Pokemon: Blood and Snow

Twenty -Three

I blink into complete darkness, wake into immediate panic. Bolting upright, I slam my hand into the hard, dusty ground on my left side and stare desperately into the black. My right eye now seems just as blind as my left, the world completely invisible to me. I grope around for something, anything to tell me where I am or what's going on. My fingers brush against something smooth and I scramble toward it, moving clumsily. I press my palms to it and slowly stand up, my legs wobbling beneath me and threatening to send me back to the floor. The surface extends high above me and as far to either side as I can reach. Assuming it's a wall, I lean against it and follow along with my feet as close to it as I can manage. My mind comes up with all sorts of horrible situations, like massive gaps in the floor or being watched by an unseen figure. Or being trapped.

I reach out across the empty void as far as I can without having to leave the wall. My fingertips lightly touch the same surface I'm using for stabilization, and I nervously step toward the other side. I put my arms out and feel my palms pressing to the cold, dirty walls. Sweat builds on my neck, my throat closing in fear. There is something pushing back against my hands, the walls moving in to crush me.

I can't die like this. Completely alone in a dirty old room, crushed between thick concrete walls I can't even see. I tell myself I'm still alive, that losing my eyesight entirely doesn't change that. But even if this is a trick, a hallucination or momentary glitch, I know deep down that I can't survive if I can't see my hand in front of my face.

How will I fight? How will I protect my team? I can handle losing one eye; I can handle seeing through one lens instead of two. In another life I could keep on without either, could venture through the darkness so long as my destination was never more exciting or extraordinary than the local market. I could have a guide, a friend to help me get from point A to point B. But not here, where there's a threat lurking around every corner and one misstep can kill you. Here I need to be on guard at all times, be aware of everything at once. I'm going to die because I'm an idiot. I'm going to die because I can't see anything. I'm going to die because I was too fucking stupid to keep my mouth shut.

The walls push harder and harder on my hands, forcing me to let go and collapse to the ground. I breathe hard, each inhale shuddering and struggling to rake in the stale, dry air. The walls are lightly pushing against my shoulders, and my arms are too heavy now to lift. I wonder where my backpack is; where Scout, Scarlet, and Dracula are. Their PokeBalls are gone, and the lack of heat in this tiny room announces Scout's absence. The pressure of not knowing where they are, not knowing what's happened to them or who they're with, adds to the strength of the walls closing in around me.

My heart races, my chest tight and my lungs begging for clean air. I try to stand up, try to find a door or some other means of escape. My body becomes weak and my legs give out; I drop back to the ground and will the walls to stop, please, please just stop.

Light explodes in the room, my eye burning as the world erupts into pain and color. Bright whiteness spills in, covering the small room in a thick layer of blinding brilliance. A figure stands between the exit and the impenetrable source of light, a thin body covered in dirt and tattered clothing. A long, thick braid flows down from behind her shoulder, coming to rest heavily at her hip. Frizzy strands escape from their bindings, forming a halo of deep brown fuzz on her head. Her arms hang limply in front of her, hands loosely grasping a long silver baseball bat.

She takes a step toward me, and though I want nothing more than to run past her I scramble backward, automatically fearful. She looks me over, one thin eyebrow rising in interest. "Not so big and threatening now, huh?" I don't try to respond, too focused on catching my breath to worry about empty insults. She smirks a bit, shifts her weight so one hip juts out. "I guess I would do the same thing, though. Maybe less crazy, but Brandon can be a real asshole," I keep looking up at her, not answering. I want her to leave me alone, but if she leaves I'm afraid I'll be locked in that room again. She watches me awkwardly now, confidence starting to deflate. "Um, so how'd you…what happened to your face?"

I press my hand to my eye patch and lightly run my fingertips over the grimy fabric, feeling each stain and crease. The scars extend beyond where the black cloth reaches, ending roughly a centimeter above my lip. I shrug at her and look down, unsure of how to explain. She tightens her grip on the bat suddenly and takes another step forward. I keep still this time, resting my gaze back on her as my heart rate slows.

"It looks sort of cool, honestly. Well, yeah, it looks like it hurts too, but it's also just kind of cool," she bites her lip, eyes quickly flicking away before turning them back on me. "I just came to check on you. Brandon said that-" she stops and turns around, visibly tensing. She holds her bat in one hand and walks away from the room, into the empty hallway beyond. A scream bursts through the stillness, following by a horrified pleading and cries of pain. The girl runs back into the room and stops, hesitating and looking down at me with wide, suddenly crazed green eyes. She puts her hand out toward me, and I grab it, letting her pull me to my feet. She doesn't give me time to thank her, instead dragging me violently away from the room and into the hall with a hard yank. "Your things are in another room, including your Pokémon. Come on, I'll take you there."

She starts to run away, and I wrench my hand from hers, stopping just outside the door and locking my gaze on hers. "Wait, why? I mean, I'm pretty sure I know what's going on but why are you helping me? Shouldn't you go and help whoever else is supposed to defend this place?"

She glances away quickly, obviously nervous about the situation. She stumbles over her words at first, then manages to get control. "Because it's all hands on deck, and I- really don't think you're going to fight against us."

"Why? I haven't done anything to make you trust me. At all."

