"Get the hell out!" Brandon slams the door shut and throws his back against it, chest heaving and muscles tense. He holds his machete across his chest with his white-knuckled right hand, the left braced on the lab wall behind him. His face is bright red and coated with a thin layer of sweat, bright green eyes poking out from underneath matted blond hair. There's blood on his weapon and his clothes. A bandage on his left upper arm is stained with red. The door shudders behind him and he pushes back hard, gritting his chipped yellow teeth.
I turn around, taking in the strange view of the old lab. My mind feels clouded but my sight is clear; the room feels unfamiliar but looks exactly the same as it ever was. The same mess is here too, with clothing scattered about and books left open and unread. I know it's night time, but the lighting betrays me. I can see every clumsily placed item on the cold tile floor and every speck of dust floating through the air.
Cheryl stands on the other side of the room with her bat held loosely in her hands. Her braid is darker and shorter than I thought it was, and her eyes gleam in the shadows. She watches us with a dull, empty expression. I suddenly feel very angry with her for not helping, but when I try to tell her to come over and give us a hand my voice fails me. The words die in my throat and leave behind no feeling or desire to speak them. I take a step toward her with my hand held out weakly. There is a powerful force pinning me to my spot and tying my arms to my body. I cannot identify it or begin to guess what it is, but I continue to fight it because I have to.
She looks very surprised all of a sudden, her eyes lighting up and growing huge. She takes a step back and I manage a step forward. There's a loud noise and Brandon cries out. I can't look back at him; I feel an intense desire not to. I keep my gaze locked on Cheryl as her body begins to shake. Her form comes into sharp focus, as if I'm standing just in front of her and studying her skin.
A long crack appears along her arm, traveling up to her shoulder. Blood seeps out of the wound, dripping off of her and on to the floor below. Each drop slams into the tiles and echoes around the room. Scars begin to spread over her face, over her eyes and into her hair. Her lips dry up and blood pools in her mouth. She reaches a dark hand to me before it too is consumed with tender, crumpled tissue. Fear runs wild in my body but I can't move. Any instinct I had to help her has vanished along with any recognizable piece of her appearance.
"I asked you a question, moron!" Brandon calls out to me from the doorway. I whip around to see the door has completely vanished, bright sunlight pouring into the room. Decaying hands are wrapped around his neck and torso, pulling him outside. "Who are you?" He stumbles backward and cries out amidst the moans of the undead. Blood splatters against the still-dark windows, but I can't see anything else through them. I start to run for him, but something harsh and powerful grabs my hand and holds it too tightly for me to get away.
Cheryl has vanished, replaced by strange dust in the shape of her body. The form has one long tendril of dark particles wrapped around my wrist, suffocating the circulation and causing it to go numb. I pull as hard as I can to break its grasp, but it only holds tighter and moves closer. For a second the shape is all I can see, flooding my vision with darkness. A deep cold washes over me and I shiver, the hairs on my neck standing straight. I rip my hand away from it and look at my shoes, rubbing my wrist where the wisp of dust had held it. My heart races and I feel cold sweat all over me, panic tearing into my mind and shaking it free from its desperate grasp on reason.
The chaos gives way to silence. I take a few steps toward the door, only now realizing I have no idea where Marley is. His PokeBall is not at my side, and I don't recall seeing him for long time. Not knowing gnaws at my chest and makes my body feel heavy with guilt, each step taking a great effort to conquer. I slowly grasp the doorknob and will my fingers to stop shaking. They are too weak to hold on, and I'm forced to wait a few heartbeats to work some feeling into them. With great care I try again, the knob taking much more effort to turn than it should. I lean into it and twist the brass handle, pushing until it finally relents.
Sandgem Town is empty and bright. Sunlight reflects off low roofs and glimmering water not far into the distance. For the first time in years I hear birdsong, an unfamiliar noise that taints the abandoned town with bizarre and uncanny innocence. It carries on the wind like Stary, floating through the air and landing carefully my ears. It rests there and fades, fluttering into its nest and flapping its small wings before settling. More come to rest in my brain, none leaving before the next arrives. The birds grow restless and begin to cry out, their calls bursting in my mind and forcing me to cover my ears. They do not cease their efforts to inhabit my brain, choosing to hammer at my hands and grow louder and louder.
"Do you know what your namesake is?" Leo's mother smiles down at me. I see now that I have fallen to my knees. The birdcalls fade into silence and I take my hands off my ears, still ringing from the terrible sound. Looking up, I noticed how strange her face is, kind yet uncaring. She does not look directly at me, only at the space I occupy. Her smile is otherworldly, small and irrational. "You were named after a creature said to live long ago. A songbird without a song; an animal called a Bluejay. Famed for its beautiful blue coat but often disliked for its talkativeness. Of course, you're not very talkative are you? Well, are you?"
"Are you, Jay?" I stare at her in shock and shake my head furiously in a fruitless attempt to rid her from this place. "Are you, Jay?" She keeps repeating the question in the same empty tone, over and over again with zero emotion or connection. Her voice grows louder and though she hasn't moved I can now feel her breath on my face and her voice directly in my ear.
