Leo smirked at me, his amber eyes lit up by the dying summer sunlight. A cold breeze blew through his hair, long blonde pieces flying opposite the way they rest. He leaned against a pale steel railing, his back to the city of Oreburgh spread out below us. His bare hands lay on the ledge, elbows locked and shoulders hunched in a detached, confident manner. “I still have trouble believing you actually earned that badge. You know, the fair way.” He was only teasing, but it was getting on my nerves. I had made the long journey to Oreburgh with him, putting up with his constant joking for nearly two months.
“Really,” I responded flatly, deciding not to humor him this time. Walking past him, I crossed my arms on the railing and rested my chin in them. A thin-furred, bright orange Chimchar leapt up beside my face with ease, climbing to the top rail in order to get a better look at the view. I scanned the gradually darkening horizon, watching crowds of Zubat fly from the trees in flocks to begin their nightly hunt. The city stirred faintly, small bubbles of conversation reaching us on the roof of the Pokémon Center. Children ran about, playing with fake Pokeballs and having mock battles dangerously close to the not-quite-still streets.
“Yep,” Leo turned around, mimicking my position by laying his cheek against his wrists on the top rail. “I mean, your starter’s just not suited for facing Rock-types,” the little orange Chimp Pokémon glanced down at him disapprovingly, and he laughed in response. “No offense, Scout. Of course.” He ruffled the hair on top of her head, causing her to climb away from him and jump to the ground. She walked to my other side, sitting down against the wall and patting her fur down as best she could.
I sighed and bent down to pick her up. She lay comfortably in my arms, yawning a bit as I cradled her carefully. “Well now look. You’ve made her unfriendly.” Now holding thirteen pounds of warm fire monkey, I stood back up and returned to staring over the railing. The darkness was growing, the first couple stars poking through the red-orange sky.
“Me? I was only kidding…” He trailed off, unsure of how to respond. He groaned suddenly and buried his head in his arms. “There’s nothing to do in this town, Jay. Let’s at least go back to Jubilife, they had a TV Station and everything.” His voice was somewhat muffled, and he waited until he was almost done whining to look back up at me.
I started to respond, but fell silent when I heard the sound of the rooftop door opening. Leo whipped around, instantly nervous. We weren’t technically supposed to be on the roof, but we figured we would be fine if we just slipped up there without asking. The door opened slowly, dragging along the ground and making a noise like metal against metal.
“Hey, who’s there?” Leo called, voice shaking a bit. We waited for several seconds with no response. “Jay?” His voice dropped to a whisper, and he kept glancing over at me anxiously. A long, pale leg slid out from behind the door, followed by a thin white hand. I watched carefully, my heart speeding up as the figure slowly emerged from the staircase. “I have a weird feeling about this…”
Scout, sensing our distress, climbed on to my back and stood in between my shoulders, paws on my hat for support. I looked back at Leo, trying not to seem agitated. “How come?”The owner of the leg fell through the doorway, collapsing as the door swung open wide and slammed into the wall behind it. Her dress was stained with a brilliant red color, her shock of pink hair slick with blood. Scout tensed, fingers digging into my hat so hard I could feel them in my hair. With shaking hands I pried her off my head, taking her back into my arms where I could see her.
“Is-is that the nurse from downstairs?” Leo stammered, one hand still gripping the railing. His knuckles were white with fear, his face flushed at the sight of blood.
“I think so…” Scout looked out at her, eyes narrowed. “Do you-do you want to go check?”
Leo stood in silence for a few moments before coming to a decision. “Let’s go see together,” his voice broke mid-sentence, and he cleared his throat. “I mean, she might need help or something.” He started forward, then stopped when he saw I wasn’t following. Scout scrambled back to my shoulder, and I forced my legs to move.
Looking at me for constant support, Leo approached the woman hesitantly. He tried calling to her again, and she still didn’t respond. He knelt down beside her, gesturing for me to do the same. My whole body shook as I dropped down to one knee and looked at the woman’s bloodied figure. The deep red stains spread down her back, most of it coming from a massive gash in the side of her neck. Bile rose quickly to my throat, and I covered my mouth with my hands. Scout hung from my neck, kicking wildly through the air until she was able to climb back onto my shoulder. I looked up at Leo, struggling to hold back the urge to vomit.
