Pokemon: Blood and Snow

Twenty-Six

Our footsteps echo against the cold tiled floor and stained beige walls. The atmosphere is thick with the pungent stench of decaying flesh and aging mold. Each ragged breath grasps desperately for clean air; my neck is cold with sweat and my heart pounds. I squint into the darkness, struggling to see beyond the small pool of light flickering outward from Scout's tail. She moves apprehensively, her muscles tense and defined beneath dull orange fur. Her body heaves with excitement and exhaustion.

Scarlet walks beside her, tail held high and sparkling with electricity. She's learned well since her first encounter with the horde; she no longer expects Scout or me to protect her. She rushes into battle without thinking, but seems to know that if she gets hurt she's the only one responsible. Of course, if I didn't think she could handle herself I'd never let her fight. But she's never been weak or completely foolish, so I trust her to be independent as far as battles are concerned.

My crowbar feels light and powerful in my right hand, its tarnished surface gleaming in the shuddering firelight. Adrenaline courses through my veins and begs for more, begs to have its lust for violence satisfied. Our enemy waits beyond our field of vision, keeping to the shadows where it can strike from without fear.

If ever the undead have reason to worry, this is the time and the place for it. We expected more of a challenge, bursting through the large glass door with all cylinders aflame. Dracula began the slaughter with a wave of psychic energy, bringing the entire horde to a state of mass confusion. As they flailed and stumbled in the darkness Scout, Scarlet and I hunted each one down, covering ourselves and the dank room surrounding us in gore. Scout was particularly driven to kill; unleashing great flames that barely avoided scorching the building.

Cheryl grasps my shoulder suddenly and I spin around. She looks terrified, flinching away from me. "What?" I ask, my voice harsh and strained.

Her eyes are wide and black in the darkness. There's sweat on her forehead, loose strands of hair clinging to her skin. I can see a dark streak of blood on the side of her face, running over the mass of bandages. "I can hear something. I think it's above us." She's very quiet, barely above a whisper. "Just stay quiet; I don't know what to do about it."

What do you mean 'above us'?" Scout and Scarlet approach me, bringing the light with them. I stare at the ceiling, barely able to make out a strange, shifting shape. My vision feels with white and I blink several times to get rid of the dark purple bruises that appear. Cheryl gasps and Scout lets out a loud cry, her flame exploding into a massive blaze.

High above us, a huge mass of bulging flesh clings to the ceiling. There is no clearly defined face or head, its entire form shifting and changing randomly. Disconnected body parts float around in a dark red gel-like substance, a mess of unnatural pieces hanging from its horrible form. It begins to shift, sliding like a sick Gastrodon across the ceiling and beyond our small ring of light. Scout bolts forward and we run after her, following closely behind the bouncing, flickering fire.

She stops suddenly and backs up a few steps, each one echoing loudly in the complete silence of the room. I see her body tremble, her flame diminishing. Cheryl pulls a flashlight from her bag and points it toward the wall. She recoils instantly and her hand shoots out to cover her mouth. I feel bile rise to my throat, and I look away quickly. I bend over and put my hands against my knees, swallowing back the sharp taste of vomit.

Cheryl's Espeon cries out and the silence shatters. Loud moans and screams build to a great crescendo, a deafening blast of sound. Purple light flows out from Espeon's body and sends the rotten Shinx clinging to him across the room and into the shadows. A Buizel, its fangs clinging loosely to his mouth, jumps for Scout and she barely responds fast enough. Her flames knock him out of the air but he keeps coming. Jolts of bright yellow sparks wash over it and somehow cause its head to explode. Scout stares at it, her eyes wide and her body stiff. Scarlet snarls and yells at her team mate, breaking the Monferno out of her stupor.

My crowbar makes contact with a soft form, blood splattering in my eye. I feel Cheryl at my back; hear her bat crack against weak undead bone. The light barely illuminates the area in front of us, making the crowd of bleeding beasts blink in and out of clarity. I thrust my weapon forward into what I think is an undead Zubat, and then swing it around to take out another as it leaps for me. Dracula's massive body vanishes into the darkness, her screeches mingling with those of the undead. A Buizel approaches me, its back arched and its black teeth bared. It growls and lunges, mouth snapping for my neck.

I impale the rotten thing on the end of my crowbar and toss it aside, spinning my weapon so I can use the curved end for battle. I hear a loud, lively cry to my right and notice a burst of lightning in the corner of my eye. Turning slightly, I suck in a breath and take in the image of Scarlet's excited, happy form. Her smile shudders, reflecting the weak light; her tail curls and uncurls, flexing in eagerness.

She doesn't see the Shinx leap for her, doesn't notice when it digs its claws into her small hide. She cries out, but not in pain. Her body explodes with electricity, and pain races through my body. Cheryl yells and collapses to her knees, while Scout freezes completely. Scarlet's body erupts in light, rays shooting out and covering the room in brilliance. More lightning shoots out and my knees give out. I fight against the throbbing ache to look at her, watching in rapt awe as her form changes and expands. The undead around her are riddled with electricity, their bodies shaking violently.

As the light fades back to Scout's flame, I see the Luxio's eyes open and her smile widen. She roars triumphantly, tail swinging around in agitation. Sparks rush up and down her sleek body, her shiny fur gleaming. My chest feels heavy and my heart swells with pride, my lips spreading involuntarily into a wide grin.

