she looked at Addison, “Stay with her. Help her. You’ve got more to offer than you think.”
“I…I don’t understand…but I’ll try,” Addison replied.
“You’ll understand someday.”
Before Addison or I could ask what she meant, the Feraligetr lifted her arms. For a second, nothing happened, but then a wave formed on the lake and began to head toward us. Addison and I quickly ran far enough away so that we wouldn’t get swept away by the force of the water. We ran a good ten meters, and then watched and the twenty meter wave crashed down over the Feraligatr and the wreckage. The air was thick with steam for a moment. We watched as the water receded back into the lake. The Feraligatr, completely unaffected by the water, walked toward the wreckage and put her hand on it. Addison and I ran back over to feel the metal as well.
“…This should be cool enough,” she said, withdrawing.
“Yes, it is. Thank you,” I said, smiling up at her.
“…What’s your name?” she asked, looking at me with her one eye.
“Rory. I’m Rory. And, this is Addison.”
The Feraligatr grunted slightly and headed back toward the lake.
“Thank you so much,” Addison said after her.
“…Faith,” she said over her shoulder, waist deep in the lake, “My trainer used to call me Faith.”
“Faith…” Addison repeated to himself.
“Thank you, Faith,” I said, “We’ll always remember you.”
“I hope so. I hope you remember all of us…”
Faith dove down into the water, and then she was gone. The Goldeens and Seakings sank back into the water with her. Addison and I stood there and watched for a moment as the ripples in the water faded.
“…Come on,” I said, “We need to get inside.”
We walked around the wreckage to find a good point of entry. We had to dig down a bit with our hands, but we were able to find a small door—just small enough for me to fit through. I pulled my knife out of my boot and chipped away the melted parts before trying to pry it open.
“This isn’t going to work,” Addison said, “We’re not strong enough to get this open. It’s too melted shut.”
“Nonsense,” I said, “It’s just like cracking open a can of beans…”
We took turns pushing on the knife. It took a while, but eventually the door popped open.
“That’s a really strong fucking knife. What’s it made of? Where’d you get this from, Rory?”
“I don’t know. It was my dad’s. Now hush.”
It was still hot inside when I crawled in and it smelled awful—yet familiar. Sweat immediately began to bead on my skin, and the left side of my body began to itch as well. I continued forth, though, crawling through some kind of substance. It was too dark to see, but I knew exactly what it was when I put my hand down on something long and soft.
“…Shit, it’s an arm,” I gagged, realizing that I’d been crawling through body parts. But, that explained the familiar smell of burning flesh.
“An arm?” Addison called from the outside.
I ignored him, ignored the arm, ignored to squishy things beneath my hands and knees, and kept going. I kept crawling until I came to another door. Again, it was just big enough for me to be able to fit through. I groped about a found a wheel on it, turning it to the left until it wouldn’t turn anymore. When I pulled, the door didn’t budge. I then turned the wheel all the way to the right and pulled again. The door moved a little. I continued to pull until it flew open. The room it led into had a single flickering light. The floor was decorated with broken PokéEggs—shells and yolk and half developed fetuses everywhere…
…I didn’t know how I was able to stay so calm. The scene was so ghastly that I should have thrown up on the spot. Somehow, I convinced myself that I was in a really bad dream. I convinced myself to crawl further in, sinking my hands and knees deep into dead baby Pokémon. I resisted the urge to retch, taking deep breaths through my mouth so as not to smell the carnage.
The eggs had fallen off shelves—most likely broken from the impact or whatever had caused the thing to go down. It was obviously some kind of flying thing like a spaceship or something. I wasn’t surprised, considering that it was extremely possible that the government was doing shit the public didn’t know about all the time. I was too busy trying to live to worry about conspiracies and top-secret government projects, but again I wasn’t surprised that they were holding out on everyone else. I checked the shelves, trying to see if there were any eggs still intact.
“Rory!” Addison called from outside, “I hear helicopters!”
“Alright!” I responded. Finally inside, I wanted less and less to do with this stupid thing, and I felt like a moron for quenching my curious thirst. If this was in fact top-secret government shit, they were probably going to kill Addison and me on the spot.
I was about to turn back when I noticed that one egg, on the bottom shelf on the right in the very back, was still secure. I rushed toward it and carefully pulled it out of its spot and then sat back, holding it in my lap. It was warm, and still alive.