"I just know, alright? Now shut up and be grateful!" She bolts away and I follow her, my lungs questioning my ability to run as soon as I force my legs to move. She leads me down several dark blue hallways, each stained with time and scarred by vandals. We hear more screaming and she bolts up a staircase, vanishing around the corner and into a simple beige room. I walk in cautiously after her, longing for my weapon.

She steps over piles of random debris and grabs a selection of keys from a decaying wooden desk. The wall furthest from me is dominated by a massive window, a fantastic view of a stunning and uncannily clear night sky. Millions of stars shine, gathered around a single stream of thick lights streaking through the darkness, a porthole to the farthest reaches of our galaxy.

The keys jingle loudly as the girl unlocks a door hidden away in the back of the room. Scout bursts out, tackling the girl to the ground with her tail a massive blaze. She screeches and sets her hands on fire, anger surging through her every movement. I call out her name and she stops, turning quickly to look at me. She leaps away from the girl and runs to me, jumping easily into my arms. The girl slowly gets up from the floor, shaking a bit. "Yes, well, um…okay," she enters the side room and returns with my backpack and Pokeballs. "Is this all?" I nod and take my things, letting Scarlet and Dracula out immediately. Scarlet hisses at me, still angry that I put her away earlier. She looks around and calms, realizing she has no idea where she is. Dracula takes the room in quickly and accepts it, hovering over to me and rubbing her face against mine. I let Scout down and pull my crowbar from my bag, glad to have my team back.

The girl walks over to me, playing with the end of her bat. "We'd better get out there then. This building really shouldn't be so empty…I'm honestly not sure what's happening right now."

I raise my eyebrow and clear my throat to speak. "Uh, isn't it obvious? You're under attack," Dracula suddenly grasps my backpack, pulling her wings in and hanging off it. I fall back awkwardly but maintain my balance, using the worn desk for support. I'll have to explain to her later that she weighs much more now than when I first caught her, and that randomly attaching herself to my things is no longer okay.

The girl shakes her head, braid shaking back and forth. "We…don't have undead problems around here. Until recently, the Driftloon and Driftblim at the Windworks have kept us safe, 'cause Ghost-types are immune, you know? And in return we'd just keep them company. They gave us fuel and protection then suddenly, just a week or two ago, they all vanished. We sent a team out to find them but they, uh, didn't come back," she lets out a shuddering breath and begins to look very tired. "I guess we should've figured this might happen, you know?"

"Yeah, maybe," I have no idea how to respond to that, so I choose to stay neutral. Scarlet paces at my feet, anxious to find out what's going on. She looks up at me with questioning eyes, wide and innocent. Scout puts her paw on the younger Pokémon's back and shakes her head, a kind way of telling her to wait until later. Dracula shudders on my back and I reach behind me to scratch her head, my back aching from the weight. "Let's just get moving."

The girl nods and we leave, making our way for what she says is the back entrance. Scarlet struggles to keep up, while Dracula easily flies around us. We come to the door breathing heavily, and the girl backs into it hard. She produces two PokeBalls from her dark green pants, light bursting out of them and forming into an Espeon and a Chansey. The door swings open and her Espeon leads us out, followed by Scout and the girl herself.

Though the night is relatively quiet, the chaos is evident in the sporadic bouts of shuffling sounds and the occasional cry. Scarlet sniffs the air and hisses, back arching. I hold my crowbar out before me and scan the immediate area, looking carefully into the darkness for any signs of movement. The girl walks out into the grass, a light breeze picking up her unfastened jacket and drawing her loose-fitting pants out with it. I can see torches in the distance, raised high just over houses and bouncing up and down in furious hands.

Something moves in the corner of my vision, a small shape bolting through the shadows. The girl sees it too late, the little form leaping for her and grabbing hard to her chest. Her Pokémon try to help, but before they can move the full swarm comes streaming out of the darkness.

I run to the girl, my team just behind me. Her Espeon takes out a mass of enemies separating him from his trainer, while her Chansey begins making a protective barrier around them. Scout rushes past them and knocks the creature off the girl. I fall to my knees beside her, using the lights of battle to check her wounds. There's blood everywhere, but she's still breathing and she looks more scared than anything. I ask if she's okay and she just stares at me for a second, sitting up slightly and getting way too close to me than I'd like. She nods briskly and looks away, exposing the right side of her face to me. She has a massive gash, a deep cut spreading from just before her ear to just above her lip. "Wait, don't move." I swing my backpack off and get my first aid kit out as fast as I can, clumsily readying some bandages. Static flows through the air and I look up to see Dracula and Scarlet fighting side-by-side, covering each other's weaknesses. Chansey's barrier seems to be helping as well, though it won't last forever. I wrap the bandages around the girl's wound as best I can, trying to tie them so she can still see.

"It-it's not that bad, is it?" She looks at me desperately, her bandaged face full of vain fear. I start to shake my head, then decide it's better not to lie.<

"No, it's pretty bad actually. But, uh, nothing you won't live through," her beautiful eyes, reflecting the brilliance of battle in their dark surface, fill with horror for just a second before hardening. She nods and starts getting to her feet, pausing briefly when her face is level with mine.

"I- thank you," I nod and stand, eager to fight alongside my partners. She brandishes her bat and falls into a fighting position, her back to mine. I hear thunder again and see a flash of flame, feel a gust of wind and the chill of the night. The girl jumps forward toward the horde, beginning our slaughter of the undead.

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