"I'm going to call you Beatrice." I smile, holding the Plump Mouse Pokémon carefully in my arms. Bright sunlight shines in her dark eyes, her face full of joy. There's a small scratch on her nose where Scout got a little too into their battle, but otherwise she's in great shape. I pull her close to me, feeling her soft fur on my neck.
She's big for a Bidoof, with a wide face and stubby little arms typical of her species. Her teeth hang out of her mouth from her upper jaw, long and pale yellow in color. Scout walks up behind her and sheepishly holds out a strong orange paw. The battle between them was quick, but Scout had gone a little overboard and nearly knocked the Bidoof out. I managed to convince her to calm down by reminding her we were trying to catch Beatrice, not train against her. Beatrice grasped Scout's paw somewhat warily, smiling a bit at her new team mate.
Route 202 is filled with Bidoof, so Beatrice isn't exactly the rarest Pokémon. But I don't care, because she's my first catch. Even though it hasn't happened yet, I can remember catching Laura later on in the Route, another Bidoof. They were the best of friends, and I loved them both.
I went on to catch Arthur and Dracula, a Shinx and a Zubat. They all got along so wonderfully, always playing with each other and holding mock battles. Arthur would try to get out of them, but Dracula always pulled him back in. I think Scout liked to pretend all the other Pokémon were her children, even if I was fairly certain Laura was older than her. The little Chimchar would watch over the others carefully, giving them advice on battling or yelling at them for messing around. She loved to be bossy, but she'd always listen to her trainer.
I try to stand up while still holding Beatrice, but she's too heavy and I have to let her down on the ground. She looks up at me happily, wagging her stumpy little tail. I swing my backpack down from my shoulder and dig around inside, retrieving some snacks for her and Scout. Beatrice eats quickly, like she'd never seen food before, while Scout takes her time and carefully tastes every bite. The Bidoof finishes before Scout is even half-way done, and starts to lightly scratch my shins for more.
"Nope, that's all for now. You wouldn't want to get fat would you?" She stops playing with my legs and sits, a strange look crossing her eyes. For just a second, they flash a deep red. I kneel down ad scratch under her chin, hoping I haven't offended her. She steps back, a deep snarl coming from her throat. I ask her what's wrong and she just growls louder. Scout has vanished, and I don't think to reach for Beatrice's PokeBall. Her eyes are locked on mine, filled with hunger.
I try to pet her again, and she begins licking my hand. I pull back, not sure how to respond, as from what I've heard Bidoof don't lick their trainers when they get angry. "Beatrice? Beatrice it's just a snack…you can have some later, it's really no big deal," she lurches toward me and I jump to my feed, suddenly scared. Now I can see her eyes have turned completely red, her dull buck teeth incredibly sharp. Her fur is matted, pieces of it torn off completely. Sharp ribs poke out from her once-chubby form, her underbelly heaving. I say her name again, but she's no longer my Pokémon.
She digs her claws into my leg, and I cry out. However I feel no pain, not yet. Blood drips from her ragged claws as she crawls closer and closer toward her trainer. Even though I just stood up I'm scrambling on the ground now, my legs refusing to keep me upright. She jumps toward me and I shove her away, knocking her into the dead grass with a thud. Beatrice screeches and runs at me, face twisted in fury.
She jumps for me and I can't move. I'm held to the ground like a stone, unable to dodge her bloody claws. They sink deep into my left eye, cutting through the soft organ tissue and drawing a heavy amount of blood. Pain rips through me, an incredible sting burrowing into my skull.
Route 202 and my visions of a past life vanish completely, replaced by a small, decaying room. I reach for my face, pressing my hands into the hole where my eye was. It hurts terribly, like someone's driven a knife through my head. I sit up quickly, pressing my elbows into my knees. My breath comes short and rapid, and I bite my lip in a struggle not to cry out. There's a thick bandage covering half of my face, through my greasy black hair and over my left ear. It's much too tight for me to have done it myself, and it doesn't feel wet with blood from earlier.
I suddenly realize I have no idea where I am. I remember seeing a strange man claiming to be from Interpol, but that was it. Everything beyond that is just black. I press my hands into my wound, trying to recall what brought me here. The missing eye is from an undead Bidoof swarm on Route 202, which means either I'm extremely confused or I managed to stumble into Jubilife City. I turn my neck so I can see out a nearby window with my good eye, taking in the street beyond. This must be the second floor, because otherwise I couldn't see the street or the first couple floors of the building across from mine. The windows are all gone, probably smashed during the initial outbreak. Brave, strong vines climb up the sides of the building and slide in through holes where glass and bricks once were. A comforting silence emanates from outside, telling me this is probably a safe place.
A sudden noise makes me jump, bringing new pain to my injuries. Scout steps back a few paces, her eyes wide and apologetic. She stares at her pitiful trainer from across the room, holding a bundle of blankets in her strong arms. We stay like this for a moment, our eyes locked on one another. Sunlight pours in from outside, making her hardened eyes glitter. She lets her tail become a massive blaze, no longer attempting to control it. She cries out and races toward me, hopping onto my bed and wrapping her arms around my neck in one fluid movement. Her embrace is strong but gentle, careful not to aggravate any of my wounds. She's babbling incoherently, making more noises in a few short minutes than I've heard her make her entire life. Her tears burn on my shoulder, but I don't bring them to her attention. There's enough pain elsewhere in my body that a partially scalded shoulder feels like a needle prick.