I used my feet to drag myself back outside, scooting my ass along the floor and holding the egg with both arms. The closer I got to the exit, the more I could hear the helicopters in the distance.
“What’s this?” Addison asked as I handed the egg to him.
“It’s an egg now run!”
“Holy shit, what are you covered in? Is that blood?”
“Shut up and run!”
We ran. We ran back into the forest—away from the wreckage and away from the helicopter sounds. We had no idea where we were going to end up, but we had to get away and get to a safe place.
Bellamy City was a shit stain even from afar. I sat down heavily in the grass as I watched Uptown light up with all the gaiety money could buy. If it weren’t for the wind, I could have heard the nightly parties—heard the chatter of people and the din of hundreds of musical acts playing at once, creating an indiscernible chunk of useless sound. The rest of the city was all but black at night. Midtown was ninety percent lights-out by one or two in the morning, and Downtown was nothing but weak fires when left unmolested. At least once a week, the rich kids would make their way Downtown with their fire types and set parts of the slums on fire for a good laugh. The streets were so narrow Downtown that the fire department had a hard time getting around. Blastoises were the core of the fire department. They were among the few water Pokémon that stayed behind. When the Blastoises couldn’t make it through right away, they sent out Sqirtle Squads, often commanded by Wartortles, to try and hold down the situation until the Blastoises arrived. A lot of the Squirtles were fresh out of training, and a lot of them died in each fire. The Blastoises were getting older and there were hardly any of their kind to replace them. The people of the slums were grateful for them, though. We were grateful that they hadn’t given up on us humans yet, but there was very little we could do for them. There was very little we could do for ourselves. At least once a week, people died in those same fires. Homes and families alike were destroyed.
Just like mine.
I buried my head in my knees. It’d been four years since they came with their Charmeleons and burned my house to the ground. I remembered the laughter and the slurs they shouted as my family burned alive. The left side of my body was plagued with scarring from seared flesh. I was lucky to have made it out of the house alive, and luckier to have survived the severity of my burns. Or, maybe it was misfortune. Some days, I couldn’t decide which. Sleep didn’t come easy for me, and when I did sleep I never had dreams. Only nightmares—haunted by the memory of the night my family died, and I had the scars to remind me that it really happened whenever I woke up. The left side of my body was racked with constant itching and pain from taut scar tissue. Sometimes it cracked and oozed, and those were the worst days. I tried not to scratch for fear of taking all my skin off. On a good day, I had money to buy bandages and ointment, but good days weren’t something I had in quantity, let alone money. Whatever money I could obtain, I used it to buy food, and even then I only ate every few days. The days I didn’t have money or food blurred together into one, homogenous time chunk of pain. I couldn’t tell you when exactly was the last time I’d eaten, but I could tell you what I’d had. But despite all this, I was alive. And surviving. Somehow.
The distant howl of a Pokémon somewhere behind me caused me to jump to my feet, knife in hand and ready for a good fight. Depending on the Pokémon and the type, I could probably take it on mono y mono, and then maybe I’d get to eat for a week. The idea of eating Pokémon sickened me, but I was desperate. They’d stopped being our friends a long time ago—back when we’d stopped being theirs. Famine and economic downturn made way for new government who quickly turned Pokémon into a profit. Five-star restaurants served Goldeen and Bellsprout and baby Miltanks and Slopoke tails and so much more. Pokémon were quickly reduced to non-person status in order to feed people. Slaughtered and milked dry, a lot of Pokémon escaped their owners and returned to the wild to save themselves. The few owners that still held on to some sense of humanity released their beloved partners against new government regulations. A lot of people were arrested. Many were beaten to death in their own homes by the military. Without a doubt in my mind, the arrested individuals ended up rotting in jail cells, and I found it possible that maybe were fed back to their own people, if my great-grandmother had told true.
“It were a very tough time,” she’d say, closing her eyes and leaning her head back, “Lord, it were a tough time. Not to say that times ain’t tough now, but everyone was having it rough then. Even them rich folk. But, now all them rich folk is comfortable again, and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves. It ain’t right, Rory. It just ain’t right…”
Pokémon were once something that everyone could obtain. My great-grandmother told stories of Pokémon masters and the Pokémon League and the battles she had with her friends when she was a child. And they were all happy. But then the famine came and killed many a crop, and with it came a political party that claimed to know best: PAPLE, the People and Pokémon Liberation Establishment. They promised one thing and did another as soon as they gained control.
