I rub my hands together, wishing desperately for a pair of gloves. It seems like it's only gotten colder from last night, and I have to consciously prevent myself from grabbing Scout and burying my hands in her fur. My back aches from lying on the uneven ground for so long, and I think I have a migraine from lack of sleep. I crouch down and put my hands between my legs, willing my body to offer up some heat. Leo and Prinplup stand a few feet away, gathering their supplies. The Water-Type yawns deeply and takes a step back, tripping on a random piece of metal lodged into the pile of debris. Leo helps his partner up, quickly looking him over for any signs of injury.
"We should get moving." I remark simply, watching the two screw around. We'd told Dawn four months maximum, but it's pointless to make her and the Professor wait if they don't have to. I want to get Tink somewhere relatively sane as soon as possible to get her some real medical attention. I may not have caught one before, but I'm pretty sure Starly are supposed to be much bigger than she is now. If she's not fit for the journey, I want to leave her in capable hands.
"Right, well, okay, hold on." Leo begins stuffing things in his bag, disregarding the careful way we'd packed everything before so all of our belongings stayed intact. He tries to zip it, fails miserably, and is forced to unpack again. He dumps his bag out into Prinplup's waiting arms, and the Penguin Pokémon staggers a bit from the weight before managing to regain his balance. It feels like hours before they've gotten themselves together.
"This isn't like you, Leo. Usually you're the one trying to get me to pick up the pace." We decided to head towards the southernmost part of the town, where there was a perfectly clear natural pool lying just outside the forest. We went there all the time as kids, mostly because my mother thought it was full of AIDs.
"I guess we're just off to a weird start," he smirks at me, tired but smiling. "Though we weren't the ones having weird-ass nightmares last night."
I roll my eyes and don't bother responding. I succeeded in blocking those images from my mind all night, and I don't enjoy having them brought up again. It wasn't the first awful nightmare I've ever had; I get them every few months or so. They always show me my loved ones dying, though before now it'd only been scenes built from my memory. I've probably watched my old Zubat die ten times, completely unable to save her even once. Though he's died many times before, this was the first time I actually killed Leo myself. It was a nice touch.
Scout walks beside me silently, a strange paranoia wild in her eyes. Worried, I awkwardly reach down and scratch behind her ear. She glances up at me, but doesn't respond. "Something wrong, Scout?" She shakes her head a bit and takes a few hurried steps ahead of me. Instantly nervous, I start after her. Leo grabs my arm tightly, yanking me backward.
"No fair; she already got a head start." He bolts forward without another word, racing toward the pool. Scout sees him run past and starts yelling after him. He turns back, laughing loudly, "Come on! You gotta be faster than that!" Prinplup clumsily follows after his trainer, leaving me alone in the back of the group.
Something keeps me from moving forward. My entire body feels heavy, glued to the ground. I can't focus on any one thing, and my mind goes blank. Scout screams after Leo, but he only stops when he gets to the pool. He turns around, still laughing at us, and mocks us all for being too slow. "Now who needs to get moving?" He calls out to us. His voice echoes in my brain, bouncing off the walls of my skull. He's moving and speaking in slow motion, every gesticulation exaggerated. I feel as if I have no control over what happens anymore, as if I'm watching this scene from somewhere far away. Something massive bursts out of the pool, blood dripping into the water and onto the ground. The splash covers Scout, who just stops and stares in horror at the magnificent beast. Leo's eyes widen, and he freezes up like a Bidoof startled by the beam of a flashlight.
The massive, bloodied Gyarados roars to the heavens, its black fangs covered in gore. Huge sections of its scales are worn off, revealing dark patches of flesh underneath. From here I can see its brain spilling out of a hole in its skull, leaking out to fill the pool below. Leo is facing it now, still stunned at the terrible sight. The monster's bright eyes glow a deep red, brilliant purple veins shining out from within them. Leo's trembling hand reaches for his weapon, but he's nowhere near fast enough.
The Gyarados lunges for him, mouth wide open and excited for the kill. A voice breaks through the insanity, denying the sight before me. Scout starts to run at the beast, but she's too slow. Leo falls to the ground, covering his face with his arm. A powerful torrent of water blasts into the Gyarados's face, and it flinches. Prinplup stands before his trainer, body heaving with the effort of such a blast. The huge Pokémon screams in anger, lunging forward toward the two of them. Prinplup raises its left wing, now converted to a long steel blade. He leaps into the air, bringing his powerful wing down across the monster's face. Blood splatters outward as Prinplup bursts the Atrocious Pokémon's eye, enraging the beast even more. It falls back, head and neck flopping uselessly into the trees behind it. Prinplup lands hard in front of his trainer, crying out for more.