Cheryl slowly stands up, shaking off the effects of the electricity. She holds out her hand and I grasp it tightly, letting her pull me to my feet. She smiles and pants, embracing the joy of evolution for just a moment. It takes her an extra second to let go of my hand, and I pull it away from her so we can fight.

An incredible roar sounds behind us and we turn toward the mass of moving flesh holding tight to the wall. Scout shifts, her flame expanding in preparation. Dracula reappears at my side, her mouth covered in blood. I stare at her in shock and start to ask, then decide I really don't want to know and figure I'll find out later. She hovers next to me, her wings drawing the awful stench around us. Cheryl exhales deeply and holds her bat tightly in both hands. Her Espeon drops down beside her, ready to strike. She shoots a confident glance at me and I return it, feeling my heart race with exhilaration.

The mass of flesh has formed a sort of head for itself. A section of it bulges toward the ceiling, and even in the shaky light I can see a floating collection of organs inside it. I don't feel sick anymore looking at it. There simply isn't time to question the nature or consider the meaning behind such an abomination.

We'll decide what it is later, but for now all we need to know is that it's a threat.

It reaches a slimy appendage toward us and we scatter like Ratata in the light. Scarlet and I run to its side, barely able to see our enemy in the darkness. She unleashes a storm of thunder and its body shakes violently, rippling outward from where the lightning first made contact. It regenerates too slowly, unable to handle a blast of purple energy fired from the opposite side. It cries out, but I can't tell from where. It has no discernible mouth, the sound emanating from every part of its body at once.

Scarlet shocks it again, blasting it while Scout scorches it with powerful flames at the same time. A small ball of energy circles in front of its face, and it flattens against the wall. Its body changes form rapidly, pieces shooting out over the wall and into the shadows without any rhyme or reason. I see part of its "head" float down to the ground, the mass of vital organs swimming in a stew of rancid, bulbous pulp.

Without thinking I stab my weapon into it, sliding through the flexible surface with ease. Hot, horrible liquid covers my body, blinding me momentarily. I jump back, but the substance keeps flowing outward.

I curse and duck as a bolt of electricity flies through the air just over my head. The lightning penetrates the thing's body, and its insides light up in a fantastic array of colors. Each piece of abandoned body parts is illuminated, and I see that it is a combined mass of human and Pokémon pieces. It screams in agony and begins to sink to the ground, its innards spilling out even faster than before.

The wall behind it suddenly begins to shudder, large cracks splitting the concrete. Dull evening light pours in from outside and we step back to watch the building give in to our onslaught. Scarlet jumps behind me while hissing loudly at the failing being. The wall crumbles and falls, leaving a great hole to the outside. The shuddering thing slides out after it, screeching loudly as it slips out to the ground. We follow after it, and I barely manage to avoid slipping and falling in the trail of blood it leaves behind.

It lands hard on the ground below, spilling into the grass and staining the earth. Most of its mass is left on the side of the building, a dark trail leading straight down. We all lean over the edge, breathing hard and squinting in the light. Cheryl's clothes are coated in blood, and her hair is drenched with sweat. Her Espeon shakes his body to dry off, then grimaces when he sees is isn't working. Dracula flaps over to me and grabs on to my back, causing me to nearly fall backward. Scarlet's tail sweeps across the ground, bathing itself in bright red. Scout does not come near us, choosing instead to stand alone on the other side of the gap in the wall.

Cheryl says my name and I turn to her. She isn't looking at me; her eyes are locked on the ground far below. "What…what was that thing?"

I don't get to answer her. We hear footsteps and whip around in surprise. Brandon and a girl named Karina look around the room with expressions of pure horror. They gape at the ground, then at our blood-covered forms, then at the massive hole in the wall. A Roselia and a small-looking Prinplup walk behind them, their faces just as terrified as their trainers'.

The sight of the Prinplup makes my chest ache. The more I think about what happening in Twinleaf, the more I know it was my fault. But more importantly, the more I think about it the more I know I shouldn't. I swallow the memory and refocus myself on the problem at hand, staring indignantly at the other trainers.

"What the hell happened in here?" Brandon is visibly baffled by the state of the room, his face contorted in confusion.

"We fought zombies." I don't know what else he expects me to say. What, does he think we performed a massive human sacrifice? He saw what it was like on the lower levels, why would he be so shocked about what happened up here?

"Well no shit, I meant why is there so much blood? I've never…I've never seen this much in one place." He and Karina cross the room and step into the puddle the mass of flesh left behind. Roselia looks at it and scowls, eyes narrowing in annoyance. "And it's such a strange pattern too…"

Cheryl starts to speak, then stops when a loud noise erupts from the walls. Loud bangs sound across the ceiling, and for a second we all fall into fighting stances and prepare for more battle. But as the banging moves toward us we realize it's the sound of the electricity coming back on. The lights burst to life, quivering a bit before turning on bright and strong.

Karina smiles and shrugs, taking in the sight of the brightly-lit room. "I guess it doesn't really matter. We got the Windworks functioning again, and that was our entire goal. Well done." She isn't looking at me when she says it and I hardly care. I'm glad Cheryl's house will have hot water and electricity again, but ultimately our actions here won't affect me at all.

Scarlet rubs her sleek body against my leg and smiles, her face alight with pride. I look down at her and smile slightly, thinking that maybe our actions here were important. Scarlet is a lot stronger now, and seeing that look on her face is worth all of our fighting here and so much more.

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