“Tis the nature of the beast,” My great-grandmother used to say, “Shoulda seen it coming, but we were all too occupied with putting food on the table to realize that we were giving up our freedoms. Ain’t no one saw it coming till it came, and to this day we regret it. Lord, do we regret a lot of things…”
I’d once heard that the famine was biologically engineered by PAPLE scientists, but that was too big of a conspiracy to wrap my head around. That had been eighty-something years ago, back when my great-grandmother had been a child. Most everyone who was alive during the famine was dead now, but their sordid legacy remained. Nowadays, Pokémon were only available to those who could afford them. They were bought and sold like toys and tools, many of them freshly hatched and too young to know what any other life was like.
The distant howl came again, and I gripped the hilt of my knife tighter. It didn’t sound any nearer or further, but I kept my guard up anyway. Not a lot of humans ventured too far outside of the cities anymore. Those who did were the rich people who brought purchased Pokémon with them for protection. Pokémon in the wild had become extremely hostile and territorial, and for good reason. Poachers often came and burned them out of their nests and dens, killing them for their meat and skins and other body parts. Too many Pokémon had watched helplessly while their loved ones were killed; while their eggs were stolen; while their young were ripped from their care. I wanted nothing more than to escape the city and live amongst the Pokémon in the wild, but they lived in constant fear. None of them had any reason to trust any human, let alone myself. I’d killed and eaten a few of them. I’d consumed the byproducts of their family members and friends as a matter of survival, choking down every last bite with tears in my eyes and reluctantly strapping on leather boots to protect my feet. I was trying to live just as much as they were, which was why I wasn’t stupid enough to go live among them. I had too much blood on my hands. I belonged with my own kind.
I turned and let my knife down a bit. Addison stood a few feet away, glancing nervously at the two decimeter knife I carried with me at all times.
“…What?” I asked.
“What’re you doing out here?”
I sighed and slipped the knife back into my boot, “Thinking. Why?”
“No reason, I was just wondering where you were. You weren’t in the shack and I saw a figure up on the hill so I came to see if you were okay.”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“…It’s like three in the morning. Let’s get back into town. It’s dangerous out here.”
I looked at him for a long time. His copper skin, white-gold hair, and lavender eyes glowed beautifully in the moonlight. His thin, silky hair touched his shoulders and a light blonde fuzz covered his jaw and upper lip. He wasn’t much taller than me and he wasn’t much older than me either, probably. He didn’t know how old he really was. Addison had never known his real family, but he had always been a part of mine.
“…Yeah,” I said quietly, suddenly feeling tired. As much as I dreaded the nightmares, I couldn’t resist sleep when it came. I dragged myself over to him and together we began to make our way down the hill.
“…So what were you thinking about?” Addison asked me quietly.
“Stuff,” I replied, shrugging.
“You’re always thinking about stuff.”
“There’s always stuff to think about.”
“Sometimes I wonder what goes through your mind.”
“You’re better off not knowing.”
“I know, that’s why I said sometimes.”
I looked up at the night sky and instantly forgot what I was going to say. And then I stopped moving altogether, staring blankly.
“What is it?” Addison asked, looking up. I pointed to the flaming ball hurtling through the air.
“Is that a fucking meteorite?” I asked.
Addison tried to answer, but a weak sound escaped his throat instead. We both watched stupidly as the flaming ball of whatever headed our direction. It kept getting bigger, and it kept getting closer, and it was fast. After a moment, Addison grabbed my arm and tried to drag me the rest of the way down the hill, but I refused, wanting to see where the flaming ball would go. The closer it got, the more I could hear the roar of its descent. After a while, it was loud enough to drown out Addison’s screams. I covered my ears and watched as it went right over my head, over the top of the hill, and then out of sight. I ran back up the hill to follow it, and I assumed that Addison chased after me. I ran and I ran and I watched as it crashed somewhere in the Forlorn Forest half a moment later. The ground shook violently and the crash was loud enough to wake the city. I managed to stay on my feet and kept running. I ran straight into the trees and straight for the crash site.
If anything, I wanted the crater to at least be named after me.