“Miss? Miss, are you alright?” His voice shook, and he reached out a tentative hand to shake her shoulder. Suddenly, she lurched back into a kneeling position. Scout was on top of my head again, fingers digging into my scalp. I yelped a bit, jumping away from the woman. Now we could see her face, her skin a deep blue, her eyes sunken in and without pupils.
A scream sounded from far away, and the bloodied nurse suddenly jerked toward Leo. He cried out and pulled his legs away from her grasping hands, scrambling to his feet as fast as he could. She slowly stood up, blood dripping from her thin, decaying body. She lurched toward him, and he dodged by falling to his right. She reached for him again, but he was too fast.
Something sharp dug into my ear, and I leapt to my feet in surprise. My hand went immediately to where it stung, but whatever had hurt me hadn’t drawn blood. I looked down and realized suddenly that it was Scout, who must have scratched or bitten me to bring me back to the situation at hand. She looked surprisingly focused, and had fallen into a fighting stance.
The nurse made another move for Leo, now using both arms. She grasped his left elbow, quickly bringing her mouth to his flesh. Without thinking, I ordered Scout to set her on fire. The little Chimchar ran for the crazed nurse, taking a flying leap and letting loose a short burst of flame from her mouth. Leo’s assailant recoiled immediately, turning her attention to my Pokémon and I. Her dress had caught fire almost instantly, but she didn’t seem to be in any pain. Leo stood completely still, frozen in shock.
“Leo, send out one of your Pokémon!” I called, my voice hoarse with fear. He didn’t respond, just stared as he slowly backed up towards the railing. Realizing he was hopeless, I told Scout to distract her while I looked for a weapon. The fire-type didn’t question my order, and began running around to keep the burning nurse occupied. She was groaning loudly now, and had slowed down to the point that it didn’t take much for Scout to dodge her blows.
I frantically scanned the rooftop for something I could use as a weapon, my heart pounding so hard I could feel it in my head. But the roof was bare save for a large air conditioning unit and the machine used to activate the trade system on the floor below. Panicking, I bolted for the air conditioner. I knelt by it and began to pull as hard as I could on one of the pipes, my face beat red as I struggled against it. But my arms had never been particularly strong, and were unable to get it free. Looking around desperately, I spotted a Staravia-shaped weather vane atop one of the railings. I sprinted for it, praying that it would give as I wrapped my hands around it and pulled as hard as I could.
It broke free, sending me falling backward from the momentum. I staggered a bit as I regained my balance, turning back to look at the nurse. She could stumble around now, the fire having almost completely consumed her. Scout still held her attention, bringing the nurse in slow, agonizing circles. Holding my makeshift weapon above my head, I ran towards her.
I aimed like I was going to hit a baseball, my hands sliding to the end of the weather vane as I swung it around in a wide arc. The heat from the flames reached for me, gripping my arms as my weapon made contact with the nurse’s head. A disturbing, uncannily human scream burst from her mouth as blood gushed out of the new wound and covered my face in thick warmth. Her skull broke much easier than I’d anticipated, and she fell face-first to the floor without another sound. Scout jumped away, scampering back to stand behind me.
Breathing heavily, I stood watching the flames engulf the body for a long while. Dark, extremely thick blood dripped slowly from the end of the Staravia’s beak, forming a small red puddle just below it. All at once I felt an overwhelming urge to vomit, and I gasped briefly before collapsing to my knees and throwing up whatever I’d eaten earlier that day. The weather vane made a loud clinking noise as it dropped to the ground and rolled away from me. I coughed a few times, feeling disgusting. The flames burned bright and loud just a few feet away, their warmth making me colder.
I looked up into Leo’s wide, light eyes. He had his arms wrapped around his torso, and his face was incredibly pale. He reached his hand down to help me up, but I ignored it and stood on my own. “I’m…what happened?” He asked, his voice a deathly quiet.
We heard another distant scream, and I gulped- all at once feeling like I’d lost something extremely important to me.