"Stop it! Stop it!" I yell, closing my eyes tightly and pressing my palms as hard to my ears as I can. She falls silent, the absence of noise immediately overwhelming. I wait a few more moments, desperate for the dream to end. I've ended nightmares of my own accord before, but this one is different. Usually as soon as I realize I'm dreaming I can get out. But I can't escape this.
I open my eyes into darkness. The Windworks building towers over me, crumbling and cracking not far over my head. A piece of cement tumbles out of the wall and plummets toward me. I roll away, covering my head instinctively and pulling my knees toward my chest. The debris explodes just beside me, and I scramble to my feet. Though I probably can't be hurt here, I'm sure as hell not taking any chances.
The door to the Windworks is hanging off its hinges. I can see straight through into the deep shadows of the building; I can hear a strange shifting behind me. Either way I'm in trouble, so I choose the path I'm probably more familiar with, moving quickly toward the doorway in case any more fragments of concrete choose to fall on top of me.
As I step inside the door I knew was barely clinging to its hinges slams shut behind me. Spinning around, I slam my body against the exit and feel cold steel push back against me. Massive metal bars crisscross over the door, completely indifferent to how much I know they don't actually exist. I push as hard as I can but they don't budge. I try to find where the door meets the wall but I can't; it's simply a piece of the structure now. There are no holes, no gaps where I could beg for help. There's no way out, at least not here.
Several loud bangs echo through the room, the series of lights on the ceiling sputtering to life with each slam. The ones above me turn on first, proving that I am indeed staring at a wall. As they advance across the ceiling they fill the room with light in massive increments. My eye takes a moment to adjust before I can see clearly. The light shines off still pumping organs coating the ground, blood covering the smooth, dusty floor and moving in long trails to newer puddles. A few of them are still attached to bodies, flies buzzing around their faces and the innards spilling forth from their torsos. They rest on harsh white, the same color covering the walls and the floor. There are no Pokémon here. Only human remains coat the floor of this place, and without thinking I take a step forward. Though I looked to make sure the path was clear, now I feel my foot crush a still pumped heart. Blood bursts over my shoes and the muscles immediately cease their pointless activity.
Every pile of human pieces shines under the cold fluorescent lighting. They bulge and shift, shudder and shiver in the stale air. I grip the crossed bars behind me and lean against the wall, swallowing a surge of disgust. Knowing that none of this is real, that it's my own mind creating these terrible things only serves to make them more difficult to grasp. My hands feel sticky with blood, and my face is incredibly tight around my scars. I have to escape this place; I must find a way out. I'm begging for something, anything. All I need is for this door to reopen, for a hole to appear in the wall. I just need to get out.
I run. A staircase waits for me as I stumble about in the mess of convulsing entrails, feeling thick, dark blood weigh down my legs and drag me back. I fight against the urge to stop, the urge to find refuge in this heaving mass of bio matter and beg for my mind to awaken me.
The railing is incredibly slick and hardly offers me any help. I slip and land in a pile of innards waiting for me on the stairs. Struggling back up, I grip the rail with both hands and haul myself into the darkness above. My foot slides out from beneath me but this time I catch myself. My hand manages to land in a spot devoid of gore, and looking up I see the steps above me are clean and white.
A cold wind greets me at the top. Looking out, I see that I've somehow managed to get myself on to the roof. The night is hard and freezing, filled with only darkness. There are no stars in the sky, and no city lights staring back at me from any direction. The turbines are still, massive spires barely visible in the shadows.
On the other end of the roof is a flickering light, a flame shaking back and forth in the wind. It illuminates a small but confident form, a short orange creature watching me with wide, calm eyes. I call out her name and she doesn't respond. My partner keeps her gaze locked on me, her tail flickering and waving behind her. I am drawn to her by a force I don't know, an undeniable power pushing me forward.
This time she recognizes me. She jumps slightly and then takes a few steps back, each one echoing out into the barren night. I start to move faster, now running for my partner and hoping beyond hope that she can help me wake up. She doesn't move again as I come nearer to her, and when I get close enough I see that she's not herself. Her body begins to shiver and she stares up at me with wide, pained eyes. I reach out to her and she shakes her head slightly, her expression twisting into a mask of absolute terror.
She suddenly covers her ears with her paws and collapses to the rooftop floor. A terrible screech erupts from her mouth, and it continues until it begins to sound like a siren. It radiates, pulsating in my brain and sending a shooting pain through my entire body. I keep trying to push toward her, to will this dream to end and for my partner's agony to cease. But the sound continues, and no matter how close I get she's always too far away.
I make one last attempt to grab her and she slams her blazing tail into the left side of my face. Pain tears through the puckered flesh and reopens the worst of the wounds. I check for blood, but even if I were bleeding to death I wouldn't be able to tell over the chaos of noise in my mind.
Wake up! I'm begging, pleading with myself. I need to get out, I need to survive this. Wake up, wake up…
Please wake up!