I hold her tightly, longing to feel her soft fur on the good side of my face. Her warm body soothes some of the sting, and I squeeze her as hard as I can against my chest. She begins to quiet down, the light on her tail slowly calming. She leans away from me and wipes her eyes on her arm, trying to look tough for her trainer. But I pull her back to me and she gives up, no longer crying but still eager to be back in her trainer's arms.
I hold her there for a while, feeling her warmth against my aching body. Something moves in the corner of my eye, and I turn to see two strange men staring at us. Scout breaks our embrace and hops down from the bed, watching them carefully. I recognize one of the men as Looker, the Interpol agent who might've saved my life. He isn't wearing the long trench coat I first saw him in, having apparently traded it for a much simpler heavy jacket. A Croagunk stands by his side, gaze locked on Scout.
The other man appears to be about ten years older than I am, with a surprisingly healthy look about him. His face shows no signs of hardship, his bright blue eyes soft but serious. His thick blond hair reminds me of Leo's if Leo could bathe more often, and he's as muscular as I am without the malnutrition to screw it up. His Pokémon looks exceptionally healthy as well, though I can tell by the look in his Jolteon's eyes that things may be worse than they seem.
A tiny form jumps out from the doorway and bolts over to me in a blur, ignoring Scout completely. The little Pokémon jumps onto the bed beside me, curling up in a warm heap. Scout gawks at it, then begins to snarl. She tries to pull the Pokémon from the bed, but it starts up a terrible caterwaul that makes her cringe in disgust. I grab the newcomer as fast as I can, scratching her behind one big blue ear.
I recognize the little cat Pokémon instantly, swallowing a sudden pang of guilt. My own Shinx evolved twice before it died, struggling to protect an injured Scout and the rest of our seriously unhealthy party on Route 202 so many years ago. The Electric-Type smiles widely and nestles into my lap, rubbing her head against my stomach. Scout gives us a cross look before she remembers her old friend too. She looks away self-consciously, redirecting her attention to the stranger at the other end of the room.
The blond man comes toward me, laughing a bit. "Sorry about her. Scarlet's very…friendly." He reaches toward her and I flinch away, not about to let him put his hand anywhere near my lap. He apologizes again, this time holding his hand about level with my chest. "I'm Volkner. That's Scarlet, a new friend of mine." Scarlet opens one eye, her long black tail sweeping back and forth over the bed. She meows loudly, her little mouth stretching into a yawn. "I'm the former gym leader of Sunyshore City."
The announcement hits me like a brick. I knew I'd seen him before, but I'd heard neither heads nor tails of him for so long I'd forgotten exactly what he looked like. Looker's words rush back to me, and the same rage that knocked me out earlier burns through me again. I take my hand off of Scarlet and ignore the one Volkner holds out to me, grabbing tightly to my leg so I don't hurt her. "Of course I know who you are," I tell him with as much venom as I can muster. He raises an eyebrow, looking somewhat offended. "You…you're healthy and happy and safe in some stupid League-haven somewhere, while the rest of Sinnoh gets eaten alive. So whose idea was it? Not to let Interpol in? You're pretty high up in the Gym Leader 'hierarchy', maybe it was yours? That's disgusting. That's pathetic! For what reason? Pride? I can't even believe that you all would be so…so self-centered! I swear-"
"Excuse me? Where did you ever get the impression that there's some sort of sanctuary for Gym Leaders? Half of us are dead, and the other half is left wandering around for some signs of life in this Arceus-forsaken place." I stare at him in disbelief, my chest aching with dying rage. Scarlet scrambles behind me, watching her trainer wearily. Scout's tail blazes brightly, while Volkner's Jolteon teems with electricity. The two fall into fighting stances, snarling at each other and preparing for battle. "Without me you would've died. Like hell you'd find anyone else that can successfully stitch a freaking eye wound. Honestly, I-" He stops suddenly, taking a deep breath. He looks away from me, shaking his head slowly. "Sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you. It's just that… the Elite Four screwed us all over pretty badly. I guess I just- I'm sorry. That was rude of me."
Looker walks up behind the former gym leader, patting him on the back heartily. "We are all just tired. Perhaps we should sit down and have a real conversation."
Volkner nods and smiles at me, offering his hand again. "I- yeah. You had no way of knowing, I shouldn't have lost control like that." I reach for his hand and miss terribly, unsure of where it is in relation to my face. He smiles a bit and extends his arm further, allowing me to finally accept his gesture. He was wrong, but so was I. I let my hand drop back to the bed before returning it to my eye, pressing lightly against the wound. I feel like I'm supposed to apologize, but I don't really know how. Admitting I'm wrong will only add to my pain, so instead I lean back and keep quiet.