Scout's cry breaks me out of my stupor, and I shake my head furiously to bring myself back to the real world. I draw my crowbar and call Scout back to me, realizing I'll need a strategy if we ever hope to kill this thing. The beast seems to be refocusing, straightening itself up and emitting a deep growl of pure hatred from its throat. Prinplup strikes it again, slicing deep between the large, pale scales along its stomach. I order Scout to start hurling large pieces of debris in an attempt to distract it, and she runs toward the nearest pile. My crowbar feels heavier than usual, and I toss it from hand to hand so I can get a better sense of the weight.
Satisfied, I race forward. Electricity surges through me, and I smile as familiar excitement pushes raw energy to my legs. My hands slide to the end of my crowbar, and I raise it behind me like a javelin as I near the monster. Something hard slams into it just before I drive my weapon as deep as I can into the Gyarados's decaying body. My muscles burn as I grasp my crowbar and pull, hard. It slides out with more ease than it should, coated in a thick layer of blood. The Atrocious Pokémon turns toward me, lurching down with its mouth wide open. My entire body shakes with fear, but I hold my ground. When the undead beast is close enough, I push my weapon upward through the roof of its mouth. It cries out in confusion, and I jump back, making sure my crowbar comes with me. The Gyarados sways backward, struggling to continue the fight. Another strange, heavy object slams into one of its open wounds. I risk a glance back at Scout; briefly marveling in her ability to lift a massive, thoroughly destroyed TV set high above her head.
I figure the beast can't have much more strength left in it. Most undead can't survive a direct hit to the brain, much less being impaled through their skull. I take a moment to swipe my weapon back, creating an arc of blood in the long-dead grass. The sun hides partially behind the Gyarados, a bright flare interrupting my sight. The monster swings back and forth, enduring repeated hits form Scout and Prinplup with ease. Leo is on his feet, weapon in hand, but doesn't appear to be doing much.
Heat still fills my body, and I'm grateful for the feeling. Though the sun is inching its way across the sky, the air is still painfully cold. I clench and unclench my fists, toss my weapon up and try to catch it with just one hand. A harsh breeze blows through me, and it takes me a moment to realize it brought my hat with it. Annoyed, I chase it several meters away. It lands at the top of a chimney, and I sigh in frustration. A terrible cry pierces the dead town, a scream made purely of grief and fear. My heart skips a beat, the sound planting itself deep in my brain.
But what I hear is nothing compared to what I see. The monster, now little more than a massive, crudely sewn together mess of what was once a Gyarados, has fallen to the beach, its head just inches from Leo's feet. The lower half of Prinplup's body is lodged between its teeth, the Water-Type's blood and guts spilled across the sand. Leo kneels beside his partner in complete silence, shaking terribly. Scout stands farther away, her mouth hung open in horror.
I'm beside my best friend in seconds, kneeling before his broken partner in the sand. Scout stands next to me, her eyes wet with tears. Leo just sits there and stares at the body, face filled with pain. I try to apologize, to tell him that everything will be okay, but he isn't listening. He just kneels in the sand, completely stunned. Scout sits quietly, struggling to stay as stoic as ever. But her fist is clenched tightly, and her tail has become a massive blaze.
We sit there for a very long time. I try to comfort Leo by putting my arm over his shoulder, but he shrugs me off. After a while Scout and I decide to make a fire and set up a camp. We watch cautiously when Leo gets up and walks away. He reaches into one of the many piles and takes out several bricks. He walks back to the camp, where he starts digging with his bare hands. I hand him a shovel from one of the piles, and he takes it without a word. Scout heats the ground to make it easier to dig into, and again receives no acknowledgement. He digs deeper than he needs to, determined to make his Pokémon the grave it deserves.
We bury what remains of Prinplup later that day. By this time the sun has alright begun its downward climb, and I doubt we'll be moving anytime soon. We leave the Gyarados's body lying on the shore, choosing to deal with it before we go to bed. Scout creates a huge bonfire, and we toss his PokeBall in. At first it just lays there, indifferent to the flames. But as the heat worsens, the PokeBall begins to crack and sputter. A bit of smoke pours out of it, the tiny screens inside making tiny explosions within the fire. It melts as it sits there, turning to a mess of plastic, glass, and alloy. Leo is silent the whole time, his tears glistening in the light.